How To Choose the Best Expense Tracking Software for Your Small Business

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The right expense tracking software will make it easier for your small business to save time and money by streamlining how you keep tabs on your money. Expenses you can track, like business meals, travel, entertainment, mileage and miscellaneous supplies, fall under operating expenses. These kinds of variable operating expenses, unlike fixed costs like rent, can get out of hand quickly if you don’t have an easy way to follow and manage them, especially if you have multiple employees that you need to reimburse. Instead of relying on illegible paper receipts and lost or stalled expense reports, expense management software lets your small business track and manage this important part of its cash flow with the help of automated tools that do a lot of the tedious work for you and do it faster, more accurately and with more transparency.

Small business expense tracking software options

Below, we’ll review the four of the most popular expense-tracking software solutions for small businesses. They have versions that work for a one-person shop or for small businesses with larger teams. Each one is cloud-based and has a free mobile app to make it more useful for you and your employees on the go. All of the following tools have all of the core features of an expense management software: ✓ Receipt scans. Snap a photo of the receipt and the software automatically pulls in the merchant name, date of purchase and the dollar amount and creates an expense entry. ✓ Automated tasks. Expense reports can be automatically generated and submitted after an expense entry is created. Expenses can be automatically assigned to pre-set or custom categories. Automatic reminders can be sent for late expense reports or reports or expenses approaching their deadlines for submission. These tools can make sure your business captures and records all of its tax-deductible business expenses by making the process faster and easier for your team. Plus, most expense softwares will automatically tag potential tax-deductible expenses so you have a record come tax-time. ✓ Company controls. You can set rules to require receipts for purchases over a certain amount or add an additional level of approval for expense reports from certain employees or employee groups and departments. You can enforce daily dollar allowances for travel and approve or reject expense reports. The software can be set to automatically reject disqualified expenses or reports, or to allow for a manager review first. ✓ Reports and analytics. You can track spending by time period, employee, department or vendor and run audit reports on expense policy violations. The progress of individual expense reports in the system is also tracked.

Certify Now! The small business version of Certify Inc.’s expense software offers the four core features of expense management software listed above, plus some simple additional tools. Works with: QuickBooks. This is the only free integration offered by the Certify Now! small biz plan. Additional features: Direct deposit of reimbursed funds is an optional add-on for the small business plan. You have to contact Certify for the price. Does not offer: The small business version does not let you automatically pull in expenses from company- or personal credit card or debit card accounts. If you drop the plan, your data is deleted after 90 days. Cost: $8 per user, per month, for 1 to 25 employees for the small business plan. Free trial.

Expensify This feature-rich option includes next-day expense reimbursement to employee checking accounts via an ACH (Automated Clearing House) deposit or PayPal (excluded in the free version). Works with: QuickBooks and Xero (the mid-range plan); plus NetSuite, Zenefits, Oracle and nine other accounting, travel and enterprise planning software programs, if you have the more expensive corporate-level plan. Additional features: Except for on the free, one-person plan, Expensify includes online reimbursement direct to employee checking accounts. The Corporate plan also lets you import credit card transactions so you can pull any business expenses into your digital expense report. Does not offer: The free, one-user account allows only 10 free receipt scans per month. The scan feature can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Expensify recommends not waiting until your expense report is due to scan receipts. Cost: Free for a solo user account. Team plan: $5 per active user, per month. Corporate plan offers sophisticated features for $9 per active user, per month.

Xpenditure Offers three plans, based on your company size, and integrates with the lots of accounting software. Works with: 10 online accounting software programs including QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero. Additional features: Allows you to upload credit card statements to capture expenses. Also allows for cash advances, GPS-mileage tracking in the mobile app and creating a purchase order in the software to get appropriate expenses pre-approved. Also can attach a supplier invoice to an expense report. Coming soon: Direct deposit of reimbursed funds to employee accounts will be available in mid-February 2017, according to the company. Excludes: Unlimited activity not included in the first two price tiers: A max of 200 receipts and five statements can be uploaded in a month. Cost: Single user: $4.27 per month. Up to 50 users: $5.83 per user, per month. Free trial.

Zoho Expense Zoho Expense’s smallest plans include the ability to automatically synch your company- or personal credit cards and debit cards, pulling in expenses you can edit to create an expense report. Works with: QuickBooks Online and Zoho Books, automatically syncing once a day. Plus:  Uses a third-party to import transactions from debit cards and credit cards every 24 hours. You manually click an entry to exclude it. The rest are automatically added as expense entries. Also allows unlimited receipt uploads and auto-scans of receipts. Excludes: Direct deposit of reimbursed funds to employee bank accounts. Also, permanent storage: It deletes your data after 120 days if you are inactive. And the software alone can’t create an invoice for a billable expense, as much as small business could use that tool. Cost: $15 a month for up to 10 users, then $2 a month for each additional person. Expense tracking software can be a cost-effective tool for your small business. It’s worth the relatively small investment because it will save time and money and gives you more complete and accurate spending records. That helps not just at tax time but also day-to-day as you keep an eye on cash flow, the lifeblood of any business.

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Cyndia Zwahlen, a former small-business columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is a freelance business writer and editor for media, academic and business clients. She founded the Small Biz Mix blog.

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