Keys To Good Accounting Practices

Keeping Good Records
One of the ingredients of good accounting practices is keeping proper records. No matter how small or large a business, it is essential to have a filing/storage system in place to store all financial records. Financial records include receipts, invoices, bank tellers, cheque stubs, withdrawal slips, bank statements etc. With the advent of online banking, emails and other forms of online communication, more businesses are storing their accounting information in virtual form. More invoices and receipts are now sent by emails to reduce carbon print, whilst more payments are been carried out online than ever before.

Despite the advancement in technology to aid accounting communication, it is essential that all form of records is kept safely for easy access. This is crucial for accurate financial reporting and business decision making. If a business stores more information on IT systems than files, then a back-up system is important for added security of data. Filing systems must be easily accessible preferable in chronological order. It might also be necessary to keep records of incoming paper-format financial information on a system as back-up.

For taxation purpose documents – paper or computer generated must be kept for a minimum of five years after the end of the accounting period of the business.

Accounting Systems
Accounting services vary from business to business; some companies prefer to outsource their accounting to an accounting firm or freelancer accountant. Another option is to hire staff to carry out all financial functions in-house whilst some small business owners choose to perform these accounting functions themselves.

The accounting system a business chooses must be able to meet the needs of the business. A small business might be better off hiring an accountant, rather than invest in a system there will be no time to operate. A large organisation might be able to afford a good accounting package, but the system will be of no use if there is no competent staff to operate it. For effective accounting, businesses must ensure they match their accounting needs with the appropriate system including outsourcing options.

Monitor Information
A business account is like the flip chart at the end of a patient’s bed which shows the vital signs of that business. To keep the business vitals in good condition, businesses should constantly appraise their financial status to ensure a good book balance.

Most medium to large organisations carry out a monthly, quarterly or regular form of management accounting exercise. These reports are for internal use and it enables the business to identify its financial position on a consistent basis. Though meant for internal purposes, it is an effective way to monitor performance and plan for the future.

Legal Requirements
Businesses must satisfy legal accounting requirements whilst in operation. It is also important that they meet the need of the various stakeholders in the company. These stakeholders have a legal requirement to certain financial information, which must be presented in an acceptable format.

Accounts Statements must also be prepared and filed with the relevant Government bodies – in the UK these are HM Revenue & Customs, Companies House and the Charity Commission. They must be in the right format and submitted by the deadlines set by the authority concerned. Failure to file accounts in the right format and at the right time may result in a financial penalty, except in extreme circumstances.

It is therefore essential that an appropriate book-keeping system is in place to ensure information is captured accurately and efficiently. It is also crucial that businesses have “best practice” policies in place to ensure accounts personnel complies with legal requirements.

Account Personnel
Competent accounting personnel are as valuable as the information they provide. Most businesses require the assistance of experienced accountants to collate and file their accounts. Medium to large companies generally recruit their own personnel to look after their company accounting processes. With the credit crunch hitting businesses profit margin, a lot of businesses are outsourcing their accounting services to external firms. Some of the main advantages of outsourcing are the reduction in staff related costs and the wide range of expertise gained from reputable accounting firms.

Whatever product or service a business provides, ethical accounting practices will ensure a business is able to identify its financial position and plan according to ensure its survival and longevity.