Created: August 21, 2013 at 4:18 PM | Updated: May 4, 2023 | By Community Resource Kit
A computerised accounting system is the best option for most organisations as it will allow you to manage your finances accurately and efficiently, and it will also make financial reporting and planning much easier.
There are many computerised accounting packages on the market, so you should be able to find one to suit the needs of your organisation. Choosing the right one is important and your group should do some research before you make the decision. Ask computer experts and sales people, and also check around to see what friends or colleagues in other organisations are using.
Features you need to consider are:
Once you have chosen your accounting package and installed it, you should set up your chart of accounts. This is a list of all types of income, expenditure, assets, liabilities and equity (see the following sample).
Spend some time considering who will require information from you and what sort of information they will require. This will help you decide how detailed your chart of accounts needs to be. For example, a manager may need to know how much is spent on mobile phones versus landline phones. In that case, you would have two categories for telephone in your chart of accounts, whereas an organisation that does not need that level of information would only have one category for telephone accounts.
If this is your first financial year, you will have no opening balances to begin with. However, if you are changing to a new accounting system you will need to enter the opening balances from last year's balance sheet (i.e. last financial year's closing balances will become this year's opening balances).
Most accounting systems will require you to set up a contact or card file for each person or organisation you have transactions with. Most systems allow you to add in contact details and notes etc, which you may want to consider if this information is not recorded elsewhere.
A computerised accounting system may streamline processing and reduce the organisation's work by downloading transactions automatically from a bank feed, ready for you to reconcile. The computerised accounting system may also allow you to generate a bulk payment file that can then be uploaded to your bank account for payment, also a time saving.
Most accounting systems work in the following two ways:
The first option is quicker as each transaction is only handled once. However, the second option allows you to know how much money is outstanding and how much money is owed to you (creditors and debtors).
You need to consider what is useful for your organisation compared to the extra administration time it takes and the level of accountability and transparency that these processes bring to your financial management.
Most accounting systems will ask you to allocate GST (Goods and Services Tax) on each transaction. Some account codes will have a default GST code set up. The code should still be checked before recording. It is also important to check the tax invoice at the time you are entering the information into the system to see if it is a GST tax invoice or not (see sample below).
Example: Tax invoice for supplies worth more than $1000.
Tip: It is important to check the GST status of any grants you receive. Some will have GST added while others will be exempt as they are donations. If you have any doubts, ring your funder to clarify.
It is important to reconcile your bank accounts at least monthly (see the sample below). Most systems will have a separate function to reconcile the banking, in fact many systems allow you to reconcile transactions frequently with regularly updated banking feeds. Once your bank account reconciliation is completed, print off a bank reconciliation report to keep with the bank statements.
XYZ Community Group Inc.
Bank Reconciliation for the Month Ended 30 June 2020
To be reconciled (A) must equal (B)
Note: If the bank account and the cash book are in overdraft, the above instructions are changed as follows: ADD becomes DEDUCT and DEDUCT becomes ADD.
While a computerised system makes financial recording, reconciling and reporting easy, a cash book accounting system will work perfectly well for small community groups (particularly groups that are not GST-registered).
A cash book is a spreadsheet, either in a multi-column book or a computer file (see the sample below). It records all financial transactions, keeps you financially up-to-date, and allows you to keep control over your finances.
The cash book keeps track of receipts and payments. It tells you:
To operate a cash book:
This example is of a small community group (XYZ Community Group Inc) that is not registered for GST and has no paid staff. The group is using a manual cash book accounting system but the same methods can be applied to a computer spreadsheet.
(This table is also included as a supporting document - you can download it below)
Tip: Balancing the cash book will double-check your figures. The expenditure columns should add up to the payments column and the income columns should add up to the receipts column.