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Top 5 Accounting Mistakes Commonly Made By Startups

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As a startup founder, keeping your finances organised can be one of the most challenging aspects of building a new business. Between pitching investors, developing your product or service, hiring employees, and acquiring customers, accounting duties often end up on the back burner.

However, neglecting the basic tasks of setting up your books from the early days could lead to serious compliance issues and losses down the road.

Many entrepreneurs find themselves in a scramble trying to piece together disorganised records for an audit while the business is already experiencing cash flow problems or legal troubles.

This blog aims to help you avoid those kinds of stressful situations by addressing the top 5 accounting mistakes regularly made by startups. Learning from common errors could save you countless hours of hassle and uncertainty.

We’ll cover the importance of separating personal and company funds, cash flow projections, filing taxes properly, implementing organised recordkeeping systems, and keeping accurate equity transaction records.

By taking the time now to establish sound accounting procedures with the guidance of professionals, you can feel confident your startup has a solid financial foundation to focus on growth.

Mistake 1: Not Separating Personal and Business Finances

It’s natural for founders to use some personal funds to get their startup off the ground. But you must clearly distinguish your money from company money.

Set up separate bank accounts under the business name from the beginning. Keep thorough receipts when you spend personal cash on startup costs so you can be repaid later.

Don’t leave any personal expenses or debts on the company’s books, as this can complicate tax and compliance matters.

Mistake 2: Ignoring Cash Flow Projections

Cash is king for startups working with tight margins. Take the time to forecast expected income versus expenses each month. This way you’ll know when funds are coming in and going out.

Be on alert if projections show the accounts getting low, and cut discretionary spending in advance.

Late bill payments damage supplier relationships, while overspending too soon can deplete resources. Careful cash flow monitoring prevents such situations.

Mistake 3: Missing Tax Filing Deadlines

Tax obligations don’t disappear for startups. The IRS levies penalties for late tax filings and payments. Set calendar reminders for estimated tax instalments each quarter to avoid unnecessary fines.

It’s best to outsource your bookkeeping and tax prep early to accounting professionals, especially as a new company. Failing to meet tax deadlines leaves a poor impression.

Mistake 4: Disorganised Recordkeeping

Without orderly systems, invoices and receipts quickly become a disorganised mess. Important documents then get lost or are hard to find for future questions. Adopt accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero for budgets, bills and receipts.

Have employees and contractors submit timesheets for payroll and approved expenses. Train all staff on clear recordkeeping procedures for simple compliance in the future.

Mistake 5: Overlooking Equity Transactions

Stock issued to early investors and stock options granted to hires impact future taxes if not monitored. Each equity event needs documentation for cost basis calculations during exits. Keep diligent records to properly determine capital gains down the line.

Consult an advisor experienced with startups on equity strategies to avoid issues with this complex area.

As a startup founder, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by finances and accidentally neglect some key accounting basics. Taking the time now to get fundamentals like recordkeeping, cash flow projections and tax compliance right will save you major headaches later.


Accounting may seem dry but establishing good processes from the start builds a strong financial foundation.

Horizon Biz Consultancy has helped numerous startups avoid costly mistakes through their customised bookkeeping roadmaps tailored for entrepreneurs. Don’t hesitate to leverage their expertise if you feel it is over your head. Your energy is best spent growing the business – let Horizon manage the books.


What accounting software is most suitable for startups?

Popular options include QuickBooks, Xero and Wave that fit the needs of many early-stage companies.

When should I hire an accountant?

Once regular sales begin, if you have multiple employees or transactions become complex, outsourcing is wise.

How often should I review financial reports?

Monthly reviews are standard, but weekly cash flow checks during the startup phase help catch issues early.

When should I set up my chart of accounts?

Most accountants recommend setting up your initial chart of accounts immediately after creating your business bank accounts. This provides an organized structure to track income, expenses, assets and liabilities from the start.

What free accounting software is best for startups on a budget?

Popular free or freemium options suitable for early-stage startups include Wave (invoices, receipts, payroll), FreeAgent (expenses, invoices, quotes) and GnuCash (double-entry bookkeeping). These allow basic financial tracking without impacting limited resources.

What accounting services should I outsource?

Common areas experienced startups outsource include bookkeeping, payroll, tax compliance and financial reporting/analysis. This frees founders to focus on growing the business while ensuring accuracy in responsibilities governed by regulations.

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Pranav Modi

Mr. Pranav Modi, CA is supported by 12+ years of Consulting, Auditing and Accounting practice across diverse sectors.

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