Consider these suggestions for helping to make tax season smooth sailing this year for your small business:
Make your estimated tax payments. Tuesday, January 18th is the due date to make your 4th quarter payment for the 2021 tax year. Now is also the time to create an initial estimate for first quarter 2022 tax payments. The due date for this payment is Monday, April 18.
Reconcile your bank accounts. Preparing an accurate tax return starts with accurate books. Reconciling your bank accounts is the first step in this process. Consider it the cornerstone on which you build your financials and your tax return. Up-to-date cash accounts will also give you confidence that you’re not over-reporting (or under-reporting!) income on your tax return.
Organize those nasty credit card statements. If you use credit cards for your business, develop an expense report for these expenditures, if you have not already done so. The report should recap the credit card bill and place the transactions in the correct expense accounts. Attach actual copies of the expenses in the credit card statement. You will need this to support any sales tax paid in case of an audit. Use this exercise to show you are only including business-related expenses by reimbursing your business for any personal use of the card.
Reconcile accounts payable. One of the first tax deadlines for many businesses is issuing 1099 forms to vendors and contractors at the end of January. Get your accounts payable and cash disbursements up-to-date so you have an accurate account of which vendors you paid.
Get your information reporting in order. Now identify anyone you paid during the year that will need a 1099. Look for vendors that are not incorporated like consultants or those in the gig economy and don’t forget your attorneys. You will need names, addresses, identification numbers (like Social Security numbers) and amounts billed. Send out W-9s as soon as possible to request missing information.
File employee-related tax forms. If you have employees, file all necessary W-2 and W-3 forms, along with the applicable federal and state payroll returns (Forms 940 and 941). Do this as soon as possible in January to allow time to identify any potential problems.
Compile a list of major purchases. Prepare a list of any purchases you made during 2021 that resulted in your business receiving an invoice for $2,500 or more. Once the list is compiled, find detailed invoices that support the purchase and create a fixed asset file. This spending will be needed to determine if you wish to depreciate the purchase over time, take advantage of bonus depreciation, or expense the purchase using code section 179. Your choices create a great tax planning tool.
Review the impact of COVID-19. There are a number of federal and state initiatives that will need to be considered when filing your 2021 tax return. If you received payroll credits for employee retention or have a Paycheck Protection Program loan that needs to be accounted for this year, be prepared with the details. It will be important to correctly account for these funds.
Knowing your net worth and understanding how it is changing over time is one of the most important financial concepts that everyone needs to understand. This number is used by banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies and you! Your net worth impacts your credit score, which in turn impacts your interest rates and things as mundane as the amount you pay for auto insurance.
A simple definition
Net worth is the result of taking all the things you own (assets) minus what you owe others (debts and liabilities).
Assets include cash, bank account balances, investments, your home, vehicles or anything else that you could sell today for cash. Assets also include any businesses or business interests you own.
Liabilities are what you owe others, such as a mortgage or car loan, and any other debt, like credit card or student loan debt.
Your net worth changes over time, reflecting how you spend your money. For example, if you have tons of bills and spend more than you bring in, your bank account balances will be lower. If you spend a lot on your credit cards, your debt will go up. The net effect is a lower net worth.
Everyone has a net worth
Yes, everyone. Even a 6-year-old with money in their piggy bank has a net worth. If your child is saving up for a bike, they will convert one asset (cash) into another asset (their new bike)!
Calculating your net worth
Step one. Reconcile your bank accounts and loans. Try doing this every month, as these are the easiest parts of your net worth to track and calculate.
Step two. Calculate the value of all your remaining assets. For some of your assets, such as stocks, you can go online and find the current value of the stocks you own. For other assets, you’ll have to estimate what you could sell that asset for today.
Step three. Add up all your asset values, then subtract all your debts. What you’re left with is your net worth (and yes, your number could be negative)!
Why you should know your net worth
Knowing your net worth contributes to the big picture of your financial circumstances. Here’s why it’s beneficial to know your net worth:
You want to apply for student loans. You’ll likely need to submit an application that details all your cash and other assets when applying for student loans. If your net worth is high enough, you may have to foot some of the tuition bill yourself.
You want to get insurance. Some types of insurance use your credit score as part of the calculation for determining your premium payments. Knowing if you have a high net worth may help in obtaining a favorable premium amount.
You want to diversify your investments. Certain investments are available only to individuals who have a high enough net worth.
You want to buy a home. Banks want to see that you have plenty of cash when compared to your debts. If you have too much debt, you may need to either pay down the debt or increase your down payment.
Knowing your net worth and how to calculate it can help you achieve some of your financial goals. Please call if you’d like help calculating and understanding your net worth.
The best way to weather a storm is often by being prepared before the storm hits. In the case of small businesses, this means building a fortress balance sheet.
What is a fortress balance sheet?
This long-standing idea means taking steps to make your balance sheet shockproof by building liquidity. Like a frontier outpost or an ancient walled city, businesses that prepare for a siege—in the form of a recession, natural disaster, pandemic, or adverse regulatory change—can often hold out until the crisis passes or the cavalry arrives.
Consider these suggestions for building your own fortress balance sheet.
Control inventory and receivables. These two asset accounts often directly impact cash reserves. For example, carrying excess inventories can deplete cash because the company must continue to insure, store, and manage items that aren’t generating a profit. Also take a hard look at customer payment trends. Clients who are behind on payments can squeeze a firm’s cash flow quickly, especially if they purchase significant levels of goods and services—and then fail to pay.
Keep a tight rein on debt. In general, a company should use debt financing for capital items such as plant and equipment, computers, and fixtures that will be used for several years. By incurring debt for such items, especially when interest rates are low, a firm can direct more cash towards day-to-day operations and new opportunities. Two rules of thumb for taking on debt are don’t borrow more than 75 percent of what an asset is worth, and aim for loan terms that don’t exceed the useful life of the underlying asset. A fortress balance sheet also means that debt as a percent of equity should be as low as possible. So, total up your debt, equity and retained earnings. If debt is less than 50% of the total, you are on your way to building a stronger foundation for your balance sheet.
Monitor credit. A strong relationship with your banker can help keep the business afloat if the economy takes a nosedive. Monitor your business credit rating regularly and investigate all questionable transactions that appear on your credit report. As with personal credit, your business credit score will climb as the firm makes good on its obligations.
Reconcile balance sheet accounts quarterly. It’s crucial to reconcile asset and liability accounts at least every quarter. A well-supported balance sheet can guide decisions about cash reserves, debt financing, inventory management, receivables, payables, and property. Regular monitoring can highlight vulnerabilities in your fortress, providing time for corrective action.
Get rid of non-performing assets. Maybe you own a store across town that’s losing money or have a warehouse with a lot of obsolete inventory. Consider getting rid of these and other useless assets in exchange for cash.
Calculate ratios. Know how your bank calculates the lending strength of businesses. Then calculate them for your own business. For example, banks want to know your debt service coverage. Do you have enough cash to adequately handle principal and interest payments? Now work your cash flow to provide plenty of room to service this debt AND any future debt! But don’t forget other ratios like liquidity and working capital ratios. The key? Improve these ratios over time.
Remember, the best time to get money from a bank is when it looks like you don’t need it. You do this by creating a fortress balance sheet!