girlie jones (girliejones) wrote,
girlie jones

Don't let "it's ok, I have a papertrail" be your motto

There's much intrigue surrounding the time my taxes are taking me to do. They *are* more complicated than the standard tax return because I am trading as a sole trader for TPP and that means that I lodge a personal tax return that includes TPP sales/losses within it.

And this is where it all gets a bit complicated. I love that editormum said to me the other day that she is taking my advice on this. I love that because this will cause her far less pain in the end than I have self-inflicted.

When I started TPP, I wasn't really sure where it was going to go. It was about 2006 I guess and we started New Ceres the ezine. And then not long after that Shiny was born. And then 2012. And then after that it all kind of snowballed. So when it was just New Ceres, and I was giving this a go, I took sales in my personal paypal account and covered some expenses with my personal credit card. And then as things took off, it was obvious that TPP needed its own bank accounts and paypal account. But I still make payments with my credit card (printing bills are more than you can direct transfer in a day). And I never fully reconciled monies between bank accounts and between TPP and me personally. See it was ok, because I had a papertrail. I also started selling other small press books for my friends - it's easier to put a couple of books on a table at a con that you know someone is going to be at. And they need to have their monies reconciled. But that's ok because I had a papertrail and all it would take is some sitting down and combing through the papertrail and some maths and it'd all be sorted out. And I started going to a bunch of cons to sell books at and it was ok, because I had a papertrail. And then I started up some more projects and it would all be ok because I had a papertrail.

And then one day, all papertrails come home to roost. I'm at a point where I need to know how much each project has spent/earned. I need to know what the bottom line of TPP is. I need to how to budget future TPP publishing schedules, work out which projects worked financially and which didn't. And I need to reconcile all the monies across all the accounts because TPP needs to be self sufficient and also because I have investors that need to have their loans + profits repaid and I need to know what those are.

And ... each year the number of transactions have doubled. There was no way that I could not sit down and draw a line under this stuff for this tax year. Because it will be too late after 2010 to physically keep track of and to go through the papertrail. It turns out that accounting is not like normal maths. And I had been trying to track all of this using maths that made sense to me but then also, the actual outputs in my spredsheets made no sense. My mum, who does a lot of business accounting, sat down and worked through the page just for 2012 to help me think through a lot of the numbers. It was helpful, helped me set up a new system. And then her brain exploded and she told me I was on my own. The same thing when a friend of mine, who is an accountant, sat down to help me. I knew I was in trouble and I knew I needed to get on top of this.

To whit, I started two completely new financial spreadsheets to track the papertrail - a financial year one that would bottom line TPP and be the page that I lodge each year to the tax man. So this tracks 2005/2006, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. And has an extra page for invoices - bookstores and wholesalers want to be invoiced and you need to be able to track who has paid and who hasn't and for what and when. And if you don't write the invoice number on the back of the bank slip when you deposit the cheques, there is no way to figure out what things were for if you mixed in cash deposits with cheques. Just sayin' - not all papertrails are perfect. *cough*

The second spreadsheet tracks transactions and expenses by project. For each electronic sale there's the book price, the postage paid and the paypal fee for the transaction. And then payment for postage purchase. So 4 lines of information per sale. Plus other things like printing, author payments, tracking contributor, review and award judging copies. And catering for launches. And advertising. And so on. and the important question of - where did the seed money for the cash flow come from (was it investment, a loan or a reinvestment of TPP money?)

And so there are pages in this spreadsheet for: ASif, New Ceres, Shiny, 2012, Angel Rising, New Ceres Nights, Horn, A Book of Endings, Roadkill/Siren Beat and Non TPP books. I had to start a new spreadsheet for 2010 projects. And I will need a new one for 2011 as well.

And you don't get to really end any of these pages' activities - it's called the long tail and it's what, in the end, enables a small press to be viable. That is, selling your backlist. So I still get sales from each of these and that means that with each new project, admin increases. I'd say with each year, admin is doubling. It'll probably triple by 2011.

So, once all these pages were set up and the transactions and which columns they should go in kinda made sense, I have been trawling through my papertrail all the way back to 2005 and entering all this data - from two paypal accounts, two chequing accounts, two higher interest earning accounts, one visa account and cash records. And also trying to resolve questions that crop up along the way. Last time I tried to do this, I tried to do too many things at once - entering data and answering big questions to do with resolving reconciliations and so on. This time, I have spreadsheets I understand and am entering all the data and then will do final equations and drawing of lines at the end.

The tax man only wants the ins and outs for the year 2008/2009 - that means just the data entry, and that bit is almost almost done. But at the same time, I did all the years and all the way up to today so that once the tax return has been lodged, I can interrogate the data and do some reconciliation and move forward with separated finances between me and TPP, even though the tax lodgement is still all wrapped up in one.

The question at the end is ... what colour will the final number be, red or black?
Tags: finances, getting sorted, publishing, twelfth planet press
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