How to Set Up Accounting for a New Business: A Full Guide

If you are reading this, then it probably means you’ve just launched or intend to start a new business in the near future. As you try to figure out which need to prioritize in your new venture, it is crucial that you first learn how to set up accounting for a new business.

While it might seem mundane, good accounting is integral to the success of any business. You may have the best managers and staff, but it’s impossible for your business to flourish without properly monitoring and managing your money.

An experienced accountant can help you get your business set up faster and create a system for accurate accounting that grows with your business. However, we know that money can be tight for new business owners. 

Learning the basics of accounting can help you better understand the inner workings of your new business. As you grow, it’s easier to outsource or delegate the responsibility to a professional, so you can focus on other parts of your business. 

If you are only just starting out and have no clue where to begin, this article is for you. We will take you through the essentials of setting up your accounting for a new business.

1. Separate personal and business finances

As any established business owner will tell you, you need to treat your business as a separate entity to yourself. This means separating your business and personal finances.

In fact, it is a legal requirement of LLCs and corporations to manage their business incomes in separate bank accounts. On the other hand, sole proprietors have a bit of leeway. They can use their personal accounts for business, but we strongly advise against it.

Here’s why:

  • It will make it easier to file taxes for your business (since they are separate from your personal accounts)
  • Your accountants and bookkeepers can monitor the account more freely
  • It protects your individual assets in case of lawsuits or bankruptcy
  • Having business financial records will increase chances of getting funding from investors or creditors
  • It makes it easier to monitor your business cash flow

Separating your business accounts go beyond setting up separate bank accounts. Here are some additional steps for new business. 

Establish your business officially

Before you can get your business a bank account, you’ll need to register it with the state. Your business needs a name and other personalized details for you to open an account.

Get a business bank account

Just like you would a personal account, you should open both a checking and savings account for your business. This way, your money can be kept in an organized manner.

The rule of thumb is to keep a majority of your revenue in the checking account and then a small portion in the savings account to cover such things as emergencies and taxes. It is recommended that you set aside and save at least 30% of your total income for taxes.

To open a business bank account, you’ll need a few details. They include:

  • Business name
  • Business license
  • Social security number
  • Employer identification number
  • Organizing documents

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card comes with its share of benefits, but mainly, it will help establish a credit rating for your business. With the right card at hand, you can even get travel points or back cash rebates each time you make a purchase.

Track business expenses

Other than preventing instances of petty theft, tracking your expenses can help save a ton of money in tax deductibles. If you are keen, you’ll find a plethora of small expenses within your business are tax-deductible, meaning you can claim them on your tax return. However, the condition is that you have records of the expense.

The IRS demands that you have with you any documentation proving income credits or deductions that appear on your tax return. A few fundamental documents you should make sure to keep include:

  • Credit card and bank statements
  • Bills
  • Receipts
  • Invoices
  • Canceled checks
  • Proof of payments  
  • Previous tax returns    
  • Financial statement from your bookkeeper      
  • W2 and 1099 forms

Now, as you may know, storing paper receipts can get a little messy. And while they can just as easily be stored in a shoebox, it is better to keep them in an organized manner to allow for easy tracking. You can store them in a file, organize them by date or alphabetical order, or use an expense tracking system.

Alternatively, you can take photos of the paper receipts and store them online using software like QuickBooks online. If they are electronic receipts, you can either leave them stored in your computer or online storage systems like Expensify.

2. Choose a bookkeeping system and accounting method

Before we get into accounting methods, it is important to know what bookkeeping entails and how it all fits in.

To break it down, bookkeeping is simply the day-to-day act of recording transactions in business and reconciling bank statements. Accounting, on the other hand, is a higher-level process. It involves closely examining how the company is progressing and using data obtained from bookkeeping to build financial statements.

How to record business transactions

There are a few methods you can use to manage your books.  

  • DIY (by hand) – If you choose to do the bookkeeping yourself, you can make the entries manually using software like Wave or QuickBooks. First-time business owners that start with Excel spreadsheets regret it, so we advise using cloud accounting software.    
  • Outsourcing – If you’d rather spend your time managing other aspects of your organization, you can leave it to a professional bookkeeper. This can be either a remote or part-time local bookkeeper.   
  • In-house – This is usually the most expensive option. If you have the funds, you may employ a full-time in-house accountant or bookkeeper and leave everything to them.

Choose an accounting method

Once you have decided on a suitable bookkeeping solution, the next step is to determine which accounting methods to use. In this case, there are two main types: cash method or accrual method.

If your business is receiving revenue of $5 million each year, you can use either one to track the flow of money in and out of your business.

  • Cash basis methodHere, expenses and revenues are recognized the moment they are actually paid or received to or by the business. It is the most commonly used accounting method by individuals to balance their books.
  • Accrual method – In accrual accounting, any income or expenses are recognized the moment the transaction happens, regardless of whether the cash has arrived or left the bank. You’ll need to track payables and receivables.

Now, of the two, new businesses are better off using accrual accounting. With accrual accounting, the transactions are recorded early on in the process. With this, the business can better track accounts receivable and accounts payable. Ultimately, you get a more realistic view of foreseeable future profits.

Also, once any business reaches the $5 million a year in revenue mark, it is legally required to use accrual accounting anyway. Therefore, if you use accrual accounting from the start, you won’t need to switch methods once your business grows.

Determine how you’ll be paid for your products or services

Unlike the olden days, where you could only get paid in cash, there are now a variety of payment systems that customers can use. This can either be online, in person, or using a point of sale or POS system.

  • Pos systems/in-person payments – POS or point of sales systems refer to payments made in person by customers at your store. An efficient system will accept payments and keep track of sales in the store. You can make use of various digital POS software that incorporate contactless payment options, mobile POS, and e-commerce capabilities.
  • POS payments only – If you’ll only be doing POS sales, you want to look for a POS system that will work with your cash register or a separate credit card reader. For this, you’ll have to open a merchant account that will act as an intermediary between your business bank account and the payment system.
  • Online payments only – if you’ll only be accepting online payments, you can use PayPal or Shopify if you are an online-based retailer.

Set up a payroll system

As your business grows, you might need to hire employees or contractors to assist run the business. In this case, you’ll have to establish a payroll processing system to handle payments.

For best results, you want a payroll system that automates most of the tasks and automatically dishes out the funds.

Also, as you add people to the payroll, it is important that you place them in the right category. Either as independent contractors or employees. Failure to do so might result in penalties from the IRS.

Determine tax obligations

Your tax obligations will depend on your business legal structure. For instance, if you are a sole proprietor, self-employed, partnership, or LLC, you can claim business income on your personal tax return.

On the other hand, corporations are taken as separate entities and are therefore taxed separately from the owners. Therefore, you will be taxed independently as an employee of the corporation.

If you are self-employed, you’ll need to withhold taxes from your income and then remit them to the government the same way an employer withholds taxes from their employee’s pay. If you owe upward of $1,000, you’ll have to pay estimated quarterly taxes(four times a year).

3. Set up an online accounting system

Once you’ve established the steps above, all that is left is to set up an online accounting system. The easiest way to do this is by using cloud accounting software such as QuickBooks. Usually, it will come with everything you’ll need to record, analyze and report your business transactions.

Can you do accounting on your own?

If you are only just starting out, this might all seem like a lot. You might be wondering: is it really possible to do accounting on your own?

Well, to answer the question, yes; it is entirely possible to do accounting on your own. How well you do it depends on the scale of the business and your depth of knowledge on the matter. As we saw, there are various online bookkeeping software options that can help record transactions and streamline various accounting processes.

Still, doing your own accounting has its downsides. It’s not only prone to errors but will also take time away from focusing on other business activities. To do it successfully, you’ll need to have an aptitude for numbers and a general understanding of basic accounting practices and business taxes.

4. Outsource your accounting

If your heart’s not in it, you’d be better off leaving it to a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a professional virtual accounting team like Xendoo. We not only have the knowledge and accounting tools, but also the experience of navigating all the balance sheets, chart of accounts, complex sales tax regulations, and rules.

Xendoo will also help with such things as lease negotiations, ongoing tax reporting, cash and treasury management, and developing long-term strategic plans for your finances.

Every entrepreneur faces challenges when starting a business. To get your business off the ground, you are going to need all the help you can get. Hopefully, by following the steps above, you have one less thing to worry about.

Of course, you don’t have to carry the weight on your own. If you’d rather focus on other aspects of your business, Xendoo is here to assist. With years of experience managing books, our professional accounting team is more than ready to help with all your accounting, bookkeeping, or tax needs. So feel free to contact us today and chat with one of our agents.

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