Artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived in the accounting profession in a big way. The good news is it’s streamlining accounting tasks, finding patterns in data you can take action on, and generally making things better. Here are just a few places we’re seeing AI and machine learning impact accounting.
Most systems have incorporated some form of machine learning into transaction coding. When bank feeds are imported, each transaction needs to be coded to add the account code in the chart of accounts. Class, tracking codes, and other custom data may need to be added as well. Rules can be set so that the accounting application can pre-code the transactions; in this case the accountant simply approves or corrects the entry.
It starts with a picture of a receipt. Invoice fetching applications can turn pixels into data using sophisticated OCR (optical character recognition). The data is then turned into a business transaction that can be imported into an accounting system.
The books of many government agencies, nonprofits, and large businesses need to be audited on a regular basis. Auditing is an expensive process. Smart programs can review a company’s data and assess where the risks and anomalies are so that the audit program can be modified to focus on the more important parts. This reduces risk and cost for everyone involved.
Artificial intelligence can help to speed up the matching of purchase orders, packing slips, and invoices so that accounts payable tasks are streamlined. It can also automate approvals and look for duplicate invoices to avoid overpayments.
Accounting Tasks That Are Clerical
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a platform that allows users to create automation without involving the IT department. Think Excel macros or Zapier on steroids. Any workflow with a mind-numbing set of clerical steps is a candidate for RPA.
AI allows accountants to spend less time on routine tasks and more time on higher-level analysis work. As AI becomes more affordable for small businesses, everyone will benefit from this long-term trend.
When you purchase a new vehicle, you get the fun of riding around in a new car with the new car smell! Our job has just begun – to get your new asset recorded properly on your books. We thought it’d be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at our part.
The first thing we’ll ask you for is the sales contract. It will give us the payment price of your car, and we’ll use that number to record your new asset on your balance sheet. If you paid cash with no trade-in, the journal entry we’ll make is:
Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4
Then we’ll decide on a depreciation method and book depreciation monthly or at year-end.
Debit: Depreciation Expense
Credit: Accumulated Depreciation
If you traded in a vehicle that is on your books, we’ll need to make an adjustment to your books. Effectively, your old car will be eliminated from your balance sheet. If this asset had a book value and it was not fully depreciated, the net value would be compared to the trade-in value and a gain or loss on the asset sale would be recorded on your income statement.
Let’s say the balance sheet value of the three-year-old car you traded in was $10,000 and you got $8,000 on the trade-in. Here’s what we would record:
Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4
Debit: Accumulated Depreciation
Debit: Loss on Sale of 2016 Car
Credit: Old 2016 Toyota RAV4
$17,500 ($25,500 – $8,000 trade-in)
We’d also start the depreciation for the new car.
New Car Loan
Most often, a new car purchase will be financed, so we have a new liability to record too. We’ll need to get a copy of the loan documents from you and an amortization schedule of the payments. Let’s say you made a ten percent down payment with no trade-in. Here’s how that would look:
Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4
Credit: Toyota Loan
Then, each time you make a monthly payment, the amount will need to be split between principal and interest and those amounts will need to change each month.
Debit: Interest Expense
Debit: Toyota Loan
We left out a few trade secrets just to keep it intriguing. There are a lot of other numbers on a car purchase: taxes, licenses, warranties, add-ons, fees, and more. Some of these can be directly expensed, while others need to be included in the value of the asset. So if you’re happy that we’ll take care of this for you, we’re happy to do so.
Let us know if you purchase an asset this summer so we can get it booked right for you.
In small business, accounting refers to a set of tasks that revolve around maintaining a general ledger – your books — and preparing financial statements. Beyond small business accounting, there are many more aspects to accounting. In this article, we’ve prepared a glossary of accounting terms so you can discover the larger world of accounting.
Cost accounting. This type of accounting looks at the cost of items for sale. It’s especially useful in manufacturing, construction, or even restaurants where dozens or even hundreds of components are purchased and assembled to make the items that are for sale. Cost accountants account for and evaluate these costs to determine when they are too high or low and need to be repriced or purchased in a different way.
Cost accounting can be applied to small businesses to help them with pricing, determining breakeven points, controlling costs, and budgeting.
Government accounting. Government accounting is simply accounting that’s done for government entities. Government accountants are concerned with maintaining government regulations as well as learning a different way of keeping books.
Nonprofit accounting. Nonprofit accounting is unique to nonprofit organizations in that they often need to track and mark specific donations, manage grants and meet reporting requirements, fulfill public disclosures and reporting, and maintain a fund accounting process.
Financial accounting. Financial accounting is the preparation of financial reports for external use and includes providing financial statements.
Attest. Attest accounting is where a CPA goes through a process of verifying financial reports of a business to interested third-parties, such as banks and the public. The three main services in this area include compilations, reviews, and audits. Only a CPA can perform these services.
Fraud or forensic accounting. A specialty role in accounting, forensic accountants can help a company that has been the victim of fraud. There are also services available to help reduce the possibility of fraud.
Tax accounting. Tax accounting can be many things: the preparation of federal and state income tax returns for businesses, individuals, and other entities like estates and trusts; state and local tax assistance with collection, filing, remittance, and compliance; franchise tax support; and payroll tax collection, filing, and payment. There are more, but these are the big ones.
Budgeting. Making a revenue and spending plan is an important accounting function.
Internal auditing. Large companies have internal audit departments that maintain checks and balances for the company. In small companies, having someone in charge of monitoring internal controls would be the equivalent function.
Accounting systems. Some accountants are technology-savvy, and this type of accountant can help solve technology issues, integrate accounting system modules, and streamline workflow.
Fiduciary accounting. A fiduciary is someone legally responsible for financial responsibilities in an organization. Fiduciary accounting typically refers to accounting for trusts, but can have a much broader meaning.
Public accounting. Public accounting is practiced by employees in a public accounting firm, which is one that serves many businesses with varying accounting needs. This is opposed to private or industry accounting where an accountant goes to work for one company in their accounting department. Public vs. industry accounting is really referring to an accountant’s career experience.
Managerial accounting. This type of accounting focuses on internal numbers and how the organization can reach its goals. It’s broader than cost accounting, but there is an overlap. Accountants who serve in an advisory capacity to businesses will focus on this area.
Did we get all of the terms you might be wondering about? If not, ask us, and we’ll add it here.
While “fetching” might be what some trained dogs can do, accounting systems are getting into the act too. This relatively new feature is called “receipt fetching,” and it’s when an app can retrieve documents directly from the vendors that you do business with so you don’t have to spend so much time on paperwork retrieval.
Apps that can perform receipt fetching can integrate with your accounts and pull invoices into their system. For example, if your business has an account with a utility or telecom company, the receipt fetching app can pull the electricity, water, or telephone bills into your receipt fetching app account and consolidate them.
The benefits are simple. You save time, certainly. But the bigger benefit is you no longer have a monthly deadline to get your documents to your accountant — at least for all the documents that can be automated in this way. This reduces stress and eliminates minutiae from your day.
Accountants benefit too. No accountant likes to spend their time asking clients for documents over and over again. We know you have better things to do with your time, and we know you probably hate doing the paperwork. Receipt fetching is an easy way to get the job done.
To take advantage of receipt fetching, the first step is to select a receipt-fetching app. A few of the apps to select from include LedgerDocs, ReceiptBank, HubDoc, and Greenback. Some of these apps do receipt fetching only, and others have many more functions.
The second step is to detemine which vendor accounts are supported, and to connect with them. Generally speaking, the connection is based on your account credentials, so if those change, the connection will need to be updated. When many of your documents can be pulled into one place, you don’t have to spend time logging into each vendor portal to pull receipts.
If you’re curious about how to benefit from receipt fetching in your business, please feel free to reach out.
Internal control is a very special phrase in the accounting profession. Tactically, it’s the set of processes that help a company produce accurate data throughout the organization, follow reporting requirements and laws, and maintain consistency and accuracy in its operations. Strategically, it’s an entirely new way of thinking and doing business.
Internal control helps to reduce organizational risk. A blunt way of putting it is internal control is what you put in place to avoid mistakes, intentional or accidental, and to control accuracy and quality. It impacts every aspect of an organization.
As a small business, you’ll want to be familiar with the concept because it can help you reduce risks you might not realize you have. Here are some practical examples of good ideas that support internal control:
- When data is private and secure, provide access only to employees who need to know the data and restrict access of others.
- Have someone check that your bank balance matches the reconciled amount in your books, and that someone should be different from the person who does the reconciliation. This is an example of what’s called segregation of duties.
- Lock up paper checks and use the missing check number report to make sure none of the stock could be used for nefarious purposes.
- Have employees sign in and out equipment that they take home. This is part of asset management.
- Write and enforce a hardware and software use policy that includes items like employees should make sure their anti-virus software is active at all times, they should not bring in disks or CDs, and they should not download games or other unauthorized programs. This protects from computer viruses and helps to avoid catastrophic network failures.
There are literally hundreds of internal control procedures that should be implemented in small businesses as they grow into larger businesses.
Internal control is typically a big part of an audit or an attest function in accounting; it determines how many additional procedures an auditor needs to do in order to provide assurances about the reliability of the financial reports. But it’s also just good plain common business sense to implement as many internal control processes as are cost-effective for your business to protect it at the level of risk you’re comfortable with.
If you’d like to discuss the idea of internal control further, please feel free to reach out any time.
A quick glance is all you need to check your fuel gauge, speed limit, engine temperature, and RPM when you’re driving down the road. Your car’s dashboard is designed to focus you on what’s important and what you need to know to have a safe trip.
Your car’s dashboard items, if they applied to business, would be called key performance indicators or KPIs. Unlike a car’s, the KPIs of your business vary depending on your business goals and what’s important to you. Common ones might include your cash balance, how fast you get paid, how much revenue is coming in, and whether you’re making plan. There are literally hundreds of them to choose from, and many of them are not derivable from your financial statements, such as number of orders, client satisfaction levels, and employee turnover.
Would it be useful to have a dashboard of KPIs for your business so you can know what’s working and get alerted to what needs focus? Here are the steps to creating a dashboard for your business:
- Decide on the KPIs you want to track. Selecting 6-10 to create and track is a good place to start.
- Select a tool that will provide you with the KPIs in the format you desire. There are many great add-ons to your accounting software that will instantly crunch the financial KPIs for you and present them in insightful formats, including charts, graphs, dashboards, and reports.
- Create any new processes to calculate the new KPIs and get them entered into the dashboard app.
- Hold a review meeting to go over the KPIs and determine any action based on the review.
There are many great KPIs available right in your accounting system, which might be plenty to get started with. And there are some real gems outside your accounting system that will take a bit of work to calculate. In any case, we can help you through this process. Feel free to reach out to us any time to discuss the possibilities of having a dashboard in your business.
If you have employees, you have the distinct honor once per year of being part of a worker’s compensation audit. You likely receive a form in the mail, an email request, or a phone call that will ask you about your payroll numbers and employees for the prior year.
Worker’s compensation is an insurance program that covers employees in the case they get hurt on the job. Each employee receives a classification code that describes the type of work they do, and a rate is figured based on the classification and its risk factors.
If you’ve hired anyone throughout the year, you might need to get a new classification by contacting your provider. If you have employees working in different locations (especially different states), that matters too.
The audit form will typically ask for gross payroll numbers by employee or by category or location of employee. That’s easy enough, but seldom does the policy run along your fiscal year, so the payroll figure needs to be prorated to match the policy period.
Your numbers need to tie back to the numbers reported on your quarterly payroll reports for both state and federal. The provider may also want copies of your 941s and your state payroll reports.
Once you’ve submitted your numbers, the insurance provider will calculate whether they owe you or you owe them additional fees.
The worker’s compensation audit happens every year (even if you pay worker’s comp premiums each pay period, some companies still request an annual audit). It’s not difficult, but it is time-consuming. If this is something you’d like our help with, please feel free to reach out.
Fixed assets are special kind of assets in your business. They include land, buildings, equipment, furniture, and vehicles that your company owns. While we frequently look at expenses to cut costs, fixed asset management is another place we can look to find ways to better utilize our resources and, in some cases, improve our profits.
Fixed asset management is a discipline that requires keeping good records of the assets a company owns. In the case of furniture and equipment, many businesses place an asset tag on the item and assign it a number that goes in a spreadsheet where data is kept about the item. There are also software apps more sophisticated than spreadsheets that track all of the fixed assets for a company, including original cost, depreciation method and history, and tax treatment.
You never know how many of an item you might have until you record and count them. How many computers (and computer parts) do you have lying around your office? Extra desks and chairs? Maybe you even have extra office space or extra land.
Part of being a great entrepreneur is fully utilizing all the resources you have at your disposal. Where can you put to better use the extra assets you have? Could you sell the surplus items? Or donate them for a write-off? Do you have extra room to rent out to a tenant, earning rent?
Sometimes we’re so focused on operating the core of our business that we don’t see what else is a money maker right in front of us. In addition to focusing on income and expenses from operations, consider the resources you have in your fixed assets.
At the very least, consider developing a spreadsheet that tracks the major items your business owns. Or reach out to us, and we’ll help you develop a fixed assets schedule and tracking process for your business.
And if you do sell some of your fixed assets, be sure to reach out to us so we can help you book the transactions properly.
Social security is one of those topics that seems to be minimized by statements like, “You can’t count on it,” and “By the time you reach retirement age, it won’t matter.” Those statements are not only incorrect; they contribute toward a lack of education on what’s possible.
Social security is still a large part of how most seniors will be able to fund their final 20 to 30 years of life. The options we take toward claiming the benefits that are rightly ours are often permanent and can affect our lives and our finances significantly, often by tens of thousands of dollars.
No matter your age today, here are three things you’ll want to dive deeper into when the time is right for you.
For retirement purposes, most people will claim their social security payouts any time from age 62 to age 70. It’s your choice to decide when you make the claim and start your benefits. But, and it’s a very big but, the amount you get each month will vary depending on your claim date. Generally, the later you wait, the higher your payout will be.
The federal retirement age for social security purposes depends on when you were born and creeps up a little each year. If you were born in 1954, your retirement age is 66 years old. If you file your social security claim on your retirement age, you’ll get 100 percent of your benefit. If you claim at 70, you’ll get 132 percent of your benefit, which can make a huge difference in payout over your lifetime: tens of thousands of dollars of difference. If you claim early at age 62, you’ll get far less.
Your social security income may be taxable if you earn income in the same years you are collecting social security and if you surpass an earnings threshold. This takes many seniors by surprise. There are ways to plan for this, and they are so specific to each family circumstance and often so complicated that software has been developed to calculate all of the situations.
The amount of your social security payment is affected by dozens of factors, including family members’ ages, how much they paid into social security, pensions, previous marriages, and disabilities, to name a few. If any of your family members are disabled, there are payments for that in some cases.
If you are divorced and were married for more than 10 years, you are eligible for spousal benefits. And if you are married, you are also eligible for spousal benefits. If your spouse has passed away, you are eligible for survival benefits, which could increase an existing payment if your spouse earned more than you did.
Social security is clearly a topic where you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s so complex at this point that most people should work with an advisor that has software that can show multiple claiming options that optimize their lifetime payout or meet their financial retirement goals. If we can help, please reach out.
The income statement of any business is probably the most important report of all. It is a snapshot of the financial performance of your business over a period of time, such as a month or year. You might also hear it called the Profit and Loss Statement, or P&L.
The income statement can give you all kinds of insights as to whether you are bringing in enough sales, if your prices are generating enough profit, and how your expenses are running. Let’s take a look at the report, step by step.
The report starts by listing the revenue for the period of time covered. Revenue includes all sources of income, including sales from operations, interest and investment income, revenue from insurance claims, sales from assets or other parts of the business, and any other source of revenue. In most small businesses, sales will be the largest part of the revenue, if not all of it. In some countries, the term used for sales is turnover.
If you sell more than one item or have more than one location, it might be a good idea to be able to view the sales detail from these categories. This may or may not be on your income statement depending on how formal it is, but you should be able to get a drill down report on your sales detail.
Look for exceptions to what you expect to see. There can be some decisions you can make and actions you can take from the insights you discover.
Cost of Goods Sold
This section of the income statement includes costs you incur directly on items you sell. If you maintain an inventory, it’s the cost you paid for the inventory items that you sold during the period. If your business is a manufacturer, cost of goods sold, or COGS, will include costs of materials and labor to produce the items.
If you own a service business, COGS will typically be zero. As a service business, you may incur direct costs when providing services, and these costs can be booked in a variety of expense accounts, including supplies.
Some income statement formats will include a gross profit number which is sales minus cost of goods sold. This number is important for businesses with inventory.
The expenses section of the income statement is the longest part. It includes all of the expenses you incurred in your business, including advertising and marketing, rent, telephone, and utilities, office supplies and meeting expenses, travel, meals, and entertainment, payroll and payroll taxes, and several more.
You might also hear the term overhead. Overhead is a subset of expenses that have to be met whether you sell zero items or millions. They include items like rent and utilities, management payroll, and office supplies.
To review your expenses, check line by line to see if anything looks out of sorts, and take the appropriate action.
Net Profit or Loss
The final number on your income statement represents whether you made or lost money in the period the report covers. The formula is simple: revenue less COGS less expenses equals net profit or loss.
Net profit/loss can go by many names, depending on the size of your business and your accountant’s vernacular. You may also see EBITDA: Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Earnings is another word for net profit.
It’s a good idea to compare your income statement numbers to other periods in your business. Common comparisons include last period, last several periods, and same period last year.
It’s also a great idea to have a budget that sets goals for your income statement numbers. Then you can compare budget to actual numbers and take action on the variances.
If your business falls into a standard type of business, you may also be able to see how it is doing compared to others in your industry. This is called benchmarking, and the income statement is a very common format that’s used in benchmarking.
Do spend some time each period reviewing your business’s income statement. It can help you make a faster course correction in your business so you can be even more successful than you already are.