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Ask HN: accounting resources for startups?
38 points by paraschopra on June 8, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments
I launched paid plans for my startup last month and have started making sales. Was wondering if there are any resources for startup accounting? Tools, articles, presentations?

PS: the company is incorporated and based out of India. Even though accounting tools are country specific, I'm looking forward to some best-practices guides and tutorials on how to do accounting myself.

In my sense, the only way to do it right is to have an accountant. It's his/her job. I know it doesn't sound "lean" (ho buzzword) but how would you react if a accountant would ask 'website resources for accountant?' and saying that he wants to make money out of a website?

You definitely want to hire someone for this, unless you have a business background or are comfortable with accounting already. Accounting is something you REALLY don't want to fuck up, as the tax and legal consequences can be ugly.

At the very least look into hiring someone for a "bookkeeper" role. Often accountants, or others with an accounting background, will moonlight doing the books for small companies. Search craigslist or the equivalent in India.

That's a fact, pay someone for bookkeeping and at the end of the year, you'll make big savings when it's time to make your taxes. All your numbers will be right and they will not have to make their way in them because they already know them.

Any you recommend? Where should one start looking for a good accountant?

Where are you located? I have one I would highly recommend here in Colorado.

I live in Colorado. How much does a bookkeeper generally cost?

There's bookkeeping and there's accounting. Some accountants will set you up with a bookkeeper to take care of the more menial and regular tasks and then coordinate when that bookkeeper (or not) when the time comes for more formal and "artistic" accounting. The bookkeeper that comes into our office (Los Angeles) is billed around $20/hr.

I've been helping out a friend's office recently and their books are a total mess. Some checks entered against invoices, some not, accounts receivable and accounts payable are totally unorganized, nothing reconciles...

So here's a recommendation - it's probably better to keep all your receipts in a folder system, along with records of your bank statements, and do nothing in software until you're totally committed, or can hire a bookkeeper. You can hand the receipts over to a professional a little later, but handing over a half assed mess in Quickbooks or whatever is much worse IMHO. Just don't wait too long to find that bookkeeper :)

Also, if being generally organized and fastidious is not one of your skills, bookkeeping is probably better handled by someone else, whether you have a great accounting tool or not.

Most of my receipts are online, I never print them. So I am fearing whether I will miss some when it comes to handing it over to book-keeper.

A bookkeeper will want to eventually categorize all your receipts by type, so if you're losing detail by going paperless (or losing track of things altogether), you may need to rethink that.

I really like Ledger, an open-source command-line application for double-entry accounting. You can learn a lot about accounting in general just by reading the documentation and following the examples.


It's available packaged in MacPorts, Ubuntu, and so on.

It's great for personal finance as well. It imports csv files from your online banking, it's all command line, and it has a very simple plaintext format:

    2008/01/01 income 
        assets:bank:checking  $1
        income:salary        $-1
Ledger is the double-entry accounting tool of choice for discriminating hackers.

Previous discussion about ledger - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=872244

Most web based applications will help you manage your accounting through the year (invoices, expenses, etc), but you will still want to hand off your records to an accountant to sort out taxes and generally get counsel.

Xero, Freeagent, Less Accounting and FreshBooks ( <- Disclaimer: I work @freshbooks) are all solid resources that - to the best of my knowledge - will work in India.

> you will still want to hand off your records to an accountant to sort out taxes and generally get counsel.

Ditto. For instance, if I had talked to my accountant soon enough, I could have saved half of my company registration costs - he knew about a special, not too well advertised, local program, which my in-house lawyer did not know of. Also, tax legislation looks like a minefield to me - a competent[1] accountant is a mine-sweeper that may save your bacon.

[1] Horror story from friends: years ago they formed a company, didn't do much business, dissolved (which in itself may be hard, especially if someone moved away). Later had to keep paying fines because of paperwork improperly filed by their accountant.

P.S. The "grumpy editor" at lwn.net occasionally looks at FOSS accounting software, and readers chime in; e.g. at http://lwn.net/Articles/314577/

Having studied 12+ credit hours of accounting in college, and done accounting for 2 companies, I would recommend hiring a part-time / consulting accountant.

While you are probably more than capable of doing basic double-entry accounting, it is a huge nuisance and a mistake can get you into trouble. Your time, as a founder, is better spent growing the business than dealing with the annoyances of accounting, reconciliation, reporting, and taxation.

The hired accountant will suggest software packages with which they prefer to work.

Lastly, India may present a different scenario, but consider having payroll and benefits handled by a firm like ADP or TriNet -- even if you hire a consulting/part-time accountant. The quickest way to get in trouble with federal government is to make a mistake on payroll tax withholding/reporting.

My 2 cents...

Check out Pulse which has been working out nicely so far for my uses. http://pulseapp.com

+1 for pulse. It reduces accounting of your cash flow to simple data entry.

Just keeping in mind that at some point, you will have to hand over all the data to an accountant.

In the tools category, I'm a big fan of http://freeagentcentral.com.

I am not affiliated with lessaccounting.com, I'm not even a user/customer but I have read fantastic things about it.

LiteAccounting.com - easy to use. I say that because I wrote it though.

Shoebox :-P

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