Bookkeeping, also referred to as keeping the books, is the process of keeping full, accurate, up-to-date business records. Proper methods can help businesses effectively manage cash flow, stay abreast of profits and losses, and develop plans for the future based on financial trends. Furthermore, keeping accurate books is required by both federal and local tax agencies.
The bookkeeping process involves making a record of the monies received by a business as well as the monies paid out. It encompasses money a company owes to vendors, employees, tax agencies, contractors, and any other individual or entity. Likewise, accurate records of amounts owed to a company by outside individuals and organizations are also recorded in a company's books.
Though necessary and beneficial to business owners, the task can be very time consuming. With no exceptions, every monetary amount that is paid or received must be recorded. Additionally, accuracy is of the utmost importance, making keeping the books in a rushed manner a very bad idea. As business owners are often lacking in time, many choose to hire professional bookkeepers to keep company records well maintained.
Of the many reasons for keeping accurate records, business and income taxes are among the most important. In the United States, for example, the Internal Revenue Service requires business owners to keep financial records that are complete and up-to-date. State and city tax agencies may require businesses to maintain accurate records as well. In fact, a business owner who fails to keep acceptable financial records may be liable for significant monetary fines or other penalties.
A company's books are used to determine the amount of taxes the company must pay, and they are also used in preparing tax returns. Sometimes, a tax agency may decide to investigate the information reported on a return or other type of tax-related document. In such cases, business owners are required to present accurate records for the tax agency's inspection. Failure to do so could lead to hefty fines, penalties, or in severe cases, imprisonment.
Although hiring bookkeeping professionals may be a good idea for many companies, not all business owners can afford to do so. This is particularity true of smaller, home-based, or start-up businesses. Fortunately, there are many computer programs designed to make the task of keeping the books manageable and less time consuming. Many programs handle all of the calculations for the user, taking the worry out of keeping accurate figures. Available even to those on tight budgets, this software makes record keeping easy.