Friday, June 26, 2009

Bookkeeping Software or Services?

Every business is required to keep bookkeeping records to produce at the end of the year (Calendar or Financial) a set of accounts to show the business expenses, sales income and the net profit for tax purposes. New businesses in particular, self employed businesses have a choice in how the financial accounts are prepared and produced. Many of these businesses for financial reasons tend to either keep a manual record of financial transactions or purchase an off the shelf software program from their local retailer and then on their own develop a charter of accounts and complete the data entry.

There are several advantages and disadvantages to whichever course of action a small business may take to produce the financial. But, at the end of the day, the condition of financial accounts and the financial control that are put in place will dictate how well or badly the business is performing compared to the success in the business environment. The underlying necessity is that if the business does not take a decision on its financial accounting then at the very least it must accumulate documents of prime significance such as sales invoices, purchase invoices and possibly bank records during the financial year and assemble these into some sort of order after the end of the financial year for tax purposes. Failing to keep financial records often results in a succession of administrative burdens and often also leads to financial penalties if taxation
deadlines are not met.

If the small business owner chooses not to go down the route of using bookkeeping software or outsourcing the financial function to a bookkeeper or accountant then manual financial records must be kept. Producing an income and expenditure account for the business using the prime financial documents of business is not rocket science and most businessmen capable of running and managing a business have the skills required to producing the bookkeeping records. The major disadvantage of a small business keeping manual records is that documents get lost which may result in profits and taxes being over declared, fines and penalties through inaccuracies and often when accounting is produced in this way it is done at the end of the financial year purely for tax purposes rather than as an essential tool of the business and that reduces financial control within the business during the financial year to a minimum and often zero.

If a manual bookkeeping system is adopted then disciplined recording of the financial information on a regular basis should be enforced and regarded as an essential function and not an administrative burden. The main purpose of regular accounts being to both see and understand the financial position of the business and take positive action as required at the earliest opportunity to achieve a satisfactory financial result.

Other alternatives include utilizing bookkeeping software which is effectively often a manual system in itself but within definite parameters to produce the essential information. Using bookkeeping software has many advantages. First of all any small business that has purchased bookkeeping software is more likely to keep regular up to date accounts than one that has not. And secondly the bookkeeping software is likely to provide a fixed set of disciplines and produce the type of records a small business requires for both the preparation of regular financial statements and the end of year tax returns. Another major advantage of bookkeeping software is that records tend to be less likely to be lost or mislaid; the packages can be backed up as required but essential financial performance can be improved by greater financial control. All businesses work towards producing a satisfactory bottom line and only by producing regular financial statements can the business obtain the earliest information to achieve that satisfactory performance.

Bookkeeping software comes in many different formats from simple spreadsheets to more complex data based accounting software. For a small business the bookkeeping software of choice is often a simple system requiring limited accounting knowledge but must also be a package that produces the desired end result. The worst bookkeeping software is a complex program requiring prior accounting knowledge that the small business either does not fully understand, cannot be bothered or does not have the time to learn and having tried the system then abandons it. Such a process just causes frustration and time to start again with a different solution. Bookkeeping software in effect automates the manual keeping of financial records. To get the most benefit from a bookkeeping software package each small business should prepare regular financial records to enhance and improve financial control, take financial decisions and achieve the desired bottom line result.

Bookkeeping can be outsourced to an accountant or bookkeeper and there advantages in doing so. The financial records are generally maintained in good order and regular financial reports produced. If the small business has a volume of paperwork that becomes a burden to process and keep on top of then a bookkeeper is the best solution. Employing a bookkeeper becomes essential when the paperwork burden reaches a stage when it distracts the small business owner from getting on with the main task of operating the business. A bookkeeper has to be paid and that cost should be viewed as the cost not of producing the financial records but as the amount to be paid to release the time of the small business owner and also to produce the financial statements on which action can be taken to improve profitability.

In conclusion each small business should evaluate their options and time commitment. A manual bookkeeping system may suffice but the business may be better served using bookkeeping software & services to increase financial control and performance.

15 years of Fortune 1000 Consulting in IT and Business Process Outsourcing.


1 comment:

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