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Stephen Lim, CPA, CA
Henry Yan, CPA, CA

The Ascent Team
Suite 105- 3380 Maquinna Drive
Vancouver, BC
V5S 4C6, Canada
Tel. 604.291-0366
Fax. 604.291.0367

Bookkeeping and you

Starting your own small business can be hectic - yet fun and personally fulfilling. As you work towards opening the doors, don't let the troublesome task of keeping the books rain on your parade. With a little planning and a promise to "keep it simple", you can get a system up and running in no time.

Canada Revenue Agency requires all businesses to keep adequate books and records but accurate financial records can be used in many other ways. Good records can help you monitor the progress of your business, prepare financial statements, prepare your tax returns, and support items on your tax returns. The key to accurate and useful records is to implement a good bookkeeping system.

The most important thing that you as a busy business owner should remember when planning your bookkeeping system is that simple is better. Bookkeeping should not interfere with the daily operations of your business or impede the progress of your business' goals in any way.

Decisions, decisions....

Probably the hardest part about bookkeeping for any small business is getting started. There are so many decisions to make that the business owner may seem overwhelmed. Single or double entry? Manual or computerized system? Should I try to do it myself or hire a bookkeeper?

Here are some good questions to ask yourself as you are making some very important upfront decisions:

  • Single or double entry (manual bookkeeping systems). While a single entry system can be simple and straightforward (especially when you are just starting out a small business), a double entry system has built-in checks and balances that can help assure accuracy and control.
  • Manual or computerized. Will a manual system quickly become overwhelmed with the expected volume of transactions from your business? Will your efforts be less if a certain element of your transactions were automated? If you plan on doing your books yourself, do you have the time/patience to learn a new software program?
  • Self-prepare or outsource. How much time will you or your employees have to allocate to recordkeeping activities each day? Do you have any accounting experience or at least a good head for numbers? Does your budget allow for the additional expense of an outside bookkeeper? If outsourcing was an option, would it make sense to outsource some of it and do some yourself (e.g. use a payroll processing service but do your own daily transaction input and bank reconciliation)?

As you sit down to make these fundamental decisions regarding your bookkeeping system, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Be realistic.
Be honest with yourself and realistic about the amount of time and energy you will be able to devote to the bookkeeping task. As a new business owner, you will be pulled in a hundred different directions - make sure that you take on only as much of the bookkeeping task as you feel you can do without overextending yourself

Do your homework.
Before you commit to any bookkeeping decision, it makes sense to find out what resources are available and at what cost. For example, you may find out that having your payroll processed by an outside company costs much less than you imagined or that a bookkeeping software package you thought was difficult is actually very straightforward. An informed decision is a good decision.

Ask for references and recommendations.
Other successful small business owners have a wealth of knowledge surrounding all aspects of running a business, including bookkeeping. Ask them about their experiences with recordkeeping and find out what has (and what has not) worked for their companies. If they know of a good, reasonably priced bookkeeper or they've had a good experience with a software package, take notes.

See the forest for the trees.
Translation: Give the details only as much attention as it needs and concentrate on the big picture of your business' finances. Implementing a bookkeeping system - on your own or with outside help - that is simple and reliable will give you the opportunity to step back and evaluate how effectively your business is operating.

Once you have decided on the type of bookkeeping system to use for your new business, you will also be faced with several other accounting and tax related decisions. Whether to use the cash or accrual method of accounting, for example, although not always a matter of choice, is an important decision that must be carefully considered by the new business owner.

There are many important decisions to make when you start your own business, including ones that seem mundane - such as recordkeeping - but that can have a significant impact on your ability to successfully operate your business. Before you make any of these decisions, we encourage you to contact the office for a consultation.

The information presented in this document is of a general nature only and should not be relied upon to replace professional advice. Before acting on this information, talk with a professional advisor as laws and regulations are constantly changing. Readers accept full responsibility; no document found here is a substitute for a consultation.

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