Insights From a CPA: Common Accounting Mistakes to Avoid

| August 3, 2023

It is crucial for business owners to maintain accurate and organized financial records. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs make avoidable accounting mistakes that can significantly affect their businesses. We will explore the most common accounting pitfalls that business owners encounter and offer practical insights on how to steer clear of these challenges.


Missing Records

The Problem: Failing to maintain complete and organized financial records can lead to confusion and inaccuracies in the books. Missing invoices, receipts, or other crucial documents can hinder the ability to track financial transactions accurately.

The Solution: To overcome this challenge, embracing digital record-keeping systems or cloud-based accounting software is imperative. Leveraging popular tools such as QuickBooks Online or enables you to store and organize financial documents in the cloud securely. Additionally, encourage employees to promptly submit receipts and invoices, ensuring that all transactions are recorded correctly in a timely manner.


Changing a Closed Period

The Problem: Altering financial data in a closed accounting period can create inconsistencies and undermine the integrity of financial reports.

The Solution: Adherence to accounting principles and best practices is essential when it comes to adjusting. It is crucial to make changes only in the appropriate accounting period and to maintain a detailed audit trail. By following these guidelines, businesses can ensure compliance with accounting standards and provide transparency in financial reporting.


Not Utilizing Accounting Software

The Problem: Many business owners still rely on manual accounting methods, which can be time-consuming, error-prone, and inefficient.

The Solution: Embracing modern accounting software is a game-changer for businesses seeking to streamline financial processes. Tracking financial transactions becomes effortless with advanced tools like QuickBooks, Wave, or Xero. Moreover, these software solutions offer real-time insights, enabling informed decision-making and freeing valuable time for business owners to focus on strategic growth.


Not Reconciling Bank Statements

The Problem: Neglecting to reconcile bank statements with accounting records can result in discrepancies and missed transactions, leading to inaccurate financial reporting.

The Solution: Regular reconciliation of bank statements with accounting records is critical for maintaining financial accuracy. This process allows businesses to promptly identify discrepancies and rectify them, ensuring that all transactions are accurately recorded in the books. By adhering to this practice, businesses gain a clear financial picture, which is instrumental in making informed financial decisions.


Not Tracking Mileage

The Problem: Many business owners overlook the importance of tracking mileage for business-related travel. Failing to maintain a detailed business mileage log can result in missed tax deductions and expense reimbursements, leading to increased tax liabilities and reduced profitability.

The Solution: To address this issue, implement a robust mileage tracking system. Utilize mileage tracking apps such as QuickBooks Online App (for Android users, you can click HERE) on your phone, which tracks all your trips and allows you to review them at the end of the week to classify them as personal or business.  Entrepreneurs can also keep a dedicated mileage log that records all business-related travel, including client visits, meetings, and other work-related trips. By diligently tracking mileage, businesses can accurately claim tax deductions, reduce tax liabilities, and ensure that all eligible expenses are reimbursed.


Commingling Personal and Business Expenses

The Problem: Commingling personal and business expenses is a common accounting error made by business owners. When personal and business finances are mixed, it becomes challenging to differentiate between the two, leading to inaccurate financial reporting, tax complexities, and potential legal implications.

The Solution: To rectify this issue, establish a clear separation between personal and business finances. Maintain separate bank accounts and credit cards exclusively for business transactions. This segregation ensures clean and accurate financial records, making it easier to track business expenses, claim tax deductions, and comply with financial regulations. Educate yourself and your employees about the importance of keeping personal and business expenses separate, reinforcing the practice of responsible financial management.


Failing to Categorize Income and Expenses Properly

The Problem: Improper categorization of income and expenses can distort financial reports, making it challenging to analyze business performance accurately.

The Solution: To mitigate this risk, businesses must develop a clear and consistent chart of accounts. Accurate categorization of income and expenses ensures that financial reports accurately represent the business's financial health. Regular review and updates to these categories, based on changes in the business, are crucial for maintaining financial transparency.


Not Tracking Payroll

The Problem: Mishandling payroll can lead to payroll tax compliance issues, employee dissatisfaction, and legal complications.

The Solution: Businesses must prioritize accurate and up-to-date payroll management. This includes diligently maintaining payroll records, including wages, taxes, and benefits. Payroll software, such as Gusto or ADP, can help automate calculations and ensure compliance with tax regulations. Timely and precise payroll management fosters employee satisfaction and helps to avoid potential legal and financial liabilities.


Not Issuing 1099s to Contractors

The Problem: Failure to provide accurate 1099 forms can lead to compliance issues with tax authorities and potential penalties.

The Solution: To address this problem, ensure that you correctly classify your contractors and vendors and issue Form 1099-NEC to those who have been paid $600 or more in cash, check, or ACH for their services during the tax year ( Source: IRS  - 1099)  Maintain accurate records of payments made to contractors and collect the necessary information, such as their Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), well in advance of the tax-filing deadline. By timely and accurately issuing 1099 forms to contractors, you demonstrate compliance with tax regulations and avoid potential penalties or audits. Additionally, consider using accounting software that can assist in generating and filing 1099 forms efficiently.


Not Seeking Professional Help

The Problem: Some business owners attempt to manage their accounting without seeking expert guidance, leading to avoidable mistakes, and missed opportunities.

The Solution: The value of engaging the services of a qualified CPA or accounting professional cannot be overstated. These experts provide valuable insights, navigate complex financial matters, and ensure compliance with relevant regulations. Partnering with a CPA brings expertise and experience to the table, allowing business owners to make well-informed financial decisions and avoid costly errors.


Avoiding common accounting mistakes is vital for any business's financial health and success. By maintaining accurate records, utilizing accounting software, reconciling bank statements, and seeking professional assistance, business owners can stay on top of their finances and make informed decisions.

As a CPA, I urge entrepreneurs to prioritize sound accounting practices, which will lay a strong foundation for sustainable growth and prosperity. Accurate and organized accounting is the key to unlocking your business's potential. Embrace these practical insights and let your business flourish!


About The Author

Victoria Thayer, CPA

Victoria Thayer is a Certified Public Accountant with 8 years of experience in Tax and Financial Statement preparation for small and medium-sized businesses. She holds a bachelor’s in business from the University of Rochester and a master’s in accounting from Edgewood College. As the founder of Novii CPA, she offers relationship-based outsourced accounting and tax services to empower entrepreneurs. Victoria's excellence earned her the 2023 WICPA Excellence Award – Young Professional, driving her to make a positive impact in the accounting profession and the community. Beyond numbers, she serves as a board member of the Madison Reading Project, an organization dedicated to promoting literacy and providing books to underserved children. She is part of the Finance Committee for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane Co.  Additionally, Victoria is a speaker for the WI Latino Chamber of Commerce, where she teaches accounting for business owners in Spanish. Her commitment to professional growth and community involvement is reflected in her membership in several committees, including the AICPA Emerging Leaders, WWBIC Advisory Committee, WICPA Young Professional Committee, and WICPA Federal Tax Committee.