Small Business Accounting Mistakes to Avoid

Small Business Accounting Mistakes to Avoid

Bookkeeping is an essential business function that contributes directly to your organization’s sustainability by providing insights into its financial health. Accurate records help a business budget effectively, invest wisely and plan successfully to meet its needs.

For the small business professional, in-house bookkeeping can present a challenge. Small organizations often work on tight budgets and with fewer team members than larger companies. The risk of errors can increase when someone without bookkeeping experience or knowledge handles the responsibilities. Fortunately, you can take a few steps to help mitigate these risks, such as brushing up on the basics so you can avoid common mistakes.

Fundamental Bookkeeping Tips

You can take multiple steps to simplify the bookkeeping process while implementing solid internal controls.

First, establish a business account and credit card for your organization. Separate accounts are a must if your business structure is anything but a sole proprietorship, and they can be beneficial in many other situations as well. Having a distinction between personal information and company data makes tracking expenses and preparing for tax time much simpler. In an IRS audit, commingling this information can add layers of complexity and extra time to the process.

Keeping business information separate also allows you to take better advantage of digital tracking tools. Software solutions offering online management and funding for expenses can eliminate lost or damaged receipts by allowing employees to upload photos of them to electronic filing cabinets. These platforms help ensure accountability and accurate allocation. You can fund an employee’s account with the precise amount of a known expense to limit spending. 

Accounts payable and receivable software solutions can also help speed up your payment cycles and integrate with existing accounting systems for convenience. Use them for fast online bill payments to vendors or to generate and send customer invoices with a few clicks. The information automatically populates to programs like QuickBooks to eliminate manual data entry.

Familiarize yourself with the reporting tools your software offers, too. Analyzing profit and loss statements offers actionable insights into spending and costs between comparison periods. Plus, these reports deliver crucial information on other key aspects of your business’s financial health, such as return on investment, debt-to-equity ratios and average receivable age. This data is valuable for informing budgeting and planning tasks.

How to Avoid Common Bookkeeping Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

You can also improve your bookkeeping by recognizing and avoiding some common pitfalls. Keep these tips in mind.

Have a Data Backup Plan

1. Have a Data Backup Plan

Fires and natural disasters pose risks to paper-based and digital records, and the likelihood of wholly and accurately recalling and reconstructing lost data is low. Establish a robust process to ensure access to synchronized duplicate records and enforce your policy without exception.

2. Plan for Taxes

The IRS and state revenue agencies can levy penalties and interest for companies that don’t pay their taxes by the required due date. Consider setting aside funds in a separate business account to have them available when you need them. Mark your calendar the first of each year for one to two weeks before the due date to ensure you’re paying on time.

3. Pay Careful Attention to Payables and Receivables

When you’re focused on your business’s core mission, it can be easy to forget who hasn’t paid an invoice on time and who needs to get paid when. Choose an accounting program to help manage payables and receivables more effectively with features like automated payment reminders for you and your customers.

4. Track Every Expense

Tracking every expense, no matter how minor, helps offset the income your business generates for a lower tax bill. Categorize each outlay with a description that works for you so you can account for them accurately come tax time.

5. Trust the Right People With Bookkeeping Responsibilities

Not every small business owner or employee has the specialized knowledge good bookkeeping requires, resulting in the potential for costly errors at best. At worst, handing the responsibilities off to a single individual opens the door to unnecessary risks from bad actors and fraudulent activity. Regain peace of mind and extra time by partnering with highly qualified professionals.

Outsource Your Bookkeeping With Marshall Jones

Marshall Jones has served businesses in the greater Atlanta area with accounting solutions for over three decades. Our certified public accountants and advisors have in-depth expertise across numerous industries to deliver high-quality bookkeeping services to organizations of all sizes.

Contact a team member online to request a custom quote or get more information.

Bookkeeping Basics for Small Businesses

Bookkeeping Basics for Small Businesses

Business bookkeeping basics are essential to a small business’s success in maintaining compliance and monitoring milestones. The tax professionals at Marshall Jones have put together this quick-start guide for small business bookkeeping to help you begin.

5 Bookkeeping Tips for Small Business Owners 

Five key bookkeeping tips recommended by senior tax professionals can help your small business stay on track this year. 

1. Open a Business Bank Account

It’s vital to have a distinct bank account and credit card for your business so that you have clear records when filing your taxes. Unless you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll need separate tax reports for home and business. Also, if the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decides to audit your business, having mixed personal and business accounts can complicate the process further.

2. Expedite Your Accounts Payable Process is a legitimate and secure accounts payable and accounts receivable software that integrates with QuickBooks. It helps businesses integrate automated digital tools into their bill and invoice processes. It simplifies the process by making it easy to record bills and pay vendors via the Automated Clearing House (ACH), credit card, check and even international wire transfer. 

3. Digitally Track Expenses

Managing multiple employees with company credit cards can become complex if receipts become lost, faded or damaged. Divvy is an online expense management and business budgeting software ideal for allotting spending money to your team. For example, an employee booking a hotel room for a business trip can receive the exact amount of cash they need with no more and no less. The employee simply snaps a photo of their receipt for digital recordkeeping. 

4. Use Your Financials to Make Strategic Business Decisions 

It’s key to take advantage of your financial records beyond tax time. Business owners should be familiar with a profit and loss statement to analyze their spending and costs, whether that’s year over year, month to month or even biweekly. It’s also helpful to learn financial analysis ratios like the receivable turnover, current, return on assets and debt to equity ratios — and much more. 

5. Be Proactive About Your 1099 Tax Documents

A 1099 form is a tax document business owners use to report payments over $600 in a given year to independent contractors. The best policy is to take a proactive approach to prepare for 1099 forms by issuing a W9 to each vendor at the time of the transaction. Then, you’ll have their tax identification number and address on file to report on the 1099 form during tax season. 

Get Professional Help With Small Business Bookkeeping Basics

Marshall Jones has been helping small businesses like yours with accounting and bookkeeping services in Atlanta for decades. To find out more about how we can help you with small business bookkeeping, contact us online and schedule an appointment today. 

hinking financial advisor businessman working in office.

When Should You Hire an Accountant?

When Should You Hire an Accountant

Every small business should know when to hire an accountant. In general, it’s advisable to meet and build a relationship with a certified public accountant (CPA) at least once to cover the basics of your business. There are also specific reasons why you should hire an accountant, such as when you need to make critical business decisions and handle key tax documents that will face government scrutiny. The experts here at Marshall Jones have created this guide to help you learn the ins and outs of when you should hire an accountant.

Commonly Outsourced Business Functions

The goal of partnering with a CPA is to have a professional in your corner who cares about your business and is sensitive to your needs. The accountant should understand how to meet you where you are currently and help you achieve your future goals.

A CPA can help you with many practical business and tax tasks, including: 

  • Advisory services: If you need to make a significant accounting or business decision, you can hire a CPA to review your strategy with you and consult on potential advantages and pitfalls. 
  • Audit and assurance: An accountant can help you audit your books and ensure you’re meeting regulatory compliance requirements for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), your state, lending agencies and more. Accountants can also properly prepare income tax returns, financial statements and sales tax returns. 
  • Entity and tax structure: If you need to discuss your tax structure to maximize value for your entity, a CPA can help. 
  • Mergers and acquisitions: Mergers and acquisitions have complex regulations to manage when considering debts and taxes you will acquire in the process. An accounting professional can help you anticipate these expenses. 
  • Outsourced accounting: Outsourced accounting allows you to farm out your internal bookkeeping, recordkeeping and accounting tasks to a CPA firm. Teams can perform your functions on-site with your employees or off-site to meet all your accounting needs. 
  • Accounting information systems: Many firms use accounting information systems to redesign your accounting processes for optimal performance. They can even handle all the accounting functions for your business on your behalf. 

Hire an Accountant for Your Small Business Today

For more than three decades, Marshall Jones has served the Atlanta business community with integrity and excellence through CPA accounting and audit services. Our capabilities include outsourced professional accounting solutions, audit and assurance, tax planning and preparation and professional bookkeeping and consulting. 

Ready to find out more? Reach out to our team online and schedule your appointment today to get started. 

Tips for Accounting Students From the Partners at Marshall Jones

As a college student, you have a lot of navigating to do when entering the workforce. That’s why the partners at Marshall Jones want to offer you some tips as an accounting major! Since beginning their own accounting careers, our partners have gained valuable knowledge, and they want to bestow their wisdom upon you. Consider these tips as you continue your accounting education and career.

1. Study, Study, Study

As a student, you’re probably no stranger to studying. However, much of the studying mentality revolves around studying material to pass a test. Our partners at Marshall Jones want to suggest that you should study to learn, not just to pass your exams. One of our audit partners, Nathan, admitted, “The thing I realized after I graduated was that the material actually mattered in the field I was pursuing. I had to research things I should have known because of that test mentality that I had [in college].”

Studying to learn the material will benefit you in the future and make you more knowledgeable after your exams end. It also allows you to hone highly sought-after accounting skills before entering the field. Rather than spend time relearning these skills later, you should take the free time you have now to ensure you’re ready for the accounting world.

2. Know Which Degree You’re Getting

Some schools have more than one version of an accounting degree. To become a certified public accountant (CPA), you need a certain amount of credit hours. While a few states allow accounting majors to take the CPA exam after completing the standard 120 credit hours of a bachelor’s program, most states require 150 hours through a master’s program. Make sure you know what degree you need. 

Either way, try to complete all your schooling at once so you’ll be eligible to get your CPA license right away.

3. Network With Professionals

Randy, another audit partner at Marshall Jones, emphasizes that “relationships are everything.” Join honors fraternities, attend expo events and take advantage of professional gatherings. These are all great ways to network and meet new people who could potentially help you with job or advancement opportunities. Nathan also suggests, “Make sure to focus your attention on networking events that will benefit you in the search for your accounting position,” instead of attending just any networking event.

4. Embrace Speech Classes

We know public speaking classes are among the least popular courses. However, having confidence when speaking with peers, coworkers and clients is an important skill to have. Kristen, a partner of firm administration, shares, “Clients are the backbone of everything that you do. So, you want to be able to talk with them, build relationships, build the trust with them. A lot of that comes from just how you explain things or discuss things with them.” 

You’ll do a lot of speaking as a public accountant, so use speech classes as a beneficial tool to help build skills early. 

5. Know Mistakes Can Lead to Future Success

We think this tip is important because of its versatility. Randy reminds accounting students, “Realize that mistakes are often steps to future success. Everybody makes mistakes, but the key is to learn from them so that they’re not repeated.” Embrace the possibility of making mistakes, as they’re meant to teach you valuable lessons, even if they don’t always seem like it in the moment.

6. Be Involved and Build Your Resume

During your time in college, be sure to join clubs and become a leader in that club if possible. Susan, one of our tax partners, tells students that “belonging to clubs demonstrates personal skills, [so] if you are an officer of the club it demonstrates leadership skills, [and] charitable activities show character.” These are all great ways to build your resume, which Susan suggests is something accounting students should begin to think about during their first couple years of college.

7. Get Internships

One of the most important tips the partners at Marshall Jones have for accounting students is to get internships — more than one if possible. These opportunities can be valuable for several reasons. Susan encourages students to get more than one internship because you’ll have “more information to determine the precise area of accounting you would prefer.” 

Kristen also suggests getting an internship because “you’re going to get a firsthand feel for how CPA firms work, especially if you’re interested in working in public accounting.” More importantly, internships provide you with valuable work experience, and you can apply the things you’re learning in school. 

These positions allow you to understand the nature of the business and what you should expect from this field. 

8. Understand the Accounting Industry

Get to know the accounting industry. Understand the different divisions of accounting — auditing, tax and consulting — to determine which might be most interesting to you. Think about what you want in your career. After five years with a CPA firm at the beginning of his career, Charlie, one of our founding partners, realized that real estate development was something he was interested in, so he made the change. Therefore, he suggests that if there’s a specific industry you know you’re passionate about, pursue it.

Greg, a managing partner, encourages accounting students to understand the types of firms because they’re all different. “CPA firms often take on the personalities of their leading partners, and this leads to a great variety between CPA firms and their cultures.” Because of how different every firm can be, it’s also essential to understand yourself so you can find a firm that will be the best fit for you as you build your accounting career.

9. Realize There’s No Rush to Figure It All Out

If you’re struggling to determine what aspect of accounting you’re passionate about or feel unsure about which firm you want to join, we’re here to assure you there’s no rush to have your whole career figured out. Greg emphasized this idea: “…The answers about what kind of firm you want to join and what kind of accountant you want to be cannot always be known until after you start your career.” It’s important to remember many people don’t have the answers at first — and that’s OK!

Start Your Career at Marshall Jones

As you approach the end of your college career, consider starting your accounting career at Marshall Jones. Our team of CPAs and advisors creates a supportive environment for you to find what you’re passionate about. Learn more about our team to discover why we’re the right move for your career.

Changes we expect to see with divorce

Divorce is stressful enough, but the new tax bill may ramp up the complications and anxieties for couples who are calling it quits.

Divorce experts are predicting a confusing, turbulent year, thanks to the tax plan’s reversal on who pays taxes on alimony. For more than 70 years, the tax law allowed the higher-earning spouse to deduct the alimony they paid to their exes, while the “receiving” spouse was taxed at a 15% rate.

But the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reverses that long-standing arrangement. Starting in 2019, the higher-income spouse will lose the alimony deduction and must pay federal taxes on it, while the receiving spouse won’t have to pay taxes. The new tax bill affects divorce agreements signed after Dec. 31, 2018, while divorces settled before that will be grandfathered in under the old tax bill.

Those dynamics may result in a tense year of negotiations for couples who are splitting apart as higher-earning spouses likely push for a settlement in 2018, allowing them to lock in a tax deduction. Lower-earning spouses may want to delay the settlement until 2019, believing the new tax law will benefit them, he said.

Where to start

Given the complicated mix of emotion and finances in divorce, it can be helpful to rely on a team of experts, including a divorce attorney, a divorce coach and a financial analyst with expertise in divorce. The analyst can help spouses understand how the tax bill will affect their settlement.

A detailed financial analysis can help put things in perspective, including how the new tax code will affect spouses. Examining a post-divorce forecast of your cash flow — and how the tax law will affect it — will clarify whether it’s possible to maintain your current home or where you might need to cut back, for instance.

Take a step back

A spouse who wants to argue for lower alimony payments based on the new tax code may want to examine how much their fight will cost in legal fees. The typical hourly rate for a divorce attorney is $350, although it can be as high as $1,000 an hour in big cities.

How it affects happily married couples

Married couples with prenuptial agreements should also pay attention to the new alimony taxation. That’s because most of those prenups likely include alimony provisions based on the prior tax law.

Those prenups probably have to change. If you are happily married, this probably isn’t even on your radar. But they’ll have a big ‘uh-oh’ moment if they go through divorce and have this in their prenup.

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

When it comes to your company’s success, accurate financial information is critical to making the correct business decisions. Knowing your margins and having visibility into cash flow will allow you to elevate your company to the next level. That’s why your financial statements need to go beyond just the basic requirements.

Your company will benefit from a knowledgeable and experienced accounting team. If you can’t commit to hiring a dedicated crew just for financials, outsourcing your accounting functions is one of the most beneficial business decisions you can make. When you partner with Marshall Jones, we’ll provide you with all the assistance and financial expertise you need without having to hire a full-time staff.

Embracing Financial Proficiency

When companies lack exclusive accounting teams, other individuals like business owners or managers with other primary responsibilities must handle the daily bookkeeping. Without a dedicated individual or crew maintaining financials, many essential tasks and functions get overlooked:

  • Low prioritization: When accounting is not an employee’s primary job function, financial tasks sometimes become a low priority. A lack of emphasis can increase the likelihood of errors.
  • Limited time: When someone has other duties to perform in addition to the financials, it can lead to inaccuracies and errors as they consistently rush through both of their jobs.
  • Unqualified personnel: The employee handling the financials may not have the technical knowledge about the latest standards and tax laws to perform the job effectively.

At Marshall Jones, our team of certified public accountants and advisors can supplement or manage all of your accounting responsibilities expertly and accurately for as long as you need us, allowing you to refocus your energies on your business’s core functions.

Benefits of Outsourced Accounting

When you outsource your financials to a reliable accounting firm, you’ll benefit from the experience of professionals who can take the financial stress off your plate and free up your time. The valuable insight an outsourced team provides can help guide your business decisions. Among the added benefits of hiring an outsourced accounting service are:

  • Automation: Outsourced accounting services often integrate directly into your payroll, inventory, sales and other bookkeeping systems. Each time a transaction is made, your accounting systems update automatically. This information virtually eliminates the possibility of human error in data entry.
  • Expert review: Instead of reactively looking back into your financial statements for discrepancies, you’ll have a clear understanding of the implications of your business decisions. This knowledge allows you to be proactive and gives you a dynamic view of the steps needed to grow your business and profits.
  • Best practices: A fresh set of eyes with advanced accounting expertise can provide an advantage when it comes to analyzing your financials. While old, inefficient methods might be enough to get by, an entire team dedicated to your operation will boost efficiency and accuracy. 

Contact Marshall Jones for Your Outsourced Accounting Needs Today

At Marshall Jones, our certified public accountants and advisors have provided outsourced accounting and other financial services to the Metro Atlanta area for more than 35 years. Our mission is to deliver superior service to our clients with the highest integrity and technical competency. Contact us today to find out how we can help with your company’s financial needs!

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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 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


Taxable Income –

IRS Initiates Change

Company Initiates Change

20 X 1


20 X 2


20 X 3


20 X 4


20 X 5