Data Security: Individuals & Small Business

CPA firms go through a lot of work to try and keep your data safe, obviously no system is perfect, but it is constantly a focus point in our industry:  by the IRS, our professional liability carriers, and in our continuing professional education.   As an industry we are doing better and working hard to continue that improvement.

However, one of the things that I have noticed over the years is how often my clients need to be reminded of how careful they should be with their own information.  Most of my clients aren’t hit with the myriad of reminders that I am and forget that they  hold vendor’s tax ID and account numbers, employee’s Social Security numbers, and customer’s credit card information in addition to their own business records.

So here are a few tips to get you started and a link to some more security resources put out by the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

  1. Have a plan: Know what data you need safe and who is responsible for it and deliberately create practices (and/or policies) to keep the plan healthy.
  2. Educate employees and business owners:  Often times failure in terms of data security is a result of human error, downloading software with malware, stagnate passwords, computers left unlocked, information put in shared folders with the wrong permissions, etc.  Simple reminders and a little bit of education can go a long way to help close those holes.
  3. Keep software updated:   Updated security software is critical, but holes in old or outdated software can be a potential vulnerability.  Think about your website, e-commerce platforms, financial management software, etc.
  4. Backup your data:  This one has hit more than one of my clients.  Make sure you have multiple backups with at least one kept in a separate location.  Not only can hardware or software failure create a problem, but if some ransomware is demanding $10,000 to get back your accounting records or your main computer goes missing, how nice would it be to just restore your data from your latest backup?
  5. WiFi:  Sounds simple enough, but password protect your router and networks, and don’t share your internal WiFi password that allows network access with external users.
  6. Use a VPN:  If you are accessing company data through a public network, or outside location, use a VPN to keep your traffic and activity encrypted.
  7. Don’t forget your paper files:  A lot of data still sits in many of my client’s offices on paper.  Lock up the important stuff!
  8. Think about security systems:  Think about installing security systems or cameras.  Camera’s and security systems that you can install and manage yourself are getting better and more affordable.
  9. Don’t e-mail unencrypted sensitive data:  Use a different, secure method for getting sensitive data to the people who need it!
  10. Change your passwords periodically:  Just endure the frustration and do it.

SEC Adopts Crowdfunding Rules

The crowdfunding movement in the United States has largely  been a system of pre-sales brand new or young companies can use get a product to market or prove they are worth someone’s venture capital.  It will be great to see some new crowdfunding structures develop that involve some equity and ownership.

This article from the Journal of Accountancy give some details on how the system will work.

 

CANCELLED – 30 Minute FREE Webinar – November 17, 2015 – 7:00 PM

CANCELLED

With so many options out there how do you choose an accounting software or system that fits your needs?

This FREE webinar attempts to answer that question. We’ll run through some of the best options out there right now, each option’s pros and cons, and which typically is the best option for your business type.

We are going to look at:

-QuickBooks Pro (Desktop Version for Mac & PC)
-Sage 50 (Desktop Version – PC)
-QuickBooks Online
-XERO
-Online bookkeeping services like Bench
-Local bookkeeping services.

We will also address industry specific packages (i.e. 17 Hats for Photographers) and give you some food for thought regarding those systems. We’ll compare them to each other and to your shoebox, notepad, or Excel file to see which is the best fit.

Attendance is limited to 50 attendees.

The webinar will be presented using Skype for Business.

Please e-email terry@mensonidescpa.com with the subject “webinar registration” and you’ll be sent a meeting link within 24 hours.

Photographer’s Accounting Workshop – January 16, 2016 8 AM – 5 PM

Register here!

This workshop is going to be a hands on, bring your computer, bring your bank statements, and bring your shoebox and walk out with reports that mean something for the 2015 year.  Reports you can hand to your tax preparer, reports you can use to plan for 2016, and reports that let you know how your business is working.

For each section, we are going to spend few minutes going over the “how-to” and “why”, and then we are going to dive into getting that information into QuickBooks for Mac on YOUR system.

This first course is going to be focused on QuickBooks for Mac users (or future users).  Contact me if you are using a different accounting solution (QuickBooks, Xero, QuickBooks Online, Bench.co, 17 Hats, etc.) and are looking for advice or assistance.

Workshop Summary:

  • 8 Hour On Location Workshop designed to be workshop environment where you work through getting YOUR information into QuickBooks for Mac.
  • Location:  The Classroom Collective‘s studio space in Tacoma, WA
  • Class Time:  8 AM – 5 PM
  • Registration is limited to 12 attendees.
  • Breakfast pastries, coffee, and beverages will be provided.
Course Outline:

8:00 AM – 8:45 AM: Setting Up Your Company

  • Loading Company information
  • Setting Up Your Chart of Accounts
  • Items

8:45 AM – 9:45 AM: Making Money

  • Deposits
  • Invoicing
  • Sales Receipts
  • Sales Tax

9:45 AM – 10:00 AM: Break

10:00 AM – 11:45 AM Spending Money

  • Writing Checks
  • Accounts Payable (Should You Use It?)
  • Categorizing Expenditures

11:45 AM – 12:45 PM: Lunch

12:45 PM – 1:45 PM: Making Sure You Captured It All

  • Bank Reconciliations
  • Report Review

1:45 PM – 2:30 PM: How am I doing?

  • Basic Business Reports
  • Reports for Taxes
  • Intro to Customization

2:30 PM – 2:45 PM: Break

2:45 PM – 4:00 PM: Planning

  • Building a Budget
  • Tracking my Progress

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Cleanup Hour

5:20 PM – 6:20 PM: Taxes Bonus Session

Pre-requisites:

  • Computer you can bring on location
  • QuickBooks for Mac (2013 or later)
  • Minimum one full months of business operation with dedicated business bank account
  • I’ll do my best to get be as discrete as possible while still answering questions, but there is no guarantee of absolute privacy.  It’s a workshop environment so an understanding that other attendees may here/see some details of your business finances during discussion or due to physical proximity is necessary.
  • This course is not directed at inventory based businesses and will not contain inventory related content.
  • Have a business primarily based in Washington State.
  • Some data gathering prior to the course date (course instructor will contact you after registration)

Bonus Sessions (included in registration):

  • An optional individual 15 minute online meeting to get your software installed and running before the class starts.
  • An optional 1 hour “bonus” Q&A session on taxes after the regular class ends on January 16th.

Registration is non-refundable, but can be transferred to a future course if notice is received 14 days prior to class date.

Register here!

What is the Small Business Administration?

Justin Farmer,  over at Private Practice Transitions has been doing a great series of articles on his blog.  I wanted to highlight a couple of those here because they summarize a couple topics my clients frequently ask me about.

The first two I’ll share deal with the SBA and SBA lending:

What is the Small Business Administration (SBA)

5 Steps to Secure SBA Financing

Photography Tax Guide

The Washington State Department of Revenue has published a Photography Tax Guide.  It answers a number of the questions I get on a regular basis and is a good resource for photographers when they have a question.

It can be accessed here.

Contact me if you have questions that go beyond the information covered in the guide or just need some clarification.