Why Virtual Accountant?End of year is a term that can instill fear into contractors and accountants alike. In many cases, communication between the contractor and his accountant is quite limited and confused, as the contractor rarely understands the book keeping jargon being used by the accountant, and the accountant has to deal with a badly maintained paper trail. To add to this, the contractor and the accountant don't meet very often. When they do meet, the contractor normally arrives with a box full of invoices and receipts, and if he's doing really well, a proprietary spreadsheet outlining the contractor's financial transactions for the year.
The poor accountant has the unenviable task of putting order on the mess of paperwork before finally attempting to formalise the transactions into a proper set of Books of Account. This can be a time consuming task, and once completed, the accountant needs to get agreement from the contractor that the formalised set of books are indeed an accurate representation of the financial affairs of the contractor's business. This can lead to heated discussions, in particular if it turns out that the contractor owes more money to the Revenue than initially thought.
There are two inherent problems here. One is obviously communication, and the second is that the accountant and the contractor don't share the same view of the underlying transactions. The accountant has to spend an excessive amount of time putting order on paperwork. Time is money, and the net result is that the contractor needs to pay the accountant for more of his time that would be required if the process was done in a more efficient manner from the outset.
Hook Head Software has recently launched a new product called Virtual Accountant which addresses this problem. Virtual Accountant is secure online accounting software, which allows contractors to perform high-level everyday tasks, such as the preparation of sales invoices and expense tracking, while automatically maintaining the set of books in a formalised manner in the background. The beauty of the system is that the accountant can also log in and take a look 'over the shoulder' of the contractor and keep a watchful eye of how the contractor is entering his transactions throughout the year.
The accountant and the contractor can discuss transactions on the phone as they both share the same view of the underlying transactions on their respective computer screens, and as a result arguments are avoided. The system is hosted online and consequently there is no software to install. The transaction data is also stored securely online and there is nothing to backup. In short the contractor can run his business from anywhere, safe in the knowledge that his books are in good shape and that his accountant is in agreement with his transactions to date. When the contractor and the accountant eventually meet up at the end of the financial year, they can do so without any concerns about disagreements over transactions.
Virtual Accountant is available online at http://virtualaccountant.ie. A year's subscription to Virtual Accountant costs €250 per year for contractors/small businesses. The service is completely free for accountants.