Attention Omaha Business Owners…

The Douglas County Assessor’s office will not be sending out pre-filled personal property tax returns this year. In an effort to reduce operational expenditures, these courtesy returns will no longer be sent out. However, they do have a free e-filing system that is up and running.

Your personal property tax is still due by May 1, so be sure to get online and get registered, or remind your accountant if they haven’t been watching this closely. The online services can be found here:

http://property.douglascounty-ne.gov/

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Review #4: LessAccounting

If you have a Schedule C business (sole proprietor), LessAccounting wants to be your one stop bookkeeping shop. The key for LessAccounting is being an integrated solution rather than having to stop by one program for invoicing, another for bookkeeping, and yet another for contact management.

Goal: Simplify bookkeeping for micro-businesses (less than 20 employees and less than $10M in revenue as defined by LessAccounting).

Pros:

  • Banking integration – minimize your data entry by categorizing imported transactions
  • Send and track invoices – know who owes you money
  • Bank reconciliations available
  • Track expenses by project, income type, and category
  • Create proposals
  • Track your business mileage
  • Default categories are similar to Schedule C
  • PayPal Pay Now option on invoices
  • Integrations with other applications
  • Can opt to have them do your bookkeeping
  • Integrated one stop solution with invoicing, bookkeeping & contact management combined
  • Multiple user access

Cons:

  • Contact management isn’t really going to replace any serious CRM solution
  • The automatic banking integration can be buggy at times
  • Integration does not include time tracking – still need another app for that (or not track time)
  • Pricing for most desirable features makes the product more expensive on an annual basis than QuickBooks
  • No balance sheet, although cash balances and accounts receivable are tracked
  • Detailed invoicing may be less robust than other dedicated invoicing or billing applications
  • The only payment option you can include on an invoice is Paypal
  • No payroll integrations noted

I think LessAccounting is a nicely done, well rounded program for those that it has the horsepower to support. If you’re a sole proprietor filing a Schedule C, I think it makes a lot of sense to consider this program, if you’re willing to jump up to the $24/month plan to get the most out of its positive features.

If you have more robust needs, or can’t justify the price point compared to your desktop applications like QuickBooks or Peachtree, then LessAccounting may be too little accounting for you.

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CPA Technology Advisor’s Top 40 under 40

I know this post is basically breaking my arm to give myself a pat on the back, but I’m happy I made the cut for CPA Technology Advisor’s Top 40 under 40 shortly before I was recognized by the Journal of Accounting for my Excel-lence.

Review #3: Freshbooks

Freshbooks was not intended to be an accounting system. Freshbooks still claims to not be an “accounting package” although it allows you to produce a profit and loss statement for your business by entering non-billable expenses as well as billable expenses into the system (in other words, you can track all your expenses, not just those you want to flow through an invoice). If every sale you make is invoiced through Freshbooks, then you already have your complete income into the system and bingo, a complete profit and loss to help you prepare your Schedule C.

Goal: Invoicing, billable time and expense tracking, team time tracking and management and multiple currency support.

Pros:

  • Intuitive, user-friendly interface
  • Many integrations with other applications such as Outright
  • Non-billable expenses can be entered to make a profit and loss suitable to compile a cash basis Schedule C, but this is clearly not a focus of the application, just something you could do with it
  • Expense transactions can be imported from Expensify, Xpenser, Shoeboxed, or Expense Cloud (recommended to import billable expenses only)
  • The invoices produced are very professional and uniform even on the free account
  • Creation of estimates to help you plan the project
  • Able to accept payments online

Cons:

  • Really encourages only billable expenses reported on invoices for input – the profit and loss report, should really be renamed the gross profit report
  • Itemizing and billing expenses in this way may make you look petty (nickel and dime the client to death), but if you are involved in litigation or governmental contracting, this detail could be great
  • No cash reconciliation, must be performed outside the system
  • No way to record expenses in a way that doesn’t impact the profit/loss statement (for capital expenditures or personal draws)

Freshbooks doesn’t really want to be your sole accounting system and has no intention of addressing any of the basic accounting system functionality it lacks. However, if the choice is between this and a box of receipts, I’d much rather see this and it also helps you get paid. Excel might enable you to produce a similar profit and loss, but it won’t email invoices to your clients with a PayPal PayNow button.


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Mentioned in the Journal of Accountancy

My alternative solution to the problem posted in the August Journal of Accountancy Technology Q&A has been published as part of the November Technology Q&A. Excel functions that have embedded “if” properties such as AVERAGEIF(), COUNTIF(), and SUMIF() are very powerful tools “if” you take the time to learn their power and integrate them into your workflow.

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To Omaha and Council Bluffs Non-profits

The IRS, under a one-time relief program, will allow small tax exempt organizations that have not filed returns for 2007, 2008, and 2009 to keep their tax-exempt status if they file a return by October 15, 2010. They have also published a list of organizations that they expected to hear from, but have not heard from.

The list is published by state and I have included lists for Iowa and Nebraska filtered for Council Bluffs and Omaha noting about 67 organizations in Council Bluffs and about 622 organizations in Omaha that the IRS is looking to hear from. Click here to see the complete listing for each state on the IRS website.

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Review #2: B2Bee

B2Bee is a simple bookkeeping solution aimed at helping professionals with a low transaction volume prepare invoices and track their income and expenses. Both income and expenses can be tracked by client and by project, enabling you to quickly create a nicely detailed invoice for your clients.

Goal: Invoicing, income, and expense tracking for professionals with low transaction volume.

Pros:

  • Clean, intuitive interface
  • US market focus – the developers are creating this tool with the professional filing a Schedule C in mind
  • Competitive pricing – free forever if you only track 3 clients, $14/month for the full version
  • Support for a good cause (saving honey bees – sweet deal!)
  • Invoices can be emailed – your client will receive a link to view the invoice securely on the B2Bee website
  • Project tracking for invoice detail
  • Team management options for projects
  • Simple, but preferable report options with a profit and loss schedule as well as an export of transaction detail for the accountant

Cons:

  • No transaction importing – each must be entered manually (thus the focus on low transaction volume)
  • No predefined categories (accounts) in the drop down for expenses
  • No integrated time tracking
  • Currently no integrations with other applications
  • No provision for payment with the invoice (such as a PayPal, PayNow button)
  • No place to record capital expenditures, transfers, capital contributions/draws, etc., as to not effect the profit and loss statement
  • No bank reconciliation integrated in the system

B2Bee is another application that is definitely a step up from Excel spreadsheets and green ledgers, but lacks much in the way of advanced features. Sticking to my model of keeping your bookkeeping as simple as possible, B2Bee may very well provide sufficient information for your management needs and your accountant’s reporting needs without a lot of complex clutter to make messing up your books easier.

I would really like to see the expense category list populated with the basic Schedule C expenses as B2Bee’s focus is on the Schedule C filer and this would help transition the books to the Schedule C at the end of the year without as much rearranging.

The nice thing here for a business with low transaction volume is that you get two major functions under one roof: invoicing and accounting. Especially if you bill your projects at a fixed rate and don’t need to track your time, B2Bee may have all the functionality you need without a lot of winding paths to lead you astray.

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Daily Nonpareil Readers Choice Awards

Council Bluffs Iowa Old Town
Image via Wikipedia

I wanted to make sure that all of the Council Bluffs locals remember to vote in the Daily Nonpareil 2010 Reader’s Choice awards. The more significant the participation, the more meaningful the awards are! Follow the link below and click on “Vote Now” in the middle-right portion of the screen (I honestly overlooked this at first – in the gray bar in the middle of the screen).

Click here to vote!

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Review #1: Outright.com

Outright is a simple, straightforward, and free accounting package geared towards Schedule C filers. Outright will keep a cash basis profit and loss and also help you generate what i would call a ‘preliminary’ Schedule C to aid you (or your accountant) in filing your taxes.

Goal: Focus on maintaining cash basis income and expense records with minimal accounting experience to provide accurate records for tax estimation and preparation.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Simple interface (easy for non-accountants to operate)
  • PayPal auto-import
  • Auto-import major bank accounts
  • Automatic Integration with Freshbooks, Shoeboxed, Xpenser, Ebay
  • 1099 Service (may become more valuable with new 1099 regulations)
  • Categories pre-set to match Schedule C – prepares preliminary Schedule C for you
  • Easy to share with your book-keeper or accountant

Cons:

  • May mislead you that your Sch C is correct – you can still mess up this system in several ways: Capital Expenses, Depreciation, Amortization, etc. – fixed asset expenditures cannot be input in a way that does not show up as an expense, draws don’t have an equity account to put them to, etc.
  • Rather limited report options (no smmarized Profit/Loss – separate income and expense reports – only summarized P/L is the preliminary Schedule C)
  • Limited manual import options – must import income and expenses separately according to a preset form (does not take the standard manual imports that most banks offer)
  • The cash basis, without consideration for accounts receivable or accounts payable, may mislead you about your actual financial position in any given period

Summary

Outright is definitely a step up from using and Excel spreadsheet to track your income and expenses (and leaps and bounds above using green ledger books). The simplicity of the system may make it preferable to Quickbooks for many Schedule C filers as you don’t have to sift through a lot of the clutter to get to the information that you actually need.

If Outright is capable of providing you all of the information that you want and need, I would consider the lack of advanced features to be a plus as there are less ways to make a mess of the books that will take additional time and effort to clean up at the end of the year.

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Online Accounting Reviews

This summer I will be running a series of posts evaluating several online accounting applications.  Many accountants almost reflexively recommend Quickbooks because it is the software that they have the most experience with and feel comfortable with (it also has a huge share of the small business market already). However, there are currently so many quality alternatives, each with their strengths and weaknesses, that a reflexive recommendation of Quickbooks is nearly a disservice, especially for clients looking to take their book keeping into the clouds.

In my evaluations I have not noted a system that will feature for feature outperform Quickbooks if you are using it to its fullest capacity.  However, if you only use a fraction of the features Quickbooks has accumulated over the years, then you might find an alternative system refreshing in its simplicity. Couple that with real-time online access from any machine and the ability to import transactions automatically and you might start to see accounting as almost convenient.

Considering the availability of several free or free versions of products, I don’t see any reason to take a shoe box to your accountant ever again. You may have been a thorn in your accountant’s paw last tax season with piles of receipts and a few bank statements, but this year you can be a great client and learn more about your business too.

I will not be evaluating solutions head to head, declaring one better than another, but will be presenting their goals, pros, cons, and the type of business that would be a good fit for the software. I think each solution has its strong points that may make it a perfect system for one client, and a terrible system for another. This perspective also reinforces why I don’t think Quickbooks is the best fit for everyone. For some clients it is the best solution, for others it has more features than they will every use, and other clients wish Quickbooks had even more features to help them track their business.

If you have any suggestions of systems that you would like to see reviewed, leave a comment or contact me and I will consider adding them to my list if they are not there already.