UnaTerra has over 20 years’ experience providing international accounting services and has seen first-hand how technology has changed and improved.
Whether you are just starting out, or looking to upgrade your current system, it is difficult to know where to start, so we have summarised some key points below to get you on your way.
Function: What are you looking to get from your system?
There are so many system options and even more add-ons, it’s easy to end up with a system which doesn’t meet your requirements, so first it’s important to list what you need. Here are some examples:
If you have multiple entities, then these systems can still be used but you would need to consolidate either manually, or there are add on systems that allow you to view consolidated reports e.g. Fathom.
For larger companies investing in an ERP system such as Netsuite, Sage and Quickbooks can really help with managing accounting for multiple entities. These systems often allow transactions to be posted in multiple entities in one journal and will simplify the month and year close process.
If the business is operating in one country then multi-currency function doesn’t really need to be considered.
However if the business has a lot of international customers and suppliers, and is therefore sending and receiving invoices in multiple currencies, then having a system that can support this will be beneficial.
Exchange rates change daily and can have a big impact on your profitability if not managed.
Generally, the bigger the company the more complex the reporting, so you need to think about what information the business is going to need to see.
A common requirement is department reporting, which is provided by the majority of systems. For example, Xero offers two tracking options so you could report by Department and Country.
The more complex the business then the more you will need to invest in system reporting to meet requirements.
Automation is the way of the future, so you need to look at your current processes, particularly those that are simple but time consuming, and look at whether these can be improved by a system.
At UnaTerra we love Expensify, as it makes expense processing so much easier for us and our clients, plus it integrates with all the systems we use.
Another area to consider is bill processing, where vendors can submit invoices straight to your AP system, and it will post into your accounts and appear in your next payment run. If you are based in the US then Bill.com is great for this.
This is often a company’s biggest cost, so it’s important that it calculated and recorded correctly.
There are a number of accounting systems that provide payroll functions which automatically record the costs, but as you go internationally you may need to separate your payroll from your accounting system and just ensure costs are posted correctly.
Users: Who will be using the system?
There are many stakeholders when it comes to a business’s finances, but you need to think about who actually needs access to the system.
User access varies across systems; those aimed at smaller businesses tend to have unlimited users (with a few access options) whereas the ERP systems offer more varied and complex custom access options, but remember this often comes at a price.
Below are just some of the users of financial data to consider:
These people are often responsible for managing the recording of supplier invoices, employee expenses, raising sales invoices, recording payroll costs and bank transactions.
These people will need access to the system and it maybe that junior staff have restricted access to only post as draft for manager review.
Finance managers will need full access to the system for reporting and to review transactions entered.
Other department managers may have restricted access to view costs for their department in an ERP system, smaller systems tend to not have this level of access, as reporting would need to be provided by the finance manager.
Statutory accounts and audits are often completed by an external party, so you need to think about how they will access the data.
Xero has a read-only access option which is great for external parties to review and report on accounts without having to download transactions.
Nowadays supporting documents such as invoices are attached to transactions in the system, so finance team are spending less time gathering information for auditors.
Cost: What is your budget?
When it comes to accounting systems, like everything else, you get what you pay for.
The systems that are aimed at small – medium businesses tend to be priced on the number of transactions and additional features.
Whereas ERP’s are more complex depending on the modules required, users, entities etc. It is worth knowing your budget before you start looking, as you don’t want to invest time getting to know a system you then can’t afford.
Apart from the system cost and users mentioned above, you should also consider the following:
Do you have any other systems that you need to integrate and what will be the cost?
What level of support will you require to maintain the system? Do you have the right experience in house to support the system, or will you need to pay for it?
Compliance: Are you compliant with local laws?
The regulations for businesses vary per country so it is important that you take this into consideration when selecting a system.
By planning this can reduce the risk of non-compliance which can potentially lead to additional cost. Here are some of the key areas to consider:
Some countries require a local accounting system is used when preparing the financial statements: Spain is a good example of this.
It may be that you will have to have your entries replaced in a local system just for the purpose of year end reporting.
If your business is registered for VAT/GST, then you will need to ensure your system can manage this correctly.
Netsuite has an international VAT module which supports the preparation of VAT returns for multiple countries although it is still advised to speak with an advisor to ensure you are following the VAT regulations correctly.
There are still variations of the accounting standards followed globally and therefore an approach that is following in the US or UK is not necessarily the same as other countries.
This can result in statutory adjustments at year end, so you need to ensure you keep a record of these whether it’s within the accounting system or manually. ERP systems often have the facility to maintain statutory books.
Some countries have a fixed year end, for example India, which requires year end to be March. Therefore, your system will need to be able to report for that period or you will need to be able to process the accounts manually. ERPs often support multiple calendars, but this is not often possible with cheaper systems.
We’re here to help
Should you require any assistance with selecting a new system then please reach out to our team. We support clients using a wide range of systems and would be happy to share our knowledge.