Accounting Software for Farming Clients
Our clients often ask us for a recommendation regarding what accounting package they should use. The common options available to farmers that are widely used in New Zealand are:
- Manual and Excel Cashbook
- Banklink with transactions processed by you or your accountant
- Xero with Figures used for Budgeting
- Cash Manger Rural
To get the most out of your accounting system we need to have an understanding of the benefits that an accounting system should be providing. Some of the reasons to have an accounting system are:
- To assist in the preparation of your GST and income tax returns
- To review your income tax position
- To how you what revenue has been received and how that money has been used
- Provide information on your business profitability and financial position
- To enable you to understand your business more by providing information on your costs and revenues and to assist you in seeing how your management practices affect costs and revenue
- To compare actual results to budgeted results and industry benchmarks so that you can consider how things can be done better in the future
- To assist with the preparation of budgets and forecasts
- To provide valuable information when considering the financial impact of various alternative strategies
- Provide information on your key performance indicators
- To keep track of what you owe to creditors and making payment of your creditors easier
- To invoice customers for work done
- To reduce the time you spend doing administration
Along with the cost of the accounting system (both time and money) the above reasons aid considerably in the decision about which accounting package to use.
In light of the above, the advantages and disadvantages of each option are:
Manual or Excel Cashbook
While the initial cost of a cashbook is low and is adequate for the preparation of your GST returns, cashbooks have significant disadvantages to the other options including:
- The preparation of your annual financial statements and tax returns will be higher, as the Accountant has to re-process the transactions into their ledger system
- It is difficult to drill down on costs and get listings of transactions by expense category
- It is considerably more difficult to review your results against budgets, and industry benchmarks and use the information to create forecasts for future years
- It is difficult to forecast your income tax position without significant additional processing
- Processing time can be significantly higher than computerised accounting systems as data has to be manually entered
Banklink is a system where your transactions through your bank, Farmlands, Wrightson, Fonterra and other major farm suppliers are captured electronically and either you or your accountant then analyse the income and expenses.
The main benefits of Banklink are:
- It is a cost effective tool for preparing your GST returns
- Cash flow reports and analysis of income and expense reports are easily generated and can be transferred into excel for further analysis
- For your annual financial statements the transactions can be downloaded into a ledger system, thereby reducing information having to be processed twice
- For people with limited accounting experience, Banklink does not require much training and is simple to use
However the disadvantages are:
- As it is cash based the reports can be misleading as your creditors and debtors have not been included. This is especially true where your suppliers have allowed you to defer payment for several months, or you are late in paying your creditors
- As the information is on a cash basis it does not tell you the correct month that you undertook farming activities (i.e. when fertiliser was purchased, cropping done, silage harvested etc.)
- It does not report your financial position
- You cannot compare budget with actual results
- If your accountant is the one processing the bank link transactions it is more time consuming to get reports from bank link
- Banklink cannot handle multiple farms efficiently
Xero with Figured
Xero and Figured are programmes that are fully in the cloud and can be accessed from any computer that is linked to the Internet.
Xero is a full accounting system that can manage debtors and creditors. There are also many tools that can be used in conjunction with Xero.
Figured is a farm budgeting tool that communicates with Xero. You can prepare your farm budgets and produce profit and loss reports for your livestock and produce accounts, as well as reports on budget versus actual. Figured can also keep track of your livestock numbers and will produce valuations of stock on hand (at tax values or your estimated market values) that can be transferred to Xero. Figured can handle multiple farms with budgeting and reporting able to be done by farm.
Xero is simple to use allowing your transactions from banks, Fonterra, Trading companies to be fed into Xero daily. The creditors system allows you to export creditor payments directly to your Internet banking, resulting in significant time savings.
Xero provides you with a range of reports (both accrual and cash based) and enables you to drill down in reports to see what the figures consist of. Copies of invoices can be scanned and saved into Xero, so that wherever you are you can see a copy of the invoice.
Xero incorporates a fixed asset system, allowing you to keep track of your vehicles, equipment and other fixed assets. The fixed asset system will calculate and post the monthly depreciation charges to the ledger.
Xero allows you to let other people (e.g. accountant, banker) to have access to your accounting system. This means that you do not have to spend time generating reports and sending them to the accountant or banker. Also it means that the accountant can quickly access your accounting records and forecast your tax position. This makes provisional tax reviews quick and easy.
Xero has the benefit that as it is a complete ledger package, with the use of Figured the accountant can prepare the annual financial statements without exporting the data into their own ledger system. This saves time and money.
The main disadvantage of Xero and Figured is that they rely on having a good broadband Internet connection. If your Internet connection is dial up or suffers from interruptions we would recommend that you find a different package.
The cost of Xero is currently $55 per month (incl. GST) and the cost of Figured is $46 per month (incl. GST) making the annual cost $1,212 incl. GST, $1,056 excl. GST.
Cash Manager Rural
Cash Manager Rural is a cashbook and budgeting programme written specifically for farmers. It is available as a standalone version on your computer or as a cloud based version.
As farmers can have poor Internet connections the cloud based version downloads to your computer when you open it and then restores your accounts to the cloud when you exit the programme.
As with Xero, invoices can be scanned and saved against the income/expense transactions and bank transactions will download daily if you are using the cloud based option.
As Cash Manager Rural was designed specifically for farmers it has the best farm budgeting facility that we have seen.
Cash Manager Rural can analyse income and expenses by farm unit and is able to have budgets for multiple farm units.
You are able to export a payment batch to Internet banking for payment, but it does not have a full debtors and creditors system.
Like Xero, the online version allows you to invite other users into your accounting system.
For the preparation of your annual financial statements and tax return the Accountant needs to transfer the information in Cash Manager Rural to another ledger, and then account for accrual adjustments. This makes preparation of the annual financial statements more time consuming and therefore more expensive than Xero.
The annual cost of Cash Manager Rural is $570 excluding GST ($655.50 including GST)
If you have a good Internet connection our recommendation would be that you use Xero with Figured. The annual cost may be higher, but as it is a full ledger package the cost of preparing your annual financial statements should be lower, as the accountant does not need to transfer your records into another ledger package and can enter journals during the year.
If you do not have a good Internet connection, we recommend that you use Cash Manager Rural, as in addition to helping you prepare your GST returns it enables you to review and understand your farm costs and to plan for future years.
If you wish to discuss your farm accounting needs please call Matthew on 07 376 7454 or 027 447 8257