Before you read on, take a quick guess at how many small business start-ups fail within the first five years. No reading ahead!
According to the Small Business Administration, about half of all businesses fail within the first five years. 50% of businesses make it, and 50% don’t. Are you shocked? Maybe feeling a little unsettled about your new business venture?
If you’ve found a way to make money and suddenly it feels more like a business than a hobby or side-job, you’ve got a business on your hands. Congrats! Here are a few quick accounting tips for making sure you’re business is among the 50% that are still around five years from now.
- Keep it simple. Get organized, get legal, and get to work. The simplest entity you can form for now is a called a sole proprietorship. This means your business is owned and run by person and there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business. No employees, no payroll, no fuss.
- Obtain proper licenses and tax information. Since you’re going to be the owner/entity of your sole proprietorship, you’ve got a few other tasks to take care of. You need to acquire an occupational license (if mandated in your area) and you must remit all state or city tax collections on retail or sales your business collects.
- Concentrate fiercely on your business, but don’t be irresponsible. Now is the time to buckle down and build your business—find ways to market to your customers and clients, improve your products and services, and build your brand. As a sole proprietor, the IRS won’t even know you exist until after you file your first personal income tax return. You’ll file your personal taxes (like usual) and also a Schedule C form where profits and losses of your business are reported. If you don’t quite have a streamlined process of doing business yet, not to worry. For a sole proprietorship, a separate bank account is not mandated as it is for an LLLC or Corporation. If your business claims a loss during the first few years, those losses can offset your day job’s income and provide a possible tax refund.
- Develop an organized way to pay yourself. Another advantage of a sole proprietorship is that there are no payroll taxes taken out, and no set way you have to pay yourself. You can set up a certain percentage of profits you plan to pay yourself, or you can simply keep what’s left over after paying all business expenses. Often times, S corps don’t have to pay quarterly estimated taxes either. Click here to learn about specific scenarios when they do.
- Keep track of expenses and income. You don’t really have to do much with your receipts until tax season comes along, but definitely keep them in a safe place. Perhaps an easier method of tracking expenses and profits is to use a simple two-page Excel spreadsheet, one with incoming money, and the other with outgoing. You can use your business expenses as write offs at the end of the year which deduct from the amount of money owed on taxes.
- Plan to succeed, but be prepared for the worst. Remember that statistic from the beginning? If your business fails, no special forms are required to be reported to the IRS, you just simply stop doing business. All you have to do is file one final Schedule C and you’re done.
After your business experiences significant growth or you hit the five year mark, talk to a CPA about changing your entity type to one that could save you more money and be more efficient for your business. Mazuma offers free accounting and small business bookkeeping advice all year long. Contact us with your sole proprietorship questions and we can offer some accounting tips and point you in the right direction.