According to a survey of 393 small business owners, accounting is one of the biggest challenges businesses face. The results were compiled into Wasp Barcode Technologies’ 2015 Small Business Report. Let’s see what we can learn from the results.
Taxes and Responsibility
Taxes are an ongoing problem for small businesses, with 52%—more than half—saying they pay too much in taxes or are unsure of the amount. But business owners don’t blame their accountants. In fact, 62% feel that there’s nothing else their accountant could do to reduce that tax burden. Even with accountants handling their taxes, most businesses are challenged on a daily basis to track their finances and maximize deductions in order to make sure they get every tax break available to them.
Outsourcing has proven itself as a vital part of accounting for small businesses, with 70% of respondents reporting they outsource tax preparation. Half of those responding say they outsource payroll, and another 30% outsource tax planning. This shows that, while it’s easy to seek outside help with calculating and paying taxes, many small businesses still are doing tax planning themselves.
Top Complaints About Accountants
A full 88% of respondents state they are either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their accounting services. But respondents did have a few complaints about their financial services providers.
From the responses, it appears that many small business owners would prefer a proactive approach to accounting over a reactive one. The top complaint from small business owners was that their accountants were more reactive than proactive.
Other significant complaints from small business owners include dissatisfaction about the timelines their accountants use, as well as a lack of advice and guidance. It seems many small business owners would prefer their accountants to serve as more of an advisor than simply calculating their taxes.
Full-Time Accounting Staff
Not surprisingly, the smaller the company, the less likely it has full-time accounting staff. Only 25% of businesses with 11 to 25 employees have a CFO or controller, while 46% of those with 26 to 50 employees have one. Even businesses with between 51 and 100 employees sometimes don’t have financial staff on the payroll; only 64% of companies this size say they have a CFO or controller.
Yet businesses need guidance. Only 40% of those surveyed said they are “extremely” or “very knowledgeable” in the area of accounting and finance. This highlights the importance of third-party financial advisors serving as counselors as well as tax calculators.
Of the top accounting challenges facing a business, these are the most significant:
- Accounts receivables/collections: 51%
- Cash flow: 44%
- Managing paperwork: 33%
- Closing the books each month: 28%
- Managing payroll: 27%
Another common source of trouble are ghost assets, which are fixed assets that are either physically missing or have been rendered unusable. Despite the fact that it’s missing, however, it still counts toward the business’ tax and insurance liability. Of those responding to the survey, a full 74% didn’t understand how ghost assets directly impact their books each year. Furthermore, 49% of all respondents said they don’t even know what ghost assets are.
The best way to avoid lost income from ghost assets is to carefully inventory assets on a regular schedule. For many larger businesses, this is done through automated systems that make inventory easier. But only 17% of the small businesses participating in the survey use an asset management system that allows auditing. By investigating the resources available, businesses could avoid missed assets and make tax time much easier.
This report highlights small business owners’ need for qualified accounting assistance. It is time small business owners stopped trying to do it all and asked for help, particularly with sensitive matters like accounting. If you’re ready to get professional accounting help, check out the article on eight things you should know before hiring an accountant.