Getting your financial house in order.
If you’ve decided it’s time to get serious about your business finances by adding specialized financial software programs for recordkeeping and tax preparation, congratulations. Obviously, growing your business with a no-nonsense, professional approach is the only way to go.
Get from here to there with the following sampling of accounting programs and tax preparation software, which will enable you to analyze and forecast your financial health with powerful clarity while making sure “Uncle Sammy” doesn’t dig too deeply into your profits.
Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008 (Free)
Offered at an unbeatable price, this may be the only accounting program many personal trainers will ever need. Essentially, if you’re a small shop with just yourself or a few employees, you may be able to get along just fine with Accounting Express.
Part of the MS Office family, this basic accounting program has the look and feel of other programs in the Office suite and responds to the same command structure. You’ll like having the capability to customize basic forms such as your customer and vendor records, and you’ll appreciate that invoices can be modified in MS Word.
In addition, all the data you enter can be shared across all the programs available in MS Office, including Outlook and Business Contact Manager. That means you won’t need to double- or even triple-input your business data. The program also features 20 reports to aid you in basic financial planning.
Intuit QuickBooks Premier 2008 ($449.95)
This program is pretty much the gold standard of small business accounting programs, and with good reason. Intuit has been fine-tuning the features of QuickBooks for years, has worked out all the bugs on the basics, and is now in the business of simply adding value to a proven winner.
One of the major improvements to the software with this latest release is QuickBooks Coach, a help window that can be pasted permanently in the upper right-hand corner and stands at the ready to help novices get up to speed on the program. Video tutorials to accomplish specific tasks are just a click away, as are written explanations of step-by-step instructions.
The program also integrates with Outlook, Outlook Express and Windows Mail, as well as Google Maps.
MYOB Business Premier Accounting 2008 ($299.00)
If you’re looking for a comparable, but less expensive, alternative to QuickBooks, MYOB’s software may be your ticket. Less famous than its competitor, MYOB Accounting nevertheless has a long lineage that goes back to the early 1990s. It also has had ample time to work through the glitches of its earlier offerings.
As with QuickBooks, one of MYOB’s biggest improvements in this latest iteration is its enhanced “Help” section. There’s a new table of contents that can be clicked on from within any help topic, which is very handy. And help searches you do on specific concepts have become more targeted.
Other new features in MYOB 2008 include the ability to import and preview payroll, as well as easy error correction while reconciling bank records. Plus, if you’re migrating from QuickBooks, the program will import and convert your QuickBooks data on the fly with no problems.
MYOB has spent some time ensuring that the program interfaces well with other popular programs. Specifically, MYOB currently integrates with MS Outlook 2000–2003, and can easily export reports to MS Office 2007.
H&R Block TaxCut Home & Business ($89.95 Federal and State)
Ah, tax time. Is there a more wonderful time of year? Granted, TaxCut may not inspire you to do cartwheels come April 15, but it will get the job done. Specifically, you will be thankful for the thoroughness of this tax preparation software, its easy-to-understand format and its special attention to detail that does everything possible to prevent the IRS from knocking on your door with an audit!
In a phrase, TaxCut was created for people who hate forms and math and who have much better things to do. Instead of working out your financial exploits with a stubby number-two pencil, TaxCut simplifies the process with a question-and-answer format. You don’t need to remember where to put things nor what deductions to take, and you don’t need to keep up with the latest tax law changes. Instead, TaxCut does all of that for you, analyzing your financial situation and jumping in with the appropriate deductions, tax incentives and other breaks based on the way you answer its questions. Plus, once you’re done, you can “what-if” TaxCut all you like, changing any and all numbers on the completed forms to project what your taxes might be like next year if you do things differently.
Even if you have an accountant do your taxes, you may want to do a trial run with TaxCut anyway. While your accountant may be knowledgeable about almost any deduction you can take this year, TaxCut, backed by all the top accountants at H&R Block, knows them all and won’t miss a beat.
Intuit TurboTax Home & Business ($89.95 Federal & State)
This is the other bellwether tax preparation software on the market and generally matches TaxCut point for point. Some users believe TaxCut’s format is a bit more straightforward than TurboTax; you’ll want to decide that for yourself.
Just like TaxCut, TurboTax relieves the anxiety of doing taxes by simplifying the process in a question-and-answer format in which it deduces the best tax-filing strategy for you based on the answers and numbers you input. The program also pares down your preparation time by enabling you to eliminate in one fell swoop whole groups of questions that don’t apply to you or your business.
Other specific features this program shares with TaxCut are audit defense, direct deposit of your refund into your checking or savings account, a tax library, medical expenses advice and optional electronic filing. On a final note, both H&R Block and Intuit offer less expensive, consumer versions of their tax software. Either one may work fine for you and may cut down on your tax-filing time if your personal training business has no employees and is a sole proprietorship.
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