Tools Every Accountant Needs

This blog was originally published to JBowmanAccountant.org.

You may not have thought about it, but accountants all need certain tools to do their jobs right. Many of the tools used by accountants are to make the job easier and provide ways of offering better services. Below is a list of a few of the most important things every accountant should have.

Reliable Computer

Invest in a quality computer because it is the one that takes on most of your work for you! Having a fast, reliable computer will allow you to run multiple programs at once. It also gives you the peace of mind that you will be able to do your job effectively.

Tax Software

Tax software eliminates the need to file taxes by hand and saves you a ton of time and headache. Investing in a great tax software will help you serve more clients at a more efficient rate. Plus, tax software will catch any mistakes you may make and gives you the option to correct them. Doing so can save your client a lot of money.

File Encryption

Adding a layer of security to the confidential and sensitive information found on most of the files you have will ensure clients that their information is safe. By having file encryption in place you will be able to email sensitive materials without the risk of the wrong person getting a hold of that information.

Scanner

In order to convert paper files into easily accessible electronic files, you will need a scanner. You can get a traditional scanner/printer combo or even a file scanner specifically for scanning documents and sorting them. These special document scanners often can scan both sides of a double sided documents at the same. They also turn your bulky paper documents into easily accessible PDFs.

Gear Up

You can have the best computer all the software in the world, but nothing beats old school gear. Have a great calculator handy for crunching numbers. Also have plenty of writing utensils and notepads around for note taking. Being able to do the thing the “old fashioned” way never hurts. You may not always be able to rely on technology and having the tools to complete the job are important.

4 Things You Should Know About The R and D Tax Credit

This blog was originally published to JBowmanAccountant.org.

The Research and Development Tax Credit benefits almost any business, no matter the size, age, or industry. Since 1981, this incentive has offered reimbursement for innovative and highly-technical businesses. Here are four things you should know about the R&D Tax Credit.

It is available for many industries

From aerospace organizations to wineries and vineyards, several industries can reap the benefits of an R&D Tax Credit. Organizations within these industries must pass a four-part test to affirm that their research activities qualify for an R&D Tax Credit. The four parts of the test are:

  1. Technological in Nature – “Activities must fundamentally rely on the principles of physical or biological science, engineering, or computer science.”
  2. Permitted Purpose – “Activities must be performed in an attempt to improve performance, reliability, or quality of a new or existing business component.”
  3. Eliminate Uncertainty – “Activities intended to discover information that could eliminate technical uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of a product.”
  4. Experimentation – “All of the activities must include a process of experimentation including testing, modeling, simulating, systematic trial and error.”

It covers a variety of expenses

With all of the activity that goes on in a given business, it can be difficult to track your direct and indirect R&D expenses. However, taking note of those expenses is essential for receiving the appropriate tax benefits. As a rule, the major expenses that qualify are salaries and supplies and materials. For salaries, employees who work in R&D or directly manage those in R&D are covered. Supplies and materials covers anything from nails to computers.

It offers unique benefits to smaller companies

If your small company has gross receipts for five years or less that average less than $5 million, your company may be eligible for an R&D Tax Credit. This is the case even if your company does not owe any taxes, and the covered amount can reach up to $250,000 of a payroll offset. If your small business does not have credit for offsetting payroll taxes in a given quarter, you can carry that credit into a different quarter. However, to do this, you must not exceed the $250,000 limit.

It undergoes regular updates

The R&D Tax Credit does not behave exactly as it did over a quarter of a century ago. As industries and economies evolve, the R&D Tax Credit does, too. In particular, the removal of the Discovery Rule in 2003 redefined research activities as those that would be “new to the taxpayer” rather than “new to the world.” More recently, the Protecting American from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act ensured that small, mid-size, and startup businesses could benefit from R&D Tax Credits.

John J. Bowman, Jr. is an accountant and tax professional based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter for more blog updates!

The 3 Best Personal Finance Software Options for 2017

Personal finance software can assist you in managing your finances. The software tracks your transactions and warns you about potential problems. Personal finance software organizes your finances daily, which allows you to relax and avoid stress. Here are the best available personal finance software programs

YNAB

The acronym YNAB stands for You Need A Budget, and the software is designed to help people who are budgeting. YNAB wants users to take every dollar that they earn and give that dollar a job. Users can find out exactly what every spent dollar went towards. YNAB can help you manage your immediate expenses; such as mortgage or rent, as well as your discretionary expenses; such as dining out. YNAB is a good choice for people who have constant expenses.

YNAB only allows you to budget money that you have actually earned, which forces you to plan around the money you presently have and not the money that you’ll receive in the future. YNAB will stop you from overspending by taking money out of another category to cover costs. YNAB encourages people to think of any extra money as finances that can help future expenses. By helping users put money aside for future expenses, YNAB believes that it is enhancing the financial security of its users. YNAB offers free webinars to help people understand how the software works.

Mint

One of Mint’s most popular features is its easy setup. The dashboard makes everything clear, so users can easily transition from one column to the next one. Mint recognizes that most people have flexible budgets, so users can set up a budget that makes sense with their expenses. Mint’s budgeting system allows users to make different categories for every expense that you have. Once you have paid for all of your expenses, the rest of your income goes into a category known as Everything Else.

Mint’s budgeting system lets users clarify when the expense will be due, so you can budget every month until the expense is due. You can set aside money every month to help plan for any long-term financial goals. That money will be taken out of your available budget.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital looks at the total net worth of its users through calculating all of their current assets and then subtracting any liabilities. Personal Capital lets users compare their spending during the current month to spending in previous months. Personal Capital shows users how their investments are doing by giving them a breakdown of their individual stocks, as well as an index of any money that has been accumulated or lost. You can seek a breakdown of your finances in both real dollars and percentages.