Is the ATO Getting into the Cloud Accounting Game?

The ATO is helping you keep track of deductions and expenses

ATO expense app learn xero online training course
The ATO’s recently launched app isn’t helping you invoice just yet, but it is good for keeping track of your business deductions.

ALL BUSINESSES CAN TAP into useful cash flow forecasting apps, whether they use Xero, Quickbooks or MYOB. There are also a host of basic expense and budgeting apps that sole traders and contractors can use for similar purposes.

The difference between the two boils down to price and functions: The more functions you need, the higher the price tag. Businesses that require high-level reporting and forecasting tools, such as a “scenarios” function that lets you determine the impact different business decisions would have on your cash flow, before you actually make them, would need to stump up, at a minimum, between $50 and $80 a month for this functionality.  

Free expense and budgeting apps would suit most contractors and sole traders who don’t require complex forecasting and reporting tools, but who do need to see when money is coming in and when it’s going out, and whether there are deficiencies.

The ATO’s tax and superannuation app

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Image: Courtesy of ATO website

Looking into the best expense and budgeting apps for small business, we came across the Australian Tax Office’s app, simply called ATO. It works on Windows phones, as well as iOs and Android devices, and it’s updated regularly by the ATO, so you know this isn’t just a passing fling.

Our post on cash flow reporting and forecasting for contractors and sole traders went through the app’s functions, including what we thought were some standout features:

  • Recording expenses and deductions
  • Tracking mileage
  • Inputting income
  • Tax calculators
  • Business performance calculator
  • Lodging income tax returns.

If these features sound familiar, that’s because they’re all the features you’ll find in a basic cloud accounting program, with the notable exception of invoicing. Electronic invoicing is not something the ATO is particularly concerned with because it’s not a requirement. Invoicing, of course, is a requirement, but how you do it — in person, by snail mail, email, etc — isn’t.

Cloud accounting still best and easiest

If the ATO app introduced a simple way to invoice customers, we’d say it was definitely muscling in on QuickBooks and Xero’s territory, since both programs appeal to the small business owner, QuickBooks in particular.

In absence of that, the ATO app is a great tool for contractors and small business owners to use to keep track of their expenses and deductions, and especially to calculate their tax rates (so as to properly keep money aside for tax, rather than being hit with a tax bill you have to pay off). For contractors with a very simply business model, it’s even useful for lodging your tax return.

But otherwise, cloud accounting applications are still the best and easiest way for businesses to run an efficient, compliant business. At the end of the day, for many small business owners, they’re not drawn to Xero or QuickBooks because they want to stay compliant, it’s because they want to be able to easily invoice customers and track their income — compliance is just an added bonus.

Our online Xero training courses meet all skills levels for ONE LOW COST. We will show you how to record deductions, invoice customers, run financial reports, and lodge activity statements and tax returns. Visit our website for more information about our range of online accounting, media and general business courses.


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Need to brush up on Excel? You receive access to ALL OF OUR COURSES, including ALL SKILLS LEVELS for ONE LOW PRICE. You can even start your Excel journey with our FREE Beginners’ Excel Course Workbook. Read more about our beginners’, intermediate and advanced Excel training courses on our website, or enrol to start learning by 5pm tomorrow! And all of our Excel courses can be counted towards CPD points.


 

The Power of the Homegrown Australian Business

When ‘Aussie’ is a gold winner

Reach Accounting free course from EzyLearnIN ADDITION TO OUR MYOB and Xero online training courses, we also offer an online training course in Reach Accounting, the cloud-accounting software by Aussie-owned company, Net Registry.

Not many people are aware of this, and I’ve been quite remiss when it comes to talking about it on this blog. In fact, I’ve spent more time talking about Zoho and QuickBooks recently, than I have spent time talking about Reach.

This is partly because I’ve been quite interested to see how QuickBooks has been resurrected by it’s American-owned parent company, Intuit, as it attempts to take on Xero and MYOB in the Australian marketplace again.

Zoho is both comprehensive and cheap

My interest in Zoho, meanwhile, stems from one of my contractors, who uses Zoho Books to manage her business accounts; she was telling me about Zoho’s many features, and I surprised to learn just how comprehensive the Zoho Books software is for such a low price.

Zoho and QuickBooks are both positioning themselves as low-cost accounting packages to appeal to the substantial small business market in Australia, but there’s just one thing they can’t compete with Reach Accounting on, and that’s ‘Australianness’.

Reach Accounting is an Australian owned and operated business, and as the owner of an Australian owned and operated business, I like to support other Australians in their business ventures. Reach Accounting focus their accounting software towards people who start a business as a website designer.

Why it’s harder for Aussie businesses to compete

I’m always saddened when I hear of Australian businesses being sold to overseas conglomerates, which take the Aussie jobs back overseas with them, where the wages and materials are cheaper. It makes it all the more difficult to compete for customers in the Australian marketplace when your once-Australian competitor is now producing products or services at a much lower price at their offshore headquarters.

It’s also difficult to compete with the increasing number of overseas-owned businesses entering the fray, now that the Internet has unlocked a global marketplace. What many Australian businesses don’t realise, however, is that they possess a power those overseas businesses don’t: they speak Aussie.

Whether you’re a home-based bookkeeper or virtual assistant, one of your greatest assets is that you’re an Australian and that means you have a deep understanding of what it means to be Australian – from the accent to the vernacular, you get it.

The power of ‘G’day’

It’s also a lot easier to call an Australian company than it is to call an overseas one. My Zoho Books-using contractor was telling me of a complex situation she was experiencing with her account. Unfortunately, the nearest customer service office she could call was located in China, so she had to email.

Several confused emails later, she finally realised what had happened with her account, and managed to resolve the issue herself. She later told me: “It’s a good thing I studied semiotics at university, because deciphering those emails was like trying to interpret hieroglyphics.”

I suddenly thought about Reach Accounting, which is based in the Inner Sydney suburb of Ultimo. For the same price as Zoho Books – possibly even cheaper now, thanks to the fluctuating Aussie dollar – it would have been much easier to say “G’day” to one of the guys at Reach than it was to email China or India or Japan or wherever in the world Zoho’s customer service offices are based.

Don’t be afraid to say “G’day”

As an Australian business, don’t hide your Australianness from view. Wear it proudly, because it makes a big difference to customers trying to decide between your company and the multinational after their business.

For more information on any of our cloud-accounting courses, visit our website.

Become a Virtual Assistant and Start a Business

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Business Opportunities for Ordinary People

While we are on the topic I want to mention our StartUp Academy because we are planning some fantastic ways of helping ordinary people start a business in 2015.

We’re using a combination of our Small Business Management Course and business opportunities from established companies who want to find people who can work from home and sell and support their products.

We’re also using our Small Business Management course to help our existing students start businesses using the skills they learn in their EzyLearn course – namely MYOB and WordPress. If you’re interested in starting a bookkeeping business read on about National Bookkeeping.