MENU
GET LISTED
GET LISTED
SHOW ALLPOPULAR CATEGORIES
  • Home
  • B2B News
  • What is Accounting Software? Analysis of Features, Types, Benefits and Pricing

What is Accounting Software? Analysis of Features, Types, Benefits and Pricing

Category: B2B News
What is accounting software?

Accounting software is a fundamental application that allows an organization to record the flow of money for internal and external review and auditing. It is the primary tool for assessing the financial health of an organization and for meeting legal compliance through tools like general ledgers, account payables and receivables, purchase orders, stock management, and billing.

A good accounting software is a must for entrepreneurs who want to steer their business to success. It should not only be capable of presenting a quick summary or detailed presentation of profits and losses, along with your other financial transactions, it should also keep you meeting the legal requirements of the specific region or country where your business is operating.

Aside from addressing evolving legalities, your choice of accounting software should let you automate labor-intensive accounting tasks, accelerate tax preparation, and reduce the risk of human error in the workplace. In this article, our software experts present a comprehensive definition of accounting software, explain how accounting software could help you manage your business and give you a list of candidate applications to help you acquire your ideal system.

Accounting software definition

As mentioned earlier, reliable accounting software should meet all the legal requirements of the region or country where your business operates. If you are in the UK, for example, your accounting software should be fully MTD compliant, to facilitate automatic tracking of professional and business transactions for taxation purposes. If you are in the US, the sweeping Tax Cuts and Jobs Act requires accounting software that is fully flexible when handling the new legal mandates.

Accounting Technology Benefits

Aside from addressing evolving legalities, your choice of accounting software should let you automate labor-intensive accounting tasks, accelerate tax preparation, and reduce the risk of human error in the workplace. The software should eliminate critical bottlenecks, such as inaccurate audit information. A 2018 survey by AccountancyAge shows that 89% of AAT members look at advances in accounting technology as opening up new opportunities for them.

1. What are Examples of Accounting Software?

FreshBooksVISIT WEBSITE

Accounting software FreshBooks is a fully-featured and simple client invoicing and time-tracking system used by more than 5 million businesses around the world. Ideal for freelancers and small businesses looking to fast track their sales cycle and keep their processes in line with standards and regulations. The solution is well integrated and mobile-friendly.

NetsuiteVISIT WEBSITE

Cloud-based ERP and accounting software NetSuite ERP is designed primarily for small to midsized businesses. Boasting a comprehensive suite of inventory, accounting, warehouse management, order management, and CRM tools, the solution streamlines end-to-end back-office processes from sales to CRM to ecommerce workflows. Moreover, NetSuite ERP provides built-in reporting and business intelligence tools that provide real-time financial visibility across the business.

TipaltiVISIT WEBSITE

Cloud-based accounts payable software Tipalti is a robust solution designed to automate the end-to-end accounts payable process. The solution streamlines global payable operations, saving suppliers huge amounts in annual international bank transfer remittances. Some of its notable features include supplier management, tax calculations, payment remittance, regulatory compliance management, invoice automation.

FreeAgent

Online accounting software FreeAgent is a reliable bookkeeping solution designed to help accountants, freelancers, and micro-businesses manage their finances. The solution automates the management of payroll, invoices, expenses, and other critical accounting workflows. FreeAgent is based on the double-entry accounting method, which makes it easy to use for all accountants, regardless of their tech skills level.

Zoho

Web-based accounting software Zoho Books provides an impressive array of powerful features that empower small businesses to manage the flow of money in and out of their business. Some of its notable features include inventory management, invoicing, contact management, sales and purchase order management, expense management, and time tracking. Even better, Zoho Books helps users stay on top of their finances and make informed decisions to grow the bottom line.

There are many other examples of accounting software that are popular and reliable. For more ideas and alternatives, check out our list of top 10 accounting software solutions to consider in 2020.

freshbooks dashboard

2. Why Use Accounting Software?

We discussed what is accounting software, but what are its main benefits? Why use accounting software at all? The tool, with its in-depth financial information, shows you where to cuts costs and drive productivity. With an appropriate system in hand, companies automate bookkeeping tasks and draft in-time tax-friendly reports. Still, most importantly, they can forecast expenses and develop a smarter investment strategy with this system.

These are the key benefits of accounting software:

  1. Simplification. Accounting systems put finance control in the hands of a non-accounting audience, designed to give numbers meaning while performing automated calculations. With little to no training at all, the business owner can complete all accounting operations and comply with legal standards from a desktop computer or a mobile device, and without paying an external party to keep the budget in the loop.
  2. Cost savings. Accounting and finance systems automate core calculations and administrative procedures and take control of your revenue framework so that you won’t have to outsource finance management to an external expert. In parallel, they also reduce costs related to printing and distributing documentation and store sensitive data in secure and monitored locations.
  3. Full financial transparency. From an accountant’s or an auditor’s point of view, the main highlight of good accounting systems is that they prevent costly and recurring human errors. Calculating inaccurate sums or failing to report data in time can easily lead to a business crisis, and that’s where automating calculations are most useful.
  4. Accurate forecasting. It’s one of the main advantages of accounting software. Understanding in detail the patterns and trends of your financial performance is something that would take ages to complete without a solid system. Accounting software gives numbers a meaning, helping you understand where to cut expenses or where to invest more. With a clear overview of your current financial status, you will find it easier to develop smart strategies and allocate resources the right way.
  5. Productivity. Should a business owner need to choose a single suite of digitized services to improve performance, his/her first option should be accounting software. These systems drill deep inside the most cumbersome, day-to-day tasks of companies, collect, organize, and analyze their most sensitive data, and what is most important, make smarter use of their money.
  6. Tax compliance. Many of today’s top accounting systems are dedicated to payroll assistance and reporting and adhering to tax regulations automatically. Once you’ve activated them, they become your number one source of tax and audit information; they store all the important details for you to maintain a transparent workflow.
  7. Improved relationships with customers. One could argue that accounting software has little to do with how customers are served, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Most accounting systems nowadays (regardless of their main functions) work around effective billing and invoicing, and prevent all sorts of delays and miscommunication. They are also easy to personalize on the business’s behalf, and thus, make company performance appear more professional and credible.
  8. Security. Financial data is a company’s most valuable information and must be prevented from falling into the wrong hands or getting lost by mistake. That’s exactly what accounting and finance systems do for their users: prevent accounting from being jeopardized in any way, and keeping an extra copy in case you need to retrieve them. In most cases, you will get to build your internal security structure and decide who will have access to sensitive data.

Tipalti dashboard

3. What are the Types of Accounting Software?

Let’s now proceed to the various types of accounting software. Depending on the type of operations, accounting & finance systems fall under four different categories. Note that there are also comprehensive accounting suites designed for enterprises that combine the best features of each category. Here is a brief overview:

Billing and invoicing systems

Billing and invoicing systems complete companies’ basic, day-to-day tasks, including check writing and informing customers about their due payments. They are essential to preserve control over the accuracy of accounting figures and make service look more professional and credible to the end recipient. On the company’s side, billing and invoicing tools help document financial activity and prepare it for authorization and validation.

Examples: FreshBooks, Zoho Books, and Zoho Invoice

Payroll management systems

If you are looking to preserve control over your account payables and account receivables, you should be looking for payroll management systems that will handle it all. These tools were developed to perform an array of different tasks, including calculating employees’ salaries, cutting deductions, depositing the salary directly into staff members’ bank accounts, producing tax forms and payslips, and more. In the long run, they will secure your financial transactions, cut expenses, and help prepare detailed reports.

Examples: Xero, Zenefits, AccountEdge

Enterprise resource planning systems

This is one of the most important accounting software categories. It combines all systems used for product planning, material purchasing, inventory management and control, distribution, accounting, marketing, finance, and HR. The latest ERP solutions also offer modules for CRM and business intelligence, so that the company can learn from its practices and prepare better strategies in the future.

Examples: Intacct, Brightpearl, Odoo

Time and expense management systems

These apps are designed to help expedite billing cycles and approve expenses on-the-go and are usually configurable enough for any business to adjust them to its operational pace. The core rationale behind them is to help collect payments faster and detect slow and ineffective practices that were not visible before. Their biggest advantage is being able to produce detailed graphical reports on how time and resources are being used in each company.

Examples: FreshBooks, Zoho Expense, Expensify

NetSuite ERP dashboard

4. What Does Accounting Software Do?

How does accounting software work exactly, and what features does it offer? There are many different ways in which accounting software can optimize your business, depending on its main features and objectives. From simplified invoicing to complex tax reporting, accounting systems come with all sorts of extras that are not even feasible without an appropriate system.

So what does accounting software do? Here are some of the features of accounting software:

  1. Accounting – Accounting is the main component of each system in this category and the one you should be looking for first when choosing a reliable solution. What comes to mind when we hear ‘accounting’ are general ledger, fixed assets, accounts payable & receivable, and bank reconciliation. These are, of course, the basic and most important ones, while advanced systems have more bells and whistles to offer to their users.
  2. Billing & Invoicing – There are accounting systems exclusively devoted to billing and invoicing, but most of them still treat similar operations as an integral module of any finance operation. Thus, they let customers automate mundane collections, adjust operations to new and effective payment methods and industry standards, and prepare accurate and in-time invoices for their clients.
  3. Budgeting and Forecasting – This is also a common bundled module in most accounting systems, which calculates and interprets finance performance for the current year and helps estimate the budget of the upcoming one. Using such a system, companies can prepare their estimates and set up feasible and optimistic sales targets.
  4. Management of fixed asset – Both as a separate tool or an inclusive module, fixed asset management helps manage financial data much more accurately. The module combines features such as audit history, cost records, depreciation calculation, resource allocation, and many more.
  5. Payroll management – With an array of payroll features, you will be able to calculate and process employee payments, prepare and print their checks without delays, and respond to all active legal and tax commitments without errors. There will be systems out there exclusively devoted to payroll management, used by enterprises and high-tier performers to remind them of their financial obligations.
  6. Project accounting – Project accounting software is usually packed in separate systems that represent the accounting version of vertical industry software. They are most welcomed by construction operators and software developers, where both costs and applicable rules differ from one project to the other. The primary capability of this software is estimating and handling overheads and costs related to labor, material, and equipment, in line with all other features frequently met in accounting systems.
  7. Fund accounting – These features are to be found in accounting software designed for government agencies and nonprofit organizations and include tracking donation expenditures, grant management, GASB (governmental accounting standards board) regulations, and a special suite of financial reports.
  8. Inventory management – Inventory management is a specific toolkit developed for stock control, and where you will find all the necessary tools to give your business a higher shelf-life product line. This means you will be able to control the availability and movement of your products and avoid all sorts of delivery issues such as overstocking or understocking.

FreeAgent Dashboard

5. What to Consider When Getting an Accounting System?

Of course, the answer to this question depends mostly on the specific needs and priorities of your business. Still, there are several key criteria each system has to meet to be worth the money you’re investing in. Here are a few thoughts on what you should be looking for:

  1. An integrated invoicing module. Regardless of the core operations, your accounting system should be complete (inventory management, for instance), and, if possible, you should always acquire a system that offers at least some basic billing and invoicing functionality. This way, you will spare yourself the trouble of purchasing additional software or migrating data to another system.
  2. Customization. There is no “one-size-fits-all” accounting system (in fact, this is one of the most diversely targeted software category), and the reason for thIS is that each company runs specific finance calculations and adheres to a different set of rules. If you’re unable to find a particular system that matches your business model (and that will hardly ever happen), look for a flexible program you can adjust to your operations, one that can grow with your business.
  3. Ease of use. There is nothing simple about accounting procedures and calculations, so the least your new accounting system should be able to do is to give you an intuitive environment to work in. This means information should be arranged neatly, and functions should be available on a single dashboard. You should complete operations within minutes following a navigation pattern you already know.
  4. Security. As we already pointed out, accounting systems play around a business’s most sensitive data, namely the numbers it depends on. To ensure that making calculations and sharing data within the system is bulletproof, choose a reputable vendor and check security mechanisms in advance.
  5. Connectivity. At the point where you’re buying an accounting solution, you will already have an array of software pieces to put up with it. To avoid changing your entire software infrastructure for the needs of a single program, do things the other way around—get a system that integrates with the tools you have, or, in the best scenario, offers open API for you to connect it with any system you want.
  6. Mobile usage. Mobile-ready accounting systems are no longer a luxury only enterprises can afford, so why not choose one for your needs? Most popular vendors nowadays offer native Android and iOS apps for their users, where operability is just about the same as with the desktop version of the system.
  7. Pricing. The software logic applies again: the more a system can do, the more it will cost, so if you can afford a fully-featured and ahead-of-its-time suite, go for it! You should know, nevertheless, that quality accounting systems can be purchased at a fraction of that price, and some of them are even available for free.
  8. Reliable support. Most accounting software vendors pride themselves with knowledgeable and fast-to-respond teams, but the truth is, you won’t know how efficient they are before you’ve actually had an issue to submit. To prevent some bitter disappointment for the money you’ve invested, test support in advance.

6. How Much Does Accounting Software cost?

Accounting is not exactly the cheapest and small-biz friendliest software arena you will come across. Much of its premium functionality and instant technical support is still reserved for enterprises, but that doesn’t mean a quality system cannot be found below that line.

In general, accounting & finance systems come with flexible monthly/yearly subscriptions or single time quote-based licenses. At the same time, some of them are also available for free (or offer an unpaid package for small teams or such looking for basic functionalities). The gaps between different plans are usually formed by differences in available features, number of supported users, available storage, and access to support.

Here are the costs of accounting software of popular vendors:

  • FreshBooks – Offers three affordable plans in total, starting with the Lite ($15/month to bill 5 active clients), followed by Plus ($25 for 50 active clients) and Premium ($50 for 500 clients). Annual savings may apply to each offer, and a 30-days free trial is also available.
  • NetSuite ERP – The vendor provides access to NetSuite ERP features on a quote based plan. Contact the vendor for more information about the product’s price.
  • Tipalti – It offers quote-based pricing. You can contact the vendor for comprehensive details about Tipalti pricing.
  • FreeAgent – The best thing about FreeAgent is that it offers simplified universal pricing for all small businesses. Pricing starts at $10/month for the first 6 months, then $20/month.
  • Zoho Books – Its pricing scheme is similar to FreshBooks’, with a Basic plan for 2 users (1 user, 1 accountant), 50 contacts, and 5 automated workflows priced at $9/month. This is followed by the Standard Plan ($19/month for 3 users (2 users, 1 accountant) and 500 contacts, and the Professional Plan ($29/month for 10 users and unlimited contacts).
  • Xero – Xero’s pricing starts at $9, the Early Package where you get 5 invoices, 5 bills, and 20 bank transactions. The other two plans are Growing ($30/month) and the Established Plan ($60/month).
  • QuickBooks – QuickBooks offers a variety of payment plans, depending on the intended application and size of the business. Their main accounting suite is available at $10 (Simple Start for basic invoicing); $17 (Essentials, for billing and multiple users); and $30 (Plus for tracking inventory and printing 1099s). All plans offer annual savings and a free trial where you can test their features.
  • Wave – Wave is one of the best accounting systems that can be acquired for free, as all basic accounting functionality is available at no cost, and the customer would only have to pay card processing and payroll fees in selected countries.
  • Brightpearl – Brightpearl is a popular and very powerful accounting system that charges users annually. Once you’ve selected the desired plan, you’ll have to pay some of the following annual licenses: £3,780/year (an Entry package for 3 users and 800 orders);  £9,600/year (High Growth package for unlimited users and 2000 orders); or  £16,800 (the Established package for unlimited users and 5000 orders).
  • Intacct – Intacct is one of the currently most-popular ERP alternatives on the market, tailored to meet the needs of any business. The system is priced on a quote basis, which means that you should contact the vendor and get an individual package prepared to meet your needs and financial possibilities.

Zoho Books Dashboard

7. What are the Potential Issues of Accounting Software?

The trend of designing industry-specific accounting systems. If facing a choice between a general, standardized accounting solution and one that has been developed to meet the specific needs of your industry, choose the latter. Note, nevertheless, that in most cases, you won’t be relying on years of reputation to support its quality, so make sure all the features you need are there and do so in advance.

Scalability and customization. Because accounting deals with a non-creative subject, there is little developers can do to make the digitized process more engaging than usual. Thus, accounting systems won’t be the most thrilling and open-to-configuration apps you can get your hands on. What could be a good course of action on your behalf is to choose a customizable solution and make sure you can implement your rules and business specifications inside. This will also ensure that you won’t have to replace the system as your business starts developing.

Lack of integrations. When looking for a reliable accounting and finance system, make sure it has an open infrastructure that supports third-party integrations, or at least that the connections you need are already taken care of. Settle for nothing but the best, as developers nowadays are more than aware their tool has to work in line with sales software, business intelligence systems, CRMs, project management apps, and a variety of other services.

A central position for workflow automation. Accounting statistics show that software developers are now focused on what more can be done to facilitate accounting, basically giving accountants and finances experts a break, and getting more of the heavy lifting off their shoulders. In technical terms, this means that workflow automation is rising, and soon there will be no operation that won’t be automated.

Deployment no other than in the cloud. It sounds almost incredible that all that complex accounting machinery companies took months to install will now become history, but that’s how it is. New accounting trends are leaning towards cloud hosting, as it is a safer, faster, and considerably more affordable alternative.

Machine learning: the future of accounting. The rise of AI-powered accounting will continue as businesses seek the aid of advanced programs to weed out low-value and redundant tasks, assign it to machines, and leave humans with more time to do tasks that are better left to their creative capabilities. Machine learning should allow accountants to enjoy faster computation time, more accurate calculations, effective detection of any fraud, and point to accounting trends to impact any business’s overall bottom line.

Are Any of These Accounting Applications in the Cards for You Right Now?

Having reached this section, you most likely have a good idea of what type of accounting software to purchase. Before taking that last step, consider going for any free trial offered by a target vendor. If it’s Freshbooks, for example, you can easily sign up for its free trial.

You might want to expand what you’ve gained from this article to other areas of specific interest to you. If this is the case, how about checking out any of these:

Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

Related posts

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

TOP

Why is FinancesOnline free? Why is FinancesOnline free?

FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.