We may be in the heat of summer, but that doesn’t mean taxes are off-topic. In fact, summer is an ideal time to check in on your tax planning strategy and regular bookkeeping efforts. Proactive tax planning and preparation are key to a smooth tax season, ensuring you can take advantage of deductions and credits. But for many new small business owners, understanding business taxes can be confusing—particularly if your bookkeeping habits have been scattershot. We find that our clients feel a sense of relief when they enlist the help of a financial advisor for tax season and beyond. Below we have answered some common tax time questions, who can help, and how a financial advisor can support your business year-round.
Do I need a bookkeeper and a CPA?
A bookkeeper and a CPA are both financial experts, but they each perform different services at different levels. A bookkeeper can assist your business with keeping your financial records (aka books) up-to-date, maintaining payroll, and other necessary daily, weekly, and monthly accounting tasks. A CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, has specialized expertise in tax planning and preparation. CPAs can also help your business stay in compliance with tax law and create a financial strategy.
Depending on the size and complexity of the business, it may be ideal to have the financial expertise of both a bookkeeper and a CPA. A bookkeeper and a CPA can work together, and often may work for the same firm, which makes tax season collaboration a smooth process. For solo entrepreneurs, especially those with their accounting in the cloud, many regular bookkeeping tasks may be relatively easy to keep up with, and they’ll use a bookkeeper for a monthly or quarterly check. As the business grows, there may come a point in time when maintaining the books takes away time from the business’s core functions, and enlisting the help of a bookkeeper is necessary.
What is the difference between a bookkeeper, accountant, CPA, and CFO?
With different options to choose from, sometimes it can be difficult to decide which type of financial expert is right for your business. Below is a quick explanation of the differences:
- Bookkeeper: A bookkeeper can help with daily, weekly, and monthly tasks needed to manage the back office. They can assist with payroll, invoicing, bill pay, recording transactions and expenses, and ensuring all accounts are up-to-date.
- Accountant: An accountant can provide bookkeeping services paired with more advanced accounting knowledge. They may also be more knowledgeable about laws and regulations that your business must adhere to in order to fulfill its compliance obligations.
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA): A CPA is an accountant who has passed a rigorous exam in order to obtain an advanced certification. A CPA will have extensive financial knowledge of accounting and tax codes and laws. CPAs will be able to help prepare your tax return, represent you before the IRS, and support you with tax planning strategies.
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO): A CFO can support a business with guidance, recommendations, establishing protocols, budgets, projections, and much more in order to help the business achieve financial success. They have dedicated years to understanding business finances and often are also a CPA.
Determining which financial expert is right for your business really depends on your needs, goals, activity, and comfort level you feel with the financial side of your business. For many business owners, their specialty is the core business offering, and they cringe at the thought of spending hours recording transactions, doing payroll, and running reports.
All of the above financial experts can be hired as full-time, part-time, or on a contract basis to fit within your business needs and budget. It’s important to build a team of experts to support your business growth. Utilizing cloud-based accounting apps makes working with a remote bookkeeper, CPA, or outsourced CFO possible. Both you and your financial experts will have access to the back office, from any supported device, regardless of geographical location. This expands the talent pool, allowing you to find a financial expert experienced in your niche who understands the industry and can provide the best possible service.
How often should I meet with my financial advisor?
Many new business owners think that they should only meet with a financial advisor around tax season. However, business owners should meet with a financial advisor on a regular basis. The type of financial expert you are working with, as well as his or her established processes, will play a role in determining how often you meet.
For tax purposes, we interact with our clients throughout the year for year-end tax planning meetings, 1099 preparation, filing taxes, and a mid-year check-in. Doing so will ensure you stay organized, and allow for proactive tax planning throughout the year to avoid an unexpected tax bill.
Outside of tax season, what can my financial advisor do for my business?
As mentioned above, financial experts offer many services other than simply filing tax returns. A financial advisor can assist your business with:
- Daily, weekly, and monthly bookkeeping
- 1099 preparation
- Pulling reports
- Budgeting and forecasting
- Tax planning
- Implementing cloud-accounting tools
A financial advisor can help your business with the basics, and the ability to sustainably grow. While tax planning is a critical piece of the overall picture, there’s also a lot of other benefits you stand to gain.
How will I know if my business will owe taxes, or be due a refund?
It all comes down to staying up-to-date with your finances, reviewing the books regularly, and setting up a tax planning meeting with your CPA. Without a tax projection, your tax bill might just be a guessing game, especially if your revenue and expenses are constantly fluctuating.
The key is proactive planning. Take time before year-end to set up a tax planning meeting, and again mid-year. These are two key times to identify additional tax credits and deductions that are available to your specific business. Taking advantage of credits and deductions could have a great impact, but it often requires advance planning and capital outlay.
When should I start preparing for tax season?
Start the year off right with a tax plan in hand, before you even submit the prior year’s tax return. This allows you to step into the new year with the tools in hand to optimize the tax opportunities available. If your books reside in the cloud, reviewing the prior year’s finances will be a straightforward process. Reviewing your previous year’s revenue and expenses can help identify areas of opportunity and where you need to better plan for the upcoming year.
Tax season can feel like the weight of an elephant when Q4 hits if you’re underprepared. If you often find yourself scrambling last minute to gather documents, take advantage of deductions, and connect with your financial advisor, it may be time to take another approach. Enlist the help of experienced financial advisors, adopt time-saving cloud-based accounting apps, and shift your mindset to view taxes as a year-round event.
Our firm offers bookkeeping, accounting, CPA, and CFO services to small to mid-sized businesses. Whether you are in need of a part-time, interim, or remote financial advisor, our team is here to help. Send us a message to discuss what type of financial expert will best fit your needs.