NOT SO LONG AGO, bookkeepers and accountants only had to learn to work with one accounting program. That was back when MYOB, the market leader, had a strangle-hold on the industry, and though a few alternatives – Reckon, Quickbooks – tried to squeeze out a space for themselves, MYOB was too embedded in the accounting industry.
But the rise of cloud accounting has changed all that. Besides the reinvention of a couple of old brands (QuickBooks and Reckon – though the latter has exited the market again), it’s also birthed a new market leader in Xero, which now has more paid member accounts in Australia and New Zealand than arch rival MYOB.
A number of smaller players to have entered market, too. There’s Zoho, which has built an entire suite of productivity apps; and straightforward cloud accounting programs, such as Saasu and Freshbooks – to name only a few.
There was no big, expensive outlay to buy the software – Xero offers a free trial, after all – and for the most part, setting up a Xero account, creating invoices, estimates and recording expenses was remarkably easy.
Many bookkeepers, who had been working with MYOB, quickly started offering bookkeeping services in Xero, and there are many more who work exclusively in Xero.
These bookkeepers are usually part of the Xero Partner program, but there are some that just prefer using Xero because it’s cheaper and easier for their clients to use, which makes their job a lot easier.
Most bookkeepers are diversifying, not just in the services they offer (from only providing daily reconciliations services to providing BAS, payroll and credit management services) but also the programs they work with.
Many highly skilled bookkeepers not only work in MYOB and Xero, but some also work in larger enterprise reporting systems, such as Oracle and SAP.
Doing so enables, predominantly contract bookkeepers, to work with a range of different businesses and increase their income.
Even bookkeepers who don’t work with large enterprise reporting systems, but who do work with the major accounting programs Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks, are still able to increase their earning potential.
Learn the major accounting programs for one low price!
We are constantly updating our Special Offers page to include a variety of combination deals on our online training courses to provide established bookkeepers and would-be bookkeepers with the most training material for the lowest price.
In one of our current special offers, students who enrol in our MYOB AccountRight and Xero online courses will also receive QuickBooks Online and MYOB Essentials online courses FOR FREE.
Remember, becoming proficient in a number of different software packages takes you a long way towards being able to offer diverse services to your clients. Then you only have to decide which services to offer — BAS, payroll, credit management — or perhaps all three and more? One you know what you can offer your clients, you’re well on your way to operating a successful bookkeeping business.
Intuit QuickBooks is gaining in popularity since MYOB made a false start in the online (cloud) accounting market. Their software is well priced and feature rich and now they can deal direct with Aussie businesses they’re always on special!
Just wanted to share with all current QuickBooks Online Training Course students that the Daily Transactions workbook is the latest training resource to be updated – so you’ll see 2018 screen shots in the step-by-step exercises.
Updates and Additions to Online Course Content
As a training course creator we spend a lot of time creating and updating our training materials and all existing students receive access to this material during their course access period. Learn more..
Fast forward a decade, and Xero is now the preferred accounting software in Australia and New Zealand, with 692,000 subscribers compared with MYOB’s 585,000 paid users. (Overall, Xero claims 1.2 million subscribers worldwide.) In the 2016/17 financial year, Xero’s revenue increased 43 percent year-on-year to $295.4 million NZD ($271.7 million AUD); during the same period, MYOB’s revenue increased 13 percent to $370.4 million AUD.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice Xero has more paid subscribers than MYOB, but its revenue is about $100 million AUD behind. That’s largely due to differences in the price of both products.
So you can’t tell which one of Xero or MYOB is the true market leader — yet.
How Xero is growing their subscriber base
Basically, they’ve reached an impasse. There’s not much opportunity left in Australia and New Zealand (there are other players, like Intuit’s QuickBooks and Zoho competing the same space, too) to grow your subscriber base — unless you’ve a carrot to dangle under their noses that’ll lure them away from your competitor.
[Xero has lured people away from competitors via their] suite of apps, plug-ins and integrations [they’ve] added to their offering through acquisitions and partnerships — anything that would make Xero a one-stop-shop for small businesses…
Meanwhile, MYOB’s strategy for market share
To its credit, MYOB has pursued a similar strategy, acquiring payment firm PayCorp last year, which followed the launch of the company’s PayDirect Mobile and PayDirect Online payments service in 2014 and 2016 respectively, as part of MYOB’s push into payment processing technology.
MYOB also acquired Reckon’s accounting practice software last November for $180 million AUD. The company said the acquisition was part of MYOB’s strategy to see accountants become business advisors, rather than tax and compliance experts.
MYOB chief executive Tim Reed sees automation as being critical to the company’s ongoing success, as it pursues a “connected practice strategy,” which brings transaction processing, compliance and business advisory together and sees accountants become more like business coaches.
“They will be like personal trainers in the gym, but for business,” he said. “This is starting today. Accountants are already working down this process and what I’m seeing is the pace of change start to increase.”
And unlike Xero, which is simultaneously pursuing overseas markets (the U.K., North America, Southeast Asia), MYOB is content to stay focussed on its home market — Australia and New Zealand. (It’s also pushing deeper into big businesses with its enterprise software Greentree, acquired in 2016.)
Accountants and the cloud accounting ecosystem
With Xero pursuing code-free accounting, MYOB pushing into “connected practices,” and Intuit beefing up its own ecosystem of apps and integrations to simplify the bookkeeping and accounting process for small businesses, where does that leave accountants and bookkeepers?
Better off, actually.
Bookkeeping is a necessary step in the overall accounting process. But it’s the most time intensive one. There’s reconciling bank accounts, entering receipts, coding transactions, invoices, and so on. Small business owners don’t — or won’t — do it, so they outsource it to a bookkeeper or accountant, who has a preferred or in-house bookkeeper.
Despite being a time intensive task, it’s lower skilled work — like untangling a jumble of coat hangers; almost anyone can do it. And so it commands a lower rate of pay than other tasks, like financial forecasting, business planning and filing activity statements.
Automating elements of the accounting process, in particular the coding of transactions, eliminates inefficiencies and time wastage. Bookkeepers and accountants can charge their clients the same hourly rates, but they’ll spend much less time doing it.
More apps, more services
And with access to more apps — like a payroll plug-in — they can begin offering more services.
Just as QuickBooks, MYOB and Xero have become more valuable to their customers, by positioning themselves as a one-stop-shop for small business, accountants and bookkeepers can do the same.
Why would a business need to engage a data entry bookkeeper, a tax or BAS agent, and a payroll company when they can hire just one individual to manage all of these tasks efficiently in one cloud accounting program?
Food for thought: Why would a business need to engage a data entry bookkeeper, a tax or BAS agent, and a payroll company when they can hire just one individual to manage all of these tasks efficiently in one cloud accounting program?
And just as MYOB boss Tim Reed stated: Accountants and bookkeepers have already cottoned onto this.
But it means bookkeepers and accountants need to become more skilled at what they do; they need to possess a greater understanding of a wider array of softwares and systems in order to remain competitive.
And even though Intuit, MYOB and Xero have all acquired or partnered with companies that offer payroll platforms, there are still plenty of third parties businesses can choose to connect to their accounting system — that’s democratised accounting for you — so you need to watch the market, and keep your skills up-to-date.
Where to from here?
The cloud accounting space is certainly in flux. There’ll be more acquisitions, more technologies, and definitely more automation. There’ll also be more global companies, as more businesses export their goods and services overseas — and more fintech companies pursuing growth outside Australia.
KeyPay is one such company. It’s based in Wollongong in NSW, and last December announced it would expand its services to the U.K. — a pre-release was slated for January this year, with a full launch due in April.
According to CRN, the company grew 53 percent last year (though it didn’t specify what or how that “growth” was calculated; as a private company, it doesn’t disclose financials or its share of customers). And KeyPay’s co-founder Richard McLean said the company decided to enter the U.K. market because 60 percent of businesses there outsource their payroll to a third party company.
The company intends to rollout its automated payroll system in the U.K. first, with an Australian launch due later in year, and also plans to expand to New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
And how bookkeepers and accountants can become a “one-stop-shop” for those needing help with their finances (Part 1 of 2)
EARLIER THIS YEAR, Intuit, the parent company of cloud accounting system QuickBooks, announced it had acquired U.S.-based time-tracker platform, TSheets, in a deal worth $340 million U.S.. This was part of Intuit’s strategy to expand its offerings to small businesses and the self-employed. (In the U.S. and Canada, Intuit also operates a cloud software package called TurboTax, which lets individuals file their own federal taxes.)
What the TSheets acquisition means
The TSheets acquisition makes a lot of sense, and provides a good guide to the kinds of businesses cloud accounting firms look to acquire. For example, TSheets and QuickBooks already shared 12,000 customers worldwide, and TSheets had been developed to integrate specifically with QuickBooks (though it also works with Xero and Reckon). It also brings Intuit and QuickBooks in line with one of its competitors, Xero, which acquired a similar project management system WorkflowMax back in 2012.
For TSheets, being part of a big global brands means it’ll be able to innovate faster, with access to the Intuit technology and product team; for Intuit, it’s an additional source of revenue and market share. (Although a privately held company prior to the acquisition, TSheets had been valued at around $40 billion US.)
The cloud accounting ecosystem
Intuit’s TSheets acquisition signals that both Xero and QuickBooks intend to push further into the cloud accounting ecosystem, by partnering with, acquiring, or developing integrations that simplify the accounting process and expand their product offering.
Intuit’s TSheets acquisition signals that both Xero and QuickBooks intend to push further into the cloud accounting ecosystem, by partnering with, acquiring, or developing integrations that simplify the accounting process and expand their product offering.
Xero’s latest suite of products
In 2017, Xero introduced a new suite of products — Xero Expenses, Xero Projects, Xero HQ App Suite, Xero HQ Ask, and Xero Discuss — all aimed at providing SMEs with the technology generally reserved for big enterprises, only far cheaper.
Xero already has an app ecosystem of more than 600 certified app partners and 40,000 developers. And since Xero migrated its platform to Amazon Web Services, the subsidiary of Amazon that provides cloud-computing platforms to companies, Xero has been developing its machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in a push towards completely code-free accounting; in March 2017, Xero released a code-free invoicing and bank transactions feature. (MYOB previously released a similar feature called SmartBills two years earlier.)
Xero has been developing its machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in a push towards completely code-free accounting.
The company’s chief executive Rod Drury said that the move towards automation “will be bigger than the move to the cloud.” He also said the company was working on a feature that would automate invoices entirely.
What else has Intuit acquired?
On Intuit’s part, it’s Asia Pacific arm of the businesses has made a number of acquisitions over the last few years to beef up its product offering, some of them you might not even be readily aware of — like the 2014 acquisition of Invitco, which created a product called Invitbox that extracts data from PDFs, and operates behind the scenes to extract data from bills and receipts uploaded to the QuickBooks system.
Intuit Asia Pacific also acquired the document management company Fifo in 2013.
Next blog: We look at how the cloud accounting ecosystem has paid off and how and why bookkeepers and others working in the accounting space must continue to up-skill.
I RECENTLY SPOKE WITH the owner of a hairdressing salon who’s been in business for over 18 years (at various different businesses). This woman has ALWAYS used a manual wages timesheet system.
Our team are exploring typical rosters and problems which occur in the payroll processing, and as such, we’re also exploring all the different ways that wages are managed.
The manual wage processing that this hairdressing salon owner uses is very similar to this timesheet tracking system from the late 1890’s and she seems to be quite efficient at it. When I explore the process she uses I can see why business owners would prefer not to spend the money, but if things got busy or tricky and staff numbers are high and hours varied, then a computerised system is definitely more “systemised”.
Computerised Time Sheet Software
I wrote recently about popular time-tracking apps for Xero (also QuickBooks Online) and how they help you manage the time that you spend on various work projects as a professional service provider (like website design, marketing and even bookkeeping) and in the next couple weeks we’re going to explore time sheet management software like Tsheets and Deputy. Not only are they good for scheduling your staff but they can help you keep track of when they sign on and sign off for work.
I was recently talking with someone who uses Deputy as an employee and they described the experience like signing in on a bundy clock! The particular person I spoke to didn’t enjoy the regimen of doing it but it makes perfect sense from the business owners perspective so they have a very tight record of time worked.
Announcement: MYOB Payroll Course recently beefed up
If you’re an existing EzyLearn student who is interested in learning more about the more advanced, more complex areas of Payroll you’ll be pleased to learn that we’ve created and implemented the Advanced Payroll Course (Level 2) into the MYOB AccountRight Payroll Course package.
Here are the topics included:
Set Up Timesheet Preferences
Edit an Existing Super Payroll Category
Create a New Super Payroll Category
Add a New Payroll Category
Edit Employment Classifications to Suit the Business
Create Casual & permanent Employee in MYOB
Enter Timesheets in MYOB
Process a Pay Run
Process Payroll with Personal Leave included
Create a New Deduction Payroll Category
View Employee Leave Accrued
Process Pay including Annual Leave
Run a Payroll Entitlements Report
Run a Payroll Journal Report
Produce a Balance Sheet
Record your Bank Details
Record Employee Bank Details
Process a Pay Run
Create an Electronic Payment File
Process Final Pay
Stay tuned for updates and additions of advanced MYOB, Xero and Quickbooks training content in the coming announcements.
Employer Recognised & Trusted Course
I was going through some enrolments from recent and past students with our marketing team and realised we’ve helped thousands of students from hundreds of different companies large and small, government, not-for-profit and industry organisations which help students retrain and up-skill if they are injured at work. That’s not to mention the thousands of students who do one of our courses to help them in their career advancement or to find a job.
AS YOU MAY BE AWARE, each year the ATO updates the tax concessions for businesses. This is usually the result of a budget measure being passed by the Government. Other times it’s due to the ATO simplifying the tax processes for businesses.
For the financial year ending June 30, 2018 (FY17/18), there have been four big changes that affect small business. In particular, how a small business is defined, which lowers the tax rates for more Australian businesses.
Small business threshold increases to $25m
The threshold for how a small business is defined was increased to an aggregated turnover of $25 million. Aggregated turned over includes any other form of income associated with the main business — i.e., shares on the stock market, revenue-generating property owned by the business, shareholdings in other companies, and so on.
Providing your aggregated turnover is below $25 million, your business is eligible for the company tax rate of 27.5 percent.
In the financial year ending June 30, 2019 (FY18/19), the turnover threshold will increase to $50 million, while the company tax rate will progressively decrease until it reaches 25 percent by FY26/27.
Instant asset write-off
The instant $20,000 asset write-off threshold has been extended until June 30, 2018, which means any computers, vehicles, furnishings or other assets purchased for your business between July 1, 2017 and 30 June, 2018 can be deducted immediately.
This deduction can be used for any asset that costs less than $20,000, whether new or secondhand.
Professional expenses deductions for startups
Startups can immediately deduct any profession, accounting, legal advice in the year it was incurred. For instance, a person who, in the process of setting up a cafe, hires a consultant to determine a suitable location for the business, may deduct the consultant’s fees in the year they incurred. This is true even for an established business that is setting up a new business, unrelated to their existing one.
For example, the cafe owner may already operate a restaurant. As long as the cafe doesn’t share the same name and is independent of the cafe, the fees may be deducted. If the new cafe was an expansion on the existing business, the deductions wouldn’t apply.
Immediate deductions for prepaid expenses
You can now claim an immediate deduction for prepaid expenses where the payment covers a period of up to 12 months and ends in the next financial year. If you took out a 12 month lease on premises for your business and paid 12 months rent upfront, the deduction would apply. It wouldn’t apply, however, if you signed a 24 month lease, as the service period is greater than 12 months.
Small business restructure rollover
Small businesses can now change the legal structure of their business — from partnership to a company, for example — without incurring any income liability when the assets are transferred from the partnership to the company.
This rollover applies to any active asset, whether they’re CGT assets, stock, revenue assets or depreciating assets.
In changing the structure of a partnership to a company, the rollover only applies where there is no change in economic ownership. For example, if a husband and wife decide to change the structure of their caravan park to a company, and both husband and wife remain equal shareholders in the business.
The rollover wouldn’t apply, however, if a third person became a shareholder in the company or the shares were distributed unevenly between husband and wife. Both would constitute an economic change in the ownership of any assets, even though they’re a couple.
We’ll keep you informed of new and emerging technologies that help you do business better. As part of our Updates and Additions policy, any new content we add is yours’ FOR FREE as a current EzyLearn student.
Unfortunately, we’re not given free access to accounting software, so we can’t pass free software access onto our students either. However, we do let you know where you can access trial or student versions while you complete our courses.
It made me wonder: Who’s driving the demand for these programs? It turns out, it’s usually someone’s bookkeeper or accountant recommending them. And this is usually because they’ve done a training course and learnt how to use one or more of the major accounting packages.
Does your bookkeeper or accountant disclose whether they’re earning a commission?
Some bookkeepers take a 15 percent cut of the monthly subscription fee because they’re a certified MYOB / Xero / QuickBooks consultant — and that’s why they recommend a particular package. I personally think that bookkeepers or BAS agents who do this should disclose that they are earning an ongoing commission — just as real estate agents need to make these declarations in their agency agreements.
Businesses don’t know any alternatives
It also happens that a lot of business owners don’t know about alternative accounting packages. Therefore they simply choose the brand name they’ve heard about the most. I discovered this with real estate agents when it comes to who they choose for their social media marketing services — most of them ask what software or which person Joe Blow uses and then assume it’s good enough for them.
Selecting an accounting package to use is often one of the first things a new business owner does. At this stage, however, they may not even be aware of what they require from an accounting package; never mind what sorts of alternatives they should be looking at. When first starting out, they’re just anxious to be able to invoice and get paid by their first client.
Three low cost alternatives to the “three brand names”
Zoho, Freshbooks and Wave are three other accounting packages that are either free or very inexpensive.
These three also include many of the same features you’ll find in the three big name accounting packages — MYOB, Xero and QuickBooks.
Zoho: Free invoicing software allows one user, invoice up to five customers; paid subscriptions from $7 U.S. per month; add extra features (expenses, subscription management, inventory management) as required. Pricing for Zoho Books, the complete accounting package, start at $9 U.S. per month for 2 users, 50 contacts, 5 automated workflows.
Freshbooks: Complete accounting software includes unlimited invoices, accept online and credit card payments, multiple devices, reports, payment reminders, notifications when clients have received, viewed, paid invoices; pricing starts at $15 U.S. per month for 5 active contacts (customers).
Wave: Forever free invoicing and accounting software includes unlimited estimates and invoices, generate reports, scan receipts, bank feeds (accounting package), and more; accept credit card and online payments for a fee (1.75 percent for ever 30 cents AUD); payroll $36 AUD per month.
Consider your business needs first
We recommend either Wave or Zoho for small but growing businesses, looking for a cheap or free accounting solution. Wave, in particular, provides a fairly robust accounting package that’s entirely free, and remains so if you don’t intend to take credit card or online payments (lots of businesses do, but many more don’t). In fact, they even have their own smartphone apps to capture receipts and create invoices while you’re at a clients!
If you anticipate you might want to add other productivity apps, like a CRM, inventory management, IT helpdesk, recruitment tools, or collaborate in a team project, Zoho is a good place to start, as these features can be turned on and off as required.
Of course, these accounting packages are rarely used or recommended by accountants or bookkeepers, who prefer to work with Xero, MYOB or QuickBooks because they provide the functionality needed to complete and lodge activity statements. If you’ll be working with a bookkeeper or accountant, it’s best to stick with one of the brand name three.
If you need training in MYOB, Xero and QuickBooks, our online training courses will show you how to set up and use various aspects of the software. More importantly, they will take you through detailed case studies where you can enter all the transactions performed by various different business types eg. professional services, trades and even the sale of inventory products. Visit our website for more information or to enrol.
I WAS BROWSING THROUGH my contacts on LinkedIn and found an advertisement by a company that was looking to hire people.
They were in the AI (Artificial Intelligence) space and their headquarters were in Europe.
However, the ad looked like it could be for any company including trades, professional services etc.
Here’s what the ad contained:
Executive Assistant / Office Manager
The Executive Assistant / Office Manager will be primarily responsible for helping to keep everyone (and everything) working at peak performance. We’re a growing company, and there will be new and interesting challenges every day. Ideal candidates are curious and interested in learning more about what we do, and always interested in learning new skills and taking on new challenges.
Manage all aspects of office administration
Coordinate team schedules and events
Manage executive schedules
Handle payment of invoices and associated bookkeeping
Order supplies and equipment
Excellent verbal and written English communication skills
Strong organizational and time management skills
Ability to work with minimum supervision, prioritizing work as needed
Strong knowledge of office applications, including Word, Powerpoint, and Excel
The training you need
Apart from the soft skills like good time management, communications, speaking and writing the software skills you can learn to apply for this job are:
Why I’m sharing this ad is that I reckon it encapsulates “the perfect” administrative or executive assistant, or office manager. What I mean is that anybody possessing all the skills and capabilities listed above would be well qualified for almost any job in this area — for pretty much any type of company.
And they wouldn’t be limited to any particular industry either. Any intelligent person who is a quick learner would be able to pick up the nuances for various different industries and apply their skills as necessary.
MANY SMALL BUSINESS owners get distracted thinking about what they could do or want to do and not what they can do now.
Doing what you know, and particularly, what you love doing and are passionate about, will ensure you earn money and get new clients.
Why? How? Because people see it in your body language and hear it in your voice.
Throw in some good computer skills and efficient credit and money management and you’ll be set for a great financial year profit.
People Prefer Specialists
I recently worked with a lot of different trades people on an investment property in Newcastle and found it fascinating how many trades people would promise to do a lot of things but then not be able to deliver when needed.
In particular I spoke with a painter who claimed that he was a level 3 painter (and not a level 1 painter) and then gave me reasons for it.
I soon realised that this painter simply wanted to work at a slower pace doing lots of interesting things. He didn’t want to work on intricate, complicated paint jobs — however, he was quoting on EVERYTHING in the hope of getting the work.
Similarly, don’t even bother quoting on projects that require lots of different tools and expertise you don’t necessarily have. You can branch out later, once your business is more established and you have the time and resources to take on different kinds of jobs.
Just remember, people want experts because they know the job will be be done well — and they’re willing to pay good money for that. If you’d prefer to do more basic paint jobs like renovation touch ups and/or refreshing old houses, and you are willing to accept a lower rate, there is also plenty of demand for that.
Build a network of specialist professionals
You, personally, can’t be everything to everyone, but you can build up a network of professionals so your business can provide everything to everyone.
Get to know other professionals who carrying out work in ancillary and adjacent areas to your business, and work out a mutually beneficial arrangement to pass work onto each other, where each people can earn a finder’s fee.
Learn about setting prices, business planning
The painter recently went through the topics in our EzyStartup Course and realised he could earn a commission or referrals by passing jobs that were outside his area of expertise onto other painting companies. This has enabled him to focus more on the renovations and maintenance work that he prefers to do.
Our EzyStartup Course taught him about pricing services, business planning, and developing a professional network to grow his business. Visit our website for more information or to enrol.
Why you should employ a bookkeeper to help manage the books
PERHAPS YOU ARE a small business owner who is trying hard to keep up to speed with your regulatory bookkeeping requirements. But no sooner does one quarter end and another one seems to roll by with the commensurate paperwork due all over again. This is taking away from your regular work and you’re falling behind — and half the time you’re not even sure that it’s being done correctly. It sounds like you should be seriously considering finding a bookkeeper for your business.
Think about your business and how it operates. Do you have lots of business purchases and transactions each week? Do you employ staff? Do you work in a specialised industry? Are you registered for GST? Do you require a bookkeeper to work onsite at your premises or can they work remotely?
Visit the websites of some local bookkeepers in your area, or search the National Bookkeeping Directory to find bookkeepers matching your requirements located near you. If you don’t require a bookkeeper to visit your premises, broaden your scope and research bookkeepers who can work remotely. Make a shortlist of potential bookkeepers.
Step Three: Check the TPB Register
BAS and tax agents are required, by law, to register with the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB), so if your business requires either a tax or BAS agent (or both), the TPB Register should be your first port of call to ensure the person who have in mind is currently registered to provide BAS or tax services.
Step Four: Interview Your Preferred Bookkeepers
During step two, you made a shortlist of potential bookkeepers, and, assuming your TPB search didn’t turn up anything to be wary of, you should now set about contacting each one to get to know more about the services they provide.
You’re an employee of a registered BAS agent, who pays you wages to help them with BAS services
You’re an employee of a business doing its BAS
You do the books for your own business – you prepare the activity statements for your own virtual assistant business
You don’t receive a fee or reward for the BAS services you provide – you’re helping a relative or in-law prepare their activity statements.
You may still need to register, however, even if the client lodges their own activity statements, simply because they relied on your advice or work relating to their BAS.
Who needs to register, then?
In a nutshell, if you provide BAS services that you are paid for – that is, you receive a fee or reward – then you need to register with the TPB.
Even if you’re being paid for your BAS work as part of other types of work (like a freelance office manager whose duties include providing BAS services, along with other duties, like customer service and general administrative tasks), you still need to register.
You’ll also need to register if you’re a contractor, providing BAS services to another registered agent. This applies even if you work at the registered agent’s office or premises and you’re not considered an employee of that agent (for further info, see the ATO’s guide to determining when someone is a contractor and not an employee).
Why register to be a BAS agent?
As we’ve said, there’s the legal requirement to register to be a BAS agent if you’re deriving an income, or some other form of remuneration, for providing BAS services to another business. But there are other reasons why a person with the knowledge and know-how of BAS should register as an agent.
Say you’re someone who doesn’t need to register, but you’d like to pick up extra work as a contract or freelance bookkeeper, being a registered BAS agent makes you more valuable to businesses; not just because you can complete and lodge their activity statements, but because you can also advise them on their BAS.
As noted above, even if you don’t lodge the activity statement because your client does, you may still need to register if they relied on any part of your work or advice. For your services to be clearly delineated from your client’s BAS, you’re only able to provide very basic data entry services.
If you don’t register, it means you can’t:
Work out the codes for GST or FBT collection
Provide reconciliation, because it involves deciding on the tax codes to apply
Manage your client’s payroll
You wouldn’t even be able to set up a client’s accounting software for their business.
When people hire a freelancer or a contractor, they tend to hire someone who can fit one of two criteria; either they’re:
Highly skilled in their particular field; or
If they want someone highly skilled, it’s usually because the project they’ll be working on is very important to them; if they hire someone inexpensive, it’s because the project isn’t particularly important, but does need to be done nevertheless.
You can probably see where we’re heading here. We happen to think bookkeeping is extremely important, because it indisputably has many far and wide ranging implications for all of our businesses.
How and with whom you need to register
First you need to have completed, as a minimum, a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping at a TAFE or another registered training organisation. Then you need to register with the TPB, which requires registrants to meet a certain criterion before they can be accredited as BAS agents.
Although it’s not a requirement, you’ll also need to know how to use some of the most popular accounting packages. At the moment, the three most popular accounting packages with both accountants and most business owners, are QuickBooks, MYOB and Xero, of which we offer online training courses in. All of these packages have pros and cons.
We say it’s not a requirement to know each of the above, because a Cert IV in Bookkeeping trains you in the intricacies of Australian tax law, but doesn’t teach you how to apply that in any accounting software; that’s something you have to learn yourself if you’re going to put your education into practice.
Since then, however, a number of cloud-based accounting applications have entered the market — QuickBooks Online (now distributed by their US-based parent company Intuit), Reckon One, Saasu, Zoho, and so on.
Even though Xero was hailed as a breath of fresh air when it first entered the market, it is still a little more complicated to use when compared with other cloud accounting apps, like QuickBooks and Reckon One. For instance, the purchase orders feature is still hidden behind bills, when it could easily be access via a dropdown menu. But it’s not a major quibble.
Xero’s contact profile misses a beat
Although Xero allows you to assign customer numbers for your suppliers or customers in the contact profile, it doesn’t have the functionality to record customer numbers assigned by supplier or customer.
So what are some of the benefits? One; they get their accounting software for free, two; they receive a discount or commission for each new business they sign up to use that particular software.
Does this make certified consultants and advisors biased?
For a business owner, the upside to hiring a bookkeeper endorsed by a software company is that they will be able to work with that software application quickly and efficiently. The potential downside, however, is that the software application may not be especially suited to the business, but has been recommended anyway because the bookkeeper earns a commission for doing so.
A way around this is to do some research first. Compare a few different accounting applications before making contact with a certified consultant or advisor. Once you’ve decided on a particular software, you shouldn’t find yourself in any strife.
Independent bookkeepers bring software skills and more
Most independent bookkeepers are usually proficient in a few of the major accounting applications, like Xero, MYOB and Quickbooks, rather than just one, so they’ll be able to recommend the software that suits you and your business needs the best.
They’re also able to set up your accounting software for you and provide training if necessary, just as a certified consultant or advisor can — only you’ll be in control of your subscription instead of your bookkeeper.
Now that virtual bookkeepers have become more common, lots of business owners have started selecting bookkeepers based on their affiliation with an accounting application. Such bookkeepers are often called a Certified Advisor (Xero), Pro Advisor (QuickBooks) or Certified Consultant (MYOB). But are they really the best bookkeeper for your business?
What are Certified Advisors, Consultants and Pro Advisors?
In a nutshell, a certified advisor, consultant or pro advisor is just an individual who has been endorsed by a software company because they’ve demonstrated a high level of knowledge and skill with a particular accounting product.
Hiring a bookkeeper who’s been endorsed by MYOB, say, means you shouldn’t have to worry about whether your bookkeeper has set up your accounting package correctly, or whether they’re using the correct codes. What it doesn’t guarantee, however, is that each consultant or advisor is a highly experienced BAS or tax agent, as the certification relates to their software knowledge only.
Find a highly qualified BAS or tax agent instead
Sure, a bookkeeper who’s experienced in your accounting package is important. It’ll help keep your bookkeeping bill down because they’re able to perform certain functions quickly, while your accountant shouldn’t need to fix any errors, either. But that’s only providing that they’re as knowledgeable in Australian tax as they are MYOB or Xero or QuickBooks.
Unfortunately, however, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. So instead of focussing on a bookkeeper’s software experience, it’s more beneficial to ensure they’re qualified BAS and tax agents, with either a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping or higher.
If you don’t get a bad reference from their current and former clients, then there’s a pretty good chance they’re proficient in the major accounting packages, and if they’re not, most bookkeepers will tell you upfront.
Get the accounting package that’s best for your business, not your bookkeeper
There are lots of reasons a bookkeeper would choose to become certified with a software company, the biggest being that they get their accounting software for free and receive a commission for each new client they sign up to use the accounting package they’ve been certified with.
However, when you hire an independent bookkeeper who’s well-versed in a few different accounting packages, you’re more likely to get better advice about which accounting package is best suited to you and your business’s needs, rather than the accounting package that will generate income for your bookkeeper.
We feature our own online directory of local bookkeepers looking to add to their customers. Visit National Bookkeeping to find a suitable and experienced person available to work in your area, or able to work anywhere in the cloud. Alternatively, if you are a bookkeeper looking to expand your client list or find contract work, you can register and become part of our network for free.
MICROSOFT EXCEL IS THE most widely used spreadsheet application in modern computing. That said, it’s also one of the more difficult programs of the Microsoft Office Suite to learn, which is why we recently updated the content of our Excel training courses.
A lot of people do our Excel training courses to help them “skill up” to find a job, find a position better suited to them, or develop their career path. However, Excel is a fantastic tool for small business owners as well.
But whether you use Excel to create a pivot table or a database, there are a few things you should do each time you open an Excel document. Here we present you with three:
1. Vertical align: always centre
Always align the text in the cells of your Excel spreadsheet to the centre, or the top in certain circumstances. But never, ever align it to the bottom. It’s hard on the eyes and, when you’re looking at lots and lots of data in lots and lots of cells, it becomes difficult to know which row, column, etc, you’re looking in. Centre alignment, always.
2. Build error-checking into formulas
There should never be an instance where one of your workbooks is showing a #DIV/0, #N/A, #REF, #NAME?, #NUM!, or #NULL! error. This is especially true if you’re sharing these workbooks with your business partners or accountant or whomever.
Seeing an error in a financial report may cause the reader to doubt the accuracy of the entire workbook, so ensure your workbooks remain error free by using the simple IFERROR() error-checking function in Excel.
3. Print preview your work
Again, if you intend to share workbooks with other people, you should always ensure that your Excel workbooks can be printed nicely and easily, even if you don’t intend to ever print the document yourself. This is easy enough to do via File > Print Preview and adjusting the print margins before sharing (or printing) the document.
However, judging by the number of times I’ve printed an Excel document only to collect 87 sheets of paper off my printer to read the contents one 4×4 table, the function is seldom used by anyone else but me!
Help us help you get your business financials set up right
SO WE’RE INTO THE new Australian financial year. With the start of each financial year comes the chance to right last year’s financial habits and avoid repeating them again. You know what they say about people who repeat the same actions over and over again expecting different results …
If you had a crazy end of financial year, try starting off the next 12 months (well, 11 now, can you believe it!) on a positive footing, with these good financial habits.
Check your accounting software is set up correctly
Something that causes businesses and their owners countless headaches at tax time is accounting software that’s been setup incorrectly or not set up completely. Transactions that are coded wrong or bank feeds that are connected to the wrong account — or too few accounts — can leave you in the middle of a bookkeeping nightmare come June 30.
Spend some time sorting this out, or employ a bookkeeper to get you set up correctly. It’s worth that little bit of extra time now to get it right, truly!
Aim for daily reconciliations
Reconciling your business accounts regularly is important for a number of reasons, fostering good habits being chief among them. You may not need to reconcile your accounts each day, but it’s certainly a lot easier to find 10 or 15 minutes two or three times a week, rather than two or three hours once a month. The most often you do your bookkeeper the more unlikely it is that you’ll leave it pile up, eventually requiring costly rescue bookkeeping. You’ll also have a much better picture of your business’s performance with current accounting data.
Monitor cash flow
Positive cash flow is the marker of a healthy business. Negative cash flow is not. There are plenty of seemingly profitable businesses suffering negative cash flow that threatens to put them out of business. Don’t let yours be one of them. Create your own cash flow forecast reports in Excel or use a cash flow forecasting or expense app to determine if you’ll have enough money in the bank to meet your ongoing commitments (which includes paying yourself a living wage to meet your personal commitments).