Monday, September 29, 2008

Keep track of your business mileage

It is extremely important to keep track of your business mileage (incurred on your personal vehicle) in the form of a mileage log. Even if that is a 99 cent mini spiral notebook, you should be recording mileage info. for every business associated drive. Yes, even to the post office to buy stamps to mail out your bills! This also includes charitable mileage, medical mileage and moving expenses incurred, but some of these have different rates at which to compute the deductible amount for taxes. In this post, we will be discussing business type miles only.

You are allowed to deduct expenses that are incurred to make the income. You should always be thinking, "How will I prove this expense if I needed to at the end of the year?" Staying organized and keeping track of your miles will make things alot easier on you come tax preparation time. You can just leave that little notebook right in your car for convenience.

If your business records vehicle expenses for gasoline, repairs and such, you would not need to also record mileage. The mileage rates are intended to cover those costs on a per mile basis. It's either actual expenses OR mileage reporting.

Individuals who receive a W-2 from their employer, who use their own vehicles in their line of work also qualify to deduct this expense in certain circumstances*. If your employer does not reimburse you or only partially reimburses you, you may be entitled to claim it on your taxes filing Federal Form 2106. Here are some instructions and a flow chart if you'd like to see if you would qualify to file this form.

The mileage rate for the tax year 2007 was $0.485
The mileage rate for the tax year 2008 from Jan. 1-Jun.30 was $0.505
The mileage rate for the tax year 2008 from Jul. 1-Dec. 31 is $0.585

As you can see, the tax year 2008 has 2 distinct time periods with different rates. It will be important for you to have a mileage log showing the number of miles accumulated for each separate rated time period. Your tax preparer will need this information in the form of a total of miles for each time period. In the event of an audit, your IRS agent will want proof in the form of a mileage log for all year, otherwise they will most likely add back some or all of the deduction from form 2106.

When recording your mileage log, be sure to include the date, beginning mileage, ending mileage, total miles for the trip and a brief notation about the nature of the trip couldn't hurt either. For example:
8/29/08 61,558-61,601=43 P/U Parts
For more information on mileage rates and requirements, see the website.

*See your tax professional for more details.

Friday, September 26, 2008

1st Things 1st - Getting Organized

Those of you just starting a business will benefit greatly from starting off on the right foot with organization. If you are already up and running and find yourself in a disorganized mess, don't fret!

Getting organized is really easier than you might think. Your desk, paperwork, bills, invoices, supply orders, emails, bank statements and post it notes will all begin to pile up if you don't implement a system for dealing with it.

Just starting out?
The most obvious suggestion would be to get a bin, basket or folder for putting everything as it accumulates and then once a week, sit down and go through it all. Have separate files according to what action is necessary for what's inside. In other words, have an Accounts Payable file for storing the bills to be paid, a separate file for receipts on items already paid and so on. I find having different colored files help with this task as well. Don't forget to have a separate file for 'Income Tax Information'. This is one area you will not want to get behind in. Whatever the system you create, just stick with it. You will benefit much in the long run from a little preventative organization all along. If this is your first year in business, please stay tuned for more beginning helpful information.
Already up and running?
If you have been in business for a while and find yourself in a disorganized mess, don't give up yet! A smooth and organized accounting system is just around the corner. You can do *something* intentional each day to move toward a more organized way of doing things. One thing's for sure, if you have outdated information in your way, this is definitely a good place to start. I find having 1 big file or box for each calender year's records (or fiscal year) is best. That way after the year end, all the information is now in 1 place. Having a system of folders for A/P and such is great for staying on track in the current year. At the end of the year, after everything has been balanced and filed, in the box or file it goes and that's that! Whatever system you utilize, just keep up with it. Do a little something each day to stay on top of new things and take 5 or 10 minutes to get prior information organized too.

Don't forget to keep all those receipts! For more information on the importance of keeping receipts, please stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introduction to Simplistic Accounting

I've created this blog for everyone who is new to the business world and would like more information on accounting and ways to keep the paperwork in control. Most people find themselves jumping into a new business venture and have NO clue what information will be needed at year's end for tax purposes and financial reporting.

I have worked full time for an accounting and tax service specializing in small businesses for over 10 years now and have picked up some very valuable tools which I would be happy to share with you. I started out at entry level data entry and now have been promoted to Data Processing Manager and Payroll Specialist. I have worked full time directly under an accounting professional who is well regarded in this field, highly skilled and trained and actively participates in accounting societies locally and on the state level. The knowledge and experience I have gleaned from my position over the past 10 years is priceless and will make for many strong and interesting posts in the future of this blog, so please come back frequently to discover more ways of staying ahead of the accounting game.

Here is a brief list of just some of the topics we will cover:
  • Payroll 101
  • Accounting 101
  • Software recommendations
  • Staying organized
  • Knowing when to get professional help
  • Benefits of financial statements
  • Balancing your business checkbook
  • Budgets
  • Tax issues
  • Year end forms to file
  • Tax payment deadline reminders
Thanks for visiting, please feel free to comment and ask questions at any time. Remember, accounting does not have to be complicated. With a few tips and tricks, you will be on your way in no time to a stress-free accounting system that works for you!