Death and Taxes

March 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment

As ol’ Ben is quoted as saying, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’ve been dealing with both in the last few months. As many of you know, my father passed away last September after many months of failing health. His passing has been difficult for us, and we miss his humor, insights, and unfailing love for us all. As executor of his estate (executrix?), I have had the unpleasant honor of taking care of his final affairs, which currently includes dealing with his last personal tax filing and the first filing for his estate.

What this process has shown me is the importance of keeping good records. Yes, I know that’s a no-brainer to most, but gathering all of the pertinent records and paperwork for someone else’s return is daunting, especially when that person is no longer around. Keep this in mind when you choose an executor for your own estate: will they love or loathe your filing system?!

Keeping good records in my businesses has been one of those areas where I need to do a better job. At no time is this more clear than when doing the tax returns. As I gather the documentation for Schedule C, I mutter to myself about logging mileage, organizing receipts, and keeping my spreadsheets up-to-date.

Spreadsheets? Yes, spreadsheets. As an independent rep for Uppercase Living, I found that I had to have some tool to document and summarize the financial portion of each order. For each Open House, I need to be able to quickly and accurately calculate the totals, shipping, and tax for my customers so that they aren’t sitting there watching me plug things in to a calculator (on which I sometimes make mistakes). I also needed a way to show my hostesses the running total for their shows so that they knew how much they received in free and half-priced items. Lastly, I wanted this to be kept in such a way that it was easy to refer back to when I needed a recap of the party. So naturally, being a techie, I created a spreadsheet to do all of this. I can’t imagine doing my business without it.

Recently, I created another spreadsheet to similarly capture and summarize my expenses, income, and mileage. It not only keeps a running total on a month-by-month basis, it also summarizes the totals into a single page for tax purposes. Last year I didn’t have something like this when my dear hubby and I waded through taxes (my first one as a UL rep), and it was painful. This year, having this accounting-type spreadsheet has made doing taxes easier.

Notice I said “easier”, not easy. The reason it isn’t easy is I get so busy taking care of my customers, hostesses, Open House scheduling, ordering, and all the other fun stuff that I forget to keep the accounting spreadsheet current. I realized that, with everything going on at the end of 2008 with my dad, I had completely neglected to enter in the income and expense information for several months. Ugh. And of course I didn’t even think about it until we started doing the taxes recently.

Which brings me back to record-keeping. It’s all well and good to have procedures, filing systems, and spreadsheets for your business, but unless you keep up with it regularly it’s pretty useless. And don’t get me started about keeping track of mileage. I keep thinking about all the times I ran out to get supplies or went to a hostess’ house or dropped things off at the post office, never writing down the mileage. (I get scowls from Ken about that.) Keeping track of the administrative details of my businesses is definitely not the fun part; consequently it sometimes doesn’t get done.

My goal for 2009 is to be MUCH better in this realm, both for an accurate accounting of my businesses and to make tax time easier. What administrative tricks do you use in your business? I’d love to hear about them. Until then, it’s back to my Schedule C…


Entry filed under: 3/ Running a small business. Tags: , , .

So why did I start a Blog? It’s BOGO Time!

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