I have only been learning accounts for the past year. But from this have realised just how helpful this program can be. If you have or thinking of having a business then I would really recommend using this program. Rather than having to write everything down in paper based T - Accounts you just type in the information you would like to post, give it some nominal ledgers and hey presto "sage" has posted this to all the relevant accounts including subsidary ledgers for you. Then when it comes to chasing money. at the click of a button you can pull off a report to tell you what items are due for payment and what items are overdue. This also works exactly the same for your purchase ledger.
I would also recommend you purchase the sage support if you are going to be using this program. The staff they employ are so well trained they will be able to help you with practically anything, without sounding like your asking them to walk around the world and back.
****What is it?****
It should be stressed that Sage Accounts Production Advanced ("SAPA") is not a book keeping software package. It is not used to maintain accounting records, preparing VAT returns or preparing payroll. Whilst it is possible to link it to other Sage products it is essentially a standalone piece of software.
SAPA is an excellent piece of software that is designed to prepare year end statutory financial accounts for filing with Companies House.
SAPA is primarily designed for the preparation of company accounts, although it can be used for sole traders and partnerships as well. This makes it a very versatile program.
****Who is it designed for?****
SAPA is aimed at firms of accountants that prepare the year end accounts for a number of different companies and businesses since it is possible to set up hundreds of clients. Single companies that decide to prepare their own year end accounts will not benefit from SAPA as the cost (and training required) will not outweigh the benefits of having the software and it would be more cost effective to prepare the year end accounts on word or pay a firm of accountants.
Group companies may benefit from using SAPA in order to prepare the individual accounts for all the single companies in that group, although it is a very technical program and extensive training and daily exposure is required in order to use it efficiently.
****How to use SAPA****
In essence there are two elements to preparing a set of accounts on SAPA. The first is posting the trial balance and the second is preparing the notes and disclosures.
i) Posting the trial balance
The trial balance can be prepared manually on a spreadsheet package, as excel, or it can be extracted straight from many accounting packages, such as Sage 50 Accounts (which I have also reviewed). It should be noted that it is not possible to extract a trial balance from SAPA since it is not book keeping software.
It is possible to link SAPA to Sage 50 accounts, or other Sage bookkeeping products, hence eliminating the need to re-input the figures. However, there have been issues with the linking process and unless both programs are set up 100% accurately problems will be encountered and it is quicker just to manually key in figures.
A copy of the trial balance is printed off and coded up. Balance sheet items use numbers 1 - 999 and the profit and loss items use numbers 1,000 - 9,999.
Once the trial been coded up it is simply a case of typing the numbers in to the "enter trial balance" section of SAPA. To ensure that the trial balance has been posted correctly SAPA has an auto balance feature to input the reserves figure. This is a very important feature since it allows you to check that the totals agree just by glancing. It will highlight any differences that can be investigated immediately which will save time later on in the accounts preparation process.
ii) Preparing the notes and disclosures
If you have ever looked at a set of full financial statements then you would have noticed that they do not only include the profit and loss account and balance sheet.
Accounts are a lot more comprehensive and include other items such as company information, a director's report, an auditors report and a wholes series of notes analysing how figures are made up, and giving additional information in the way of narrative.
If you are interested in looking at a set of full company accounts then a copy can be requested from Companies House in Cardiff (although you will have to pay for these) or you could get a set from an individual company's website (it is generally only publicly listed companies that do this).
Preparing notes and disclosures is a complex task and there are rules that need to be followed and adhered to. Depending upon the size of the company it must adhere to UK audit and accounting standards or International audit and accounting standards. SAPA has everything required to ensure that the standards are adhered to at all times.
Audit and accounting standards frequently change, therefore it is important that SAPA is kept up to date. Once the package has been purchased Sage will produce updates and patches as standards change so that users of SAPA can ensure that the results produced are fully accurate and compliant.
****What are the reports like?****
The final accounts are great. They are clear, concise and easy to read just how accounts should be.
When filing accounts Companies House does not prescribe a set format and some of the accounts I have seen have been a real mess. Some have not cast, there have been different fonts used, different sized text, grammatical errors and poor formatting but they have still been accepted.
The above shows laziness and a lack of pride. In addition, clients would have paid for those accounts to be prepared. Would you pay hundreds, or thousands of pounds, for what is erroneous and shoddy workmanship?
****What are the advantages of using SAPA?****
Once all the information has been put in to SAPA a full set of financial statements can be produced at the touch of a button. This document will include all aspects of the accounts including the company information, the director's report, the profit and loss account, the balance sheet and full supporting notes and disclosures.
The accounts will cast, i.e. add up, be spell checked and grammatically checked and adhere to all the complex audit and accounting standards. Basically, it helps to reduce the human errors that can creep in to accounts that are prepared manually.
Working in audit I have witnessed some horrendous sets of accounts all prepared on word packages and all prepared by firms of qualified accountants. Whilst spelling and grammatical errors are forgivable, to a certain extent, numerical differences are not acceptable. If these accounts had been prepared on SAPA then any numerical differences would be highlighted on the accounts as they were printed. There would be bold black text clearly stating "The profit and loss account and balance sheet do not agree". This is a good prompt to look in to the figures and amend as necessary.
Following an audit it may be necessary to amend some of the figures. Amending the figures not only affects the profit and loss account and/or balance sheet but also the notes and disclosures. If the accounts are prepared manually it is very easy to 'miss' making changes to the notes, especially if working under pressure. SAPA will ensure that everything that needs to be changed is actually changed.
Any changes made to the original set of accounts can be easily tracked on SAPA. It is possible to produce a report showing a full audit trail, i.e. amount per the original accounts, plus/less any adjustments, the reasons for those adjustments and the date of those adjustments.
On the whole using SAPA is more efficient than producing accounts manually. Any changes can be put through both quickly and accurately.
****What are the disadvantages of SAPA****
Whilst it may be of some use to group companies, SAPA is designed for firms of accountants that prepare numerous sets of year end financial accounts. It is not suitable for single companies or sole traders/partnerships.
SAPA is a very technical program and to use it takes a lot of classroom training, on the job training, exposure and general use. It is not a program that someone can use for a job, not use it for a few months and then use it for another job.
As with all its products Sage offers a full support package for SAPA.
All queries are dealt with over the telephone and whilst you may be on hold for quite a while (sometimes up to an hour) you do actually get to talk to a real person that is highly trained and experienced in using the program who will go through the issues. If the problem can't be dealt with over the phone (I have found that you can usually get an answer around 95% of the time) then the person at Sage will look in to it and call you back (and they always call back within the time period they specified) or you can email the file over to them where they will sort it out before sending it back with the issue resolved and an explanation of what they did.
Sage cover costs £46 per month and, due to the technical nature of the program, it is well worth getting because any issues you may have are unlikely to be solved by any other third party.
Sage offers classroom training in all of its centers that are located all over the UK including Birmingham, Bristol, London, Reading, Croydon, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and Glasgow.
If you cannot get to one of the training centers then there are other training aids such as e-learning, self study and user manuals and workbooks and CD-roms. Whilst there are loads of training methods available, in my opinion there is no substitute for classroom training especially since it is a technical program.
Training prices vary, depending upon the method selected and further details can be found on the Sage website.
SAPA is a fantastic and invaluable piece of software for the practicing accountant. It allows the year end financial accounts to be prepared quickly, accurately and in accordance with all the audit and accounting standards.
It eliminates errors that can occur when preparing accounts manually, and if the profit and loss account and balance sheet do not agree then this fact will be clearly shown in the print out of the accounts serving as a prompt to investigate the matter and sort it out.
If the accounts need to be changed then these can be done quickly and efficiently on SAPA. The program will ensure that the changes flow through the whole document including the notes. This can sometimes be overlooked when accounts are amended manually.
Any changes made are automatically tracked and it is possible to print off a report showing a full audit trail including the amount of the change, the reason for the change and the date of the change.
This program is difficult to learn to use and specific training is needed, but once mastered it is very logical.