Small businesses, cities struggle with faster pace
Technology has blown up bookkeeper’s spreadsheets in favor of software that manages routine work such as payroll tax deduction with a few keystrokes.
But many are finding out the consequences of clicking on the wrong field can be expensive. especially when mistakes can lead to tax penalties.
Angela Lange, director of client accounting services for Adams Brown said the federal government often does her clients no favors with complicated and often changing regulations that baffle experts.
“That’s why it is always good to have somebody else who is doing, (or checking the work) for you,” she said.
Lange served as clerk and treasurer for the city of Marion while working toward an associate’s degree at Butler Community College.
In 2013, she left the city to join Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, which later became Adams Brown, as a bookkeeper. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from Wichita State University in 2015.
The Marion resident now heads a department that helps clients find the right accounting software. Lange works from home and pays visits to the firms McPherson office.
Many small businesses are looking for ways to save time when managing their money — and they need up-to-the minute information on their cash flow, she said.
“In the past it has been fine to wait until the end of the month and see how you come out,” she said. “Now they need to know right away where they are.”
Cloud-based accounting services like QuickBooks Online will connect with apps that allow their clients to upload receipts, deduct expenses, and monitor cash flow.
Small cities want an easy way to manage daily paperwork when offices are closed, she said.
“Everybody is working remotely right now, and council meetings are often being held remotely,” she said. “Council members aren’t always in the office to sign purchase orders and checks and things like that — it’s all electronic.”
Many small towns have been using very outdated programs and need to upgrade, Lange said. She tracks down software that will suit their needs and helps city employees adapt.
Turnover on city councils also presents problems in some small towns, as new members may not be familiar with the budget despite a need to check spending, she said.
“You may have some that don’t realize there is a budget,” she said, adding she often provides moral support to city staff as they bring a council up to speed.
Her team often also gives city clerks and treasurers a second set of eyes on bank statements.
“In the really small cities those are just part-time positions,” she said. “They’re trying to do their regular full-time job and take care of those responsibilities also.”
Shifting federal regulations can complicate tax and payroll preparations even for experts as some federal programs intended to help only muddy the waters.
An employee retention tax credit in the new COVID-19 relief bill that will allow businesses who were shut down or saw a drop in receipts to claim a maximum $5,000 credit for every employee that earned a “qualified wage.”
This lets employers not pay their portion of Medicare right away, she said.
“We at Adams Brown recommended that they not do that, and that they make those payments as they normally would,” she said.
Adams Brown has a team that specializes in paycheck protection program application, to help clients navigate the maze of federal regulations.
“It’s a constant learning experience for everybody,” she said.