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Xero - 3/14/2012
New Xero Survey of U.S. Accountants Reveals Most Common Small
Business Financial Mistakes
Accountants say the two most common mistakes that small business owners make is not having ongoing insight into their financials and
only talking to their accountant during tax time, according to a new survey from Xero, online accounting software for small businesses.
President Obama recently proposed a reduction to the corporate tax rate partly to ease the burden of taxes on small businesses -- more
proof that managing taxes and financials are becoming an increasingly complicated part of owning a small business. Today, Xero
revealed results from a survey of 500 U.S. accountants and compiled tips to help small business owners take control of their finances
during tax season and beyond.
Summary of key findings:
-- Mixing Business & Pleasure: About half (45%) report that mixing business and personal expenses in deductions is the most
common mistake businesses make that could trigger an audit by the IRS, while a quarter (26%) say it is excessive deductions to income.
-- Home is Where the $ is: Three in ten (29%) say the home office is the most commonly overlooked deduction for small business
owners, while one in four (24%) say it is hiring new employees.
-- Tax Tunnel Vision: One in four (26%) say not having ongoing insight into their financials is the most common mistake small
business owners make when it comes to their finances, while one in five (18%) say it is only talking to their accountant during tax time.
-- Constant Contact: About half (47%) think small businesses should communicate with their accountant once a month in order to keep
their business in good financial standing, while a fifth think communication should take place once a week (22%) or quarterly (19%).
"The biggest challenge that small businesses face is simply that the owners typically work in the business and not on the business, and for
many that means only diving into their finances during tax time," said Simon Gray, accountant in Xero's network and managing partner
of Gray Consulting, Inc. "With Xero, managing business financials can essentially be turn-key, as its software provides small business
owners with ongoing insight and tools for managing their finances in an easier way."
Overall, accountants polled say small businesses should communicate with their advisors on a more frequent basis to gain more control
over the finances. Moreover, most accountants (71%) reveal that they're able to give more meaningful advice to small businesses that
provide a real-time view of their finances to their accountants.
"With cloud-based financial tools, small businesses can now benefit from ongoing insight into the overall health of their company," said
Jamie Sutherland, Xero president of U.S. operations. "Xero is delivering a powerful, hassle-free way for small businesses to manage
the complicated task of their finances, enabling them to focus on what they do best -- run their business."
Xero compiled its top five tips to help small businesses take better control of their finances:
1. Forecast Financials: It is critical that businesses take a look back at their financial statements, activity and sales to determine what worked
and what didn't so they can make a plan for the year ahead. As part of forecasting, understand the sales tax the company owes and keep
that money in a different account to eliminate the possibility for error.
2. Follow the Money: It is critical for small businesses to have real-time insight into their bank balance and review it on a daily basis.
Cloud-based accounting applications, like Xero, provide small businesses with an instant view of their financial picture and enable
them to share reports with key players in the business so everyone is aware of what's going on with the company's finances.
3. Insight into Cashflow: It's important that businesses have a daily process set up so they can easily review the cash they expect and
know what is overdue, so they can immediately follow up on delinquent payments. By implementing an easy-to-use and manage
system, small businesses have a way to ensure the cash is getting back to their business.
4. Monitor Customer Activity: Small businesses should have a clear picture of their customer base -- including the overall health and
wellness of the group, purchasing patterns and behavior, and where they all stand on payments. It is also important to align your
sales, support and management teams on customer goals to ensure you're all on the same page about how that maps to financials
5. Understand Tax Time Obligations: Small businesses should always take time to understand their tax obligations and learn if they've
changed at all from the previous year. By planning ahead for their obligations and meeting regularly with their accountant to estimate
what will be owed, small businesses can plan accordingly so they can start and finish the year strong.