Getting Your Business Finances Ready for the End of the Year

Well, it’s here…time to start on your annual tasks to get ready for the new year! A big part of getting ready for 2012 involves organizing your taxes. We know it’s a giant pain in the Christmas sweater, but it has to be done, or else you risk a giant payment to the IRS!

But don’t fear, because there are several things you can do to prepare yourself for this yearly paper shuffle.

Organize Receipts and Categorize Expenses

If you haven’t been doing this all year, you may have some task ahead of you. But organizing your business receipts can go a long way towards getting you ready for what lies ahead.

For one, when doing your taxes, you want to have as much information as possible. If you only have a vague idea of how much you spent on your business over the year and no valid proof, it may end up costing you. Printer paper is one thing, but what about all the travel expenses you racked up? You want all that info in hand so you can properly log it (and claim the tax deduction!).

Another reason to properly organize your receipts is again about proof. You can write all the expenses you want on your tax forms, but in the end, the IRS needs proof they exist. If you submit your tax forms and you can’t back up your claims, there will be trouble ahead indeed!

You should also consider categorizing your expenses ahead of time. This way it’s much easier to add them up when it comes time to actually do your taxes. Some of the most common categories will be utilities, transportation, supplies, and advertising, though your business may have some unique ones.

Verify Income

Now is also a good time to check all the numbers regarding how much money you made in 2011. Many of Outright’s users are self-employed or independent business owners, so they must worry about paying in quarterly taxes. This is usually calculated based off yearly income, which for obvious reasons needs to be up to date.

Some freelancers or business owners like to go off the numbers they had the previous quarter. However, you may be paying too much if you do this. This is why we recommend recalculating your income as much as possible in order to be accurate. (Confused about quarterly estimated taxes? Check out our Quarterly Estimated Tax Cheat Sheet.)

Integrate Your Financial Accounts Into Outright

There’s no sense in doing this all by yourself. Keeping track of all your business expenses and income can be tough to do, especially when you have so much else to consider. So instead of tackling tedious data entry every time you collect from a customer or buy supplies, why not let Outright help?

Integrate your bank accounts into our intuitive software, and we’ll pull in all your transactions so you never have to spend hours and hours entering them by hand. We’ll also help with the aforementioned categorizing so that you can quickly and easily fill out your Schedule C at the end of the year and file your taxes.

This way, getting ready for the New Year is as easy as pumpkin pie. Now you can concentrate on redoing your shipping model and revamping your website instead of tackling annoying paperwork!

About the Author:
Laura Messerschmitt is the Vice President of Marketing at Outright, a free online accounting software for small businesses. She loves helping the self-employed and small businesses to be more successful and grow their businesses.

How To Make a File for Your Record Collection

If you are anything like me, you have quite a few record albums sitting on your shelf. While I really love the way some of my favorite songs sound when they are played on my ancient record player, I don't really love the way they look cluttering up my shelves. I spent some time searching the internet for a great storage solution but nothing really suited my style, so I decided to create my own. Please feel free to click on the photos for a larger view.

Materials Needed
• 14" x 14" x 4" cardboard box
• x-acto knife with space blade
• Pencil
• Ruler
• Packing Tape
• Double sided tape or spray mount
• Decorative paper or fabric

Step #1. You can certainly make one of these files, from a flat piece of cardboard, but I decided to repurpose a 14" x 14" x 4" box because the folds are already done for you. Lay the box down; it should naturally fold like the diagram in step 1. We begin by cutting off the top and bottom panel on the left side (only cut the first layer of helps if you slide a cutting mat inside the box to prevent accidentally cutting the other side of the box.) Flip the collapsed box over and repeat. Your box should now look like the photo in step 1.

Step #2 Now cut off one of the skinny strips as shown by the red dotted lines in Step 2. You can then set that piece aside for recycling. Your box should now lie flat like the photo in step 2.

Step #3 Because the box we are using (14") is a little too big to fit vinyl records in snugly, we are going to trim down our structure. Measure 1.5" from the back top, and from the front Top. Make sure to mark this with your pencil before cutting. (Remember: measure twice, cut once)

Step #4 The shape of your flat structure hasn't changed much from step 2, but that is about to change. Measure 4" from the outside edges on the back panel as shown in step 4 and mark that with a pencil line. Also measure 5" from the bottom of the back panel (the bottom is where it attaches to the rest of the structure and mark that with a pencil line as well). We are then going to cut along the lines, stopping when we meet an intersecting line. The shape we are creating is reminiscent of a football goal post by removing the waste piece we just cut out as shown in Step 4.

Step #5 In order to make our file look similar to the ever-popular magazine files we need to create a diagonal cut for the sides of our record file. As shown in step 5, we are going to measure 3" from the back top and mark that with a pencil on both "prongs" of our football goal post shape. Then with your ruler and your pencil draw a straight diagonal line from the corner point, shown in diagram 4 to the outside point of your previously penciled line. At this point you may want to refold your structure into its box form to make sure it fits together, you can also then continue the diagonal pencil line onto the front top panel it matches up with. Then you can cut along the diagonal pencil lines, remove the waste and continue on to step 6.

Step #6 Your structure should now look like the flat structure in Step 6. At this point we fold together the box at its natural folds and begin to tape up the structure. You want to make sure you tape both the inside and outside edges with your packaging tape for a nice sturdy hold. Now you have your finished structure, and the finishing is all up to you! I used my finished piece as a template to cut panels of decorative paper to cover the sides of my record file. I fastened the paper with some double stick tape, but a spray adhesive would also work as well.

I can't wait to see how you decorate your new vinyl record organizer. Be sure to upload your finished projects to flickr and tag it with newnew_recordholder. 

~jen pepper