Accounting for small shop


Hello,
I am looking for a book that would cover accounting/bookkeeping for a very small manufacturing business. For example, I build custom furniture. I don't keep any materials in stock. I buy only what I need when I need it. I have two books: one is fine for a small retail business, the other is from a class I took back in the late '80's, and it's fine if you are say...WMH Toolgroup (I don't remember much from that class). I have been building custom furniture for the last year and have been tracking my finances with Quickbooks Simple Start. It doesn't seem adequate, and I'm not sure I'm even using it properly. Specifically, it would be nice to have info on properly setting up my chart of accounts. I know that visiting an accountant would be smart at some point (perhaps that point is now), but I am on a very tight budget and was hoping to delay a little longer. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you, Brian Mahney
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Brian Mahaney wrote:

Years ago, I found this in my local library, and it helped me: <(Amazon.com product link shortened)(3155>
Not flashy, but very helpful.
Quickbooks, Peachtree, or even Excel spreadsheets can greatly simplify everything you'll do. Having a local CPA do your taxes, at least at the beginning, can also teach you a LOT!
I've found Quickbooks to be worth it's weight in gold in several small ventures. The less time you spend on bookkeeping, the more time you can spend on profitable activities.
Have fun, Barry
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"Brian Mahaney" wrote in message

Any accounting advice you get here will be worth what you paid for it. A visit to an accountant appears to be in order, if for no other reason than to have them steer you in the right direction.
That said, with no employees, no inventory and operating on a cash basis, you may find that just about any software that will let you categorize your income and expenditures for a Schedule C , plus good tax software at the end of the year that will do things like depreciation on items that you can't outright expense, auto mileage, etc. can be made to work in your scenario.
Some accountants may tell you otherwise, but I run two businesses using QuickBooks, with accountant participation; and two using Quicken, with no accountant participation, and have for years.
Basically, you have to find your comfort level for your particular situation, but do talk to an accountant to get you started in the right direction.
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On Thu, 26 Jan 2006 11:13:22 -0600, Swingman wrote:

This is good advice. I seek out professional help in any situation I'm not familiar with. I listen and then do what I'm most comfortable with. In the case of accounting, my wife is a CPA so she does all my work. However, she has lots of clients in your situation. Some have her do monthly book keeping and end of year taxes; some have her do quarterly statements (for the banks) and end of year taxes; for some she just consults and helps them over rough spots, they do all the work. A good CPA should be comfortable with any of these arrangements. I'd suggest you consult a CPA for advice. Pick a smaller firm or a sole practitioner with at least ten years experience and a modest office. In most cases such firms have a more personalized service. This of course has been my experience YMMV.
DGA
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In those two sentences lie the keys to the kingdom...
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Swingman wrote:

No kiddin'. Unfortunately, most of the lessons in business I have learned have been the hard way, and usually expensive. It takes a while to develop those skills, especially (the listening one) and 25 years ago when I opened my first company I sure thought I knew an awful lot more than I did about business.
Now with all the laws, rules, regulations, form filling, filings, etc., it just isn't near as much fun as it was. I wasn't near as hard to start the biz back in '78 as it would be today, but nonetheless, I sure paid for my ignorance.
Robert
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In the homebuilding business in many municipalities these days the tail wags the dog to the point that the choice of who you do business with is being usurped by the rules and regulations ... and the net results is higher costs for everyone, and not, as was intended, better built homes.
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Brian Mahaney wrote:

"Portfolio of Accounting Systems for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses" from the National Society of Public Accountants and published by Prentice-Hall. My version which was printed in 1987 is ISBN 0-13-685305-6. I assume it has been republished since then and maybe updated. It is written for manual systems, but the structure of a Chart of Accounts doesn't change due to computerization.
Dave Hall
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Brian Mahaney wrote:

Maybe not what you are looking for but...:
<URL:(Amazon.com product link shortened)(3155>
JES
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I'd go with Quicken. We use QuickBooks Professional at work and I like it a lot better than Great Plains or Peachtree, which we have used in the past. I just bought a copy of Quicken with a business package included for use at home.
Find a bookkeeper and use them for quarterly taxes, at least once. Take a class in basic accounting (At the end of my first semester in college accounting the instructor told us we were qualified to be bookkeepers.)
I can do books by hand and on a couple software packages but I like Quickbooks best. I bought the Quicken for home because it is fast and accurate.
Tom
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Brian,
I am a retired accountant. Do you have someone to do your taxes at year end? If so ask your bookkeeper what software to use. Quickbooks will do just fine until you do enough business to hire a part time bookkeeper.
The most important thing about keeping books is to tell you how much tax to pay so IRS will not come down on you.
The next most important thing the books will tell you is what doing a job will cost you and if you made a profit or not. There are two costs to your job, your materials and outside labor and your overhead. The overhead is your lights, heat,insurance, depreciation or rent, truck, gas and any other cost that goes on whether you work or not. Take all your fixed costs for last year and divide by your total sales and you have an overhead percentage. That is what you have to add to every job just to break even. Then add whatever you think the traffic will bear. Let me tell you now that cutting your price to get business does not work. Your customers will equate cheap prices with cheap work even if you are the best in the business.
Bill in New Mexico
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QuickBooks should be more than adequate in your scenario and I too have tried it. The version that I used was in the late 90's and like you I felt the program was not very intuitive. For about 7 years now and operating as a sole proprietor with no inventory I get by just fine with Quicken Home and Office and a Spread Sheep program. Neither program will give you legal advise.
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Spread Sheep program.
Humm, maybe SpreadSHEET.
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On 26/01/2006 2:21 PM, Leon wrote:

To each his own. Did your program come with rubber boots?
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Brian, Quickbooks more accountant friendly and blocks some common errors. Quicken has some sweet features but isn't as "job" specific. Peachtree suc......'s. Sorry I wasted a lot of money on it before giving up. Lots of graphics and not as intuitive.
In my experience very few small businessmen know finance. Unless you have an idea of capitalization, amortization, section 179, all the state and federal rules and fees you'd be best to see an accountant and hire him for initial setup advice and chart of accounts for your business (audits are more expensive than accountants). Reach an agreement to come in once a year for taxes and be able to call him and succinctly ask specific questions (think of his time like a lawyer's). Then get a tax program to watch your tax liability/cash flow during the year - this point is extremely important - cash flow is king.
Quicken has a sweet feature where you can setup "escrow" accounts like a pseudo credit card for your annualized expenses and tax liability so that every time you start the program you know exactly what your cash position is. QB requires a lot more manipulation. Quicken has great personal management tools as well including stocks.
And just because he's an "accountant" doesn't mean he knows what's best for your money - unfortunately. Learn finances. You'll be surprised how many times you'll catch "errors". CPA is no guarrantee either. Sorry if that hurts any feelings. You can either make money or save money - either way improves your net worth. Good luck.
TomNie

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Tom Nie wrote:
<<And just because he's an "accountant" doesn't mean he knows what's best for your money - unfortunately. Learn finances. You'll be surprised how many times you'll catch "errors". CPA is no guarrantee either.>>
Amen, amen, amen. My small business was too much of a bother for an accountant I had many years ago, and due to his careless handling of my bookeeping and taxes I wound up paying more than I should have. A later accountant filed amended returns and we got some of it back, but then I had to pay her to file the amended returns, also.
Some accountants like small businesses, some don't, and some don't care what they work on. But every type of businesses have different nuances that a good tax preparer can explore. If you are doing a simple cash in/cash out arrangement, then you can keep you books easily, and then find out from your fellow craftsmen whom they use and like for tax preparation. Chances are that person will be experienced in the field you are working in or at least a related field.
I love Quicken, and with the help of my preparer have it set up just the way she wants it. It saves me money (her time) and effort on taxes, reports, etc. I wouldn't worry about getting anything too much more sophisticated until you start tracking employees, accrued depreciation on many different tools, etc. But you do need a good system, one that can be readily understood by those that need to look at it. If you don't have good books, then you will be totally screwed at one time or another for many differnet reasons, not the least being the IRS.
In point to Tom's statement above, you should take any classes you can get to make yourself more savvy and informed on your company's tax burden and position. You should NEVER rely completely on someone else to always do the right thing concerning your business affairs. It is your company, your responsibility, and your baby. No one will care about it as much as you do. And no one is as responsible for it as you are.
When the guys that work for me decide to take the plunge and start their own business, I always tell them how soon they will be longing for the days of being out on the job all day with the biggest problem being if they have the right nails or materials, or if their is a BBQ joint near the job site.
They never believe me when I tell them that invoicing, collections, bookeeping, quarterly reports, year end reports and taxes take almost as much of your time as doing the work. How soon they learn.
But on the other hand, if this is schedule C income only and you are making a few pieces a year, I don't think you should worry too much. One of my buddies that mows lawns does all his stuff on Quiken, and inputs it to Turbo Tax and he is finished. He went to the Small Business Administration's free advice council for small businesses and found a wonderful retired CPA that go him on the right road.
Robert
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Well put as usual, Robert. TomNie
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I learned early on to hire lawyers, accountants, and even doctors, to advise me on options and gaps in my knowledge, not to make the decisions.
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On Thu, 26 Jan 2006 16:43:16 GMT, Brian Mahaney wrote:

Well this discusion has been very informative. I think the right choice is to see a professional. I'm clearly not up to speed on what I need to know (despite an accounting class some years ago and several books more recently). Thank you all for the valuable information. Now, do any of you have advice on locating a good accountant? Should I pull out the phonebook and start making calls? Is there a more efficient method? What do I really want to ask them to get the answers I need. Keep in mind, I might as well be starting from scratch here. In other words, If I get someone on the phone, I'm not sure what I want to ask. My first thought is to explain my situation and see what they say. I would also like to know how much money it will cost (estimate is fine).
Thanks again, Brian
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