Free Accounting Software: Open Source for Entrepreneurs

A Google search for ‘Free Accounting Software’ gives 40 million hits. If you change your search to the more demanding ‘open source accounting software’ you come up with a mere 9.3 million hits. Even taking this lower figure and accepting that most of these hits will be commentaries, and commercial companies piggy-backing their pitch onto the open-source wagon, that’s one hell of a lot of actual open source.JurisdictionOf course accounting software is jurisdiction dependent. A package designed for the UK market will not be appropriate in the States or in Continental Europe. However there are some common factors to consider before you choose your package:1 Planning HorizonYou want your package to be man enough to cope with your planned growth over five to seven years. Changing from one system to another is expensive.2 CompatibilityEven if you are doing all your own book-keeping now, if you get any bigger you might farm this work out to professionals. What soft-ware do they use. There is no need for both of you to use the same system but it would save much time and money if your system will “talk” to theirs.3 PayrollLook at the payroll system: does it do everything you need it to, including making the deductions and printing out the returns the government in your jurisdiction demands.4 Tax’Death and Taxation’ are unavoidable in life – especially commercial life. There are layers of sales tax in some jurisdictions, tax inward on your purchases, tax outward on your sales. Only you know how your business will function: only you – or your accountant can judge.5 Slice and DiceAccounts are for you – and the government of course. Will your package tell you all you want to know, now and in five years hence? It’s no for an outsider to tell you what these questions might be but some things are generic and apply to almost everyone.a. What do I make my money on? Is it sales of dry goods, or frozen foods?b. Conversely what do I lose money on?c. Now I’ve got two branches are they both profitable?d. How much of my cost base is ‘fixed’ and how much variable.e. EtcMuch of this only you can know, but your Business Plan should be your guide.Finally, and this might seem an obvious thought, use the internet. There is a mountain of information out there in social networks and chat rooms. Make a preliminary choice then put its name back into Google and find out what existing users think.

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