4 Things Your Bookkeeper Wants You to Know

1.) Keep us in the loop. If you open a new bank or credit card account, or change passwords on existing accounts that your bookkeeper needs to access for statements, let them know as soon as possible to prevent a delay in reporting.

2.) Be proactive. If you want to avoid the January scramble for contractor TINs to process 1099s, make sure your bookkeeper knows of any contractors you’re using so they can get that W-9 documentation on file ahead of time.

3.) Submit your receipts. Even if your bookkeeper has access to download your transactions, there’s no way to know if your Amazon or Walmart order was personal, business, or both unless they have a receipt in front of them. Did you buy office supplies, marketing materials, and lab equipment in the same order? They need to know!

4.) You post your travel plans on social media… …don’t forget to tell your bookkeeper! Let them know the dates of business travel and if there were any specific personal charges from that trip that will be included on the statement. You’ll save your bookkeeper a lot of time researching out-of-state restaurants and stores, and will likely save yourself some time too, since you won’t have a long list of uncategorized transactions to explain.

Your Most Common Payroll Questions

I pay my employees twice a month. How do I calculate overtime?
It’s easy to figure out overtime hours when you pay every week, but if your payroll runs every other week or twice per month, how do you know how many overtime hours an employee earned? The answer: when does your week start and end? Remember, that’s not asking when your office is opened, but which period of time an official payroll week covers. For example, you might decide to use a Sunday to Saturday, or a Monday to Sunday week. You could even use a Wednesday to Tuesday week, if you’d like – it doesn’t matter, as long as you stick with it.

So, now that you know your week, you need to be aware that overtime hours are calculated based on that week, not the payroll period. Say, for example, your payday is every other Friday and you have an employee that worked 87 hours. That means you pay them 7 hours of overtime, right? Well, maybe. If the employee worked 43 hours one week and 44 hours the next, sure, that would be 7 hours of overtime. But what if they worked 50 hours one week and 37 hours the next? That still equals 87 hours total, but knowing that you have to pay overtime rates for any hours worked over 40 in a one-week period, you know that you have to pay for 10 hours of overtime during the week the employee worked 50 hours.

Does holiday pay or PTO hours count toward overtime?
You might be surprised the number of times this question comes up. Let’s say you gave your employees a paid day for a Monday holiday. Then, Tuesday through Friday a couple of your employees worked a few extra hours to catch up on filing insurance claims and taking inventory. One of your employees worked 38 hours and the other worked 42. Once you add in the 8 hours of holiday time, you’re going to be paying a bit more overtime than you planned on, right?

Wrong. Holiday pay, sick time, vacation, PTO, etc. do not factor into the overtime calculation. You must pay non-exempt employees 1.5 times their hourly rate for hours worked over 40 – “worked” being the key word. So, for your employee who actually worked 38 hours, when you add in the holiday pay you’ll be paying for 46 hours at their regular hourly rate time. The employee who worked 42 hours would be paid 48 hours at their regular hourly rate, and two hours at their overtime rate.

How long do I have to supply a separating employee with their final check?
In Texas, if an employee quits you’re welcome to wait until your next regularly scheduled pay day. However, if you fire an employee you have to issue a final check within six business days.

I want to give my employees a bonus. Can I just write them a check or give them a gift card?
This is probably the most popular question, and it’s one with an easy answer – no. No, no, no. No to any question that centers around paying employees in any form other than through your payrolls system. The IRS does not consider gift cards in any amount to be administratively impractical to track, and therefore you must pay payroll taxes on the amount of any gift card furnished to employees. Same goes for paper checks. If you want the employee to receive the full amount of the bonus, not less for taxes, then increase the amount of the check to the point where taxes taken out will reduce the check to the intended bonus amount. Then, because it’s easier to account for, run it through your payroll system.

Some of my employees stay “on-call” outside of normal hours, in case of emergencies. How do I pay them for that time? Do I have to pay their hourly rate for the whole time they’re on-call?
When an employee is “engaged to wait,” such as the time they’d spend waiting for you to disembark through a plane and pick up baggage, etc., you have to pay them for that time, because they are unable to spend that wait time in a manner that they please. However, when employees are on-call, they’re “waiting to be engaged,” and can spend the time in between engagements in whatever manner they choose. For a non-exempt employee (paid by the hour), you only have to pay them for the time they spend actually engaged in work activities. So, if an employee is on-call for three hours and they spend thirty minutes answering phone calls, scheduling patients, etc. you only have to pay them for those thirty minutes of working time, which you factor into your overtime calculation if that takes them over 40 hours worked in your determined one-week period. If no patients call during that on-call period, they aren’t performing any job functions and you wouldn’t pay them for that time. An exempt employee would be paid their regular salary, because that’s the nature of exempt.

The Total Package: Benefits That Fit Your Practice

You’ve read those articles that talk about all of these awesome benefits that major companies are offering employees. Endless PTO, no official work hours, on-site exercise centers, nap rooms. It all sounds great, but there’s almost no way you could apply those kinds of benefits to your practice. The object of your profession is to serve patients – and you can’t do that if half of your staff had the whim to take the afternoon off and go parasailing on the lake.

So, what can you offer? Everyone knows the standard benefits of Paid Time Off, medical insurance, paid holidays, and 401k. But what if you, like so many practice owners, can’t afford to offer medical insurance? What if you specialize, where your prime patient dates are right in the middle of typical holidays, and you just can’t let employees take those days off? What if you are in a competitive market and need to attract top talent with a great benefits package? What if you have a truly stellar staff and really just want to reward them for their awesomeness?

Traditional benefits are great when you can afford them, but here are some ideas that might just put you over the top and make your practice the envy of the candidate pool:

Continuing Education. Paying for your employees to advance their knowledge in ways that not only benefit their career development but also benefit your practice is a no-brainer. Continuing Ed does not have to be expensive conferences or tuition reimbursement (although that’s nice if you can afford it) – a simple Lunch & Learn about a software you want to implement, new practice management techniques, or a brush up on creating a consistent patient experience will be just as beneficial.

Flex Holidays. You have the standard four (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, 4th of July), and maybe the typical minor holidays (Memorial Day, Labor Day) as part of your paid holiday package. But what about the rest of the federal and religious holidays? While it’s not possible to cover every holiday on the calendar, one of the benefits you can offer your employees are “flex holidays.” This is an additional one, two, or more days that can be used for any federal or religious holiday. You can easily require a few weeks of notice to use these holidays, and it can serve as a benefit that allows for more inclusion – say, a Catholic employee who wants to take Good Friday off, or a Jewish employee who would like to spend Rosh Hashana with their family – but also allows employees with children to work around school schedules, where minor federal holidays like Columbus Day are often taken.

Life Insurance. Showing employees you care about what happens to their families in the event of their death is a much-appreciated and usually inexpensive benefit that is highly valued.

Maternity Leave. This is unfortunately not a benefit offered in many practices. The general rule of thumb is “do the best you can” for small practices. At the very least, even if you’re exempt from the Family Medical Leave Act, try to allow your employee 8 weeks of time off with the guarantee that their job will still be there when they get back. If you can afford it, and the employee has been there a reasonable amount of time, pay for some or all of the time off. If you’re profitable enough to easily afford at least 8 weeks paid maternity leave and want to expand upon the benefit, additional time off, paid paternal leave, or allowing your employee to split paid leave with their spouse whose company does not offer the benefit can be a great addition to your policy. Make sure to have a written policy detailing this benefit, and remember to include adoptive parents in the policy.

Pet Health Insurance. If you already provide medical insurance that employees can extend to their immediate family members, why not expand that to include their four-legged family?

Free Food. It’s always nice for employees when the boss buys lunch, and most practices will provide lunch if there’s a team meeting or training. But what about a just-because day? Or as a reward for hitting a goal? You could even use a catered lunch to encourage employees to want to work that half-Friday that everyone hates, or those marketing that require some to work on a weekend. Free food can also extend to the break room. Where most practices provide the standard coffee and creamer, others that really want to go above will provide fruit, healthy snacks, and a selection of beverages.

On-Site Services. While it’s true that your employees aren’t likely working 90-hour weeks where on-site dry cleaning or haircuts would make sense, options like monthly on-site chair massages are a great benefit to promote self-care and wellness for your employees. Car washes, child care for school holidays, etc. are also appreciated.

Uniform Care. Many practices provide their employees with uniforms. It’s an investment the practice makes to ensure a consistent appearance and team unity. Why not take the extra step in protecting that investment by offering uniform cleaning? This is a great way to ensure the uniforms you’ve paid for stay in great shape, your employees look consistently professional, and it’s one less chore for your employees to manage.

Volunteer Hours. Socially conscious employees will appreciate their employer supporting community service activities. There are a number of ways to do this, from organizing service days for various causes to paying employees their hourly rate for a certain number of hours each month/quarter/year to spend on volunteer activities (with limits and consideration for overtime laws), and even allowing them normally scheduled work time to participate in approved charity events.

True PTO. Paid Time Off is paid time off, right? Sure, but many practices will say that they’re offering two weeks of PTO, and then turn around and require employees to use one week when the doctor is at a conference or on vacation. When employees can’t use PTO to fit their own schedule, the benefit becomes less valuable. A better policy would be to allow employees the option of using PTO during that week off (with extremely advanced notice as to when it will be), but not mandating it and instead allowing employees to make their own choices about when to schedule their PTO (within the limitations of your PTO policy and staffing needs, of course).