We Survived Another Tax Season

This was a tough tax season. You may not even have your return back yet.  Either way, you’ll likely find these steps quite timely. And now you have time to collect supplies for your tax season after party!

Tax season after party

Step 1: Ride out the shock. If you are a new business owner, take it from us veterans that the shock will not feel as intense after a few years. It might be a great shock – “whoo-hooo, I get that big of a refund?!” Or it could be life shattering –  “I think I’m going to be sick…where will that much money come from?”

Step 2: Your CPA is your best friend. Have their back and look at the return. Hand a copy of the tax return to a trusted and savvy accounting team member who will compare the information to your financial statements. Typos happen!

Step 3: Get the following reports from your CPA: Adjusting Journal Entries, Adjusted Trial Balance, and the Detailed Depreciation Schedule. These are some magic accounting terms that you should know a few things about.

If you own a micro to small company and have more than 3-4 entries on your Adjusting Journal Entries report, you may need process or personnel changes. It’s worth asking your CPA when it’s not tax time “Hey, how are my books looking?  Could we do better?” Make sure your CPA has not given up and doesn’t assume all books are a mess.  You want bright shiny clean books not cobbled together sort-of-but-not-quite-books.

The Adjusted Trial Balance shows what the total was for each account in your books at tax time. The accounting team member you gave a copy of the tax return to will thank you.  If they don’t get excited, they may need training or have given up and think the books will always be bad.

Some stuff you buy is written off over time (deprecation) because it was kind of expensive and will last several years.  The list of those items is on the Detailed Depreciation Schedule. Having this list allows your accounting team to track what assets were sold or disposed of during the current year.

Step 4:  Step back and ask yourself if you have the most effective and knowledgeable accounting team. Is it time to switch CPAs? Does the bookkeeper need some professional development? Has anyone given up and decided the books will be a mess forever?

Step 5: Be hopeful (Move to step 6 if you are). Don’t get sucked into the black hole of “my books will be a mess forever.” Amazing accounting professionals exist and new ones are mentored into existence all the time. The financials tell the story of your business. That’s why they’re called ‘the books.’ No one can hide the good or the bad from the numbers forever. To truly understand your business, you must learn how to read your financial statements.

Tax season after partyStep 6:  This step is mostly for the accounting team members out there. We have the data! Oh yes, I am suggesting we begin the next tax prep while sipping lemonade in our summer wear. Create a binder (or folder) called “Taxes 20xx” to store all the current documents you need for this coming tax season. Put the three documents from the CPA in the front of the binder (folder). Create tabs (sub-folders) in the binder (main folder) as follows: Reports, Bank, Assets, Liabilities, Payroll, and Equity (if ownership changes will occur during the year).

Step 7: Track property purchases, sales, and disposals with detailed descriptions in your accounting software and add copies of purchase documents for big purchases (cars for example) to your binder/folder*.  Inform/Remind all employees that they need to tell you if property is sold or disposed of. Some of us have to fill out property tax returns, so we’re tracking property even if it’s not an asset (monitor vs. server). If that’s the case, put a copy of last years property tax items list in the front of your binder/folder too.

*Ok can we decide here and now that a vessel, real or electronic, that we store work information in/on will be called a finder meaning (f)older or b(inder). After all, the whole purpose is to ensure you can find things. Apple has always been pro shareware, so there should not be any copy write infringement.

Step 8: Collect needful things. The owner and the accounting team need to be committed to collecting important documents like W-9s, statements, loan documents, and anything else that backs up the data on the company balance sheet. If the owner is not on board with the needs of the accounting department they need to go back to Step 5.

A few of my beloved clients have asked for an After-Tax SOP (standard operating procedure). Here it is!

May you be surrounded by an accounting team you like and trust. May your next year-end close be accurate, efficient, and low stress. And may the after party for the whirlwind that was tax season include hope and joy.