Anthea Austin is an entrepreneur, accountant, and founder of Clear Margin Consulting, a Vancouver-based accounting and bookkeeping firm. Anthea assists small business owners to build successful, compliant, and profit-driven businesses.
It’s 3 pm on a Friday afternoon, and I’ve just finished up a discovery call with a potential client. As always, I ended the call reassuring her that her business finances are not in as much of a mess as she thinks they are. “Stop apologizing,” I told her, “there is nothing here that can’t be fixed.”
Accounting, bookkeeping, and financial management are not easy tasks! If they were, my DMs would be as quiet as my Saturday nights during quarantine. It’s OK for your financials to be in complete shambles your first or even second year in business. However, a few strategic finance moves early on can save you a whole lot of time, stress, and money at year-end.
Fortunately for you, even if you are “not a numbers person,” you are in the right place! None of these moves involve being an A+ math student. Instead, they are simple financial management moves that will help you and your business tackle year-end.
Open a Business Bank Account
“I wish I didn’t open my bank account so early” – said no one ever.
The top piece of advice I give to all business owners regardless of how long they’ve been in business is to open a separate business bank account. The earlier the better! There are many advantages to this, and as something that can be done in an afternoon, it’s the most overlooked component of any new or existing business venture.
- It sets you up as a legitimate business. Clients will be making payments to firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com (one of my actual past-life email addresses).
- It helps to separate your personal and business expenses. Asking yourself: “Is this business-related?” every time you approach the checkout is setting you up for success as a business owner.
- It makes tax time 1000% easier. Imagine if, at year-end, instead of sorting through your personal bank account to list your business expenses, you just had them neatly organized in one place, or one account?
- It ensures you have a clear trail of all business expenses, as required by the CRA, and will assist you should your business ever be audited.
It’s also a good idea to have access to a business credit card. Some small business owners choose to open a second checking account to put funds away for income tax (more on that later).
Register for GST/HST Before You Need To
In Canada, if your business sells taxable goods or services, you will likely have to register and charge GST/HST.
The CRA provides an exemption for small suppliers. Your business will only need to register for GST/HST if you have made over 30k in revenue over the previous four calendar quarters.
However, registering later means:
- Having to track your income and register within one month of you no longer meeting this exemption.
- Making time to register with the CRA.
- Informing your clients that you are now required to start charging GST.
- Adding your GST number and GST amounts to your invoices.
- Developing a system to track all GST charged and collected.
- Charging GST and remitting this to the CRA.
I don’t know about you, but everything after item 3 on that list sounds like a lot of work! Registering early won’t help you skip the list, but it will certainly make it shorter. You will still be required to add your GST number to your invoice; however, you can do it at the same time you create your first sale. #Efficiency
Plan for Income Tax
It’s important to distinguish between income you earn as an individual and income the business earns through business activities. Business income is subject to income tax, and this can add up. One way to avoid getting a shock when your tax is due is by putting away a portion of your income every month.
Putting away 30% of your monthly income is a good rule of thumb. Some business owners take an additional step by transferring these funds to a separate business account at the end of the month. So, if you earn a cool $10k in cash in a given month, transfer $3k to a separate account. Out of sight and out of mind.
Your first year in business is not going to be easy. Your attention will likely be divided as you onboard clients, set up systems, build a webpage, figure out marketing, insurance, etc.; the list goes on. It’s OK for financial management to take a backseat temporarily, however, getting the essentials set up earlier rather than later will certainly benefit you and your business in the long-run.
The information and recommendations outlined in this article are general in nature and may not be suitable for your business. You should always seek advice from a qualified accounting professional before implementing any changes.
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