In small business, one of the biggest challenges is finding the time to get an ongoing organizational system set up because days easily get filled with tasks needing immediate attention. Yet we all know that a good organizational system can make a major difference in not getting caught by deadlines we are not prepared for looming unexpectedly.
An organizational system for your taxes needs to include a list of all the taxes you are required to file, what information has to be reported and when the tax deadlines are that you need to meet. Each business has a wide variety of taxes to consider - federal, state, local and specialized taxes for particular types of business ventures. Make certain you know all that apply to your business. Missing any tax obligation can be a sure path to closing your business doors.
Start by making a complete backup of all your current data and store it in a safe place along with the previous years' records that you are keeping as history. Clean the files. Toss unneeded, out-of-date information, keeping a list of what you may want to replace or find additional materials on. This is your opportunity to review all that happened in the previous year. Did you have goals? Did you achieve them? What were some of the unanticipated events both good and bad? Spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish in the business this year based on what you have learned.
Next set up a calendar of vital dates for taxes, payroll, insurance and other fringe payments. The initial planning process should include an audit system to provide substantiation for expenses. Such a system is also useful in estimating taxes and planning cash flow. Even without an elaborate computer system, one can organize by placing every receipt that might be deductible in a box or special file. At a regular interval such as when you reconcile your bank statement, sort the receipts by deductible category and place them in envelopes by category. All that you need to do to estimate that category is to total the receipts in that envelope. And should the IRS come knocking at your door, the envelopes are ready to substantiate all your deductions.
Begin looking at your tax liability for this year. Make a quick list of all the data you will need, what you have, what statements should be coming, and what you will need to track down. This will also be a help in setting up your budget for the year. If possible, sort by tax category, all the information you have along with a note of the status of what else will be needed to complete that section of the tax return. Don't worry about special circumstances like the alternative minimum tax at this point. It is too late to do anything about it for your 1999 return. Once all the information is in, looking at alternatives for actual tax computation can be explored. For now, just finding and filing the information well is the goal.
The tax information is a good resource for revising the business budget. Often the easiest way to budget is to look at how money was spent in the previous year and project what changes are anticipated in each of the categories. Once again, there are many fine computer software packages that will help you through this process, but the envelope system will also get you there. Remember to tie your budget to the goals for the year. If there are going to be new programs or products initiated, a budget category needs to be planned and expensed for it.