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What to do when your company books are a mess

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Alex, Staff Writer

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Your company books should show an accurate and up to date picture of where your business finances are at. All expenditure and incomings are expected to be listed so that your accountant can process all of the information when it comes to filing your taxes. The information may also be required for a variety of purposes from securing a business loan, getting investors on board or if requested by the government for legal purposes.

Bookkeeping is something that needs to be done regularly by someone in the know. Though, all too often the realities of running a business mean your bookkeeping might not be getting the attention it deserves. You might have also had a surprising response from your accountant about the poor condition of your books when you assumed everything was above board.

Never fear as now is the time to put your books right. Here is our top advice on what to do when your company books are a mess to tell you more. 

Signs your books need professional help

  • Inconsistency in recording financial activity

  • Your accountant is having difficulty processing what you’ve submitted to them

  • Not reconciling (checking your books against your bank statements)

  • You tried to do your own books with no experience or understanding of what’s required

  • You hired a less experienced bookkeeper or accountant

  • You don’t know how much your business is earning or spending each month

  • You’d rather outsource your books to free up your spare time

  • Personal and business accounts haven’t been separated

  • Unauthorised transactions out of your business

  • Bank fees or penalties

  • Excessive business expenses

Identify the problem

Problems with books can be a small oversight or errors so terrible none of what’s been recorded is viable. It’s not always a complete loss, but unless you know what you’re dealing with you or any other financial professional will be unable to help. 

Take the time to go over your books in a place where you are free from distraction so you can begin to pinpoint where the errors started happening. 

The idea is to identify how far back you need to go in order to sort the problem out. Make a note of your findings including key dates so you can create an action plan. The stress will start to melt away once you know what needs fixing. 

Stop any further damage

As the wheels of your business continue to turn, all transactions should continue to be recorded on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. If you’re trying to sort out a messy account, it’s easy to forget the bookkeeping process needs to continue. 

The best way to practice damage limitation is to start afresh with a new bookkeeping system. It’s possible to use a generic bookkeeping system or one that is specific to your industry. As an example, restaurant bookkeeping can show food and beverage cost analysis, inventory management, total monthly running costs etc. Or, someone in the entertainment industry may need to note down expenditure relating to travel, equipment purchase, venue hire, ticket sales etc. 

Keep everyone in the loop

It’s not ideal to have a bookkeeping nightmare on your hands, though things can easily be made worse if you don’t inform your accountant or the government, especially if you expect your tax to be late as a result. 

Informing the relevant people about any issues isn’t going to make them go away. However, it will show you are cooperating and trying to bring a resolution to the situation. It may also be possible to set up a payment plan with the government if you’re going to struggle to pay your tax in full on time. 

Hire a Bookkeeper

Nobody gets everything right all the time. In the case of bookkeeping, few people understand numbers to the level required to successfully record all the required information. Now you’ve taken steps to put things right, the best thing you can do is use the experience as a learning curve. One of the best ways to ensure you’ll never face hassle with your books again is to hire a bookkeeper. 

In fact, bookkeepers even offer a service called rescue bookkeeping. As the name suggests, it’s all about bringing balance back to your books, creating a more methodical process from herein that will also keep your bank, suppliers, clients, accountants and the government a lot happier too. 

Bookkeepers near me

If you are new to bookkeeping, or if your existing books aren’t looking too healthy, then don’t delay in seeking the advice of a professional bookkeeper. Wherever you’re based in Australia, you can find bookkeepers near you on Bark.

To get started, simply enter your location on our bookkeeping page. Tell us what type of business you have and your general requirements for bookkeeping. From there, we’ll match you to the best local professionals so you can get those books of yours looking ship-shape in no time.

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