5 Habits Of Highly Effective Accountants

Feeling tired at work? Can’t seem to get things done by the end of the day despite spending most of your time on your desk? Are you constantly trying to beat deadlines and can’t understand why you’re always behind?

The secret to being productive at work isn’t burying yourself in work or spending more than 8 hours at the office. All you need to do is master a few accounting concepts, which most people disregard that will help you become more effective at what you do. Here are 5 of them:

Take down notes

Taking down notes is one of the best ways to retain information. Simply relying on your memory might not suffice unless you have  a photographic memory. Chances are, the idea or information you just learned will fly out of your mind even before you leave the room.

Having a pen and notebook handy will ensure you don’t forget anything. Jotting down information, according to Dr. Stephanie A. Burns, is an effective way of transferring new facts from short-term memory to long-term memory. According to her article, it’s a “means for stimulating or refreshing your memory of information you want to remember.”



Even Virgin’s Richard Branson stands by the magic of note-taking. In a LinkedIn article, he talked about how Virgin’s most successful companies sprouted from random moments–instances where team members took out their pen to write their ideas down.

He encourages everyone to get everything in writing, regardless of how big or small or complex your ideas are. You can use these to come up with measurable goals.

So how do you ensure taking down notes works to your advantage? Remember that simply writing ideas down won’t work because you need to refer back to them at a later time. But it’s very likely that you’re going to forget, especially if your notes are plain. This is why you have to utilise a certain method that will make your notes stand out:

  1. Use coloured markers
  2. Use different font sizes
  3. Use pictures and/or symbols
  4. Don’t just settle with linear writing

Schedule and stick to your calendar

Your calendar is one of two things that will help you become productive at work (the other being your to-do list). Your to-do list tells you what you need to accomplish while your calendar tells you when to complete these tasks.

Sticking to your calendar–religiously–will help you get more work done because it tells you not only when a certain item needs to be done but how much time you need to spend on a task. This will help you efficiently plan out your day. Additionally, you will be able to remove distractions because you are aware of the limited time you have in completing a certain task.

It is vital to have your day planned out well. Plan even your weekends. Make sure to plan way ahead. That way, you know exactly what you need to accomplish. Our CEO Nick Sinclair has mastered the art of scheduling and sticking to his calendar for improved productivity. You can .

Step out of your station for a few minutes

Let’s face it: most of you would love to take a break right at this moment but are scared of looking unproductive. Well, here’s the thing: there’s no reason to feel guilty about going on a break regardless of how long your to-do list is.

Taking a break can help you become more focused, productive, and eventually happier at work. It may seem counterintuitive for some but it really is essential in staying productive. In fact, there is a science to taking breaks. An article published by FastCompany.com said that going on breaks will help you:

  • Avoid getting bored
  • Retain information
  • Re-evaluate your goals

Should you feel guilty each time you step away from your computer? Definitely not. In fact, many employers encourage this. A survey conducted by Staples showed that despite employers encouraging their staff to go on breaks, 66% of employees feel guilty about doing so.

Not taking breaks doesn’t mean you become more productive. Here are some ways to help you squeeze in those down times between your hectic day:

  • Pomodoro method: this method created by Francesco Cirillo helps you avoid procrastination by working for 4 25-minute work periods (called pomodoro). Once the 100 minutes are finished, you then take a break for 15-20 minutes.
  • 90-minute work blocks : various scientific evidence point to the importance of “unplugging” to help you perform well. Several experts discovered that 90-minute work cycles work because the brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before it will need to take a rest.
  • Take two 15-minute breaks each day: studies have shown that sporadic breaks help us replenish our energy, improve productivity, and improve decision-making skills. Breaks help make us sharper and more creative.

What do you during your breaks? You can go for a quick walk, eat, drink coffee, draw, take a nap, talk to your office mates, meditate or listen to music.


The demands of the job can be too much especially during tax season and it wouldn’t be too surprising if you end up pushing yourself to the limit. One of the important habits every accountant needs to have is getting enough rest.

Just like taking breaks, some may think this is counterintuitive — it’s not.

When you rest, you allow your body to re-energise itself. To do more work, we need more energy. This is why you need to take naps and vacations. A study conducted at the University of California discovered that getting 60 to 90 minutes of nap time can significantly improve memory. Similarly, night shift air traffic controllers who get 40 minutes of shut eye performed a lot better on tests for vigilance and reaction time.

Vacations, meanwhile, are great for productivity. If short breaks help us become more productive, it follows that longer breaks will make us even more productive. It is, according to an article in TheAtlantic.com, beneficial in replenishing job performance.

Delegate to free up time

Delegating tasks is one good way to share with your subordinates. Usually, managers do this when the workload gets beyond his or her capacity. Allocating tasks helps free up time so you can focus on important areas of the business like planning and business analysis.

Entrusting certain tasks to your staff can also be a good sign of trust. You’re sending the message that you are confident in their abilities to accomplish things. More than that, delegating responsibilities can help you reduce the risk of burnout and boost your team’s morale.



Not sure how to do it well? Here are some tips:

  • Be clear on what you need your team to do
  • Describe how you’re going to evaluate your team’s performance
  • Give your team the authority necessary to complete the tasks
  • Create a system that will reward outstanding performance
  • Immediately address any problem that arise
  • Check your team’s work

Integrating these to your daily routine may take some time and it will take conscious effort but the payoffs are definitely going to be worth it.


Source: http://theoutsourcedaccountant.com

How to avoid these 13 common payroll mistakes

Staff will endure many obstacles and work along with management to find solutions to serious challenges in a business. But the moment there are problems with the payroll or delays in getting paid, even the most ‘loyal’ employee will down tools.

When it comes to running an effective payroll system there are many factors to consider, from the basic remuneration calculation, tax and compliance through to the management of people’s expectations and high levels of emotion when things go wrong. And things do go wrong from time to time – after all a payroll system is only as good as the quality of the information that gets entered into it.

In this article we are going to discuss the 13 most common mistakes that lead to problems, in the hope that being aware of these problems will assist management in preventing them from happening in the first place.

The 13 Common Mistakes

1. Salary Amount Incorrectly Stated

Never state a Nett Salary on a contract of employment.

When tax tables are amended, the employee does not derive any benefit from any reduction in the Tax Tables and as a result, a lower Basic Salary must be reported to the Department of Labour for Unemployment Benefits, as the Basic Salary has to drop to keep a Nett salary in place. Make sure the intention is properly worded in the contract and fully understood by all.

(This mistake ends up with Payroll but often made by the person finalising the contract of employment or HR. Forewarn them).

2. Basic Conditions of Employment Implications not Understood

Having no understanding of how the Basic Conditions of Employment Act impacts on the Payroll is a serious mistake and can lead to many issues, especially with matters such as Unpaid Leave, Termination Leave Payouts and Severance Pay calculations. An example is often during the notice period, the four weeks’ notice pay is incorrectly calculated as one full month’s salary. Make sure the implications of the BCEA is understood.

3. Tax Incentives Incorrectly Applied

Not applying, or incorrectly applying Employment Tax Incentives to the Payroll, could have substantial tax consequences for an employer. Ensure you speak to a knowledgeable source re this application.

4. Payroll Package Reliance

Thinking that a Payroll Package will do the ‘thinking’ for you when processing payroll transactions is one of the most common mistakes in a company. A Payroll package is just a computer program with certain rules and tables built into it. It is not capable of complex human thought and problem analysis and it is therefore imperative that a skilled human being verifies the results of its calculations. Make sure the line items are understood and what results they should yield. Inadvertently you could be increasing someone’s package.

5. Incorrect Benefits

Assigning incorrect income transactions to certain job titles can cause problems. For example giving a Tea Lady a Travel Allowance may seem ludicrous to a rational human being, but may make perfect sense to a rules driven Payroll system. Ensure you check rules and its application and relevance. Critical analysis and common sense should be applied.

6. Insufficient Paper Trail

Over reliance on a computer system is a trend that is on the increase everywhere. This could lead to an HR Department not ensuring that a detailed paper trail for each payroll transaction is available on a monthly basis which will lead to audit queries. Make sure for every employee transactions there is a record to support a defendable decision.

For instance:

  • When a person receives an increase / promotion or any change to Income, there must be supporting documents;
  • Any other income such as Overtime, Bonuses and Allowances must have supporting documents;
  • Any Deductions (other than Statutory) or Company Contributions must have supporting documents.

7. Negligence related to Working Hours’ Recording

Incorrectly capturing an employee’s working hours as 40 or 45 hours per week will influence an employee’s hourly/daily rate of pay which will be an incorrect value. This will also result in the overtime calculation being incorrect. Read the contract to ensure the correct hours per day/week/month are recorded on the Payroll.

8. Fringe Benefit Tax Ignored

It is easy to misapply Fringe Benefit Tax to items such as the use of a Company Vehicle or Low/Interest Free Loans received. It is therefore of importance to understand the tax implication of different benefits and ensure these are applied consistently – especially when tax legislation is amended. Ask a knowledgeable resource to check your understanding if you are unsure.

9. VAT Returns Are Incorrect

Not adding Use of Motor Vehicle Output VAT to VAT Returns can have some serious repercussions with SARS. In fact, when a company has a company vehicle assigned to an employee – it is one of the first things SARS looks for when conducting a Payroll Audit. Ensure that this is always correctly administered.

10. Assumption regarding Independent Contractors

Automatically assuming that a person is an Independent Contractor is a recipe for disaster. Not asking the right questions to determine if an ‘Independent Contractor’ is Income Tax Fourth Schedule Independent as well as Common Law independent, or if they are simply Common Law independent can lead to many complications. Check the status of such Contractors and document up front.

11. Submission Deadlines Missed

Failure to submit SARS EMP201 forms and payments on time is a serious mistake that should be avoided at all costs. Make sure you are aware of the deadlines and plan accordingly.

12. Expenses Not Through Payroll

Not showing or disclosing re-imbursive expenses through the payroll could be tempting, but is a legal requirement and must be adhered to. Avoid falling foul of the law.

13. Negligence with the Department of Labour Requirements

Failure to complete, or the incorrect completion of, the UI-19 declarations to Department of Labour can cause many problems down the line. With the correct procedures in place this should not be a problem. If you do not understand, check on their website or ask someone. Complete the forms 100% correctly.

Source: http://nspiresolutions.co.za/

The Pros and Cons of Starting a Bookkeeping Business

Many small business owners look to outsource managing their books, either because it’s not something they enjoy, or it’s something that have no desire to learn. This is why starting a business as a bookkeeper for other small business owners can be an excellent business idea.

Small business bookkeepers can provide a range of services from managing accounts receivable, accounts payable, reconciliation, payroll, reporting, income tax preparation and more.

In general, you need experience with bookkeeping and/or accounting on a professional level, plus experience with various accounting software, such as QuickBooks. It’s also necessary to be extremely accurate, reliable and work with a high level of integrity when you’re managing the books for another company.

The Pros of Starting a Bookkeeping Business

If you have those characteristics under your belt, here are some of the benefits of starting a bookkeeping business:

  • Startup costs for a bookkeeping business are minimal.
  • You can become a specialist in one accounting application for increased marketability.
  • It’s consistent work that typically takes place on a regular schedule.
  • You can work virtually and broaden your target market.
  • There isn’t formal certifications or training necessary (although, it’s never a bad a idea to become certified).

The Cons of Starting a Bookkeeping Business

Some of the potential challenges you may face if you start a bookkeeping business include:

  • There could be significant liability issues.
  • You need to take measures to ensure all client data is kept secure.
  • It could be expensive to purchase and update various accounting software.
  • You need to comfortable with technology so you can access a client’s computer, if necessary.

Source: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/

Blogging tips for accountants and bookkeepers

A blog helps you communicate with clients and prospects. Even if your firm already uses social media, it’s great to have a blog too. Here we look at how to set up your firm’s blog and get the most out of it.


Blogging is about branding, marketing and communications

Blogging is one of the most effective ways of communicating with clients and prospects. It can also enhance brand awareness, and market your firm to a wider audience.

Used alongside social media, a blog can improve your firm’s reputation and boost traffic to your website. That’s a lot of return for such a small investment of time.

In this guide we’ll explain how to achieve these goals. We’ll give you some blogging tips that will help you make the most of your firm’s blog.

The benefits of blogging

Blogging is different to other forms of online communication. It’s not like social media, emails or website text. If you want to get the most out of your blog, you’ll need to understand its potential benefits. A blog can:

  • help you stay in touch with existing clients
  • help new prospects find you and learn about your services
  • build your firm’s brand – and give it a unique voice
  • demonstrate your firm’s expertise and the professional knowledge of your staff
  • boost your website’s search engine rankings through regular fresh content
  • enlarge your potential market, since good content travels a long way
  • provide a solid foundation for your firm’s social media presence
  • reach prospects who don’t respond to conventional sales and marketing methods.

Even though it offers so many benefits, blogging is essentially free. You don’t need to buy special tools or software. But for the best results you do need to invest your time and so do your staff.

Finding a home for your blog

There are plenty of free blogging services available, such as Squarespace, Blogger and WordPress. But ideally you should incorporate your blog into your own website. That way you’ll gain from the extra traffic it brings. Also, your blog won’t display other people’s advertising, which is how the free services make money.

Whoever manages your firm’s website should be able to set up your blog quite easily. Many web hosting companies offer blogging tools for free, while others charge a small fee to add them.

Once set up, your blog will become a part of your website, for example: www.yourfirm.com/blog. Then you’ll be able to add and edit posts directly through a browser.

Source: https://www.xero.com/