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An Essential Guide to Bookkeeping: Definition, Benefits and Best Practices




Bookkeeping is the way businesses, entrepreneurs, and decision-makers keep track of a company’s overall financial health and operations. Without daily bookkeeping processes, financial transactions and costing activities will easily spiral out of control, leading to uncertainty, disorder, and loss of profits. Although it may not be performed exactly the same way across all industries, bookkeeping is an essential component of a business and is undeniably integral to its success and operation.

Bookkeeping is essential regardless of where your business is financially. This is why you need  to monitor your finances and expenses, know if your business is financially stable, and file  tax returns when required. However, most people lack confidence in managing intricate business finances. Many companies hire a professional bookkeeper to handle this process because they lack the time or knowledge to do it themselves. It's challenging to handle this internally without outsourcing it to another company.

This guide will walk you through the basics of bookkeeping, establish key concepts, and offer advice to help you get your money in order if you're new to bookkeeping.

WHAT IS BOOKKEEPING

Bookkeeping keeps track of all your company's financial transactions, including profits, investments, how much money your business will receive, how much is owed, and all aspects related to it including keeping track of assets, liabilities, and equity.

Simply put, bookkeeping is the process of recording the financial transactions and activities of a business. A business's financial transactions also include sales, purchases, receipts, and payments.

A bookkeeper's responsibility is to maintain a company's general ledger,  chart of accounts, and journals, which provide information on all financial transactions. Bookkeeping can be done manually in a journal, or more often using a spreadsheet such as Excel. Many businesses nowadays utilize specialized accounting tools to keep track of their financial transactions.

The terms bookkeeping and accounting are often used interchangeably. In fact, there is a difference between bookkeeping and accounting. While a bookkeeper's job is managing daily financial operations, an accountant's job entails using financial tools to compile and analyze the data that a bookkeeper has generated. Bookkeeping is different from accounting because in the accounting process, the books kept by accountants are used to prepare accounting reports and year-end accounts.

WHY BOOKKEEPING MATTERS

It is almost impossible to run a business effectively without bookkeeping. To fully monitor the finances and transactions of your company, practicing effective and excellent bookkeeping methods are very important.

This applies to all businesses–big or small. Imagine trying to manage your business without knowing how much you spend each month on expenses or how much money your clients owe you. Imagine trying to file your taxes the next year without properly accounting for those expenses. Imagine asking your financial institution for a loan or a credit line without the necessary records that demonstrate your company's performance.

Inefficient bookkeeping is one of the main reasons why most businesses fail. Bookkeeping, when done correctly, helps steer a business’s growth to the right direction. This is why it becomes essential to keep your company's financial records up to date. It helps to effectively manage cash flow and future financial plans of the business.

Businesses benefit from bookkeeping because of the following reasons:

  • - Gather and organize financial records

  • - Recognize specific business transactions in detail

  • - Helps make budgeting easier

  • - Be better prepared for tax season

  • - Rectify discrepancies when they appear on bank statements

  • - Allow investors to make well-informed decisions

  • - Calculate your company’s value in your industry

  • - Facilitate better decision-making

  • - Make a long-term strategy for success and profitability

HOW TO GET STARTED

Now that you are aware of the importance of bookkeeping, let's look at the actual process. In order to be successful, it is in your best interest to understand the most common practices in bookkeeping. Here the initial steps to help you implement your bookkeeping system:

SEPARATE YOUR PERSONAL AND BUSINESS EXPENSES

Setting up a separate bank account is the first step in separating personal and corporate finances. Make sure you distinguish clearly between the income and costs of your business and yourself to prevent any hassles.

Combining personal and company expenses in the same account can also cause unnecessary stress when you have to file taxes or handle bookkeeping. It can result in a personal liability when a company expense is deducted to your personal account.

Limited liability companies (LLCs) may be held personally accountable for debts incurred by the company if they fail to keep a clear separation between their business and personal funds. It could also mean that your CPA takes longer to prepare your taxes. Then again, your personal and professional finances are affected. This can be avoided by separating all transactions involving cash, credit cards and other types of financial activities.

CHOOSE A BOOKKEEPING METHOD

There are primarily two categories of bookkeeping systems:

  • • Single entry. Single-entry methods tend to be more popular among startups.  With the single-entry method, formal accounting training is not necessary. That's because it's quick, easy, and suitable for basic bookkeeping. Simply record each entry in your journal only once, as an expense or an income. Inventory, loans and equipment are examples of assets and liabilities that are tracked separately.

The single-entry technique is appropriate for small private businesses and sole proprietorships that do not engage in credit-based transactions, possess few to no tangible assets, and maintain modest inventories.

  • • Double entry. The complexity increases with a double-entry system. In double-entry bookkeeping, all transactions are recorded in the journal, and then each entry is recorded twice in the ledger, one as a debit and the other as a credit. It effectively "double-checks" your books because each transaction is recorded as two matching but off-setting accounts.

The double-entry approach is appropriate for more established businesses, although it can be a little confusing at first. It offers a more reliable way of accounting for complex business activities. It makes more sense to keep your books using the double-entry system if your company is large, publicly traded, or purchases and sells through credit. Companies often choose the double entry system because there is less margin of error.

There isn't always a correct or wrong approach. You may level up your system once you have a method in place for bookkeeping. The majority of bookkeeping data, however, is difficult to transfer from one system to another. So choose one system and stick with it if you think you'll want all of your history data in one location.

CHOOSE AN ACCOUNTING METHOD

The next step is to choose between cash-based or accrual accounting. This decision will come after your analysis of your business income and expenses.

Under cash accounting, you only record transactions when you receive money into your business. Expenses are recognized when paid. In other words, every time cash comes in or goes out of your account, it is recorded on the books. This means that purchases or sales made with credit will not be transferred to your ledger until it reaches your bank account.

Many small businesses choose cash accounting because it's easy to manage, doesn't require you to keep track of accounts receivable or payable, and informs you exactly how much cash you have on hand at any given moment.

With the accrual method, you record income in the form of accounts receivable (even though payment isn't due for another month). The same is true for expenses which you incur when you receive a bill in the form of accounts payable.

Physical cash does not need to come in or out for a transaction to be recorded. With this system, you can immediately record purchases or sales even if the money has not been redeemed.

Accrual accounting is generally more appropriate for large, established businesses. It provides you with a long-term perspective on your company’s income and expenses that cash accounting does not.

Cash accounting and accrual accounting can be done with single-entry or double-entry accounting. In general, however, the bookkeeping method is the basis of cash accounting. Transactions are recorded as single entries as cash inflows or outflows. Accrual accounting works best with a double entry system.

DETERMINE WHO WILL MANAGE THE BOOKKEEPING

Now that we've got the basics sorted, here's the big question: should you handle your bookkeeping yourself, or hire a qualified professional to take care of it? Realistically speaking, it depends on your needs and situation. Make sure the system you select is simple to use and suitable for your daily activities.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SOFTWARE

For startups or small businesses, you can try meddling with Excel or Google Sheets. However, because of how sensitive and important financial data is, handling it with Excel will get tedious and extremely difficult as your business grows. It would be ideal if you have the appropriate right software specifically for business accounting.

There is a wide range of options available from keeping paper records to using accounting software. Accounting and finance software can be easier to use because they automatically calculate, allow you to run reports, and give you access to the data you need. It offers an incredible advantage in streamlining accounting processes and reducing costs while ensuring increased efficiency across business operations.

Another disadvantage is that it requires time and practice to master the use of these programs. There are times when customers have asked us to review their books only to find out that they were using their software incorrectly. As you can imagine, going back over a year to the entries and fixing them is time-consuming and expensive. That's why we recommend hiring a professional bookkeeper if you don't have the expertise to do it yourself. You can outsource your bookkeeping tasks to a company that has its own tools and systems set up.

OUTSOURCE A PROFESSIONAL BOOKKEEPER

For  business owners who are passionate about what they do, make sure they are each client's priority choice, and dedicate the  time and energy to showing their passion to their clients, growth is an integral part of your business. People choose you because you excel at your work and offer a personal, customer-focused approach.

Bookkeeping isn’t something you can do whenever it suits you. Small business owners are reported to devote 120 working days a year to administrative tasks like bookkeeping. Even still, almost 25% of companies are behind on their books. One of the most vital bookkeeping fundamentals is to maintain consistency and adhere to the timetable you have set up for your company. Otherwise, you might end up months behind schedule with a looming tax filing deadline.

Most business owners may not find bookkeeping to be a particularly enjoyable task. If you think you might put it off and then entirely forget to do it, you should consider having a dedicated professional do it for you. When your business is growing and your time can't be spent worrying about books, letting a professional take care of your books is a good way.

Hiring a virtual bookkeeper frees up your time. According to Investopedia, most businesses don't have enough work to keep a full-time employee busy every day until their income significantly exceeds $1 million (or 30+ people). Outsourcing a virtual bookkeeper helps you save money to be spent in salary, office space, accounting software and equipment. Your virtual CFO will take care of the bookkeeping tasks. With the time saved, you can focus on the things you're most passionate about as a business owner.

Outsourcing a professional bookkeeper is a great idea if you want to manage your financial transactions and expenses efficiently. You will have a whole team dedicated to you, instead of a solo designated accountant.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Bookkeeping is just one of many tasks that business owners must consider. If you are aiming for long-term stability, you must secure long-term accounting prospects as well. Purchase licensed software, hire in-house staff or outsource a professional bookkeeping agency. This way you won't be left behind without enough help.

In today's business environment, having a trusted outsourced accounting partner can lead to long-term success. A good and reliable bookkeeper can help you achieve business success by reducing your burden in managing your finances. At Peach BPO, we partner with you to support your growth efforts. Our team of bookkeeping and accounting experts works with you virtually, no matter where you are in the US.

We are a team of specialists who are knowledgeable about regulatory standards and best practices in bookkeeping. Learn more about our future-proof solutions which can help your organization grow.

We Want To Hear From You!

We will happily offer you a free consultation to determine how we can best serve you.

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