Jun 27, 2022
Short-term rental (STR) property management is a burgeoning industry that demands efficient financial management. Proper bookkeeping is crucial to ensure compliance with tax regulations, gain valuable financial insights, and make informed business decisions. In this article, we’ll guide you through the best practices in bookkeeping for your short-term rental business.
1. Separate Business and Personal Finances
Open separate bank accounts and credit cards for your STR business. This practice will alleviate confusion and streamline financial tracking.
2. Understand the Legal Structure
Your business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.) affects taxation and liability. Choose wisely, considering the unique needs of your business.
3. Maintain a Chart of Accounts
Craft a chart of accounts to categorize revenues, expenses, assets, and liabilities specifically for your STR business.
4. Regularly Record Transactions
Consistently record all financial transactions. Develop a habit of recording transactions as they occur, or at least weekly.
5. Implement a Trust Account (If Applicable)
Property managers handling client funds should establish a trust account for those funds, keeping them separate from operational accounts.
6. Document and Categorize Expenses
Retain receipts and invoices, and document all expenses. Categorize expenses such as cleaning fees, repairs, maintenance, and advertising.
7. Track Occupancy Rates and Revenue
Monitor your property’s occupancy rates and revenue. Recognize seasonality and trends to optimize pricing and availability.
8. Manage Security Deposits Properly
Record security deposits separately and refrain from treating them as income. Keep track of refunds and any deductions for damages or additional cleaning fees.
9. Account for Fixed Assets and Depreciation
Record fixed assets like furniture and appliances, and calculate depreciation for tax purposes.
10. Set Aside Funds for Taxes and Understand Tax Deductions
Allocate a portion of earnings for tax obligations and educate yourself on available deductions for STR owners.
11. Use Accounting Software
Leverage accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero. Opt for software that integrates with STR platforms such as Airbnb or VRBO.
12. Reconcile Accounts Regularly
Ensure that your bank and credit card statements match your accounting records through regular reconciliation.
13. Establish a Budget and Monitor Cash Flow
Create a budget and keep an eye on cash flow to ensure you have sufficient funds for operating expenses and unforeseen costs.
14. Comply with Local Regulations
Be informed about local regulations regarding STRs, including taxes, licensing, and reporting requirements, and ensure compliance.
15. Conduct Regular Financial Reviews
Regularly assess your financial statements to analyze the financial health of your business.
16. Consult Professionals
Engage with a CPA or tax professional familiar with the STR industry for assistance with tax planning and compliance.
17. Maintain an Audit Trail
Keep well-organized records and an audit trail, retaining records for the required number of years stipulated by tax authorities.
18. Stay Informed and Educated
Stay up-to-date with accounting best practices and changes in tax regulations affecting the STR industry.
19. Invest in Professional Development
Invest in enhancing your knowledge or hire qualified personnel to handle the financial aspects of your business.
20. Automate Where Possible
Embrace automation tools that integrate with accounting software to save time and reduce manual errors.
21. Understand Cash vs. Accrual Accounting
Know the difference between cash and accrual accounting, and choose the one that fits your business. Maintain consistency.
22. Develop a Contingency Plan
Set aside a contingency fund to handle unexpected expenses.
23. Ensure Data Security
Protect your financial data through secure systems and regular backups.
24. Plan for Growth
As your business expands, be prepared to adapt your bookkeeping practices accordingly.
Effective bookkeeping is a cornerstone for the success of your STR business. By adhering to these best practices, you will not only maintain compliance with tax regulations but also make data-driven decisions that contribute to the prosperity of your enterprise. Whether you are a veteran or new to the STR market, always keep abreast of bookkeeping essentials.