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Sage One Accounts Extra review

One of the best small business accounting services around, despite limited VAT MOSS support

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Price
£20 ex VAT per month
  • Excellent interface; Easy configuration; Very capable mobile app for invoicing in the field
  • Awkward contact importation & VAT MOSS handling

Sage is synonymous with accounting software, often of the terrifyingly complicated large business variety. Fortunately for small enterprise users who want to handle their own accounts for most or even all of the year, Sage One Accounts Extra, is priced at £20 per month (ex VAT) yet provides a wide range of features, from automatic bank activity retrieval to foreign currency support.

Sage One Accounts Extra: signing up

Sage guides you through a step-by-step sign-up process, starting by asking your business’s name, its type, and then having you select what it does from a wide range of categories, which it’ll use to help customise your experience. The list covers everything from mobile home retailers to IT service providers. We found some oddly specific levels of detail in some areas, while others, such as advertising copywriting services, aren’t even covered. We found a few Americanisms in the list, so if you can’t find your trade, it’s worth trying international synonyms.

The guided setup then takes you through adding your address, selecting the VAT scheme you’re signed up to, adding your business’s start date, end of financial year, and the date from which you’ll be using Sage One. All of this can be changed later if need be.

A Getting Started section prompts you to create customers, link your bank accounts, set up suppliers, and set up the chart of accounts, which defines and lists all your assets, revenue, and expenses using precise categories. We were pleased to find plenty of guidance and in-line help links, which take you directly to detailed documentation about how each feature works.

Sage One Accounts Extra: getting started

Sage’s customer creation form is tremendously detailed, allowing you to define payment terms individually, as well as keeping track of their bank details, VAT number, and as many contact names and delivery addresses as you need. You can also bulk import contacts from a CSV file. Sage only supports its own CSV field format, but if you’ve been using a spreadsheet or a different accounting package then you can download a template file that makes it easier to transfer your customer data. We’d have liked a wider range of contact importation options, though, such as support for Google or Outlook contacts.

While small businesses with short client lists may be better off simply entering everyone manually, the CSV template will be essential for larger companies making the switch to Sage. Another critical tool for those transferring the accounts of an established business is the Customer Opening Balances page, which makes it remarkably easy to enter what you’re owed, and by whom.

With that done, we linked our bank accounts. Unlike rival Intuit QuickBooks Online, but in common with most online accounting services, Sage One uses third-party service Yodlee to connect to and import data from your online banking service. Yodlee supports a huge range of banks and account types. That includes PayPal, personal accounts that use physical secure keys to generate one-time login codes, and international banks around the world. Once linked, you can download your transactions from a given date, your balance is imported, and you can then enter your ledger balance and other account details. Accounts can also be created and updated manually if your bank, building society, or credit union isn’t supported, or if you prefer not to use Yodlee.

Setting up your suppliers and the money you owe to them works in exactly the same way as entering your customers, although we were surprised that there isn’t a specific entry in the default chart of accounts for internet and telephony services. Fortunately, the next step in Sage One’s suggested configuration process allowed us to deal with exactly that. Adding new nominal ledger accounts is easy, and you can also remove existing categories from the chart. For example, a company that doesn’t have or plan on buying motor vehicles can deselect, but not delete, those ledgers.

Further customisation options allow you to add your own logo and default notes or terms and conditions to your invoice template. We were slightly annoyed to find that, after clicking through to the Defaults page to adjust the standard invoice payment terms, we weren’t automatically returned to the invoice customisation page. This is common throughout Sage One Accounts Extra, but with save buttons at the bottom of every page, it’s easy to make sure you don’t lose anything by clicking away.

You’re also prompted to set up or import entries for your products and services, while larger companies can create codes for their different departments to help them analyse income and expenditure. International firms can enable foreign currency transactions with live exchange rate calculations. The summary screen’s other tabs allow you to view graphs depicting sales, purchases, cash flow and future cash flow forecasts, putting an overview of your business at your fingertips.

Once you've created an invoice it can be printed or emailed as a PDF

Sage One Accounts Extra: getting down to business

Once you’ve been through all the suggested steps in the Getting Started section, Sage One Accounts Extra is ready to roll. You can generate invoices and credit notes quickly and easily for both Sales and Purchases. We’re fans of the clean, simple interface that works exactly as you’d want it to, from allowing you to add new customers as you go, to generating PDF invoices that you can print or email out.

Unlike many rival accounting services, Sage doesn’t support any credit card processors apart from its own SagePay service. However, if you use a different payment processor, it’s still easy to include links to them in your invoice emails.

The Settings pages include such vital options as the ability to lockdown and close your accounts at the end of the financial year, but you’ll find some other handy advanced features there, too. We very much appreciated the ability to sync our Google Drive and have PDF copies of all invoices stored there for record keeping purposes. You can invite multiple users to access your account, with configurable privileges, so you, your staff, and your accountant can all access exactly what they need, although only two people can have admin level accounts at a time.

Few things are causing as much irritation for small businesses as the VAT MOSS scheme, which is designed to ensure that appropriate VAT is paid across the EU. Unfortunately, like most of its competitors, Sage One Accounts Extra isn’t really equipped to handle the scheme, instead providing some clear but disappointingly labour-intensive instructions for a workaround. This involves ensuring that your foreign clients are billed in your, rather than their, currency, and creating a separate invoice for their VAT, which you have to calculate manually. While we’ve yet to see a truly elegant solution to recording and paying EU VAT, Xero Premium does a better job.

Sage has recently released a new mobile app, designed to put the essential details of your business at your fingertips. Its primary function is to make it easy to generate invoices and expenses when you or your staff are working on the move, but it also provides full access to your contacts book, product and service list, and an overview of outstanding invoices. Sage’s support for multiple users means that everyone who needs to be able to create invoices can have an account that allows them to do so.

As well as linking up with Google Drive, Sage One can integrate with a wide range of business services and applications, including Sage’s own Payroll service, priced at £5 per month. Supported third-party services include inventory control from Manu Online, booking and appointment systems such as BookingBug, and OneSaas’s integration service, which is designed to connect external sales platforms such as eBay and OpenCart to your accounting service.

Verdict

In terms of configuration and overall user-friendliness, Sage One is hands-down one of the best accounting SaaS around. However, if you sell digital products in the EU, be aware that its VAT MOSS handling doesn’t provide specific features to help you calculate VAT rates in each country, unlike rival Xero. Xero also includes Payroll features in its top £30 per month service. Although it’s more expensive than Sage and its interface doesn’t feel quite as polished, it’s currently more useful for users with international clients. If you only work in the UK, however, Sage One Accounts Extra is hard to beat for ease of use and features making it great value.

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