One of the most common questions related to Travel & Meals & Entertainment is about deductibility. i.e. How much can I deduct?
The answers are directly from the IRS site here:
Between now and the end of the year is the best time for tax planning. Take stock. Review your financial statements. Review what your debtors owe you. Review what you owe your creditors. And generally get a sense of what your tax liability will look like this year.
Reach out to us if you'd like us to:
Have you ever wondered what an auditor looks for? Or how they look for it? The IRS has a website devoted to how they audit different industries. These are, admittedly, a deep dive. However, it may be worth searching your specific industry to see how auditors would approach an audit of your company.
Check it out here:
I happen to like and use both Xero and Hubdoc, so I am good natured-ly picking on them a bit here. So, here is the deal. There are too many happy, whistly, xylephone music, key of G or C music-y SAAS tutorial videos out there. But here is the good news. You don't have to change them. The solution to those happy, whistle-y SAAS videos is to continue to include them in your marketing...BUT...after they are done playing, add a ‘hands on’ demo so that the user can put the happy, fun, easy, whistle-ing little video you created into action. If it isn’t that easy, then stop the whistling in the damn videos. If it is that easy, then you’ll be doing your users a favor and increasing your knowledge base and creating active marketing of your product. Make sense?
At this point in history of the USA, most adults (and many children) communicate to each other regularly through some kind of computerized device. I use a laptop and an iPhone. Others use tablets, Voip phones, watches, etc. These devices, and the apps on them, are our gateways to communicating, doing business, entertainment...and most anything else you can think of...(I still haven't figured out the virtual "I need a hug" app, not sure there will ever be a virtual solution for that).
With more forums for communication it isn't simpler, it is more complicated because "we" are collectively still figuring out the most effective way to use each app, forum, device and this takes time and experience.
Because of this, business communications and personal communications are intersecting and overlapping. Setting boundaries between what is personal and what is business is made harder...or at least takes more effort if you occupy the same space and use the same device to communicate during the day with family, friends and clients. After awhile they seem to blend together.
This isn't necessarily a 'bad' thing, per se. Actually, there is a lot of embedded integrity into this because you are geolocated through your device, and there are multiple 'audit' trails to everything one does online. One idea I've struggled with, though, is that the business system, i.e. the tax code, isn't set up based on any moral principles, per se, but on rules to make the lines very clear. It is almost like the difference between a map, where the physical lines are very clear vs. real terrain where there is wind, sunlight, rain, humidity, pollen, etc. etc.
The main challenge for businesses, though, on the tax front, is that this can be complicated. The tax code doesn't inherently mesh with natural business activity in this day & age. This makes reporting challenging to follow and makes decisions very costly or bountiful based on what is in the tax code. We might all be better served if the tax code were simpler...or complex enough to handle the full spectrum of digital life...but since we are dealing with the government, let's go with simpler.
Had a fun presentation at WeWork FiDi today on the benefits and limitations of cloud accounting. Some good questions and interaction about how operating SAAS integrate into Xero backend GL. Looking forward to the next one...To Be Announced...
If you weren't able to attend or want to find out more, I've attached the presentation below.
I love to eat. I also love coffee. I currently live in one of the best food/coffee cities in the world, NYC. I'm lucky.
Before I dive into a light exposition of Square, let me acknowledge a dilemma all QSRs face. As a restaurant/deli/coffee shop owner, you receive a lot of cash. Aside from having to track it and the fact that cash can be stolen easier (and with less recourse) than credit card payments, there is also the temptation for a business owner: Do you report all cash sales or not?
I know, I know, we're not supposed to talk about that in public, right? Business owners: "Oh, you have to report cash sales?"
Okay, rather than getting all up in your face on that issue, I am happy to report there is a way to collect cash sales, account for them simply and completely, and then have a quick and easy record of what you owe for sales tax. All on the up and up. Efficiency, completeness, profits...and integrity.
The service I'll be highlighting today is called Square. The Tunstall Organization, Inc. (TTO) is a Square authorized partner. TTO helps QSRs file sales tax, manage payroll, income tax filings...and bookkeeping.
Square. You've seen the little dongle, jack-looking thingy, right?
Or maybe this looking thing?
If you're running a QSR, most likely, you already have some kind of computerized, automated system. The advantages come into play in the simplicity of accepting payments and helping the operations run smoothly. But additionally, they help on the reporting and compliance side. Tracking how your sales are doing in real time and helping to file sales tax.
Besides Square, there are others: breadcrumb, vend, lightspeed, even paypal, etc., etc. There are actually many iterations on the POS out there, but there are a few things I like about Square for QSRs:
There are some things that might limit Square for your QSR, though:
Killer feature: real-time sales tracking with visual reporting:
Overall, I think Square fits perfectly into the QSR spot. They handle a single shop very well, they integrate well with backend accounting system, the reporting and insight is frighteningly amazing and they play nice with other apps that help manage employees/payroll.
Reach out if you'd like to speak with us about how Square could potentially help you manage your QSR here.
I'm wearing some Receipt Bank swag that I got at Xerocon 2015 in Denver today so I thought it would be an appropriate time to post about the 'how' of Receipt Bank.
At The Tunstall Organization, Inc. (TTO), we use bunch of different 'apps' aka 'add-ons' to help our clients run their businesses - and send their transaction activity to the accounting system - more easily and digitally. One of those apps is Receipt Bank (RB). Receipt Bank aka RB is exclusively for the 'expense' side of the business. i.e. RB doesn't invoice clients and/or do Accounts Receivable or anything like that...only expenses.
On the expense side, it solves a few problems:
1. Receipt Bank (RB) captures a digital copy of receipts when you purchase things for your business on the go.
RB has an app for iPhone and Android that can take a picture of any receipts for purchases made for your business.
2. RB takes the captured image, reads it and stores a copy of the receipt.
After the photo is taken, you are automatically prompted to 'submit for processing'. This sends the .pdf to RB's website and they read it with Optical Character Recognition (OCR). RB then stores the processed .pdf on their website.
3. RB then sends the captured image to your accounting system to be coded, attached to the transaction, approved and reconciled to the credit card and/or bank statement.
After an initial set-up of the settings in Receipt Bank, the receipt images will sync to the 'draft bills' section of the accounting system (we're using Xero for the purposes of this exposition). There will be an image icon noting that the receipt is attached to the transaction.
It can be viewed by clicking the icon.
Once approved, the transaction will hit the GL (be live in the accounting system) and then then bill can be matched (reconciled) with the transaction records of the credit card statement.
The benefits of having a receipt attached to a transaction is mainly for compliance purposes. It can make an audit go smoother, for sure. But also for quick reference internally to clear up any confusion about what the transaction was for, where it happened, what time, etc. and having that data attached to the transaction.
Killer feature: you can use RB to email or upload bills, however, where RB shines is really in their smart phone app. It handles taking a picture and submitting the receipt for processing in literally 3 clicks. Please reach out to The Tunstall Organization, Inc. (TTO) if you'd like to see if RB is right for your business or to find out how to better automate your operations to the back-end accounting system. Contact us here.
This is a glimpse into an aspect of the 'how' of what we do.
For one of our wholesale/retail clients we implemented this digital workflow as a way to enter invoices through Xero and email them to our clients' customers:
It starts with the Client adding a record of all orders placed into a shared cloud folder. We're using dropbox for this particular client but we could use box.com or egnyte.com with just as much ease. Once the client has added the P.O.s or order sheets in .pdf format to our shared 'To Be Processed' shared cloud folder, we will go in 1x per week and add the details of the orders into Xero as Invoices. The Invoices will then be emailed to our clients' customers.
The P.O., entered into the system as an invoice is then attached to each transaction in Xero (Xero files). The P.O., once attached, can then be moved to an 'Invoiced' folder in dropbox, and the "To be processed" folder is empty and ready for the next batch the following week. This is a very simple, targeted way we offer invoice management.
Currently, our client wants the process as simple as possible, but even if they wanted an extra layer of approvals, we could still add the invoices into Xero as 'draft' and then it would be up to the client to login to Xero to review and approve/email themselves.
Either way works. Contact us to see if we can help you set up a similar system.
Migrating. Switching. Leaving. Joining. Any time you switch to anything there is always a cost. There is disruption. There is change. You'll be doing things differently. You'll be interfacing with different people, things, surroundings, etc.
Many people stay with legacy systems for this reason. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. There is some truth to that, actually. But what if it is broke? Or you really want out? Then what? What should you be considering if you want to move payroll providers without experiencing too much pain that often comes with changing things?
Here is a basic, non-exhaustive list of some things you should consider when switching to a new payroll provider:
Overall, the landscape in payroll is such that you can usually change payroll providers to a payroll system with a user experience that suits you, without sacrificing much in the way of cost. Sometimes it helps to talk it through with someone else. Contact us if you'd like to explore the issues involved in switching your payroll system.
The best thing about using cloud accounting tools is how great they sync-up and automate a lot of what previously would have required manual data entry. We are, by no means, 'there' yet, in terms of commodified compliance...but that is where we're heading. On the road to 'there', however, we must solve the problems in front of us. So, with that being said, there is an issue that some members of the Facebook Xero for Accountant and Bookkeepers User Group and I are pining for.
But before I get there, it just dawned on me. I'm saving so much time using cloud accounting that I'm able spend my 'free time' doing what I love, publicly advocating for better features in one of my favorite accounting systems. I'm not sitting on a beach drinking Mango daiquiris or traveling the Amalfi Coast. I'm making a difference, dammit (or so I hope). Anyway, I wonder what my younger self would have thought of this...moving on....
Draft Invoices (as it currently looks)
Draft Invoices (as it should look)
Before I dive in, assume that both Invoices and Bills need these new columns. I'll explain.
TTO is a user of the nascent, but thriving digital document storage hub called, Hubdoc. Basically, their digital robots log into our clients' vendor/supplier logins and pull-out .pdfs of invoices (bills to our clients) and send a copy of those bills to Xero (our main accounting software vendor). Overall, this is great. But this is something that Xero, itself, couldn't necessarily have foreseen. So, it is up to hubdoc to connect to Xero's APIs in a way to get the appropriate data into Xero.
The problem with this process is that Hubdoc (and a lot of the other automated bill/receipt processors like Receipt-Bank, Shoeboxed and entryless) don't always assign the correct 'account' or 'description' or 'tracking' code into Xero. Before we, as accountants and bookkeepers, want a bill 'approved' in the accounting system, we want to make sure each field has been assigned correctly. i.e. Verizon bills need to go to either telephone or Internet, mailchimp bills need to go to either SAAS or marketing accounts, etc.
Currently, the process to approve 'draft bills' is to click into each draft bill and check each field against what is on the bill .pdf. To put it nicely, this is a time suck. To put it bluntly, this sucks.
What we need are columns to see the description (and to give hubdoc a new database field to push to) and the 'account' and the 'tracking' category. If these were all visible from the draft invoices/bills screen we could quickly look at each .pdf and then edit (if errors existed) or 'approve' if okay.
One acknowledged caveat, the Xero Facebook group and I recognized that having a bill that required multiple 'accounts', 'descriptions' and 'tracking' might complicate things (vs. the majority of bills that have just 1 account, description, tracking). For this scenario, here are some ideas: 1)pull a page from the Quickbooks playbook and create a '-split-' for multiple items and then either add a dropdown...or for multiple items create multiple rows...or 2) worst case scenario, for multiple accounts only, would have to click in (like we currently have to do) but single account bills would be editable from the draft bills/invoices screens.
For the record, I've submitted the ticket here...but...and this may be the subject of another blog post, I don't have much confidence that the Xero ticketing system can adeptly identify and then develop solutions to evolving issues like this, at least in the US, in a timely way (shout out to 'accounts merge'!). I would love to be proven wrong, though, Xero. So, I won't hold my breath but, of course, I would love to see #xerospeed handle this.
Why is finding the right technology stack so hard? No niche yet. Just general. Retail, manufacturing, Nonprofits, CRM, Inventory management, practice management, service businesses...and yeah, now my head is ready to explode, as well. So, how do you choose a tech stack? Or do you choose a vertical first and then a tech stack? NO, really, I'm asking because I don't know.
Here's what we've done when we've been successful: Take something that someone else has built (that we currently like...even if it doesn't have every feature we want) and trust that the developers are humble enough, good enough, nimble enough and eager enough to figure out what would make their SAAS tool even better. And then iterate in the meantime between 'as is' and 'what it should be'.
SAAS is a tough business. It could develop into the internet version of Othello. The winners now need to keep on top and make all the right moves or tomorrow all the data could port to another system. In that respect, they need to embed some hugely compelling reasons to stay. It is almost like imagining parents that never want their kids to leave the house. They have to stock the fridge, buy a ping pong table, etc.
The tech stack defines the vertical, defines how effective a business is...or is it the other way around?
"My job is to walk in stupid." Such words were said by a mentor of Polly LaBarre, Co-Founder of Fast Company magazine, and speaker today at Xerocon. It isn't always easy or comfortable to ask what might seem to be stupid questions. The 'power structure' doesn't like it. It often makes us and others feel uncomfortable...and yet, "asking questions is the best anecdote to hubris", a great way to "practice dissent"...oh, and to learn things.
Another day of great speakers at Xerocon - Day 2. We even got a fun, practical chance to practice dissent by dancing in a hail storm outside the Denver Performing Arts Center. Overall, really great time, people and setting for a fun conference. Thank you, Xero.
Swag, swag and more swag.
I got a bunch of free stuff today that I'll probably "keep for ten years and then sell it at a garage sale or on Craigslist and say, 'cool I made some money, I got this for free.'"...or something like that ...according to Steven Dubner, the Think Like A Freak dude who spoke at Xerocon today.
What a day! I'd love to take a deep dive into his views on the penny, white turkey meat, and other stuff he talked about but the nugget that I took away from his talk is that, sometimes, when we want people (or possibly ourselves) to "change" to do things that are good for us and others, we have to create paths, designs, technologies that make it seem fun or easy to "change". That's funny, subtle, paradoxical and obvious all at the same time. But, ah, such is life. Overall, great day, getting ready for Day 2
Thanks to Xero for a great 'Pre-con' day today. I wasn't sure whether I was going to sit-in on Dev Day or attend the session I had previously signed up for, 'Stand out from the Crowd' with Amy Vetter. I have to admit Dev Day looked awesome but the 'Stand out from the Crowd' session did not disappoint. Great cases studies and tips on how to really bring to life a vertical. A lot of research. A lot of passion. AND a lot of help from 'Add-ons' that integrate into cloud accounting systems.
Looking forward to the conference.
First, congrats to Xero on a universal 'find'. They've introduced a way to search globally for the first time. Yay! While I've only used this a few times (it was released yesterday) this brings Xero closer to what Quickbooks does with ctrl+f. The 'find' process isn't as efficient as pressing 'ctrl-f'...but it now exists. This is a step in the right direction towards functional parity with the current market leader.
The 'recode' function is a big step, too. Now you can effectively 'merge' accounts (okay, technically, not merge...but effectively move all the transactions out of one account and into another...and then you'd have to archive the old account). The recode process also makes using tracking categories less burdensome. The Xero recode is actually quite like the accountant version reclassify feature in the desktop version of Quickbooks. These new features eliminate the need to edit transactions 1x1 and effectively shave the functional lead that Quickbooks has had over Xero prior to this in this area.
I would be remiss if I did't mention that some Xero community members were expecting this sooner. However, from my perspective, overall, this is a much needed step forward.
April 15th has come and gone yet again. Thank you to all who did tax business with us this year and filed on time. For those who filed extensions, we look forward to helping you complete your 2014 tax filings.
For now, we move our focus to bookkeeping and accounting. The best time for planning for next year is the present. Good bookkeeping and reporting can help you manage your small business during 2015, so that by the end of the year, gathering financial statements will be relatively straightforward.
We've got a pretty captivating offer to business owners that want to use Xero as their accounting software. A lot of it is automated and the basic pricing reflects that. If you need more than basic services, we also offer value based add-on services.
Please feel free to reach out out of the blue or refer any bookkeeping/accounting business our way. We look forward to serving you and your business.