Pardon the pun but it’s true, Sage One training course materials will now be included in the Bookkeeping Academy Training Course Package along with Xero Accounting, MYOB & QuickBooks.
Many bookkeepers use EzyLearn to keep up to date with the various accounting software programs now available and this latest announcement is for you. Training Course materials and support for Sage One and Reckon One.
‘Social proof’ is testimonials, reviews and feedback of others, that vouches for the product or service we’re thinking of buying. Social proof backs up the fact that what we’re considering buying is what it says it is.
Come see some social proof about EzyLearn by meeting some students from the past few weeks — you just might have a lot in common with them.
A lot of the time, however, people enrol in an Excel online training course or Xero online training course because they need to refresh a specific set of skills for their job, which means they don’t have the time to focus on other areas that don’t have an immediate relevance for their work.
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.
As a general rule, every business needs at least two finance professionals working on their business accounts, but which two professionals you’ll need to hire depends on your business needs. If you’re not sure who you need to hire for your business, here’s a cheat sheet to help you out.
Bookkeepers (not registered with the TPB)
An independent bookkeeper not employed by an accountant and not registered with the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB) may only perform basic bookkeeping services, such as the entering of receipts, coding financial transactions, generating invoices and, possibly, some accounts receivable work. If you hire this type of bookkeeper, you’ll still need an accountant.
BAS agents must, by law, register with the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB), which certifies that they are qualified and have completed the necessary continuing education requirements to perform the tasks of a BAS agent, which involves carrying out most of the bookkeeping tasks mentioned above, in addition to preparing and lodging business activity statements on a business’s behalf.
If your business is registered for GST, you will need to file regular activity statements. If you hire a BAS agent, you’ll also need an accountant. In some instances, you may find a BAS agent who’s also a registered tax agent and vice versa, who may be able to take care of all your taxation needs.
Although tax agents, like BAS agents, must also register with the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB), a tax agent is focused on income tax — how much income you have to declare, how much you can claim back, etc.
This is distinct from a BAS agent who is concerned with the day-to-day financial tasks of your business (bookkeeping and BAS lodgements). That said, some tax agents will also perform some the basic bookkeeping tasks on a regular basis, though they primarily specialise in lodging tax returns.
If you’re not registered for GST, and your tax agent will also perform regular bookkeeping tasks (or you can do it yourself), you may not need to hire an accountant. In some instances, you may find a tax agent who’s also a registered BAS agent and vice versa, who may be able to take care of all your taxation needs.
An accountant is mostly concerned with planning and strategy. Unlike bookkeepers and BAS or tax agents, an accountant will assess and advise you on what actions you should take to maximise your income. Great accountants will get involved with planning the direction of your business and ensure it’s been structured properly and that you’re meeting any additional tax obligations.
They’ll also help you to make strategic purchases for equipment and machinery, and work with your BAS agent or bookkeeper to ensure these decisions are reflected in your daily financial records. An accountant is also able to prepare and lodge tax returns on your behalf.
How much should I pay a bookkeeper?
Check out the National Bookkeeping Directory, which features the details of bookkeepers, capable of doing data entry and clerical tasks, through to high-level accounting work as undertaken by BAS agents, accountants and CFOs.
You can also see the National Bookkeeping rates page to find out what level bookkeeper your business needs.
ONLINE RATINGS AND REVIEWS ARE a great way to determine whether a business is trustworthy or whether they products and services they provide will suit your needs. TripAdvisor and Yelp have transformed the hospitality and accommodation industry, for example. And Airbnb is doing similar with short-term rentals.
While recently working on a home renovation in Newcastle, I came across a carpenter who had seven employees working for him. Jimmy the Chippy in Belmont has been in business nine years, has no website or online presence — but his business is booming.
How does he do it?
The old fashioned way! He does exceptional work for his customers and clients, who hire him again and again and refer him to friends, relatives, colleagues and so on. He also made a point of networking with local builders and plumbers in the area, who contact him when they have work to do, and refer him to other builders and plumbers as well.
Use word of mouth
If you’re looking locally, and the online ratings and reviews of the businesses you’re trying to decide between aren’t helping, asking a friend, relative or work colleague if they know any of the businesses.
If no one in your social network knows the business, you can also google an online forum like Whirlpool, where members frequently provide fair and balanced opinions of businesses they’ve dealt with — and if they don’t, they’re usually called out for it.
Testimonials are helpful, too
Real estate agents, accountants and many other businesses — EzyLearn included — use testimonials rather than ratings or reviews (except on Facebook), so you shouldn’t discount these just because they’ve been vetted before going online.
At EzyLearn we provide testimonials from our students, which include their full name and location, and why they chose EzyLearn to study in the first place. We ask each student whether it is ok to publish these beforehand. We also offer a money-back guarantee and free samples of our course content, so students know they can trust they’re making the right choice.
If you’re in the financial position to buy your business premises outright, it may seem like a no-brainer to do this instead of getting a mortgage. However, there are some things you need to consider:
You’ll lose liquidity on the assets in your property, which means you won’t be able to tap into any equity in the property, unless you take out an equity loan against the property.
You’re tying all your cash to one asset class, which may limit your ability to make other investments and prevent your business from expanding. This could run counter to your reasons for making the property purchase in the first place.
You’re spreading the payments over many years, which ties you to paying down that asset for the foreseeable future.
You’re paying interest, which although it’s a tax deduction, will significantly inflate the price of the property.
Work out the best way in Excel
Using the data from your Xero accounting software package, Microsoft Excel can help you determine whether your business will be financially better off buying its premises outright or getting a mortgage.
Lots of businesses avoid buying premises for their businesses, because you’ll need to have a large capital injection right off the bat, and you may also incur land tax obligations, building insurance, and also be liable for maintenance and repairs.
Renting gives businesses, especially new ones, flexibility, as you’re only locked into a short term lease — not a multi decade mortgage. And if you decide to move or find new premises before your lease term is up, you can often minimise the costs by subletting the premises.
You’re also afforded greater freedoms and stability when you own your business’s premises — in particular, protections from rising rents — than you would have if you rented your premises. If you outgrow the space, you can always access the equity and may be able to buy adjacent premises, or rent out your existing ones while you upgrade, providing another valuable income stream.
Industrial units are a good pathway into ownership for your business. If you don’t need to be right in the heart of the city or major town centre, you can often purchase an industrial unit for under $100,000.
In Newcastle in the Hunter region of New South Wales, you can purchase an industrial unit called a Cubbyhole, which can be used as a workshop, storage unit or office space for tradespeople, small and online businesses. These come with amenities such as toilets and showers, car parking (including visitors’ and disabled) and CCTV security, among other things and are worth checking out if you want to buy and only need a smaller business space.
Cash flow reports show the money going in and out of the business, so they’re better indicators of a business’s overall financial health than a Profit and Loss statement (P&L).
A cash flow report enables you to make forecasts and budgets for your business based on previous trends — recurring expenses, average time to get paid, seasonal quiet periods, and so forth.
The 3 cash flow categories
Cash flow reports are typically broken up into three categories:
Operating activities: cash flowing in and out of the business from revenue-generating activities
Investing activities: cash flowing in and out of the business from the acquisition and sale of long-term assets
Financing activities: cash flowing in and out of the business from borrowings and changes in equity.
Items in a cash flow report
In our Cash Flow, Budgets and ROI Xero Training Course, you’ll learn how to generate a cash flow report in Xero. That report will show every transaction that’s run in and out of your business, divided among one of the three categories.
In the operating activities category, you’ll typically find things like costs associated with any training courses or seminars, advertising and marketing expenses, income or commissions from your business, subscriptions to any magazines or periodicals, etc.
Under the investing activities category, you’ll find the cost of purchasing office or warehouse space and the capitalised borrowing cost, for example.
The financing activities category will show the loan you’ve taken out to purchase your business’s office or warehouse space.
The sales spiels of many of the notable online accounting software packages like QuickBooks, Wave Accounting, Outright, Kashoo, LessAccounting, Clearbooks and even Xero, claim that this feature will save you time and effort as it imports your bank transactions. The truth is, this is not foolproof and won’t work 100 percent of the time (even if it’s just a matter of not being able to get your software and your bank to “connect” just as your mobile phone connection inexplicably doesn’t work sometimes).
Therefore, always double check your bank transaction data has been imported accurately. This said, importing your bank statement into Xero (or whatever accounting software you use) is a really important step in the bookkeeping process that a lot of business owners forget or don’t know how to do. And the technology is only going to get better!
Using the correct format
To import your bank statement into Xero, you must ensure it’s in the correct format. Xero can only work with a CSV file of your bank statement. Depending on your bank, you might be able to download your bank statement as a CSV file from your internet banking, or you will have to create one from scratch.
Creating one from scratch isn’t too difficult. If your bank doesn’t give you the option of downloading a bank statement as a CSV file, you can create one yourself in Microsoft Excel.
You can download an Excel template from Xero. It includes the recommended fields and is already set up as a CSV file, so all you need to do is add in your data.
Setting rules for recurring transactions helps speed up the reconciliation process, which depending on the type of business you operate and how often you reconcile your account, can be the most time-consuming part of the process.
Importing your bank statement and creating rules for transactions that occur each week, month fortnight, year, etc, greatly speeds up this process.
No CSV? Use bank feeds
If your business has lots of expenses every week, and your bank doesn’t let you download your bank statement in a CSV format, you may find that manually creating one in Excel each month is too time consuming.
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).
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
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.
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.
What’s a cash flow app, if not a program that tracks your expenses and income and then tells you how much money you have left in the bank? That’s what FUTRLI and Spotlight, the apps we reviewed recently would do, and then also let you do other things, like create scenarios to determine the particular outcome of a business decision.
But there are other expense apps that sole traders and contractors can use for cash flow forecasting:
Pocketbook, the Australian personal finances app recently acquired by ASX-listed ZipMoney, is free to use, although a recent deal with 1300HomeLoans means it may analyse your spending data to make commercial suggestions around your personal finances. (For the record, I have been testing it for months and hasn’t been subject to any such suggestions.)
Pocketbook lets you connect your bank account to the app so it can import your income and transaction data. Once you get some initial housekeeping — categorising your expenses and income — out of the way, you can then set up a safety spend limit based on Pocketbook’s analysis of your spending vs. income.
Pocketbook also learns from your transaction history, meaning it can predict upcoming income and bills. It’s very nifty for contractors or freelancers who have more than one income source that doesn’t always run through your accounting software — if you’re working on your TFN and ABN, for instance.
This free app, by ASIC MoneySmart, lets you connect your bank account to the app, categorise your expenses, nominate a spending limit, and create expense reminders that can be sent to as text messages ahead of their due date.
Like Pocketbook (but without the commercial overtones), TrackMySpend will also learn from previous trends in your income and expense data to predict future income and expenses. Best of all, TrackMySpend can be exported as an Excel file or connected to your accounting software. The iOS app is a bit out of date, though, so it won’t work on more recent Apple devices.
If you didn’t know it already, the Australian Tax Office has its own mobile app. It allows you to access the ATO’s online services, lodge and track your tax return (yes, right from your mobile phone), work out key tax dates and access tools and calculators.
Its most handy functions: being able to enter your expenses (including a photo of receipts and bills), track mileage, and record your income. It’s not automated, but it does propagate that info directly into your tax return, so you don’t have to do it later. It also accurately calculates your tax liabilities.
The ATO app’s best function, however, is its “business performance calculator”, which, using the data you input, will give you an indication of your business’s ability to pay its debts, as well as a comparison of its performance based on the ATO’s “small business benchmarks” data. Over time, it’ll also show whether your business has improved or declined since you last used the tool.
Understanding your business’s cash flow is critical to its ongoing financial health, and to your ability to make sound business decisions. Use one of these tools in conjunction with your accounting software to ensure your business is running on all cylinders.
Our Xero training courses, which provide training in EVERY LEVEL for ONE LOW COST, will show you how to run financial reports, including cash flow statements that you can use to create forecasts in Excel. Visit our website for more information about our online training courses.
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