What is a Sole Proprietorship?

sole proprietorship
Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the business or an individual who has decided not to carry his business as a separate legal entity, such as a corporation, partnership or limited liability company. This kind of business is not a separate entity. Any time a person regularly provides services for a fee, sells things at a flea market or engage in any business activity whose primary purpose is to make a profit, that person is a sole proprietor.

As the sold proprietor of a business, you have unlimited liability, meaning that if your business can’t pay all it liabilities, the creditors to whom your business owes money can come after your personal assets. Many part-time entrepreneurs may not know this, but it’s an enormous financial risk. If they are sued or can’t pay their bills, they are personally liable for the business’s liabilities.

A sole proprietorship has no other owners to prepare financial statements for, but the proprietor should still prepare these statements to know how his business is doing. Banks usually require financial statements from sole proprietors who apply for loans. A partnership needs to maintain a separate capital or ownership account for each partners. The total profit of the firm is allocated into these capital accounts, as spelled out in the partnership agreement. Although sole proprietors don’t have separate invested capital from retained earnings like corporations do, they still need to keep these two separate accounts for owners’ equity – not only to track the business, but for the benefit of any future buyers of the business.

What is a Corporation?

corporation

What is a Corporation?

Most businesses start out as a small company, owned by one person or by a partnership. The most common type of business when there are multiple owners is a corporation. The law sees them as real, live person. Like an adult, it is treated as a distinct and independent individual who has rights and responsibilities. A corporation’s “birth certificate” is the legal form that is filed where it is created, or incorporated. It must have a legal name, just like a person.

A corporation is separate from its owners. It’s responsible for its own debts. The bank can’t come after the stockholders if it goes bankrupt. It issues ownership share to persons who invest money in the business. These ownership shares are documented by stock certificates, which state the name of the owner and how many shares are owned. The corporation has to keep a register, or list, of how many shares everyone owns. Owners are called stockholders because they own shares of stock. One share of stock is one unit of ownership; how much one share is worth depends on the total number of shares that the business issues. the more shares a business issues, the smaller the percentage of total owners’ equity each share represents.

Stock shares come in different classes of stock. Preferred stockholders are promised a certain amount of cash dividends each year. Common stockholders have the most risk. If a corporation ends up in financial trouble, it’s required to pay off its liabilities first. If any money is left over, then that money goes first to the preferred stockholders. If anything is left over after that, then that money is distributed to the common stockholders.

The word “corporation” derives from corpus, the Latin word for body, or a “body of people”. By the time of Justinian (reigned 527–565), Roman law recognized a range of corporate entities under the names universitas, corpus or collegium. These included the state itself (the Populus Romanus), municipalities, and such private associations as sponsors of a religious cult, burial clubs, political groups, and guilds of craftsmen or traders. Such bodies commonly had the right to own property and make contracts, to receive gifts and legacies, to sue and be sued, and, in general, to perform legal acts through representatives. Private associations were granted designated privileges and liberties by the emperor.

Forensic Accounting

forensic accounting

Forensic Accounting

Forensic accounting is the practice of utilizing accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to assist in legal matters. It encompasses two main areas – litigation support, investigation, and dispute resolution. Litigation support represents the factual presentation of economic issues related to existing or pending litigation. In this capacity, the forensic accounting professional quantifies damages sustained by parties involved in legal disputes and can assist in resolving disputes, even before they reach the courtroom. If a dispute reaches the courtroom, the forensic accountant may testify as an expert witness.

Investigation is the act of determining whether criminal matters such as employee theft, securities fraud (including falsification of financial statements), identity theft, and insurance fraud have occurred. As part of the forensic accountant’s work, he or she may recommend actions that can be taken to minimize future risk of loss. Investigation may also occur in civil matters. For example, the forensic accountant may search for hidden assets in divorce cases.

Forensic accounting involves looking beyond the numbers and grasping the substance of situations. It’s more than accounting…more than detective work…it’s a combination that will be in demand for as long as human nature exists. Who wouldn’t want a career that offers such stability, excitement, and financial rewards?

In short, forensic accounting requires the most important quality a person can possess: the ability to think. Far from being an ability that is specific to success in any particular field, developing the ability to think enhances a person’s chances of success in life, thus increasing a person’s worth in today’s society.

Depreciation

depreciation

Depreciation

It’s a term we hear about, but don’t really understand. It’s an essential component of accounting. It’s is an expense that’s recorded at the same time and in the same period as other accounts. Long-term operating assets that are not held for sale in the course of business are called fixed assets. Fixed assets include buildings, machinery, office equipment, vehicles, computers and other equipment. It can also include items such as shelves and cabinets. It refers to spreading out the cost of a fixed asset over the years of its useful life to a business, instead of charging the entire cost to expense in the year the asset was purchased. That way, each year that the equipment or asset is used bears a share of the total cost. As an example, cars and trucks are typically depreciated over five years. The idea is to charge a fraction of the total cost to depreciation expense during each of the five years, rather than just the first year.

It applies only to fixed assets that you actually buy, not those you rent or lease. It is a real expense, but not necessarily a cash outlay expense in the year it’s recorded. The cash outlay does actually occur when the fixed asset is acquired, but is recorded over a period of time.

It is different from other expenses. It is deducted from sales revenue to determine profit, but the expense recorded in a reporting period doesn’t require any true cash outlay during that period. The expense is that portion of the total cost of a business’s fixed assets that is allocated to the period to record the cost of using the assets during period. The higher the total cost of a business’s fixed assets, then the higher its depreciation expense.

Businesses depreciate long-term assets for both tax and accounting purpose. The former affects the balance sheet of a business or entity, and the latter affects the net income that they report. Generally the cost is allocated, as depreciation expense, among the periods in which the asset is expected to be used. This expense is recognized by businesses for financial reporting and tax purposes. Methods of computing it, and the periods over which assets are depreciated, may vary between asset types within the same business and may vary for tax purposes. These may be specified by law or accounting standards, which may vary by country. There are several standard methods of computing depreciation expense, including fixed percentage, straight line, and declining balance methods.

The Latest About Depreciation Reporting

depreciation reporting

Depreciation Reporting

In an accountant’s reporting systems, depreciation reporting of a business’s fixed assets such as its buildings, equipment, computers, etc. is not recorded as a cash outlay. When an accountant measures profit on the accrual basis of accounting, he or she counts depreciation as an expense. Buildings, machinery, tools, vehicles and furniture all have a limited useful life. All fixed assets, except for actual land, have a limited lifetime of usefulness to a business. Depreciation is the method of accounting that allocates the total cost of fixed assets to each year of their use in helping the business generate revenue.

Depreciation Reporting – Part of the total sales revenue of a business includes recover of cost invested in its fixed assets. In a real sense a business sells some of its fixed assets in the sales prices that it charges it customers. For example, when you go to a grocery store, a small portion of the price you pay for eggs or bread goes toward the cost of the buildings, the machinery, bread ovens, etc. Each reporting period, a business recoups part of the cost invested in its fixed assets.

Depreciation Reporting – It’s not enough for the accountant to add back depreciation for the year to bottom-line profit. The changes in other assets, as well as the changes in liabilities, also affect cash flow from profit. The competent accountant will factor in all the changes that determine cash flow from profit. Depreciation is only one of many adjustments to the net income of a business to determine cash flow from operating activities. Amortization of intangible assets is another expense that is recorded against a business’s assets for year. It’s different in that it doesn’t require cash outlay in the year being charged with the expense. That occurred when the business invested in those tangible assets.

About Inventory and Expenses

inventory

Inventory and Expenses

These are usually the largest current asset of a business that sells products. If the  account is greater at the end of the period than at the start of the reporting period, the amount the business actually paid in cash for that inventory is more than what the business recorded as its cost of good sold expense. When that occurs, the accountant deducts the inventory increase from net income for determining cash flow from profit.

Prepaid expenses asset account works in much the same way as the change in inventory and accounts receivable accounts. However, changes in prepaid expenses are usually much smaller than changes in those other two asset accounts.

The beginning balance of prepaid expenses is charged to expense in the current year, but the cash was actually paid out last year. this period, the business pays cash for next period’s prepaid expenses, which affects this period’s cash flow, but doesn’t affect net income until the next period. Simple, right?

As a business grows, it needs to increase its prepaid expenses for such things as fire insurance premiums, which have to be paid in advance of the insurance coverage, and its stocks of office supplies. Increases in accounts receivable, inventory and prepaid expenses are the cash flow price a business has to pay for growth. Rarely do you find a business that can increase its sales revenue without increasing these assets.

The lagging behind effect of cash flow is the price of business growth. Managers and investors need to understand that increasing sales without increasing accounts receivable isn’t a realistic scenario for growth. In the real business world, you generally can’t enjoy growth in revenue without incurring additional expenses.

Revenue and Receivables in Accounting Systems

revenue and receivables

Revenue and Receivables

In most businesses, what drives the balance sheet are sales and expenses. In other words, they cause the assets and liabilities in a business. One of the more complicated accounting items are the accounts receivable. As a hypothetical situation, imagine a business that offers all its customers a 30-day credit period, which is fairly common in transactions between businesses, (not transactions between a business and individual consumers).

Revenue and Receivables – An accounts receivable asset shows how much money customers who bought products on credit still owe the business. It’s a promise of case that the business will receive. Basically, accounts receivable is the amount of uncollected sales revenue at the end of the accounting period. Cash does not increase until the business actually collects this money from its business customers. However, the amount of money in accounts receivable is included in the total sales revenue for that same period. The business did make the sales, even if it hasn’t acquired all the money from the sales yet. Sales revenue, then isn’t equal to the amount of cash that the business accumulated.

Revenue and Receivables – To get actual cash flow, the accountant must subtract the amount of credit sales not collected from the sales revenue in cash. Then add in the amount of cash that was collected for the credit sales that were made in the preceding reporting period. If the amount of credit sales a business made during the reporting period is greater than what was collected from customers, then the accounts receivable account increased over the period and the business has to subtract from net income that difference.

Revenue and Receivables – If the amount they collected during the reporting period is greater than the credit sales made, then the accounts receivable decreased over the reporting period, and the accountant needs to add to net income that difference between the receivables at the beginning of the reporting period and the receivables at the end of the same period.

Looking at the Balance Sheet

balance sheet

Balance Sheet

A quick picture of the financial condition of a business at a specific period in time. The activities of a business fall into two separate groups that are reported by an accountant. They are profit-making activities, which includes sales and expenses. This can also be referred to as operating activities. There are also financing and investing activities that include securing money from debt and equity sources of capital, returning capital to these sources, making distributions from profit to the owners, making investments in assets and eventually disposing of the assets.

Profit making activities are reported in the income statement; financing and investing activities are found in the statement of cash flows. In other words, two different financial statements are prepared for the two different types of transactions. The statement of cash flows also reports the cash increase or decrease from profit during the year as opposed to the amount of profit that is reported in the income statement.

It is different from the income and cash flow statements which report, as it says, income of cash and outgoing cash. It represents the balances, or amounts, or a company’s assets, liabilities and owners’ equity at an instant in time. The word balance has different meanings at different times. As it’s used in the term balance sheet, it refers to the balance of the two opposite sides of a business, total assets on one side and total liabilities on the other. However, the balance of an account, such as the asset, liability, revenue and expense accounts, refers to the amount in the account after recording increases and decreases in the account, just like the balance sheet in your checking account. Accountants can prepare a balance sheet any time that a manager requests it. But they’re generally prepared at the end of each month, quarter and year. It’s always prepared at the close of business on the last day of the profit period.

Another way to look at the  equation is that total assets equals liabilities plus owner’s equity. Looking at the equation in this way shows how assets were financed: either by borrowing money (liability) or by using the owner’s money (owner’s or shareholders’ equity). They are usually presented with assets in one section and liabilities and net worth in the other section with the two sections “balancing”.

A business operating entirely in cash can measure its profits by withdrawing the entire bank balance at the end of the period, plus any cash in hand. However, many businesses are not paid immediately; they build up inventories of goods and they acquire buildings and equipment. In other words: businesses have assets and so they cannot, even if they want to, immediately turn these into cash at the end of each period. Often, these businesses owe money to suppliers and to tax authorities, and the proprietors do not withdraw all their original capital and profits at the end of each period. In other words, businesses also have liabilities.

Introducing the terms Gains and Losses

gains and losses

Gains and Losses

It would probably be ideal if business and life were as simple as producing goods, selling them and recording the profits. But there are often circumstances that disrupt the cycle, and it’s part of the accountants job to report these as well. Changes in the business climate, or cost of goods or any number of things can lead to exceptional or extraordinary gains and losses in a business. Some things that can alter the income statement can include downsizing or restructuring the business. This used to be a rare thing in the business environment, but is now fairly commonplace. Usually it’s done to offset losses in other areas and to decrease the cost of employees’ salaries and benefits. However, there are costs involved with this as well, such as severance pay, outplacement services, and retirement costs.

Gains and Losses – In other circumstances, a business might decide to discontinue certain product lines. Western Union, for example, recently delivered its very last telegram. The nature of communication has changed so drastically, with email, cell phones and other forms, that telegrams have been rendered obsolete. When you no longer sell enough of a product at a high enough profit to make the costs of manufacturing it worthwhile, then it’s time to change your product mix.

Gains and Losses – Lawsuits and other legal actions can cause extraordinary losses or gains as well. If you win damages in a lawsuit against others, then you’ve incurred an extraordinary gain. Likewise if your own legal fees and damages or fines are excessive, then these can significantly impact the income statement.

Occasionally a business will change accounting methods or need to correct any errors that had been made in previous financial reports. Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures (GAAP) require that businesses make any one-time losses or gains very visible in their income statement.

What you need to know about Assets and Liabilities

assets and liabilities

Assets and Liabilities

Making a profit in a business is derived from several different areas. It can get a little complicated because just as in our personal lives, business is run on credit as well. Many businesses sell their products to their customers on credit. Accountants use an asset account called accounts receivable to record the total amount owed to the business by its customers who haven’t paid the balance in full yet. Much of the time, a business hasn’t collected its receivables in full by the end of the fiscal year, especially for such credit sales that could be transacted near the end of the accounting period.

Assets and Liabilities – The accountant records the sales revenue and the cost of goods sold for these sales in the year in which the sales were made and the products delivered to the customer. This is called accrual based accounting, which records revenue when sales are made and records expenses when they’re incurred as well. When sales are made on credit, the accounts receivable asset account is increased. When cash is received from the customer, then the cash account is increased and the accounts receivable account is decreased.

Assets and Liabilities – The cost of goods sold is one of the major expenses of businesses that sell goods, products or services. Even a service involves expenses. It means exactly what it says in that it’s the cost that a business pays for the products it sells to customers. A business makes its profit by selling its products at prices high enough to cover the cost of producing them, the costs of running the business, the interest on any money they’ve borrowed and income taxes, with money left over for profit.

Assets and Liabilities – When the business acquires products, the cost of them goes into what’s called an inventory asset account. The cost is deducted from the cash account, or added to the accounts payable liability account, depending on whether the business has paid with cash or credit.