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QuickBooks Tips – Contractor Needs Part 2

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Sam Subcontractor already uses QuickBooks, he has more complex job costing needs due to certified payroll reporting requirements, payments of prevailing wage fringe benefits and AIA billing.  High overhead costs,  specialized equipment, materials, labor charges are other things that must be taken into consideration.

QuickBooks Estimating, Job Costing, and payroll  needs will vary depending on the type of contractor you will be dealing with, so if anyone dares to suggest that one “Chart of Accounts or bookkeeping method” will work for all contractors – well you just shouldn’t listen to them, and here’s why:

    Meet Sam Subcontractor:

    I have worked for a lot of “Sam’s” they are great people too.  They usually have the same basic philosophy as Harry the Handyman; however, because they have employees and bigger “operations” they realize that they need to consider more things when they go out to bid on a job; but they do not always realize all of what they need to take into consideration.

    Sam has overhead costs, employees, specialized equipment, company vehicles, materials, and more that he needs to take into consideration when estimating.  He works on private and prevailing wage jobs.  When he works on prevailing wage jobs he has to pay his employees a much higher rate of pay plus prevailing wage fringe benefits and submit weekly certified payroll reports.   Billing requirements for his jobs include Time & Materials and Percentage of Completion, where he needs to submit AIA billing forms and track retainage.

    Sam tells you that he was just awarded a contract on an ARRA funded construction, the job will last about 18 months and he has to pay prevailing wages to his employees, submit certified payroll reports, monthly ARRA reports, and AIA format billings and will need to hire 5 additional employees.  He is nervous – his workers comp and general liability insurance premiums are killing him; he knows that part of his high overhead is due to the fact that he is paying the prevailing wage fringe benefit it cash to his employees.

    Sam has QuickBooks Pro 2008 and he has used it to run payroll for his employees.  He has been using Excel to do his bidding, billing, certified payroll reports, and his job costing.  He knows that he has to make sure that he is bidding high enough to make a profit and stay in business; yet not so high that he is no longer competitive.

    Let’s look at some of Sam’s costs that you as his bookkeeper, ProAdvisor, CPA should help him identify for estimating and job costing purposes.

    • Overhead – rent, phone, electric, trash  service, etc.
    • Liability Insurance
    • Worker’s Compensation Insurance
    • Wages (private & prevailing wage jobs)
    • Employee Benefits – health insurance (?)
    • Tool Purchases
    • Materials
    • Prevailing Wage Fringe Benefit Costs
    • Insurance for vehicles and equipment
    • Registration for vehicles and possibly some equipment
    • Repairs to vehicles and equipment
    • General Maintenance for vehicles and equipment
    • Gasoline and/or Diesel fuel to run vehicles and equipment
    • Vehicle & Equipment costs on his jobs

    As a bookkeeper, ProAdvisor, or CPA with a client like Sam, you are going to have to spend some extra time helping Sam set up his books.

    You will find that Sam is going to be more than willing to make changes – but that he is NO bookkeeper!  He also knows that he needs to make things easier because he is spending too much time in the office doing paperwork – when he needs to be on the jobsite.

    One of your biggest challenges with Sam will be communication – he is going to talk construction and you are going to be talking accounting…..learn his language and help him learn yours.

    A basic plan of action for Sam would be to:

    • Move his Excel based tasks into QuickBooks
    • Turn his Estimating Cost Code list into a QuickBooks Item List
    • Teach him to use the QuickBooks Estimate function to do his bidding
    • Teach him how to use QuickBooks for Job Costing
      • To automate his Time & Materials Billing
      • To run Estimate vs Actual Reports so he can tell how much money he’s making & if he is bidding accurately
      • Teach him how to job cost his payroll by using Weekly Timesheets
      • Teach him to use Purchase Orders to track material purchases
      • Implement Workers Comp and General Liability tracking
      • Implement Vehicle and Equipment Costing procedures
      • Implement a Retainage Tracking system
      • Research ways in which to lower General Liability and Worker’s Compensation costs
      • Implement QuickBooks integrated applications to deal with AIA Billing,   Certified Payroll, and the ARRA Reporting

    Sam will feel very overwhelmed and out of his element, he will probably want to hire you for on-going review of his QuickBooks file, just to make sure that he is doing things right – he may even want to hire you to come in on a weekly basis to help him out.

    TIP:  Paying prevailing wage fringes in cash will increase Sam’s General Liability and Worker’s Compensation costs, especially if they are based on gross payroll instead of gross sales.

    4 ways contractors pay prevailing wage fringe benefitsRequest our free eBook on 4 Ways Contractors Pay Prevailing Wage Fringe Benefits.

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    About Your Host:

    Nancy Smyth, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

    Nancy Smyth, Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.
    QuickBooks Construction & Payroll Expert

    I've been using and supporting QuickBooks products since the early 1990's. I've worked with thousands of contractors, assisting them with QuickBooks setup, Certified Payroll Reporting requirements, AIA Billing and Weighted-Average Overtime.

    QuickBooks is a powerful product, but learning how to use it in your construction business can be difficult. I hope you find resources available here to be helpful.

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