Accounting for Dentists: Common Mistakes In Dental Practices and How to Avoid Them

A photo of a patient

As a dental practice owner or manager, your primary focus is to provide the best possible care for your patients. However, running a successful dental practice requires more than just clinical expertise. It also involves managing the business side of things, which includes bookkeeping and accounting. Unfortunately, many dental practices make accounting mistakes that can impact their financial health. Here are some of the most common accounting mistakes made by dental practices and how to avoid them.

1. Not keeping accurate records

One of the most common accounting mistakes is not keeping accurate records of financial transactions, and by that, we mean all the expenses and revenues. It’s crucial to keep track of income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, tax and patient records, and other financial information.

To ensure the accuracy of all financial records, it’s important to implement the right processes and tools. Keeping all financial documents organized is a great place to start. By tracking invoices, receipts, bank statements, and tax filings by category and date, you can easily locate them when needed. However, manual record-keeping can be time-consuming and prone to errors, so investing in reliable accounting software can be a good solution. This tool can automate many tasks, including data entry and reporting, making record-keeping easier and more accurate.

If you’re still unsure about your accounting skills, hiring a professional accountant is always the best option. An experienced accountant can provide expert advice, help you avoid costly mistakes, and ensure your financial records are up-to-date. With accurate data, you can make informed decisions about your dental practice’s future and focus on providing the best possible care for your patients. Remember, these are the foundation of any successful dental practice.

2. Misclassifying transactions

Misclassifying transactions can be a significant mistake for a dental practice, leading to inaccurate financial statements and tax complications. For instance, classifying all incoming money as income can inflate the profit margins, leading to an increased tax bill. You can have several various reasons for incoming funds that aren’t classified as profits, such as the sale of equipment or supplies and reimbursements to your practice. At the same time, understanding which costs can be categorized as business expenses is vital.  Categorizing all outgoing money as an expense can lower the actual profit and, consequently, reduce the tax liability.

Moreover, misunderstanding the difference between cash flow and profit can result in a false representation of the actual cash available for the practice. This can lead to poor financial decision-making, including overspending or underinvestment. Ultimately, misclassifying transactions can lead to incorrect financial reporting, which can damage the dental practice’s reputation and result in penalties and fines from regulatory authorities.

You can avoid this mistake by double-checking all transactions to ensure they are correctly classified and recorded. Additionally, reviewing the accounts regularly may help you detect misclassifications before they become too costly.

3. Failing to reconcile bank accounts regularly

Reconciling bank accounts involves comparing the business’s financial records with the records provided by the bank to ensure that they match. Failure to reconcile bank accounts can result in various issues, including inaccurate financial records, overdrafts, and missed payments, making it difficult to detect errors or even fraudulent activity. For instance, without reconciling, you can miss unauthorized transactions or fraudulent withdrawals. It can be even more challenging if your practice has multiple bank accounts, resulting in significant confusion.

To ensure there are no discrepancies between the practice’s financial records and the bank’s records, you should do it on a regular basis, ideally monthly. Start by obtaining the latest bank statement and comparing it to the transactions in the accounting system. Look for any discrepancies and make sure that all transactions are categorized correctly. Any discrepancies should be investigated and corrected promptly.

If the accounting system is managed through software, bank feeds can be used to import transaction data from the bank account automatically. This can help simplify the reconciliation process and reduce the risk of errors. By staying on top of bank account reconciliation, you can avoid costly mistakes and maintain the business’s financial health.

4. Mixing personal and business finances

Mixing business and personal finances is a bad for any professional, including dentists. That can lead to many complications, such as missed tax deductions, additional expenses and legal problems. First and foremost, it can make it difficult to track the financial health of the business since it’s hard to know how much money the practice is actually bringing in and how much is being spent on personal expenses.

Additionally, the process of managing personal and business taxes becomes much more challenging when every transaction needs to be separated in an IRS audit, resulting in additional work for accountants and more expenses. The IRS requires businesses to keep detailed and separate records of their income and expenses. Mixing personal and business finances can make it difficult to provide a clear picture of the practice’s financial situation.

Finally, it can also put the practice at risk if legal action is ever taken against the business. In the event of a lawsuit, a court may view the mixing of personal and business finances as evidence that the practice is not a separate legal entity, which could result in the business owner being held personally liable for any damages.

To avoid these issues, dental practices need to keep their personal and business finances completely separate. This means opening a different business bank account, using individual credit cards for business and personal expenses, and keeping meticulous records of all financial transactions.

5. Not working with an experienced dental accountant

Not working with an experienced dental accountant is a significant mistake that many dentists continue to make. An accountant specializing in dental practices can provide valuable insights and expertise to help the practice run more efficiently and profitably. Dental accountants understand dental practices’ unique financial challenges and opportunities, providing customized advice and solutions based on that knowledge.

A dental accountant can also help with financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting, which can be crucial for the long-term success of the practice. They can analyze financial data and provide insights into areas where the practice can improve and grow. Without a dental accountant, a dentist may miss out on opportunities to reduce tax liability, maximize revenue, and manage expenses effectively. They may also struggle to keep up with changing tax laws and regulations, which can result in costly mistakes and penalties.

Dental accounting requires a deep understanding of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and IRS guidelines, as well as dental industry standards and practices. Hiring someone without the proper experience could turn out to be a costly move. Overall, working with a dental accountant can help dentists stay focused on providing their patients with the best possible care while ensuring that their practice is financially sound and thriving.

If you want to take your dental business to the next level, we recommend you hire this type of professional. At Dental CPA, we offer expert accounting and financial advice to busy dentists like you. Our services range from tax reduction planning for dentists to practice valuations & appraisals. Through honesty, integrity and competence, we will help you grow your business while avoiding the problems dentists are likely to face.

To contact one of our experts, set up a consultation here.

Good luck, and let’s grow together!

About Our Experts

Fazel Mostashari is a dental practice expert whose specialty is financial accounting, tax planning, and practice purchase and set up for the dental industry. For over 10 years, Fazel has been the driving force behind the success of many dental practices.

As a proud husband to a dentist, he understands the unique challenges of running a dental practice. Together, they run a thriving, multi-specialty practice in the sunny city of Woodland Hills, CA.

If you’re looking for expert advice, set up a consultation with Fazel.
Fazel Mostashari: Dental Practice Financial Expert

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