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Online accounts review: Liquid Accounts. By Nigel Harris

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10th Jul 2008
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Liquid Accounts is one of the few fully-featured accounts packages online. The company took a bespoke online solution created by Jon Wright, FCA, the company’s FD, in 2001 for a large franchisor with 16 offices/franchisees throughout the UK, and 4000 employees who all needed to send in timesheets and receive payslips, and reverse engineered it, rebranded and redesigned it to create what they describe as “a modern, flexible, modular, scaleable, easy-to-use, jargon-free online accounting package, which is suitable for any size of company or partnership.”

Having originally developed accounting software for multi-site UK companies with a turnover of £2-20m, Liquid Accounts has evolved from Jon Wright’s work for these companies, so unlike many competing software as a service (SaaS) providers , Liquid Accounts has been scaled down for use by smaller companies – yet has all the additional functionality that much larger businesses may require, now or in future, and these can simply be added on and paid for, but only as and when needed. Looking at the feature list it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Liquid Accounts would be unable to meet a potential user’s needs.

Technology

The developers have done a lot of work to ensure cross-platform compatibility, so Mac users should have no problems with Liquid Accounts.

Login is particularly secure, using a company code and password, AND a user name and password, with no cookies or Active-X controls so it’s safe to use on a public PC. The system dynamically generates a one-time URL for your session, which reduces the potential for hacking. At the server end the Liquid databases are held in an encrypted format which reduces the risk of data theft - even Liquid themselves couldn’t identify a specific customer’s data file, even if they wanted to.

Like Aqilla, Liquid Accounts data uses a single ledger structure rather than separate nominal, sales and purchase ledgers, so there is no risk of ledgers falling out of balance. This also means that drilling down into the control accounts from the balance sheet or TB takes you directly to customer or supplier accounts and then down to invoice level.

User interface

The on-screen presentation is simple and fairly intuitive. The objective has been to make it look like a desktop application. The tabs across the top of the screen give you direct access to Sales, Purchases, Banking, VAT, Results (ie reports), HR and Company (settings and system administration tools). Within each section, the workflow runs logically from left to right, for example from raising a sales invoice to collecting cash and monitoring outstanding debts. Efforts have been made to use non-technical language – “money collected” and “money to collect” instead of receipts and debtors, “check my statements” instead of bank reconciliation – although you can change this in the user setup section to revert to traditional accountancy speak. Different users in an organisation can have different menu titles to suit their needs. There is a lack of dashboard widgets and charts in the user-interface, giving it a more business-like look and feel which will suit larger organisations, although the option to display such visual tools and reminders might help to attract smaller businesses.

The application functions as you would expect accounts software to, there were no surprises and speed of response was excellent for an online service. I spotted some nice touches in many of the sections:

  • Multi-line Sales invoices are simple to produce, and the PDF output looks very presentable. The format editor within the program facilitates very flexible document design without having to resort to Word.
  • In Purchases the “payments due” report works out which invoices are due for payment today (based on credit terms set for the supplier), combining multiple invoices from the same supplier, and can then pass the data directly to your bank to generate a BACS payment.
  • VAT is well controlled. “Flag transaction to VAT period” is set once a VAT return has been saved so that further postings made to that VAT period are automatically picked up on the next return – amazingly, many software and SaaS services fail to do this at all! The additional reports available to the accountant include an “Out of date posting” report to highlight such items.
  • VAT return data is archived on the system so at any time you can produce the VAT return and detailed transaction reports (with full drill down) for any prior VAT period. The system can even handle multiple VAT registrations in different EU countries. For non-VAT registered businesses the VAT boxes in posting screens are not shown at all, rather than being simply greyed out. Online submission of VAT returns has been developed – the company is using it on the system for its own returns – but has yet to be released to users.
  • Results includes all the necessary reports, although the normal user menu does not include a Trial Balance as Liquid believe it is meaningless to most users. A TB and aged debtors and creditors reports are included in the accountants menu though.
  • The HR tab gives access to a collection of documents such as employment and health and safety policies produced and maintained by HR specialists Sentient.

Accountants logging in to client data via the free Client Manager application can view their clients’ Liquid Accounts data in real time, generate reports and view the application exactly as the client sees it, using the “Books” tab, which makes it easy for a practice to offer telephone support to clients if they wish to supplement the support provided by Liquid Accounts. Data can be exported to a CSV file for use with accounts production software. There is no signing up fee for accountants, so practices can deploy Liquid Accounts with one or more clients at no cost to themselves and open up a whole new range of pro-active management accounting and advisory services. Firms who do bookkeeping work for clients will find the flexibility of the application makes this a serious proposition for a ‘one product fits all’ offering across their entire client base.

Accountants with disenchanted Sage users will be interested to know that Liquid Accounts can import Line 50 data into their application, preserving the chart of accounts and transaction data.

Options and extras

For users who need more than the Liquid Start-Up service there are a range of add-ons that can be purchased at additional monthly cost:

  • Stock control – item, stock or GRN versions – bar code scanning and EPOS are also available if required
  • HMR&C-approved payroll
  • Multi-currency
  • Job costing
  • Sales and purchase order processing
  • CRM is coming later this year

Effectively unlimited multiple users can be added at £5 per month/per person. The largest user has 4,000 potential users and has never run into concurrent user access problems.

The monthly cost for Liquid Accounts is very competitive, and includes telephone and online support, plus the automatic backups and software upgrades that you would expect with SaaS application . The big attraction of Liquid Accounts is that It allows a user to build the perfect package for their business, whilst only paying for the functionality that they need and use, but with the ability to add more as and when they need it. At the lowest level, a sole trader on cash accounting pays £10 per month. To add invoicing increases this to £15 per month. The full limited company package with two concurrent users is only £20 per month, although the average client is paying around £35 with added extras.

2008 is an interesting year for online accounting, with new services coming on stream almost weekly. Liquid Accounts stands out as an immensely powerful application that has been cleverly packaged to suit every size of business, at a price that remains highly competitive at each level. Firms who jumped in early to offer online accounting to their clients may regret not waiting for a service like this – those still waiting for the right service to come along should take a serious look at Liquid Accounts.

Replies (3)

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By Richard Holmes
15th Dec 2008 15:00

Winner 2008 Software Satisfaction Award!
For Web Hosted Accounts Software.

Thanks to all who voted- giving Liquid Accounts, the highest score in any category!

Liquid Accounts

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By Chrystella
26th Jul 2015 13:27

Liquid Accounting has now withdrawn telephone support for its product.

Not even an email to existing customers to advise them this was happening

Will not be renewing my subscription with them again

Very poor service and backup

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By capsitech
11th Apr 2016 09:28

accounting software

you should also consider capium for free online accounting software

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