If you want smart, efficient accounting without having to hire someone at a full salary to do it, then you need to consider what a team of modern bookkeepers can do for you. Automated bookkeeping saves you time, money while also streamlining out-of-date processes. Following on from part 1 of the series, we are going to clue you in to 6 more ways you can get the most out of automation. Let’s dive right in with the next feature on the list at number 7, direct debit integration…

7. Direct debit integration

Direct debit integration is convenient if people want to pay from a bank account rather than on credit card. This might arise when employees need to pay from a company bank account rather than with their credit card. GoCardless is a fabulous tool for automating this kind of direct debit. It works simply by sending an invoice in which there is a link that gives you the option of paying by bank account. From there, you simply put in your IBAN number and click yes, and it will be collected by direct debit.

The great thing about this is that now you are automatically set up with a direct debit facility for future invoices. This means that the customer doesn’t have to do transfers to you and you don’t have to set up reminders. On top of this, you are collecting on the due date so you can still give credit. It is made very easy in the GoCardless for Xero app, where it marks the invoices that have been paid and reconciles it with the bank account. This really is a great way to automate the collection of payments and it’s one of the best integrations we’ve seen with Xero.

8. Automated reminders

When customers or clients keep delaying the payment of their invoices, it can start to cause cash flow problems. Automated reminders nip this problem in the bud. Reminders provide the nudge some people need to get going and you can send more than one if they don’t get the hint the first time! For example, the first reminder sent to a client could be very simple, informative and friendly. However, the second and third reminder could be designed to be more persuasive. You can spread them out by the number of weeks you feel is appropriate and you can turn reminders on and off for certain clients. Automated reminders are great for simplifying a process that could be rather tricky to deal with if you have to manually write emails for each individual client every time they are late paying an invoice.

9. Bill entry via email

This neat little feature is going to save you time! It allows you to send bills directly to your accounting system via email. All you have to do is set up an accounts address and forward bills and their attached PDFs to this address, which your bookkeeper also has access to. The benefit of this is that data entry is not necessary! When you go into your accounting system, you’ll find the draft bill and pdf in there and the system has probably already pulled some key information from it. Having these PDFs in your accounting system is very helpful when you are drilling down into your transactions and you’d like to have easy access to the original documents. Now they’re all in the one place.

10. Suggest previous entries

Most cloud systems will remember how transactions were dealt with the last time and if you turn on “Suggest previous entries” you can automate elements of your bookkeeping. This is helpful for accurate inputting of data such as account codes and VAT rates. This feature is only going to improve over time as cloud accounting companies utilise artificial intelligence to build great databases exactly

for this kind of data entry. Eventually, the user won’t need to know nominal codes or VAT rates which makes sense because, after all, these are bookkeeping terms that not every user would or should need to know.

11. Find and recode

This is a term that is used in Xero specifically, but other cloud accounting systems will have something similar. Find and recode allows you to highlight a batch of transactions and apply a change to all of them in one go. This is a brilliant timesaving tool for bookkeepers. Why might this be needed? Let’s say a bookkeeper wants to move all their transactions out of “Travel and Entertainment” and instead put them against their trade show budget. Instead of having to go into each individual transaction to edit them, this automation tool gets rid of all that manual labour. With batch finding and recoding all you have to do choose a criteria to select multiple transactions at once and apply the change to the whole batch. Ultimately, it allows bookkeepers to produce a lot of output in a very short amount of time.

12. Integrated payroll

Most people use a separate payroll system for their accounting. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, not many of the cloud accounting systems available to Ireland integrate with payroll and secondly, many businesses don’t mind this kind of sensitive information being separate from the main accounting function. At Beancounters, we prefer the cloud payroll system, but this separated setup works fine for many businesses.

However, saying that, it is useful if you can enable necessary payroll information to be automatically sent to your accounting system. With this automated bookkeeping feature, it is possible to have details such as the cost of salaries for separate departments or information regarding payment liabilities automatically sent to your accounting system. SimplePay is a payroll integration that we like and during the initial setup, you can configure it so that the appropriate account codes are attributed. The result is that this will be processed every month automatically without any manual labour necessary. Happy days!

A week’s work completed in only a few hours

As you can see, technology is truly changing the face of bookkeeping. Now a week’s work can be condensed into 3 or 4 hours. Automation makes accounting far more efficient than it used to be, but doing it right relies on knowing the right systems, setting them up correctly to begin with and having the appropriate expertise. We are able to put a bookkeeper in touch with a client and they only need a half-day week to cover what a full-time bookkeeper previously would do. This trend is only going to continue, because why spend €30,000 or €40,000 on a bookkeeper when you can pay a fraction of the price?

Ready to level up your accounting by getting a Beancounter on your side? Get in contact with us today for a chat about what we can do for you.

Between Xero, QuickBooks, Sage One and a host of other cloud accounting services, there is a wealth of choice when it comes to how you choose to get started with automated bookkeeping. The old accounting days of tedious manual data entry, laborious reconciliations and never-ending paperwork are over. By harnessing the power of cloud accounting, you save time, become more efficient, reduce errors and reduce costs. But how exactly does automated bookkeeping work?

This is the first of two blogs that will reveal what automated bookkeeping can do for your business. Now is your chance to find out exactly what you’re investing in when you decide to level up with cloud accounting.

What can cloud accounting do for your business?

1. Bank feeds

Bank feeds are useful for connecting your online banking to your bookkeeping system so that the transaction information from bank accounts and credit cards automatically flows in. The result is that when you log in to your account in the morning, all your receipts and payments are instantly available. Bank feeds are a huge time-saver because they get rid of the need for time-consuming manual entry! AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank all have bank feeds available that can be easily connected up to Xero. Revolut Business also has some impressive bank feeds.

2. Bank rules

Bank rules are designed to personalise your automated bookkeeping requirements. For example, perhaps you’d set up a bank rule telling your accounting software that every time there is a payment with the word “Vodafone” in it, it should be treated as a payment for telephone services with 23% VAT. You might even get super specific and create bank rules which identify payments by amounts. This is how you can teach your accounting system what different transactions mean and tell it how to deal with them.

Chances are your business has many routine payments that occur every month, such as rent, broadband, telephone, electricity, etc. Now you can process these direct debits automatically with bank rules! However, we don’t recommend that you set up bank rules for credit items, such as the paying of suppliers after 30 or 60 days. With these kinds of items, you would be better off posting it as a bill in the system and then matching the payment to the bill so that you are recognising the liability when the bill comes in, and not just when it is paid.

3. Repeat invoicing

If you have customers that have regular business with you, then repeat invoicing is going to save you so much time! There are a few ways of automating this process, for example, if you charge your clients the same amount every month, all you need to do is set up this recurring invoice once and it will continue to bill them on a monthly basis. But if your bill changes regularly, you can instead have the invoice automatically set up as a draft for you every month and then you can simply open it up and make the necessary edits. Property companies tend to use this handy automated tool for when they are collecting rent, as do SaaS companies who have a subscription model.

4. Expenses app

Most cloud accounting systems have an app that you can download to your phone to help you keep track of your expenses on the go. How does this work? Imagine you’re in a garage having just paid for petrol and now you have a receipt you need to keep so you can make an expense claim. Instead of stuffing it in your wallet with all the other receipts, the app enables you to take a picture of your receipt so that it automatically gets posted to your accounting system. Some accounting apps are quite clever in that they will automatically pull the required information from the receipt, such as cost, date, VAT, etc. and send this categorised data to the accounting system. A part from being yet another way to save time, this feature is great for minimising errors, going paperless and keeping track of spending patterns.

5. Products and services

With automated bookkeeping, you can set up the inventory and services that you sell in such a way that when you are writing an invoice, all you have to do is select a product rather than start from scratch every time. This means that the description of the service, the VAT rate, the account code, the classification and even the tracking category are all instantly pulled across into the invoice. You can still edit the details if you like, but the bulk of the information you need is there which is going to make your life a lot easier! It’s worth having your products and services set up in a comprehensive way that is correctly configured because this initial setup is what will allow you to really make the most of your cloud accounting system’s automation features in the long run.

6. Merchant services integration

Within many cloud accounting systems, there are integrations with applications such as Stripe. This is beneficial because it means that when you send an invoice to your customers, there is a link available in the invoice which they can click on to put in their credit card details and pay. This makes receiving money quickly from clients very easy, but it also means that you are alerted the moment your client has paid and your invoices are updated automatically as paid. On top of this, your accounting system will then reconcile the receipt when it comes in through the bank feed with the payment that was received on the invoice!

What to find out what else cloud accounting can do to make your bookkeeping run more efficiently? We will have six more ways for you to automate your accounting in the next blog!

This article was written for publication in Business Plus Magazine. You can also read it on their website, bizplus.ie.

Solutions for small business: the old guard or the young pretender?

There’s a lot happening in the accounting software space for SMEs and the two leading competitors, Sage and Xero, are battling it out for market share. Sage is a well-established company with a variety of products – mainly desktop and server based – whereas Xero is the new disruptor ‘born in the cloud’.

The good news for SMEs is that increased competition in this area is resulting in better choices, better features and lower costs. But what are the main differences between these two offerings?

Sage and Xero: past, present and future

Sage was founded 35 years ago in the UK. Over the years, it has helped many SMEs move from manual systems onto computerised solutions – removing the need for businesses to develop and support their own accounting software. Firmly rooted in its desktop roots, the company offers a range of products – solutions such as Sage 50 and Sage 200, payments and payroll solutions, and their newer entry-level cloud offering: Sage One.

Xero’s solution is purely cloud-based. The New Zealand firm has been around for just seven years, but has invested heavily in product features, usability, support and integrations – a real SaaS model. While Xero has yet to make a profit, it is gaining significant global market share and stock markets know that profits will come.

In May, we anticipate that Xero will announce it has overtaken Sage’s leading product, Sage 50, as the leading accounting package for SMEs in the UK – where they both have over 100,000 business users.

Features and benefits for the non-expert user


Usability is perhaps the biggest differentiator between Xero and Sage. Business owners typically love Xero because it is intuitive, they can get immediate access to useful financial information and it integrates with lots of other applications. These same people typically struggle using Sage as they say it is written for accountants; simple requests can be hard to execute and the user interfaces can be off-putting. Accountants and bookkeepers tend to be stronger supporters of the Sage products as they are familiar and comfortable using them.


Integrations are the second big difference between Sage and Xero. Sage, in the traditional fashion, controls its software environment and only offers integrations with other Sage products. It also doesn’t facilitate the transfer of desktop customers to its cheaper cloud product. Xero, on the other hand, has open APIs and integrates seamlessly with thousands of other systems.


A typical customer of Sage 50 will have a licence (or upgrade) cost, a support cost, a per-user cost along with the cost of servers and backup systems – all of which could total over €200 per month. For Sage 200 it could be double this. A typical Xero subscription is under €30 per month per business (unlimited features, users and transactions) with a multi-currency requirement bringing the total to around €35, a significant saving for businesses moving to the cloud. Sage’s own cloud offering, Sage One, is only €12 a month; unsurprisingly, Sage doesn’t assist existing Sage 50 or 200 customers to move to Sage One.


In terms of customer service, Sage has a mixed reputation, with some clients finding it excellent and others complaining of long hold times with tech support. Xero has a vast repository of online help resources (mainly video-based, so accessible for all user levels). However, while Xero’s email support is very good, staff are UK-based and face-to-face support in Ireland is provided through accountancy partners such as Beyond Accounting.

What’s the best investment for an SME?

It is pretty clear that cloud is the way forward for SMEs, and certainly global trends support this. Xero’s achievement of 600,000 SME customers in six years is no accident. We’ve been working with cloud accounting products for the past four years and know that there are big advantages for SMEs in terms of accessibility, usability, integrations and cost.

As a cloud solution, Sage One looks pretty nice on the surface and has a fairly comprehensive set of features. With a price tag of just €12 a month, we recommend that freelancers or very small entities with simple requirements look at this. For more serious businesses, Xero is definitely the number one option and the feedback from the first wave of Irish business users (approximately 5,000 now) is extremely positive.

Recommended by Beancounters for startups & small businesses, SimplePay offers a great solution for payroll processing. It is cloud-based, so you can get your payroll set up in no time, processing pay runs and printing payslips with ease. SimplePay is set up for Irish business, so incorporates all the latest Revenue requirements. It also integrates perfectly with Xero.

SimplePay pricing starts at €4 per month for one employee, and they offer a free 30-day trial. Find out more about SimplePay here.


Meet the beancounters.ie team! Our amazing, talented bookkeepers – Ann Coates, Cathy O’Leary, Edel Cannon and Sharon Cullen – and Founder and Director of Beancounters, Rory Finegan.

When you hire an employee in a traditional relationship, you are committed to more than the base amount salary the employee receives. You must pay employee taxes, overheads for space and equipment as well as supplies, benefits and pay for time not worked – such as during vacations, holidays and sick time, and even breaks and lunches. If you experience high turnover in the position, you will also realise considerable cost in recruiting, hiring, training, record maintenance and even severance pay.

Your employee costs would break down something like this:

Employee costs Part-time (20 hr/wk)
Base salary (approximately €18.50/hour) € 18,800
Benefits (15% of salary) € 2,820
Payment for time not worked (13%) € 2,444
Payroll taxes (12%) € 2,256
Administrative costs (7%) € 1,316
Equipment/Equipment Maintenance/Supplies € 3,900
Rent of space for in-house employee € 2,500
Annual Total: € 34,036

However, if you hire a Bookkeeping Service at €40/hour, for an average of 3 hours a week, you avoid the expenses involved with having an employee. You don’t have any training or payroll concerns and you do not lose any time for holiday or sick leave.

Costs for a Beancounter breaks down something like this:

Beancounters.ie bookkeeper costs Total fee
3 hrs/wk @ €40 hourly € 6,240
Benefits € 0
Payment for time not worked € 0
Payroll taxes € 0
Administrative costs € 0
Equipment/Equipment Maintenance/Supplies € 0
Rental of space for in-house work € 0
Annual Total € 6,240

Hiring a Beancounter will save you money! Call us now to see how much you can save: 01 254 9670.


At Beancounters, we can help you set up a new online accounts system. It’s pretty straightforward and can be done quite quickly when you know what you are doing and have the experience we have.

We complete each of the following 9 steps and can generally have you up and running in a matter of hours.

How it works

  1. Choose a conversion date
  2. Plan for VAT returns and Year End
  3. Set up user accounts
  4. Design on invoice layout
  5. Import customer and supplier details
  6. Set up Chart of Accounts
  7. Set up your bank account(s)
  8. Input reconciled opening balances
  9. Organise training for users

Talk to us today about how to switch to cloud accounting. We can advise you on the best package, as well as useful add-ons that integrate with other business tools and solutions.

Beyond Accounting holds free, monthly demonstrations of Xero, the fastest-growing online accounting software for SMEs. If you’re interested in coming along to a demo, keep an eye on their blog for upcoming dates.

We take our work very seriously, but not ourselves! “Beancounter” is actually a derogatory slang term for an accountant or bookkeeper.  In naming our business, we thought it would be funny to embrace this slang and use it in our branding. We also like the colourful imagery associated with beans and jellybeans.

Wiki define the term as follows;

bean counter (plural bean counters)

  1. (idiomatic, business, mildly derogatory) A person, such as an accountant or financial officer, who is concerned with quantification, especially to the exclusion of other matters.  [quotations ▼]

So please call us Beancounters as much as you like, we will not be insulted. We are proud to wear the Beancounter brand which to us represents a focus on accuracy and the joy and creativity of being alive.

Xero, the award-winning cloud accounting solution from New Zealand is really gathering pace and is now the dominant force in accounting solutions for SMEs. With 280,000 users in 100 countries and over $250m in investment Xero has truly come of age. Quickbooks, who were the dominant player with their desktop accounting system, are now playing catch-up.

Xero makes accounting quick and painless for small business owners. Bank transactions are automatically fed into your accounting software, eliminating the need for manual data entry. Invoices can be created, customized and sent on the fly. All your outstanding bills can be paid at once, with only a few clicks. Xero integrates with over 200 other applications, making it possible to connect all the tools you use to keep your business running smoothly. This online accounting software frees up time and energy that can better invested in the operation of your business.

You can try the full version of Xero free for up to 180 days, no credit card required. During this time, you can process up to 5 sales invoices, 5 bills, and reconcile up to 50 bank statement lines. You can also enter an unlimited number of historical invoices and bills. After the trial, Xero offers 5 pricing tiers. There are no contracts; you pay monthly and you can cancel the service at any time.