Robin Dickinson
Robin Dickinson Owner at RAD International

Is accounting software such as MYOB, Xero or Saasu an overkill?

Is accounting software such as MYOB, Xero or Saasu an overkill for most SMEs?

Top voted answer
Pam Pitt

Pam Pitt, Partner at Bookkeepers 4 u

Top 20% Accounting

Accounting software makes business EASIER for SMEs.

If you use accounting software, you know at any time:

1. how much you are owed by your clients, who is overdue and needs reminding

2. how much you owe your suppliers

3. what your cash flow is

4. how much you are earning

Plus you can

1. produce good looking invoices, email them instantly and get your cash in faster.

2. run reports to analyse your business (sales trends, inventory turnover, best sellers, best customers, check that your costs are under control) and compare prior period performance and predict future growth

3. run payroll accurately and produce all your end of year reporting painlessly

4. produce GST reports instantly

5. control your inventory

6. give your bookkeeper/accountant a file that will reduce their workload and enable them to help you without costing you a fortune.

And if I were looking to buy a business, there is NO way that I would consider buying one that had shoebox accounts (unless I bought the business at a bargain price!) 

Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson at

Great breakdown by Pam and just adding to Pam's Plus Point 3 re payroll, accounting software is rather mandatory now if you employ anyone given the requirements for Single Touch Payroll.

Phil Joel

Phil Joel, Director at SavvySME

Hi Robin, that's an interesting question. I think the key is not so much about the accounting software but about the system (software + process) that is required. 

It is good practice to have a proper system (software + process) in place. What I find with adhoc "accounting" is that sometimes I'll make an effort to file and keep track of my accounts when I am in the mood but most of the time I am more tempted to do something else. This obviously causes issues over time so I would suggest it is better to get into a rhythm. This makes it easier to reconcile the accounts, file for the BAS and tax submission later on.

Having an accounting software to do this obviously makes the task simpler.

Paul Zisson

Paul Zisson, Founder & CFO at

Top 10% Tax

Hi Robin, i think it is a basic requirement of any small business. without it how will you know how your business is performing at any given time, how will you invoice customers, how will you manage your cash, how will you protect your assets, how will you comply with tax and accounting obligations. You could pay an external accountant to do this for you but it will cost your business much more and often they only look at it once a year/month etc. To be at the top of your game in your business and industry you need financial information that allows you to make informed and proactive decisions. I appreciate that you may not be good with numbers, administration, finance when you are a business let a bookkeeper or accountant take that stress off you mind so you can focus on spreading the word about your business. Allowing this to build up over time and using manual methods to record business information is risky, prone to error & could behind the eight ball. Trust me, these small accounting packages cost you a very small amount per month (cloud based - they used to be higher annual fees & maintenance on the PC software versions),  are very easy to use and interact with other applications, to tell you alot about how your business is performing. The businesses I have seen without a simple accounting software are the ones that get into trouble and have the bank manager banging on their door and a shoe box full of receipts & invoices costs alot more at tax time to sort through and clean up. By that time, its old news and real time is the minimum you should be aiming for in this modern age.

Jessica McGrath

Jessica McGrath, Marketing Consultant at Stoke Marketing

Using a "dedicated accounting software" makes it easier when you start growing and need to get someone in to do your books.  They don't even need a desk in your office if you go with cloud solutions and you can see what they are doing and where they are at in 'real time'. You can get going from as little as $20 a month. It's definitely worth looking in to.

Paul Seidel

Paul Seidel, Video Content Creator & Voice Over Artist / Director at BIG MOUTH MEDIA

We utilise MYOB in our business (First Edge on Mac) - it's basic as we are both directors and don't have employees/payroll.   I don't consider it overkill as it's helps us do the BAS, GST, etc.

In saying that, I've looked into things like Xero as it keeps in line with our management system, ProWorkFlow - so if an invoice gets paid through the system, everything is updated - whereas now we generate invoices from ProWorkFlow but still manually enter it in MYOB.

The only thing is when you're so far into using a system to pull out of it and take all of your information over to the new - that can be labour-intensive.

Michael Fox


a minor issue for the above debate - the ATO expects good records [!] and they do so with a legal basis; go to their website for the "definitive volume" on record keeping expectations, then you will understand why great software [aligned with good advisers] makes life as lot more positive in keeping your business under control, and makes you money  by controlling business costs

Melissa Sharman

Melissa Sharman, Director at Grow to Succeed

I agree with the comments above - If you're planning to grow your small business, you need to structure for that growth, and that means having systems in place that may, for a while, feel a little superfluous.

It's much easier to learn your new accounting system while the transactions are still few. Then, when sales and workload increase, you'll be prepared for it. You will also have the tools on hand to report on and monitor that growth.

Also, having systems in place from the very beginning allows clients to see your professionalism, builds customer confidence, and increases your credibility. Customers are then more likely to return, and refer friends.

You will also save money if you can do most of your bookkeeping yourself, and hand over ordered and up to date files to your accountant at the end of the year. I'd recommend doing your research, and asking your business coach their recommendations on how to invest in and set up accounting software without over-spending.

Duncan Smith

Duncan Smith, Director at Business Advice + Tax


Can I ask what you suggest to your clients as a business adviser?.

Implementation of GST on 01 July 2000 required preparation of quarterly accounting records to lodge a BAS.
It is fair to say that the software and tax industries and the ATO "struggled" for many years.

Business Owners became much better Financial  Managers by having to complete a quarterly BAS

Software to track GST is important but more so is the interpretation  and understanding of the the entity's 
financial performance, financial position and cashflow.
I would suggest that computer software is required to prepare Receivables and Payable Reports.

Joel's comment is a good one in that it is the system that is important.
Will Cloud Accounting overcome the common situation where the MYOB/Quickbooks/Xero file does not agree with the Financial Statements and Tax Return prepared by the Tax Agent
My view is very difficult to use the software for decision making.if the software does not agree to the Tax Agent's Financial Statements

May business owners do not understand the financials aspects of their business.
Goalposts are paramount  What is breakeven?  What is the Budget?   What are the personal cash flow needs of the proprietor?

Cloud Accounting is an opportunity for Tax Agents to take an ongoing interest in their client's business at least on a quarterly basis

Engage a good BAS Agent     Engage a good Tax Agent     Talk with them often.

Business proprietors are encouraged to take a far greater interest in the financial aspects of their business.

Duncan Smith
Business Advice + Tax
Dream with an Accountant - bringing life to tax





Tom Valcanis

Tom Valcanis, Copywriter at

Top 10% Marketing

I'm a sole trader and use Rounded for my books. It's easy, intuitive, and has just the right amount of bells and whistles for keeping my books in order. I'm a complete mathsphobe and I actually like how Rounded gives me a clear picture of my numbers and how I'm tracking. If my business grew, I'd probably transition to MYOB (which I used in the past and didn't like) or Xero.

Kirsty Fox

Kirsty Fox, Principal at

Top 10% Tax

Absolutely not. They are am important tool to be able to keep track of what's going on in your business -
Wwho hasn't paid you and for how long? Are they chronically bad payers and maybe not worth working for?
When are your bills due for payment?
Do you have staff and need to run payroll

The list goes on, but I have one caveat. The reports that you can produce are only as good as the data you put it. If you don't enter the data correctly you won't get accurate reports - data in / data out.

Paul Zisson

Paul Zisson, Founder & CFO at

Top 10% Tax

Also, it is only considered "overkill" if you dont know how to understand and use your financial information. Embrace as it is very easy to neglect because its all too hard. Have someone (like me) explain the numbers to you simply and highlight the indicators that you need to keep track of to give you peace of mind that you are steering your business on the right course. Good luck!

Jeffrey Joel

Jeffrey Joel, MD at Auspac Trading NSW PL

It sure beats Excel, where it can very quickly become messy and cumbersome. However, with these dedicated accounting software, it needs to be properly set up. This is where a bit of accounting knowledge will go a long way or pay a consultant to get it up and running initially. You will save a small fortune in book keeping fees.

Monica Watts

Monica Watts, Director at

I agree with you Robin. I've trialled MYOB, Xero and Saasu and none of them are simple enough for my needs. I don't need to generate invoices....ever!! I'm fairly tech savvy and have struggled with all 3 interfaces. I'm going to look at AR Live Standard now. All I really need is Sales, Purchases, GST, BAS and Payroll; what would you recommend? I think this could be a similar request for the 'Small' part of the 'SME' sector!

Monica Watts

Monica Watts, Director at

I agree with you Robin. I've trialled MYOB, Xero and Saasu and none of them are simple enough for my needs. I don't need to generate invoices....ever!! I'm fairly tech savvy and have struggled with all 3 interfaces. I'm going to look at AR Live Standard now. All I really need is Sales, Purchases, GST, BAS and Payroll; what would you recommend? I think this could be a similar request for the 'Small' part of the 'SME' sector!

Just discovered AR Live doesn't work on Macs!

The best product we ever had was the ATO's own 'E-Record'; that was pretty much perfect for our needs and our accountant was happy with it.  If I had the know-now, I would love to create a product like E-Record for the really small business (1-5 employees) owner operators who are looking after the book-keeping themselves.

Hitesh Mohanlal

Hitesh Mohanlal, Director at WOW! Advisors & Business Accountants

Interesting comments everyone.

Every business is different and it really depends what you want from your accounting bookkeeping system.We use Xero and love it. But that does not mean it is what every business should use.

For some reason most business owners in Australia think they have to have MYOB, Xero or some other system in place. This is not necessarily so. It depends what information you want to get from your accounting system.

If you want it just to work out your GST, what your income and expenses are then we find that our customised spreadsheet does the trick. We give it to our clients for free because it makes our life easier at year end. It calculates your GST by quarter and gives you a basic P&L per quarter. This is normally good enough for a start up or a business which has turnover less that a few hundred thousand dollars. I have a client on it that has a turnover of $1.2m and this is all the information he wants and probably needs as he does not have any significant debtors or creditors. 

If on the other hand you do have significant debtors and creditors, need to control stock, etc you do need a more complex system like Xero. Remember most of these packages are not designed for the business owner - they are designed for accountants and bookkeepers which is why if you are at that stage you might want to consider giving your bookkeeping to a bookkeeper or your accountant. After all you did not get into business so you can write up the books!



Ian Harris

Ian Harris, Partner at B+I Lockwood Accountants

Top 10% Tax

It is not overkill!

Philip Brookes

Philip Brookes, Director at

Top 10% Ecommerce

Personally, I believe that great accounting software is worth it's weight in gold. Unless you have almost no revenue, the peace of mind and management insights it provides (not to mention legal compliance) is worth it's weight in gold. I love Xero because of the bank feeds - all my transactions are there automatically and I simply need to allocate them. Even if I were to use an external billing system (e.g. through some e-commerce system) I would still use Xero simply for the fact that it captures all your expenses, and you can summarise your revenues to complete the picture. If you need to account for GST I'll assume you're probably turning over more than $75k per year (otherwise it's dubious whether the benefits of registering for GST outweigh the responsibilities and headaches) - and if you've got that much revenue, definitely get an accounting package. Xero is intuitive and, after struggling for years to keep up with paperwork and legal compliance, within a month of adopting Xero I was back in order. Fantastic. (Of course, it's also important to ask "what is an SME" - for me, an SME is still a serious business, and there's a good chance it's turning over a reasonable amount of money. If you're talking about a hobby business, part-time, micro enterprise, etc... then perhaps you could do everything in Excel. The reason I say that is that you tend to do things as a labour of love in that scenario and you're frequently not as pragmatic about profit and the value of your time.)

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