Rules to Better Accounting


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Rules to Better Accounting
  1. Do you know how to claim expense reimbursements?

    ​You should be reimbursed for all reasonable expenses incurred in carrying out your duties, which are above your normal costs, to and from the office.

    A common example is bus and train fares to client sites. In Australia, amounts under $100 could be reimbursed through Petty Cash but in China, it would be around ¥300. ​​​

    Remember to treat your company's money like your own and minimize costs where possible. Try to search around for a better price before committing to a purchase.

    All expense claims must:

    • Be work-related
    • Be made within a week
    • Be signed by the claimant and authorized by the relevant Manager
    • Be supported by Tax Invoices
    • Not include alcohol, as it incurs FBT
    • Receipts should be in English (where possible), or you must write on the receipt what the expense is, and​ what it was for

    Tip: If necessary, you can use the Google Translate app to translate your receipts by taking a photo!  

    ​🇨🇳 If you’re in China, all-expense claims must:​
    • Be work-related
    • Only Fapiao is available
    • Be made within a month
    • Be authorized by the relevant Manager​

  2. Does your company cover taxi costs?

    Traveling around Sydney can take time and your time is best spent doing billable work in the office or at a client site. Taking a taxi is perfectly acceptable, if it is going to save substantial time, compared with taking public transport.

    This is applicable to travel between client sites or the office and a client site. Work does not pay for taxi travel from home to a client site, or home to the office. Remember to always obtain a Tax Invoice from the taxi driver so you can request for reimbursement later on.

  3. Do your cheque and memo fields have a good description?

    If your descriptions have good comments then you don't need to go back to paperwork to investigate things.

    e.g.  The period the invoice relates to.

    memo field bad example
    Figure: Bad Example
    memo field good example
    Figure: Good Example
  4. Do you print out your general ledger for the week and ask your boss to initial?

    In your first month as an Accountant for a new company, you should print out the general ledger for the week and ask your boss to initial to say that the "cheque numbers and memo descriptions are good".

    It's good to catch any mistakes early, so that you know the requirements early on and don't have to go back and fix up large amounts of data later.

    Do whatever you have to do e.g. drive to your boss' house to get this done! It can save you days of work down the track.

    General Ledger.jpg
    Figure: Weekly ledger
  5. Do you do know the best technical solution to enable purchase approvals?

    This is one of the most common workflows that every company needs.

    Companies have employees who make purchase requests, then business rules get fired, then you wait for approval.
    E.g. If less than $1K, then your direct manager can approve.

    Unfortunately, no one has an out of the box solution for this, so here are your choices:

    • TFS 2012 (too hard)
      You can have requests go in as a work items but there is no workflow service that runs on the server, so the workflow would have to be in a separate web service using WF4.
    • SharePoint 2013 (recommended)
      SharePoint doesn't have an out of the box solution. To configure it, have the purchase requests go into SharePoint lists and then the workflow service that runs on the server (using WF3 under the covers) can have business rules added.
    • CRM 2011
      CRM also needs an out of the box solution. You can have requests go into as CRM Entities and there is a workflow service that runs on the server, using WF3 under the covers.​
    • JIRA
      Jira supports workflows and approvals, like SharePoint, but it is not .NET

    Suggestion to Microsoft: Please provide an out of the box solution for CRM and SharePoint, so we don't have to configure this for each client.

  6. Do you have monthly financial meetings?

    ​It is important to have monthly meetings​ to get an overview of where the company finances are throughout the year.

    Since different people need to report for different sections, it's a good idea to split this into 2 meetings.
    In this meeting, key staff members should review the past month and look at forecasts for next month. ​

    Here is a sample agenda:

    Pre Meeting:​

    1. ​Reconcile invoicing system with the Accounting system
    2. Print Monthly Profit and Loss Report
    3. Print YTD Profit and Loss Report
    4. Print Monthly Profit with graph
    5. Complete and print current cash position and include the previous signed version
    6. Review invoices that should be canceled or removed
    7. Fix any invalid data
    8. Print Monthly Receipts Report
    9. Print Invoices vs Receipts by financial month
    10. Print Expenses by Financial Month Report
    11. Print Snapshot Report - Monthly and Cumulative Data
    12. Print Profit and Loss Return % Report

    Note: the pre-meeting section should be done the day before meeting #1, and a lot of it can be delegated to admin employees

    During meeting #1:​​

    1. Review Sales reports
    2. Review billable leaderboard
    3. Review utilization report for the month

    Note: It's a good idea to record a quick summary of​ this meeting so people in Meeting #2 know the executive overview.

    During Meeting #2:​

    1. Review Cash Position
    2. Review revenue by client
    3. Review monthly invoices and receipts
    4. Review monthly profit with graph
    5. Review monthly expenses
    6. Review monthly profit and loss
    7. Review trends year on year
    8. Review trends profit contribution %
    9. Review profit and loss return %​
  7. Do you pay invoices completely?

    If you negotiate with a supplier in relation to an invoice, do you ensure the invoice is reissued?

    It is not always common but sometimes you will negotiate a change in the agreed price once an invoice has been issued by a supplier. This might be because there was a change or defect in the good or service provided and a lesser amount is agreed or an agreement that a certain amount of the invoice will be paid later when the rest of the product or service is delivered.

    Do not pay an invoice in part. You should ask the supplier to reissue the invoice or issue a credit note in relation to an invoice. Otherwise, the supplier may say that there is a balance of the invoice owing.  

    “Jim. OK, I'll just pay $165, not the $220 on the invoice"

    Figure: Bad example

    “Dear Jim, Please reissue the invoice or provide a credit note for the now agreed correct amount." 

    Figure: Good example
  8. Do you use the best mobile app for expenses?

    ​​​​​​​​​​​Tracking expenses can be a painful process of accumulating receipts and entering them into outdated systems… but there is a better way. 

    Various apps help solve the above problem. Using a modern Accounting system such as Xero, some connected apps can be used in conjunction with the accounting system and they include:

    It may be difficult to determine which app would be best suited for your business so below is a comparison of some of the major features of each app.

    There are 2 purposes when evaluating an Expense app:

    #1 Reimbursements – when you are at the shop and you pay for something personally and want the app to take a photo and send it to the office and later see the $ come back into your account.

    #2 General expenses – when you are at the shop and using the company credit card, you don’t need reimbursement, but you do need to give accounts a photo of the receipt and the purchased item.

    Features (based on 5 users)

    ​Xero Expenses



    Receipt Bank

    $5 per active user/mo
    ​$840/year (minimum)
    ​Free with Xero ✔
    ​Submission Procedure

    Same as Receipt Bank
    ​Same as Receipt Bank
    ​Same as Receipt Bank

    See Figure: Hubdoc email for receiving
    ​Phone App – take a photo and submit it to the Receipt Bank email OR forward an email to the Receipt Bank email. 
    ​Restriction on Invoice uploads 
    ​Unlimited​ ✔
    ​Unlimited​ ✔
    ​Unlimited ✔
    Unlimited - use cloud back up and security. Never deletes
    ​Unlimited – Never deletes and remains archived
    ​Unlimited – use cloud back up and security. Never deletes 
    ​Unlimited – Never deletes and remains archived
    Organised on user-submitted, expense type or date order
    Can be manually organized into folders or reports ✔
    Requires greater security privileges than uploader only. ​Automatically organized into folders (can be updated). 
    ​No real organization of documents. Either inactive or archived and ordered in date/supplier order
    ​Expense Rules
    Same as Receipt Bank - however, instead relied upon Xero receipt analysis which is little less powerful
    ​Same as Receipt Bank – little easier to navigate to the section ✔
    ​Same as Receipt Bank – however seems to only be on each invoice (can’t create outside of existing invoice – not that important)
    ​Automate rules (or after the first occurrence) as to where expenses are to be accounted to (account categories) 
    ​Accounting Codes

    Same as Receipt Bank 

    ​Only available on the subscription plan of $1800/year
    ​Same as Receipt Bank ✔
    ​Syncs with Xero account categories and automatically chooses those options. Brings bank reconciliations of these invoices to 90% of the way ✔
    ​Phone Compatibility
    All Phones ✔
    ​All Phones ✔
    ​All Phones ✔
    ​iPhone, Android, and Web-based 
    ​Two-factor Authentication
    Yes ✔
    Yes​ ✔
    ​How-to Videos
    The most videos ✔

    Descriptive Notes
    Yes ✔
    Yes ✔
    ​Not available
    Yes ✔
    ​Bank Specification
    ​Not at $840/year
    Yes ✔
    Overall, the winner is Xero Expense app. The design of the Xero Expense app provides all the user experience to enable simple and convenient reimbursement requests or company spent money receipts for reconciliation. 

    The best feature of Xero Expense reimbursement is that the employee's bank details are automatically assigned when they submit a claim. The approver (Accountant or Business Owner), approves of the expense, it will be generated as a payable invoice in the 'Bills' section of Xero and dealt with like any other bill.

    Although Expensify and Receipt Bank are usable too for this purpose, their costs cannot compare to Xero Expense app for this purpose.​

    Expense apps are a timesaver, both for the day to day user, as well as the accountant receiving the expenses.

    ​​As a user, all you have to do is take a photo of the receipt from your mobile app, file or add any comments (all other data is pulled in via OCR “Smart-scan”), then all of these expenses get batched together and sent on a weekly basis to the accountant, who can then manage them in bulk. 

    What are the most popular ex​​​​penses apps​?​

    With Xero:
    google-trends-with-xero.jpg​​​Figure: Google Trends (September 2020) show that Hubdoc and Receipt Bank are the most popular apps. More at Google Trends​​​​

    Without Xero:


    F​igure: ​​​​​G​oogle Trends (Septe​mber 2020) ​show Expensify and Receipt Bank as the most popular. More at Google Trends

    Related Rules​

  9. Do you know how to enter an Expensify receipt ?

    ​​ Expensify is great for tracking receipts, but if you don't use it in the right way the reports can be hard to reconcile.

    To avoid confusion, add as much detail as possible about the purchase and who authorized it. To make this easier, your company can set some required fields to ensure that you have all of the relevant data entered for each claim. This will make your claims a lot more unified and easier to process. 

    For example, on the free version of Expensify, you can make the "Category" field a required field by switching the option to enabled. 

    More features are available if you purchase the full version, and you can see these options on their pricing features page.

    Expensify options.png
    Figure: Selecting "Enabled" ensures that people using your policy have to enter that field before claiming 

    Required fields are then identified by an asterisk when you are uploading an expense. Conveniently, most of this information is completed for you by the Smart Scan function.  On the free version, there is still room to add a manual "Comment" for more complicated claims if required.

    Figure: Bad Example - here there are only 3 required fields shown for this claim, the Name of Merchant, the Date, and the Total.  Without adding an additional Category, or Comment, it will be more difficult for the accounts staff to process this claim
    Figure: Good Example - You can see the fields marked with an asterisk that they are required fields. To claim an expense from SSW, you need to give the "Name of Merchant", the "Date" of purchase, "Total", and a "Category". Most of this information is completed for you by the smart scan and there is still room to add a manual "Comment" for more complicated claims if required​

    If you complete these fields, it will make your reports much nicer to read and easier to claim.

    Expensify example categories.png
    Figure: Good example - You can see highlighted here that the expenses have been sorted by "Category" and that they have all of the relevant information to claim. A Date," "Name of Merchant," and what the expense was for is clearly identified and you can also see each has an attached receipt. You can also see in one example that an additional "Comment" has been added to a more complicated expense to reflect the approval for that purchase
  10. Do you separate your expenses by creating separate reports in Expensify?

    ​​Does your Account Manager get confused when you try to claim all of your expenses at once?

    Expensify lets you separate your expenses into different folders to avoid confusion. You can make a new report for different work clients, events that you have attended, or to separate your personal from work expenses.
    Bad example: Two unrelated expenses in the same folder, this can be confusing to Accounts Staff.​​

    Expensify lets you create new reports so that you can separate your receipts and reports. 

    ​Good example: Expenses separated into different folders - easier to claim and track what your receipts were for!

    To Create a new folder on an iPhone​:

    1. Open Expensify app on your phone

    2. From the Dashboard select "Reports"

    3. Add a new report by clicking on the + symbol. 
    4. ​Click in the area of text that says "New Report" to re-name the report.

    ​5. Re-name your report and then save. You can also change the policy if required. To automatically email your receipts to New, select the SSW policy.

    6. You can then add expenses directly into the folder.


    ​To Edit a folder on the iPhone

    ​If you put a receipt in the wrong folder, you can edit its location, or upload a receipt directly into the new folder.

    ​1. On your Dashboard select Expenses | Select correct expense to edit | Report

    2. Select the folder you want to move it to and save.​
  11. Do you check your customers organization age for prepaid purposes?

    ​​It is essential to be familiar with your organization's Terms & Conditions, as it may impact the way you invoice. SSW Ter​ms & Conditions allow SSW to invoice on a Prepaid basis as per part '6 - Pre-Paid Work' & '19 - Payment Terms'. 

    It is also highly recommended to invoice customers, who have been in existence for less than 2 years on a prepaid basis. It may, however, be an awkward conversation or irrelevant on the customer's behalf to ask of their organization's age in an initial meeting.  Instead, you can perform an ASIC Company Search​ to determine the customer's organization age.​

    To do so, follow these steps:

    1. ​Navigate to ASIC Company search page above and change the filters to '​​​Organisation & Business Names'. Enter the customer's name or ABN number

    2. Select the appropriate company
    3. Review the registration date or alternatively, purchase a $9 company extract which provides the same details on the free page with some additional information (however irrelevant for prepaid purposes)
      2020-08-07_11-56-41 655.png
    4. Should the registration date be less than 2 years old, ensure that the message is pushed across to the state managers so they can push towards invoicing on a prepaid basis wherever possible.​

  12. Do you know how to enter and file a Hubdoc receipt ?

    ​​​​Hubdoc is great for tracking and accounting for receipts, but if you don't use it in the right way the reports can be made more difficult to reconcile.​​

    To avoid ​​confusion, add as much detail as possible about the purchase and who authorized it. To make this easier, your company can set some required fields to ensure that you have all of the relevant data entered for each claim. This will make your claims a lot more unified and easier to process. 

    ​Figure: Users to accept invite to use Hubdoc

    Figure: Take a photo with the Mobile Hubdoc app 

    Figure: Photo of Receipt and submitting basic invoice details - generally is read by OCR of the software.

    ​Figure: Details that can be automated for Accounting reconciliation purposes

    ​The user or the administrator of the account can set up rules for each invoice in regards to their publication status and reconciliation details on the first instance. Going forward, any repeat of the invoice or the supplier will be filled in based on those rules set up. 

    There is still an opportunity to review all the details, so setting up rules will simply fill in the repeat details each time. This is to ensure consistency in the reconciliations and save time for both user and the Accountant.

    Depending on the permissions of the User, they can also publish the invoice to Xero which can be recognised conveniently when completing the reconciliation process on Xero.

    Tip: Hubdoc will automatically create folders to categorise the invoices and store for the user. These folders can be reorganised or renamed with ease. We recommend updating the folders early on so the invoices are collated in a useful manner for your business. ​


  13. Do you treat freebies as real customers?

    ​In the course of business, you may occasionally provide some services or products to selected customers free of charge or at a discount rate. Often, because you're waiving one rule (the "please pay me" one!), you waive all your normal rules of service. This is a very bad habit for two reasons:
    1. Freebies/discounts need just as strict controls as regular projects

      When you are giving something away at a discount or for free you are expecting a loss compared with a regular client. If you fail to follow regular processes not only will you incur an even greater loss you provide a lesser standard of service and put greater risk on the success of the project.

      A discount or freebie should follow all the standard processes such as:

      Consider the follow scenario:

      You have a concreter buddy who offers to do your driveway for mate's rates. He won't accept full price (because you're friends) and he thinks he's doing you a favour. The problem is, he won't commit to a timeframe because he has customers that ARE paying full price. You're quite happy to pay full price, because you know he does great work and you want to support his business. In the end, no one is happy. You have an extended wait to get the job done for a discount you don't want and he feels pressured to do extra work in his spare time.
      A better approach is for the concreter to offer the discount AND book you in as a normal customer. He can give dedicated time and professional service and you get the job done with minimal delay. You can also provide excellent feedback and suggestions ​​​on the service he delivers, being both a friend and a customer. It is a much better outcome.

    2. Feedback on service

      Often the people you choose to provide a freebie are the best people to provide feedback on your product or services. When you waive all your standard processes, they have no opportunity to review how you conduct your business. So if you're offering a freebie (or any discount), you should ensure every normal standard of business is followed (including sending $0 invoices!) and make sure you get valuable feedback to help you run your company better.

      Sample email: 

      Hi Bob,​ 
      Sure we would love to have you at our event for no charge. You may register just like a real client.

      You will receive an invoice with the items on it at $0. 

      It would be great if you could give us feedback on anything that could improve the experience (just as if you were a normal client).


      Zero Invoices:
      When entering timesheets for free work, set your rate to $0.

      Figure: It is a good idea to set your rate to $0 and show it on the invoice
  14. Do you know how to claim expense reimbursements with Xero Expense app

    ​It is recommended to use an appropriate system to complete expense reimbursements. These systems will save you time and money as compared to the old method of providing paper receipts for reimbursements. It also eliminates the issue of completing reimbursements when across multiple offices.​

    There are many systems available for employees to use to complete an expense reimbursement (see our SSW Rules Do you use the best mobile app for expenses? for some recommended apps). The value provided by each system is different for every business. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right system:

    • Frequency which a reimbursement is made (daily, weekly, monthly etc.)
    • Number of employees approved to request expense reimbursements
    • Value of expenses allowed to be reimbursed (minor, major or any values)
    • Subscription cost of system
    • Integration capabilities with Accounting Software
    Regardless of the system, the bulk of the process should be the same across most modern systems.

    At SSW we find the greatest overall value for expense reimbursements is to ​use the Xero Expense app and the Xero accounting system in combination. 

    Steps to completing an expense reimbursement


    1. Using the Xero Expense mobile app, submit a photo of the receipt. If the receipt was sent via email, you can still submit a photo or screenshot of the email receipt​

    Figure: Xero Expense app submit a photo

    2. Either allow the app to analyse the details manually or enter the details yourself (if you are strapped for time, you can take a photo and come back to it or hold on to the receipt and attend to it when possible)

    Figure: Details required of a submitted receipt

    3. Whether you allow the app to analyse the details or not, you will still be required to confirm whether the expense was paid personally or with company money

    Figure: Option of reimbursable and non-reimbursable

    4. Submit for approval and then wait to be reimbursed​

    Figure: Saving as draft or submit for approval

    ​Note - if not already done, make sure purchase approval is forwarded to the Accountant or included in the photo submitted.


    1. ​Review the Xero Expense claim weekly

    2. ​Complete a general check of the receipt details

    3. Follow-up on any invoices awaiting approval, or approve those where appropriate​
    Figure: Xero Expense claim approval page

    4. Schedule for reimbursement to be in line with the upcoming pay

    Figure: Xero payment scheduling page

    5. Submit the reimbursement along with wage payments

    6. Send remittance to employee via Xero 
    Figure: Send remittance page post payment
  15. Do you use a Xero mobile app to check your personal payroll

    ​Xero is a great Accounting Software for all small businesses and especially for managing payroll. 

    Xero Payroll allows for the employee to access their payroll details on web. These details include payslips, leave entitlements, requesting leave, personal information and bank accounts. It is a useful tool and many employees would benefit for long term planning with this kind of access, as well as saving countless hours of admin and back and forth emails for the payroll officer.

    Xero has released a mobile app version of Xero Payroll called "Xero Me" which has a majority of the same function as the web version. Similarly, employees would be able to access their usual information as per the web version except for salary and bank account. 

    Figure: Xero Me app available on iOS and Android

    As such, the app makes for a great handy tool for employees to check their information, submit timesheets and request leave on the go. 
    Figure: Xero Me homepage - complete timesheets, request leave and check payslips on the go

    Requesting leave is simple with the app and can be approved just as quickly by the relevant approver with all systems updated simultaneously. 

    MicrosoftTeams-image (10).png
    Figure: Xero Me Leave Main Page

    Simply click the plus symbol to add a new leave request and put in the basic information (type of leave, approver, days or hours taken and description). The approver will then get a notification and can easily approve or reject the request.
    MicrosoftTeams-image (11).png
    Figure: Leave request page

    MicrosoftTeams-image (12).png
    Figure: Approver's leave request page

    The app is free and as versatile as the web version with an added function of convenience. We highly recommend the use of a Xero mobile app to manage your personal payroll. 

  16. Do you use auto-fetch function for invoices

    Most bills in this modern age of technology are no longer mailed to a physical address and are accessible online. 

    The downside of this is that a business may have tens or hundreds of invoices each month and it would not be worth the time for a team or staff member to either login to the supplier portal to obtain the invoice or sift through layers of emails in a dedicated accounts/invoicing email, to then submit it to the accountant or into the accounting system. 

    Some systems or accounting add-ons would have an auto-fetch function. What this means is that whenever an invoice is generated, certain suppliers have made it possible for the system or add-on to bring in the invoice from the supplier platform to the system or add-on. This is called fetching of invoice.

    ​As auto-fetch is in place, there should no longer be a requirement for any staff member to manually forward regular or periodic invoices to the accountant or to enter into the accounting system. These systems and add-ons can be organised or set-up in a way to automate the majority of the steps ​from fetching the invoice to the payment or reconciliation of these invoices in the accounting system.

    The level of automation can be customised in a way so a staff member can get involved at a certain step to do a manual check, or alternatively, the invoices can be automated from start to completion without any manual work.

    At SSW, we use Hubdoc which integrates with our accounting platform (Xero) and has some of the most Australian suppliers connected with the auto-fetch system, compared to its competitors. 


    Figure: Popular suppliers with auto-fetch capabilities


    Figure: Confirmed auto-fetch accounts updated every 24 hours

  17. Do you use Xero to schedule supplier payments

    ​​​​​​​Making payments should not require too much admin and the systems in place should mean making payments becomes a standard process. Most businesses should have an accounts department to handle payments and supplier relationships.

    It is recommended that you schedule payments through your accounting system and make payment on a regular and consistent period, for example, every Friday. This enables a more connected reconciliation of the books and a greater ability to manage supplier relationships and cash-flow.

    Scheduled payments means you won't need to make individual payments through your banking portal at random intervals and you will be able to send remittances all at once at a regular time.

    ​At SSW, we use our Accounting software (Xero) to schedule payments. All invoices and bills are either emailed or pushed through to the bill's section via an expense app (we recommend using either Xero Expense or Hubdoc app). 

    Figure: Use Xero's bill creation via email forwarding process


    Figure: Use Xero Expense for capturing bills or money spent

    Once the invoice is in the bill's section, you can schedule a planned payment date. 2020-11-20_15-00-03.png

    Figure: Scheduling area of unpaid bills

    It is important to have a usual day of payment, so the accounts department is able to follow the agreed terms for scheduling and maintain consistency throughout. At SSW, we batch our payments on a weekly basis to be paid on Friday. Additionally, the accounts team should agree on whether payments are made prior to the due date or a number of days following the due date. 

    ​It is then super easy to make a batch payment on the day of​ payment. Simply select the relevant date under the schedule of planned payments and select all invoices to be batched and paid through your banking portal. There should be no restrictions to the number of invoices to be paid at any one time so the business should be able to make all the weekly payments in one go, saving countless amounts of time not needed to process invoices daily and earlier than required.​2020-11-20_11-19-38.png
    Figure: prepare batch payment for scheduled payments on a specific date

    Note: all scheduled payments should ideally have an attached PDF of the invoice, as represented by the image of a paper document on the end of each transaction. This is useful for auditing purposes and referring or double-checking. 

    ​In terms of cash-flow planning, it is useful to know the payment amounts that are expected to be paid on a certain date. This helps to avoid any surprises and assists in knowing the amount of cash available to be spent up to a certain date (after considering bills payable). 

    Following good due processes will ensure suppliers know what the business standard payment procedures are (expected payment dates can be defaulted) and can help to improve supplier relationship. Invoices won't simply go missing or forgotten and all audit steps are tracked.