Can I Be My Own Accountant?
Whether you're looking to organize your new small business, or are just in need of some personal financial organization, an accountant seems like a great idea. They're like the fairy godmothers and fathers of tax season. And they'll come in especially handy when you're flipping through a pile of uncategorized receipts trying to do your taxes. Accountants are cool, but a lot of what they do we can do ourselves. It helps to get an understanding of the best financial practices in order to make accounting a lot more than just a "dismal science."
1. Keep impeccable records.
A wise accountant once said, "You're only as good as the records you keep." Memorize this mantra and write it on a note above your door. Laziness is the enemy of accounting. The best way to keep records is to have both a physical and digital file. Go out to your nearest office supply store and pick up a nice, sturdy file cabinet, hanging folders, manilla envelopes, and some labels while you're at it. Keep it simple. Alphabetical order works best.
2. Develop a bookkeeping system and stick to it.
Expanding on point one, you'll need to employ a process for bookkeeping. As soon as a check comes in, for example, make a copy of it to store in your physical file and digital file, then make sure it is logged out and a receipt is stapled to the invoice. Then deposit it and label the payment appropriately in your bank account, so that it doesn't just say "Deposit." Down the line, you'll likely forget what that random deposit was for.
3. Don't throw out your receipts, file them.
Today, receipts are both printed and digital, so to keep track of them, you should scan all of your physical receipts into a digital file with your emailed receipts. Categorize them. Here is a sample of small business categories that can be customized to fit your business.
4. Use the right software.
While Excel spreadsheets are a great way to stay organized, you may want to invest in an accounting software. Quickbooks is one of the most widely used, and has a convenient online version. With it, you can generate valuable reports, track invoices and payments, and reconcile your accounts. It gives you an organized overview of your revenue, and is a great resource for the small business.
5. Mark on your calendar when payments are due.
Trust your calendar to tell you when you need to get paid, and make sure that you keep a record of "aged" receivables that are overdue. Log follow up emails and phone calls in writing so you can provide evidence of a follow-up when your vendor acts confused about a payment. Written documents will always be on your side.
6. Reconcile your accounts every month.
Account reconciliation is super important. It's a way to make sure what is in your bank account actually matches what is in your records. Quickbooks has an easy account reconciliation step-by-step process. Making sure you do this every month will make keeping your accounts less overwhelming than waiting until the end of the year to do everything.
7. Enroll in a payroll service that automatically withdraws tax and deductions.
If you have employees, a good payroll service will take care of all the tax deductions for you when you set up a W-2. ADP is one of the top companies that handles all of that. For more on them, check out their website.
8. Become best friends with your P&Ls.
As a business owner, it's vital to be able to see the big picture of your company. A profit and loss report will show you all of your expenses categorized as well as your net income. You can compare these P&Ls year over year, or even month over month, to see if certain expenses are staying constant, rising, or falling seasonally. Here's more on how to understand your P&L.
9. Keep up with your taxes.
You'll likely need to make a quarterly tax payment if your company operates in a state with sales tax. For more, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will help you figure out what you need to pay, and when. You can also use your year-to-date P&L to determine if you owe any estimated taxes for the quarter.
That wasn't so bad, was it? We're not out to put accountants out of business, but by understanding a bit of what they do, you can take control of how you run things. And hey, if you like it, you might want to become a CPA.
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Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!