MyBusiness version 3.0. By Nigel Harris, Accountingweb

I looked at the first version of MyBusiness some years ago and have always felt it was rather underrated by accountants. The latest version looks as good as ever.


First impressions are encouraging. Installation is quick and there are few questions to answer until you open the program, when you just have to enter basic business details and select a user name and password. The supplied licence key gets you straight into the package so there's no registration stuff or annoying pop-ups reminding you to go online or fill in a registration card. A basic chart of accounts is created from your general business type (retail, service, manufacturing, and so on). Once you have set your VAT accounting details, you are ready to start entering transactions. When you're in any doubt help is always available, with a series of jargon-free, step by step instructional PDFs for some tasks.


The first thing to note is that MyBusiness runs in a browser, so navigation is easy using hot links and the normal browser buttons. This also means that drill downs are quite common ' and easy to spot. The result is a relatively clean and uncluttered view with easy to follow menus and no unnecessary icons or graphics.


Basic transaction postings are straightforward. If you go for the standard Wizard questionnaire approach you do have to click through an excessive number of single question screens to get to the posting screen. The quicker Expert option works from a more conventional journal posting screen. Either way, clear simple help topics are available to give step-by-step instructions to complete beginners.


Bank and sales postings are straightforward and intuitive. Receipts can be posted net or gross, and it's good to see that sales receipts can be posted direct to the bank account, unlike many of the other start-up accounts packages which process Receipts and Bankings as separate operations.


The system can produce very presentable invoices, or you can start from quotes and convert these into invoices. Full stock management is included in the Essentials and Complete Manager versions, enabling you to update stock automatically through sales and purchase postings. Alerts pop up if stock levels fall below the selected re-order level. There is a good help article on bank reconciliations which you can keep open while you complete the process.


MyBusiness is the only start-up accounts package to cover VAT cash and invoice accounting AND the Flat Rate Scheme, a real plus for small business users, even if many accountants are reluctant to recommend it. VAT appears to be well controlled ' the package was accredited by the ICAEW some years ago and is supported by HM Revenue and Customs, so I assume they are happy with the VAT controls and reporting. When you run a VAT return you initially get a message that 'no transactions have been found that were posted into a prior VAT period', proving that there are some useful integrity checks going on the in the background.


Reporting options are good. You just need to remember that it runs in a browser, so reports have been designed to print straight from it. Having viewed and printed a report you need to use the Back button, not close the screen using the X in the top right hand corner (which closes the program itself!). Transactions can be edited retrospectively, so there is an invaluable Transaction Change Log where you can view all such amendments. The posting logging also ensures that VAT is properly reconciled and adjusted for subsequent amendments.


The Accounts preparation report option exports the full transaction data to very extensive 14-tab Excel worksheet that includes P&L, trial balance, stock, VAT, debtors and creditors reports. This report is ideal for the accountant to review, finish off or import into a final accounts production package. Alternatively, accountants can run a bureau version of MyBusiness to manage an unlimited number of business clients' records. The MyBusiness Accountants Programme (free to join) gives you a free personal copy of the Essentials version plus two more to give to clients, free multi-client bureau management software and a 50% discount on MyBusiness software to encourage firms to recommend it to their clients.


A useful feature of the two more expensive versions are the diary and tasks panes on the home page. Tasks are generated by the system, for example when you run a VAT return a task is created reminding you to send your VAT cheque. The home page also gives a quick management snapshot of 'My money to chase' and 'My money', a list of account balances, although it doesn't go as far as to offer you graphs or pie charts.


As another extra, at the top of the home page there are buttons linking to external websites ', HM Revenue and Customs, The Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI), and a 'Take a break' button which opens up the BBC home page.


MyBusiness was one of the first accounting packages to opt for an annual fee pricing structure, effectively making an annual support contract compulsory. It comes in three versions:

• EasyBooks (accounts, invoicing, VAT and contact management) - £49.99 per year

• Essentials (adds diary and tasks, job or project management and stock management) - £99.99 per year

• Complete Manager (adds professional mailings, the ability to create invoice templates and includes a 5-user licence) - £149.99 per year

All versions include Excel integration and 12 months' local rate telephone support (9 to 5 weekdays only). FAQs and user guides are also available on the website.


I have to confess that I rather like MyBusiness. I find the browser-based style easy and extremely fast to use, navigation is straightforward and the whole experience is refreshingly uncomplicated. The feature set is pretty comprehensive. The inclusion of Flat Rate VAT accounting sets it apart from virtually every other small business accounts package too.


The Complete Manager version with five-user licence, comprehensive, but easy to use stock control and an excellent email and postal mailshot feature looks the best value, despite being the most expensive. The ongoing annual cost makes MyBusiness initially look expensive over time, but when compared with the equivalent Sagecover or similar support contract it doesn't seem so bad. And it does ensure that the software is always up to date.


Despite its ICAEW software accreditation and endorsement from HM Revenue and Customs VAT people, MyBusiness doesn't seem to have achieved the recognition it deserves. It is a worthy package for consideration by any start-up or established small business. Small business advisers should sign up to the Accountants Programme (at The MyBusiness Store) to find out for themselves.