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A couple of days ago, Dennis announced his involvement with a startup SaaS provider of “real-world” accounting aimed at end users rather than practitioners – a thing called FreeAgent Central. Being the snark I am, I immediately pinged Dennis with the question “applicable to Australia?”.

The short answer was “not yet” … but international application is on the agenda. We swapped a couple of emails about the difficulty or otherwise of making it work in Australia and other accounting environments with similarities to the UK, which ended up with a message from Dennis via Facebook (that’s worth a giggle all by itself) suggesting I add my public voice to that argument.

So it behooved me to take a look at FAC. I found the site, created an account, and was gently led through the process of setting up a client, bank account and project. While I’m not an accountant, I have spent a lot of time on financial stuff, and implemented a number of ERP-style accounting packages, so I was immediately struck by FAC’s simplicity. For someone used to something more complex, it can appear kindergarten-simple … but that means it almost certainly hits its target – small business end-users who don’t understand double-entry accounting, but who don’t want to spend their accountant’s annual fee getting them to do all the bookwork.

I spent a bit of time playing with my project – set up another user, recorded some time, produced a couple of invoices, generally waded through most of the functions. All simple – all prompts and help are couched in terms that make sense to a solo tradesperson/retail proprietor/Mom and Pop business. A couple of issues: I cancelled an invoice, which correctly removed the revenue from the little dashboard thingy … but I couldn’t see anyway to re-instate the charge or re-invoice the time. The other comment is around reporting to the “real” accountant – I couldn’t see anything beyond a CSV output – I am guessing that more will result from ongoing talks with purveyors of software for the practitioner.

So how hard to adapt it to (e.g.) Australia? Well – at the level of transaction recording it deals with, I don’t believe it would be too difficult (hey – I checked out how many different VAT rates the UK has – makes our GST look good with only two rates: 0% and 10%). There ARE a few curly bits with GST, and you have some industry-specific nasties like the Wine Equalisation Tax, and various import duties … but I suspect that sufficient structural similarity exists between the tax regimes that (depending on expectations about market size and penetration rates) the effort to adapt the software would be worthwhile.

So how about it guys?

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