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Fifty Shades of Tax Write-Offs

What’s the weirdest thing you think someone might try to write-off in their taxes? Dogs? Cats? Donkeys? Adult, ahem, entertainment items? The list is long and distinguished, according to a survey we just conducted of small business owners and accountants.

Xero_tax_time_word_cloud

The results are part of our brand new Xero to Sixty Report, a look at the relationship between accountants and their small business clients. We found some tasty morsels like the attempted write-offs above, but we also identified really useful data suggesting a huge opportunity for small business owners and accountants to grow their relationships and therefore their businesses.

But it also shows the disconnect on both sides. For example, both parties share a common goal of wanting to track financial performance and increase profits. However, while 70 percent of accountants recommend that their clients see them at least once a month, only 45 percent of small business owners do so. What gives? Continue reading ›

 

Change to Xero – free until 31 March

Getting up and running on Xero is easy. But when you’re moving from an old product like Sage, while it might be nice to start fresh with Xero, you may also want to bring your transaction history with you.

We want your transition to Xero to be as seamless as possible, which is why last month we announced that until 31 March we’d foot the bill to help UK small businesses move their books to Xero from Sage and Quickbooks.

Hundreds of UK SMEs have made the switch already. But if that’s not yet you or your clients, now’s the time to take a positive step into the new tax year. Join more than 400,000 small businesses and almost 14,000 accounting practices around the world already enjoying the benefits of Xero’s beautiful accounting and payroll software.

change to xero

Continue reading ›

 

Big changes coming in Xero Workpapers

The Xero Workpapers team has been releasing lots of small updates lately, and you’ll see some really big changes this month.

You will be able to log in with your Xero credentials

This is a huge change for us. Once you’re logged into either Workpapers or Xero, you’ll be able to switch between them seamlessly.

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The first time you log in with Xero, we’ll need you to link your Xero account to your old Workpapers account. After that, there’s nothing else to think about! You probably won’t even see our login page again, and you can forget your old Workpapers-only password.

The practice switcher

I know many of you work with clients across multiple practices within Xero Workpapers, whether it is across different countries or offices. Before now, you’ve had to use a different username for each practice you’re a member of. We’re launching a way for you to instantly switch between your different practices. Continue reading ›

 

Xero for iPad

Today marks an unusually large release for us. It’s been a stretch, but we hope you’ll agree that this is definitely going to change the Xero landscape:

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That’s right, we’ve released a version of Xero for iOS that provides custom layouts for iPad! The left-hand pane shows overview information and lists (as on a phone), and the right-hand pane shows detail. Each tab remembers the last-selected item. Best of all, it now supports changing orientation! See it in action here:

We’ve been keeping an eye on the proportion of iPad users, and it’s been increasing steadily. The total proportion of active iPad users for us now stands at 29 percent of iOS and 12 percent of mobile use. That’s significant enough that we thought it was time to spend a while properly supporting the iPad. It’s interesting that 13 pecent of iOS customers use both an iPhone and an iPad with Xero. We’ll be watching the numbers pretty closely after the release to see if there’s any change.

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The other changes with this release are a few fixes for the difficulty some users have been having using Touch ID to log in. It’s been hard to track down since it struck at random, but we think we’ve nailed it. We’ve also made sure that if you choose not to use Touch ID and prefer a pin, the app remembers your choice and will never ask you again.

Once you’ve finished all your reconciling in the new UI, you might like to have a coffee and read some of our Small Business Guides on iBooks. We’ve just started publishing them through iTunes and these are the first of many!

We welcome your feedback on what we’ve done with the app, good or bad. If you’ve got a minute or two, please consider rating our app in iTunes to let us know what you think! We read all your reviews and, along with feature requests in Xero Community, they help us decide what we should be focusing on next.

 

 

It’s ‘lights, camera, Xero’ for Eponine Films

There isn’t much money Love in Now (Eponine Films)floating around the Australian film industry. So when Eponine Films’ Behren Schulz and Jim Lounsbury raised $2 million for their feature film, Love is Now, they knew they would have to make every cent count.

With 250 staff on payroll and more than 100 transactions every day on average, that didn’t leave much leeway. What’s more is they had to get it done in 23 weeks — a fraction of the time normally associated with feature film production.

“Think of it as multi-million dollar business that starts from zero; with zero staff. In 23 weeks, it has to be set up, staffed, payrolled, money spent, then shut down and wound up,” says Schulz, the producer of Love is Now. “To do that without a dedicated production account (financial controller) is daunting, if not a little scary for many producers.  For us, it wasn’t a problem.”

Doing it their own way

Most films hire an experienced production accountant; people who know how films work. They use specialised systems to keep track of the thousands, or millions of dollars spent each day on sets, costumes, equipment and staff. Continue reading ›

 

Introducing UK Payroll in Xero

At Xerocon London we announced UK Payroll in Xero. Today, we’re pleased to report that you can now set up your payroll ready for processing in the new financial year.

Getting Started with UK Payroll in Xero from Xero.

We’ve built beautiful online accounting and payroll software for small businesses. It’s easy to implement and use from anywhere. Payroll information flows seamlessly into your general ledger, with journals created automatically.

We’ve produced online training in Xero U to help you get started. One series for our Accountant and Bookkeeper partners and one for our business customers.

Powerful UK payroll software

Changing your payroll software isn’t a decision made lightly, but combining two primary business systems saves both time and money. Xero is the platform of choice for small business.

Starting today, you can get ready for 6 April by setting up payroll to suit the needs of your business, including adding employees. We’re enabling payroll processing from 6 April, in time for the 2015/2016 financial year.

UK Payroll in Xero includes support for the following:

Employer Settings

  • Claim £2,000 Employment Allowance
  • Tracking by Employee Groups for cost analysis
  • Standard Public Holidays provided, grouped by country
  • Add custom business holidays and holiday groups as required
  • Record Tax Office details for reporting to HMRC
  • Record bank and pension fund details

Employee Management

  • Personal details including employee photo
  • Employment details including salary or hourly rate and hours per week
  • Monthly, weekly, fortnightly, quarterly, annual & 4-weekly pay
  • Leave balances for annual leave and custom time off types
  • Notes to record comments against each employee
  • P45 Leaver Forms
  • New employee starter declaration

Pay Elements

  • Hourly and salaried pay rates
  • Unlimited custom earning rate types, based on either: base pay rate, rate per unit, or fixed amount
  • Unlimited custom leave types in addition to the statutory leave types
  • Unlimited custom benefit, deduction, and reimbursement rate types
  • Student Loan repayments
  • Record attachments of earnings orders

Tax & NIC

  • Built-in Tax and NIC rates
  • Tax and NIC rate updates automatically each year
  • Week 1 / Month 1 pay basis
  • Directors special NIC calculations

Payments

  • Electronic payment of employee wages via BACS file
  • P32 Tax & NIC amounts to be paid to HMRC

Continue reading ›

 

Introducing New Zealand Payroll in Xero

Last week we announced the imminent arrival of New Zealand Payroll in Xero. Today we’re pleased to announce it’s been released so you can get ready for processing payroll from the 1st April. Now is the time to make the change in time for the new financial year.

Getting Started with New Zealand Payroll in Xero from Xero.

We’ve built beautiful, online New Zealand payroll for small businesses that’s easy to implement and easy to use from anywhere. Information from payroll flows seamlessly to the general ledger with journals automatically created.

New Zealand Payroll

We know that changing payroll systems is not easy. Having your two primary business systems combined into one experience saves time and money and improves accuracy.

From today you can get ready for 1st April by setting up payroll to suit the needs of your business including adding employees. We’ll be enabling the ability to process payroll from 1st April.

New Zealand Payroll includes:

Employer Settings

  • Support for small & large employers for Inland Revenue reporting & filing obligations
  • Tracking by Employee Groups for cost analysis
  • Weekly, fortnightly, half-monthly, four-weekly, and monthly Pay Calendars
  • Standard Public Holidays provided, grouped by region
  • Add custom holidays as required by each business

Manage Employees

  • Recording personal details including employee photo
  • Managing employment details including salary/hourly rate, standard days per week & hours per day
  • Enter IRD Number, Tax Code, ESCT Rate, (Tax Rate, Special Student Loan Rate)
  • Manage KiwiSaver including eligible employees, Employee & Employer Contribution Rates, Opting Out and Contributions Holidays
  • Employee’s joining KiwiSaver or Opting Out advised via monthly filing to Inland Revenue
  • Salary Sacrifice for KiwiSaver
  • Leave balances for Annual leave, Holiday Pay, Sick Leave, Alternative Holidays and custom leave types
  • Enter employee notes to record comments against each employee
  • Enter employees past 12 months gross earnings easily
  • New employees advised to Inland Revenue via monthly filing
  • Create a pay template for each of your employees to make your pay runs quick and easy

Employee App

  • Available online at launch and coming soon to iOS and Android
  • Employees can access pay history, download payslips and view personal details
  • Request leave and manage current leave requests
  • Optional ‘Manager’ role can be given to employees to approve leave requests without accessing the business or payroll financials

Pay Elements

  • Record current future hourly and annual salary pay rates
  • Unlimited custom earning rate types, based on the either: base pay rate, rate per unit, or fixed amount
  • Unlimited custom leave types in addition to the statutory leave types
  • Manage statutory leave types including Holiday Pay (8%) and unpaid parental leave types
  • Unlimited custom deduction rate types including Payroll Giving deductions
  • Unlimited custom reimbursement rate types
  • Student Loan Repayments, including Additional & Voluntary Student loan repayments
  • Support for Statutory Deductions for Child Support, Court Fines, MSD Repayments and Inland Revenue Arrears
  • KiwiSaver deductions and contributions
  • Unlimited custom superannuation rate types in addition to KiwiSaver (for complying and Other funds)

Continue reading ›

 

Six tips to strengthen client relationships (part 2/2)

Last Tuesday I shared some tips for improving client relationships. Today I’ve got the final three for you. This advice is great for any accountant, bookkeeper or business owner who wants to nurture client relationships.

4. Developing social intelligence

Humans unconsciously imitate the emotions of others. Moods often transfer between individuals – from the aggressive to the passive party. Actors use this principle of mimicking emotion onstage. It helps them get an emotional reaction from the audience.

Socially intelligent people can control the signals we send that mark our moods. Accountants who have mastered social intelligence can send signals to alter their client’s moods. An appropriate use of mirroring and displays of empathy (discussed in the next section) will often do the trick. These techniques will help bring about coordination of moods, which is the essence of rapport. Increased rapport, motivation and encouragement all assist in strengthening client relationships.

Emotional rapport in a meeting is mirrored by how close the physical movements follow as the participants talk. Nodding while another person talks and leaning toward them as they make a point indicates engagement. Studies of school classrooms show a strong connection between this synchronicity of movement and levels of engagement by the students.

5. Three ways to display empathy

Empathy is identifying and understanding the feelings of others. It is one of the principal conduits for managing emotions in others. This skill helps people to provide social support and make positive interpersonal relationships.

Active listening is one of the key ways of displaying empathy. Be present, not thinking about anything else. Look the other person in the eye. Show that you understand the content of the discussion by repeating it back in your own words. Acknowledge your emotion and share that.

Another key way to show empathy is to share something of yourself. Building empathy goes both ways.

Try to understand the viewpoints of other people without making any assumptions about them. Do not judge or make hasty classifications. This way you will gain a deeper understanding of the person. Remember that your impression of the other may not be the true person. They might just be having a bad day, received bad news, or just be having an off day.

6. Systemised learning and development

Recent studies show that emotional intelligence (EQ) is dropping among younger people. At the same time, IQs are generally rising. This trend will have long term implications for industries that have high EQ requirements. Accounting is one of these. Decreasing levels of EQ across the industry could lead to widespread dissatisfaction. This will create an environment ripe for disruption.

Accountants and their firms can combat the trend of declining EQ with education programs. These programs can help staff learn how to display warmth and build empathy. This education should cover all firm members, from associate level through to director. Remember, changes in the emotional intelligence of an individual tend to happen slowly. People need time to practice the new skills and habits that they develop. To accommodate this, the education process should start early.

Education programs should:

  • identify the particular skills needed
  • develop education content
  • deliver content
  • evaluate outcomes.

The skill levels of participants should be measured first so that the education can target the area of greatest need. Review skill levels immediately after the delivery of the education program. This will ensure that the education is meeting the desired requirements. Develop exercises to allow individuals to practice their skills. This will help you meet the standard you’re aiming for.

Strong client relationships benefit everyone

It’s wise to recognise the significant gains to make from deepening client relationships.

  • The average lifetime of a client extends and the value that the client contributes increases.
  • Employees benefit from higher EQ as they have more fulfilling business and personal relationships.
  • Clients gain a more open exchange of ideas and opinions, which gives greater depth to the advice they receive.

Specific skills, techniques and behaviours can enhance the characteristics of warmth (lovability). Many accountants seem to have these as natural talents, but all accountants can learn them. The challenge is to develop ways of training individuals. It may be profitable to be more loved than feared, but it may be more difficult to achieve.

 

 

New release: Cheques in Canada and Quotes improvements

Today’s release delivers a collection of improvements to Xero. For the first time we’re delivering a feature for a country other than the US, UK, Australia or New Zealand: support for Cheques in Canada.

Here’s a quick update on what’s new in Xero this release.

Support for Cheques in Canada

We’ve provided support for US Checks for a long time, but with this release we move north. We’re delighted that small businesses in Canada can now account for cheque payments in Xero.

Cheques can be made on any outgoings from a business – everything from paying bills to refunding credit notes. After recording the payment you can style and print the cheque – even use your own chequebook or cheque printing software.

Improvements to Quotes

Following our release of Quotes, we’ve made a few more updates to improve how quotes are embedded in Xero. These include:

  • Quickly create a quote or purchase order from within a contact’s record. A small but useful improvement, making it more efficient to keep your business moving. You can now quickly create a quote or purchase order while you’re in a contact’s record. Look up a contact, click ‘New’, and you can now create a new quote or PO just as you can for other items.
  • Set a default expiry date for your quotes. If you usually send out quotes with the same expiry period, you can now set up a default quote expiry date which will automatically populate when you create a quote. You can override this if you need to when you create a quote.

Continue reading ›

 

Spreadsheets!

An excellent podcast here from NPR on the history of the spreadsheet. An accountant was the first user of VisiCalc.

Planet Money. Episode 606: Spreadsheets!

Spreadsheet history – VisiCalc

Would have liked to hear about the product history. Lotus 1-2-3 and then how Excel came about. Maybe they’ll do a sequel.

Was great to hear the same issue repeating that accountants face in the cloud today. The nature of work changes. The podcast reported that 400,000 workers lost their jobs to spreadsheets but 600,000 new jobs were created.

I remember the first time I used spreadsheets on an Apple II and then Lotus on a PC. They still seem magical.