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Ask our SME expert: best accounting and payroll software?

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Stewart Harrington is the owner of Metcalfe Automotive Centre, Northmead, NSW.

He asks: What accounting software could I use that has payroll built into the functionality?

I acquired Metcalfe, a Repco-authorised service centre, in 2010 after working for the previous owner as a motor mechanic for three years.

We use an accounting software package favoured by motor mechanics.

small business software payroll bookkeeping accounting mechanic

The subscription is $1400 annually, which includes some phone support.

However, the software doesn't offer a payroll function integrated as part of the package, which means my bookkeeper spends two to three hours a week manually calculating, recording and paying salaries for my staff of nine.

Moreover, we can't create individual PDF versions of some financial reports such as debtor statements to email to our clients.

These reports must be printed out manually, scanned and then emailed.

Should we be checking out some of the general business cloud accounting services?

1. Software can help you grow

Great question, Stewart, and you've come to the right place.

Not long ago Canstar Blue found that 78% of business owners and decision makers said that using an accounting software program was critical to their operation, and 39% admitted to making financial mistakes before going online. Also, 42% of users, myself included, believe accounting software has contributed to the growth of their business.

The research also found the ability to log in any time, using any device, to check vital information such as outstanding invoices, profit and loss statements and cash flow was a valuable aspect of using a cloud-based accounting software package such as MYOB, Reckon or Xero.

2. Add-on geared for mechanics

Most MYOB products come with a payroll function. All are available online and comply with taxation requirements.

It seems the most suitable product for your business is MYOB Essentials, costing from $50 a month, which is significantly cheaper than your current software provider. It can assist with GST and BAS bookkeeping and features unlimited payroll, as well as bank feeds and limitless invoicing.

MYOB Essentials also offers Mechanic Desk, an add-on that enables you to issue invoices faster and more accurately. It also lets your employees know what their work schedules are, and it can notify your customers when their vehicles are due for a service. MechanicDesk will cost an extra $35 a month above the Essentials subscription.

Stewart Harrington is the owner of Metcalfe Automotive Centre, Northmead, NSW.
Stewart Harrington

3. This One can save $1268pa

A Reckon One subscription will cost you just $11 a month, saving your business $1268 annually.

You'll get GST, budgeting and reporting functions, invoicing and billing and, importantly, payroll. Moreover, Reckon One will quickly address your report-generating issues. You can create individual PDF versions of financial statements, or export them to XLS and CSV files. These files can be emailed to your clients.

On the issue of payroll, you can automatically calculate and record salaries for your staff. This functionality, more significantly, will give your accounts department back the two to three hours a week it's losing to manual payroll processes. With Reckon One you can have an unlimited number of employees on the books for the same price, making it ideal for a growing business.

4. Check with the accountant

Xero has about 500,000 subscribers and is the pioneer of cloud accounting software. You'll pay $70 a month for a Xero subscription to achieve the payroll functionality you require.

This will allow you to pay up to 10 employees as well as electronically send customised debtor statements to multiple customers at once, send online quotes, sales invoices and set up invoice reminders.

In summary, MYOB seems geared towards assisting mechanics build their businesses long term, Reckon is exceptional for price and Xero scores well for user-friendliness and functionality.

However, before making a move I'd be inclined to talk to your accountant about the accounting software that will be the best fit for your business.

- Are you a small business owner with a challenge you'd like Money to help solve? Email anthony@corpwrite.com.au with your question and contact details. You must be willing to provide a photo.

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Anthony O'Brien is a small business and personal finance writer with 20-plus years' experience in the communication industry.
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