Why Financial Statements Prepared by Outsourced Accounting Services Can Be More Reliable

Whether you want your business to have a single owner forever or you’re actively seeking investors, you need to have accurate financial statements. Your financial statements can help you get lower interest rates on loans, better forecast your cash flow, and make informed decisions for future growth.

Because strong information is the key to any business decision, your financial statements need to go beyond the minimum requirements. The new standard of outsourced accounting and bookkeeping services often give you the most accurate picture of your finances.

Eliminate Multitasking

In many smaller businesses, the owners or managers do most of the accounting. Even when a CPA does the taxes or end-of-year reports, most of the day-to-day bookkeeping may be done by someone with many duties that go beyond accounting. This creates several problems:

First, the people preparing the books may not have advanced accounting knowledge. If they lack knowledge of accounting rules, they may report transactions in the wrong period or make other errors.

Second, when an owner or employee has other duties, accounting often takes a backseat. Accounting reports that managers use to make decisions can quickly become out of date. Needed documents may also be misplaced before the designated “accountant” records them.

Finally, when accounting is viewed as an undesirable

chore, there is added incentive to rush through it. This also increases the likelihood of errors.

Introduce Automation

Even when you prepare your books carefully, there is always the risk of human error. Even a single missed or transposed digit can throw off your books.

Outsourced accounting services can often be directly integrated into your inventory, point-of-sale, payroll, and other bookkeeping systems. Each time a transaction is made, your accounting systems are automatically updated. This virtually eliminates the possibility of human error in data entry.

Provide Expert Review

Virtual outsourced accounting and bookkeeping isn’t done entirely by computers. A CPA is still reviewing the entries and checking for errors.

Five Accounting Technology Innovations that Every CFO Should Be Aware of

In a survey conducted by Robert Half Management Resources, 41 percent of CFOs cited technology as a major source of stress in their jobs, saying that innovations in accounting are progressing so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep up. Becoming familiar with the biggest trends minimizes the struggle with increased efficiency and a more streamlined approach to managing corporate finances.

Cloud-Based Accounting

The cloud computing trend that has grown increasingly popular in other areas of business is making its way into the realm of accounting. Cloud applications can handle everything from payroll and invoicing to taxes and benefit payments. All financial information is updated as soon as changes occur and can be monitored and managed from a user-friendly administrator dashboard. Automation handles tasks that previously took time away from more important duties. Moving accounting processes to the cloud also removes a burden from the IT department by shifting the responsibility for software management and updates to the cloud service provider.

Complete Integration

Customized integration solutions are changing the way businesses operate, and this is proving to be a boon to accounting executives. In the past, accuracy was a major concern, especially when financial information was transferred between departments. One small error could compound to create serious problems down the line, necessitating corrections that wasted valuable company time.

Today, it’s possible to link together ERP, CRM and CMS software as well as legacy applications to create a unified environment where authorized users from every department can access the information they need at any time. Alerts can be set up to call attention to any errors that do occur, preventing the “snowball effect” that cripples productivity.

Manual Entry Minimized with OCR

Using an integrated system already cuts down on the amount of manual entry required to manage company finances, but the advent of optical character recognition (OCR) software is simplifying the process even more. Advances in this technology allow companies to use scanners or even the cameras on mobile devices to capture printed financial information such as receipts and invoices and translate the text into digital files. Improved accuracy has cut down on the rate of error during this translation, and future updates promise to further improve the procedure’s efficiency.

New Solutions in Tax Software

 

With payroll, expenses, receivables, payables and all other pertinent financial information available through an integrated, cloud-based solution, tax time becomes much less stressful. Modern innovations in accounting and tax software allow CFOs to take advantage of the correlated data collected throughout the year to ensure accuracy for all tax forms and payments. Real-time data updates prevent errors caused by outdated reports and missed entries.

Whether a company pays quarterly or annually, precision in tax reporting is essential. Mistakes can lead to over- or under-payment or, in the worst case, an audit. Most tax software programs make the process easy with tools that handle details such as deductions and alerts that point out potentially costly data entry errors.

Remote access is one of the greatest benefits of modern accounting technology. CFOs and other financial professionals are no longer required to be in an office to input new data, update tax information or run reports. With the right software solution and related mobile applications, it’s possible to handle a company’s finances from anywhere. Data entered by employees at the office is immediately accessible via the cloud. Other members of the mobile workforce can record expenses or payments on the go. This flexibility gives CFOs the up-to-the-minute information they need to stay on top of the financial health of the business.

Today’s CFOs recognize the value of these and other emerging accounting technologies. Understanding how to implement and utilize the right combination of systems results in a more stable financial state and improved corporate growth. Modern accounting technologies are efficient, scalable and secure, providing just what CFOs need to ensure success.

 

 

How the Equifax Breach Can Impact Your Tax Return

After the Equifax data breach, year-end tax planning may be even more important. Social Security numbers were among the data exposed in the Equifax hack, which affects up to 143 million people. Immediate to-dos have focused on fraud alerts, credit freezes and monitoring to curtail thieves’ ability to open new accounts in victims’ names. But experts say consumers should also start thinking ahead to tax season — when criminals could potentially use those stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and snare refunds. It’s still unclear what impact the Equifax breach could have on the 2018 filing season.

So, what can you do? First, some unwelcomed news. IRS protections currently in place — filing an identity-theft affidavit or obtaining a filing PIN (more on that, below) — are specifically for victims of tax-related identity theft. Having your Social Security number exposed in a data breach isn’t enough. As the IRS notes in its taxpayer resource, “not every data breach results in identity theft, and not every identity theft is tax-related identity theft.” But there are still some steps you can take to mitigate the risks ahead of tax time:

Prepare to file early

‘File early’ doesn’t mean rush to file and risk underreporting income or having to file an amended return later. Now, we’re aware that not everyone can file early, if you’re waiting on 1099s for dividends and interest they may not show up until mid-February and taxpayers with partnership income with K-1’s may still be waiting until later in the season. However, you do have the ability to prep and to be organized.

  • Review your most recent tax return. That can provide a good framework for this year, in terms of deductible expenses to tally and official documents (W-2s, 1099s, etc.) to expect, Gagnon said. Note any changes, say, if you switched jobs, or opened a new investment account.
  • Make a list of key documents you’ll need, so you can check them off as they arrive and see at a glance what you are still waiting on. (See common deadlines, below.) Be proactive about calling or emailing to track down a late document, he said.
  • If you have moved this year, reach out to any of the employers, financial institutions and other entities sending you key forms, to make sure they have your current mailing address and contact information, he said.
  • Start gathering receipts and records for potentially deductible expenses, like charitable donations or business expenses.
  • Monitor online accounts. Some entities only make tax documents available online, rather than mailing a copy; others offer online access well before they send paper copies in the mail.

 

Monitor your tax record

The IRS offers online access that lets taxpayers see details of their tax account. It can be an effective way to monitor your account, if you’re concerned. You would be able to see if someone files a return in your name and act quickly. Signing up for this account can be difficult as the IRS requires an immense amount of personal information to gain the online access.

 

Consider a PIN

The IRS does offer so-called identity protecting PINs, or IP PINs, to prevent someone from filing a fraudulent return with your Social Security number. Participants get a new six-digit number each year, without which your e-filed return will be rejected and a paper return, significantly delayed.

Currently, IRS guidelines only allow you to get an IP PIN if you filed last year’s return with a home address in Florida, Georgia or Washington, D.C., where the government is running a pilot program. PIN protection isn’t foolproof, the IRS PIN system has been subject to cyberattacks as well. Earlier this year, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration released a report noting inconsistencies in IRS processes that left some victims without PINs.

 

Watch for fraud flags

Fraudulent tax returns aren’t the only tax-time identity theft issue to keep an eye on. The IRS warns that receiving certain tax documents or IRS notices — like a CP2000 to verify unreported income or a 1099 from an employer you haven’t worked for — can be a red flag for employment-related identity theft.

How to Choose Between Cash and Accrual

 

The accounting method you choose to use can determine if you show a profit or not in each year. This directly affects your business income taxes, and it may also impact whether you are able to obtain a loan or raise equity investments. Unlike other tax or accounting choices, you can’t choose what’s best from year to year — you must make a choice and stick with it for the long term.

What’s the Difference Between Cash and Accrual Accounting?

Your accounting method determines when transactions should be reported on your financial statements. The cash method is named because you record a transaction when you get the cash. In the accrual method, you report your accrued income and expenses when they were earned or incurred regardless of when the cash changes hands.

For example, say you sell a widget on December 15th and the customer pays $500 on January 15th as you agreed. In the cash method, the $500 is recorded as income on January 15th and, if your tax year follows the calendar year, goes on the new year’s taxes. In the accrual method, the $500 is recorded on December 15th and would be taxed in the previous year even though you didn’t receive the money until the new year.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Method?

The most important thing to understand is that the accounting method you choose doesn’t affect how much money you make or lose. It simply affects when you record a transaction. While your taxes might be slightly impacted depending on your tax bracket, if the method you chose increased or decreased your taxes in one year, that difference will generally be offset in the next year.

Cash Method

The key advantage to the cash method is simplicity. You can simply look at your checkbook and sales receipts to add up your profits and losses. You also know exactly how much cash you have at any given time.

The downside is that when you receive or send cash may not accurately reflect when you earned or incurred an expense.

Accrual Method

The key advantage to the accrual method is smoothing out your profits and losses. When you make or receive a large payment for something that happened over a period of several months, accrual accounting divides the transaction over those months.

The downside to the accrual method is that it takes extra work to figure out how all your transactions should be recorded in your books. You also need to keep separate cash flow statements to know how much cash you have on-hand at any given time.

How to Choose Between Cash and Accrual

You are generally free to choose either method for any reason at all. Many small businesses use cash accounting because it’s easier. If you’re looking to raise funds, outside investors often prefer to see books using the accrual method so they can view the big picture of the company’s financials.

You must use the accrual method for tax purposes if:

  • Your average annual gross receipts over three years exceed $5 million
  • You hold products in inventory and your gross receipts exceed $1 million per year
  • You are a publicly traded company that is required to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles(GAAP)

Changing Accounting Methods

Businesses may not freely change their accounting methods to prevent them from using changes to avoid taxes. Once you’ve selected your accounting method and filed taxes under that method, you must request IRS approval for any changes to your accounting method. If an approved change results in an adjustment to your taxable income, you will receive credit for the difference/payment in the tax year in which the change is approved. The company can also elect to recognize one-fourth of the adjustment in the four succeeding years starting with the year of the adjustment.

For example:

Company Z, a calendar-year corporation, has a net positive section 481(a) adjustment of $320,000 at the end of year 20X1. If Company Z initiates a change in its accounting method under revenue procedure 97-27 for the 20X2 tax year, the company will recognize one-fourth of the 481(a) adjustment in the four succeeding years, start with 20X2. However, if Company Z is under examination for 20X1 and the IRS makes an accounting change adjustment, the entire section 481(a) adjustment will be taxable in the year of examination

Year

Taxable Income –

IRS Initiates Change

Company Initiates Change

20 X 1

$320,000

20 X 2

$80,000

20 X 3

$80,000

20 X 4

$80,000

20 X 5

$80,000

Tax Planning for Millennials

Millennials are quickly taking over the workforce. It’s easy to adopt a do-it-yourself attitude however in many cases consulting a CPA for tax strategies can be extremely beneficial to eliminate the chance of a missed opportunity.

Finance a first-time home purchase
Finding the money for a down payment on a home can be daunting and it can seem tempting to seek alternative source, like tapping into a 401(k) from an old employer. An early distribution form a retirement plan can result in a 10% early-withdrawal penalty, but there’s a smarter approach that avoids penalties. By rolling that old 401(k) into an IRA you can take distributions for a first time home purchase (up to $10,000) and are not subject to the early-withdrawal penalty. However, it is important to be aware that those funds distributed will be included in income and subject to tax if they were contributed pretax.

Consider claiming educational expenses as a business deduction
Employees or those who are self-employed are able to claim educational expenses as an itemized business tax deduction. Employees may take a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limitation as a work-related educational expense. The self-employed may deduct educational expenses as ordinary and necessary business expenses from gross self-employment income. The expenses MUST be for education that maintains or improved skills required in one’s trade or business. The maximum lifetime learning credit is $2,000 per year based on qualifying expenses of $10,000 for the year, with zero carryover. However, as a business or itemized deduction can take into consideration higher expense totals.

Take advantage of a cafeteria plan
Internal Revenue Code Sec. 125 allows employees to receive some of their compensation pretax for qualified expenses. CPAs might advice their millennial clients of the potential to avoid paying income tax and Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (7.65%) on contributions to these plans. Cafeteria plans often include flexible spending arrangements for health care or dependent care expenses and qualified fringe benefits. These could save hundreds of dollars a year in taxes.

Manage student loans for optimal use of above-the-line deduction for interest paid
The general rule of thumb is to pay down student loans as early as possible because they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and generally charge higher interest rates than safe investments. Although an adjustment to adjusted gross income (AGI) is available for student loan interest paid, it’s worth reinforcing that this deduction is limited to $2,500 and phases out at AGIs of $65,000 to $80,000. Student loan consolidation can reduce monthly payments as well as the total amount paid over the life of the loan. It’s important to take an inventory of all loans and consolidate only those current loans that are unqualified, so as not to lose credit for qualifying payments already made to date.

Addressing investment concerns
Young taxpayers may desire to invest, but find it difficult to pull together all the necessary funds. Converting a 401(k) to a Roth IRA is extremely beneficial. Investing is more tax-efficient within a tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as a Roth IRA. This way when the funds are distributed in retirement they are not taxed.

Help sole proprietors understand their tax obligation
We see a lot of millennials that are creating craftsman-like businesses. It is extremely important to be aware of the importance of properly documenting ordinary and necessary business expenses. Time should be spent discussing listed property (furniture, equipment, and other property that might be fully deductible in the year of acquisition) as well as maintaining logs for business vehicle mileage and a detailed log of meals and entertainment.

 

New non-profit accounting standards

Not – for – Profit Groups Prepare for Major Changes to Guidance for Expenses, Investments

The FASB’s not-for-profit accounting standard is the first major update to not-for-profit reporting in more than two decades, and it aims to lend better insight into how an organization operates and manages its finances. Other changes to the financial reporting by not-for-profit groups may also be in store. The FASB recently published a proposal to clarify when and how to recognize contributions with conditions attached to them, which could mean that organizations will have to adjust when they recognize their revenue.

For museums, charities, and universities, change is coming.

Starting in 2018, these groups and other not-for-profit organizations must overhaul the way they report expenses and investments in their financial statements.

Other changes may be in store further ahead. The FASB on August 3, 2017, released for public comment a proposal that aims to make it easier for organizations to determine how to record the proceeds from grants and donations that have conditions attached to them. While it may not sound as big of a change as a financial statement makeover, the question has dogged financial reporting for years because contributions with conditions attached to them are recognized differently from other types of contributions, and the distinction could affect the timing of the recognition of potentially millions of dollars.

“People need to think about how these different things affect them”, said BDO USA LLP Assurance Director Lee Klumpp. “It could get really ugly for some of these nonprofits, especially if they don’t know what’s coming.”

 

December 2016 Tax Compliance Calendar

December 2016 Tax Compliance Calendar