Six Early Signals of Customer Payment Problems

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Even in the best economy your customers may be having financial problems that can hurt your firm. Here are some signs of trouble that should prompt you to act before it’s too late:

1. Loss of contact. Defined as two broken promises to pay. Accept one promise. The second time, ask in a direct, friendly way if this isn’t the second promise, why it’s late and exactly when you’ll be paid. Other loss of contact: NSF checks, never in, no answer, on hold too long.

2. Abrupt personnel changes. Your contact leaves. Nonpayment is blamed on personnel shifts. Always assume the worst. Say: “Let me talk to your superior or whoever pays the bills.” (It may be the boss.) Pros call daily to get the right person. If they promise to call back, set a firm schedule. No call is loss of contact.

3. Any banking change. If nonpayment is blamed on changing banks, ask for the name of the bank and bank officer. (Refusal is a red flag.) Call the bank: “I’m confirming that _____ opened an account.” Pros also ask if it’s “a satisfactory situation” (bank may have denied financing), and what banking business is being done.

4. Unusual disputes (stalls). At 30 days: “The check is in the mail.” At 60 days: “Wasn’t that the shipment that…?” Probe and question. Genuine complaints are usually prompt and detailed (invoice numbers, etc.). The vaguer a complaint, the more suspicious it is. Ask: “Why haven’t I had something on this in writing?”

5. Intimidation. Debtors sensing a non-pro calling may be rude to deter future calls. Ignore it. Stick to the business at hand: nonpayment. Keep probing. “Will you pay? When? etc.” Try humor (“Get up on the wrong side of the bed?”). If it fails, the intimidation is deliberate. Don’t be afraid to report intimidation to management. These cases end up with collectors (bosses hate intimidation, too).

6. Change in payment pattern. A regular 45-day payer pays in 70 days and only after two phone calls. Act now or the next check will come in 120 days. Say: “You’ve been great about paying, always on time. Now, 45-day payments come in 70 days. Where are we going?” If there’s no good reason (e.g., a temporary problem) it’s a red flag.

What to do when it’s already too late
Too often, management makes unrealistic demands on debtors who can’t possibly pay (“We want it all now”). The debtor then avoids talking to you at all. Why lose money, and possibly a good customer, due to a customer’s temporary, unexpected reversal?

The solution: Focus on your cash flow, not the customer’s debt, regardless of whether it is $1,000 or $10,000, by setting up a realistic payment schedule as follows:

1. Suggest monthly payments. “You owe $750. How short are you of paying the balance?” It’s hard for people to say they’re short the full amount. Suggest monthly payments and ask how much they can pay. If the figure is too low, such as $20 a month, take charge of the conversation.

2. Suggest a payback schedule. “I can put you on monthly payments but the maximum is 7-8 months at $100 a month.” Be ready for resistance: have a counter-offer of, say, $65 a month for a year. You must charge interest (use rates charged by local banks but check legal limitations). People pay back debts accruing interest faster than no-interest debts.

3. Get a note and a partial payment. On $750, get a down payment of 10% ($75). By getting a payment right away (when they come in to sign the note) you will have won half the battle. The other half: Get the first few payments on time. Once you have a note and several payments, the rest will come. On a large debt: Consider a balloon payment. On a large debt of, say, $10,000, you can take $200 a month for 18 months (includes $1,600 for interest) then a large (“balloon”) payment of $8,000+ in the last month. If, after 18 months, they can’t make the $8,000 payment, renegotiate and extend the term. You get at least some cash flow instead of none in the meantime.

 

Managing Your Cash Flow! By Mike Gibson

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A healthy cash flow is an essential part of any successful business. Some business people claim that a healthy cash flow is even more important than your business’s ability to deliver its goods or services! Consider this: If you fail to satisfy a customer and lose that customer’s business, you can always work harder to please the next customer. But if you fail to have enough cash to pay your suppliers, creditors, or your employees, you’re out of business! No doubt about it, proper management of your cash flow is very important in making your business successful. Your profit is not the same as your cash flow. It’s possible to show a healthy profit, and yet face a significant money squeeze at various points.

Understanding cash flow is the first step to managing it. There’s more to it than just a fancy term for the movement of money in, and out of your business. It could be described as the process in which your business uses cash to generate goods or services for sale to customers, collects the cash from the sales, and then completes this cycle all over again.

Analyzing your cash inflows and outflows will help you spot some of the problem areas in your cash flow cycle. You need to look individually at each of the important components that make up your cash flow cycle, to determine if it’s a problem or not.

Inflows are the movement of money into your cash flow. Inflows are most likely from the sale of your goods or services to your customers. If you extend credit to your customers and allow them to charge the sale of the goods to their account, then an inflow occurs as you collect on the customers’ accounts. The proceeds from a bank loan are also a cash inflow.

Outflows are the movement of money out of your business. Outflows are generally the result of paying expenses. Your largest outflow is most likely to be for the purchase of inventory. Purchasing fixed assets, paying back loans, and paying accounts payable, are also cash outflows.

A cash flow budget is good way of predicting your business’s future cash flow and a handy tool to use to improvement and manage your cash flow. Improving your cash flow will, without a doubt, make your business more successful. Accelerating inflows and delaying outflows are key factors to improving and managing cash flow. From time to time, almost every business experiences the need for more cash than it has. If you find yourself in this position, you may have to borrow money to fill the gap. Handling any cash surplus is just as important as the management of money into and out of your cash flow cycle.

If you were able to do business in a perfect world, you’d probably like to have a cash sale occur every time you pay an expense. Instead, cash inflows and outflows occur at different times, and never actually occur together. More often than not, cash inflows lag behind your cash outflows, leaving you short of cash. Think of this money shortage as your cash flow gap. The cash flow gap represents an excessive outflow of cash that may not be covered by a cash inflow for sometime in the future. Managing your cash flow by measuring it, Improving your Receivables, Managing your Payables, and Planning in advance for Shortfalls allows you to narrow or completely close your cash flow gap. It does this by examining the different items that affect the cash flow of your business and allows you to answer the following questions:

How much cash does my business have?
How much cash does my business need to operate, and when is it needed?
How much cash does my business have coming due, and when will it come in?
Where does my business get its cash, and spend its cash?
How do my income and expenses affect the amount of cash I need to expand my business?

If you can answer these questions, you’re managing your cash flow!

If you would like to know more about improving your cash flow contact me, I have a cash flow budget model to help you, and we will begin working together to increase your cash flow. As a Certified Bookkeeper and Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor I can also offer you help with Bookkeeping or Payroll Service. Contact me today for a free consultation.

References:
American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, “Managing your Cash Flow”, May 2008
Business Owner’s Toolkit, “Managing Your Business’s Cash Flow, May 2012

 

 

 

Better get ready for a sales/use tax audit

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Your company has been chosen…
You will receive a phone call or letter announcing the audit and, generally, the period being audited and which books and records to have available (you may be asked for more later on). Check the period being audited against your state’s statute of limitations on how far back an audit can go. Before your company chooses an audit date, make sure a knowledgeable accounting professional can be present to explain exactly how the returns were prepared and the source of reported amounts. Most state agencies prefer to conduct the audit at your office so they can see company operations firsthand. If an outside CPA prepared the sales tax returns being audited, arrange to have the audit at the CPA’s office at the same time that you choose the audit date. After choosing the date and place, ask for a letter verifying both. Request that you be called if anything is changed.

What on earth do they want that for?
Most firms are shocked at the number of books, records and documents requested in an audit. Excluding variations by tax jurisdiction, the most commonly required items are:
• All the books, including ledgers, journals (especially the sales journal) and pertinent schedules. These are used to determine total sales and how the business works.
• Prior year income tax returns—federal and/or state. The auditor compares sales reported on the income tax returns with sales reported on the sales tax returns. Your company may not want to share its income tax returns with outsiders, but these can save a lot of time verifying reported data.
• Original documents that support amounts on the books for the audit. These include: sales invoices and/or contracts; customer purchase orders; vendor invoices; purchase requisitions and/or orders; and any other items used to compile amounts. If any of these records are hard to produce—e.g., lost, destroyed or stored off-site—you must tell the auditor when first contacted. Auditors usually try to work with a firm to the extent the law allows. If other items are requested, ask why they are needed and how they relate to a particular tax problem. Most auditors willingly explain. Although not all items will be reviewed, have them available. Purchase data are usually needed for use taxes (these discourage customers from buying out of state to avoid sales tax), which most states have.

Sales claimed exempt as resales
Most states require documents to support sales claimed exempt as resales, such as a resale card or exemption certificate from the customer. Find out which documents your particular state requires, and have them ready. The auditor will probably sample these documents with block tests (selected quarters, weeks, days, etc.), statistical sampling or spot tests of items throughout the audit period.
Even one missing document can multiply your firm’s liability if an auditor projects it into a percentage. Example: Sales Company A has 100 exempt sales in the audit period and has documents for all but one. A random sample of 10 exempt sales picks up the one missing certificate. The auditor projects this sample to 10% of exempt sales are undocumented and therefore disallowed. Result: Sales Company A’s tax liability (plus interest and penalties) is many times higher than its actual liability.

Mike Gibson

1 American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB

3 Types of Bookkeepers: Do You Need One and Which is Best for Your Business?

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As a creative business owner, it can be overwhelming to do all the daily tasks on your own. I strongly recommend you evaluate if you should do the bookkeeping and taxes, or hire a professional. There are several different levels of Bookkeeping Service in Georgia. Each of them know the basics of accounting, but the more advanced types of bookkeepers can even do tax preparation and other skilled operations, like financial statements. Here are the 3 main types of bookkeepers so you can find the best one for your business.

1. General Bookkeeper
This is a person a person who deals with the daily financial transactions and postings for a company or individual. Their knowledge can include easy single-entry bookkeeping or more detailed double-entry bookkeeping, and they will be familiar with financial software like Quicken or Quickbooks. A general bookkeeper is responsible for recording all transactions into the general ledger, posting invoices and payments and keeping up with monthly bank reconciliations.

2. Full Charge Bookkeeper
This is a person who has many of the same responsibilities as a general bookkeeper. The few differences are that they prepare financial statements, and in most cases handle payroll. They usually handle the financial transactions for small-to-medium sized companies and have a higher level of experience based on the fact they may have taken a few accounting courses or classes.

3. Certified Bookkeeper
This type of bookkeeper is much more knowledgeable. They handle everything that general and full charge bookkeepers do and lots more. A Certified Bookkeeper must have at least 2 years (proven) experience working in the accounting field and pass a four part national examination. They are expected to prepare all the financial and income statements, keep up with daily transactions, accounts payable and receivable, general ledger and any other accounting needs. Certified Bookkeepers qualify for the CB title after their name, much like a CPA title. They are responsible for payroll and reporting to the state, quarterly tax payments, and with prepping all the year-end tax documents and financial statements. To maintain the Certified Bookkeeper title, you must stay current on continuing education and changing tax laws.

Finding the Right Bookkeeper for Your Business
Bookkeepers can be called many things; head bookkeeper, junior accountant, accounting clerk, and even “bean counter.” But the job description is basically the same, to help run the daily books for businesses and individuals.

Bookkeepers are a very vital part of keeping a business running smoothly.
If you are just starting out, you might look for a less educated and less expensive bookkeeper. One that you can work hand in hand with as the business grows. If you are looking for a more advanced bookkeeper, you will want to go with a Certified Bookkeeper. They will have a lot more knowledge, expertise and experience under their belt.

 

 

 

SAFE HARBOR ALLOWS QBO DEDUCTION FOR RENTAL REAL ESTATE BUSINESSES, ACCOUNTANTS’ DAILY NEWS, SEPTEMBER 25, 2019

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The IRS on Tuesday issued a revenue procedure that provides a safe harbor for taxpayers under which a rental real estate enterprise will be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the qualified business income (QBI) deduction, (20 percent of qualified business income).Under the safe harbor, a “rental real estate enterprise” is treated as a trade or business for purposes if:

  1. At least 250 hours of services are performed each tax year with respect to the enterprise.The IRS says these hours include services performed by owners, employees, and independent contractors and time spent on maintenance, repairs, rent collection, payment of expenses, provision of services to tenants, and efforts to rent the property. However, hours spent in the owner’s capacity as an investor, such as arranging financing, procuring property, reviewing financial statements or reports on operations, and traveling to and from the real estate, will not be considered hours of service for the enterprise.
  2. The taxpayer must maintain contemporaneous records, including time reports, logs, or similar documents, regarding the following: hours of all services performed, description of all services performed, dates on which those services were performed, and who performed the services.
  3. The taxpayer or relevant passthrough entity must attach a statement to the tax return filed for the tax year(s) the safe harbor is relied upon. This must be done each year.

 

FOUR KEY TAX ISSUES FOR SELF-EMPLOYED INDIVIDUALS, ACCOUNTANTS’ DAILY NEWS, SEPTEMBER 25, 2019

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  1. Income Tax:  Yes, you will owe federal income tax and state income tax if your state has one, just like other business owners. However, if you maximize available deductions you don’t have to pay tax on the full amount of your net income.
  2. Self-Employment Tax:This is the same amount of Social Security and Medicare regular employees pay. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3 percent of the first $132,900 of income and 2.9 percent of income about that for 2019. Thank goodness you can deduct half of that self-employment tax on your annual tax return.
  3. Other Payroll Taxes: If you employ workers as many self-employed individuals do you must pay half of their Social Security and Medicare taxes, plus unemployment tax, and in many cases, temporary disability tax as well. In addition to that, your responsible for withholding the required payroll taxes and depositing them with the IRS. To make matters worse, if you don’t meet these obligations. You could be hit with a “trust fund penalty”. A Trust Fund Penalty holds you personally liable for underpayments due to willful failure. Advise Tip: Pay the IRS before other creditors to avoid disaster.
  4. Sales Tax: States generally impose their own sales taxes, at the very least, you must observe the laws for your home state. You are also responsible for collecting sales tax in a state where your business maintains a physical presence. Sales tax has sparked controversy for online sellers. Recently however, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the physical presence requirement for online sellers. States now have a right to require sales tax collection from remote sellers that do not have a physical presence in their state.