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New year, new features

After a bumper 2014, today Xero is being updated for the first time in 2015, starting off what is shaping up to be a busy year.

Today’s release includes new features that touch on reporting and a number of other things across Xero:

  • Building on the addition of text blocks a few releases ago, you can now choose to add numbered headings or even have no headings on your text blocks. This gives you more flexibility when adding additional commentary and insight to reports.
  • We’ve added a new field to the new Aged Receivables and Payables report (this was the first of the new-style reports we released last year). It will show you which invoices are overdue, but have not yet reached the first aging period.
  • Getting up and running on Xero is even easier with the addition of an inbuilt calculator on conversion balances. It’s great for things like consolidating those messy multiple sales tax accounts from your previous system. In case you didn’t know, the inbuilt calculator is available in many parts of Xero, including spend money, receive money, sales, bills and manual journals.
  • Sending customer statements can be a pain – but not in Xero. If you need to generate statements for more than 50 customers it’s now much easier with the option to show and send 100 or 200 statements at a time.

Continue reading ›

 

6 Ways To Take the Pain out of US Payroll

We hear all too often that payroll is one big headache for small-business owners and their advisors.

They lose sleep and countless hours trying to get payroll right. And all too often they get it wrong – incurring costly fines. In fact, one third of US small businesses get fined for doing payroll incorrectly. When every dollar counts, this is a huge strain — $4.5 billion in fact — on US businesses yearly. They also waste 120 productive hours a year on inefficiently managing payroll rather than winning new customers and growing the business.

small business payroll tips
Most payroll services were designed for the needs and budgets of big companies. So many entrepreneurs duct tape together multiple products and services to make it work for them.  Often time is wasted re-entering data manually without an accurate view of where the business stands. And accounting and other systems don’t sync with payroll data.

So, we chatted to a number of our accounting partners and bookkeepers and identified six steps for taking the pain out of payroll. We then built them into Xero.

1. File taxes electronically. Filing taxes electronically from within your accounting platform ensures that you pay your taxes on time and avoid costly fines or penalties. With Xero, as of today in California, Texas and Florida, you get it done quickly and affordably right within the accounting software.

2. See your payroll and cashflow in real-time. You might have been on top of your payroll in your payroll software or service but struggled to reconcile that with your overall financial standing. Xero gives you one single view of where you stand and what obligations you need to meet. Information is power.

3. Stop printing and using snail mail. It’s a hassle to have to get back to the office or to go home, print everything out and send it. With Payroll in Xero, you can send your forms and payments electronically to the appropriate agencies from anywhere in the world.

4. Manage your cash better. Every business aspires to manage their cash better. With Payroll in Xero, payment is only taken when you process the payment. It is not taken automatically after running payroll, so it helps maintain a healthy cashflow.

5. Save money and time. What if you could pay for your accounting and payroll with one simple and all inclusive subscription? As of today, making direct deposit employee payments is available to all Xero customers on Standard and Premium plans. Paying your staff is one of the most important task for small business employers and Payroll in Xero gives everyone the option to pay their staff electronically.

6. Get help when you need it. Make sure to investigate and read reviews about your payroll providers customer support. When you need help, you don’t want to get stuck in call center hell. Xero’s no wait service means you log your request and Xero employees here in the US quickly respond.

We know this works. Forty percent of Xero customers already use our payroll software in countries where it’s available, such as Australia. In fact, we pay hundreds of thousands of employees over US$1.2B of payroll a month globally. And we are just getting started. Watch for additional US states over the next year and the launch of integrated accounting and payroll in NZ and the UK over the next few months.

The time is right for every small business to take the pain out of payroll.

 

Customer relationship management goes beyond contacts

Xero’s add-on marketplace continues to grow and it’s clear that applications in the same category can vary greatly. Customer relationship management, or CRM, software is a perfect example. Salesforce.com defined this category for the cloud with an emphasis on identifying opportunities and closing deals. In our marketplace we have add-ons who fit this definition and others who add their own spin on CRM. All of these application sync contacts from Xero, it’s the other features that is keeping this space interesting.

Solve CRM

Solve CRM’s integration with Xero positions your client facing staff to make faster, better informed decisions by displaying accounting data in-context, on contact and project records. A popular choice for businesses that needs a flexible, modern system.

Solve CRM has earned the designation as an official “Google for Work Premier Partner”, offering a unique and useful Google Apps integration that employees value.

Read how businesses like Prescient Power voice measurable improvements to revenues with Xero and Solve.

ClickDesk

Web visitor engagement is extremely critical to maximize sales and boost customer satisfaction. ClickDesk helps online businesses engage customers through a combo of Live chat and Helpdesk. Customers can chat, call or email from the widget while the agent can answer them from the online agent panel or Google Talk on desktop, tablet or mobile.

Customers enter their name and email address through ClickDesk chat window. ClickDesk then automatically checks to see if a contact exists in Xero and informs the agent. If no contact is found, the agent can create a new contact record in Xero with just a few keystrokes. For returning customers, agents can view invoice history directly from the chat window and also add notes. This helps agents answer customer questions better which in turn nurtures relationships.

Agile CRM

Agile CRM offers integrated contact management, sales tracking and marketing automation. Invoice and payment history from Xero is displayed alongside contact information. You can create invoices and send them to your contacts all from your Agile dashboard. Additionally, Agile provides easy appointment scheduling and task management for your staff.

In my opinion, marketing automation is the standout feature in Agile. Build multi-step marketing campaigns visually with an easy to use drag and drop designer. Send automatic email responses based on time like a follow up email, or when some some one signs up on your website. Score leads automatically based on user activity like clicking email links, or browsing your website.  Then segment your contacts automatically based on their actions. Most importantly, evaluate and optimize email messages with A/B testing. Send different versions of email to contacts and evaluate based on open and click rates.

Funding Gates

The Funding Gates Receivables Manager helps you manage your Accounts Receivable and customer relationships. It syncs with your Xero account, and immediately starts learning about you and your business. You or your employees can understand the health of your receivables in an instant and take actions with effective reminders. In the US, you additional can call customers with a single click or connect with a professional collection service.

Turning your receivables management process into a customer relationship building activity makes good business sense.

Conclusion

Be sure to dig a little deeper when evaluating a category of add-ons. You may be surprised by the differences you’ll discover.

 

Introducing electronic payroll taxes for California, Florida and Texas

File and pay your state payroll taxes electronically with Payroll in Xero.

Today, customers located in California, Florida, and Texas (top three employer states in the US) can file and pay their payroll taxes electronically. This is just the start. For New York, New Jersey, Utah and Virginia customers, we’ll be releasing state e-file and e-pay in the near future. We’ve started work on additional states and we’re aiming to have nationwide coverage by the end of 2015.

This release builds on our momentum of realizing our vision of an integrated platform for small businesses worldwide. 40% of our customers already use our payroll software in countries where it’s available and pay hundreds of thousands of employees over A$1.5B of payroll a month globally.

We want as many businesses as possible to have access – that’s why we’ve made this available for customers in our Standard plan. All existing and new Standard and Premium customers have access to e-file and e-pay for payroll taxes at no extra cost.

File and pay payroll taxes online

For small businesses, staying up to date with your payroll taxes is a huge priority to avoid penalties. Payroll in Xero helps by allowing you to easily control when you file and pay your payroll taxes – anywhere, anytime. We show you upcoming obligations on the Payroll Overview with detailed information available under Taxes & Filings. Payroll in Xero works out relevant business days and displays both the File By and Due By dates to ensure you know the key dates.

 

With Payroll in Xero, you don’t need to print and mail your payroll forms. Now with a click, you can send your forms and payments electronically to the appropriate agencies from anywhere. Payment is only taken when you process the payment, it is not taken automatically after running payroll to help maintain a healthy cashflow.

For more information join a short webinar to get an overview of newly updated Payroll in Xero. In this short webinar we will walk you through how to add a work location, adding employees, setting up direct deposit, federal & the new state electronic services for selected states and the general ledger integration.

To enroll for Payroll in Xero e-file and e-pay read the information available here.

Manage US Payroll in Xero

Also available from tomorrow (Thursday) will be the 2014 940 Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return. The due date for filing Form 940 for 2014 is February 2, 2015. However, if you deposited all your FUTA tax when it was due, you may file Form 940 by February 10, 2015. Use Form 940 to report your annual Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax.

Another change available today is making direct deposit employee payments available to all customers in Standard and Premium plans. Paying your staff is probably the most important task for small business employers and we want everyone to have the option to pay their staff electronically.

Xero is committed to bringing seamless online accounting and payroll for small businesses nationwide as quickly as possible. As we roll out additional states, we’re also working hard on other features that will make the lives of small businesses easier and more efficient.

2015 Payroll Taxes

2015 payroll tax rates have been announced by federal and state tax agencies and Payroll in Xero has been updated automatically to reflect these new rates.

The 2015 Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) wage base is $7,000 per employee. The 2015 Social security tax rate is 6.2% each for the employee and employer. The 2015 social security wage base limit is $118,500. The 2015 Medicare tax rate is 1.45% each for the employee and employer and the additional Medicare withholding tax is 0.9% (on top of the 1.45% rate) for wages paid to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year.

For full information please read the release notes.

 

Introducing receipts for iOS

For many of Xero’s customers, today is a red letter day… Yesterday morning we released a hotly anticipated update to our expense claims functionality (currently for iOS, Android still in development). This is a complete overhaul of the UI, and features several clever tweaks. Read on below the video for a guided tour!

Default to one line item

Gone are the days where you had to explicitly add a line item before you could fill in the details. A little research showed over 95% of all expense claims only contained a single line item, so for those cases the new flow is vastly simplified. Of course you can still split your claim into separate line items if you need to!

new_expenses Continue reading ›

 

Xerocon London 2015 – four weeks to go!

It’s now more than twelve months since our last big event in London and excitement is really building now as Xerocon, our two day conference for financial professionals and software developers, re-opens its doors four weeks from today on 10 and 11 February.

Our first London event in 2012 attracted just over 200 delegates, and in 2013 we saw that grow to over 400. Now I’m pleased to share that Xerocon 2015 is going to be a very big one indeed – last week registrations shot way past Xerocon 2013, some five weeks out.

Xerocon London 2015 – four weeks to go… from Xero Limited on Vimeo.

So, Xerocon London 2015 looks set to become not only the UK’s biggest FinTech conference, but the biggest event of its kind in Europe.

Continue reading ›

 

Harvest Integration Update: Easy Time Tracking and Job Costing

Tracking time and costs associated with a job (or project), and seeing how that measures up against a job’s budget in real-time may be a struggle for your clients. Harvest helps make time tracking and job costing painless for your clients, while eliminating manual entry of invoices into Xero on your part.

Copy Harvest Invoices to Xero

Last year we awarded Harvest with Xero’s Partner of the Year award because of the integration they built that copies invoices into Xero. They’ve now made that integration even better by making some changes that require less work from you to get your details into Xero.

Automatically copy payments from Harvest to Xero

You won’t need to add payments manually to Xero anymore. When an invoice is marked as paid in Harvest, either manually or automatically via online payment (they support PayPal or Stripe), this payment record copies over to Xero.

Harvest and Xero integration

 

Invoice line items save to the right Revenue Accounts in Xero

Now, the integration handles placing invoice line items into the right Revenue Accounts. You’ll just need to assign Item Codes and/or Contacts to a Revenue Account in Xero. Then, when a Harvest invoice is copied to Xero, each line item is mapped to its respective Xero Revenue Account.Harvest and Xero integration

If your clients haven’t used Harvest before and you think it might be a good fit, give Harvest a try with the 30-day free trial! If you’re interested in the details of the Harvest for Xero integration, they have a handy reference guide.

 

A winner’s guide to surviving the January tax season

Guest post by Tony Stevenson, Partner Enablement Specialist at XeroTony Stevenson has some great tips for surviving the January tax season

Now the turkey and mince pie have subsided, for the old school tax professional it’s time to jump with both feet into the busiest time of the year.

We all knew it was coming and now the January tax season is upon us (don’t say it out loud!).

There’s been a shift in recent times: more people are doing their simple returns by themselves, and with the rise and rise of cloud technology, real time banking and the ‘doing it as you go along’ method, this has, for those in the know, eased the burden considerably.

Many practices are using Xero Ledgers’ functionality to quickly cash-code items, or if they need, to open a .ofx file sent by clients to quickly read the information.

Using Xero efficiently results in many firms reporting that January is no longer a big stress.  But for the rest of us who are still a little worried, here are some tips to help you and your team breeze through.

Plan, plan and plan again

It should go without saying, but you must plan ahead – not just for an increased workload, but a real plan. Plan to make the most of your team’s skill set. Plan for problem clients. Success for many has come from having the partner split clients into A, B and C, where they then prioritise assignments correctly.

Plan for how you will deal with overtime. Plan for the amount of hours you’ll actually need. It has to be more than simply: “It’s January, plan to be here ‘til midnight.”

Educate clients so you can avoid the same pain next year. Offer discounts in April/May for paperwork submitted to avoid the cost of paying overtime in January. Equally, charge a premium for any records submitted from October onwards.

Technology and the cloud

Make the most of technology – it’s here to make your life easier. Make the most of the cloud, and get everything running smoothly beforehand to reap the benefits of not having to wait for your information. Real time collaboration. Work done beforehand. Being on top.

Recognise their pain

In the maelstrom it can be easy to focus on what isn’t running quite to plan and to forget the mountain of good that your team is churning out. Treat them to a last supper. Ply them with sugary treats. Focus on solutions to problems which they almost certainly didn’t cause. Now is your time to be their leader and motivator.

You cannot overestimate the lasting goodwill this will generate.

Problem children

No matter how well you plan, there will always be clients who are late, incomplete, or both. Recognise these problem children early on. They are usually repeat offenders. Engage with them early, be utterly firm with them and do not let them throw a spanner into your finely tuned machine.

This is never an easy time; there is a whole heap to get done. But if you see this as an opportunity, you can get a lot more out the process. This is your chance to make the most of the cloud and the technology at your fingertips, the chance to dust off your processes and fine tune them for the year ahead.

And it’s the chance to be a hero. Reconnect closely with your team and appreciate the hard work they put in for you and your firm. If you can put all of this into practice, you will sail serenely into spring time with happy clients and a happy team.

Why not make contact with the Xero Enablement Team or your Account Manager for strategies and recommendations on how Xero can help you ease the stress and pain of January.

 

Managing small business cashflow

In real estate, the adage is “location, location,Nichelle Stephens knows a few things about small business cashflow location”. For small business, the adage should be “cash, cash, cash”. Whether it is a service or product-based business, cash is necessary, and positive cashflow is the goal.

There are many business apps and software dedicated to the “front end” of the sales cycle. The sales cycle is the time between the initial contact with a client or customer, the identification of services or goods to be procured, the acceptance of purchase, and the transaction that completes the sale. There is lead generation, marketing, and CRM software – but the critical part of running a business often gets ignored. The back end is the bookkeeping. It’s not sexy but it is necessary.

After the sale is made, the cash cycle begins. You either end up with cash, credit card transaction or an accounts receivable. Think of it as a race and the finish line is your business’ bank account. Cash is the fastest. Cash is a sprinter. For retail businesses during the busy holiday season, it is important to make cash deposits daily. This cash can be immediately turned around to pay for expenses and employees. Depending on the price point of your products, you may have lots of cash transactions, but for a smaller amount per sale.

Credit card sales are not as fast, but can be powerful. Credit card sales are like Olympic hurdlers. They take a bit longer, but they are substantial. A few years ago, I worked as a sales representative for a jewelry designer at a holiday market in New York. While working there, I noticed that the average credit card sale was always higher than the average cash sale. The downside is that are merchant fees and the fact that it takes up to three days for the proceeds from credit card sale to be deposited into your business account.

Accounts Receivable is definitely the slowest of the three, but it may be the most consistent. Accounts receivable are the long distance runners. Professional service-oriented businesses are more focused on accounts receivable because their sales are usually recurring. For example, if you are bakery that has set up a business account with an office to provide baked goods every week for a set price, then you just have set a recurring invoice and you should receive payment monthly.

No matter how fast or slow the money hits the bank, you have to have a good way to record it. Xero.com is back end software of the sales cycle. It’s where you can manage small business cashflow easily and reach the finish line.

Guest author Nichelle Stephens is a blogger, cupcake enthusiast, editor, event producer and social media strategist. She is the co-founder of Cupcakes Take The Cake, a popular blog about cupcakes. She is also the founder of Keeping Nickels, a personal finance and business accounting blog for freelancers and entrepreneurs. 

 

NZ campaign brings four real kiwi businesses right into your living room

This month we are super excited to kick off a campaign and sponsorship of 60 Minutes in New Zealand. We’re really proud to be associated with this trusted current affairs programme and there’s a great fit between viewers of 60 Minutes and business owners who are considering Xero. Our goal is to start to educate NZ businesses on Xero and the great reasons they should jump on board with us.

We’ve used this opportunity to showcase four real New Zealand small business owners and I’m sure you’ll agree they are just fabulous! Each customer focuses on a different feature of Xero that has made managing their business easier.  We love hearing about how kiwi businesses can save time, be more efficient, stay on top of their finances, and generally enjoy doing business more  Who doesn’t love that?

We know there are a lot of people who know about Xero but haven’t taken the next step to use online accounting software.  This campaign is to inspire them to make time to do that, by showcasing their peers who have taken the step and are really benefiting from having Xero in their lives.

Here’s a sneak peek of two of our Xero customers featured in the campaign – Jeremy from Cibo restaurant in Parnell, Auckland, and Kerry owner of online florist Wild Poppies. You can also check them out on our website. Continue reading ›