5 Ways Bookkeepers Support Business Decisions

As your business grows, you need to surround yourself with a team of people that have the skills and drive to help you take your vision to the next level. And when it comes to bookkeepers, you want a financial quarterback on your side, not a data-entry monkey.

Unfortunately, both can be called bookkeepers, but the quarterback is the bookkeeper that asks how they can make your business better. They’ll pair their knowledge with a clear assessment of your business data to help you make the business decisions that are in the best interests of your company.

For example, a bookkeeper can improve how you approach decisions about:

Managing Cash Flow

Have difficulty keeping track of your cash? Great bookkeepers can give you a cash flow report that shows where your cash has been spent. They can also develop cash flow projections that will help you to manage your current and future cash needs.

Selecting Projects

If you take on a lot of project work, a bookkeeper can assist you with project costing and give you a breakdown of which jobs made you money and which jobs didn’t. This can help inform the decisions you make about what jobs are worth taking on in the future.

Improving Gross Margins

Are you looking to improve your company’s gross margin? A talented bookkeeper can help you analyze direct and indirect costs and determine where your greatest opportunities for improvement lie, enabling you to make informed decisions about production, materials, and pricing.

Offering Employee Incentives

To get the most out of your employees, you have to encourage their efforts. Whether you’re looking to launch an incentives program or expand an existing one, your bookkeeper can help you analyze, plan, and execute a bonus scheme that will enhance employee performance.

Buying or Leasing

Small- and medium-sized business owners need to consider their investments carefully, particularly when it comes to big ticket items like office space and equipment. Should you lease, or buy? Your bookkeeper can give you the data you need to make a wise decision.

Your bookkeeper can also help you make decisions about expense management, tax filings, and a host of other issues. These insights can impact the growth and efficiency of your business and also ensure that your business stays in line with relevant business regulations and CRA requirements.

Learn more about how Legacy Advantage can help you make the right business decisions. Contact us today.

 

Your Stress-Free Guide to Year End Bookkeeping

“Year end” – what a vague phrase! To non-accountants, it doesn’t mean much beyond planning your new year’s eve party, but for us, it’s a critical concept and activity.

Year end is the time of year where you “wrap up” your financial year, including inventory, revenue, taxes – the whole financial works! Once your year end documentation is complete, accountants will then take these numbers to conduct an audit, review, or simply file your tax return.

How To Ensure Your Year End is Done Correctly

At Legacy Advantage, we have our own way of ensuring an accurate and complete year end. I’m going to share some proprietary information with you, so shhh… keep it a secret. I hope the following checklist takes a bit of stress off your plate and makes your year end process a little easier.

Tax Agency Compliance Review

Every company needs to comply with federal and provincial regulatory bodies. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is a federal tax agency to whom you pay your corporate taxes and your government sales tax (GST) / harmonized sales tax (HST). The Ministry of BC is the BC Provincial tax agency to whom you pay your provincial sales tax (PST).

What to do:

  • Check with the CRA and Ministry of BC to ensure that all GST, PST, payroll remittances have been filed and paid.
  • If you have outstanding amounts, pay them immediately.

Bank Reconciliation Review

The purpose of Bank Reconciliation is to verify if all of your bank transactions have been captured. This is the most fundamental step in ensuring your bookkeeping is accurate.

What to do: 

  • Pull up your bank reconciliation for the last month of your fiscal year.
  • Check if you have any uncleared deposits or payments. If so, are they stale? Are there errors?
  • Any uncleared amounts should be addressed individually. Should they be cleared out or should they remain as uncleared?

Balance Sheet Review

Your Balance Sheet shows you at your company’s Assets & Liabilities are at any point in time. It’s important that this picture is correct before you file your taxes.

What to do:

Many balance sheet accounts need to be reviewed for year end. The following are among the most important:

  • Prepaid Expenses – Are these amounts still prepaid? Or should they be recognized?
  • If you have a sales clearing account (because you have a point of sales system), does it actually clear?
  • Accounts Payable (AP) – Are all AP amounts real? Have these bills already been paid but just not marked off? Cleaning up AP can be quite cumbersome. Reach out to us if you need help.
  • Accounts Receivable (AR) – Are all AR amounts real? Have they already been collected, but just not marked off? Or are they bad debt? Below is a video on how to write off bad debt in Quickbooks Online (QBO).

Profit and Loss Review

Profit and loss statement shows you how much profit… or loss… you have made in the year.

What to do:

  • Let’s assess whether any expenses should be capitalized. Look through your Office Expense and Repair and Maintenance ledger to see if you made any purchases over $500. If so, check if they should be capitalized instead of expensed. For example, if you bought a new Mac for ~$1200, then it should be recorded to “Computer Equipment,” instead of expensed through Office Expenses.
  • Are there any items that look strange? For example, negative sales or positive expenses.
  • Are there any transactions in “uncategorized transactions” or “suspense” or “Ask My Accountant”? Those need to be allocated and cleared up.
  • Lastly, we do a trend analysis. We pull up the profit & loss by month and look for any anomalies. For example, we can check if rent/utilities/payroll amounts have any significant variances from month to month. If so, it might be an indication of error.

Transaction Review

Your bookkeeping is simply an amalgamation of all the transactions you have recorded in the year. It’s important to selectively review these individual transactions to ensure that they are correct.

What to do:

  • For example, at Legacy Advantage, we take a risk-based approach to in-depth review. More specifically, we take a look at all the large transactions to ensure that they are recorded properly.
  • Another area of high risk is journal entries. We review all large journal entries to ensure accuracy.

Client Specific Review

Each client has their own bookkeeping nuances. For example, they want the numbers to be presented a special way, or they want their payroll cost split over a number of different projects. These special requests need to be reviewed.

What to do:

  • Each client has its own nuances. We perform a review according to these nuances. For example, non-profits have deferred revenues and/or funds.

Account Overview

Here’s where we can get a little creative. After all the accounts are accurate, we can look for ways to add value to our clients.

Here are some examples:

  • Do our clients have a hard time tracking Cost of Goods Sold? Then we can recommend POS systems and make introductions to vendors to improve this process.
  • Do our clients have high transaction costs? If so, we can make introductions to Payment Processors to see if they can get a better deal.
  • Do our clients have sales in more than one provinces? Then we need to assess whether there are any sales tax exposures.

At the end of all of this, we can then send these files to your tax accountant for them to file your taxes.

Need assistance correctly reviewing your year end?

You still have time to contact us before your year end documents are due.

 

How to Register and File a GST Payment

Starting a new business or organization comes with its freedoms – but there are a lot of responsibilities and information that you must learn to be successful. You might have heard that you need to get a GST number and need to make a GST payment.

We outline who needs a GST number, how to register, how to track GST, how to file in Quickbooks, and make a GST payment. No matter where you are on your journey – if you’re just starting or in the middle of reconciling your year end – this article will help you understand and action everything around GST.

What is a GST Number?

First things first: a GST number is a basically your CRA Business Number followed by RT0001. For example, if your business number is 123456789, then your GST number is 123456789RT0001. (Your GST number could end in RT0002, but those are rare cases).

Having a GST number requires you to charge GST on taxable sales. At the same time, it allows you to get a refund on the GST that you pay (in the form of ITC’s).

When To Register For a GST Number

You might be unsure of when you need to register for a GST number and how it will benefit your company or organization. The short answer is that if your organization is working with $30,000 or more per year, then it’s time to register for a GST number.

However, don’t fear registering for a GST number, it comes with some benefits. GST is a smart tax because it allows you to claim GST that you have paid as “Input Tax Credits”. That means you qualify for refunds and can claim some money back.

To learn more, check out a post I wrote about when to register for a GST number.

If your organization is working with $30,000/yr, it’s time to register for a GST number. Click To Tweet

How to Calculate Your GST Payment

You’re probably asking yourself, “how do I track my GST accurately?”.

Fortunately, most accounting programs are robust tax crunching machines. Each entry you make will have a field dedicated to extracting that valuable tax information. I recommend using an accounting software like Quickbooks Online to properly track your GST.

Download Quickbooks’ step-by-step guide to learn exactly how to make GST calculations work for your business.

One point you should be aware of, however, is if you make a journal entry into the GST account. This is because if you use a journal entry, the GST module won’t pick it up. You have to reverse calculate the GST so that the GST is properly accounted.

If you have this problem, contact us at Legacy Advantage and we’ll show you how to do it properly.

How to File (and Pay) your GST

Using an accounting software like Quickbooks Online is a tremendous help for tracking your GST information. Unfortunately, the software doesn’t actually “file” your GST payment for you. Instead, the software simply gives you a print out of all the information that you’ll be to file and pay.

Again, if you ever need help navigating through Quickbooks, I recommend downloading Quickbooks’ guide on filing taxes.

The easiest way to file and pay at the same time is through your online banking.

If you need additional help, contact your banker to set up your GST payment process for you. Make sure to bring along your GST number.

Still need help with your GST payment?

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about your GST payment – or any other step of the way. We’re always happy to help.

 

How Long Do I Need to Keep My CRA Tax Return?

After you’ve inputted your daily, monthly and year-end tax records, you may think that you’ve completed your bookkeeping work. Unfortunately not. One of the questions I get asked the most is, “How long to keep tax records in Canada?” The answer, sadly, isn’t one or two years. Officially, it’s “six years after the tax year”. Or in other words, it’s best practice to keep your tax records for at least seven years.

Why do I need to keep my CRA tax return for seven years?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the tax agency in Canada, may request to see your tax return within a seven year period. Depending on the level of engagement, you may be required to produce the original receipts. This will help the CRA determine if you, in fact, do qualify for any deductions you have filed for and if you owe any more taxes.

If you run a business or organization, it is your responsibility to keep these documents and present them upon request. Failing to produce originals to substantiate your CRA tax return can result in the CRA denying your expense claims and charge you interest and penalties.

Did you know? It's best practice to keep your records for at least 7 years! Click To Tweet

What is the best way to store my tax records?

We now live in a time when this is easier than ever to store large amounts of information digitally. Instead of filling a corner of your office with jam-packed banker’s boxes, you can manage them electronically. Keeping tax records in electronic format is a perfectly accepted practice.  

I highly recommend uploading your CRA tax return and other original receipts electronically. Why? Because doing so will:

  • save space, time and money
  • allows for easy retrieval
  • prevent receipts from fading

If you don’t have too many receipts, one option is to take photos of them and upload them to a cloud service, such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Instead of labouring to properly date and file each receipt, any uploaded photos will automatically be date stamped. This will save you countless hours. The simplest way is to organize your stored receipts are by month, with each month having its own folder. If you have lots of receipts, however, it’s best to organize them by vendor.

If you use Quickbooks Online and feel a little adventurous, you can look into HubDoc. You take photos of your receipts on the go with their app. Using OCR technology, HubDoc extracts the vendor information, date, amount, and tax amount. You can then push those transactions into Quickbooks Online. It’s a tremendously powerful tool that’s worth considering for your recordkeeping management.

Remember that at the end of your day, it’s your responsibility to keep your CRA tax return for seven years. It’s not the responsibility of your accountant, bookkeeper, or office manager. It’s yours. Therefore, it’s an important topic to discuss with your financial team and ensure everyone knows whose responsibility it is to keep certain documents.

Remember the adage:

“If everyone’s responsible for it, no one is.”

If you need any help digitizing your recordkeeping, please contact us.

 

How Does the 80 20 Principle Work in Bookkeeping?

The 80 20 principle is likely a phrase you’ve heard before. But have you ever heard it be applied to bookkeeping practices? Maybe not. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the 80 20 principle, also referred to as the Pareto principle, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“The 80 20 principle was suggested by management thinker Joseph M. Juran. It was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population. The assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes.”

Joseph M. Juran made some apt conclusions about Italy’s income, but what does that have to do with bookkeeping? Turns out, everything!

The 80 20 principle and bookkeeping

Chances are, 20% of your products/jobs/service lines/activities generate 80% of your profits. I want to emphasize that we are talking about profits, and not revenues. Just by looking at the top line, you are missing a wealth of data that will help you make better business decisions. One way to think about this is: Revenue is vanity; profit is sanity; cash is king.

For example, a large revenue job may require extensive resources, thus leading to lower profits than a combination of your small jobs. Similarly, you might have 2000 SKU’s in your inventory. It’s likely that only 20% of those products are generating the majority of your profits.

Unless you track your profits and costs, how would you be able to apply the 80 20 principle to your company?

20% of your activities generate 80% of your profits. Click To Tweet

How bookkeeping figures out the 80 20 principle

Let’s imagine you’re running a project or job based company, like a design firm, painting company, electrical company, where your income and expenses can be directly traced to a job.

All income and expenses will be tracked by project, and at the end of the quarter, we can analyze all the jobs all at once. We’ll sort each job by profitability. Then we look at the top 20% of the most profitable jobs. What do they all have in common? Can we replicate these results? Then, we review the bottom 20% of the least profitable jobs. What do they all have in common? How can we prevent these things from happening again?

Investing in your business’ bookkeeping allows you to get into the details of your company. Do more of the activities that increase margins, and reduce the activities that decrease margins. Quarter over quarter, year of year, the disciplined process of analyzing your project profits will allow you become much more profitable.

How would you like to generate the same amount of business next year, but be way more profitable? Why work harder when you can work smarter!

In Summary:

  • Similar to “Working smarter, not harder,” the 80 20 principle is the idea that 20% of your efforts contribute to 80% of your profits.
  • Understanding your profits vs. costs can help you determine which activities are significantly adding to your profitability.
  • Once you’ve understood how this principle works for your business, then you must rigorously apply those learnings. You need to put this information to work.
  • Detailed bookkeeping services can help unveil this information.

The 80 20 principle is a powerful way to reach your business objectives. Our bookkeeping team will identify the 20% and provide insight into what to do next. Let us help you grow your business, contact us today!

5 Things To Ask Before Choosing Your Bookkeeper

Your business is thriving – and you realize that it’s no longer a good use of your time to be doing all of your bookkeeping on your own. You’re confident that you’ve done a good job establishing your processes, but you’re not getting the comprehensive financial analytics you want. You know there is a better way. You’re looking for help, and more importantly, smart insights that will help your business grow. Another one of your priorities is to reduce your overall stress and have more time to spend with friends and family. You’re on the hunt for a bookkeeper that will help you achieve your business and personal goals.

What if I told you that many bookkeepers only do the bare minimum and actually don’t reduce that much of your workload?

That doesn’t sound great – right?

What if I told you that many bookkeepers only do the bare minimum... Click To Tweet

I’ve created an easy cheat sheet to help you ask the right questions when you’re searching for a bookkeeper that will work for you.

Here’s what I recommend you ask before choosing your bookkeeper:

  1. How can you contribute to my bottom line? Can you bring any innovative solutions to my business that save me money?
  2. What’s your pricing structure? Do you have an hourly rate? Or do you have a performance-based rate?
  3. Do you have a team to back you up? If my associate is ill or goes on vacation, will another one of your team members maintain my books?
  4. What responsibilities do I (the business owner) have in the bookkeeping process? What documents do I need to submit on a monthly basis? How do I do this?
  5. How frequently and timeline can I see my up to date financials? Do I see my financials on a month-to-month basis? Quarterly?

Now you know what ask, you’ll probably want to know how a good bookkeeper should reply.

Well, you are in luck. 

We’ve created a FREE extended guide called “5 Things to Ask Before Choosing Your Bookkeeper – And The Responses They Should Give You.”

We’ve shared insights that will help you understand how bookkeepers operate, bill, and deliver results. Most importantly, the guide details exactly what a good bookkeeper should tell you when you ask those questions. Our guide is a must-read for those looking to save time and money.

Download Your Free Guide Today!

 

Contractors vs Employees: 6 Ways to Tell the Difference

For many small businesses, hiring contractors over employees seems like a great idea—it’s cheaper and simpler. You can supplement the skills of your staff without incurring the financial overhead that would come with hiring a full-time employee, such as CPP & EI.

Unfortunately, the distinction between what qualifies as a contractors vs employees in the eyes of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can be pretty grey. If you get it wrong, the mistake can cost your small business a lot of money in penalties and interest fees, so it’s important to get it right.

Start by asking yourself a simple question: “Is this person that I’m contracting genuinely trying to establish a business?” If so, they are a contractor. If not, they are an employee. Still not sure how to gauge this?

Let’s look at how the CRA distinguishes between contractors and employees.

1. Control

Does the person you’ve hired have control over how, when, and where they complete the task you’ve given them? If so, they are a contractor. If you pay them by the hour and tell them what to do within these hours, they are an employee.

2. Tools and Equipment

Do you provide this person with equipment (e.g. computers, laptops, scanners, printers, paper, etc.) or do they supply their own? If they supply it themselves, they are a contractor. If you provide them with equipment, then they are an employee.

3. Subcontracting or Hiring Assistants

Is this person allowed to hire subcontractors and assistants? Can they do so without consulting you, and assign tasks to this person as they see fit? If so, they are a contractor. If not, they are an employee.

4. Financial Risk

Does this person stand to lose financially? In other words, do they have expenses or other overhead costs that are not reimbursed? If so, they are a contractor. If all expenses are reimbursed, they are an employee.

5. Opportunity for Profit

Is there an opportunity for this person to make a profit? For example, if they worked full time at the rate they are charging, would they earn more than if they were a full-time employee of your organization? If so, they are a contractor. If not, then they are an employee.

6. Responsibility for Investment and Management

Is this person responsible for investing in their assets, whether it be equipment, or education, or staff? Do they handle their own bookkeeping and administrating, including filing their own GST? Do they manage all of their own retirement and extended medical arrangements? If so, they are a contractor. If not, they are an employee.

As you can see, the CRA’s criteria can become a bit murky—perhaps you have contractually agreed to cover some of the contractor’s expenses, or to provide access to certain pieces of specialized equipment. How do you know where the line between contractor vs employee is? Well, the CRA weighs all of these factors, and whichever side comes out stronger is the side they go with. 

It’s important to get this right because if you pay them as a contractor when they are actually an employee, you will be responsible for paying the employee AND employer portions of CPP & EI with penalties and interest. And at the end of your fiscal year, this can really add up.

Let’s say you paid a “contractor” $50,000. If the CRA deems they’re actually an employee, your penalties per year could amount to $7,500. Per year! If you’ve “contracted” this person for five years, and then you get assessed, the exposure could be as much as $38,000. If that happens, it will hardly have been cheaper and simpler to hire them as a contractor.

If you have any doubt as to whether members of your staff are contractors or employees, contact us.