Being Jack of All Trades can land you in hot water with BAS
IT’S PERHAPS EASIER TO do your own bookkeeping these days than it used to be; particularly if you’re using a cloud accounting program like MYOB, Xero or QuickBooks, which are among the easiest, yet robust, accounting applications currently on the market.
But even so, there are many aspects of Australian tax that, while accounting software makes it possible to carry them out yourself (like business activity statements, for example), it’s not a good idea unless you really know what you’re doing. Here are the three GST mistakes nearly every business owner makes in their bookkeeping. Continue reading Are You Making these GST Mistakes in Your Bookkeeping?
MICROSOFT EXCEL IS THE most widely-used spreadsheet application in modern computing. It’s ubiquity means most people use Excel on a regular basis, despite never having had any formal training in its many, many, MANY functions.
With its 2013 release, Excel got a serious update, which made it the perfect application to create and manage client and customer databases. Although there are many CRMs available on a subscription that provide the same functions of a database created in Excel, just in a more visually appealing format, they often lack reporting and analysis functions, requiring you to export your data in a Excel sheet anyway.
Flat file databases
Excel’s original ‘flat file’ database still remains the easiest and most basic database to set up and manage, and depending on your business and how you’ll use your database, a flat file database may be all you’ll ever need. If set up correctly, a flat file database will allow you to easily import your customer data into Word, your accounting software, an email marketing service, and so forth.
A relational database is a database that’s structured to recognise relations among the information stored in them. Microsoft offers a relational database program, called Access, which is available with Microsoft Office Professional or higher, or can be purchased separately.
Alternatively, you can create your own relational database in Microsoft Excel, providing you have the 2013 version or newer. When Excel got its update in 2013, it became easier to link charts and cells and to perform searches — all essential features if you’re working with large amounts of business data.
Correct Excel set up is crucial
Once Excel has been set up, it’s as easy as it is powerful to use. Of course, the key is to set it up correctly, so you can avoid errors or having to re-enter large amounts of data to make the format suit another third party software application.
It’s not the most detailed financial report, probably because the company itself is still in its early stages — there’s actually a good argument against early stage ventures listing on the stock exchange, but that’s fodder for another post.
Revenue vs. losses for the period
The good news for BuyMyPlace is that its revenue increased 129 percent on the prior comparative period (PCP) to $1 million for H1 FY16/17, up from $133,518 in H1 FY15/16.
That’s an impressive leap in revenues in just 12 months, however, the BuyMyPlace financial results also reveal that the business made an even greater loss of $1.7 million, an increase of 1205 percent on the PCP.
A closer look at the report shows that, while the losses increased more than a thousand percent, it was due to an increased investment in marketing and advertising — principally on TV spots which totalled $517,723 compared with $98,578 the year prior.
This resulted in an 80 percent increase in the number of listings on the site (that is, the number of people using BuyMyPlace to sell their home), while order value increased 27 percent (people who were choosing more expensive packages).
BuyMyPlace is in good health
Although this business recorded losses that outweighed its revenue, BuyMyPlace is still in good financial health.
The report also shows that it has over $4 million in cash and cash equivalents, and only a little over $600,000 in liabilities. Although the liabilities have increased, it’s not due to taking on any additional debt — indeed, BuyMyPlace has paid down all of its loans — but was instead due to a 786 percent increase in staff salaries and, as a consequence, an increase in staff provisions and benefits — i.e., sick and annual leave.
Strategy for future growth
Not many homeowners actually want to sell their properties themselves — one estimate puts it at around 7 percent of the total number of homeowners. However, most people do want greater clarity around how the process works (including fees and commissions) — even if they still want assistance selling their homes.
Perhaps realising this, or perhaps in response to increased competition in the fixed-fee real estate services (see: Purplebricks, Settl, etc), BuyMyPlace also launched its own full service package, giving homeowners access to a real estate agent to sell their home for a fixed fee.
This will enable BuyMyPlace to capture a greater volume of homeowners, who are looking for a low cost alternative to sell their homes, but who don’t want to do it entirely themselves.
The other strategy for growth: increasing listing depth revenues.
At some point, BuyMyPlace will stop growing its market share. Or, in other words, the market of people looking for a low-cost option to sell their home will be tapped out.
But as a business, and as a publicly listed one, BuyMyPlace will need to keep growing its revenue, not merely keep it steady. It’ll need to do as other real estate services, such as REA Group and Domain have done, and increase listing revenue depths, by selling more expensive packages to customers.
BuyMyPlace will need to find additional value it can sell to customers, without necessarily increasing its own expenses to do so — or putting up its prices, which a business can usually only do once it’s cornered about 65 percent of the market, and BuyMyPlace is a long way off that yet.
That’s a lesson for every business owner out there. And it’s something we cover in our online Business StartUp Course.
You’ll learn how to run and understand the financial reports for your business in our Xero and MYOB training courses. You can also learn about strategies for business growth in our Business StartUp Course. Or for more information, visit our website.
HAVE YOU RECENTLY STARTED running your own business? Whether you have, or whether you’re about to, reconciling your bank accounts regularly is probably one of the best ways to monitor your expenditure in relation to your income.
Your accounting software will help you to keep track of your income and business expenses and other important things that will affect your start up — such as how long it takes to get paid — while an Excel spending or expense sheet will help you to monitor all of your spending, business or otherwise.
The bank reconciliation process
This starts when you get your bank statement, but you can speed the process up, by entering recurring expenses into your Excel spreadsheet as they occur.
To remedy this immediately, you should look through your Excel spending sheet and see if there are any expenses, either business or discretionary ones, that you can reduce or eliminate. Then you should work on increasing your income. That’s easier said than done, which is why you should reduce your spending first.
If you don’t identify any cash flow issues, you will be able to begin forecasting profit. Typically, profit just refers to the income left over after all your business expenses have been accounted for.
But there are plenty of start ups and sole traders, who have a profitable business but are not profitable themselves.
That’s because there are many other expenses in your ordinary life — the remaining 70 percent of your internet bill, for example — that you still need to pay for.
If you’re also recording all your other expenses in an Excel spending sheet, you’ll be able to forecast your business’s profit, as well as your own personal profit (otherwise known as savings) with much greater accuracy.
The chart of accounts
In effect, what you’re doing here is creating a chart of accounts. You’ll learn more about the chart of accounts in our Xero and MYOB courses, but they are, in a nutshell, a financial record of every account — asset, liability, equity, revenue, etc — in your business.
Why Excel is Great for Keeping Track of Your Spending if You’re Self Employed
WHETHER YOU’RE ABOUT TO start your own bookkeeping business, or whether you work as an independent contractor (even if you’ve been doing this for a while), it’s really important to know how much you’re spending each month.
Your Xero, MYOB or QuickBooks accounting software will help you with some of this, but the very best way is to create an expense or spending sheet in Excel — which we teach you how to do in our Excel training courses — as this gives you a far more detailed look at your expenses and spending.
Not all your expenses are 100% business ones
Sometimes you can’t claim 100 percent of your expenses as business ones — the costs of running your car, home internet, rent, utilities, etc — but you should nevertheless keep track of your spending on these items because it will affect your cash flow.
That’s why keeping an Excel spending or expense sheet is a good idea for contractors and home-based business owners. You don’t want to enter your home internet into your accounting software as a business expense, if only 30 percent of it is used for business purposes, but you still need to keep track of it, so you can manage your cashflow.
Monitor frivolous spending
One of the things we love about using Excel to track your expenses and spending is that every little expenditure is right there, in plain view.
This isn’t the case with Xero or MYOB or other accounting software. Your expenses are hidden away, and you have to run a report to get a good breakdown on where your money is going.
Not so with Excel,. If you buy a coffee every morning, it’s right there, in a category you can label as “coffee”.
Now, we’re not saying that coffee is frivolous. Far from it. Many of us need coffee just to function (!) but there are lots of small things we spend money on every day, week, month that add up. When you’re self-employed you need to keep an eye on these “little” things.
Sometimes, you’ll find that you’re spending lots of money each month on subscription services that you’re not even using. Eliminating $15 a month here and there makes a big difference.
Create as many categories as you need
That’s the other great thing about using Excel to track your spending: You can create all the expense categories you like.
Of course, not everyone wants to track each and every expense right down to their last bag of jelly beans — that actually would be a little ridiculous — and for most the most part, you can lump your groceries into a category for discretionary spending, but there are some things you might want to separate out — movie tickets, money spent on lunches and dinners, and so forth.
These things tend to add up, and if you want to keep an eye on them, separating them out is the easiest way to do that.
Back to those business expenses
Each fortnight or month or however regularly you complete your bookkeeping, you can easily add in those business expenses into your accounting software — or your bookkeeper can.
Remember, if you spend $60 a month on internet, but only 30 percent of its use is for business purposes, you should only add $18 a month as a business expense in your accounting software. In your Excel expense or spending sheet, however, you’ll put the full $60 in, as you need to have the money in the bank to cover this expense each month.
You can learn how to create and manage your expenses or spending in our Excel training courses, where you’ll be able to create your own spending or expense sheet. Visit our website for more information.
CHANGING YOUR BUSINESS STRATEGY to include additional services will require an additional investment in marketing if you are to make this successful. In terms of simply paying money to advertise your additional services, as you’re probably already aware, advertising doesn’t always yield immediate results. Therefore you might consider spending money on a lead generation service.
There are websites that make it easy to change your business name
PLENTY OF BUSINESS OWNERS change their business strategy, but what makes this successful? We say, above all, planning and a willingness to change the ordinary operations of your business. In a new workbook contained in our Xero training courses, we take you through the steps you would take in Xero to affect a change in business strategy.
In this blog post, we’re going to look more generally at some of the things you might need to do if you were making a change to your business strategy — even before you would start making these changes in your accounting software.
Business name change
A change of business strategy and direction may warrant a business name change. As a basic example, a builder who begins offering plumbing, electrical, and handyman services should change their business name from John’s Building Services, for example, to John’s Building and Home Maintenance Services.
If considering a business name change, visit the ASIC website. There you’ll be able to register a new business name and make sure one you’re thinking of doesn’t already exist. ASIC doesn’t allow you to update or change your business name, but provided you’re operating your business under the same structure — i.e., sole trader — there’s no limit to the number of business names you can register and assign to your ABN.
In April this year, the business.gov website launched a new Business Registration Service, which although still in Beta, allows you to easily and quickly apply for a business name, ABN, company, and tax registrations for free. At the moment it’s only available for new businesses — whether they’re sole traders, partnerships, companies or joint ventures — but it’ll soon be rolled out to existing businesses, trusts, and superannuation funds.
Registering for GST
Many contractors don’t register for GST because they do a combination of contract work on their ABN and TFN. Provided their business doesn’t generate $75,000 per year or more, they won’t have to register for GST, even if they do earn more than that by also working as a contractor on their TFN.
If the change in business strategy means your business is going to generate substantially more than $75,000 per year, or even if your suspect it may get close to it, you should register your business for GST.
You can register for GST via the ATO’s Business Portal. Registering for GST does mean your business will need to lodge regular business activity statements. This is additional compliance that can yield fines for late or inaccurate lodgements.
If you’d like to try and defer registering for GST for as long as possible, run a profit and loss statement in Xero and compare your current revenue with the estimated additional revenue your new business strategy will generate.
If there’s good, safe margin between your projected income and the $75,000 GST threshold, you can hold off.
You can learn what you need to implement the financial side of your changed business strategy, plus how to run profit and loss statements, complete and lodge business activity statements and much more in our Xero training courses. For more information, visit our website.
Documenting procedures helps keep your bookkeeping up to speed
IN A PREVIOUS POST we talked about how to tell when you need rescue bookkeeping, which is basically when a business is behind on its bookkeeping by three months or more and the deadline is looming to lodge their activity statements.
Rescue bookkeeping work costs more than having your bookkeeping taken care of regularly, because it’s often messy and there are no procedures in place to manage the bookkeeping efficiently.
What’s a bookkeeping procedures manual?
A bookkeeping procedures manual clearly identifies the regular tasks and activities your bookkeeper needs to take each week, fortnight, month or quarter to ensure your bookkeeping is kept up-to-date. This not only gives you the peace of mind that your bookkeeper is staying on top of your books, but it also helps you to understand what’s going on with your business.
If you require regular P&L statements or balance sheets, having a procedures manual to clearly outline how frequently they’ll be created helps you to stay on top of your business’ financials.
A typical procedures manual will include:
Simple steps that are easy-to-understand and succinct
Tasks are written up in a step-by-step style, so they can be followed logically
References, links or examples are included to help readers understand
Contain a number of formats — written steps, flow charts or checklists.
Rather than leaving your bookkeeping to the last minute, so you’re always operating your business in dark, organise to have bookkeeper create a procedures manual to regularly take care of your business’s bookkeeping.
We Can Help You Find a Good Local Bookkeeper
We have bookkeepers, BAS agents and accountants located across Australia, available to help businesses in need of rescue bookkeeping work. Visit our online bookkeeping directory, National Bookkeeping, to find a suitable and experienced person available to work in your area, or able to work anywhere in the cloud. Alternatively, if you are a bookkeeper looking to expand your client list or find contract work, you can register and become part of our network for free.
WE’RE IN THE LAST QUARTER of the 2016/17 financial year, so now is the time to dive in deep and check you’ve included every single business expense — prepaid or otherwise — to ensure all your expenses are in order.
We all know this, but remember, they can only be claimed for the period in which they occurred. If you forget to claim a major business expense in the financial year that it occurred, you can’t make it up by claiming it the next year.
It’s really important you thoroughly check your credit cards and business accounts to make sure you’ve accounted for each expense. The final quarter of the financial year is also a good time to make any purchases for your business, because you can claim them straight away.
Prepaid expenses are often forgotten
Magazine or journal subscriptions, domain name registrations, business name registrations, car registrations, website fees, insurances — collectively they add up, but they’re also the easiest to forget.
These deductions are often prepaid and may not come up on your radar and may certainly not show up on your final quarter bank statements.
Make a list and check it twice
Over the next month or so, make a list of all of your expenses as you think of them. This makes it easy to spot them when you’re going through your bank and credit card statements and checking them against the expenses in your accounting software.
Want to make your business presentations and publications more eye catching?
Gone are the days of excruciatingly dull PowerPoint slide presentations. Nowadays PowerPoint is the hidden gem used to generate animations, videos, movies, advertising and graphics. It’s a great ally to the marketer or social media person in your organisation.
Depending on the structure of your business, you may be legally required to include a P&L statement with your tax return or activity statements. Your tax agent will be able to advise you if your business will be required to file a P&L, which requires all of your bookkeeping to be up-to-date before you can run it.
Even if you don’t have to file one with your activity statements or tax returns, it’s still a good idea to run a P&L for your own sake. A P&L statement identifies whether your business has made a profit or loss and which accounting period these occurred.
Accounts receivable, payable
Find out who owes money to your business and to whom your business owes money. This is obviously part of the credit management process, which any good business will have in place already, but it’s a good idea to keep a steady eye on what’s coming in and what’s going out as EOFY approaches.
The end of each quarter brings a lot of PAYG and superannuation reporting, but EOFY brings a double whammy of activity statements tax returns and PAYG and superannuation compliance. You’ll need to run these reports so your bookkeeper can complete the payroll component of your returns.
However, not every business owner has the procedures in place to manage their bookkeeping regularly. It’s ok, it’s not your fault — you were meaning to, but you were busy running your business and time marched on. Now you have to lodge an activity statement, and you’ve just realised you haven’t done any bookkeeping for three months!
When you need rescue bookkeeping
If you have three months or more of bookkeeping to do before you can lodge an activity statement, then you’re in need of a bookkeeper who can perform rescue work. Some of the common bookkeeping problems rescue work covers includes:
Bank accounts or credit cards that don’t reconcile with statements
Old un-presented transactions in the bank account or credit card
Trade debtors and trade creditors don’t balance with the balance sheet
Dealing with outstanding invoices and bills that have already been paid, but still showing as outstanding
Incorrect previously lodged BAS
Incorrect information showing in payslips, tax tables, super guarantee contributions calculations, payment summaries, etc, due to payroll systems being set up incorrectly
Unreliable inventory figures.
Not all bookkeepers are able to take on rescue work, because it’s lumpy and it requires them to perform a lot of work in a short space of time, which can conflict with their other regular bookkeeping work.
Rescue bookkeeping is often more expensive
Because rescue bookkeeping requires a lot of manpower in a short period of time, it’s often a little more expensive than have your bookkeeping attended to on a regular basis. In most cases, you will be asked to prepay for a minimum of 10 hour’s work or however long it’s estimated it will take to get your bookkeeping up to speed.
Do you need help with rescue bookkeeping work?
We have bookkeepers, BAS agents and accountants located across Australia, available to help businesses in need of rescue bookkeeping work. Visit our online directory of local bookkeepers and bookkeepers who work ‘in the cloud’ at National Bookkeeping for more information. Here you will be able to see the different bookkeepers’ rates or request a quote.
In most cases, when a business purchases major assets, such as a motor vehicles, it’s known as a capital purchase, which is made via a loan. There are two types of loans the business can take out: a hire purchase loan or a chattel mortgage.
Buying assets on hire purchase
This is an agreement between you and the lender to acquire a motor vehicle. During the hire period, the lender legally owns the car and you pay regular instalments to the finance company. For tax purposes you can claim depreciation, running costs and interest paid against your business income. When you pay off the loan in full, legal ownership is then transferred to you.
Buying assets on chattel mortgage
Chattel mortgage is essentially a mortgage over goods to be financed. Chattel mortgage is classed as a cash sale in that the goods automatically become your property on purchase and the finance company takes a mortgage over the chattels.
Just as a hire purchase you can claim depreciation, running costs and interest paid, against your business income. The chattel mortgage allows businesses to claim the full input tax credit from GST incurred expenses immediately (next BAS statement).
Chattel mortgages are more popular
Chattel mortgages became popular when BAS and GST was introduced, because businesses could claim the GST at the time of purchase, whether they ran a cash system or an accrual accounting system. Plus, under a chattel mortgage, the allowable depreciation and interest payment are also tax deductible.
How capital purchases affect cash flow
If a business doesn’t take out a loan to make a capital purchase, it will have to dip into its savings, which can adversely affect cash flow, especially on big ticket items. Taking out a chattel mortgage, however, helps to keep cash flow under control because the business can borrow the funds (and claim the interest back as a tax deduction) without any major impact on cash flow. You will also then be able to factor the repayments into your monthly forecast projection.
A business’s balance sheet is a snapshot of its financial position at a particular period of time, which is not to be confused with a profit and loss (P&L) statement. Unlike a P&L, which just shows whether the business is making a profit or loss during a given period, a balance sheet, will eventually, show nearly every activity that has occurred within a business.
However, there are some transactions that will show up immediately. You’ll learn how to run a balance sheet in our Xero Daily Reconciliations Training Course, but we wanted to show you the transactions to look out for and why.
The purchase or sale of assets
When an asset, such as a car, is bought, it will reduce the cash account and increase the fixed-assets account. Both of these accounts are listed in the asset portion of the balance sheet, however, cash is part of the current assets section and fixed assets are part of the long-term assets section.
When an asset is sold, the way the cash is accounted for is a bit more difficult. Here, both the asset’s book value and any accumulated depreciation are removed from the books at the same time that the cash account is increased by the sales price. If the sales price does not equal the book value, the difference is accounted for as a gain or loss on the sale of equipment. This gain or loss is recorded on the P&L statement.
Purchases on credit
When a business purchases supplies or inventory on credit, the business will debit the asset account (supplies or inventory) and credit the accounts-payable account. Almost always, accounts payable are considered to be current liabilities and are shown at the top of the liabilities section of the balance sheet.
Debt and lease arrangements
When a business issues debt or enters into a leasing arrangement, a liability must be recorded in the long-term section of the company’s balance sheet. For example, if a company issues bonds for cash, the company would debit cash and credit bonds payable in the simplest bond-issuance scenarios.
Capital-lease transactions affect the balance sheet in a similar manner. When entering a capital-lease arrangement, the business will debit a fixed-asset account to show that the company has taken economic possession of the leased asset. At the same time, the business will credit a capital-lease obligation account to show the offsetting economic liability.
A basic, yet vitally important, report for every business owner is a profit and loss (P&L) statement. A profit and loss statement, as the name suggests, shows whether a business is running at a profit or a loss over a given period. We’ve written about why running multi-period P&Ls before in QuickBooks and MYOB is a good idea for businesses with inventory, but single period P&Ls are equally important for all businesses.
If you’re a bookkeeping newbie, a profit and loss statement, which sometimes goes by other names — income statements, earning statements, revenue statements, operating statements, statement of operations, or statement of financial performance — is a basic report you’ll learn to run in our Xero Daily Reconciliations Course. If you’re planning to work as a contract bookkeeper, you should get in the habit of running P&L statements for your clients regularly (if you’re a business owner, ask your bookkeeper to run them).
P&Ls are required by law
Depending on how a business is structured, it may be required by law to complete a P&L. A P&L shows how the revenue of the business is turned into net income by subtracting all expenses from income. They’re also useful for understanding a business’ net income, which helps with the decision making processes. A business will also need a P&L if they’re applying for a small business loan.
The contents of a P&L
Although the process of running a P&L differ between accounting software packages, they usually all contain the same elements, depending only on the business itself. In the first section, the cost of sales is subtracted from the revenue, which highlights gross profit. The business’ operating expenses are then subtracted from the gross profit, which leaves the operating profit. Now, all of the non-operating revenues and expenses must be factored into account, after which the business’ profit or loss will be displayed.
Because P&L statements are often used by a business’ owner to make financial decisions, to inform shareholders of the business’ performance, apply for a business loan, or as proof of income in the sale of a business, it’s important that you understand how to create one correctly. Our Xero Daily Reconciliations Training Course covers P&L statements, and much more. Visit our website to learn more or to enrol.