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A Comprehensive End-of-Year Checklist for Small Business Owners


I hate to be the one to remind you of this, but there’s not much time before 2022 is at our metaphorical doorstep. It’s hard to believe we’re already two years into a decade that seems to have packed a lifetime’s worth of events into 24 months.

If you’re a small business owner, the end of the year is only the beginning of the busiest administrative season. From prepping taxes to finishing out projects, there’s so much to do as the last sliver of 2021 slips away.

To (hopefully) help you rock your EOY goals and create a plan for 2022, I’m going through my end-of-year small business checklist and walking you through how I prep for the new year.

All things taxes

You knew I had to start here. If I surveyed every business owner I know, I’d guess that overwhelmingly they’d all say doing taxes is their least favorite part of owning a business. Between making sure you’re paying quarterly, deducting the right things, and putting aside enough –– taxes are both daunting and anxiety-inducing. Here are some things to keep in mind.

If you can, hire an accountant to help you with your taxes

Not everyone can afford to hire someone to do their books throughout the year, but you’d be surprised at how affordable hiring an accountant is at tax time. Especially when dealing with 1099 or other self-employment income, working with a professional can save you money and keep you in the IRS’s good graces. Tax software might save you a little upfront, but you may not be getting all the deductions you deserve.

Make sure your books are clean and in order

It’s a total pain, but going through your books at the end of the year is a necessity. Make sure that you have receipts for your purchases and have correctly categorized each one. It’s time-consuming, so make it fun and put on your favorite sitcom reruns, grab a glass of your preferred beverage, and go through your statements with a fine-toothed comb.

Make a plan for next year

Is your tax prep really wearing you out? Right now is a great time to evaluate how you handled your bookkeeping throughout the year and make updates as needed. Did you wait until the last minute to categorize your expenses? Forget to update your bookkeeping software often enough? Make the adjustments that January 2023 you will thank you for.

Automate whatever you can for next year

When you have traditional or W2 income, you have the benefit of your taxes coming out before you ever see them –– which can make you complacent when it comes to putting taxes aside for your self-employment income. Circumvent the tax bill panic by setting up an automatic savings process from your business account to an HYSA (high-yield savings account). You’re less likely to spend it or forget about it, and it will make your life a lot less stressful when it’s time to pay the bill in April.

The season of giving

The end of the year is a great time to give, both because it’s the holidays and you’re running out of time to take advantage of the write-off for the year at hand. You’re also probably looking at your final profits for the year and have a better idea of how much extra you can donate. Many non-profit organizations wait patiently for this time of year as December is one of the most significant fundraising months across the board.

Personally, I think it’s important to give all year round, and many of these organizations prefer recurring donations on a schedule to help them plan their budgets for the year. Alongside giving an extra donation, check your YTD donations and see if you can set a plan to donate on a more regular schedule the following year to some of your favorite charities!

This is also a great time to consider giving holiday bonuses’ or gifts to employees or clients. Showing appreciation to the people who keep your business running and the clients you love working with can go a long way if you have the means to.

As a bonus, it feels really good to give, too.

P.S. It’s better to do this sooner rather than waiting until the last day of the year. I can’t tell you how many friends made big donations to a charity and because the gift didn’t process until the new year, they lost out on the write-off. Fortunately, you can write it off the following year, but it’s good to keep this in mind!

Big purchases

Speaking of write-offs, the end of the year is also a great time to make any big last-minute purchases. If your 10-year-old laptop has been sputtering or you’ve been working with a decades-old piece of machinery, the end of the year is a great time to make sure you’re getting that write-off and keeping your business running efficiently.

As always, make sure you’ll have money for your tax bill, employee bonuses, and other holiday expenditures first, but if there was a purchase you kept putting off and know you need –– this is an excellent time to make it.

Money Date 2.0: Small Business Edition

If you’ve read any of my other articles, you might be sick of the word “Money Date,” but too bad –– I’m just going to keep talking about it. My Money Date methodology has been my biggest lifesaver and one of the best free tools I have to keep up with my finances.

On an individual Money Date, you’re sitting down with a month’s worth of statements and account balances to look for fraudulent charges, over and under-budgeted areas, subscriptions you no longer need, etc. The idea behind the Money Date is to make sure you’re on top of every part of your finances.

For small business owners, it’s the same process, just with more facets. If you’re a small business owner going over your numbers on a money date, start asking questions like this:

Where in my business am I overspending?
Where am I underspending when I could afford more?
Am I saving enough in taxes each quarter?
Is my payroll keeping up with living wages?
Do I need to hire a new team member?
Do I need to scale back in an area so I can scale up in another?

This is just a small sample of the questions you might be asking yourself when you’re on your small business Money Date.

Setting Goals

Now that you’ve got taxes and all that administrative headaches covered, it’s time to start dreaming big. I personally believe in setting audacious goals (shoot for the moon, land amongst the stars, you know?).

Not every goal has to be a financial one, either. One of my goals this year was to make it into the top 20 business podcasts. We hit number one within two weeks. It had nothing to do with finances and all to do with changing lives and getting the message of financial feminism to as many listeners as possible.

A great way to balance things out is to make one “reach” goal for every “safety goal.” You owe it to yourself and your business to dream big. If anything, my big dreams have usually proved to be too small. So go for it –– shoot for those stars!

As we roll along into 2022, I wish you and your small business a very happy (and profitable) holiday season!

One final plug: Personal Capital is the tool I check daily for managing my personal finances. You can track your net worth and your progress towards goals like saving, debt payoff, and (yes!) $100K.

Get Started with Personal Capital’s Free Financial Tools

Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap of Her First $100k (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this article. Compensation not to exceed $500. Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage (www.HerFirst100k.com) to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

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