Apps review: Small business bookkeeping tools

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The recent announcement of several new smartphone record-keeping apps caused quite a stir. Nigel Harris takes a closer look at them.

Following extensive discussions with HMRC, a number or leading software companies recently launched simple, free bookkeeping app(lication)s for mobile phones for businesses below the VAT threshold. They are not approved or accredited in any way by HMRC, who simply say that the suppliers “have advised HMRC that they have commercial mobile applications for record keeping that meet the HMRC specification”.

According to David Forbes, one of the developers who supported the project, the apps have been designed for people that currently only fill in 3 boxes on the short-self employment pages. 

Five apps are currently listed by HMRC, for iPhone and Android phones only. The last time I looked there was also a Windows Mobile app which is no longer listed. These are the currently available apps and some noteworthy features:

Android

Apple IOS

  • Earnest from FreeAgent Enables you to distinguish between cash and non-cash trans, and you can categorise transactions and add notes to them
  • MyBizTracker from Intuit
  • Sage Record Keeper Extended functionality, which suggests a higher development budget. For example, when you estimate the current year’s tax you can also refer back to previous years (you can store unlimited previous tax years). Balances can be viewed monthly, and you can drill down to transaction level. Both Standard and Higher rate CIS deductions are catered for. Multiple tags or categories can be attached to individual transactions. The Sage website suggests that Android and BlackBerry versions may be coming later.

Do let us know if you have tried out any of the apps and what you think of them by  logging in to AccountingWEB and commenting on this article. 

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how about

Expensify

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And how about
Receipt Bank

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OMG

It appears the data is held on the phone until the user bothers to transfer it to a spreadsheet or whatever.

Well nothing much can go wrong there then! Given the micro businesses that these are aimed at, they will of course be fully aware of the need to keep the data backed up in case their phone is lost/stolen/dropped/run over/washed/crashes/.......

HMRC will need a new piggy bank for the penatlies.

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Backup

In the case of the iOS apps, the data is likely to be transparently backed up to iCloud, or iTunes whenever the user syncs.

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But if it is backed up to iCloud for example, where is that data located? Is it in the USA?

Where do you stand with compliance if the data is in the US?

 

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Thanks @carnmores & @david_terrar

Along with this article, we've got an AccountingWEB apps directory, to which we'll add your suggestion in our next update.

However Nigel's article is focused on the new batch of record-keeping apps that emerged as a result of HMRC's promptings and the specification mentioned at the top of the article.

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reasonable excuse

At one of the meetings we had with the HMRC about this, I did ask if "the dog ate my phone" would be a reasonable excuse.

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Easy Books started as an App for iPhone in 2009 and had all functions of an accounting software. It did cost over £5. Now it has developed into a full accounting software for Apple Mac and iPhone/iPad app is free with limited functions. I think it is very good for people on the go.

We use KashFlow and give it away free to our clients but the iPhone app is too slow and I do not find it very useful.

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What we are testing

 

We are trailing a few of these expense trackers to use for our clients. We expect our clients can gain an extra 5% productivity from staff by using an expense tracker to build personal expense claim sheets.

 

The best trackers have OCR scanning and tagging, so the expense can be classified and immediately posted to an accounting application.

 

The challenge for many of these apps is to reliably translate the receipt description and dollar amounts. Many receipts are printed on heat-sensative paper, which does not keep long and fades over time.

 

We are trialing Xero Touch, CamScan, DocScan,Shoeboxed, ImagetoText, ReceiptBank, KF QuickSnap, Lemon, Abukai, Expensify, Jotnot, and Genuis Scan. we'll be publishing our findings shortly on our blog.

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CashFlow

We've been using Float which helps you monitor cashflow.

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