An impressive and comprehensive accounts package for small and medium firms, but you need experience to get the most out of it
While cloud-based accounting provides a new way to keep your company’s accounts, the majority of firms still use conventional accounts packages such as those from Sage. Sage 50 Accounts 2014 is aimed at small and medium businesses with around 50 members of staff. We’ve reviewed the standard version, which includes core features such as credit control, budget management and inline VAT reporting and submission, while the Plus version (£700 inc VAT, from www.pcworld.com) adds advanced stock control and per-project budgeting. The top of the range Professional (£1,219 ex VAT, from http://shop.sage.co.uk) version adds foreign currency support, sales and purchase order processing.
Sage 50 Accounts has lots more features than a typical entry-level accounts package and its interface can look intimidating if you’re not familiar with it, but Sage has done what it can to simplify the setup process. If you’re starting from scratch you’ll be asked to choose whether you’re a limited company, partnership, sole trader or charity, and you’re presented with suitable options to accept or customise. The full range of VAT registration types are supported, although there’s no facility to apply HMRC’s one-year, one percentage point discount for new flat rate registrations automatically; you’ll need to change the rate manually at the end of your first year.
There’s no dashboard to greet you with an easy overview of your finances
Similarly, while a startup’s first financial year usually spans from the date of incorporation through to the end of the twelfth month afterwards, such as 22 November 2012 to 30 November 2013 for example, we couldn’t find a way to implement this. Setting the start of the financial year to December gave us the correct period end, but it wouldn’t allow us to enter invoices from the part-month before. Sage told us that users can change the period start date mid-year to cater for this, but it’d be nice not to have to do so.
While more simple packages often suppress the details of the book-keeping process, Sage 50 Accounts 2014 doesn’t. Sage 50 Accounts users can view and customise their chart of accounts, with the chart of accounts being the set of ledgers against which money is recorded as it enters, moves through and leaves the business. While the default nominal accounts may be all you need, it’s easy to modify them or add new ones should you want to rename and add sales codes to support multiple service lines.
Those who need to can get stuck into editing their chart of accounts
You can also assign sales to various departments, which could help monitor the relative performance of salespeople, teams or territories, while the software lets you manage a transaction from the initial quotation through to a final invoice. Customer records extend beyond the basic address and contact details found in simpler packages. In Sage 50 Accounts 2014 you can set up options such as default or additional client discounts, and set the credit control defaults to match the terms you’ve agreed.
Customer records go far beyond simple address details: the credit control feature is powerful and very useful
One stand-out feature is the free Sage 50 Mobile app for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices, which lets you access and use some of the software’s key functions from a mobile device. Rather than synchronising your data through the cloud, this connects directly to your Sage data files using an optional mobile gateway client. This means you don’t need to upload your data to third-party servers, but you do need to leave the gateway PC switched on.