Receipts, bills, coupons, paperwork, tax fillings and on and on, sound no fun especially before and after a financial year begins. But as boring as the paperwork feels, it is an integral part of a business. Therefore, having an organized financial lifestyle can help you with your small business expense audit. And this is how you can categorize and track your small business expenses-
What we mean by categorizing your expenses in a small business is that you arrange every transaction into the category that it's relevant. Now, why do you need to do it? It’s because certain types of transactions are tax-deductible and can help you while you are filing your tax return and during your small business expense audit.
Here are some key examples of tax-deductible expenses:
Business use of home and/or car
Office or storage facility rent
Utilities like phone bills, internet service, etc
Have a look at the five broad categories in which you can categorize your small business expenses -
Utilities and Rent
Let’s have a look at each of these categories in detail -
These transactions are pretty straightforward. These are the various taxes that you pay to your local administrator. These taxes can be again categorized into various types like excise tax, property tax, income tax, etc. Depending upon the tax slab that you fall into, you can file for tax returns with the help of a Chartered Accountant (CA). Even though you can file the tax returns on your own, a CA can help you with the ongoing laws and regulations that you can benefit from in your small business.
This includes utility expenses like internet, telephone, electricity bills, etc. These can also include other utilitarian expenses that keep your small business up and running. This also applies to you if you are working from home or restarting a career from home. You can include the expenses like your laptop price, printer price, internet charges, office chair and desk setup.
This applies to all the insurances of the appliances and yourself too. Examples of tax-deductible insurance expenses include insurance premiums, general and professional liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and data breach insurance.
In case you use your vehicle in your business like delivering stuff, services, etc. then you can include your vehicle expenses in your small business expense audit too. This includes the cost of gas, mileage from business use, parking fees and tolls, and depreciation.
The wages and salaries you pay your employees and staff members for direct labor can also be counted as a deductible business expense. Many government schemes favor the small businesses that generate employment for others and provide them with benefits in taxes.
Depending on the complexity of the business and how much revenue it generates, it may choose from a variety of accounting solutions.
The advantages of tracking your expenses in a small business are expenses. The advantages include the following but aren't limited to -
Helps you identify tax-deductible expenses
The record comes in handy during audits
Helps you identify if you are making a profit
Can help you create a newer and improved budget by identifying what's going wrong
Helps you recognize your business’s potential for profitability
Early recognition of issues like supply chain shortage, miscalculations, and other issues
Manage and optimize cashflow
Tracking your small business expenses is not a one-time exercise but a continual process. Some of the crucial steps towards setting up a flow in tracking your expenses include -
1. Open Financial accounts: Open a separate bank account for your business. It is better to have a current account as it comes with various features like overdraft facility, loan facility, lockers, etc. You can get to know more about the basics of a business loan. Similarly, you can separate your home expenses from your professional expenses by making the transactions with a different card and having different receipts.
2. Digitize your expenses: This can be done with the help of billing and accounting software available in the market. Or by simply using Microsoft Excel. There is a variety of paid and free software available. And in case you decide to buy a paid software don't forget to include it in the utility expense category as mentioned above.
There are also other advantages of using accounting software like quick calculations, cloud storage, easy categorizing your transactions and expenses, access to make charts and reports, etc.
Many small businesses received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to cover slowdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, and that debt will be forgiven by the federal government if it was used to cover certain business expenses.
3. Make an invoice template: Have a billing template with proper invoice numbers which can be computer generated as well as handwritten. The template will ensure that you cover the necessary details while billing a vendor, client, or customer and will help you create a flow for your business.
4. Taxes and deductions: The IRS says to be deductible, business expenses must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is common and accepted in a particular trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for the trade or business.
5. Create a Budget: A budget is a list of all monthly or yearly expenses, organized by category. To budget properly, the business needs to know how much money it has, what it will likely spend and track budgeted expenses against actual ones. A budget changes according to the business strategy you adopt. So suppose you decide to focus on the marketing for your business, your budget will have a larger chunk of capital allotted towards marketing than others. And similarly, this can vary from business to business.
6. Review and Audit: This step is THE MOST critical step for your small business. Reviewing your monthly, quarterly and annual records to fundamental to moving ahead. Your financial statement gives you definite answers in figures about your business performance.
Your figures in the financial statements tell you whether your business strategy is working or not. Therefore, after you make observations regarding your business performance, the next step is to improvise your budget and make changes in your strategy. This ensures that you make progress in the right direction for your small business to grow into a big venture tomorrow.
To conclude, do not shy away from calculations and be strict with yourself regarding tracking and categorizing your small business expenses. When you’re immersed in the day-to-day running of your business, it’s easy to get caught up in how you think your business is doing financially versus how it’s actually doing. Therefore, believe in the math and not just reviews and you’ll definitely see an upward trend in your profit graph.
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*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with our members.
Shriya Sarang holds a degree in Political Science and Public Administration. Apart from having no political opinions, she advocates financial literacy among her friends.