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Record Keeping for Daycare Centers

Aug 17, 2007
The key to record keeping is to simplify, simplify, simplify. As with any other repetitive task you want to make it as easy as possible so the main goal is achieved. At the end of the chapter I will reprint a copy of what the IRS is providing to its auditors when looking at child care centers. This information will give you some insight.

The end result of keeping accurate records is two-fold. Sometimes we get all caught up in defending against problems with the IRS and tax return preparation and that we forget the purpose of record keeping. We should be using the information from the records to advance our business and allow us to make decisions on how to run the business more effectively.

Good record keeping will allow you to keep track of the health of your business. Again, seek professional help or read as many books as possible to aid you growing your business effectively and keeping it on track. Don become overwhelmed with everything in your business and allow this area to be the one that always falls short. Remember the rule simplify! Get the information you need to make a proper decision and give the government the information they need in the form of tax return or reports.

Lets get started.

There are a number of logs that are necessary in the preparation of good records. They are: time, food, auto, and asset. In addition to these logs we need to keep track of income sources: private pay, government pay, grants, and food program. The other sources of funding must also be tracked: bank loans, vehicle loans, and loans from others. The final things that need to be kept track of are the valid expenses of the business.

Lets break down each of the above in a little more detail.

Income sources

1. Private pay from parents by child

2. Food Program (USDA)

3. Grants

4. Government Programs

I recommend that you keep track of each source of income separately and then report them separately on your income tax return. Each source can be verified by the IRS so if you report it this way there is no question to its accuracy. All money received should be deposited into a business bank account. This allows you to easily verify the income to the deposits that were made during the year.

Time, Food, and Auto

Many states provide a calendar for the tracking of these figures. In the end we need to know how many hours the day care was in operation to calculate the time space percentage (discussed previously.) Do this daily and weekly, (record on the calendar) to be able to answer all questions at the end of the year on your tax return. If you are anything like me, you can't explain what you did last week much less what you did eleven months ago.

In 2004 the IRS made a significant change in the calculation of food expense. Prior to 2004 the only way to track food was to provide receipts of food purchases. This method was always in question to providers on how to determine what was personally eaten food, (non-deductible) and what was consumed by children, (deductible). We now have a new log to keep. You now need to provide the number of breakfast, lunch, dinner, A.M. snack and P.M snack. The IRS provides a rate that is equal to the tier-one food rate for the USDA food program.

This new program eliminates the tracking of food receipts. I still recommend keeping the food receipts to prove that you have spent at least what you are claiming. You are still allowed to keep actual receipts and use those for expense. Just realize that on audit the auditor will do a test of meals served and if your expense is higher than the calculation of meals times rate they will argue to reduce the expense.

The auto log is simply the record of miles driven on a personal vehicle for the pursuit of business. If the vehicle is used 100% for business you may take the actual expenses for that vehicle. If you share the vehicle for personal and business you need to determine the percentage of business that the vehicle was driven. The choice of using actual or mileage method is made in the first year of service. In both methods you will need to keep an accurate mileage log. The total miles driven are also necessary. The other information needed is date, miles driven, and what the business purpose was. This can be recorded on your calendar or a special book specifically for this purpose. Again, if you do it daily, it becomes natural to you and the information is readily accessible for tax time.

Asset Log

Asset Log is defined as: what is in your home that will last longer than one year. There are two types of assets: those you owned before you started operation, and those you purchased after you started operations. These assets can be further broken down into those that are 100% used for business and those that are shared by you personally and the day care. No matter which kind the assets are you need to record information about them.

Owned before operations started

1. Asset Name (ie refrigerator)

2. Location (room from floor Plan)

3. Fair Market Value at date of start of operation

4. How you determined value

5. Asset type

Purchased after operation started

1. Asset Name (ie refrigerator)

2. Location (room from floor plan)

3. Date Purchased

4. Where purchased

5. Asset Type

Based on the above information you will be able to create a depreciation schedule and claim the proper amount of expense. The depreciation schedule will either go directly to the business return or be further reduced by the time space percentage depending on whether it is a shared asset or a total business asset.

Loan List

You will need to keep track of the monies that are entering your business and from where. When you make a loan to the business it needs to be tracked. The bank wants to get their money back when they loan you money and you should want the business to return that money back to you as well. The money you loan to the company should be deposited into your business bank account, and the expenses that the loan was needed for will be recorded in the business checking account.

Many times I will have a provider complain that they are not being treated as a business person and instead are being treated as a baby sitter. Keeping accurate records and acting like a business requires you to have good records. Be sure to keep strict separation between personal expenses and business expenses. By doing this you will be treated as the professional that you are, and will give you piece of mind when tax time or decision time arrives.

Lastly, Direct Expenses

All direct business expenses should be written from your business checkbook. I have found that using a credit card has been very helpful. If you use a credit card use it for business purposes only, and pay the balance monthly, you will be able to track expenses easily. Debt is a burden that will many times destroy a new business. Good record keeping will allow you to better keep track of the monies coming in and going out. You should keep the receipts associated with the expense and organize them by category, not the month. The IRS wants to know the amount of supplies, not January, February, etc. This will allow you to easily assemble the information for the tax return or financial statement purposes.

Whether you decided to use a computer with the many programs that are available for record keeping or not, the overall goal doesn't change. You need to systematically assemble the information in a way that you can make decisions from, and also comply with the laws of your state and federal government.

I thought it would be helpful to take a look inside what the IRS auditor would be looking for. In 2004 the IRS published an audit guide for child care centers. This publication is used by auditors to get up to speed on a certain industry segment. If you know what they are looking for you can better be prepared when the time comes. It is too late to prepare after you are selected for audit, because the audit will happen between two and three years after the year that they are auditing.

The IRS has given its auditors specific guidance that lets you know what issues the examiners are looking for. This is not an absolute list because the individual auditor can ask for anything they want to look at but this is a great starting point.

From Child Care Providers Audit Techniques Guide

1. Be prepared to discuss the business history including the starting date, a brief description of a typical days activities, and internal controls for income and expenses information

2. If you are taking a deduction for the use of your home, provide a floor plan, blueprint or other significant documents to reflect the square footage of the residence. Provide the escrow and/or closing statement to verify the cost of the property. Mortgage company statements showing the paid property tax renting your home provide substantiation of the expenses and a copy of the rental agreement.

3. Provide copies of Federal Tax Returns for prior and subsequent years, prior Federal and State audit reports, any related returns: partnership, corporation, or employment tax returns and any Forms 1099 filed and/or received.

4. Provide journals, ledgers, records, notebooks used to keep a record of clients and the amount they paid (weekly, monthly, etc)

5. Provide all bank statements, business and personal, for the period beginning _______ and ending _______.

6. If you are participating in the food program, provide copies of the reimbursement statement, name and address of the food sponsor, attendance and meal count record, and time record.

7. Provide copy of any benefit or retirement plan.

8. Provide substantiation in the form of canceled checks, receipts, statements, or invoices for expenses identified for examination.

9. Provide all business licenses, approvals, registrations, and certifications.

When facing an examination by the IRS, it is best to provide the auditor with exactly what they ask for and nothing more. Answer only the questions they specifically ask and avoid offering additional information that they don't specifically ask for. You don't want to expand the scope of the audit by offering information that will lead to additional areas of inquiry. Do not go to the inquiry alone and preferable bring your tax advisor to assist you. If the tax advisor has complete knowledge of your return he/she may prefer to complete the audit without you present. This normally avoids the expansion of the audit and allows it to proceed to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

If you take the process of record keeping one step at a time and do one thing every day you will stay on top of the work and benefit from the wealth of knowledge that can be derived from that information.

(c) CG Groth 2007
About the Author
The Daycare Diva, Christine G. Groth, is the creator of The Guide to Instant Daycare Profits. To learn more about this step-by-step program and to sign-up for her FREE How to Start a Daycare tips and articles, visit http://www.ExpertsAtDaycare.com
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