A Step-by-Step Guide for Getting your Bookkeeping Organized for Tax Season

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Tax season is now in full swing, meaning that many are likely wishing they had instituted better organizational systems over the past year. Use this bookkeeping how-to guide to get your small business organized, tax-ready, compliant with the IRS recordkeeping requirements. Meaning, no late fees, no surprises, and a successful tax return that won’t cost you extra time later on.

We started Bench so you wouldn’t have to do your own catch up bookkeeping. But for the do-it-yourselfers, this bookkeeping how-to guide will help you get through your bookkeeping backlog in no time.

Step 1: Collect Receipts & Invoices

Start getting your bookkeeping organized by collecting all receipts and invoices related to your business expenses. There are many different types, so we’ll outline the most important ones.

Customer Invoices

Review your customer accounts and double check that you’ve collected all customer invoices for the tax year. Depending on whether you’re using a cash or accrual method, you’ll record these differently.

Debt Collections

Review your customer accounts for any bad debt expenses. In order to deduct the cost of bad debt from your tax return, you will need to prove to the IRS that you have taken reasonable steps to collect the debt. Bad debts can be claimed by using either the specific charge-off method or the nonaccrual experience method.

Business Expenses

Collect receipts from all business purchases you have made during the tax year. Use this handy list of small business tax deductions to double check that you’re tracking and claiming every deduction available to your business—because who doesn’t love saving on taxes?

Vendor Accounts

Review your vendor accounts to ensure that you have paid them all in full. Make sure you have a copy of every bill from each vendor activity and, if you don’t, contact the vendor and ask them to send you a copy.

Important to note: Vendor accounts include bills for business activities that are still currently operating in your business’s closing period.

Step 2: Reconcile Your Bank Records

Step two to our bookkeeping how-to is all about reconciling your bank records. This accomplishes two things: 1) It ensures you don’t miss any business expenses or important records from Step 1, and 2) It helps you catch any mistakes your bank may have made.

You can do this by comparing each transaction from your bank statement with the same transaction in your company accounting records. If the transactions don’t match, identify and fix any errors to ensure they balance out.

Step 3: Separate Personal and Business Expenses

Keeping your personal and business expenses in the same account is known as piercing the corporate veil—which may result in you being held personally liable for your business’s debt and actions. The sooner you separate your business and personal expenses, the better. Learn how to open a small business bank account and keep your finances separate.

If you’re unsure about whether a purchase qualifies as a deductible business expense, learn how the IRS differentiates personal and business expenses.

Step 4: Create Digital Records

One of the easiest steps of our bookkeeping how-to guide is making your business paperless, if you haven’t done so already. As you process your paperwork, create digital records of receipts and important documents to help you keep your bookkeeping organized year round. Here are a few of our favorite tools to help you go paperless:

  • Shoeboxed
  • Neat
  • FileThis
  • Evernote’s ScanSnap Scanner

Step 5: Submit Forms for Contractors & Employees

If you paid independent contractors and/or employees during the tax year, there’s a good chance you’ll need to file the following forms:

Independent Contractors: Form W-9 & Form 1099-MISC

If you paid an independent contractor more than $600 for work during the year, you’ll need to submit a Form W-9 and a Form 1099-MISC. A W-9 requests a contractor’s taxpayer information. The contractor completes this and returns it to you. You then use the information on the contractor’s W9 to issue a 1099 to the IRS. If you’re new to the process, and unfamiliar with the deadlines, read How (and When) to File a 1099 first.

Employees: Form W-2

You’re required to file Form W-2 for all employees.

Step 6: Review Your Books With a Professional

When you’re a small business, doing it yourself, with the help of bookkeeping how-to guides of course, is often the least expensive option. But, if you have trouble keeping your bookkeeping organized, tax professionals can help eliminate errors, help you claim all of the deductions available to your business—which may end up saving you money in the long run—and can also represent you in the event of an audit. Developing a relationship with a financial pro, well before you need their help, will prevent last-minute scrambling and bring you peace of mind that your books are up to date.

If you’re a small business owner who could use a helping hand—the expert bookkeeping team at Bench can get you up-to-date with their Catch up Bookkeeping Service.


The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accountingmarketingtechnology and more.  Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted.  The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.

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Bench
Bench gives you a team of bookkeepers to do your books for you, and smart software to track your finances.
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