Bookkeeping For Dummies
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A great bookkeeper cares that the financial statements make sense and gets upset when something doesn’t balance or stuff goes missing. They also feel responsible when it comes to getting customers to pay on time. A good bookkeeper, in other words, is worth their weight in gold.

This Cheat Sheet summarizes what you need to know to be an excellent bookkeeper.

Bookkeeping checklist

This step-by-step bookkeeping checklist should help you sleep easy at night knowing that you have done what you needed to do to get your books in tip-top shape.

  1. Ensure you set up bank feeds for every account.

  2. At least once a month, reconcile every bank account against bank statements.

  3. Look for pre-dated or future-dated transactions.

  4. Eat a family bar of chocolate in one sitting (oh yes, and clean up the debtors list).

  5. Sweep through the creditors list.

  6. Check tax codes on all transactions.

  7. Reconcile your GST liability accounts.

  8. Give inventory the once over.

  9. Reconcile all payroll liability accounts.

  10. Scan transaction reports for weird stuff or mistakes.

  11. Read through the financials and check they make sense.

Understanding account types

Understanding the difference between account types is the secret to coding transactions correctly. Here’s the cheat’s guide to understanding the difference between assets and liabilities, equity and income, bananas and apples.

  • Current asset: Anything that a business owns that can realistically be converted into cash within the next 12 months.

  • Non-current asset:A physical asset such as office equipment, land, buildings, computers or motor vehicles, that isn’t expected to be converted into cash within the next 12 months.

  • Current liability:An amount owed by the business that is due within the next 12 months, including scary stuff such as credit cards.

  • Non-current liability: Anything you owe that isn’t due to be paid out within the next 12 months, such as hire purchase debts or bank loans.

  • Equity:The ‘interest’ that shareholders or an owner has in the business, including both capital contributed and the profit or loss built up over time.

  • Income:Money generated from sales to customers or returns on investments.

  • Cost of sales:What it costs in raw materials, supplies or production labour to make the goods that you sell (also called cost of goods sold or variable expenses).

  • Expenses:The day-to-day running costs of your business, including things like advertising, bank charges, computer consumables, diamond rings, electricity, motor vehicle expenses, rent, telephone expenses and wages. (Just kidding about the diamonds.) Expenses are sometimes also called fixed expenses or overheads.

Stay up to date to meet tax deadlines

Forget birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas and instead, punctuate your diary with a list of tax deadlines. Here’s a summary of the deadlines that every Australian bookkeeper needs to know about in order to stay out of trouble.

Australian Bookkeeping Deadlines
Business Activity Statements Monthly payments: 21 days after the end of each month.
Quarterly payments: 28 days after the end of each quarter, except
for the December quarter, where the deadline is February 28
Payment ummaries July 14
Annual withholding declaration August 14
Superannuation 28 days after the end of each month or quarter, depending on
the fund
PAYG withholding tax 21 days after the end of the month for monthly payments, or 28
days after the end of the quarter for quarterly payments
Valentine’s Day February 14. Remember chocolates, red wine and roses or
terrible consequences may ensue
New Zealand Bookkeeping Deadlines
GST return 28 days after the end of each reporting period, with the
exception of the November period, when the deadline is 15 January,
and the March period, when the deadline is 7 May
PAYE tax and KiwiSaver 20 days after the end of each month

Know your debits from your credits

Understanding debits and credits is a tricky business. (How did accountants get to be so warped, you may wonder?) Don’t sweat, with this table you can get your debits and credits spot on, every time.

Account Type To increase this account To decrease this account
Asset Debit Credit
Liability Credit Debit
Equity Credit Debit
Income Debit Credit
Expenses Debit Credit

What's included in a financial statement

With a bit of practice, understanding financial statements is easy. Think of your Balance Sheet reports as a set of before-and-after photos, with your Profit & Loss report telling the story of what happened in between.

  • Balance Sheet report: Provides a snapshot of the value of assets, liabilities and equity at any point in time

  • Profit & Loss report: Summarises income, expense and net profit over a specified period of time

  • Statement of Cash Flow: Examines the cash flows in and out of a business

  • Trial Balance report: Lists the debit and credit balances of all general ledger accounts at any point in time

Prevent employee fraud with smart business practices

How do you prevent employee fraud in the workplace, and how can you be sure that nobody has their hand in the till? Like double cream and crash diets, keep bookkeeping tasks and the handling of cash or business assets completely separate. This includes

  • Authorising online transactions via internet banking

  • Working on a cash register and taking cash

  • Receiving payments from customers

  • Balancing cash registers at the end of the day

  • Accessing assets, such as business inventory

Calculate GST in the blink of an eye

Even with a calculator close to hand, a few shortcuts to help you calculate Goods and Services Tax (GST) are real handy. The whole business of dividing by 11 or multiplying by 0.15 can get very ugly indeed.

Australia New Zealand
To calculate how much GST to add Multiply by 0.1 Multiply by 0.15
To add GST to arrive at a total price Multiply by 1.1 Multiply by 1.15
To calculate how much GST is included in a price Divide by 11 Multiply by 3 and then divide by 23
To calculate how much the price was before GST Divide by 1.1 Divide by 1.15

Register as a BAS agent in Australia

In Australia, if you’re a contract bookkeeper providing BAS services, then you must register as a BAS agent. The penalty for providing BAS services without registering ranges from a not insignificant $43,000 for an individual to a whopping $212,500 for a body corporate.

  • A BAS service includes any bookkeeping activity related to GST or PAYG, including configuring tax codes in accounting software, coding tax invoices, generating employee payment summaries or preparing Business Activity Statements

  • You don’t have to register as a BAS Agent if you’re an employee receiving wages or you only do basic bookkeeping data entry based on explicit instructions provided by the client or by their tax agent.

  • For details about registering as a BAS Agent page, visit the Tax Practitioners Board website.

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