Why You Shouldn’t Mix Business and Personal Finances

One of the most common accounting mistakes small business owners make is mixing their business and personal finances. Rather than using two separate accounts — an account for their business finances and another account for their personal finances — they use a single account. They’ll use this single account to receive money from their business’s customers, and they’ll also use this account to pay for both business- and personal-related expenses. While mixing business and personal finances may sound harmless, it can lead to several problems.

Missed Tax Deductions

Mixing personal and business finances can result in missed tax deductions. As you may know, most business-related purchases can be deducted from your taxes. Whether it’s cleaning supplies, shipping services, insurance, inventory, etc., you can typically deduct them from your taxes. You’ll need to identify them, however. And with mixed personal and business finances, you may overlook some of these tax deductions. The end result is a higher tax liability that cuts into your business’s annual profits.

Increased Risk of Tax Audit

Speaking of taxes, mixing personal and business finances can increase the risk of a tax audit. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t explicitly prohibit business owners from mixing their business and personal finances. It does, however, require them to maintain complete accounting records. Mixing business and personal finances can make it difficult to create complete accounting records. All of your business-related transactions will be tied to the same account as your personal transactions. The end result is messy and incomplete accounting records that place you at a greater risk of a tax audit.

Unprofessional Brand Image

Another reason to avoid mixing personal and business finances is that it creates an unprofessional brand image. You may need to write checks on behalf of your business. Maybe you’re purchasing inventory from a supplier, or perhaps you’re refunding a client or customer. Regardless, if you mix your personal and business finances, you’ll have to write checks from your personal account, which will also be used for your business-related transactions. The supplier, client or customer will see your personal name on the check rather than the name of your business.

The bottom line is that you should use separate accounts for your business and personal finances. Mixing these finances together under a single account can lead to missed tax deductions, an increased risk of a tax audit and an unprofessional brand image.

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What Are Harmonised System (HS) Product Codes?

Does your business sell or plan to sell its products internationally? When shipping products to another country, you may want to use Harmonised System (HS) codes. Doing so will allow you to classify your business’s products using a universal system. What are HS codes exactly, and how do you create them?

Overview of HS Codes

Developed by the World Customers Organization (WCO), HS codes consist of multi-digit numerical codes that are used to classify internationally shipped products. Custom authorities, of course, will often inspect imported products to determine how much duties and taxes should be applied to them. Rather than using their own classification system, most custom authorities use the HS system. The HS system is a universal classification system that’s designed to classify products so that customs authorities can identify more easily.

How to Enable HS Codes in Quickbooks

You can enable HS codes in Quickbooks. When enabled, HS codes will automatically show on all eligible documents. To enable HS codes in Quickbooks, click the “Settings” menu and choose “Brands and Documents.” You can then choose a theme to edit, followed by “Document Settings” for that theme. Next, choose the document that you want to display the HS code. You should notice a box labeled “HS Code” on the document. Clicking this bark will place a checkmark it, thus enabling it. To complete the process, click “Save and close.”

You can also add HS codes to product variants. A product variant, of course, is a variation of a product. You may want to create a different product variant for each country to which you intend to ship a given product. Quickbooks supports HS codes for product variants such as this.

Start by creating the product variant. Clicking the “Inventory” menu, followed by “Products” and then “Add a variant” will allow you to create a product variant. Once the product variant has been created, pull it up in Quickbooks. It should feature several fields, including a field for the HS code. You can enter the HS code for the product variant in this field.

In Conclusion

HS codes are used to classify products that are shipped internationally. When products are shipped internationally, they must be inspected by customs. Fortunately, most custom authorities use the same system. Known as the HS system, it consists of codes that designate the type of product.

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Business vs Company: What’s the Difference?

The terms “business” and “company” are often used interchangeably when discussing commercial entities that make money by selling products or services to customers. In reality, though, businesses and companies are different. While they both seek to generate profits through sales, they use a different structure. As a result, their nuances between the way in which they operate as well as how they are taxed. To learn more about the differences between businesses and companies, keep reading.

What Is a Business?

A business is a commercial entity or organization that makes money by selling products or services to customers. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are operated by a single person, whereas others are operated by hundreds of people. Some businesses produce the goods they sell, whereas others simply act as the middleman by purchasing and reselling goods from a vendor. Regardless, all businesses are commercial entities that make money by selling products or services.

What Is a Company?

A company, on the other hand, is a commercial entity or organization that’s legally separated from its owner or owners. Like businesses, companies make money by selling products or services. They can also vary in size, with some of them being operated by a single person and others being operated by multiple people. The difference is that companies are considered a separate legal entity from their respective owners.

Breaking Down the Differences Between Businesses and Companies

A company is essentially a type of business. There are several specific types of companies recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), some of which include a limited liability company (LLC), an S corporation and a C corporation. All companies are considered separate legal entities from their respective owners, meaning they don’t share liabilities or debts.

The term “business” can refer to a company as well. It’s a broad term that encompasses all types of commercial entities. With that said, businesses cover basic entities that, unlike companies, aren’t considered separate legal entities. A sole proprietorship, for example, isn’t a separate legal entity. If a sole proprietorship incurs debt, the owner or owners will be personally responsible for paying it. This in stark contrast to companies, which offer protection to their owners from company-related liabilities and debts.

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Gross Profit vs Gross Margin: What’s the Difference?

The terms “gross profit” and “gross margin” are often used interchangeably to describe how much a business generates from its activities. Regardless of their size or market, businesses must purchase products and services to conduct their own money-money activities. A retail store, for instance, must purchase inventory from a vendor so that it can resell the products to its customers. While gross profit and gross margin offer insight into a business’s profits, they aren’t necessarily the same. So, what’s the difference between gross profit and gross margin in accounting?

Gross Profit Explained

Gross profit is an accounting metric that shows how much profit a business generates from its activities. It’s calculated by taking the business’s net sales and subtracting that number by its Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). If a business generated $200,000 during a given month and its COGS was $60,000, its gross profit would be $140,000 for that month. Gross profit uses a simple formula to reveal how much profit a business generated during a particular period.

Gross Margin Explained

Also known as gross profit margin, gross margin is another accounting metric that, like gross profit, shows much much profit a business generates from its activities. With that said, it uses a different formula than gross profit. Gross margin is calculated by taking the business’s gross profits and dividing that number by its net sales. Therefore, it uses a slightly different formula that ignores certain expenses.

Differences Between Gross Profit and Gross Margin

The main difference between gross profit and gross margin is that the former takes into account all of the business’s expenses, whereas the latter does not. With gross profit, all expenses associated with a business’s money-money activities are factored into the equation. With gross margin, indirect expenses — advertising, administrative fees, interest, tax, etc. — are ignored. These expenses are ignored when calculating gross margin, so a business’s gross margin is typically smaller than its gross profit for that same period.

You can use gross profit or gross margin to track your business’s financial health and well-being. Gross margin, however, ignores the aforementioned expenses, so it offers a more cloudy and altered representation of your business’s finances. That’s why, in fact, it’s referred to as “gross margin” rather than simply “gross profit.” Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of how gross profit and gross margin differ.

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5 Accounting Tips for Independent Contractors

Do you work as an independent contractor? You aren’t alone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 16 million Americans are classified as independent contractors. They are technically still business owners; they just don’t own or work for an incorporated business, such as a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. While working as an independent contractor has its perks, you’ll need to keep detailed and transparent records of your business’s financial transactions. Here are five essential accounting tips for independent contractors.

#1) Separate Personal and Business Expenses

The golden rule of accounting is to separate personal and business expenses — a rule that applies to all business entities, including independent contractors. If you only have a single checking account, which you use for personal expenses, open a second checking account so that you can use it for your business’s expenses. With an account for your personal expenses and another account for your business’s expenses, you won’t accidentally or otherwise mix these two expenses.

#2) Use Digital Payments Methods When Possible

When given the option between paying for a business-related expense with cash or a digital method, choose the latter. If you use cash to buy a product or service needed to execute your business’s operations, you won’t have a digital record of it. At best, you’ll have a paper receipt, which are undoubtedly easy to lose. Paying with a credit card or debit card, on the other hand, will create a digital record of the transaction.

#3) Consider Getting an EIN

Independent contractors are distinguished from other business entities because they can operate under their respective Social Security number. With that said, you can still use an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Using an EIN is beneficial as an independent contractor because it protects your Social Security number from unnecessary exposure. Rather than providing your Social Security number to a business, you can give the business your EIN.

#4) Make Quarterly Tax Payments

As an independent contractor, you’ll be responsible for making quarterly tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This involves estimating your business’s income for the following year, after which you can calculate your projected taxes while breaking them into four equal payments. Failure to make quarterly tax payments will result in a penalty.

#5) Use Quickbooks Self-Employed

Quickbooks offers accounting software that’s designed specifically for independent contractors. Known as Quickbooks Self-Employed, it’s a smart investment that can help you keep better financial records. Among other things, Quickbooks Self-Employed will separate your personal and business expenses, ensure maximum deductions and even allow you to prepare estimated quarterly tax payments.

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Beware: 5 Things That Can Hurt Your Business’s Cash Flow

What does your business’s cash flow typically look like? Defined as the net amount of available cash your business has at the end of an accounting period, it’s an important metric that reflects your business’s financial health. While your business’s cash flow will likely fluctuate from month to month, you should beware of the five following things that can hurt its cash flow.

#1) Unpaid Customer Invoices

Not all of your business’s customers will pay their invoices immediately upon reception. Some customers may wait a few days to pay their invoices, whereas others may wait or weeks or even months. The longer it takes a customer to pay his or her invoice, though, the greater the risk of it hurting your business’s cash flow.

#2) Excess Inventory

If your business sells physical products — as opposed to virtual products or services — you should beware of excess inventory. Like unpaid customer invoices, excess inventory can hurt your business’s cash flow. You’ll have to spend money to restock your business’s inventory, resulting in less available cash on hand. Assuming you don’t sell the newly stocked inventory in the same account period during which you purchased it, it will bring down your business’s cash flow.

#3) Interest on Debt

Something else that can hurt your business’s cash flow is interest on debt. Although there are exceptions, most lenders require borrowers to pay interest on debt. If you take out a loan to cover some of your business’s short- or long-term expenses, for example, you’ll have to pay interest on it. Interest payments such as this will lower your business’s cash flow.

#4) High Overhead

You’ll probably encounter overhead expenses when running a business. Overhead, of course, includes all expenses that aren’t directly related to your business’s operations. Common examples include utilities, rent, insurance, office supplies and payroll.

#5) Lack of Sales

Of course, a lack of sales can hurt your business’s cash flow as well. If your business sells few or no products or services during a given accounting period, its cash flow will suffer during that same account period. All businesses experience ups and downs in regard to sales — it’s just something that comes with the territory of operating a commercial business. If your business’s sales remain stagnent for a prolonged length of time, though, it may hurt your business’s cash flow.

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How to Stay Productive When Telecommuting

Have you started telecommuting to work recently? Research shows that around 4% of all workers in the United States either partially or fully telecommute. While working from the comfort of your home offers a myriad of perks, it often comes at the cost of lower productivity. The good news is that you can stay productive when telecommuting by following these five tips.

Follow a Schedule

When telecommuting, you’ll typically have control over when you want to work. Maybe you prefer to work in the morning when it’s quiet, or perhaps you’re a night owl who prefers to work after the sun goes down. If you’re going to telecommute, though, you need to follow a schedule. Working erratic hours will only prevent you from falling into a rhythm that maximizes your productivity.

Block Out Distractions

It’s important to block out distractions when telecommuting. Not surprisingly, distractions are a leading cause of lost productivity for telecommuting workers. When you telecommute, your personal life when seemingly mix with your professional life. The blending of these elements can create distractions that hinder your ability to work in a productive manner. By blocking out distractions, your telecommuting productivity will increase.

Cut Back on Email

You can certainly use email to communicate with your peers, coworkers and other individuals, but you should be conscious of how much time you spend checking your inbox. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), the average worker checks his or her inbox about once every 37 minutes. If this sounds familiar, you’ll waste an average of 21 minutes each day.

Create a To-Do List

A simple to-do list can improve your telecommuting productivity. With a to-do list, you’ll have a clear understanding of what tasks you need to accomplish and by when. The Ivy Lee method can help you create effective to-do lists. This age-old trick involves making a list of 10 tasks that you need to complete by the end of the following day and ranking those tasks according to importance.

Take Breaks

Overworking yourself will only result in a lower level of productivity. This applies to all types of workplaces, including your home office. Therefore, you should include breaks in your telecommuting schedule. A short 10-minute break every one or two hours will give your body, as well as mind, the opportunity to relax.

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5 Common Myths About Small Business Financing

Are you seeking financing for your small business? In the world business, you need money to make money — and small businesses are no exception. With that said, you can’t believe everything you see or hear about small business financing. Below are five common myths about small business financing that you shouldn’t believe.

#1) You Need Over $100,000

While some small businesses may require $100,00 or more to get up and running, most require a much smaller monetary investment. According to a Wells Fargo study, most small businesses require just $10,000 to start. Other studies have shown similar findings, attesting to the fact that starting a small business isn’t very expensive.

#2) Banks Are the Only Source

Banks, of course, offer a multitude of financing options for small businesses, including loans, credit cards and lines of credit. With that said, there are other ways to finance a small business. Private lenders, for example, offer similar financing solutions but with less-stringent requirements. You can also tap into your personal savings or personal credit cards to finance your small business. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t assume banks are the only option for financing your small business.

#3) Financing Takes Months to Secure

Some forms of small business financing can take months to secure, but this doesn’t apply to all of them. As previously mentioned, there are private lenders who loan money and credit to small businesses. Not only is it easier to obtain financing from a private lender, but it’s typically faster as well. While a bank may take months to approve your request for financing, a private lender may take just a few weeks.

#4) All Financing Requires Collateral

You might be surprised to learn that not all forms of small business financing requires collateral. Financing can be classified as either secured or unsecured. Secured financing requires collateral, whereas unsecured financing does not.

#5) You Can’t Get Financing for a New Small Business

Even if your small business is new and has little or no cash flow, you can still secure financing for it. Depending on the lender’s requirements, though, you may have to sign a personal guarantee. Basically, this means you are personally responsible for repaying the loan. Without a personal guarantee, lenders may feel hesitant to lend your small business money or credit, especially if it’s new and has little or no cash flow.

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Employees vs Independent Contractors: What’s the Difference?

The terms “employees” and “independent contractors” are often used interchangeably describe workers whom a business hires. However, there are some stark differences between them, specifically in regards to how they treated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As a business owner, you might be wondering how exactly employees differ from independent contractors. Below, you’ll learn more about these two classifications of workers and their respective nuances.

What Is an Independent Contractor?

An independent contractor is a non-employee worker who has control over the work he or she performs. The IRS explains that, as a general rule, a worker is considered an independent contractor if he or she can control their work. In other words, independent contractors can choose whether or not to perform a work-related task and when to perform it. His or her employer — known simply as a payer — cannot require the independent contractor to perform ongoing or otherwise pre-scheduled work.

What Is a Employee?

An employee, on the other hand, is a worker who doesn’t have control of his or her work. A worker is considered an employee if his or her employer can dictate their work. Employees typically have little or no say regarding their work schedule. Rather, they are required to perform specific tasks at specific times.

Differences Between Independent Contractors and Employees

Aside from the terminology differences, the IRS treats employees and independent contractors very differently from each other. If you hire an independent contractor, he or she will be responsible for withholding and paying their own income taxes and Social Security. If you hire an employee, however, you must withhold and pay the employee’s income taxes and Social Security.

Furthermore, employees are entitled to certain benefits in the United States that aren’t offered to independent contractors. There’s both a federal minimum wage and state-specific minimum wages that all employers must follow when paying their employees. Independent contractors aren’t subject to these minimum wages. Employers can technically pay them less.

Employees are also eligible for overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all employees who work over 40 hours in a single week are entitled are overtime pay of at least 1.5 times than their standard pay. These are just a few benefits that are only offered to employees. Employers aren’t required to offer these benefits to workers who are classified as independent contractors.

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Tax Audits: 6 Ways to Lower Your Risk

With April right around the corner, you might be wondering how to lower your risk of being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Statistics show the IRS audits about 0.5% of all federal tax returns in any given year. The good news is that you can lower your risk of being audited by following these six tips.

#1) File a Return

You can’t outrun Uncle Sam. If you don’t file a tax return — and you had income that was reported to the IRS for that year — you’ll raise a red flag with the IRS. Upon discovering that you didn’t file a tax return, the IRS may audit you. Therefore, you should always file a tax return to minimize your risk of being audited.

#2) Double-Check Your Income and Expenses

Before filing your tax return, double-check all your income and expenses to ensure the information is correct. If the income reported to the IRS doesn’t match the income on your tax return, the agency may audit you.

#3) Form an LLC or Corp

If you currently operate as an independent contractor or a sole proprietorship, consider forming either a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. Research shows independent contractors and sole proprietorships have the highest audit rate. By forming an LLC or a corporation, you can lower your risk of being audited.

#4) Choose the Right Tax Preparer

Don’t underestimate the importance of choosing the right tax preparer. There are thousands of tax preparation businesses in the United States that specialize in preparing, as well as filing, tax returns. Unfortunately, though, not all of them are credible or legitimate. If you choose a questionable tax preparer such as this, they may make mistakes with your return that results in an audit from the IRS.

#5) File Online

You might be surprised to learn that filing your tax return online can lower your risk of being audited. According to Intuit, roughly one in five mail-filed returns have an error, compared to just 0.5% with e-filed returns. The IRS’s e-filing system has safeguards in place to protect against common filing errors. If the system detects an error, it will notify you — or the preparer who’s filing your return — so that you can fix it.

#6) Complete All Required Fields

While this may sound like common sense, it’s worth mentioning that you should complete all required fields on your tax return. Leaving just one field blank is often enough to trigger an audit.

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