Getting your books ready after the new year is essential for every business. Even if you were organized in 2017, there are a few loose ends to wrap up in January. But, one problem we see is that many businesses don’t know where to start. They aren’t sure what steps are required to be tax-ready. Or how to stay mentally focused when burnout is on the horizon. Getting your books ready is a useful way to catch errors and maximize deductions. Plus, your bookkeeper and CPA will be grateful. You’ll arrive at your end-of-year meeting with your accounts reconciled and your receipts organized, leaving more time to focus on your goals for 2018.

Here’s a free bookkeeping checklist:

1. Get Organized

Take a moment to spread out your paper records. At this point, most of your records are digital, but inevitably, you’ll have paper records that need filling too.

Review each record to make sure you didn’t miss a payment or forget to log an expense.

Before filing, create an electronic record. This way, all your records are stored on a hard drive in one (fireproof) place.

2. Record All Expenses

Who do you owe? Review your expenses and pay for any work already completed. Double check each expense was credited from the correct account.

Be sure the expense is categorized also. This stage is a great time to compile all mileage records and have it ready for your CPA.

If you have a home office, you can also create a list of 2017 expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, maintenance, and office supplies.

3. Record All Income

Who owes you? Equally important, it’s time to chase after any outstanding payments.

You should have a list of any unpaid invoices or invoices which haven’t been sent. Try to collect payments so you can start 2018 with a clean slate.

4. Reconcile Your Accounts

Ensure all transactions are accounted for, and your books show the correct beginning and ending balances.

Even for the most diligent, errors do happen. Take a few moments to review the whole year, even if you reconciled on a monthly basis. Most accounting softwares, like Quickbooks, have a reconciliation feature that makes the process painless.

5. File and Pay Your Business Taxes

Do you have employees? Or sell a product? If so, paying payroll and sales taxes is one of the more important responsibilities you have in your business.

A payroll service, accountant, or bookkeeper makes the process fairly automatic. But, you want to double check it was done — and done correctly.    

6. Review Payments to Contractors

Do you have a W-9 on file for each contractor? If not, request one to be completed before your contract ends or the end of the year. You don’t want to spend the first few months of 2018 trying to hunt down a contractor’s information.

7. Review Your Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss Report

Your balance sheets show the health of your business — assets, liabilities, and equity. Understanding this framework will help you plan for the new year and make smarter financial decisions.

The Profit & Loss Report is useful (and sometimes required) for creating some cost-cutting strategies. Which expenses turned out to be frivolous? Which ones can be eliminated next year?