Do start-ups need accounting software?

By: Neil Goddard

Date: 26 January 2012

There is an ever growing number of accounting software packages available to suit businesses of any size and many that are particularly suitable for small business accounting. Making accounting easy is crucial for those running their own business, at whatever stage of development. However, should you choose to purchase accounting software from the start or is it a cost that can wait?

Generally, it's advisable to have an accounting system in place when you start running your business. Free advice is available online from Business Link (and other sources) and it's a good idea to make the most of such resources. Additionally, I believe it's important to employ an accountant, if only for advice, in the early days. As your business grows, using the right system for you and taking further advice is crucial.

Basic accounting systems

For the smallest of businesses a basic Excel spread-sheet is likely to be an adequate way to record your costs and income. You'll need to know what costs can be included in this and if you are unsure, take professional advice. Setting up a spread-sheet that contains functions to calculate figures on an on-going basis will make the process simpler. If you don't know how to do this, find someone who does. In addition to keeping the spread-sheet up to date you'll need to create your own invoices, a Word document set up as a template is a simple way to do this. Keeping your own accounts in this way is certainly cost-effective, but is also probably the most time-consuming.

Accounting software

This usually comes in two types – desktop accounting software or online accounting software. Desktop packages come in the form of a CD or download that you install onto your computer. If your accounts are simple, a basic software package should be sufficient, although consider which features you will need in the future. Payroll and VAT functions may not be relevant now, but check to be sure that the package you buy can be updated with different elements as your business grows. Online accounting software is considered by many to offer more flexibility than desktop software. Accessing your accounting system via a web browser, your records and data are stored securely, which can combat any loss by theft of computer crashes, and can be accessed wherever you are or whenever you like.

Benefits of good financial record keeping

Accurate record keeping is essential when it comes to small business accounting. It's also a legal requirement (you can be fined if you fail to keep truthful and accurate financial records).

Certainly even for the smallest business, online accounting software packages can help to ensure that records are available when needed. Accounting software of both varieties will also help you to prepare simple and professional accounts for your accountant, saving them time – while saving you money. Professionally prepared accounts, invoices and reports are also well received by banks and other potential sources of funding.

Start-ups and small businesses need to ensure the records they keep are accurate and up-to-date. They also need to give serious thought to the systems they will use as part of their business planning. Preparation and accuracy in the early stages of planning and running your business will pay dividends in the future and may well be the two most important tools that will help you to establish your business.

Neil Goddard blogs on accounting and small business matters for accounting software provider Intuit.

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