Internal bookkeeping / client bookkeeping / end of year

stevo5678 Registered Posts: 325
Hi all, I was hoping some of you may be able to share how you approach your bookkeeping work on behalf of clients and also year end (once a year) clients.

As it is such a long post I have summarised my points here:
  • Currently use spreadsheets for year end clients WP's
  • Currently use either spreadsheets or VT to do VAT returns
  • Want to try and systemise by having a decision process on what to use when
  • Considered using Xero WP's but feels like overkill
  • Spreadsheets don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, any reason not to use them for VAT returns (and year end WP's for that matter)?
  • Have an apprentice so need to consider this in terms of difficulty, quality control and reviewing.
  • Use and will continue to use taxcalc for stat accounts, tax and PM
  • Your opinions would be appreciated :)

I have used in my own practice (and all of the practices I worked for previously) spreadsheets as the 'go to' system for working papers on year end clients and also for virtually all of the VAT return clients. For VAT this works well and never really caused any issues apart from some messy clients that needed more attention in terms of keeping tabs on outstanding invoices. For year end jobs whether sole traders or companies, spreadsheets work well to do a bank rec from bank statements and to do things like sales controls, accruals, HP, stock and any other relevant schedules.

The VAT spreadsheets would be added to quarterly and used to prepare the VAT return. The end of year working papers would be posted onto the accounting/tax software such as Iris (I now use Taxcalc which is similar).

Now in my own practice I still use spreadsheet working papers which I am happy with but am trying to formalise a more consistent system in terms of jobs are done on which software. For EG, I currently have all my contractors on spreadsheets to do their VAT and year end work unless they want to have access to the software in that case I would put them onto Xero where they raise their own sales involves and match the bank etc. I've started producing set templates for all contractors to help with the process. If they use Xero I would still produce my own WP's to support the year end accounts.

I then have several VAT clients on VT, these are often more receipt heavy clients with more cash expenses.

There are a few that are not contractors but I still do their VAT on spreadsheets rather than VT.

Then there are clients that have historically chosen their own software and have already been using it. If it works I tend to leave them on it, but if it is a mess I usually push them to Xero. Lots of these clients may be end of year jobs that come in as a sage or quickbooks back up (some are on things like clearbooks or kashflow).

I use Xero for my own books mainly for the bank feed function and the recurring invoices. I have to say I love it but at £24 a month I don't make it the default system for clients.

I've looked at the possibility of putting everyone onto the xero ledger package (for all of those unfamiliar with it, it enables you to use xero to keep the clients books and import bank statements but no bank feed, invoicing, VAT reporting) which is normally £2 a month (was £1 in March). This would then enable me to have all the clients on one platform (or most of them). It would mean for many the need to create a CSV template to post the transactions onto Xero. The other perk of this is that I can have everyone on Xero's 'working papers'. However I've been playing around with the WPs and find them a little over the top and overkill for the average client. My biggest concern with this is being tied into xero and held prisoner when they inevitably up their fees. Also as much as I want to systemise I struggle to see a scenario where xero is appropriate for all clients.

I've played around with the idea of having everyone on VT for internal bookkeeping (EG VAT return clients) or even quick file which looks very good and is free. It also has bank feed support but looks like the client would need to mess around to set this up (with chrome plug ins etc). However the import function works better than xero (no assigning as it matched the format to your bank).

What I'm getting at after all of this waffle is to try and ascertain whether any one has successfully managed to totally systemise their procedures and also how do you choose which method to use if you have more than one option available?

I will certainly be using taxcalc which is fab but it is more at the bookkeeping end I am deliberating on. I still use spreadsheets for working papers an despite xero offering an alternative I don't see spreadsheets dying at anytime soon considering how widely used they are by tiny and huge companies alike (KRAFT use them for many internal purposes).

I struggle in trying to decide if there is any real added value in keeping small business books on software instead of spreadsheets when the books are done quarterly. They still just get posted not my end of year software. The other issue I have personally with this, is that I only have one member of staff who is an apprentice and I find that for people at this level of the career ladder it is easier to review a spreadsheet than postings on software and easier to amend.

If any of you can share your methods, decision making tools or opinion that will be fantastic.

Woo that was a long post!




  • peaman
    peaman Registered Posts: 123 ? ? ?
    Hi Steve

    I am in a similar situation to yourself, I mainly use spreadsheets and post to VT to prepare the accounts.

    Most of my clients use spreadsheets, a few have Sage or Xero.

    I have been trying to think of a better way to advise clients to keep their books, which is easy to use, won't cost too much and which would ideally allow me to view in the cloud. I don't use VT transaction, I have looked at it and at first glance it doesn't look to be particularly simple to use for clients.

    Xero looks good, but it is a bit expensive. If clients are happy using Sage, the cheapest option is to just buy Sage Instant once every 6 years.

    BTW have you tried Taxfiler? I have used Taxcalc for a couple of years and I was very happy with it (although I don't use the database as I don't like the look of it!) but I am changing to Taxfiler. I have been using Taxfiler for free for the last 6 months and it is great. Very easy to use, very cheap, and it's all in the cloud. Plus, Taxcalc have just put up their fees!
  • stevo5678
    stevo5678 Registered Posts: 325
    edited April 2015
    Hi Peaman, thanks for your feedback. I'm going through a similar process and I've decided although I agree it's expensive to use Xero for my 'chunky' vat clients.

    I use Xero for my own books so know of the huge time savings and reporting information it provides, therefore think it will help free up some time. With the cost, if I go with the non invoicing version for clients who are not that invoice heavy it will be around £10pm. For the invoice version clients I may try and meet them half way with the cost which should be win win.

    I am just trying to decide whether to go with the vat less Xero package for my flat rate clients at £6 pm and just post in a monthly or quarterly vat adjustment to agree the numbers (which works with one client already). Or to use set spreadsheet templates. The advantage with Xero is the bank feed.

    I've tried some of the other cloud packages and found them far more time cosuming (inc Clearbooks and kashflow).

    I love Taxcalc (for tax and accounts) and fully use the data base and PM so will certainly keep this.

    My ultimate goal is to automate bookkeeping as much as possible and have as much consistency as I can.

    Good luck :)
  • burg
    burg Moderator, FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,441


    That took some reasding but I can now see what you are saying, what you currently do and what you want to achieve.

    I'll try and put down on paper what we do but a chat (see my PM) may achieve more.

    Our Systems

    Contractor - We give all of them and try to encourage them to use Clearbooks cashbook. This sounds similar to Xero Ledger. There is no bank feed but rather a download (which I have written a quick 'how to' guide for). This then auto-reconciles and we use the TB from here to enter to our final accounts software (Keytime). Working papers for Depreciation, HP Accounts, Adjustment Journals. etc.

    Year End only - For those that are a bit more 'incomplete records' we use VTT+ to do the bank entries and reconciliation. We then have Excel based Working Papers as above.

    VAT Returns - If the client is on a normal VAT scheme then we again use VTT+ where possible.

    Flat Rate VAT - We use a simple Excel Spreadheet to calc this.

    Clients with own methods - we have clients who have done their own bookkeeping either on spreadsheets, Sage, Kashflow, Xero, etc. We then go straight from this to our Final Accounts software and create Working Papers as above.

    Our Vision

    We are happy with the use of VT where possible internally. We are planning on moving more and more clients over to Clearbooks this year. We will be offering it free for the cashbook version (cost around £5 per month) which will save us a great deal of time as it will mean bank is reconciled and data entered.

    For clients where we do the bookkeeping/VAT we would like to move more over to Clearbooks but the only advantage would be where we can get data direct from the bank either by us having read only access or cleints reliably downloading data (unlikely).


    We are generally happy with where we are at and just need to move a few more over to Clearbooks to reduce the huge mix of software. We won't stop it but we can reduce the varying types. I'm not too fussed about other actual software but I want to stop spreadsheets as clients often create their own which don't work how we would like.

    Hope this all helps somewhat and if you want to chat then feel free.

  • stevo5678
    stevo5678 Registered Posts: 325
    Thanks Ian,

    I may pick your brains at some point over the phone but am thankful for your contribution.

    It's clarified my thoughts a little and gave me some ideas.

    I'm going to continue to use spreadsheets for once a year clients for the moment as I have an apprentice and I find it easier to review her work.

    I may start using online cashbook software and due to familiarity like Xero. I love their bank reconciling layout and find it the easiest to use. The cashbook version is £2 pm so may give this a go. Training client to send me their bank statements or import them is not going to be as easy at it should!

    I just feel that the government is moving/pushing us towards monthly reporting so cloud and automation will become standard as some stage. Although there will always be the carrier bag brigade!
Privacy Policy