Bookkeeping Hacks for Small Business Owners: Making Your Life Easier

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15 Jul 2024

Bookkeeping Hacks for Small Business Owners:
Making Your Life Easier

Effective bookkeeping is the cornerstone of any successful small business. Companies can maintain accurate financial records, ensure compliance, and make informed decisions by understanding key terms, implementing best practices, and leveraging professional services.

The Fundamentals of Bookkeeping For Small Business

Bookkeeping is the backbone of any successful small business, providing a clear picture of the company’s financial health. Understanding the fundamentals is essential for accurate financial tracking and informed decision-making.

Key Bookkeeping Terms and Concepts

  1. Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable: Accounts receivable (AR) refers to money owed to your business by customers for goods or services delivered on credit. Keeping track of AR ensures timely follow-up on outstanding invoices, which is crucial for maintaining cash flow. On the other hand, accounts payable (AP) involves money your business owes to suppliers for products or services received. Efficient management of AP helps maintain good vendor relationships and avoid late fees.
  2. General Ledger: The general ledger is the central repository of all financial transactions within a business. It is divided into different accounts: assets, liabilities, equity, revenues, and expenses. Maintaining an accurate general ledger is crucial for generating financial statements, such as the balance sheet and income statement, which provide insights into the economic performance of the business.
  3. Double-Entry Bookkeeping: Double-entry bookkeeping is a fundamental concept in which each financial transaction affects at least two accounts, ensuring the accounting equation (Assets = Liabilities + Equity) remains balanced. For example, a sale increases both the revenue account and the accounts receivable. This system helps minimize errors and provides a complete financial picture.
  4. Cash vs. Accrual Accounting: Businesses can choose between cash and accrual accounting methods. In cash accounting, transactions are recorded when cash is received or paid. This method is more straightforward but may not provide an accurate financial picture if large amounts of credit are involved. Accrual accounting, preferred by larger businesses, records transactions when they are incurred, regardless of when cash is exchanged. This method offers a more accurate view of financial health.

Setting Up an Effective Bookkeeping For Small Business

  1. Choose the Right Bookkeeping Software: Investing in reliable software is critical for streamlining financial management. Software options like QuickBooks, Xero, and FreshBooks offer invoicing, expense tracking, payroll, and financial reporting features.
  2. Establish a Chart of Accounts: A chart of accounts (CoA) is a structured list of all accounts used in a business’s general ledger. It typically includes assets, liabilities, equity, income, and expenses. A well-organized CoA ensures that financial transactions are accurately classified and easily accessible for analysis and reporting.
  3. Implement a Consistent Record-Keeping System: Consistency is vital in bookkeeping. Establish a daily or weekly routine for recording financial transactions to avoid backlogs and errors. Use digital tools to scan and store receipts and invoices, ensuring they are organized and easily retrievable. This practice simplifies tax preparation and provides a clear audit trail.
  4. Reconcile Accounts Regularly: Regular reconciliation of accounts, such as bank and credit card statements, is essential to ensure that the recorded transactions match the account balances. Discrepancies should be investigated and corrected promptly to maintain the accuracy of financial records. Monthly reconciliations help identify errors, fraudulent activities, and irregularities early.
  5. Train Your Team: If your business employs a bookkeeping team, ensure they are well-trained in using the chosen software and understanding the bookkeeping principles. Regular training sessions can keep the team updated on new features, best practices, and regulatory changes. This helps maintain high accuracy and efficiency in financial management.

Best Practices for Efficient Bookkeeping

Implementing best practices for bookkeeping ensures that small businesses maintain accurate financial records, comply with regulations, and make informed decisions. Here are some essential strategies to enhance bookkeeping efficiency:

Record-Keeping and Organization

  1. Consistent Documentation: Maintaining consistency in documentation is crucial for accurate bookkeeping. Ensure that all financial transactions, including sales, purchases, and expenses, are recorded promptly and systematically. Use digital tools to capture and store receipts, invoices, and other financial documents. This reduces the risk of lost paperwork and makes it easier to retrieve records when needed.
  2. Organized Filing System: An organized filing system, whether digital or physical, is essential for efficient bookkeeping. Categorize documents by type (e.g., invoices, receipts, bank statements) and date to facilitate easy access and review. Digital filing systems can be enhanced with tagging and search functionalities, making it quicker to locate specific records.
  3. Regular Updates: Updating financial records regularly prevents data entry backlogs and reduces errors. Set aside dedicated time daily or weekly for bookkeeping tasks. Regular updates ensure that financial information is current and critical for making timely business decisions and preparing for tax filings.

Tracking Expenses and Revenues Accurately

  1. Separate Business and Personal Finances: One of the fundamental principles of small business bookkeeping is to keep business and personal finances separate. Use dedicated business bank accounts and credit cards to track business expenses and revenues. This separation simplifies record-keeping and ensures that business transactions are accurately captured and reported.
  2. Detailed Categorization of Expenses: Categorize expenses to understand where money is spent. Use accounting software to create specific categories (e.g., office supplies, marketing, travel) and allocate expenses accordingly. This detailed categorization helps analyze spending patterns and identify areas for cost reduction.
  3. Accurate Revenue Recognition: Ensure that all revenue sources are accurately recorded. This includes sales, interest, rental, and other revenue streams. Use invoicing software to track sales and monitor outstanding payments. Regularly reconcile sales records with bank deposits to ensure completeness and accuracy.
  4. Use of Technology: Leverage technology to streamline bookkeeping tasks. Accounting software like QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks can automate many processes, such as expense tracking, invoicing, and bank reconciliation. These tools not only save time but also reduce the likelihood of errors.

Automating Bookkeeping Processes

  1. Automate Data Entry: Automating data entry minimizes manual errors and saves time. Use accounting software that integrates with your bank accounts and credit cards to import transactions automatically. Many tools also offer receipt scanning features, which can directly capture and categorize expenses from scanned documents.
  2. Schedule Recurring Entries: Set up recurring entries in your accounting software for regular transactions, such as monthly rent or utility payments. This ensures that these expenses are recorded consistently and on time without requiring manual input each month.
  3. Utilize Reporting Tools: Take advantage of the reporting tools available in your accounting software. Generate regular financial reports, such as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. These reports provide valuable insights into your business’s economic health and help you make informed decisions.

How Professional Bookkeeping Can Enhance Efficiency

Professional bookkeeping services can transform how small businesses manage their finances, providing numerous benefits beyond simple record-keeping. Here’s how outsourcing bookkeeping can enhance efficiency and drive business success:

Benefits of Outsourcing Bookkeeping

  1. Expertise and Accuracy: Professional bookkeepers possess the expertise to handle complex financial tasks accurately and efficiently. They stay updated on the latest accounting standards and regulations, ensuring compliance and reducing the risk of errors.
  2. Time and Cost Savings: Outsourcing bookkeeping frees up valuable time for business owners and their staff, allowing them to focus on core activities that drive growth. By leveraging the skills of professional bookkeepers, businesses can also reduce the costs associated with hiring and training in-house staff.
  3. Scalability: Professional bookkeeping services offer scalability to accommodate the growing needs of small businesses. As the company expands, the bookkeeping requirements become more complex. Professional bookkeepers can seamlessly handle increased transaction volumes and provide additional financial analysis, budgeting, and tax planning services.
  4. Stress Reduction: Managing finances can be stressful for business owners, especially during tax season or financial audits. Outsourcing bookkeeping to professionals alleviates this stress by ensuring that financial records are accurate, organized, and ready for review.

Choosing the Right Bookkeeping For Small Business

  1. Assess Your Needs: Before selecting a bookkeeping service, assess your business’s needs. Consider the volume of transactions, the complexity of financial tasks, and any industry-specific requirements.
  2. Evaluate Experience and Credentials: Choose a bookkeeping service with a proven track record and relevant experience in your industry. Verify their credentials, certifications, and client testimonials.
  3. Consider Technology and Tools: Ensure the bookkeeping service uses advanced technology and accounting software to streamline processes and enhance accuracy.
  4. Review Pricing and Services: Compare different bookkeeping firms’ pricing structures and service offerings. Look for transparent pricing models that align with your budget and the services included.

Efficient bookkeeping is vital for small business success. It ensures accurate financial records, regulatory compliance, and informed decision-making. By understanding fundamental concepts, small businesses can optimize their financial management and focus on growth.

Ready to streamline your bookkeeping processes and achieve financial success? Contact us today to learn how our expert services can support your business.

Top 10 Most Common Small Business Bookkeeping Mistakes

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10 Jul 2024

Top 10 Most Common Small Business Bookkeeping Mistakes

Accurate bookkeeping is key to a successful business, especially for small businesses. Proper bookkeeping guarantees accurate financial records, enabling business owners to make informed decisions, comply with tax regulations, and maintain financial health. However, small business owners often need help maintaining accurate books, leading to common bookkeeping mistakes. Understanding and avoiding these mistakes can help small businesses thrive.

Mistake #1: Not Keeping Personal and Business Finances Separate

Mixing personal and business finances is a prevalent and problematic bookkeeping mistake among small business owners. When personal and business expenses are intertwined, it becomes incredibly challenging to track business performance accurately and claim legitimate tax deductions. This entanglement can lead to complications during tax filings and make financial analysis cumbersome, as personal transactions can obscure the true financial state of the business.

Small business owners should establish a clear boundary between personal and business finances to avoid this common mistake. Set up bank accounts and credit cards that are for business use only. Using these accounts exclusively for business transactions ensures that all business-related income and expenses are recorded separately from personal finances, making bookkeeping more straightforward and accurate. Additionally, this separation simplifies the process of financial reporting. It aids in maintaining a clear audit trail, which is essential for tax purposes.

Mistake #2: Failing to Track Expenses Properly

Untracked expenses are a common mistake that can lead to missed deductions and inaccurate financial statements. When small businesses fail to monitor their expenses diligently, they risk overlooking deductible expenses, which can result in higher tax liabilities. Additionally, untracked expenses make it challenging to gauge the true financial health of the business, leading to potential cash flow issues and uninformed decision-making. Accurate expense tracking is crucial for maintaining transparency and ensuring all financial activities are accounted for.

To avoid this common mistake, small businesses should leverage accounting software or apps for real-time expense tracking. These tools simplify the recording and categorizing of expenses and provide documentation of where they were spent. As such 85% of organizations will have adopted some form of accounting software by 2025. By using technology to automate and streamline expense tracking, business owners can save time, reduce errors, and ensure their financial records are always up-to-date. This proactive approach helps claim legitimate deductions and enhances overall financial management, supporting the business’s growth and stability.

Mistake #3: Not Reconciling Bank Accounts Regularly

Reconciling bank accounts regularly can result in noticed errors and discrepancies, significantly impacting financial reporting and decision-making. They may overlook duplicate transactions, notice charges, or bank errors that distort their financial records without regular reconciliations. This common mistake can lead to inaccurate cash balances, making it difficult to manage finances effectively and potentially causing cash flow problems.

Small businesses should schedule regular bank reconciliations, ideally every month, to avoid these issues. This practice ensures that all transactions are accounted for. Accounting software can streamline the reconciliation process, making matching bank statements with internal records easier. Regular reconciliations enhance the accuracy of financial statements and provide a clearer picture of the business’s financial health, enabling better decision-making and financial planning.

Mistake #4: Neglecting to Keep Receipts

Refraining from keeping receipts is a common mistake that can lead to significant issues during tax season and audits. Receipts are crucial for substantiating expenses and claiming tax deductions. Businesses may need help justifying their expenses with proper documentation, potentially leading to disallowed deductions and higher tax liabilities. In the event of an audit, having organized receipts on hand can make the process smoother and less stressful.

Small businesses should adopt digital solutions for storing and organizing receipts to mitigate this issue. Utilizing apps or accounting software to capture and store digital copies of receipts can streamline the process, ensuring that all necessary documentation is readily available and well-organized. By maintaining a systematic approach to receipt management, small businesses can improve their financial record-keeping, making tax preparation and audits more manageable and less time-consuming.

Mistake #5: Misclassifying Expenses

This common mistake can significantly impact financial reporting and tax returns. When expenses are not categorized correctly, it can lead to inaccurate financial statements, making it difficult to gauge the true financial health of the business. Misclassification can also result in incorrect tax filings, which may trigger audits or penalties from tax authorities. Small business owners need to know the importance of accurate expense classification to ensure their financial data is reliable and compliant with tax regulations.

Setting up a proper chart of accounts tailored to the business’s specific needs is essential to avoid misclassifying expenses. This involves creating categories that accurately reflect expenses, such as office supplies, travel, or marketing. Consistent categorization is key; business owners should establish clear guidelines and train their staff on proper expense classification. Additionally, investing in accounting software can help automate the process and reduce the risk of human error. Seeking professional advice from an expert can also provide valuable insights and make financial reporting smoother.

Mistake #6: Ignoring Accounts Receivable

Ignoring accounts receivable is a common mistake that can lead to significant cash flow issues. When invoices are not tracked and followed up on, businesses may experience payment delays, affecting their ability to cover operating expenses. Unmanaged accounts receivable can also result in bad debt, where outstanding invoices are never collected, directly impacting the profitability of a small business.

To avoid these problems, small businesses should implement a systematic approach to managing accounts receivable. This includes setting clear payment terms, issuing invoices promptly, and consistently following up on overdue accounts. Utilizing accounting software with invoicing capabilities can streamline this process, providing automated reminders and easy tracking of payments. By proactively managing accounts receivable, small businesses can maintain healthy cash flow.

Mistake #7: Overlooking Payroll Management

Payroll errors can result in significant penalties and employee dissatisfaction, making overlooking payroll management a critical mistake for small businesses. Accurate and timely payroll processing is necessary to maintain and avoid legal issues. Errors in payroll, such as incorrect calculations, late payments, or failure to comply with tax regulations, can lead to fines and damage employee morale.

Small businesses should consider using reliable payroll software or outsourcing payroll management to professionals to mitigate these risks. Payroll software can automate calculations, tax filings, and payments, reducing the likelihood of errors. Outsourcing payroll to a third-party provider can also ensure compliance with ever-changing payroll laws and regulations, allowing you to focus on other operations. Proper payroll management helps maintain employee satisfaction and ensures the business remains in good standing with regulatory authorities.

Mistake #8: Failing to Backup Data Data

loss can be catastrophic. This can cause mistakes like failing to back up data, which have serious implications. Losing financial data due to hardware failures, cyberattacks, or accidental deletions can disrupt business operations and result in significant financial losses. With backups, it can be easier to recover critical information, leading to delays, increased costs, and potential legal issues. Ensuring that all financial data is regularly backed up is essential for protecting the integrity and continuity of the business.

To safeguard against data loss, businesses should set up automatic backups and use cloud storage solutions. Automatic backups ensure that data is consistently saved without relying on manual processes, reducing the risk of human error. Cloud storage offers the added benefit of remote access and protection against local hardware failures. Implementing a robust data backup strategy, including regular testing of backup systems, can provide small businesses with peace of mind and ensure that their financial records are secure and retrievable when needed.

Mistake #9: Not Planning for Taxes

Inadequate tax planning is a common mistake that can lead to unexpected liabilities and penalties. Many small businesses fail to plan for taxes throughout the year, focusing only on the filing season. This reactive approach can result in cash flow problems and missed opportunities for tax savings. Effective tax planning is essential for managing financial obligations and avoiding last-minute scrambles.

Small businesses should work with a tax professional to develop a comprehensive tax strategy to mitigate this common mistake. This includes estimating tax liabilities, setting aside funds, and using tax credits. By integrating tax planning into their financial management, businesses can ensure they are prepared for tax obligations and optimize their financial outcomes.

Mistake #10: Doing It All Yourself

Handling bookkeeping alone is a common mistake that can lead to significant errors and inefficiencies. Small business owners often juggle multiple roles, and the complexities of bookkeeping require specialized knowledge and meticulous attention to detail. Attempting to manage bookkeeping without the necessary expertise increases the risk of mistakes, which can have costly consequences. Errors in financial records can affect decision-making, compliance, and overall business health.

Small business owners should consider hiring a professional bookkeeper or accountant to mitigate these risks. These experts can ensure accurate and efficient financial management, freeing up time for business owners to focus on growth and strategy. Alternatively, investing in reliable bookkeeping software can provide automated solutions for managing financial tasks, reducing the likelihood of errors. Small businesses can achieve better financial accuracy and stability by seeking professional assistance or leveraging advanced tools.

Accurate bookkeeping is vital for the success and sustainability of small businesses. The top 10 common small business bookkeeping mistakes highlighted in this post can significantly impact financial health and operational efficiency. Small business owners can enhance their bookkeeping practices by understanding these common mistakes and implementing the suggested solutions.

Need help with bookkeeping in your small business? Contact a Better Accounting specialist for more information.

Getting to a ‘Yes’ on Your SBA Loan

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2 Jul 2024

Getting to a ‘Yes’ on Your SBA Loan

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are a lifeline for many small businesses, providing much-needed capital to start, grow, or sustain operations. SBA loans are designed to be accessible and affordable, offering lower interest rates and longer repayment terms than traditional loans. The importance of SBA loans cannot be overstated—they empower small businesses to thrive, create jobs, and drive economic growth. Several types of SBA loans are available, including the 7(a) Loan Program, CDC/504 Loan Program, and Microloan Program, each tailored to different business needs.

Understanding Eligibility Requirements

Before you can secure an SBA loan, it’s crucial to understand the eligibility requirements. Meeting these criteria is the foundation of a successful application. Here are the basic eligibility requirements for SBA loans:

  1. For-Profit Business Status: Your business must operate for profit. This requirement ensures that the SBA’s resources are directed toward businesses that contribute to the economy through job creation and economic growth.
  2. U.S. Operations: Your business must be physically located in the United States. This requirement guarantees that SBA loans support the domestic economy and benefit American workers and communities.
  3. Invested Equity: You must have invested your time or money into the business. This demonstrates your commitment to the business and reduces the risk for lenders. Equity investment shows that you have a vested interest in the success of your business.
  4. Demonstrated Need for the Loan: You must demonstrate a need for the loan and show that you have been unable to secure financing from other sources. This requirement ensures that SBA loans are used as intended—to help businesses with difficulty obtaining traditional financing.
  5. Acceptable Credit Profile: A key aspect of the SBA’s credit standards is your credit profile, including your personal and business credit scores. Lenders review both scores to determine your ability to repay your loan. Common reasons for loan application rejections often involve issues with credit profiles, such as low credit scores or a history of late payments.

Preparing Your Business Plan

A strong business plan is essential in the SBA loan application process, as it showcases your business’s potential and convinces lenders of your viability. Here are the key components of a compelling business plan:

  1. Executive Summary: This briefly overviews your business and its goals. It should capture the essence of your business and its potential for success, making it compelling and concise to grab the lender’s attention.
  2. Company Description: This section provides detailed information about your business, including what you do, your target market, and your business’s unique selling proposition. It should also clearly articulate your mission, vision, and the problem your business aims to solve.
  3. Market Analysis: Market analysis demonstrates your understanding of your industry and market. It includes market size, trends, target customers, and the competitive landscape information. This analysis helps lenders see that you have a clear strategy for succeeding in your market.
  4. Organization and Management Structure: Outline your business’s organizational structure and provide background information on the management team. Highlighting the experience and expertise of your team members can build confidence in your ability to execute your business plan.
  5. Service or Product Line: Describe your products and how they attract your target market. This section should explain your product lifecycle, research and development, and intellectual property or proprietary technology.
  6. Marketing and Sales Strategy: Your marketing and sales strategy should outline your strategy for attracting and retaining customers. Include details on your marketing channels, sales tactics, and how you will differentiate your business from competitors.
  7. Funding Request: Specify the funding you need, how you intend to use it, and how it will benefit your business. Be clear and detailed in explaining why you need the loan and how it will help you achieve your business goals.
  8. Financial Projections: Provide forecasts for the next three to five years. These projections should be based on research and analysis and demonstrate your business’s potential for growth and profitability.
  9. Financial Documentation: Accurate and up-to-date financial documentation is crucial when applying for an SBA loan. Required documents typically include tax returns, balance sheets, income, and cash flow statements. Ensuring that your finances are precise helps demonstrate your business’s ability to repay the loan. Showing a healthy cash flow is particularly important in convincing lenders of your business’s viability.

Building a Strong Credit Profile

Your credit profile is a critical factor in the SBA loan approval process. Lenders look at both personal and business credit scores to assess your creditworthiness. Here are the key steps to building a strong credit profile:

  1. Paying bills on time helps build a strong credit profile. It demonstrates your reliability and ability to manage your financial obligations, which is crucial for lenders.
  2. Reducing debt: High debt levels can negatively impact your ability to secure a loan. Reducing your debt-to-income ratio shows lenders that you manage your finances responsibly and can handle additional debt.
  3. Correcting inaccuracies in your credit report: Mistakes in your credit report can affect your loan application. Check your credit report regularly and dispute any errors to ensure your credit profile accurately reflects your financial history.
  4. Addressing and explaining any credit issues: If you have any credit issues, such as late payments or defaults, it’s important to address them directly. Provide explanations and outline the steps you are taking to resolve these issues. This transparency can help lenders understand your situation and see your commitment to improving your creditworthiness.

Preparing a Loan Proposal

Creating a strong loan proposal is vital to securing an SBA loan. A well-crafted proposal provides a comprehensive picture of your business and your plans for the loan. Here are the key components you need to include in your loan proposal:

  1. Detailed Business Description: Begin your loan proposal with a detailed business description. This should include the business’s history, mission, and objectives. Highlight what makes your business unique, what your target market is, and how your business fits within the industry landscape.
  2. Loan Amount Requested: Clearly state the amount you request. Be specific and realistic about the sum you need to achieve your business goals. Detailed financial projections and justifications should back this amount.
  3. Use of Funds: Outline exactly how the loan funds will be used. Break down the allocation of funds into specific categories such as equipment purchase, inventory, marketing, or operational costs. This helps demonstrate your strategic planning and the direct impact of the loan on your business operations.
  4. Repayment Plan: Present a comprehensive repayment plan explaining how to repay the loan. Include projected revenue, cash flow analysis, and any other financial forecasts that support your ability to meet the repayment terms. Highlighting your business’s financial stability and future growth potential can instill confidence in lenders.

Collateral and Guarantees

Understanding the collateral and guarantees required for an SBA loan is essential to securing approval. Here are the key points to consider:

  1. Collateral Requirements: SBA loans often require collateral to secure the loan. This can be business assets like real estate, equipment, or inventory. The collateral provides the lender with a safety net if the borrower defaults.
  2. Types of Collateral: Various types of collateral can be used to secure an SBA loan. Real estate is a common choice due to its stable value. Other options include business equipment, inventory, and accounts receivable. The type and amount of collateral required can vary depending on the loan amount and the lender’s policies.
  3. Personal Guarantees: Besides business collateral, SBA loans typically require personal guarantees from business owners. This means that personal assets, such as homes or personal savings, may be pledged as additional security for the loan. Personal guarantees show the lender that you are fully committed to repaying the loan and provide an extra layer of assurance.

Securing an SBA loan involves understanding eligibility requirements, preparing a strong business plan and financial documentation, and building a solid credit profile. By thoroughly preparing and demonstrating your business’s potential, you can increase your chances of getting a ‘yes’ on your SBA loan application.

Need help with your SBA loan application? Contact a Better Accounting specialist for more information.

Understanding Double-Entry Bookkeeping for Small Businesses

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24 Jun 2024

Understanding Double-Entry Bookkeeping for Small

Double-entry bookkeeping has been a fundamental accounting method for centuries to ensure accurate and comprehensive financial records. Originating in 13th to 14th-century Italy, the double-entry system was pioneered by Luca Pacioli. This method requires every financial transaction to be recorded in at least two accounts, ensuring that your equation (Assets = Liabilities + Equity) always remains balanced. For small businesses, maintaining accurate bookkeeping is crucial for tracking financial health, securing loans, and making informed business decisions.

Basic Principles of Double-Entry Bookkeeping

Double-entry bookkeeping relies on a few fundamental principles that keep the accuracy of your financial records. Here are the key principles:

  1. Debits and Credits: The concept of debits and credits is central to double-entry bookkeeping. Every transaction affects at least two accounts. The first one is debit, and another is credit. For example, when a business makes a sale on credit, it debits accounts receivable and credits sales revenue. This dual effect maintains the balance of the accounting equation and ensures that every transaction is recorded accurately.
  2. The Accounting Equation is Assets = Liabilities + Equity. This equation must always be balanced. When a business transaction occurs, it impacts this equation to maintain the overall balance. For instance, if a business takes out a loan (liability), it will increase its cash (asset), thus keeping the equation balanced.
  3. Recording Transactions: Recording transactions in double-entry bookkeeping involves documenting each financial event in two accounts: a debit entry and a credit in the other. This systematic approach captures all financial activities so that they are accurate. The process typically starts with journalizing transactions in the journal and then posting them to the respective accounts in the general ledger. This systematic recording helps create precise financial statements and conduct effective financial analysis.

Benefits of Double-Entry Bookkeeping

Double-entry bookkeeping offers a range of benefits that can enhance the financial management of small business owners. Below are some of the key advantages:

  1. Improved Accuracy in Financial Records: The double-entry system provides a detailed and systematic way to record all financial transactions, ensuring that every entry is cross-checked against another. This reduces errors and ensures that your financial statements accurately reflect your business’s position.
  2. Enhanced Ability to Detect and Prevent Errors and Fraud: Since every transaction affects at least two accounts, discrepancies are more easily identified. This built-in redundancy makes spotting and correcting mistakes easier, reducing fraud risk. Regular reconciliations further enhance this detection capability.
  3. Better Financial Reporting and Analysis: Double-entry bookkeeping supports comprehensive financial reporting by providing detailed information on each transaction. This depth of information enables more accurate financial analysis, helping business owners make informed decisions based on reliable data. It also simplifies generating financial statements, such as balance sheets and income statements, to evaluate the business’s performance and plan for the future.

Key Components of Double-Entry Bookkeeping

Understanding the key components of double-entry bookkeeping is essential for maintaining accurate financial records. Here are the fundamental elements of this system:

  1. General Ledger: This is a comprehensive record of every financial transaction categorized by account. It serves as the central repository of all financial data, where each account is updated based on the debits and credits recorded in the journal. This organized structure allows for easy tracking and managing of individual accounts, providing a clear overview of the business’s financial health.
  2. Journal: The journal is the initial entry point for all transactions. Here, transactions are recorded chronologically, a process known as journalizing. Each journal entry should include the date, accounts affected, amounts debited and credited, and a brief transaction description. This step safeguards every transaction as it is documented with enough detail to trace it back if needed.
  3. Trial Balance: This is a summary of all your ledger accounts and their balances at a specific point in time. It serves as a check to ensure that total debits equal total credits. Preparing a trial balance helps identify any discrepancies that may have occurred during the journalizing or posting process. Regularly preparing the trial balance is crucial for keeping the accuracy of financial records.

Common Transactions in Double-Entry Bookkeeping

Small businesses engage in various transactions daily, which must be accurately recorded to maintain balanced books. Here are some typical transactions and how they are recorded in a double-entry bookkeeping system:

  1. Sales Transactions: When a business makes a sale, it generates revenue and often increases its assets. Suppose someone purchases a product on credit. In that case, the business will debit accounts receivable (an asset) and credit sales revenue (income). This ensures that both the increase in assets and revenue are recorded accurately.
  2. Expense Transactions: Expenses are incurred during normal business operations and need to be recorded to reflect the decrease in assets or increase in liabilities. For instance, when a business pays for utilities, it debits the utility expense account and credits cash (if paid immediately) or accounts payable (if to be paid later). This transaction reflects the outflow of resources used to maintain operations.
  3. Asset Purchases: Small businesses commonly purchase equipment or inventory. When recording an asset purchase, the business would debit the specific asset account (e.g., equipment) and credit cash or accounts payable, depending on how the purchase was financed. This entry ensures that the increase in assets is balanced by a decrease in cash or an increase in liabilities.

Setting Up Double-Entry Bookkeeping for Small Businesses

Implementing double-entry bookkeeping in your small business involves several important steps. Following these steps ensures that your financial records are organized to manage your business effectively. Here are the key steps to get started:

  1. Choose the right accounting software or system: The appropriate accounting software helps with effective bookkeeping. Look for software that supports double-entry bookkeeping and offers features tailored for small businesses. Popular options include QuickBooks, Xero, and FreshBooks. These platforms simplify transaction recording, financial report generation, and financial management.
  2. Set up a chart of accounts: The chart lists all the accounts you will use to record transactions. It includes categories like assets, liabilities, Equity, revenue, and expenses. Tailor your chart of accounts to fit your business’s specific needs, ensuring that all financial activities can be accurately tracked. This setup is fundamental for maintaining organized and comprehensive records.
  3. Maintain organized and up-to-date records: Keeping your financial records organized and current is essential for the accuracy of your bookkeeping. Update your books regularly to reflect all transactions, reconcile accounts frequently, and review financial statements periodically. This practice helps prevent errors, maintains compliance with financial regulations, and provides a clear view of your business’s financial health.

Balancing the Books

Balancing the books is a critical aspect of double-entry bookkeeping, ensuring that your financial records are accurate and complete. Here are the key steps involved:

  1. Identify Discrepancies: When the trial balance does not balance, it indicates discrepancies in the records. These discrepancies could be due to data entry errors, omitted transactions, or misclassified accounts. Identifying these discrepancies is crucial for keeping accurate books.
  2. Correct Errors: Once discrepancies are identified, the next step is to investigate and correct the errors. This may involve reviewing individual transactions, comparing them with supporting documents, and making necessary account adjustments. Correcting errors promptly keeps the integrity of your financial records.
  3. Regular Reconciliations and Reviews: Regular reconciliations involve comparing financial records with external documents, such as bank statements, to ensure consistency and accuracy. Periodic financial reviews help identify ongoing issues and provide an opportunity to address them before they become significant problems. These practices are essential for maintaining accurate and reliable financial records.

Double-entry bookkeeping is invaluable for small businesses. It provides an accurate method for recording financial transactions. By understanding and implementing this system, business owners can enhance their financial management and support the long-term success of their enterprises.

Need help to understand double-entry bookkeeping? Contact a Better Accounting specialist for more information.

Understanding the 1099 for Small Businesses

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17 Jun 2024

Understanding the 1099 for Small Businesses

Understanding the 1099 is crucial for small business owners to ensure proper reporting of various types of income. A 1099 form is a series of documents that the IRS refers to as “information returns.” These forms report different types of income a taxpayer receives, not from an employer-employee relationship. The most common types include:

  • The 1099-MISC for miscellaneous income.
  • The 1099-NEC for non-employee compensation.
  • The 1099-K for third-party network transactions.

Who Needs to File a 1099?

Understanding who needs to file a 1099 ensures you comply with IRS regulations. Here are the primary criteria for filing a 1099:

  1. Payments to Independent Contractors and Freelancers: If you paid an independent contractor or freelancer $600 or more during the year for services provided, you will file a 1099-NEC. This includes services performed by someone other than your employee, such as a graphic designer, consultant, or freelance writer.
  2. Payments for Rent: When you pay $600 or more to a landlord for your business premises or equipment, you will report this on a 1099-MISC. This applies to rental payments for office spaces, machinery, or other business-related properties.
  3. Payments for Legal Services: Payments for legal services totaling $600 or more during the year will be reported on a 1099-MISC, regardless of whether the law firm is incorporated. This ensures that all significant payments for professional services are properly documented.
  4. Other Miscellaneous Payments: A 1099 form may also be required in other situations, such as payments for prizes and awards, medical and health care payments, and payments to certain vendors. Ensuring all qualifying payments are reported helps maintain compliance and transparency in financial reporting.

Types of Income Reported on a 1099

Understanding the 1099 involves knowing the different types of income that must be reported. Various payments and transactions fall under this category, each requiring careful attention to ensure compliance. Here are the primary types of income reported on a 1099:

  1. Non-Employee Compensation: Payments to independent contractors or freelancers for services rendered are reported on the 1099-NEC form. For instance, if you hired someone to create a logo for your business and pay them $1,000, this payment needs be reported.
  2. Interest Income: This type of income is reported on the 1099-INT form. It includes interest earned from bank accounts, investments, and other financial instruments. For example, this amount must be reported if you earn $200 in interest from a savings account.
  3. Dividends: These are paid by corporations to shareholders and have to be reported on the 1099-DIV form. This income will be reported if you own stocks that pay dividends, such as $500 in dividend income from a company’s stock.
  4. Payment Card and Third-Party Network Transactions: Transactions processed through payment cards (like credit and debit cards) or third-party networks (like PayPal) are reported on the 1099-K form. You will report this income if you receive over $20,000 and have over 200 transactions through these channels.

How to Prepare a 1099 Form

Preparing a 1099 form can seem daunting, but breaking it down can make it more manageable. Here are the key steps involved:

  1. Gather Information: Collect all necessary details, including the payee’s name, address, and taxpayer identification number (TIN). Accurate information is crucial for avoiding errors and ensuring the form is processed correctly.
  2. Determine Total Amount Paid: Calculate the total amount paid to the payee during the year. This includes all payments for services, rents, prizes, awards, or other applicable transactions.
  3. Complete the Form: Fill out the 1099 form by entering the gathered information into the appropriate boxes. Ensure each box is completed accurately, reflecting the correct amounts and details.
  4. Send Copies: Provide the payee with a copy of the completed 1099 form. This allows them to report the income on their tax return accurately. Typically, the copy should be sent by January 31st of the following year.
  5. File with the IRS: Submit the 1099 form to the IRS. You can file by paper or electronically. If filing by paper, ensure the form is mailed by the end of February. If filing electronically, it should be submitted by the end of March.

Deadlines and Filing Requirements

Understanding the deadlines and filing requirements for 1099 forms is essential for staying compliant and avoiding penalties. Here are the key points you need to be aware of:

  1. Recipient Copy Deadline: January 31st: The recipient must receive their 1099 form by January 31st. This allows the payee to include the income in their tax return and ensures they have accurate earnings records.
  2. Paper Filing Deadline: February 28th: If you choose to file the 1099 form by paper, the deadline for submission to the IRS is February 28th. It’s important to account for mailing time to ensure the forms reach the IRS by this date.
  3. Electronic Filing Deadline: March 31st: Businesses filing electronically must extend their deadline to March 31st. Electronic filing is often more efficient and can help avoid delays associated with mailing paper forms.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When dealing with 1099 forms, small businesses often encounter several common mistakes that can lead to penalties and other complications. Being aware of these pitfalls and understanding how to avoid them helps maintain compliance. Here are the key mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Incorrect Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs): One of the most frequent errors is using incorrect TINs. This can happen if you misread the information provided by the payee or if the payee will provide correct information. To avoid this, always verify the TIN with the payee and double-check the entries before submitting the form.
  2. Wrong Amounts Reported: Reporting incorrect payment amounts is another common mistake. This can occur due to miscalculations or clerical errors. Ensure that you keep accurate records of all payments made throughout the year and cross-reference these records when preparing the 1099 forms. Consistent and precise bookkeeping practices can significantly reduce the risk of errors.
  3. Failure to meet the filing deadlines for 1099 forms can result in substantial penalties. The deadlines are January 31st for providing the form to the recipient and the end of February (or March if filing electronically) for submitting the form to the IRS. Set reminders and schedules to ensure you complete and file the forms on time.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Understanding the penalties for non-compliance with 1099 filing requirements is crucial for small businesses. These penalties can be significant and vary depending on the circumstances. Below are the key penalties you need to be aware of:

  1. Late Filing Penalties: If you file after the deadline, you may incur a penalty of $50 – $280 per form. The exact amount depends on how late the form is filed. Filing within 30 days past the deadline incurs the lowest penalty while filing after August 1st results in the highest penalty.
  2. Intentional Disregard: If the IRS determines that you intentionally disregarded the filing requirement, the penalties are much steeper. A penalty of $570 or more per form, with no maximum limit, can result.
  3. Correction Penalties: Errors on a 1099 form that must be corrected promptly can also lead to penalties. It’s important to double-check all information before submitting the form to avoid this. If you discover a mistake after filing, use the appropriate correction forms to rectify the error as soon as possible.

Understanding the 1099 is essential for small businesses to ensure proper income reporting and compliance with IRS regulations. By familiarizing yourself with the types of 1099 forms, filing criteria, reporting requirements, and common pitfalls, you can confidently and accurately navigate the 1099 filing process.

Need help filling out your 1099? Contact a Better Accounting specialist for more information.

Small Business Tips for Navigating a Dynamic Economy

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10 Jun 2024

Small Business Tips for Navigating a Dynamic Economy

Did you know there is a 58% chance of a recession before 2025? Our economy is dynamic and can be challenging for small business owners to navigate. Understanding economic changes, building financial resilience, diversifying revenue streams, embracing technology, strengthening customer relationships, and adapting to market shifts are essential strategies for success.

Understanding Economic Changes

Small businesses must stay informed and agile to navigate the constant fluctuations and uncertainties. Here are the key economic indicators that can significantly impact your business:

  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP): GDP measures the total value of goods and services produced in a country. It is a crucial indicator of economic health. A growing GDP typically signifies a robust economy, which can lead to increased business opportunities. Conversely, a declining GDP can indicate economic trouble, signaling a potential decrease in consumer spending and demand for products and services.
  2. Inflation: Inflation reflects the rate at which goods and services rise. Moderate inflation is normal in a growing economy, but high inflation can erode purchasing power. The latter has been true for the last few years, with the inflation rate bouncing anywhere between 4%-8%. Understanding inflation trends helps businesses adjust pricing strategies and manage cost pressures effectively.
  3. Unemployment Rates: This is the percentage of unemployed workers. High unemployment rates can reduce consumer spending, affecting demand for products and services. Conversely, low unemployment rates can lead to a tighter labor market, potentially increasing wage costs. Monitoring unemployment trends helps businesses plan their workforce needs and anticipate changes in consumer behavior.

Building Financial Resilience

Financial resilience can help small businesses to withstand economic uncertainties. To build a robust financial foundation, consider the following key strategies:

  1. Establish a Financial Cushion and Emergency Fund: A financial cushion and an emergency fund provide a safety net during tough times. These reserves can cover unexpected costs and help maintain operations when revenue dips.
  2. Manage Cash Flow and Expenses Effectively: Effective cash flow management ensures that your business remains solvent. Track income and expenses and forecast future cash flow so that you have enough liquidity to cover day-to-day operations.
  3. Regularly Review and Adjust Your Budget: Regular budget reviews allow you to identify areas where you can allocate resources more efficiently. Adjusting your budget in response to changing economic conditions can help you stay on track financially.
  4. Cut Unnecessary Costs: Identify and eliminate unnecessary expenditures to improve your financial health. Evaluate your operations to find cost-saving opportunities, such as renegotiating contracts or finding more cost-effective suppliers.
  5. Optimize Financial Operations: Streamline your financial processes to enhance efficiency and reduce errors. Implementing financial software and tools can automate routine tasks, provide real-time insights, and support better decision-making.

Diversifying Revenue Streams

Diversifying revenue streams is critical for ensuring your small business’s long-term stability and growth. You can mitigate risks and create new profit opportunities by spreading income sources. Here are some key benefits and steps to diversify your revenue:

  1. Mitigate Risks: Relying on a single revenue stream makes your business vulnerable to market changes and economic downturns. By diversifying, you spread the risk across several different income sources.
  2. Explore New Markets: Entering new markets can provide additional revenue and growth opportunities. Conduct market research to identify where you can expand and tailor your products to meet the needs of these new audiences.
  3. Launch Complementary Products or Services: Offering products or services that complement your existing ones can attract new customers and increase sales from current clients. Look for gaps in the market or areas where your expertise can be expanded to create new offerings.
  4. Seek Partnerships and Collaborations: Strategic partnerships can open new revenue channels and enhance your business’s capabilities. Collaborate with other businesses to co-create products, share resources, or tap into each other’s customer base.

Embracing Technology and Innovation

Leveraging technology and innovation is essential for staying competitive. Small businesses can streamline operations and reduce costs by integrating the latest tools and techniques. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Automating Routine Tasks: Automation can save time and reduce the likelihood of errors in daily operations. Employing software solutions for inventory, payroll, and customer relationship management can free up valuable resources to focus on more strategic activities.
  2. Using Data Analytics for Decision-Making: Data analytics tools can provide actionable insights into business performance and customer behavior. Small businesses can make informed decisions that enhance their competitive edge by analyzing sales data, customer preferences, and market trends.
  3. Implementing Efficient Systems: Investing in efficient systems, such as integrated software platforms, can improve productivity. These systems streamline processes and facilitate better communication, making different parts of the business work seamlessly together.
  4. Staying Updated with Industry Innovations: It is crucial to stay current with industry trends. Attending industry conferences, subscribing to relevant publications, and participating in professional networks can help small business owners stay ahead of the curve and adopt new technologies to drive growth.

Strengthening Customer Relationships

Building strong customer relationships can keep a small business afloat while navigating a dynamic economy. Focusing on customer retention and enhancing engagement strategies can drive long-term success. Here are key points to consider:

  1. Customer Retention Programs: Implementing loyalty programs and rewarding long- term customers can significantly boost retention rates. Offering special perks can make customers feel valued and appreciated.
  2. Enhanced Customer Service: Providing exceptional customer service builds trust and loyalty. Training staff to handle inquiries efficiently and resolve issues promptly, which results in a positive customer experience, can set your business apart from competitors.
  3. Engagement Strategies: Regularly engaging with customers through various channels can strengthen relationships. Personalized communication, active social media presence, and updates about new products can keep customers informed and connected with your brand.

Adapting to Market Changes

Adaptability is key to maintaining competitiveness and relevance. Here are some essential strategies for adapting to market changes:

  1. Being agile and responsive to market shifts and consumer trends allows businesses to adjust their strategies quickly to meet new demands. This agility helps small businesses capitalize on emerging opportunities and address challenges promptly.
  2. Regular market research provides valuable insights into evolving demands and preferences. By understanding their industry’s competitive landscape, small businesses can make data-driven decisions and maintain a strategic advantage.

Navigating a dynamic economy requires a proactive and adaptable approach. Small businesses can thrive despite uncertainties by understanding economic changes, building financial resilience, diversifying revenue streams, embracing technology, strengthening customer relationships, and adapting to market changes. Successfully navigating a dynamic economy will ensure long-term growth and stability for your business.

Need help in navigating a dynamic economy? Contact a Better Accounting specialist for more information.

Using R&D Capitalization to Maximize Your Tax Savings

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4 Jun 2024

Using R&D Capitalization to Maximize Your Tax Savings

Maximizing tax savings is crucial for maintaining financial health and supporting growth. One effective strategy for achieving significant tax savings is R&D capitalization. By capitalizing on research and development (R&D) expenses, businesses can spread the costs over several years, reducing taxable income and increasing overall profitability. This blog post will explore R&D capitalization, its benefits, and how businesses can use it to maximize their tax savings.

Understanding R&D Capitalization

To fully grasp the concept of R&D capitalization, it’s essential to understand its definition, how it differs from R&D expensing and its mechanisms. Let’s break down these key points:

  1. Definition of R&D Capitalization: R&D capitalization refers to capitalizing research and development costs, allowing these expenses to be amortized over a specified period rather than expensed immediately. This approach enables businesses to spread out the cost of R&D activities over the useful life of the resulting asset, matching expenses with the revenue they generate.
  2. Difference between R&D Capitalization and R&D Expensing: The primary distinction between R&D capitalization and R&D expensing lies in the timing of cost recognition. While R&D expensing involves deducting the full amount of R&D costs in the year they are incurred, R&D capitalization spreads these costs over several years. This difference affects the company’s taxable income and financial statements, with capitalization providing a more stable and long-term view of financial performance.
  3. Explanation of How R&D Capitalization Works: R&D capitalization works by treating R&D expenses as capital expenditures, which are then amortized over the useful life of the resulting asset, typically following regulatory guidelines. For instance, in the U.S., R&D costs can be amortized over five years. This approach reduces the immediate financial burden on the business and aligns the expense recognition with the benefits derived from the R&D activities. By capitalizing R&D costs, businesses can achieve more consistent and manageable tax liabilities, enhancing cash flow and financial planning.

Eligibility Criteria

To capitalize on R&D expenses, businesses must meet specific criteria and ensure their activities qualify. Here are the key points to consider:

  1. Qualifying R&D Activities: Qualifying R&D activities typically involve projects to develop new or improved products, processes, or technologies. These activities should be innovative and seek to resolve technological uncertainties. Examples include developing new software, creating prototypes, and experimenting with new materials.
  2. Business Criteria: In addition to qualifying activities, businesses must demonstrate that their R&D efforts will produce new knowledge or advancements. The activities should be systematic, involving processes of experimentation and development. The business should maintain detailed records of the R&D projects, including objectives, methodologies, and results.

Tax Benefits of R&D Capitalization

R&D capitalization offers significant tax benefits by allowing businesses to amortize expenses over several years, reducing taxable income during high-revenue periods. Here are the key benefits explained:

  1. Consistent and Manageable Tax Liabilities: By capitalizing R&D expenses, businesses can spread the cost over multiple years rather than taking a single large deduction in one year. This approach smooths out tax liabilities, preventing spikes in taxable income and resulting in more predictable and manageable tax obligations.
  2. Enhanced Cash Flow: Capitalizing R&D expenses can improve a business’s cash flow by reducing taxable income in high-revenue years. This reduction can lead to lower tax payments in those years, freeing up cash that can be reinvested in the business or used to cover other expenses.
  3. Improved Financial Planning: With R&D capitalization, businesses can better align their tax deductions with the revenue generated from their R&D activities. This alignment provides a clearer picture of financial performance and allows for more accurate budgeting and financial planning. For example, a business that capitalizes $1 million in R&D expenses over five years can better anticipate its tax liabilities and allocate resources accordingly.

Steps to Implement R&D Capitalization

Implementing R&D capitalization effectively involves several key steps, each crucial for maximizing tax savings and ensuring compliance. Below is a detailed breakdown of the steps and their significance:

  1. Identify Qualifying R&D Activities: First, businesses must identify which R&D activities qualify for capitalization. This includes compiling a comprehensive list of activities that meet the criteria, such as developing new products, enhancing existing technologies, and improving manufacturing processes. Examples of qualifying projects include software development, prototype creation, and experimental design.
  2. Track and Document Expenses: Accurate tracking and documentation of expenses are crucial for R&D capitalization. Businesses must ensure that all costs are recorded meticulously and categorized correctly. Utilizing specialized tools and software for tracking R&D expenses can streamline this process and help maintain thorough records.
  3. Allocate Costs Appropriately: Proper cost allocation is essential to comply with R&D capitalization rules. This involves differentiating between direct costs, such as labor and materials directly related to R&D activities, and indirect costs, like overhead. Correctly allocating these costs ensures businesses maximize their tax benefits while adhering to regulatory requirements.
  4. Apply Proper Accounting Methods: The final step is applying the appropriate accounting methods to capitalize R&D expenses. This typically involves amortizing the costs over a specified period, such as the five-year amortization rule in the U.S. Understanding and implementing the correct amortization methods is vital for ensuring compliance and achieving optimal tax savings.

Compliance and Reporting

Proper compliance and reporting are crucial to successfully implementing R&D capitalization and maximizing tax savings. To avoid common pitfalls, businesses should focus on several key areas:

  1. Regulatory Requirements: To capitalize on R&D expenses, businesses must comply with the regulations set by the government. This includes understanding the criteria for qualifying R&D activities, the proper methods for cost allocation, and the amortization periods allowed by law. Compliance with these regulations ensures that tax authorities recognize and accept capitalized expenses, preventing potential disputes and penalties.
  2. Documentation and Reporting: Proper documentation must substantiate R&D capitalization claims. Businesses should maintain detailed records of all R&D activities, expenses, and the rationale for capitalizing on these costs. Proper reporting involves submitting the required forms and supporting documents to the IRS or relevant tax authorities. This documentation helps verify that the expenses meet eligibility criteria and are correctly allocated and amortized.
  3. Common Compliance Issues: Several common issues can arise during the R&D capitalization process. These include incorrect cost allocation, inadequate documentation, and failure to meet eligibility criteria for R&D activities. Businesses must ensure that they accurately differentiate between direct and indirect costs, maintain comprehensive records, and verify that their R&D projects qualify for capitalization. By addressing these common issues, businesses can avoid potential audits, penalties, and disallowances of capitalized expenses.

R&D capitalization is a powerful tool for businesses seeking to maximize their tax savings. By spreading R&D costs over several years, companies can achieve significant tax benefits, improve cash flow, and support long-term growth. Implementing R&D capitalization requires careful planning and adherence to regulatory requirements, but the potential rewards make it a worthwhile strategy for forward-thinking businesses. Need help better understanding R&D capitalization? Contact a Better Accounting specialist for more information.