Startup bookkeeping: Common Mistakes

Starting a business can be exciting, but it comes with multiple responsibilities. From creating product lines, acquiring customers, hiring staff to fulfil administrative tasks, and handling customer service, you do all, and bookkeeping often gets neglected. It is the primary reason startups fail to manage their cash flow, leading to businesses shutting down.

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A recent report of startup post-mortems from CB Insights found that lack of money is the second biggest reason for business failure, with market demand being the primary reason. Therefore, bookkeeping is a must if you want to continue running your business successfully. 

In this blog, we have listed a few common bookkeeping mistakes that startups make, but you shouldn’t. 

Table of contents

12 Common bookkeeping mistakes of startups

Startup bookkeeping is the process of accurately recording business transactions. 

However, startups often make a few common bookkeeping errors. These errors can result in a loss of credibility in front of investors, making decisions on inaccurate information, penalties and at worst, shutting down business. Here are the top 12 mistakes you must avoid while bookkeeping for your startup. 

1. Neglecting expense tracking

Startups often get caught up in revenue generation and networking. However, you cannot neglect expense tracking in business, which might lead to financial disruption. Not keeping track of your business expenses may overuse your capital for unnecessary purposes and leave you short of cash. 

You cannot track your cash payables and receivables without proper expense tracking. 

2. Mixing personal and business expenses

Another mistake that startups make is not having a separate business account. This leads to mixing up your personal and business funds, creating problems in tax preparation. Tax liabilities are different for personal expenses and business expenses. 

Knowing them ahead of time and preparing accurate tax returns will prevent HMRC investigations. Also, if you put your funds into business and later your startup fails, you will be left broke.

3. Not keeping accurate records

Accurate bookkeeping is crucial for every startup. If you don’t keep track of your regular financial transactions, you will find it difficult to monitor cash flow, prepare financial statements, and file your tax returns properly. 

Having an accurate set of financial statements helps with accurate forecasts needed to apply for fundraising programs. You can utilise modern tools to keep track of all your transactions and categorise them accurately in the books, like Xero, Quickbooks, Dext, Hubdoc, Sage and so on. 

4. Skipping account reconciliation

Reconciling your books with your business bank statements is essential to establish financial health. It helps measure cash on hand, unpaid customer and suppliers. 

5. Missing backup

Paper backups may require storage, and managing them can be hectic. But at times of technical problems, this paperwork can be a great help. The investigating officer or an auditor can ask you for paper trials during audits or tax investigations. 

Using accounting software that keeps all your accounting and financial records safe is good, but maintaining paper or digital backups, at least for the last 5-7 years.

6. No proper budgets

Budgeting for every business is essential. If you fail to create a suitable budget, you may spend your money unnecessarily, leading to unpaid debts, long credit card bills, missing payments, and bankruptcy. 

To create a budget, look into your financial statements to identify your income and expenditures. This helps prevent overspending or underspending, pay your suppliers on time, and save money for sudden business needs. 

7. Inefficient cash management 

You can use your cash flow statement to understand where your money is coming in and going. For example, you keep buying business equipment on credit, and if you aren’t paying off the bills, it keeps increasing, leading to financial burdens for startups. 

You must constantly keep track of your cash flow and business performance so that you have a real-time understanding of your startup financials.

8. Failing to plan for tax

Startups often wait until the last minute to file their tax returns, leaving little time for appropriate tax planning. You may miss out on certain details or deduct tax-free allowances on your tax return, which results in paying higher taxes or facing penalties in case of errors. 

9. Inaccurate tax returns

Manual tax return filing often has errors, which can invite HMRC investigations at worst. Some startups plan to reduce their tax liability illegally, while others are unaware of government grants and tax-free allowances. 

Hiring a bookkeeper or using software to calculate your taxes and file your tax return within deadlines to avoid penalties is better.

10. Not tracking inventory 

If you aren’t tracking your inventory, it may lead to overstocking or understocking of products, affecting your overall business finances. Overstocking leads to wastage, and understocking fails to fulfil customer demands. 

In both cases, you lose money, which affects your startup’s financial health. Therefore, you must keep track of inventory levels and use software to save time and have accurate reports. 

11. Improper classification of employees

Startups may neglect the classification of employees, leading to regulatory and financial complications. For example, your startup may have a few full-time members and some freelancers. You must put them properly under two categories, as each type has different legal and financial requirements. 

A full-time employee requires employee benefits along with a regular salary, but a freelancer charges only for their service during a certain period. This prevents you from mixing up their requirements and staying compliant with the labour regulations in the UK. 

12. Not using the software

Hiring a professional in your startup might not always be necessary, but automating some of your processes can be helpful. During your startup’s initial stage, you can do bookkeeping yourself but have good software. 

They can help you with financial records, creating statements, tax calculations, payroll, and more. However, when your startup expands, and the financial scenario gets complicated, you must look for a professional. 

Hire Startup Accountants

Work with UK-based Experts for tax, audit, accounting, payroll, & EIS/ SEIS needs.

Have a question? Call us on
0203 983 8100
Monday to Friday 9am – 4:30pm

Final thoughts!

Startup owners have many responsibilities on their shoulders, but missing out on bookkeeping can be harmful. If you aren’t aware of your financial standings in business, you cannot invest in its growth. 

You can look into these startup bookkeeping mistakes and ensure you aren’t doing the same. However, if you don’t have time, hiring a professional is good, and startups with financial concerns can outsource their bookkeeping to agencies at lower costs.