Review of Collsoft Payroll 2018

Your Payroll needs to be well managed

Most business owners I know are a little bit frightened of payroll.

If you don’t manage it properly, you can end up with a big bill at the year end.  If you agree to pay an employee’s wages on an after-tax amount – agreeing to pay, say, € 500 into the hand –  you could find yourself having to pay a very large gross pay to leave the employee with the agreed after tax amount.

You need to get it right and the best way to do that is either to have access to a good payroll package or else to outsource your payroll to somebody.

Collsoft (www.collsoft.ie) is one of the most popular payroll packages for Ireland.

In this video, I am going to provide a quick review of the software focusing on:

How easy is Collsoft to Navigate and use?

Are the Collsoft Payroll calculations reliable?

Are the Collsoft Payslips user friendly?

Does Collsoft Payroll provide the essential Revenue Reports?

Does Collsoft Payroll provide good management reports?

Is Collsoft Payroll Cost Effective

What are the alternatives to Collsoft?

What payroll package do I recommend??

The video takes about 22 minutes.  If you are short on time, go straight to 17:30 mins and you can pick up a summary of the review from there.

After viewing, if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or else contact me.

Review of Sage 50 Accounts

Choosing new accounts software can be a challenge.  You want something that you can use yourself so that you won’t always be dependent on someone else.  You want it to be reliable so that when your review your Profit and Loss you can believe it and you can be confident when you are submitting your VAT and any other returns. Finally, if you are hiring you want to know that there are plenty of people out there with experience in your software.

On top of that, you may have well-intentioned people giving you advice.  Your accountant may prefer to use a particular package.  Your office staff may be familiar with another package and want you to choose that so that they don’t have to learn something new.  You will hear and see advertisements from companies telling you how good and popular their particular product is.

It can all become very intimidating.  You are running a business after all – an expert in your own area.  You don’t want to have to become a software expert as well.

The bottom line is that you want software that will be a good fit for you and your business.  You want something that will give you the information that you need as efficiently as possible.  I have a separate blog post call “How to choose accounting software” that will help you decide on selection criteria.

For now, I want to look at one particular accounting software package called Sage 50.  I have been working with accounting systems now for more years than I want to remember. I have worked on large sophisticated systems and worked on the smallest systems.  In this article I will draw on that experience to help you understand the features of Sage 50 and make a good decision.

History of Sage 50

Sage 50 is a long established product dating back to the 80s.  For a long time, it was market leader and it is widely used throughout Ireland.  Sage also produce software that helps accountants produce annual accounts in the annual accounts format (Sage Accounts Production).   This software can import data directly from Sage 50 which simplifies the annual accountants task.  For that reason, many accountants will be members of the Sage Reseller plan and will recommend Sage to their clients without always being fully transparent about any possible conflict of interest.

In recent years, there have been a large number of challengers to Sage 50 including Quickbooks and Xero.  Sage have been adapting and updating their product in recent years to meet these challenges.

What’s good about Sage 50

  • The product itself is long established and proven. It does what it is supposed to do – when it is used well it works.
  • The product has a large user base so there is lot of information available to help you use it. There are a lot of articles available on its different features and on how to deal with common problems that might arise
  • There are a lot of people around with experience using Sage 50 so that if you need to hire or replace one of your accounts staff if should be fairly easy to find someone with Sage 50 experience.
  • Most accounting firms will have clients who use Sage 50 so they will be familiar with the software and will be able to help you if you need help.
  • Sage 50 is pretty good at VAT. Because it started out as a UK system and we share similar VAT systems to the UK, Sage probably does VAT better than most other accounting packages.
  • Sage 50 handles Bank Reconciliations well.
    On the reconciliations screen you match transactions against what have appeared on the bank statements.  There are good reconciliation reports available.
  • Sage 50 and Foreign Currency
    Some versions of Sage 50 offer the ability to handle foreign currency.  Basically, you set up currencies and input exchanges rates whenever you want – usually month end.
    The software will allow you maintain bank accounts and suppliers or customers in foreign currencies and revalue at month end.  The only issue seems to be that once you set up a customer or supplier for foreign currency you can only transact in that currency – you cannot handle a once of local transaction for that supplier.

What’s not so good about Sage 50

The underlying technology of Sage 50 – multiusers

Sage 50 was originally developed in the 1980s and the database technology that it uses is not as good as what the newer software is using.  In particular, if you have a multiuser environment you will find that you cannot do certain things while other users are active on the system.  I have often been in office where someone is calling out “Who’s in Sage? Can you log out?”  I have only  experienced that with Sage and its very frustrating for all involved.

Interface for Sage 50

The user interface looks like something from the 80s or 90s.  I know that you will get used to it but its not as neat or as intuitive as modern software.

Year End in Sage 50

One thing that really frustrates me is how Sage 50 handles year end.   At Year End you run a close off procedure which transfers all of the profit and loss accounts to the balance Sheet.  You can only do this once and you should wait until your accounts have been finalised so that you transfer correct figures.

However, many small businesses don’t finalise their annual accounts for several months after year end.  Those several months can run to 9 in many cases.   While you are waiting to finalise last year’s accounts, all of this years transactions are classified as future.  You cannot get a monthly profit and loss for the current year until last year is closed out.

As an accountant who strongly recommends that my clients should produce regular management accounts, I find this to be a major weakness.

Drill down in Sage 50

Drill down is a feature that is now very common is modern accounting software.  What is means is that if you run a report and display it on screen you can drill down ie click on a number in a report to see what that number is made up of.

Drill down is really useful for when you are reviewing accounts and trying to better understand why you are getting the results that you are getting.

For many years, Sage 50 did not have drill down.  In recent years they have added it to some reports but not to all.  It’s kind of there – but not fully there.

Correcting Errors in Sage 50

There will always be errors to correct in any accounts package.  People do make mistakes.  At year end, I often find items misclassified and I want to correct them.

For many years, Sage 50 did not allow corrections as they took the view that this weakened the audit trail.  Rather, you had to post a journal to transfer the original figure. What you were left with in your accounts was an incorrect transaction and a correcting transaction.  This makes it harder to follow what had happened.

They have amended that in recent versions but its not perfect.  Some, but not all, transactions can be corrected but often to correct those all other users have to be out of the system – the multiuser issue.  Additionally, finding and editing the transaction is cumbersome.  Overall, I don’t like how they do handle corrections.

Collaboration in Sage 50

If you want to collaborate with your accountant using Sage 50, you have to share a backup. The accountant can make changes, if they also have the software, and then they send you back a backup.  You can’t work on your data while the accountant is working on it as restoring his backup will overwrite the work that you have done.

This is very cumbersome compared to what’s possible with any of cloud packages where the data lives in the cloud and anyone with a browser can work on it, more or less, at the same time.

To overcome this issue Sage have introduced Sage Drive.  I have read about this feature but have not yet met anyone who is using it.   I have been looking at the Sage Guides for Drive and its seem complicated enough.

Reporting in Sage 50

Reporting in Sage 50 is mixed.   They have lots of reports and often many variants of the same reports.  Almost everything that you need is covered within the reports.

Reporting can be slow – you can monitor the status of the report as it is being built and it does seem slow.  The bigger your data base the slower it will be.

Some reports have little settings that can catch you out.  For example, if you are running an aged customer balance report for your year end, the report automatically defaults to including any payments after the year end.  This means that it won’t be showing you the actual customer balances as at the year end.  For me, that’s a strange default.

The Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet Reports all come from an element called Chart of Accounts.  With this the user can edit/configure the Profit and Loss or Balance Sheet to suit themselves.

Once you have set it up, you can add or edit accounts. If you don’t update your Chart of Accounts to allow for the changes that you made, this may put your chart of accounts off.

I regularly see balance sheets that do not balance because of adding new accounts.  Its not difficult to fix but it can take a bit of time and not everyone notices the reports are out of balance so could be working with incorrect information.

If you want to create a new report, Sage provide a Report Builder.  I have yet to come across any one who uses this.  For most businesses, writing a report is a rare requirement and most businesses don’t have the time to learn how to use the report writer to do one report.

One alternative is to outsource the writing of the report.  Another alternative is to export the report to Excel and play around with the data to get the report that you want.   Again, not everyone wants or can do that.

Overall, while there’s a lot that is good about Sage 50 Reporting there remain  a number of problems.

Integrating Sage 50 with other Applications

I am not aware of any applications that integrate with Sage 50.

Sage is a large company with many other products. Sage want you to buy their products so they don’t make it easy for you to buy another module, say an inventory management module, from someone else and integrate it with theirs.  They prefer you to buy their inventory module.

Overall Cost of Sage 50

Sage 50 was always expensive compared to other products.  They seem to have reduced the pricing so that they are more competitive now.

If you are buying it today, you have three options.  Sage 50c Essentials cost € 25 per month.  This is a basic package for 2 users and one company. The next package is the standard package.  This allows for 2 core users and up to 10 companies and allows you to track stock and have multiple departments.

The Sage 50c Standard Package costs € 80 per month.  This allows 2 users work with up to 10 companies and it handles stock and projects/departments.  It doesn’t have multicurrency.

Finally they offer the Professional Version which adds departments, projects, sales orders and purchase orders and foreign currencies.  This costs € 155 euro per month.

The essentials compares reasonably well with competitive products. The Standard seems more expensive than the competition and the Professional is very expensive compared to alternatives.

Is Sage 50 right for you?

If you use accounting software mainly for compliance purposes then Sage will do that for you.  On the other hand, if you want to be more hands on and to use your accounting software to get good information about what exactly is happening in your business then Sage is not as good for that.

In my experience, the way things are developing, business owners are much more comfortable with software and they want software that they can use themselves.  The want to be able to access their business information on a phone or a tablet and Sage 50 is not a good fit for that.

Sage 50 is not a product that I recommend to my clients.  If you have read some of my other blogs, you  will realise that I encourage my clients to “own their own accounts”.  In my opinion, Sage 50 doesn’t support that approach as well as the competition.  For the money they are asking, you will usually get a better solution elsewhere.

Over to you

What do you  think?   Have you experience of Sage 50?  Am I missing something?  Let me know if you agree or disagree.

How much does it cost to prepare financial projections

You are considering getting financial projections prepared but worried about how much this might cost.

You have probably heard a lot of numbers bandied about.  I have heard of business paying up to €5,000 for a set of projections.  Some of those numbers can be quite scary.  Yet, you realise that there are a lot of benefits to come from doing the projections.  What are you to do?

You really want to have a good understanding of how much projections will cost so that you can make an informed decision.

Over the past twenty years, I have prepared financial projections for many SMES of all shapes and sizes.  It;s quite difficult to give a “one size fits all” answer to that question.  It depends on so many things.  Before I explain the various factors, it might be helpful for you to read my blog article on How to Prepare Financial Projections.

Factors affecting cost of financial projections.

Your first time to prepare Financial Projections

If this is your first time having financial projections done, it will most likely take a little bit longer.  For each set of projections, I have to have a model for that business-usually an excel spreadsheet.  If one already exists then that will save some time.  If it doesn’t exist already then I will have to build one.

I have some templates for different types of businesses but nearly all businesses have some elements unique to themselves which means that any  template has to be customised.

The other factor is that we need to understand the relationships between activities, costs and resources.  If you have already prepared financial projections, you are likely to be aware of these relationships.  If not, I will have to spend time with you teasing them out.

What type of business are we preparing financial projections for?

The second key area is the type of business that we are preparing projections for.  Some businesses are pretty simple but others have a lot more complexity.

Over the years I have prepared projections for the following businesses –  professional services, food production, engineering, engineering services, scientific instrument manufacturing, retail, distribution, software developers including SAAS developer.  They were all different and each had its unique issues.

The simplest businesses to prepare projections for are retail businesses.  In that case, the sales should drive the costs of sales calculations and the overhead is usually fairly stable.  Your stock holding levels will usually be the key variable affecting cash flow

If the business is manufacturing, then we need to understand the process.  How many different stages does production go through?  What are the stock holding levels at each stage?  How long does it take to acquire raw materials?

If it’s a software business, then you are likely to have an initial product development costs followed by a period where you will have ongoing product development and maintenance costs.

So you see, that its important that we understand your activities, what they will consume and the payment profile for each of these activities.

Size of the Business

A small business with few employee will be much easier to prepare projections for than a larger business with more employees organised in a number of departments.  If there are several locations that will also have to be factored into.  If you have a sales team or a service team on the road, then we will have to build up the costs for that.

The greater the complexity the longer it takes.

Stage of development of the business

If you are preparing projections for a start up that usually takes longer than projections for an established business.  The reason for that is that with an established business you have a track record and you have historical information that can be used.  With a startup, you have no history so you have to invest more time in teasing out what the business is going to look like.

Who are the financial projections for?

The purpose of the projections is very important.  If its for investors, then you will have to put a bit more time into making sure that your assumptions are solid and that they can withstand robust interrogation by professional investors.  You will probably have to have prepared a couple of scenarios so that you can deal with what if questions.

If you are preparing them for your own internal use, you will still want reliable numbers but you will likely not be as concerned about presentation and you may  be more confident in your assumptions so you will not be as anxious to explore as many different scenarios.

Do you have reliable figures for the opening position?

Sometimes I have been asked to prepare projections for businesses that don’t have management accounts.   In that case, you have to either start the projections for the last good set of accounts or else estimate the management accounts.

Its obviously preferable and highly recommended that a business have management accounts.  However you  can only work with what you have.  So sometimes, you have to invest more time in trying to establish and be confident about the starting position.

How many reviews will be necessary before you are happy with the outcome?

Once I prepare the first pass, then we sit and review the outputs.  At that point,  any issues that you will have with both the assumptions and other key inputs will become clear.  Depending on the significance of these issues, we will have to invest time in refining the inputs and the assumptions.

For some businesses, there will be no issues.  This is usually the case for more mature businesses where the owner has a really good understanding of the businesses.

For other businesses, typically earlier stage businesses or businesses where the owners have not prepared projections before, then the first pass will usually generate a lot of discussion points and the owner may need to take some time to consider the inputs.  The owner may also need to have a few different iterations run to better understand the significance of the various assumptions

Conclusion

As you will understand from reading the article, there are a lot of factors that determine the costs.   Every business is different and its not possible to give a simple answer as to the cost of preparing projections.

What I can do is give you some guidelines.

The shortest time has been about 2-4 hours to prepare projections for a small retail operation that had already got a good handle on the business.  In cost terms, that will work out between €200 and €500.

For a more complex manufacturing business trying to raise money from investors, the time to prepare projections has been 3-4 days.   In that case, you are looking at a cost of €2000-3000.

I would usually find around two days, say € 1400-1500, is a good estimate for most businesses but, as you will now appreciate, there are many factors that can change that.

Before offering a firm estimate, I prefer to meet with the client, initially, so that I can understand exactly will be involved.  That will give me more confidence in my estimates.

If you are thinking about having projections done, feel free to contact me so that I can give you a cost estimate tailored to your unique circumstances.

 

 

Tax Allowable Deductions

Are you claiming all of your allowable expenses when doing your taxes?

Most people know about the PAYE tax credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  They also know about Pension allowances and Medical Expenses.

Not as many know about what the Revenue call Flat Rate Expense Allowances.

Flat Rate Expenses

Flat-rate expenses are those that cover the cost of equipment your employee needs for work. This equipment may include tools, uniforms and stationery.

These are costs that an employee incurs in performing the duties of their employment, and the costs must be directly related to the nature of their employment. Flat-rate expenses are available to a wide range of occupations.

The amount of the deduction is agreed between Revenue and representatives of groups or classes of employees (usually trade union officials). All employees of the class or group in question can then claim the agreed deduction in their own tax credits.

For example, shop assistants can claim an allowance of 121 for expenses.  I bet not too many of those are claimed.

Flat-rate expenses are one of the most common reliefs that are never claimed for. In 2013 for example, (the most recent year that I can find figures for) about 571,000 people successfully claimed these expenses, worth a total of €71 million.  But we don’t know how many people haven’t claimed.

As of todays date these are the expenses that are available.

What you should do

Scan the list of occupations below and see if your occupation is listed.  If it is, how much is the expense.  Then check are you claiming that.

If not consider, submitting and amended tax return.

FLAT RATE EXPENSES

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Agricultural Advisers (employed by Teagasc) 671 671 671 671 671
Archaeologists:  (Civil Service) 127 127 127  127  127
Architects employed by
     (a) Civil Service 127  127  127  127  127
     (b) Local Authorities 127  127  127  127  127
Airline Cabin Crews 64  64  64  64  64
Bar trade:  Employees 93  93  93  93  93
Building Industry
     Bricklayer 175  175  175  175  175
     Fitter mechanic, plasterer 103  103  103  103  103
     Electrician 153  153  153  153  153
     Mason, roofer slater, tiler, floor layer, stone cutter 120  120  120  120  120
     Driver, scaffolder, sheeter, steel erector 52  52  52  52  52
     Professionals:  engineers, surveyors, etc. 33  33  33  33  33
     General operatives (labourers etc. incl. Public Sector) 97  97  97  97  97
Bus, rail and road operatives in
Bus Atha Cliath, Bus Eireann and Iarnod Eireann 160  160  160  160  160
Cardiac Technicians
     Female 212  212  212  212  212
     Male 107  107  107  107  107
Carpentry and joinery trades
     Cabinet makers, Carpenters, Joiners 220  220  220  220  220
     Painters, Polishers, Upholsterers, Wood Cutting Machinists 140  140  140  140  140
Civil Service
     Architectural Technologists & Assistants 166  166  166  166  166
     Clerks of Works (incl. Senior  and District Inspectors) 142  142  142  142  142
     Engineering Technicians for Archaeologists, Architects, Engineers and Surveyors 166  166  166  166  166
Park Rangers and constables employed by the Office of Public Works 77 77 77 77 77
Clergymen (Church of Ireland) 127  127  127  127  127
Consultants (hospital) 695 695 695 695 695
Note:  Deduction includes subscription to the Irish Medical Council
Cosmetologists
 Obliged to supply and launder their own white uniforms 160  160  160  160  160
Defence Forces Personnel
(All enlisted personnel not in receipt of Uniform Replenishment Allowance) 150 150 150
Dentists in employment 376  376  376  376  376
Dockers 73   73   73   73   73
Doctors  (hospital, including consultants) 695  695  695  695  695
Note:  Deduction includes subscription to the Irish Medical Council.
Draughtsmen (Local Authority) 133  133  133  133  133
Driving Instructors 125 125 125 125 125
Note: This amount represents an annual allocation of half the biannual statutory ADI fee payable to the Road Safety Authority
Engineers employed by:
     (a)  Civil Service 166 166 166 166 166
     (b)  Local Authorities 127  127  127  127  127
     (c)  Eircom, Coillte, OPW 166  166  166  166  166
Engineering Industry [and Electrical Industry from 1997/98]
 Skilled workers who bear the full cost of own tools and overalls 331 331 331 331 331
 Semi-skilled workers who bear the full cost of own tools and overalls 254 254 254 254 254
All unskilled workers and skilled or semi-skilled workers who do not bear the full cost of own tools and overalls 219 219 219 219 219
Firefighters       Full-time 272  272  272  272  272
Firefighters       Part-time 407 407 407 407 407
Fishermen in Employment 318 318 318 318 318
Foresters employed by Coillte 166 166 166 166 166
Freelance actors chargeable to PAYE 750 750 750 750
750
Grooms (Racehorse Training) 294 294 294 294 294
Home Helps (Employed directly or indirectly by Health Boards) 256 256 256 256 256
Hospitals      Domestic Staff:
     To include general operatives, porters, drivers, drivers, attendants, domestics, laundry operatives, cooks, catering supervisors, waitresses, catering staff, kitchen porters
(a)  who are responsible for providing and laundering their own uniforms. 353 353 353 353 353
(b) who are obliged to launder       the uniforms supplied 185 185 185 185 185
(c)  whose uniforms are supplied and laundered free 93 93 93 93 93
Hotel industry
     Head hall porter 90  90  90  90  90
     Hall porter 64  64  64  64  64
     Head waiter 127  127  127  127  127
     Waiter 80  97  97  97  97
     Waitress 80 80  64  64  64
     Chef 97  97  97  97  97
     Manager 191  191  191  191  191
     Assistant Manager 127  127  127  127  127
     Trainee Manager 78  78  78  78  78
     Kitchen Porter 21  21  21  21  21
Journalists
Journalists, including those in public relations area of journalism 381  381  381  381  381
Journalists who receive expense allowances from their employers 153  153  153  153  153
Local Authorities
     Executive Chemists 115  115  115  115  115
     Parks Superintendents 40  40  40  40  40
     Town Planners 115  115  115  115  115
Mining Industry
     (a)miners/shift bosses underground, mill process workers/shift bosses and steam cleaners 1312 1312 1312 1312 1312
     (surface workers) 655 655 655 655 655
Motor repair and motor assembly trades
Assembly workers, greasers, storemen and general workers
     (a)  who bear the full cost of own tools and overalls 52  52  52  52  52
     (b)  who do not bear the full cost of own tools and overalls 42  42  42  42  42
Fitters and mechanics
     (a)  who bear the full cost of  own tools and overalls 85 85 85 85 85
(b) who do not bear the full cost of own tools and overalls 42  42  42  42  42
Panel Beaters (See Panel Beaters/Sheet Metal Workers
Nurses:
     (a)  where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms 733 733 733 733 733
     (b)  where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free 638  638  638  638  638
     (c)  where obliged to launder the uniforms supplied 353 353 353 353 353
     (d)  where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital 258  258  258  258  258
Nurses:  Short Term Contracts through an Agency.  Additional Amount Due 80 80 80 80 80
Nursing Assistants(including attendants, orderlies and nurses’ aides)
     (a)  where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms 526  526  526  526  526
     (b)  where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free 440  440  440  440  440
     (c)  where obliged to launder the uniforms supplied 234  234  234  234  234
      (d)  where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital 93  93  93  93  93
Occupational Therapists
     (a)  where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms 217  217  217  217  217
     (b)  where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free 153  153  153  153  153
     (c)  where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital 52  52  52  52  52
Optometrists/Dispensing Opticians in employment
Optometrists
Registration Fee – once off fee paid initially in year 1 250 250 250 250 250
Retention Fee – payable in 1st year and each subsequent year 285 285 285 285 285
Restoration Fee – payable to re-register with the Opticians Board 279 270 270 270 270
Dispensing Opticians
Registration Fee – once off fee paid initially in year 1 200 200 200 200 200
Retention Fee – payable in 1st year and each subsequent year 225 225 225 225 225
Restoration Fee – payable to re-register with the Opticians Board 215 215 215 215 215
Panel Beaters / Sheet metal Workers
     (a)  Who bear full cost of own tools and overalls 78  78  78  78  78
     (b)  Who do not bear full cost of own tools and overalls 40  40  40  40  40
Pharmacists 400 400 400 400 400
Pharmaceutical Assistants (formerly known as Assistant Pharmacists) 200 200 200 200 200
NOTE These amounts represent the Annual Retention Fee payable to the PSI
Physiotherapists
     (a)  where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms 381  381  381  381  381
      (b)  where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free 318  318  318  318  318
     (c)  where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital 64  64  64  64  64
Pilots (Airline Pilots Association) 275  275  275  275  275
Plumbing trades
Plumber (non-welder) 177  177  177  177  177
Plumber-welder 205  205  205  205  205
Pipe fitter-welder 205  205  205  205  205
Printing Bookbinding and allied trades
     Bookbinders (Hand) 109  109  109  109  109
     Bookbinders (Others) 97  97  97  97  97
     Compositors, linotype and monotype operators 121  121  121  121  121
     Copy Holders, photo lithographers, photo engravers and workers in T and E section of newspapers 114  114  114  114  114
     Monotype caster attendants, stereotypes and machine minders 135  135  135  135  135
Readers and revisers 100  100  100  100  100
Rotary machine minders and assistants 150  150  150  150  150
Others (e.g. cutters, dispatchers, rulers, warehousemen) 90  90  90  90  90
Professional Valuers in the Valuation Office 680 680 680 680 680
Radiographers
     (a)  where obliged to supply and launder their own white uniforms 242  242  242  242  242
      (b)  where obliged to supply their own white uniforms but laundered free 143  143  143  143  143
     (c)  where white uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital 73  73  73  73  73
Respiratory & Pulmonary Function Technicians 191  191  191  191  191
RTE National Symphony Orchestra 2476 2,476 2,476 2,476 2,476
RTE Concert Orchestra 2476 2,476 2,476 2,476 2,476
Shipping
British Merchant Navy
Foreign-going trade:
(a)  First class passenger and cargo liners.
      Master 318  318  318  318  318
      Chief officer, chief engineer, other  officers, including pursers 318  318  318  318  318
      Chief steward 318  318  318  318  318
      Assistant steward 244  244  244  244  244
      Carpenter 194  194  194  194  194
      Other ranks 148  148  148  148  148
(b)  Cargo-vessels, tankers, ferries
      Master 318  318  318  318  318
      Chief officer, chief      engineer, other officers, including pursers 318  318  318  318  318
      Chief steward 318  318  318  318  318
      Assistant steward 244  244  244  244  244
      Carpenter 194  194  194  194  194
      Other ranks 148  148  148  148  148
British home or coasting trade:
      Master 318  318  318  318  318
      Chief officer, chief      engineer, other officers, including pursers 318  318  318  318  318
      Chief steward 318  318  318  318  318
      Assistant steward 244  244  244  244  244
      Carpenter 194  194  194  194  194
      Other ranks 148  148  148  148  148
Mercantile marine officers and crews of Irish ships
Foreign-going trade: cargo vessels
       Master 98  98  98  98  98
       Chief officer, chief engineer, radio officer 90  90  90  90  90
       Other officers including pursers 73  73  73  73  73
       Chief steward 73  73  73  73  73
       Assistant steward 55  55  55  55  55
       Carpenter (to include tools) 55  55  55  55  55
       Other ranks, including boys 37  37  37  37  37
Home trade:
(a)  Cross channel and continental
      Master 98  98  98  98  98
      Chief officer, chief engineer, radio officer 90  90  90  90  90
      Other officers, including pursers 73  73  73  73  73
      Chief steward 73  73  73  73  73
      Assistant steward 55  55  55  55  55
      Carpenter (to include tools) 55  55  55  55  55
      Other ranks including boys 37  37  37  37  37
(b)  Coasting vessels
      Master 98  98  98  98  98
      Chief officer, chief engineer, radio officer 90  90  90  90  90
      Other officers,
      including pursers 73  73  73  73  73
      Chief steward 73  73  73  73  73
      Assistant steward 55  55  55  55  55
      Carpenter (to include tools) 55  55  55  55  55
      Other ranks, including boys 37  37  37  37  37
Shop Assistants
(including supermarket staff, general shop workers, drapery and footwear assistants) 121  121  121  121  121
Surveyors  employed by:
     Local Authorities 127  127  127  127  127
     Civil Service 127 127 127 127 127
     Coillte 127  127  127  127  127
Teachers
     Teachers [excluding guidance counsellors, third-level academic staff and physical education teachers]
     School principals 608 608 608 608 608
     Other teachers 518 518 518 518 518
     Part-time teacher (on full hours) 518 518 518 518 518
     Part-time (not on full hours) 279 279 279 279 279
Guidance Counsellors
     (a)  employed full-time in second level schools 518 518 518 518 518
(b)  engaged mainly in teaching general subjects but also doing part-time guidance counselling (additional allowance) 126 126 126 126 126
Third level academic staff
     Professor, Heads of         Schools/Departments 608 608 608 608 608
     Senior lecturer 518 518 518 518 518
     College lecturer 518 518 518 518 518
     Assistant lecturer 518 518 518 518 518
     Part-time lecturer (on full hours) 518 518 518 518 518
     Part-time lecturer (not on full hours) 279 279 279 279 279
Physical education teachers (teacher must hold qualification in physical education)
     (a)  fully engaged in teaching P.E. 518 518 518 518 518
     (b)  engaged mainly in teaching general subjects but also doing part-time P.E. (additional allowance) 126 126 126 126 126
NOTE: Teachers who are employed by the Department of Education may also claim a deduction in respect of the subscription to the Teacher’s Council of Ireland
Veterinary Surgeons in Employment
Employed vets who incur, and are not reimbursed the cost of the Registration Fee to the Veterinary Council 621 621 621 621 621
Employed vets who do not incur, or are reimbursed the cost of the Registration Fee to the Veterinary Council 171 171 171 171 171
Veterinary Nurses
Where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms 400 400 400 400 400
Where obliged to launder the uniforms supplied 150 150 150 150 150

Flat rate expenses can be claimed when completing your annual income tax return.

If you have any comments or questions on this post, feel free to contact me.

Why are accountants so expensive?

I understand.  You are running a business and it’s hard to make money.  Then your accountant comes along and presents you with a big fee, anything from € 600 to possibly €1,500 or more per day for his or her work.  You struggle to understand why it can cost so much.

I have been running an accounting practice for almost 20 years now. I know what I have to charge to recover my costs and make a reasonable living.

Let me explain why a good accountant is expensive.

A good accountant adds value

Avoiding Compliance Offences

There are lots of regulations around tax and accounts.  If you get them wrong, you could be hit with substantial penalties and interest   Your accountant will know what needs to be done and will help you with your compliance issues.

Avoiding costly mistakes, making better decisions

As a business owner, you have to make lots of decisions.  These decisions can include setting prices, setting payment terms, investing, hiring, expanding or contracting.  If you get these wrong, the consequences can be costly.

Your accountant will help you identify the key factors that must be addressed when making your decisions.  He/she can help you prepare financial projections and he/she can help you evaluate the opportunities that present themselves.

Understanding the factors driving your profits

To run a business well, you need access to good information.  You need information about product or service costs, about cashflow, about efficiencies and yields among other things.

A good accountant will help you identify what information your business needs and will help you to put in place systems to capture and report on that information.

Identifying and implement improvements

No business is perfect.  There is always room for improvement.  When you have plans and targets its easier to identify where your business is under-performing.

A good accountant will prepare projections and compare those to actual results to give you the information you need to identify improvement opportunities.  A good accountant will have the skills and experience to help you implement the identified improvements.

The market sets the price for accountants

Business Owners understand the value that accountants can bring.  They are willing to pay accountants highly because they understand the benefits of having a good accountant.

They can calculate how much the accountant is worth and they will pay that.

Good accountants have the option of getting a job and a salary or setting up in practice.

If an accountant is in employment, they can typically earn between about €40K and maybe €120K pa.

Morgan McKinley, the recruitment company, publish an annual salary survey.   The 2017 survey for Irish accountants can be found here.   .

This survey shows that recently qualified accountants outside Dublin can typically earn from € 40-48K.  With 3-5 years of experience, their expected earnings increases to € 55K.  A good Financial Controller can expect to earn from € 55K-75K and an experienced Financial Director can earn between € 75-110K.

A self employed accountant in practice would expect to be earning similar amounts.  But the accountant in practice will have the costs of running the practice.  This means that they will need to generate sufficient fee income to provide their wage and their practice expenses.

Practice expenses includes costs of marketing and business development, costs of having an office, costs of running that office, costs of ongoing training, costs of motor and travel and costs of professional subscriptions.  Every office costs are different but are typically about € 15K for a sole practitioner.

That means that someone who is could hold down a financial controller position would need fee income of 70K -80K to match the salary plus office expenses.

How does an accountant calculate his or her charge out rates?

Your accountant will not usually be able to bill clients for the full 40 hours of every week.  They are also managing their own business and they need to allocate time for that.  And for attending business development meetings and preparing proposals.  They will also have to attend continuing professional development events.

There’s a rule of thumb that says a typical accountant should be billing 1000 hours per annum. If we divide our € 70-90K target fee income for our financial controller type person by 1000 hours we can see that our sample accountant needs to charge €70-90 per hour or € 560 to 720 per day.

A more senior, more experienced financial director type accountant could earn between €75K and €110K. With expenses of €15K that makes €90-125K needed in fee income.  Dividing that by the 1000 billable hours,we see that this accountant should be trying to earn €90-125 per hour, or €720-1000 per day.

If they can’t earn the target amounts in practice, the better accountants will migrate into employment and the standard of the accountants in practice will fall.  However, that doesn’t happen because owner managed businesses value good financial advice and support just as much as the large corporates.

What sort of Accountant do you want?

How important is your business to you?  How important is it to the best professional advice available to you?

If you want to have the best accounting and management support you will have to pay rates that match what your accountant could earn elsewhere.

Do you want to be working with someone with minimal experience or would you prefer someone with much more experience?  Most business owners that I know want the best advice that they can afford because the consequences of poor advice are costly.  The best business owners hire the best advisors and those people cost more because they add more value.

You understand that because you are running your own business and you know how the market works.

If you don’t believe that your accountant is worth the fee they are charging, then maybe you should be looking at changing your accountant.

I hope that after reading this post you’ll be able to understand why a good accountant is expensive but also why a good accountant is good value.

The other thing to look at is whether you are making the best use of your accountant.  You may be interested in another blog post that I wrote called “Reducing the costs of preparing your accounts”

As always, I would love to get your feedback on these article.  You can leave a comment in the comment section or you can email me at jim (at) accountsplus (dot) ie.

Understanding Financial Statements

Do you understand financial statements and how they relate to each other?

Over the years, I have developed and delivered workshops on Finance for non-financial managers.  As part of those, I developed some simple scenarios to explain the key points.

This series of videos uses those scenarios to explain what each of the three main statements does – Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss and Cashflow Statement – and how they relate to each other.

Video 1 lasts about 9 mins and introduces the scenarios and the key ideas

Video 2 lasts about 4 minutes and introduces a new element to further explain the ideas.

Video 3 lasts about 6 minutes and adds another element.

Video 4 lasts just over 4 minutes.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to get in touch with me.

 

 

How to calculate your breakeven point

One thing I am often asked about is how to calculate your breakeven point.

Video on how to calculate breakeven (6 min)

Other relevant articles

If this topic is relevant for you, you may  also be interested in the following blog posts.

The nuts and bolts of accounting

How to prepare financial projections

How much does it cost you to open your doors

If y0u have any comments or questions, please let me know.

 

Review of Xero – the cloud accounting software

Review of Xero – the cloud accounting software

If you run a business, the likelihood is that you will have heard of Xero, the online accounting system.  It seems to be everywhere these days.

Are you wondering if this is something that you should be using?  Maybe you are frustrated by your current accounting system and you think that Xero might be better.  In this blog post, I review Xero so that you will be better able to decide if it is suitable for your business.

I have been working with accounting systems for over 30 years now and I have been exposed to a wide range of solutions – from complex systems integrated into ERP packages down to the most basic solutions used by microbusinesses.   This experience includes leading the selection and implementation of solutions in large manufacturing industry and also being the accounting specialist on teams to help clients select large ERP (Enterprises Resource Planning) Solutions.

I approach this review  of Xero in the same way as I approached a review of any accounting software – looking at approach, functionality, costs and ease of use

Before evaluating – begin with the end in mind

Before getting into the evaluation, you need to be clear on what exactly you want your accounts software to do.

Do you want to use it simply for bookkeeping – keeping track of customer balances, supplier balances, bank balances and vat owing.  Or will you be using it to get analysis and useful insights into your business.  For more on this see our blog post https://www.accountsplus.ie/financial-transactions-insightful-information/.

What type of transactions do you have?  How many sales invoices per month? How many purchase invoices per month? Do you give and/or take credit? Can you download your bank statements from your online banking – if yes, what format?

Who will be using it – just you, staff members?  What levels of computing skills do you have?

How much support will you be getting from your accountant?  Will they be supportive of this or will they leave it to you?

What reports will you  want to run?

Xero’s Philosophy

Xero is cloud based and they take advantage of the fact that it is easier to share information between cloud applications than it is with desktop applications.

With Xero, you enter your sales invoices and purchases invoices as you do with most other software. Then you import your bank statements and you assign the various transactions to your income and expense classifications.

Pretty quickly, Xero “learns” from the way you have assigned, or coded, the transactions and soon starts to make suggestions as to what they are.  You can accept or edit, those transactions.

Once the transactions are entered and coded, you can run any of the usual reports.

That is the core approach.  However, Irish banks don’t facilitate the sending of statement information to Xero (bank feeds) so, for Irish users, a major advantage is lost.

Ease of Use

Setting up Xero

When you first go into Xero, you will see a dashboard which is customisable.  This should show all of the elements of Xero that you want to access regularly.

Setup is straightforward.  You enter your company name and your VAT number etc.  You may need to get opening information from your accountant so that your opening position is correct and you should tailor the list of income and expense accounts to get the information the way you want it.

Once you have it set up, you can start to enter sales invoices and purchases.  For each customer and supplier, you will need to enter their details.  You can do that up front, but most people do this as they are first creating the transactions for that customer or supplier.

You can tailor your invoices to suit the way you want them to look.

Day to Day transactions in Xero

Entering invoices and purchases in Xero is easy.  You have the option of having comment lines on your sales invoices.  Once the invoice is entered you can email it to customers and the system records that the invoice has been sent and when.

You can set up recurring invoices or bills.  You can also copy an existing invoice or bill to create a new one.

Training for Xero

Xero provides online training which you can use to get familiar with the product.  They also have a test company that you can use to practice on and get familiar with the product.

There are also independent online training options available on online training providers such as Udemy.  Just search for Xero in these training providers.

Correcting Errors in Xero

One area where I find Xero a little bit awkward is correcting transactions.  As you enter transactions, you may make mistakes in coding or maybe in the VAT rates.  Some accounting packages allow you edit these quite simply, much as you would in Word or Excel.

With Xero, you have to drill down to the basic transaction and then you have to put it into edit mode before you can edit.  It’s an extra step which can be a bit slower than I like.

Reports in Xero

Xero has all of the standard reports that you would need – Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, Aged Customer Balances, Aged Supplier Balances, Bank Reconciliation Reports and Trial Balance.

Report Dates in Xero

When you go to the Profit and Loss in Xero, they present current month plus last three months plus YTD.  You also have other options – year to date, month to date, current financial year – which is monthly report.

What I find I need most frequently are last month or last month YTD. I can get those but I have to do a little bit more work to get them.

I would prefer if those reports were options to just click on.  It’s a small thing but it just adds to the time needed.

How Xero handles VAT?

VAT is an important element of any accounting software.  On paper it looks like Xero can handle VAT the way we, in Ireland, need it to.   However, its not that simple.

Irish users are given the global Version of Xero and users are reporting difficulties with that.  The more sophisticated users can work around it.  Other users seem to struggle.

For Ireland’s cash basis of VAT, sales are invoice based and purchases are cash based.  Xero can only do either “all invoice” (i.e sales and purchases) or “all cash” but not the Irish Hybrid.  You can get around this by running the reports both ways but that’s messy.

VAT in Xero needs to be well setup at the beginning so that the data is set up for easy analysis.  You need a good understanding of VAT and the software to do that.  When you do set it up well, the EU reverse charge and the RTD reports can all be run with some workarounds.

Another issue to be careful with is the closing off of filed periods so that a late transaction for a VAT closed period does not get missed.

Drill down in Xero

Drill down is a feature that I find invaluable.  If you are looking at a Profit and Loss and see a figure that looks wrong, you can click on the figure to open a new screen showing the make-up of that item.

From there, you can drill all the way down to the lowest level transactions making up the queried figure.

Xero has drilldown and it works well.

Using Xero to Collaborate with your accountant

One of the big advantages for me as an accountant is the easy ability to access clients accounting information.

If the client is having a problem entering transactions, they can ring me and I can check it out quickly by just logging on.  I no longer have to travel to their premises.

If the client is concerned about results and wants me to look review his/her accounts, that’s easy to do as well.

Xero allows the accountant to help with the setup, possibly even to complete the setup, and to help with VAT returns or reconciliations.  Overall, it makes it much easier for the client to have timely  and reliable accounting information to support them in managing the business

Exporting from Xero

You can export most reports from Xero to Excel.  The export works well, you get an excel sheet that is formatted well.

With some other accounting software, I find the exported sheets have merged cells which make working with large blocks of data awkward.  And let’s face it, you are usually exporting the data because you want to analyse or edit it in some way.  You don’t want to be hindered by merged cells.  With exports from Xero, I don’t find that problem.

Bank Reconciliations in Xero

The big breakthrough with Xero was the automation of the bank reconciliations using bank feeds directly from your bank.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, Irish Banks are not yet providing those feeds.

We do have a work around however.  You can download transactions and import them to Xero.

Most, but not all, banks allow you to download bank transactions to a csv file.  Once you have the csv file you can open that file and edit it so that the data is presented as Xero needs it.

Once you import the file, it’s as if the automatic bank feed had worked.  You will be presented with a reconciliation screen where Xero shows you all the transactions imported and offers you its suggestion for what each transaction is.  If it doesn’t know what the transaction is, typically the first time it comes across that transaction,  it waits for you to tell it how to analyse it.

Working with csv files is a bit fiddly and I often get files rejected for reasons I don’t fully understand.  I then waste time playing around with file, deleting rows or columns to make it importable.  If you are not comfortable with csv files then you are not likely to be able to use this.

You can always leave the reconciliation to your accountant.  However, that’s losing out on probably the best feature of Xero.

Departments or Projects in Xero

Xero has always had the facility to organise your transactions around departments or categories.  This could be useful for larger businesses that want to track profits or costs by departments.

It only added the facility to track by projects recently.  This would be useful for any business that works on projects such as building contractors or event management companies.

Foreign Currency

Xero offers three different user plans – Starter, Standard and Premium.  Only the Premium plan handles multi-currency.

If your business needs to be able to handle foreign currencies then you will have to choose the most expensive plan.

The foreign currency feature is neat in that they pull the exchange rates from online rate providers so your exchange calculations are always reliable.

If the exchange rates change between the time the transaction (sales or purchase) was first recorded and it was paid, the system can handle the foreign exchange gain or loss and record them correctly.

Cost of Xero

The cost of the plans are as follows – Basic $20 per month, Standard $30 per month, Premium $40 per month.  (I am surprised to see dollar pricing.  I thought they priced in € but dollars are what they are showing for Ireland as I write this.)

They regularly have discounts for three to six months so you may be able to avail of that.

Remember that this is an ongoing monthly cost so if you are on the standard plan then that is going to cost you $360 per annum.  This seems expensive when you consider that you can still buy Quickbooks desktop for about €180 and you will usually get 3-4 years out of that.

On the other hand, Xero is constantly being updated and, it being a cloud product, you are always working with the latest update.  Also, unlimited support is included in the monthly fee and you also have access to an online user community.  With desktop products,  you typically have to pay extra for support.

Also, you won’t’ have to run a server if you are a multiuser site and you won’t have to worry about backups as Xero look after that.

What platforms can you use Xero on

Xero is a cloud product.  You can access it through a browser  (on Windows, Apple or Linux) or through apps for Android or IOS.

In my experience, the apps are best kept for creating and entering transactions.   For working with reports or for importing bank transactions, you are better working in a browser on a desktop or maybe a large screen tablet.

Xero Add-ons

A really attractive feature of Xero is the number of add-ons that are available for it.

Xero can communicate with other applications using APIs (Application Programming Interface).  In practice, what this means is that lots of other cloud products have been developed that provide additional functionality to what is in the standard Xero.

A small industry has emerged of developers who create products to fill the perceived gaps in Xero.  For example there are inventory apps, receipt management apps, crm apps, time tracking apps, job costing apps, integration with paypal etc.

A full list of apps can be found here – https://www.xero.com/ie/marketplace/s/app-functions.

Not every company seems to manage stock, or inventory, in exactly the  same way.  The standard Xero stock may not give you all the flexibility you want. In that case, there are likely to be add-ons that will help you.

Its good to have that option to expand functionality.

Xero is constantly being updated

One of the things that I am very conscious of with this article, is that, like most cloud apps, Xero is constantly being updated and those updates are automatically rolled out to all users.

I plan on updating it as often as I can and definitely for all major changes.   But when you are reading this, keep an eye on the date and realise that there may have been new features added or problems since it was written

What other products compete with Xero

Right now, the main competitors are Quick Books Online and Sage Online.  In Ireland we also have The Big Red Book Online , Sortmybooks and Surf Accounts.

I think Quickbooks is likely to be the biggest challenger to Xero.  Xero was first to market but Quickbooks had an excellent desktop product which they have been migrating to the cloud.  A few years back, QB started to move to the cloud.  At first, I thought their cloud product was a long way behind the desktop offering but it has improved.  Quickbooks pricing is slightly cheaper – € 14, € 21 and € 29 – and there is currently a 70% for the first year.

If you want cloud accounts and haven’t already switched to Xero, I think you should also keep an eye on Quickbooks Online.  In recent months, I have been looking again at their cloud solution and I think it’s now probably as good as and may be getting better than Xero.

They seem to be bring a lot of the features of the desktop product into the online product which can only be a good thing.  They also have the bank feeds functionality which, I hope we will one day be supported by the Irish Banks for all cloud solutions.

Their desktop product also has a weakness with VAT and I assume the online is similar.  Like Xero, there are workarounds but it’s not ideal.

Unlike Xero, they have a companion desktop app that addresses slow internet speeds.  You enter transactions into the app which buffers the transactions and uploads them as fast as your connection allows.  I think that will address the complaint many bookkeepers have about cloud accounting performance.

Conclusion

I have been using Xero for my own accounts for a couple of years now. Before that I used Kasfhlow, another cloud accounting solution, for many years.

I think that for Xero to be a good fit for you, you will likely have

  • A good broadband connection. Even with fast broadband, experienced bookkeepers entering large numbers of transactions, report that online accounting software is slower than desktop.
  • You will be creating your sales invoices on a computer already so entering them in Xero will replace what you are currently doing and not creating more work.
  • You have little or no purchases on credit. You won’t be entering many bills and your expenses will be made paid by bank or credit card transactions.
  • You will have either no inventory transactions or a small number of inventory transactions.

That mix of transactions will not be affecting as much by performance issues.

I have been happily using Xero for almost three years now and its a good fit for me.  If you have high volumes of transactions or you have inventory items, it could still work but you would want to make sure that you can process those transactions fast and efficiently.  That may require the use of add-ons.

 

Your Turn

Have I missed anything?  Do you disagree with anything?  Let me know.  Every user and every business has their own way of doing things.  I would love to hear other views on Xero.

AIB Online Banking v BoI Online Banking

AIB Online Banking v BoI Online Banking

Do you use internet banking in your business?   Maybe you’re a bit frustrated with the online banking product that you are currently using and you are trying to decide if you should switch.  You might just be frustrated with your bank for other reasons and want to know what the alternative bank’s banking online is like.

Through my work with SME clients over the past 20 years, I have experience of both AIB’s offerings and BoI’s (Bank of Ireland’s) offerings. In this article, I set out the key elements of each product so that you are better able to choose between them.

AIB and BoI both have two offerings.  One offering for smaller business and another offering for larger businesses.

For AIB, the product for small businesses is called Internet Banking and for larger businesses the product is called Internet Business Banking.  For BoI the product for larger business is called Business On Line and the product for smaller business is called 365 Online.

For each of the products, I will now set out the key aspects below.

AIB Internet Business Banking (IBB)

Who is AIB IBB for?

IBB is for larger businesses where two or more people are required to authorise transactions.

Functionality of AIB IBB

With IBB you can view and print bank statements. You can set dual authorisations for transactions. You can initiate and authorise payments in both euro and foreign currency.  You can export bank Statements to csv format.  You can set limits as to what individual users can do.

You can’t stop cheques with IBB

Does it have Mobile Apps?

No, there is no mobile app for IBB

Does it support Online Accounting?

No.  There is currently no facility to link your AIB account with an online accounting, such as Xero or Quickbooks Online, as is possible in other countries.

Is it easy to use?

The product uses a device called a digipass which is like a little calculator that generates security codes to authorise transactions.  For example, you would enter a payee’s IBAN number to generate an authorisation code for that payee.

How much Transaction History does AIB IBB hold?

The system can hold up to 180 days transactions.

Browsers supported – AIB IBB

In my experience IBB works with all browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and Internet Explorer  You can use it on a mobile phone if you have the digipass with you.

Security – AIB IBB

To log in you will be given a user ID and a password which changes regularly. To authorise payees and payments you will use the digipass to create security codes.

Cost of AIB IBB

IBB starts at 62.5 per quarter €250 pa) for one company.

 

AIB Internet Banking

Who is AIB Internet Banking for?

AIB internet Banking is for smaller businesses where one person manages all of the banking transactions.

Functionality of AIB Internet Banking

With AIB Internet Banking you can view and print bank statements.  You can initiate and authorise payments in euros.  You can export bank Statements to csv format.  You cannot set limits as to what individual users can do.

You can stop cheques with AIB internet Banking

Does AIB internet Banking have Mobile Apps

There is a mobile app for AIB internet Banking for both Apple and Android

Does AIB internet Banking support Online Accounting

No.  There is currently no facility to link your AIB account with an online accounting, such as Xero or Quickbooks Online, as is possible in other countries.

In theory, you could give your login details to the online product but this violates your agreement with the bank and you would be liable if someone used online banking to steal from the account.

Is AIB Internet Banking easy to use

The product uses a device called a card reader which uses your account debit card to generate security codes to authorise transactions.

Transaction History

The documentation says that the system can hold up 24 months transactions and 7 years of e-statements.  In my experience it seems to hold about 60 transactions for each account.

Browsers supported

In my experience AIB Internet Banking works with all browers – Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and Internet Explorer.

You can use it on a mobile phone or tablet with the app so you don’t need the browser but the browser would also work.

AIB Internet Banking – Security

To log in you will be given a user ID and a password which changes regularly. To authorise payees you will use the card reader to create security codes.  Once you have the payee created, you  don’t have to authorise individual payments – once you are logged into the system you can transfer money to payees who are already set up.

Cost of AIB Internet Banking

AIB internet Banking is free.

 

BoI Business On Line (BOL)

Who is BoI BoL for

BoI BoL is for larger businesses where two or more people are required to authorise transactions.

Functionality of BoI BoL

With BoI BoL you can view and print bank statements.  You can set dual authorisation for transactions.  You can initiate and authorise payments in both euro and foreign currency.  You can set limits as to what individual users can do.

You can’t export bank Statements to csv format.  You can’t stop cheques with BoI BoL.

Mobile Apps

No, there is no mobile app for BoI BoL.

Supports Online Accounting?

No.  There is currently no facility to link your BoI account with an online accounting, such as Xero or Quickbooks Online, as is possible in other countries.

You can only export your statements to PDF so you can’t get a csv which you would be able to reformat for import into Xero or Quickbooks Online.

Ease of Use?

The product uses a user id and passwords to log in.

There are two types of user – administrator and user.  You  will need at least two administrators to authorise most of the administrators actions.  This can be awkward and in my experience, in smaller companies, one person holds all administrator passwords which cancels out the security benefits.

To set up payees, the system sends an authentication code to a designated mobile phone number for that user.  They are currently rolling up an app for ios and android whereby the app will generate the authentication code rather than rely on text messages.

Once you are logged in you use a digital certificate password to authorise payments.   You can only authorise transactions on pcs where your digital certificate is stored.

If you make mistakes with your password you may be locked out of the system which will require an administration to reactivate the locked out user.

The system uses Java and can be a bit temperamental. If you do something, like use an unauthorised back button, you could be logged out and can’t get back for 15 minutes which can be frustrating.

As you can probably tell, in my experience BoL is the most frustrating of all the options out there.

Transaction History

The system seems to hold several months transactions.  I haven’t tested it fully but it seems to go back for at least a number of months.

Browsers supported

Their product information says that it works on Internet Explorer and latest versions of Chrome and Firefox.  In my experience BoL only works with Internet Explorer.  You can login with Firefox and Chrome but you will not have all the functionality.

BoI BoL uses Java for security and I don’t think recent versions of Chrome and Firefox support Java.

You can view transactions on Safari but I don’t believe you  can use the digital certificate on Safari.

Security of BoI BoL

To log in you will be given a user ID and a password which changes regularly. To authorise payees and payments you will use the digital certificate, stored on that machine to create security codes.

As far as I know, Internet Explorer is the least secure browser out there now and I am very surprised that this is the main platform for online banking for anyone.

Cost

BoI BoL starts at € 10.00 per month (€120 pa) for one company.

 

BoI – Business 365 Online Banking

Who is 365 Online Banking for?

BoI 365 Online is now open for smaller businesses where one person manages all of the banking transactions.

Functionality of 365 Online Banking?

With BoI 365  Online you can view and print bank statements.  You can initiate and authorise euro and foreign currency payments.  You can export bank Statements to excel format.  You cannot set limits as to what individual users can do.

You can’t stop cheques with BoI 365 Online

Mobile Apps for 35 online Banking?

There is a mobile app for 365 Online for both Apple and Android

Does 365 Online Banking support Online Accounting?

No.  There is currently no facility to link your BoI account with an online accounting, such as Xero or Quickbooks Online, as is possible in other countries.

In theory, you could give your login details to the online product but this violates your agreement with the bank and you would be liable if someone used online banking to steal from the account.

Ease of Use of 365 Online Banking?

The product uses a user id, a PIN and some security questions to login and to authorise transactions.

Transaction History

I can’t find what BoI states that it holds but I can see that for some accounts it goes back at least one year.   That may be because it has low numbers of transctions.

Browsers supported

In my experience BoI 365  Online works with all browers – Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and Internet Explorer.

You can use it on a mobile phone or tablet with the app so you don’t need the browser but the browser would also work.

Security of 365 Online Banking

To log in you will be given a user ID and a password which changes regularly. To authorise payees you will also use security questions.  Once you have the payee created, you don’t have to authorise individual payments – once you are logged into the system you can transfer money to payees who are already set up.

Cost of 365 Online Banking

BoI 365 Online is free.

Conclusion

If you want to have admin staff create payments for you to authorise later, then you must use either IBB or BoL.

If you are a smaller business, where you do the full initiation and authorisation then you could use the free versions.

The free versions are both easy to use.

If you want to link your Xero or Quickbooks to online banking then you have to use workarounds as the Irish banks are not making it easy for you.

Your Turn

I have compiled this information based on my own experience with the various products.  If you think I have missed something or have given incorrect information please let me know.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Reducing the cost of preparing your Annual Accounts

Reducing the cost of preparing your Annual Accounts

Are you conscious of your business costs and do you want to reduce the cost of getting your annual accounts and tax done.  It’s a common issue and one I will address in this article.

As you may know, I am a qualified accountant with many years of experience.  When I worked in management positions in industry, we always used external accountants for the audit and tax work.  In that role, I was very focussed on keeping costs down.

Now, in practice, I work with a wide range of clients.  In a surprising number of cases, these clients were paying more for accounts than they need have.  This not because they were being overcharged. It’s because of what they were asking the accountant to do.

Are you asking your accountant to do work you could do cheaper?

When you send you accounting records to your accountant, are they well organised? Are you asking your accountant to organise the information he/she is receiving?

Like you, your accountant is running a business and will have to charge you for that work.  Why not either do it yourself or have one of your staff do it.  If you have no staff, investigate if can you outsource it to someone who will charge less than your accountant.

Do you send in information that is incomplete?

Your accountant starts working, then realises he/she doesn’t have all they need.  They request that from you and then wait to receive it.   This is just inefficient.

You know that when you stop and start a job, you lose time because you have to have to get back up to speed every time you get back to the job.

It’s the same for accountants.  If a job is broken up and I don’t look at it for a couple of weeks, I have to invest an extra bit of time refreshing myself on where I was.

Do you send in information in piecemeal fashion?

Maybe you think think that I have some of the information so I’ll send that in and I will send in the rest when its ready.

This is the same as sending in incomplete records and is inefficient.

Do you send in information that contains errors?

If you send in errors the accountant must find and fix them.  If you find and fix them before you send the information in, the job will take the accountant less time.

Do you check your accounting records?

When I get information from a client, I have to check it first, before I start working on the accounts, to make sure that its right ie complete and accurate.

Accounts call this type of work reconciling, but basically its just proving that the numbers are reliable.

With accounting software now, it’s easy for the client to do some, if not all, of these checks.  You can do bank reconciliations and you can do checks on the customer and the supplier balances.

Do you use accounting software?

For an accountant, getting information that is already entered into a reasonable system is much better than getting the raw data.  The accountant will be just have to review and analyse it, making some corrections.

It doesn’t take as much time and I know that I prefer that sort of work.

Do you use cloud accounting?

Cloud accounting can be a big help.  The accountant can review the records during the year and maybe give your feedback on the quality of the records earlier in the year.

The software will make you organise the information and you can do many of the reconciliaations yourself.

Cloud Accounting Software lets the accountant work remotely.  I have clients using Xero and Kashflow and we can have Skype calls to review accounts and discuss issues.  This saves me from having to travel to the clients premises which reduces the cost.

Are you making your accountant do data entry work?

Data Entry can be done cheaper in most cases by an entry level admin person.   Even if your accountant puts a junior staff member on the job, they will still want to recover the wage cost and overhead cost of that staff member and they will want to make a margin on it.

You must have access to someone who can do data entry cheaper.

Do you leave it to the last minute to send in your information?

If this is the case, the accountant may have to work overtime – evenings or weekends. That’s going to cost more money.  Staff have to be paid overtime.  It’s also more difficult to do a good job as there may not be time to find full answers to any questions the accountant raises.

Does your accountant do an audit even though you are below the audit exemption threshold?

Some clients like getting an audit done because it gives them more comfort about the numbers.  However, auditing is very regulated and the auditor will have to compile lots forms to satisfy the auditing regulations.   You could ask your accountant to review the accounts without going through a full audit.

Are you using an expensive firm for all your accounting work?

Larger firms tend to have high overheads and therefore have to charge more.  I know some clients who split up the work into different areas and use different firms for different elements.

For example, if your accounting records are good and you are just getting the accounts done for compliance purpose, you could get a smaller, possibly cheaper firm to do the accounts.  If you need more sophisticated tax or maybe corporate finance advice, you could have a different firm advising you on that.

Conclusion

For many client’s there are a number of things that they could to reduce the cost.  However, depending on your circumstances, you may not want to take on some of this extra work.  However, you need to think it through.  There may be other cheaper ways of getting it done through using part-time admin or book-keeping staff.

Don’t think your accountant will resent this.

I prefer working with clients to help them use their accounts to improve and grow the business.  I feel that I can be much more effective if I am working on analysis and advice than if I am doing data entry or filing/organising.  I also find it much more enjoyable working on providing analysis and advice.

Next time, you notice yourself resisting or resenting the accountants fee, use my checklist to see if you could do anything to reduce the fee.

Your Turn

This article is based on my own experience working with clients.  If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear it.  Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.