Good financial management starts with accurate books. Good bookkeeping requires organization and attention to detail. Many small business owners handle the bookkeeping themselves, and the myriad of accounting and bookkeeping software on the market has made in-house bookkeeping easier and more accurate for DIY managers than it has ever been. Saving and storing financial documents is necessary for creating accurate bookkeeping records and for keeping accounts up-to-date; saving key documents also helps at tax time and allows you to generate accurate financial reports so that you can make better predictions for next year.
Creating a paper trail of financial transactions—in many cases, a digital trail—is necessary for small business owners who manage their own books, and it starts with the right documents. Even if you do eventually hire a professional to take over the bookkeeping, you will need to furnish him or her with vital financial statements that show a clear picture of business’s transactions, payment history, outstanding debts, and monies received.
If you are just getting started with bookkeeping for your business, the first step is to create a file (physical or digital) that can hold key financial documents and keep them organized for quick access. Financial records should contain transaction dates, amounts paid, companies or individuals receiving payment, and, when feasible, descriptions that indicate business purpose and use. Specific documents business owners should save or scan include:
Receipts for purchases
Credit card statements
The list is long, and, depending on the size and type of business in question, may be incomplete. Setting up a separate checking account for your business is widely advised because it creates a clear separation from your personal spending and allows you to see each and every financial payment related to your business so that your accounts can be reconciled properly. It also gives you the most accurate snapshot of your cash flow at any given moment.
Additional financial records may be needed in order to create an accurate picture of your business’s financial health. Some areas of financial management that may require additional documentation include:
Documents to show money coming in to your business might include cash register tapes, deposit records, and paid customer invoices. All earnings need to be documented in order to aid in tax preparation, budgeting, and accurate cash flow projection.
Items your business buys to resell or to use as raw materials in your own products make up a big part of the budget. Credit card statements, copies of paid invoices, and canceled checks that reflect inventory purchases should be saved so that they can be reconciled later with your accounts.
Even a small or solo business incurs regular expenses, some of which may be tax-deductible. Saving copies of paid bills and invoices helps keep your expenses organized and assists later with tax preparation. It also allows you to gauge the true cost of running your business in order to make a viable budget or to make cuts where possible.
If your business has employees, you know that getting payroll done can be a costly and unwieldy process. Safely store documents related to your employees, wage amounts, pay periods and pay dates, as well as items related to payroll tax filing and copies of previous years’ tax returns. Online payroll services can help simplify the process and keep your business payroll records organized and accessible.
Accurate record-keeping is essential to growing your business and keeping it profitable, particularly in these economically volatile times. As your business grows, you will likely acquire more assets, expand your staff, and incur higher expenses, and all of these require organized document storage. Online services are abound to help categorize these records for you and store them securely, usually for a low fee that makes them accessible and practical to businesses of all sizes. Online check printing and mailing allows you to pay all your bills with only a few clicks and automatically stores searchable records of all issued payments for immediate access from anywhere. It can also integrate with other bookkeeping and payroll platforms so that all your data is in sync for optimal financial management.