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When business owners work with foreign currency, it adds time, complexity and risk to their bookkeeping processes. It’s important to identify potential financial issues that could negatively impact profitability before they get out of control.
Here are some tips to help keep the books in order and navigate the process.
Whether a business owner is paying invoices or reimbursing employees abroad for credit card costs in their local currency, don’t assume the stated exchange rate is correct, says Tiffany Washington, owner of Washington Accounting Services in Waldorf, Md. “You have to take the time to go through every receipt to be sure the transaction is converted at the proper rate,” she says.
— James Berkeley, director of Berkeley Burke International
It’s essential to determine a currency’s value at the time of each transaction, so business owners should use a historical currency converter to identify accurate rates.
In the case of a professional services firm, reasonable travel expenses, office supplies and other incidentals should be paid by customers on a monthly basis separate from fees for a product or service, says James Berkeley, director of Berkeley Burke International, a management consulting firm based in London. “The reasons are varied: Your initial fees quoted will be lower, a need for increased travel doesn’t require renegotiating your overall fee and you avoid currency swings eating into your profit margins,” he says.
Whether a business owner is paying for travel expenses or making small purchases overseas, a local bank account will make it easier to transfer money overseas and help avoid exchange risks and banking fees, Berkeley says. “It accelerates cash flow and eliminates unnecessary expenses,” he says.
For example, Berkeley says a local bank account would allow a U.S. exporter to be paid for products or services by local customers in local currencies. “It minimizes the complexity of doing business together and maximizes the speed of the payment process,” he says.
“In situations where there is fluctuating exchange rates, the U.S. exporter can consolidate payments in local currencies in a local bank account and make a single foreign currency remittance at the most favorable rate,” Berkeley says. “Not spend every day worrying about the impact of local currency fluctuations on daily foreign currency transactions eroding his or her organization’s profit margin.”
“Try and reduce the number of payments,” Berkeley says. “The larger the number of transactions, the greater the effort to get paid and the greater the risk you place on your own cash flow. You have to be focused, disciplined and passionate about cash-flow management in an international business environment. Anything less, and you are not going to be successful.”
“When you have countless tiny expenses to cover in another currency, it’s tempting to let someone else locally handle your money,” says Tadd Rosenfeld, CEO of TeamLauncher.com, a Miami-based global staffing firm with offices in the Philippines and India. But that’s a mistake. Small expenses add up quickly and it’s important for a business owner to keep track of where the money goes to return a strong profit. “The best way to stay on top of accounting is to require regular reports,” Rosenfeld says. “We receive them weekly, and reconcile each one to make sure the books remain correct.”
Before agreeing to a foreign currency price, calculate the cost at the current exchange rate and consider the impact of that cost if the rate swings 10 percent in either direction, Washington suggests.
Business owners can check live rates on currency exchange calculators to determine the going rate for currencies.
To avoid paying a different exchange rate for the same product or service from month to month, Washington encourages business owners to revisit contract prices on a regular basis. She suggests that both parties agree to renegotiate fees if exchange rates are having a significant impact on either party.
While most people don’t go into business because they have a love of bookkeeping, there comes a time when entrepreneurs realize there is no better insight than seeing expenses, revenues and profits in black and white. By taking a few extra steps, business owners can ensure that they maintain healthy, accurate books regardless of where their business transactions take place.
Example: 1USD = xx INR
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