If there is a period of time between when your customers receive your goods or services and when they pay for them, then several things are true:
- You have a balance in Accounts Receivable on your balance sheet that represents how much customers owe you
- You have an invoice process that you follow
- You have granted credit to customers
- You may have some that don’t pay as quickly as you’d like them to
Each invoice you send should have payment terms listed. A payment term is the period of time you expect the invoice to be paid by the customer. Your payment terms should be set by you, not your customers!
Payment terms are always measured from the invoice date and define when the payment should be received. Here are some common payment terms in accounting terminology, and then in English.
Payment is due 30 days from the invoice date.
2/10 Net 30
Payment is due 30 days from the invoice date. If you pay the invoice in 10 days, you can take a 2% discount off the total amount of the invoice as an early pay discount incentive.
Due Upon Receipt
Payment is due immediately
If you use Net 30 or Due Upon Receipt, then you may want to change your terms to get paid faster. When people see Due Upon Receipt, sometimes they translate it into “I can take my time.” A more specific term spelled out such as Net 7 or Net 10 will actually get you your money faster than Due Upon Receipt.
Do you have issues with people paying you late? If so, you might want to set consequences. Consider adding a line on your invoice that provides interest charges if the payment is late. Utility companies do it, and so do many businesses. A common percentage to charge is 1% – 2%, however, some states have laws that limit you to 10% or another percentage.
The wording would be something like this:
“Accounts not paid within __ days of the date of the invoice are subject to a __% monthly finance charge.”
You will also need to make sure your accounting system can automatically compute these fees.
If you have questions about payment terms, your invoicing process, or your accounts receivable, please reach out.
Positive Pay is a service offered by banks that is designed to reduce fraudulent check-cashing against your account. If you are writing checks on your bank account (as opposed to using ACH transactions), then the positive pay service, which usually has an extra charge, may be beneficial.
When you activate positive pay, you must send a file of checks that you have written to the bank. The bank will not cash those checks against your account unless they match by check number, dollar amount, and account number. Your file may also include the date of the check and sometimes the payee. Some banks are also able to match payee, but not all of them, so be sure to ask about this.
If there is a mismatch among checks presented for payment, the check will be treated as an exception item and your company will be notified. A representative of your company will let the bank know whether to pay or exclude the exception check.
Positive pay helps to deter a couple of types of fraud:
- Checks where someone has changed the amount
- Stolen blank check stock, even if you don’t know about it being stolen
Positive pay is not designed to prevent the type of fraud that occurs when checks are written to a ghost vendor and erroneously approved by management.
If you use positive pay, you should separate the file creation process from the person who actually writes and/or signs the checks. This will give you better internal control.
The main challenge with positive pay is making sure the bank receives the file of checks before they are presented for payment, including any manual checks written. Another issue is the extra cost, although some banks offer this service at no extra charge.
For companies worried about check fraud, consider looking into positive pay with your local bank.
It’s always a huge relief to many people who get their taxes done early. That gray cloud of stress that nags at you to get it over with can be gone in a matter of weeks instead of months. April is right around the corner, and here are a few tips to cross that task off your to-do list way before spring.
1. Catch up on your books.
If your books are behind, the first step is to get everything recorded so that your tax return will be accurate. With automated bank feeds and data entry automation, this is easier than it’s ever been before. If you have cash transactions or receipts lying around that your accountant doesn’t know about, be sure and get those pulled together so nothing is left out.
2. Make year-end changes.
Some companies may need additional year-end adjustments, and now is the time to make them. These include items such as loan balances if the interest adjustment has not been booked every month, depreciation and amortization, accounts receivable write-offs, accrual vs. cash basis adjustments, and possibly clean-up work. Have you accountant help you with these items.
3. Double-check vendor documents.
If you hire contractors and sent them 1099s, make sure you have the proper onboarding documents for these individuals which includes a W-9. You may also want to have a workers compensation certificate from them in order to avoid paying it yourself.
4. Note deadlines.
Get clear on the deadlines for your corporate, franchise tax, individual and any other tax returns that are required. Even though you might hire someone to complete and file your return, you’ll want to make sure the deadline has been met.
5. Stay organized.
As you receive your 2016 tax documents, keep them all together in a special place. Download them or scan them in and keep them all in one folder. If your tax accountant has a client portal, upload them as soon as you get them.
Your tax accountant appreciates getting your information as early as possible. The sooner you get the documents to them, the sooner the whole process can be complete. Even if you owe money and want to file at the last minute, you can still be complete with the process except for the filing which can be deferred.
Try these tips to reduce tax stress this winter and spring. And, as always, if we can help you with any of this, please reach out.
The I-9 form is used for employment eligibility when hiring new employees. It is one of many forms that need to be completed when you onboard a new employee.
Effective Tuesday, January 17, 2017, the new I-9 form, which is dated 11/14/2016, must be used. Here is a summary of the changes.
- Section 1 asks for “other last names used” rather than “other names used,” and streamlines certification for certain foreign nationals.
- The addition of prompts to ensure information is entered correctly.
- The ability to enter multiple preparers and translators.
- A dedicated area for including additional information rather than having to add it in the margins.
- A supplemental page for the preparer/translator.
The instructions have been separated from the form and include specific instructions for completing each field.
The revised Form I-9 is also easier to complete on a computer. To check to see if you are using the correct I-9, check the form’s date, which should be 11/14/2016. If you are using the one dated 03/08/2013, you are using the old one and must switch to the new one.
You can get the new I-9 form here:
Are you ready for 2017 to be even better than 2016? If so, take a few minutes to reflect on the questions below and take action to set your 2017 profit plan.
Question 1: What were the three best business things about 2016?
No need to re-invent the wheel. If you knocked it out of the park in 2016, can you wash, rinse and repeat these tasks in 2017?
If you’re having trouble thinking of three things, here are some hints:
- What apps saved you time and money?
- Did you make some good hires?
- Did you let go of a bad hire or two?
- Was there a marketing campaign that really worked?
- Were there any events you went to that generated great ideas?
- Did you add or remove products and/or services?
- Did you buy new equipment or open a new location?
Summarize the three best things that happened in your business for 2016 and think about how you can repeat them to enhance your 2017.
Question 2: What were the three worst business things about 2016?
While we don’t want to dwell too much on our failures, we do want to learn from them. Think about the three things that are causing you to lose time, money or gain stress, and decide if you can make changes for 2017.
Question 3: What vision do you have for your business in 2017?
At the end of 2017, what has to have happened in order for you to have a successful year? Think in terms of metrics as well as intangibles, such as peace of mind and happiness.
Once you know your destination, the fun is in creating a roadmap to get you there.
Your 2017 Profit Plan
If your vision includes financial goals, then creating a profit plan is one way to measure your progress throughout 2017. Start by deciding how much profit you want to make in 2017. From there, you can compute your revenue goal and make a plan. Then you can add expenses to complete the budget. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to make $50,000 in profit for 2017. You can do that in a number of ways:
- Generate $500,000 in revenue and $450,000 in expenses.
- Generate $2 million in revenue and $1,950,000 in expenses.
- Generate $150,000 in revenue and $100,000 in expenses.
- And so forth.
From your profit number, you can create a revenue plan. A revenue should include how many items you need to sell. Like this:
|No. of units||Price||Revenue|
Once you have your revenue plan, you can fill in your estimated expenses.
You might be thinking that this sure sounds a lot like making a budget. And it is. But it’s far more fun to work on something called a profit plan than it is a budget. And if you need us to do the number-crunching part, please feel free to reach out any time.
Here’s to a very happy and prosperous 2017.