- Accounting is something small businesses should do on a regular basis.
- Creating a routine for your accounting will improve accuracy and effectiveness in your bookkeeping.
- Keeping track of inventory systematically reduces theft and loss of your merchandise.
- This article is for small business owners who want to practice better accounting methods.
Daily accounting tasks
Small business owners often put off accounting work when they are busy operating and servicing customers, but come audit season they'll likely spend hours each day trying to identify and resolve accounting or inventory discrepancies.
Creating a daily routine for accounting tasks goes a long way in improving the accuracy and effectiveness of your company's books. Here are some recommended tasks you should complete each day:
1. Refresh and update your financial data.
Ideally, your accounting software automatically syncs your bank and credit card feeds, and the sales data from your POS system, into your accounting software. If it doesn't, you'll need to do this manually. This gives you an up-to-date look at your accounts, showing you the money moving in and out of your business. [Read our review of Oracle NetSuite, our pick for the best accounting software within an enterprise resource planning platform.]
It is essential to do this every day, because it's easier to spot discrepancies with recent transactions.
2. Reconcile cash and receipts.
Reconciling cash and receipts at the end of each day helps you discover cash shortages or overages quickly, so you can figure out where the money went and identify errors or theft.
This is also essential in establishing controls and accountability in your organization, which breaks down when not tended to every day. [Read related article: All of the Different Types of Accounting]
3. Review and reconcile transactions.
If your accounting software is connected to your bank and synced daily, there's no need to wait for your monthly bank statement. Many accounting applications simplify reconciliation by suggesting matches, so all you have to do is review and approve them. Spending a little time on this task each day is easy and eliminates a grueling month-end chore. It's also a good time to review pending transactions for any errors or abnormalities, so you can investigate potential issues promptly.
4. Record and categorize expenses.
Many accounting software programs have apps that you can use to report expenses and upload receipts, so it's easy to take care of them immediately. Rather than sort through a stack of receipts at the end of the month, just snap a picture of the receipt and jot a note about the details.
FYI: Looking for accounting software? Consider our picks for the best accounting software.
5. Record inventory received.
Entering inventory into your system the same day you receive it keeps your system current, giving you a more accurate look at your stock. If you don't do this, your staff may lose sales by telling customers you're out of stock when an item just hasn't been entered into the system. Also, if your staff sells out of an item, reordering may be delayed if your system isn't set up to allow negative inventory counts.
Keeping track of inventory on a daily basis also reduces theft or loss of merchandise. It is an important control measure. For more information, check out our guide to the best inventory management software.
Key takeaway: Doing some accounting tasks daily will make your recordkeeping easier, make inventory management more efficient and expose costly mistakes sooner.
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Weekly accounting tasks
Here are some weekly accounting tasks to keep records, cash flows and operations of your business running smoothly:
1. Record payments you receive; deposit cash and checks.
If you receive paper checks and cash payments, deposit them weekly to keep your cash flow healthy and your records up to date.
If most of your accounts receivable are electronic payments and you have just a few paper checks, see if your bank accepts mobile deposits and what the daily, weekly and monthly limits are, as this can save you trips to the bank.
2. Invoice your clients.
Billing clients regularly helps them pay you on time. The product or service you provided is still fresh in their minds, and if there's any discrepancy with the bill it's easier to talk about it sooner rather than a month later. The longer you wait to bill your client, the more time it will take to get paid.
In a 2019 Forbes article, John Rampton, founder of online payments company Due, stated, "We've actually found that when you invoice the same day that the job is completed (as opposed to waiting two-plus weeks for your billing cycle), you are almost 1.5 [times] more likely to get paid."
It may not always be feasible to invoice clients every day; however, it is essential to ensure invoicing is done at least once a week. [Read related article: Finding Insight Into Accounting Reports]
3. Review employee timesheets.
Reviewing timesheets proactively – at least once each week – can help you spot any discrepancies and activities that may be counterproductive to your organization.
It will also help keep track of payroll expenses so you can make changes to your labor mix and stay within your own budgets.
There is also the issue of unauthorized overtime pay – if an employee works more than 40 hours a week, you can be held liable to pay for overtime even if you haven't authorized it. Weekly checks can ensure such surprises are minimized.
Did you know? By doing some accounting tasks weekly – like depositing checks, invoicing for services or products you've provided, and reviewing payroll expenses – you can operate your business more effectively.
Monthly accounting tasks
To preserve records, and maintain the integrity and reliability of your accounts, here are some tasks that need to be performed each month:
1. Pay vendors, or at least schedule bills to be paid.
When you receive bills, review them for errors. It's also important to know the terms of your vendors. For instance, if your vendors offer early payment discounts, schedule the payments early to take advantage of them. Otherwise, set payment reminders so you can pay your bills on time and avoid late fees.
Ideally, vendors should offer 30 days to settle payments, you can often negotiate longer terms if your company is low on cash.
2. Track budgets and variances.
Creating budgets for various expenses, activities and projects isn't hard, but sticking to these budgets can be difficult. The best way to reduce variances in budgets is to check for such things each month and then work toward corrective action.
3. Back up your data.
If you're not using cloud-based accounting software that automatically backs up your data, make sure to back up your financial data manually at least once a month. This will give you peace of mind that you won't lose your data if you have a hardware failure or file corruption.
One advantage of manually backing up your data is that it also allows you to revert to an earlier version if you deleted something you shouldn't have. It also allows you to discover errors that would be easier to fix by going back a few days and reentering data, rather than making significant adjustments.
Automatic backups don't allow you to revert to a previous version, but they do take care of this task for you. [Looking for accounting software? See our Guide to Choosing the Perfect Accounting Software for your Business.]
Annual accounting tasks
These annual checks mainly cater toward regulatory and compliance requirements, along with reporting of performance to shareholders.
1. Prepare your year-end financial statements.
Toward the end of the year, it is imperative to assess the company's yearly financial performance and its current financial health. This is determined by preparing statements, including the profit and loss statement, cash flow statement and the balance sheet.
These statements are prepared based on the records maintained throughout the year, and their effectiveness depends on the accuracy of those accounts.
Taking stock of your company's performance and health is essential for further planning and strategizing, so it is necessary to make sure that the data presented is accurate.
2. Complete an audit and year-end tax returns.
Once the financial statements are ready, the law requires them to be audited by an independent external auditor to assess its accuracy and completeness, before presenting an unbiased audit report that will be used by banks, lenders, shareholders and government agencies.
This must be performed each year by certified professionals, and such independent audits add more value to your business than the regulatory requirements alone. Annual audits help test and assess various controls and procedures, and suggest necessary changes to improve efficiency or meet industry standards.
Based on the audit report, your tax liabilities are determined. These have to be filed each year in March or April, and you will need to pay the pending amounts, in addition to the quarterly taxes.
Lori Fairbanks contributed to the writing and research in this article.