News & Tech Tips

Now hiring: 10 questions to ask bookkeeper candidates

Are you looking for someone to manage the books and records for your small business? Whether you’re operating a startup or an established business that recently lost its bookkeeper, hiring the right person for these tasks can be challenging.

Selecting a candidate in today’s job market requires a rigorous process. It’s important not to be hasty or wing it during the interview. Give your job posting adequate time to attract a healthy sample of qualified candidates. Write up a detailed job description with the help of your management team. Then brainstorm a comprehensive list of questions.

Here are 10 questions to consider in the brainstorming process.

  1. How many years of bookkeeping experience do you have, and are you familiar with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)?
  2. Do you possess any accounting-related qualifications, such as a certified public accountant (CPA) license or an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting?
  3. What accounting software programs are you proficient in? (Alternatively, if your company has an existing software system, ask if the candidate is proficient in that program — or if he or she recommends a different one.)
  4. Do you have experience filing income, payroll and sales tax returns? If so, which tax software have you used?
  5. Can you provide additional services — for example, can you create budgets, forecasts, valuations or business plans — that might benefit our business long-term?
  6. Do you have experience streamlining existing accounting and reporting processes?
  7. How long after the close of each month does it take you to generate monthly financials, and can you provide interim reports, such as daily cash statements or weekly flash reports?
  8. Are there any areas of accounting where you need more experience or training? Are there any aspects of tax and accounting that you’d rather avoid?
  9. Have you ever dealt with any discrepancies or audit issues before? If so, how did you address them?
  10. Do you have experience working with an outside CPA firm? If so, explain the types of services the firm provided.

By asking these questions, you’ll gain a detailed understanding of each candidate’s capabilities. The questions will likely open an extemporaneous dialog about the candidates’ qualifications and your expectations.

Remember, there’s more to finding the right fit than just accounting know-how. It’s also important to consider the soft skills you’d like the bookkeeper to possess, such as trustworthiness, approachability and communication. Ask yourself: Will this candidate mesh well with the other personalities on my management team? And will this candidate bring fresh ideas and advanced skills to the table? Taking the time to choose wisely could save headaches and money later.

We can be a valuable resource during the hiring process. In addition to helping brainstorm interview questions, we can refer qualified candidates with experience in your industry who are looking for a new position. Or we can temporarily handle your bookkeeping tasks during the hiring process. Contact us to discuss the possibilities.

© 2023

Common accounting pitfalls for startups to avoid

Accounting is a critical element when launching a successful business venture. Unfortunately, it’s also an area where startups tend to make mistakes. Here are some common (and avoidable) errors that entrepreneurs should watch out for.

Failing to track expenses

Starting a new business is exciting — and it’s natural to focus on generating revenue and building business relationships. But it’s essential to keep detailed records of expenses, including receipts and invoices. This will help you properly allocate costs, price products and services, assess and improve financial performance, and claim tax deductions.

Forgetting to reconcile accounts

Reconciling accounts involves comparing your records to your bank and credit card statements to identify and correct any discrepancies. Account reconciliation ensures that your business pays close attention to its expenses and available cash. It can also help to prevent and detect fraud by third parties and employees.
Commingling personal and business expenses

When you own a business, you need to keep personal and business matters separate for financial reporting, tax and legal purposes. In addition to maintaining a distinct workspace for your business, you should have different bank and credit card accounts. This will avoid confusion and make it easier to track business expenses. It also will facilitate budgeting and forecasting.

Incorrectly classifying workers

How much control do you exercise over the people who work for your business? Are your workers an integral part of your operations? Misclassifying employees as independent contractors can have serious legal and financial consequences. Make sure you understand the differences between employees vs. contractors and categorize them appropriately. If you don’t follow the rules, the IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor and a state tax agency might challenge the status of your workers.

Not budgeting for taxes

Since many startups run at a loss, at least initially, some owners forget to set aside money for taxes. This can lead to cash shortages and other financial difficulties when tax time rolls around. Failure to make timely federal and state tax payments can result in penalty and interest charges. And don’t forget about payroll, sales and property tax obligations, too.

Failing to set up a formal accounting system

Entrepreneurs must select and consistently follow an accounting method based on their business needs. Many fledgling businesses start off using cash- or tax-basis accounting, then graduate to accrual-basis reporting as they mature. But lenders, franchisors and investors sometimes require accrual-basis financial reporting from the get-go.

It also pays to invest upfront in simple internal controls — such as locks on file cabinets, regular software updates, network backups and antivirus programs — to help prevent theft and fraud. Startups with valuable intellectual property, such as patents, secret recipes and proprietary software, should consider protecting these assets by requiring employees and contractors to sign noncompete agreements, implementing network security policies and filing appropriate legal protections. Additional internal control measures can be implemented as your business matures.

© 2023

Auditing accounting estimates

When companies report financial results, they often rely on estimates made by management. Examples include the allowance for doubtful accounts, warranty obligations, costs of pending litigation, goodwill impairment and the fair values of acquired intangible assets. How do auditors evaluate whether amounts reported on the financial statements for these items seem reasonable?

Inquiry and testing

Accounting estimates may be based on subjective or objective information (or both) and involve a level of measurement uncertainty. External auditors evaluate accounting estimates as part of their standard audit procedures.

For instance, they may inquire about the underlying assumptions (or inputs) that were used to make estimates to determine whether the inputs seem complete, accurate and relevant. Estimates based on objective inputs, such as published interest rates or percentages observed in previous reporting periods, are generally less susceptible to bias than those based on speculative, unobservable inputs. This is especially true if management lacks experience making similar estimates in the past.

Whenever possible, auditors try to recreate management’s estimate using the same assumptions (or their own). If an auditor’s estimate differs substantially from what’s reported on the financial statements, the auditor will ask management to explain the discrepancy. In some cases, an independent specialist, such an appraiser or engineer, may be called in to estimate complex items.

Auditors also may compare past estimates to what happened after the financial statement date. The outcome of an estimate is often different from management’s preliminary estimate. Possible explanations include errors, unforeseeable subsequent events and management bias. If management’s estimates are consistently similar to what happened later, it adds credibility to management’s prior estimates. But if significant differences are found, the auditor may be more skeptical of management’s current estimates, necessitating the use of additional audit procedures.

Gray area in accounting

Accounting estimates and fair value measurements involve a high degree of subjectivity and judgment and may be susceptible to misstatement. In today’s uncertain market conditions, predicting metrics that underlie accounting estimates can be particularly challenging. Therefore, they require more auditor focus today than in more-stable prior accounting periods. Be prepared to provide comprehensive documentation to support your estimates during the upcoming audit season.

© 2023

5 benefits of outsourcing your accounting needs

CPA firms do more than audits and tax returns. They can also help you with everyday accounting-related tasks, such as bookkeeping, budgeting, payroll and sales tax filings. Should your organization outsource its accounting needs? Here are five potential advantages to consider when evaluating this decision.

1. Professional advice. Outsourcing to an experienced CPA firm provides access to professional guidance related to tax, legal and financial matters. This makes it easier to remain compliant with rules and regulations and avoid costly mistakes due to a lack of knowledge or errors in interpreting complex regulations.

By engaging a third-party firm, there’s a second set of eyes on your company’s books. This can provide peace of mind that your books accurately reflect the performance of your business. Additionally, a CPA can help streamline your accounting processes and help record complex transactions correctly.

2. Scalability. As your financial situation evolves, you can dial up (or down) the services provided by your CPA. For example, a start-up that outsources its accounting needs wouldn’t need to worry about outgrowing its bookkeeper over time — or training that individual to take on more advanced accounting and tax needs. Likewise, if you embark on a major financial project — such as a launching a new product, building a new factory or merging with a strategic buyer — your CPA has the expertise on-hand to help you achieve the best possible outcome from a financial and tax perspective.

Outsourcing can also be a viable temporary solution if you unexpectedly lose your CFO. This can provide breathing room while you search for a qualified replacement in today’s tight labor market.

3. Cost savings. Outsourcing can save you money on payroll taxes and insurance costs associated with hiring an in-house accountant. Further, CPAs enjoy economies of scale regarding software usage and purchases, so they likely can provide accounting services cheaper than your firm can by working alone or relying on independent service providers for each task.

4. Efficiency. When you transfer accounting functions to your CPA, your management team has more time for core marketing, product development and other activities. It also frees up resources for higher-value tasks that can increase cash flow and optimize efficiency within the organization, such as negotiating with prospects or building deeper relationships with existing clients.

5. Enhanced confidence with stakeholders. A CPA firm’s involvement can instill confidence in lenders and investors if you intend to borrow money or solicit investment capital. It shows that your firm is committed to maintaining accurate business records and has access to the expertise needed to address complex issues.

Contact us if you’re considering outsourcing your daily accounting tasks, either permanently or temporarily. We can tailor a cost-effective service plan that works for your current and future business needs.

© 2023

FAQs about QuickBooks

Almost 40 years after its launch, QuickBooks® remains the leading accounting software program for small and medium-sized businesses. If you decide to use QuickBooks for your bookkeeping needs, you may have questions about implementation and using it to run your operations. Here are answers to some basic frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help you get started.

What is QuickBooks?

It’s a robust accounting software that businesses can use to manage their accounting. Businesses use QuickBooks for many critical accounting tasks, such as recording expenses, creating invoices, tracking sales, producing reports, administering payroll and maximizing tax deductions.

Is QuickBooks easy to use?

Even for those unfamiliar with accounting software, QuickBooks is easy to use. It includes step-by-step instructions to help users begin using the software and guidance to help get the most out of it.

Setup time varies depending on your organization’s size, complexity and maturity. However, once setup is completed, QuickBooks may offer a scalable solution that can streamline your accounting processes and support your business at every stage of its development.

Are there different versions of QuickBooks?

There are versions for new businesses, established small and medium-sized businesses, and freelancers. QuickBooks also provides dedicated solutions for certain industry niches, including churches, construction, legal, nonprofits, restaurants and retail.

How do I access QuickBooks?

It’s available online or by purchasing off-the-shelf desktop software. The online version requires a minimal monthly fee, whereas the desktop version involves a larger annual fee. There’s also a mobile app that’s available for both iOS and Android devices.

Does QuickBooks provide user support?

QuickBooks’ website offers customer support. Users can find answers to common questions and troubleshoot problems with an advisor on the site. There are also online tutorials and user guides. If you’re unable to find answers on the website, however, we can provide answers — or arrange an in-depth training session for your staff.

Can my accountant help me use QuickBooks?

This software isn’t a substitute for your CPA, rather it can facilitate the working relationship between in-house and external accountants. With QuickBooks, we’ll have direct online access to your organization’s books. Plus, we can send requests for information and documents through the platform. Contact us with any additional questions you have about QuickBooks and other accounting software solutions.