2017 Tax Filing Guide: Deadlines, Tips & Scams [Infographic]

Tax season is in full swing! While the first round of deadlines has come and gone (we’re looking at you, March 15th), there is still plenty to do this tax season. Taxes can get confusing quickly with the various forms, deadlines and compliance requirements specific to your business, location and revenue. Plus, some of the deadlines changed this year!

To help, we’ve outlined important filing dates, helpful tips and some of the most common scams identified by the IRS. If you’re unsure about your compliance requirements, reach out to a tax professional. This will save you from potential tax penalties in the long run.

Without further ado...here are our Tax Tips for 2017!


3 Tips To Preserve Company Culture As You Grow

Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes, from mom-and-pop shops to tech-focused startups, and everything in between. While they vary in industry, mission and goals, one thing many small businesses share is an outstanding company culture. There’s something about the small business culture that often gets lost as companies grow.

Sure, your company will change as you grow, but you don’t have to lose your unique culture along the way! So, how do you preserve your culture as you scale? With some thoughtful planning, you can make it happen.

(Re)Define Your Values

As your company grows, it’s easy to get caught up in the business side of things. All of the sudden you’re developing new products, meeting with potential investors, fundraising, adding new departments and other important business moves. It’s crucial keep your company values in mind. Take some time to define your company values. If you’ve done this in the past, revisit your values to make sure they still apply, and that you’re still living up to them as a company.

As a business owner, you don’t have to do this alone! Depending on the size and culture of your company, you might find it best to pull the team leads together, or even the whole company, to do this as a group exercise. No matter your style, be sure to clearly share your values with the company.

Clear Communication

Clear communication is absolutely essential to your business, especially during periods of fast movement and growth. It’s important to communicate with your team. Company goals, team events, values and mission—make sure the team stays on the same page. In addition to communicating outwardly with your team, it’s important to have an outlet to receive information from your team. Depending on your size and growth rate, it may no longer be feasible for employees stop by your desk with an idea.

There are a ton of ways you can open the lines of communication. You can create an email list specifically for your company culture, such as culture@yourcompany.com. Invite your team to share ideas, requests and feedback to this channel. Have a few people manage this inbox that can help answer questions and use the feedback. For example, you can add your operations manager, HR coordinator or anyone else in your company that directly manages people or culture.

Another great option is the anonymous survey. You can easily create and send a survey to check in with the team on a cadence that works best for your company, such as monthly or quarterly. You can build a simple Google Form or use a survey software. If you’re using software to manage your business operations, check to see if you can send a survey through their platform!

Embrace Your Culture

Your company has a culture that’s unique to your team. Embrace it! Perhaps you’re a small company that eats lunch together once (or a few times) a week. Maybe you have a Friday ritual to end the work week with team, such as happy hour or office games. As your business grows, you might not be able to keep all of the traditions alive. Prioritize keeping traditions that are most important to you and your team. This will ensure your employees continue to have fun at work and will help you attract new talent and customers!

At the end of the day, you need to do what’s best for your business to grow, meet your goals and reach success. Stay true to your company’s values and check in every few months to make sure your growth and values continue to align. Have an open line of communication with your employees, and take feedback seriously to ensure you continue to grow as a team!


5 Bad Bookkeeping Habits You Need To Drop

Are you managing your company's bookkeeping? If you’re not a trained bookkeeper, you might be guilty of a few bookkeeping “bad habits.” Unfortunately, these mistakes can quickly turn a booming business into a nightmare. Here are five bad bookkeeping habits that are common in many small businesses.

Using The Wrong Accounting Method

Using the correct accounting method (cash or accrual) for your business is vitally important. Ultimately, your accounting method impacts your ability to make smart business decisions. Each method provides you with information that could be important to your decision making based on your business type and industry. There are also certain features and limitations in the financial statements that differ between cash and accrual accounting. For example, the accrual method provides detailed insight into your accounts receivable and accounts payable that you can’t access with cash accounting.

Choosing the right accounting method depends on a number of factors, such as the type of product or service you provide, your revenue and the size of your business. Your accounting method also impacts your tax requirements. For example if you’re using cash accounting, your taxes must be reported on a cash basis. Sounds simple, but these technical requirements can slip right past the untrained eye!

Improperly Managing Cash Flow

Many companies have met a premature death because they didn’t properly manage their cash flow. Knowing the cash flow of your company is vitally important to maintain operations and keep the business running. By monitoring your cash flow properly, you’ll be able to make smarter business decisions in regards to tasks such as bill payments. For example, you can plan for a bill payment to be processed during a week when larger receivables come in, instead of paying when you’re low on cash.

Knowing if your company is tight on cash will help you make smarter operational decisions and limit frivolous spending. Proper cash flow management also allows you to make more complex business decisions, such as if, and when, you require fundraising. So, remember to stay on top of your aging reports, be diligent in collecting your receivables and make sure to have a grasp on your business’ cash flow status at all times!

Ignoring Opportunities For Integrations And Efficiency

Organization is key to having a successful accounting file, otherwise you’re just creating stress for yourself in the long run. Luckily, technology will organize your file for you. Automate tedious operations, such as bill pay and payroll, to increase business efficiency and save you time (and stress). Use the extra time to focus on the parts of your business that you love!

Taking advantage of technology and software integrations will make your job easier and unify the organization’s operational efficiency. Many programs offer affordable monthly options so you only pay for what you need. If you’re using multiple softwares, integrate them so that they work together for extra efficiency!

Not Using Set Deadlines And Due Dates

As a business owner, your day-to-day includes all parts of the business, from generating sales to building customer relationships and taking care of bills. It’s easy to miss a deadline or fall behind when your schedule is constantly changing. However, missing a deadline to pay bills or file taxes can lead to expensive late penalties and give your business a bad reputation. Plus, your credit rating could take a hit if you miss too many payments. Make sure to set deadlines and due dates in an organized calendar, or set reminders on your phone. Better yet, use a system that will track your deadlines and send you reminder notifications. No matter which type of system you choose, make sure you’re meeting all of your deadlines to ensure success.

Failing To Understand Key Accounting Metrics

Is your business successful? How well are you managing your resources? What are your outstanding debts? To answer these important questions, you must understand your business’ key accounting metrics. These include indicators such as gross margin percentage, monthly revenue, net margin, average cash burn, cash runway and year to date revenue. You need to understand these metrics so you can provide your investors or Board of Directors with accurate reports, answer the tough questions and maintain the financial health of the company.

Bottom line, don’t make bookkeeping mistakes that could cost you in the long run! Automate tedious bookkeeping tasks so you know they’re done right, on time and are properly organized. When in doubt, reach out to a CPA to ensure your accounting file is in tip-top shape.


3 Reasons You (Really) Need Financial Statements

Financial statements are useful tools that will help you keep your business on track. There are many different types of financial statements, but most small business owners need only worry about the big three.

The Big Three

The big three financial statements include the income statement (P&L), balance sheet & statement of cash flows.

  1. The income statement provides a breakdown of revenues and expenses in a business, providing critical insight into profitability over a defined period of time. The income statement is a complete representation of the company’s activity for the defined time period. This statement is considered temporary as it “resets” to zero at the beginning of the new period (typically monthly).
  2. The balance sheet provides a snapshot of your business’ assets, liabilities and owner’s equity giving you an instant picture of your company’s financial underpinnings at a particular point in time. The balance sheet shows a culmination of historical activity through the company’s lifetime, essentially showing what you’ve done to date. At the end of the month, the income statement activity will be reflected on the balance sheet as increases or decreases to the account balances.
  3. The statement of cash flows gives you the ability to see all the cash going in and out of your business. It is a representation of how changes to accounts affect cash and equivalents. This statement is broken down between operating, investing and financing activities, giving you a more accurate picture of where cash is flowing.

Still not convinced you need financial statements? Here are three reasons why they’re an absolute must:

Financial Statements Are Useful Tools

Financial statements are the most useful tools you can use to understand the current and future financial health of your business. When prepared correctly and reviewed regularly, the big three financial statements provide a complete picture of your business' finances. Financial statements can seem overwhelming at first glance, but they’re actually pretty simple. Check out of our guide to understanding your financial statements in less than 5 minutes!

Financial Statements Are Scorecards

Financial statements are like a scorecard you can use to measure your business’ performance. By using financial statements, you can determine where your business is underperforming and where it is excelling. You can also compare it to industry standards, giving you a good idea of where you stand against your competitors.

Investors And Banks Expect Financial Statements

Financial statements are Business 101! They are expected by investors and required by banks because financial statements tell the complete story about your business. If you want to get a loan, keep in mind that many banks or lenders will not consider a loan application without current financial statements. If you’re serious about attracting investment, financial statements are a must. Investors need proof that you’re business is worth investing in before they give you a check. Many investors find it unprofessional and are typically unsympathetic to companies who don’t handle their finances properly!

The Bottom Line

Financial statements are too important to ignore. While they may seem complicated and intimidating, financial statements actually pretty easy to understand. If you want to achieve success in your business, attract investment or get a bank loan, you must use and review your financial statements regularly.


Texas Franchise Tax: Forfeitures & Reinstatements

If you missed the deadline to file your 2016 Texas franchise tax (Calendar Year 2015), you may have received a notice of forfeiture. Don’t panic! While this issue does need to be resolved as soon as possible, the process is fairly simple.

Let’s take a step back. What is the Texas franchise tax? Formally, the Texas franchise tax is a “privilege tax imposed on each taxable entity formed or organized in Texas or doing business in Texas” (Texas State Comptroller). What does that mean? Basically, it’s a business tax for the state of Texas.

So, what does it mean to receive a forfeiture? Essentially, if you miss the deadline to file your Texas franchise tax, your business will be forfeited (no longer in good standing) under the Texas Tax Code. Luckily, you can reinstate your business at any time.

Reinstating Your Texas Franchise

To reinstate your business, you simply need to complete a few quick steps. This process involves two stages with two different government offices, the Texas State Comptroller and the Secretary of State.

Stage 1 | Texas State Comptroller

  1. File that required Texas franchise tax report that you missed
    Quick Tip: You can save yourself an extra step by filing your 2017 franchise tax (due May 15) at the same time, ensuring you don’t run into this problem next year!
  2. Pay all franchise taxes, as well as any penalties or interest you may have acquired
  3. Request a tax clearance letter—this letter proves that your entity has met all compliance obligations and is eligible for reinstatement

*You can complete these steps online via WebFile or by mail.


Stsge 2 | Secretary of State

  1. Submit your tax clearance letter from the Texas State Comptroller
  2. File an application for reinstatement using Form 801
  3. Complete your payment along with Form 807

*You can complete these steps online via SOSDirect or by mail.

TX Franchise Tax Secretary of State

That’s it! Once you’ve completed all the necessary steps, your business will return to good standing. And don’t forget, your 2017 Texas Franchise Tax (Calendar Year 2016) must be filed by May 15, 2017. Need extra help? Give us a shout!

Contributed by:
Kristen Windes
Accounting Manager

How To Create A Budget For Your Business

Budgets are critical for all businesses. Whether your company is new or established, large or small, product or service based, you need a budget to keep afloat. Essentially, budgets provide you with a roadmap for your business by setting the targets that the business strives to achieve.

Creating your budget also helps answer the question, “How much do we spend?” You must know how much you need to spend to grow, as well as identify the line where you begin spending too much. Aside from being your roadmap, budgets are typical requirements of many investors and board of directors.

While budgets are essential to your operation, they can be intimidating. Where do you start? How do you make a budget plan? What if the budget reveals bad news? If you’re having these thoughts, you’re not alone. These are common concerns that often (unfortunately) deter business owners from creating a formal budget. We’ve put together the fundamentals you need for creating your budget:

The Budget Process

The main goal of creating a budget is to set revenue projections, cost of goods sold, gross profit margin targets and operating expenses. Once you outline this information, you can use it to make informed strategic and financial decisions.

Setting Revenue Goals

The stage of your business impacts the best way to set your revenue goals. For an established business with an operating history, look at past performance to determine if you think you can grow into the future. For a new business, start by researching your target market to establish a baseline. When setting your revenue goals, keep in mind these key points:

budgeting tools

Setting Variable Costs

Variable costs are those that move with revenue and are necessary to earn revenue, such as employee labor for a services company, raw materials for a company making a product, or the cost of goods sold for a retail company.

Setting Semi-Variable Costs

Semi-variable costs are those that can be variable with certain sales volume thresholds. Think employee salaries, advertising or marketing.

Setting Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are those that must be paid and generally do not fluctuate with sales volumes, such as rent, utilities and insurance.

Using A Budget

Once you’ve set your budget, the most important thing is to measure your actual performance against the budget on a regular basis. We recommend doing this monthly. Measuring your budget against performance is critical to understanding if you are meeting, failing to meet or exceeding expectations, as well as determining your next steps. 

If the actual performance is not aligning with the budget, you’ll need to investigate each area to define where there are misalignments. After extensive analysis, you can determine if your budget is truly misaligned with the ability of the company to perform in the future.

You can, and should, make adjustments to your budget as necessary. Just like your business, budgets are not static. As things change in your organization, your budget may need to be updated to stay accurate.  However, if you are making adjustments, ensure you have a reason. Don’t make adjustments simply because expenses were higher than expected or revenues were lower than expected.

Share important aspects of your budget with key stakeholders in your organization—this is critical to ensure everyone’s priorities and expectations are aligned. Be sure to communicate how your budget impacts different areas of your company so that everyone can do their part to work within the budget. Set incentives to encourage everyone to stick to the budget.

Bottom line, to ensure your company is on (and stays on) the right track, you simply have to create a budget. Once you have your budget plan, there are a variety of budgeting tools and apps you can use to stay on track. You can also use your budget plan as a framework for more advanced budgeting and fundraising solutions. Happy Budgeting!

Contributed by:
Taylor Leslie
Finance Manager

Use The Cloud to Increase Business Efficiency

It seems like everyone is using the cloud these days, and for good reason. Cloud systems provide scalable, pay-as-you-go solutions, increase collaboration, streamline processes and increase overall efficiency. Still not sure what the cloud is? Essentially, it’s a network of servers allowing you to store and access data at any time or place with an Internet connection, granting you the flexibility to safely store and access your data from anywhere, at any time. Here are a few of our favorite ways you can use the cloud to increase your business’ efficiency.

Automate Manual Processes (That You Hate)

The cloud grants you the opportunity to automate those tedious, manual bookkeeping functions that (probably) drive you crazy. You can use cloud software to match expenses, pay bills, manage inventory and more, saving you time and stress. If you’re doing your own accounting, you’ll save yourself the time and headache. If you have an accountant, automating these functions allows them to focus on your more complex accounting needs—such as cleaning up past financial data, providing monthly financials and delivering actionable financial insights—ultimately saving you time and money spent.

Minimize Data Entry Errors

Let’s face it, data entry is boring. Plus, when data is entered manually there’s a lot of room for human error. Duplicate and erroneous entries are typical occurrences in manual, non-cloud based systems. These errors are frustrating to find and fix, and if gone unnoticed will end up being more costly in the long run. Cloud accounting software minimizes room for human error by integrating with your bank and credit card accounts, utilizing the camera on your phone and integrating with other cloud software. Some systems even have built-in automation to identify duplicate entries. With automated bank feeds and built-in automation to identify duplicate entries, common errors can be avoided and you can rest assured that your financial data is accurate and up to date.

Convenient & Secure, 24/7

Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of cloud based systems is convenience. With the cloud, you can access your important financial data—securely—anytime, anywhere. Have an impromptu meeting with a potential investor? Take a look at your budget, accounts and cash flow on the spot. Working remote? You can access all your information from your current location. Plus, cloud based systems require less maintenance than desktop versions. Older, non-cloud based systems require manual updates and buying expensive new software each year to stay up to date with the latest developments. Cloud software is automatically updated, saving you the hassle (and cost) of upgrading your software each year.

Let’s talk security for a minute. There’s a common misconception that the cloud is less secure than on-site systems. In reality, cloud based systems are more secure. Cloud based systems make data security a top priority, storing all information in highly secured server farms. Non-cloud systems are forced to store data locally, where it is vulnerable to hackers and data thieves. Bottom line, when using cloud systems you can rest assured that your data is secure.

Convenience, security and data accuracy are just a few ways you can leverage the cloud to increase your business’ efficiency. Not sure where to start? Give us a shout—our experts can help you find and implement the perfect systems for your business. Already using cloud accounting? Connect your Xero or QBO account with ScaleFactor to access your free KPI dashboard!

Contributed by:
Jigar Patel
Senior Accountant

Manage Your Business Expenses With These 5 Tips

Tracking your business expenses (or budget tracking) is important, but can be a major headache if you don’t have the right processes and systems in place. Sorting through endless receipts from months gone by is no way to spend your valuable time. You need to get organized!

Here are five (easy) tips to help you track your business expenses.

Separate Business & Personal Accounts

Are you still using your own bank account for your business? It’s time to open a business account! Keeping separate business and personal accounts will save hours of work, unnecessary overlaps and mix-ups, and make it much easier to keep track of deductible expenses. It will also keep you from getting into trouble with the IRS if you get audited. A separate account could even entitle you to better rates on card processing fees, as some banks offer reduced fees to business account holders.

Make Time To Review Your Expenses Each Week

Setting aside something as small as 15 to 30 minutes each week will give you enough time to track down your receipts, invoices and payments and record them. An even better option, although not always possible, is to manage all your business’ receipts and invoices as soon as you get them. This helps reduce the risk of losing or forgetting about them.

Stay Organized With Software Programs

Whether you decide to deal with your expenses as you get them or set aside a particular time each week, you should have a safe and organized place to store all your expense documents so they can be easily accessed when required. 

There are a wide variety of handy software programs to choose from that make it easy for business owners to track expenses. A quality software program will not only help you better understand your business but also save you time by making it simple to create expense categories, upload receipts, match expenses and generate profit and loss reports. Some accounting programs even enable you to link expenses to line items on your tax forms, which will significantly reduce the time it takes to prepare your tax returns. 

Hire A Professional

Although it may be tempting to do your bookkeeping and accounting yourself, it usually isn’t worth it in the end when you consider the time, mistakes and stress involved. A professional will almost always find more deductions than you know exist while keeping you penalty free. Perhaps most importantly, hiring a professional will free up your valuable time so you can focus on other critical business activities. Running a business is hard enough. Get help from a professional and let them manage your bookkeeping and tax requirements.

Track Your Outstanding Invoices & Customer Payments

If you're not keeping track of the amount you're owed, it could be months before you realize you're collecting payments late or even missing them entirely. Create an A/R aging report which categorizes your business’ accounts receivable by the length of time an invoice has been outstanding. Once you have this handy, you will be able to review and quickly identify accounts that are current, past 15 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and older. Regularly monitor you’re A/R aging report efficiently manage and collect on your accounts receivable.

Bottom line, tracking expenses is vital to understanding your business’ costs as it continues to grow. By neglecting these simple steps, you will have a harder time gaining the necessary visibility into the financial health of your organization. 

Contributed by:
Zach Miller
Senior Accountant

4 Tips to Manage Your Accounts Receivable

It can be difficult for small businesses to handle their accounts receivable (A/R), especially when dealing with larger companies. Some big retailers take as long as 90 or even 120 days to pay their vendors. Understandably, this can place small businesses in a precarious cash flow position.

Accounts receivable occurs when a client makes a purchase but does not immediately pay for it. The bad news is that for growing businesses, accounts receivable usually increase which often leads to even greater cash flow pressures. It’s vital to implement a process to monitor and collect your receivables as soon as possible. The effective management of your business’ A/R is critical to running a company and will go a long way to ensuring its long-term success.

With that in mind, here are four tips to help you manage your accounts receivable and get your business flowing with cash.

Establish A Days Sales Outstanding Goal

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is a widely used metric to help evaluate how effective a company is at collecting receivables. While each industry has different standard payment terms and requirements, you should set a collection period that fits in with your specific business needs. This number should be as low as possible, typically between 15 and 45 days, and should be set carefully as it will significantly impact your business' cash flow.

Track Payments Carefully & Move Quickly

Your business needs to create an A/R aging report which categorizes accounts receivable according to the length of time an invoice has been outstanding. Once you have this handy, you will be able to review and quickly identify accounts that are current, past 15 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and older. Call or email clients the first day that payment is late. Start with a gentle reminder that payment is now past due. Every business has the right to be paid within terms, so don’t be afraid to ask for the money. As for the due date, a cadence for reminders (such as weekly emails) can help ensure that your invoice stays front of mind with your customers. If an account goes longer than 60-90 days past due, the likelihood of collecting significantly decreases. You should regularly monitor your A/R aging report to make sure you do not hold onto your accounts for so long that they become uncollectible.

Be Proactive & Clear

To encourage timely payments, proactively call or email soon after the invoice is sent out to make sure they received it and to ask when it will be paid. Follow up again a few days before the payment is due to make sure they have everything needed to make the payment so the due date does not slip. You should also make sure every invoice sent out is clear and has no missing information that might cause your customers to avoid or delay paying it.

Consider Offering An Early Payment Discount

It can be beneficial to offer your clients an incentive to pay their bills early. Although a discount for early payment will cost your business money, the cash flow stability it delivers can be well worth the price. When setting the discount, remember only to give what you can afford. Keep the discount marginal but enough to get your customers incentivized.

In conclusion, managing A/R and timely cash collection is vital to the success of your business. Managing your payment terms and establishing a process for monitoring your A/R aged receivables report will benefit and steady your cash flow cycle. Moreover, a cadence of friendly reminders for overdue invoices helps shorten your collection cycles. Ultimately, you’ve earned the revenue, and it is up to you to collect the cash!

Contributed by:
Derek Felderhoff
Operations Architect

Cash vs. Accrual Accounting: What’s the Difference?

There are two primary methods of accounting that your business can utilize to report income and expenses: cash basis accounting and accrual basis accounting. The good news is that understanding each method is reasonably straightforward.

The cash basis of accounting recognizes revenue when cash is received and expenses when cash is paid. In contrast, the accrual basis accounting records revenues and expenditures as they’re earned and incurred, regardless of when cash is received or expenses are paid. The significant difference between cash and accrual accounting is the timing of when revenue and expenses are recorded on your income statement.

Which Method Should Your Business Use?

Many small businesses opt to use cash basis accounting because it is the simplest method to use for recording transactions and cash flow. The cash method makes it easy to track how much cash your business has at any given time. There is also no need to track receivables or payables, and your business doesn’t have to pay income tax on any revenue until it’s deposited into your bank account.

The accrual accounting method is the focus of professional accounting because it prevents manipulation of income by matching the expenses incurred in a period to the income earned in that period. While cash accounting gives you an idea of the funds in your bank account and an immediate look at your business’ financial situation in terms of liquidity, accrual accounting accurately reflects the revenues that have been earned to the expenses that have been incurred during a given period, providing a more long-term view of the business. When compared to the cash basis method, accrual accounting tracks cash much more effectively by allocating cash flows to the appropriate period. It also provides a better outlook into the financial results of the company, allowing for smarter business decisions and future growth.

Despite the increased accuracy of the accrual method, one drawback is that it doesn’t account for cash flow or funds in your bank account. Therefore, accrual accounting requires careful bookkeeping practices as you may see a large amount of revenue on the books but have considerably less money in the bank, due to the revenue being earned but not realized.

Tax Implications

Businesses must figure their taxable income and file a yearly return. Choosing an accounting method will depend on the type of product or service you provide and the size of your business. If your company generates less than five million dollars in revenue, the IRS permits the use of cash basis accounting. Anything over this amount will require the accrual method. You will also have to use the accrual method if your business keeps an inventory of merchandise to sell to consumers.

The Accrual Method Is Better…In Most Cases

It is generally recommended to use the accrual accounting method because it will help your business better comply with IRS rules and more accurately reflect the actual financial situation of your business. While cash accounting may be easier to understand, accrual accounting is often more thorough and may even be a legal requirement for your business. If you choose to use the accrual accounting method, remember that it will affect your tax return as it can change which year you record certain incomes and expenses, and it can also dramatically change the appearance of your income statement.

Accurate and efficient reporting of income and expenses is critical to your business’ success. If you’re unsure of your legal requirements or which method best suits your business practice, speak to an accountant to ensure you’re on the right track. Make accounting practices a top priority from now on and ensure your bookkeeping is in order before it’s too late.

Contributed by:
Kate Faltin
Staff Accountant