Small Business Bookkeeping Getting Started

Small Business Bookkeeping is every aspiring entrepreneur’s sole responsibility! But, it doesn’t have to be a burden, with the right tools you can do it! It doesn’t matter if you are making money in self-employment full or part-time. It doesn’t matter if your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, the success of your business depends on creating and maintaining an effective record-keeping system.

For tax purposes, you are required to keep good accounting records suited to your particular business needs. What it all boils down to, is proper record-keeping for small businesses makes the process easier and keeps you compliant with the law. Good record-keeping is also about understanding your business, now and in the future.

Good records can also show whether your business is improving, which items are selling, or what changes you need to make to increase the likelihood of business success. You don’t need a license, degree, or experience to do your own bookkeeping.

Difference Between An Account And A Bookkeeper

Bookkeeping is the first part of the accounting process, so the work of a bookkeeper and accountant often overlaps. The difference between an Accountant and a Bookkeeper is an accountant is a professional who handles the bookkeeping and prepares financial documents like profit-and-loss statements, balance sheets, etc. They perform audits of your books, prepare reports for tax purposes, and handle all the financial information that’s part of running your business.

Bookkeeping focuses on recording and organizing financial data, while accounting is the interpretation and presentation of that data. With the use of computerized accounting systems, small business owners can do most of the work themselves and produce their own financial documents.

Your record-keeping system should include:

1. Detail Tracking

You are required to track a significant amount of information, such as customers, sales, inventory, and expenses. Without a proper record-keeping system, tracking important details of your business may be impossible and can lead to you paying far more taxes than you should have.

2. Legal Compliance

As an employer, you are required to maintain and report employee payroll for tax purposes.

3. Tax Preparation (Federal, State, and Local)

You need good records of your financial transactions to prepare your tax returns. Your records must support the income, expenses, and any credits you report. Which may be able to save you thousands of dollars.

Supporting documents you will need sales slips, paid bills, invoices, receipts, deposit slips, and canceled checks. Purchases, sales, payroll, and other transactions you have in your business will generate supporting documents.

Generally, these are the same records you use to monitor your business and prepare your financial statements.

The financial statement may include income (profit and loss) statements and balance sheets.

An income statement shows the income and expenses of the business for a given period of time.

A balance sheet shows the assets, liabilities, and equity in the business on a given date.

Manual Bookkeeping Vs Computerized Bookkeeping

With manual bookkeeping business accounting records are entered into a notebook or journal. You should have a little basic understanding of the types of small business accounts and then there are the Debits and Credits which are a part of The Accounting Equation. Transactions are entered using debits and credits, debits and credits can be the most confusing part of bookkeeping for beginners. You will also have to decide what accounting method you will use to enter your transactions.

Computerized Bookkeeping

Computer accounting software is ideal for handling your small business bookkeeping quickly and easily. If you are starting your first business, you will quickly find out how important accounting software is to the success of the business. You don’t have to worry about having extensive knowledge of accounting, because computers transfer the right numbers to the right accounts and make sure those numbers get put on the proper side of the account, the debit or the credit side.  

QuickBooks is the industry standard but some small businesses may find it costly when just starting out in business. GnuCash is a free open-source small business accounting software that may not have all the bells and whistles like QuickBooks, but it gets the job done and best of all it’s free.

Bookkeeping In The Gig Economy

If you make money in self-employment online in the gig economy the money you make may be taxable. Under the American Rescue Plan, changes were made to Form 1099-K reporting requirements for third-party payment networks such as Etsy and eBay, uber, and other online platforms, etc.

Beginning with the tax year 2023 if someone receives payment for goods and services through a third-party payment network, their income will be reported on Form 1099-K if $600 or more was processed. This is a big change from the current requirements before 2023 the Form 1099-K reported to the IRS 200 transactions and $20,000.

Generally, the rule is regardless of whether you make $600 online or offline your net earnings from self-employment of $400 or more regardless of how you earn it, are taxable, and you are required to file a tax return even if it’s a side job, part-time or temporary. Now with the new law, the IRS will be aware of online money makers who are earning $600.00 or more online, you are no longer on the honor system.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is based on flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients or customers through an online platform. Gig work can be a great way to supplement income, try out a business idea, or become self-employed. Gig work is also referred to as a side hustle. The “gig economy” is a relatively new term for a traditional way of earning a living: being paid on a per-job basis for work performed directly for a customer.

Being hired to do a single short-term task, project, or job can be called a “gig.” This type of occasional work is part of what is now referred to as the “gig economy.” In a gig economy, large numbers of people work in part-time or temporary positions. Gig economy workers are generally classified as independent contractors, even in the corporate sector.

A Brief list of Examples of work in the  gig economy is:

Drive a car for booked rides or deliveries 

Rent out property or part of it

Run errands or complete tasks 

Sell goods online including in Online Marketplaces

Provide creative or professional services

Provide other temporary, on-demand work

Freelance work

People working in the gig economy use Digital business platforms that match workers’ services or goods with customers via apps or websites. This includes businesses that provide access to:

Ridesharing services

Delivery services

Crafts and handmade item marketplaces

On-demand labor and repair services

Property and space rentals

Other examples of Gig platforms connecting service providers with customers, or gig workers, are too numerous to list here.

About The IRS 1099K

Gig platforms may send forms to the IRS to report payments made to you. If they do, you should receive copies of the forms by January 31. These may include:

Form 1099-K, Payment Card, and Third-Party Network Transactions

Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Incomes

You must report income earned from the gig economy on a tax return, even if the income is:

Not reported on an information return form—like a Form 1099-K, 1099-MISC,

Form 1099K general reports your gross income earned and does not take into account your deductions, that is where good bookkeeping records come in.

Your Responsibility:

You are responsible for good bookkeeping records that track your business income and expenses. Keeping track of your expenses lowers your tax obligation. It can also show the progress of your business and if it is profitable.

Taxes You Will Be Responsible For:

Federal Self-Employment Tax

Self-employment tax (SE tax) is a social security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. Your payments of SE tax contribute to your coverage under the social security system. Social security coverage provides you with retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, and hospital insurance (Medicare) benefits.


Taxes must be paid as you earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. If you are in business for yourself, you generally need to make estimated tax payments. Estimated tax is used to pay not only income tax but other taxes such as self-employment tax and alternative minimum tax.

If you do gig work as an employee, your employer should withhold tax from your paycheck. If you do gig work as an independent contractor, you may have to pay estimated taxes.  If you are unsure if you are an employee or an independent contractor ask. If you have a regular job you may be able to avoid making estimated tax payments on your gig income by requesting your employer withhold more tax from your employee paycheck.

If you don’t pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, you may be charged a penalty. You also may be charged a penalty if your estimated tax payments are late, even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return.


As a general rule in most cases, you must pay the estimated tax if both of the following apply.

You expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax after subtracting your withholding and refundable credits.
You expect your withholding and refundable credits to be less than the smaller of:
a. 90% of the tax to be shown on your tax return, or
b. 100% of the tax shown on your tax return.
Your tax return must cover all 12 months.

Estimated tax payments are due four times a year:

April 15 for payment period January 1–March 31

June 15 for payment period April 1–May 31

September 15 for payment period June 1–August 31

January 15 for payment period September 1–December 31

State Business Taxes

You are also required to file annual state tax returns for your business with the State Revenue Office. Your state income tax obligations are determined by your business structure. For example, corporations are taxed separately from the owners, while sole proprietors report their personal and business income taxes using the same form.

If your business has employees, you’ll be responsible for paying state employment taxes. These vary by state but often include workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance taxes, and temporary disability insurance. You might also be responsible for withholding employee income tax. Check with your state tax authority to find out how much you need to withhold and when you need to send it to the state.

Local Business Taxes

Depending on your business location and local city requirements, a local city tax return and a business privilege tax may apply. Check with your local city clerk’s office for full details on their tax requirements for small businesses doing business in the city where your business resides.

Small Business Bookkeeping Checklist

Proper record-keeping for small businesses makes the process easier and keeps you compliant with the law. It will also help you in the long run, to be prepared in case of an IRS audit. Most importantly, records can show whether your business is improving, which items are selling, or what changes you need to make. Good records can increase the likelihood of business success.

1. Open a business banking checking account

You should always use a separate business checking account for business to keep track of income and expenses only. Do not use a personal checking account for business, business and personal finances should be kept separate. Opening a business checking account keeps your records organized. Check with your banking institution to find out what documentation you need to provide to open a business bank account.

Typically you would need the following information:

Social Security number
Employer Identification Number (EIN) if it applies
Business name
Business License
Organizing documents (e.g., articles of organization) If it applies

2. Decide on the accounting method you will use

Every business taxpayer is required to have an accounting method to report income and expenses. The two most commonly used methods are cash and accrual. Once you choose your accounting method, you must follow it consistently. Generally, you may not change your method of accounting unless you obtain permission from the IRS.


Due to its simplicity, the cash method is a popular choice for small businesses. To determine gross income, add up the cash, checks, and fair market value of property and services you receive during the year.

If you receive a check on December 28, 2011, but decide not to cash or deposit it until after December 31, 2011, you must still count the check as income in the year you received it.

Business expenses are usually deducted in the year they are paid. For example, you order office supplies in October 2011 and they arrive in December 2011. You send a check to pay for them in January 2012. Under the cash method, you should claim that business expense deduction on your 2012 tax return because that is the year you paid for the supplies. Certain businesses cannot use the cash method. In addition, special rules apply to the accounting of inventory.


With the accrual method, income is reported in the year in which all events that fix the right to receive it have occurred, and the amount can be determined with reasonable accuracy, even if income was received in a different year. For example, the accrual method calls for income to be reported when a service is performed. It doesn’t matter that the customer doesn’t pay until the following year.

Similarly, you deduct business expenses in the year the liability arises, regardless of when they are actually paid. Using the office supply example, under the accrual method, you may deduct the business expenses for supplies on your 2011 tax return, the year you ordered the supplies and they were delivered, even though you sent a check to pay for them in January 2012. You may deduct the expenses in 2011 because that is when you became liable for the expense


Hybrid accounting is a mixture of accrual and cash-basis accounting. Like the cash-basis method, you record income when you receive it, and record an expense when you make payment. Hybrid accounting uses both cash and accrual methods.

3. Determine how your business will get paid

Determine what kinds of payments you will accept from your customers such as:

Credit card
For instance, if you have a business online your might use Paypal or Etsy payments to receive money from customers.

4. Set up a chart of accounts

4. Prepare Your Chart of Accounts

A chart of accounts (COA) consists of the following five account categories:


Start by making a list of everything the business owns, owe, the methods you will use to receive money earned, and the expenses you expect to incur in the course of your business.

5. Keep good records of your income and expenses

Tracking expenses is a crucial part of accounting and in the long run, it benefits you by reducing your tax obligation. When keeping a record of your income and expenses, be sure to hang onto the following:

Bank and credit card statements
Canceled checks
Proof of payments
Previous tax returns
Forms 1099 misc, 1099K, W-2
The more documentation you keep in your records, the better off your business and books will be. Organize your accounting receipts and other documents by the month they occur.

6. Determine how you will record transactions

Manually recording transactions by hand is the most time-consuming option. And you should have a basic understanding of accounting before recording transactions in your books. Hiring an accountant seems like a good option but it can get expensive for a small business on a budget.

Take advantage of accounting software and let it do the hard work for you. Free Accounting software such as GnuCash can be ideal for a small business on a budget.

7. Schedule a time to do your bookkeeping

Stick to a bookkeeping schedule a time when you will record your business transactions, daily, weekly, or monthly. Don’t put off recording transactions until the last minute you will regret it!

10 Types of Accounts for Small Businesses:

Accounting is the process used to identify, record, and communicate finances and financial activities in businesses and organizations. Accounting is often referred to as the “language of business”. Accounting records and tracks financial transactions and business events showing what a business owns and what it owes others.

1. Cash Account

All your business transactions pass through the Cash account, often bookkeepers will use two journals, Cash Receipts, and Cash Disbursements, to track the activity.

2. Accounts Receivable

If your company sells products or services and doesn’t collect payment immediately, you have “receivables,” or money due from customers. It is important that you track Accounts Receivable and keep them up to date and send timely and accurate bills or invoices.

3. Inventory

Unsold products must be carefully accounted for and tracked. The numbers in your books should be periodically tested by doing physical counts of the inventory on hand.

4. Accounts Payable

accounts payable records what the business owes to others such as vendors. Good record keeping will help you to keep track of money going out to pay timely payments and avoid paying someone twice! And possibly save you money since some businesses will offer a discount on timely payments,

5. Loans Payable

If you’ve borrowed money to buy equipment, vehicles, furniture, or other items for your business, this account tracks payments and due dates.

6. Sales

The Sales account tracks all incoming revenue from what you sell. Recording sales in a timely and accurate manner is critical to knowing where your business stands at a given point in your business.

7. Purchases

The Purchasing Account tracks any raw materials or finished goods that you buy for your business. This account is used in calculating the “Cost of Goods Sold” (COGS), which is subtracted from Sales to determine your company’s gross profit.

8. Payroll Expenses

Payroll expense is the number of salaries and wages paid to employees in exchange for services rendered by them to a business. The term may also be assumed to include the cost of all related payroll taxes, such as the employer’s matching payments for Medicare and social security. Keeping this account accurate and up to date is essential for meeting tax and other government reporting requirements.

9. Owner’s Equity

Owner equity tracks the amount an owner (or owners) puts into the business. Also referred to as net assets, owner equity reflects the amount of money an owner has once liabilities are subtracted from assets.

10. Retained Earnings

The Retained Earnings account tracks any company profits that are reinvested in the business and are not paid out to the owners. Retained earnings are cumulative, which means they appear as a running total of money that has been retained since the company started. This account is very important to investors and lenders who want to track how the company has performed over time.

The Five Basic Types of Accounts in Accounting:
  • Assets, what the business owns
  • Liabilities, what the business owes
  • Revenues or income, money earned by the business, usually through sales
  • Expenses necessary to run the business
  • Equity is liabilities, subtracted from assets = the business’s net worth
Basic Accounting Equation

Accounting is more about learning concepts and methods than about adding and subtracting numbers. If you understand the basics you’ll be well on your way to understanding accounting. There are a few basic accounting terms that are important to understand.

The first term is an account

An account is a record in the accounting system used to collect and store business transactions.
Examples of accounts an organization may use are
…Office Supplies,…

Think of an account as a way to store information. For example, if you had a large container of fruits, oranges, apples, and peaches to sort, each type of fruit would be sorted into a different carton that would represent its own account.

You would have one account for each type of fruit. After you had emptied the large container of fruits by sorting each fruit into its carton, or account, you could then total the amounts in each account. Then, you would know how many oranges,
apples, and peaches, are in each account and could easily determine the cumulative amount of all accounts.

The Second Term is Transactions

Another important term is “transaction”. Transactions are events that affect an organization financially or cause some kind of financial change. Examples of transactions that an organization might record in its accounting system are the purchase of office supplies such as paper, or a payment to the utility company for the prior month’s electric bill.

The Basic Accounting Equation is

…...Assets……equal Liabilities……plus Equity.
This equation represents the relationship between these three categories. This basic equation guides organizations when recording and reporting their financial transactions. If you are new to accounting it is important to memorize this fundamental concept.

Assets, liabilities, and equity

Assets, liabilities, and equity are 3 accounting terms used to identify what an organization owns and what it owes others.

Assets are an organization’s resources or what it owns. (e.g., accounts receivable, inventory)

Liabilities are claims on the organization or what it owes others. (e.g., accounts payable, loans)

Equity or capital, which is also referred to as net assets. Equity is what remains after all liabilities or debts of the organization are paid. If you take the organization’s total assets and subtract its total liabilities you would then know how much equity remains.

This basic equation provides a way to measure a company’s profitability or lack of profitability. It also states assets must always equal liabilities plus equity. In accounting, this equation should always be followed and the rules of the equation should never be broken.

Debits and Credits

Debits and Credits

Debits and Credits are apart of The Accounting Equation. Transactions are entered using debits and credits. Debits and credits can be the most confusing part of bookkeeping for beginners. Assets equal liabilities plus owner’s equity. Debits equal credits. Debits and credit increase and decrease account balances. The total debits must equal the total credits. This method provides a check and balance system.

To keep a scale in balance, items of equal weight must be placed on both sides of the scale. The accounting equation works much in the same way. Equal values of a transaction must be placed on both sides of the equation using debits and credits to keep the equation in balance. Also, if the transaction affects only one side of the accounting equation, the effects of the debits and credits would cancel each other out.

Debit amounts are always entered on the left side of an account Credit amounts are always entered on the right
side of an account.

Note: The terms debits and credits by themselves do not mean decrease or increase. In accounting, these terms must be associated with the account types to have meaning

For example: on an asset account, cash is debited. It’s increased. In an owner’s equity account, capital stock is credited. It’s also increased. There is both a debit and a credit for the transaction, and we have increased accounts on both sides of the accounting equation by an equal amount, thus keeping the accounting equation in balance.

To understand the relationship between debits and credits, the various accounts, and the accounting equation, when cash is borrowed from a bank, cash is increased with a debit, and notes a payable liability is increased with a credit.

It’s crucial that each debit and credit transaction is recorded correctly and in the right account. Otherwise, your account balances won’t match and you won’t be able to close your books. To enter transactions correctly it’s important to know if a debit or credit increases or decreases the account’s balance. Learning the normal balance for each account type will help you with this process.

Account Category Normal Balance

Account typeDebit . .Credit

Entering Transactions and Preparing Financial Reports

Everything is recorded in a journal using debits and credits. Two different methods used in bookkeeping to enter your business transactions are single-entry bookkeeping and double-entry bookkeeping,

Single-entry Bookkeeping

With single-entry bookkeeping, you enter each transaction only once. If a customer pays you a sum, you enter that sum in your asset column only. This is not a good method for small business accounting unless your business is simple— say you work out of your home, and the business does not use any equipment or have inventory and you do not many cash transactions, you might consider single-entry bookkeeping, But it is not recommended.

Single-entry bookkeeping gives a one-sided picture of transactions recorded in the cash register. In double entry, changes due to one transaction are reflected in at least two accounts. In a single entry, there is no method for error correction or detection.

Double-entry Bookkeeping

Double-entry bookkeeping on the other hand is an accounting technique that records a debit and credit for each financial transaction occurring within a company. … Companies benefit greatly from using double-entry bookkeeping because it aids inaccurate financial reporting and reduces errors and fraudulent activity.

Double entry, states that every financial transaction has equal and opposite effects in at least two different accounts. Using debits and credits as an example of double-entry accounting, if you were going to record sales revenue of $1200 you would need to make two entries: a debit entry of $1200 to increase the balance sheet account called “Cash” and a credit entry of $1200 to increase the income statement account called “Revenue.”

Recording Transactions

To record a transaction, you must first determine the accounts that will be debited and credited.  For example, imagine that you’ve just purchased new equipment for your business. You paid $500, in cash for the equipment.

The transaction will affect two accounts:
Cash (an asset account) and
Equipment (an asset account).
Because you’re decreasing your cash and increasing your equipment, you would record a $500 debit (on the left) for the equipment account and a $500 credit for the cash account (on the right).

When you tally up account debits and credits—often at the end of the quarter or year—the totals should match. This means that your books are “balanced.”

Balancing The Books

Balancing the books occurs at the end of the period, you’ll “post” the debit and credit entries to the accounts themselves in the general ledger and adjust the account balances accordingly.

For example, if over the course of the month your cash account has had $4,000 in debits (increases) and $5,000 in credits (decreases), you would adjust the cash account balance by a total of $1,000 (as a decrease). Follow this method to adjust the balances for each account in your ledger. At the end of this process, you’ll have what’s called an “adjusted trial balance.” When you combine accounts types, the adjusted balances should meet the accounting equation:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

If two sides of the equations don’t match, you’ll need to go back through the ledger and journal entries to find errors. Post corrected entries in the journal and ledger, then follow the process again until the accounts are balanced. Then you’re ready to close the books and prepare financial reports. Always consult your account before making any changes to your records.

Financial Reports

Once the books are balanced the next step is to, summarize the flow of money in each account. Some of the most common financial reports created in bookkeeping are:

  • Balance sheet. This document summarizes your business’s assets, liabilities, and equity at a single period of time. Your total assets should equal the sum of all liabilities and equity accounts.
  • Profit and loss (P&L) statement. Also called an income statement, this report breaks down business revenues, costs, and expenses over a period of time (e.g., quarter). The P&L helps you compare your sales and expenses and make forecasts.
  • Cash flow statement. The statement of cash flow is similar to the P&L, but it doesn’t include any non-cash items such as depreciation. Cash flow statements help show where your business is earning and spending money.

Bookkeeping can take time away from your business and unless you’re experienced in accounting principles, bookkeeping can be a challenging task. Getting help—whether by hiring a bookkeeper, outsourcing to an accounting service, or using accounting software it will give you more time to focus on your business.