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The Big List: The 100 Top Accounting Software Features

Published on by Adam Bluemner

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There’s really only two qualifiers for inclusion on our list of the top 100 accounting software features.

If a feature appears here, it’s either:

  • Something which every accounting software package simply must have. Or,
  • Something which offers tremendous benefit when accounting software includes it.

Top 100 accounting software features

It doesn’t matter whether the feature has been a standard part of accounting since the days of Luca Pacioli or if it’s on the cutting edge of today’s technology. Utility is the relevant standard.

So, without further ado, here it is—our 100 top accounting software features.

Accounts payable

1. Vendor records management

First commandment of accounts payable: Know thy suppliers! Advanced functionality includes custom vendor fields and quick vendor creation with records cloning.

2. Check printing

There are credit card, ACH, and even digital currency payment options these days. But checks remain a staple. Customization and batch printing distinguish certain AP systems.

3. 1099 forms

Uncle Sam wants to know which contractors you’ve paid. 1099 forms generated by your AP module help tell him. E-filing is available with many programs.

4. Payment date calculation

Would you rather earn interest on your cash or have your vendors earn it? Automatic payment date calculation uses vendor terms data to help you hold payments until required.

5. Suspicious payment alerts

Consecutive payments to the same vendor, on the same date, in the same amount? Could be a duplicate! Alerts for unusual payment trends help catch these mistakes.

6. EFT support

Avoid reconciliation hassles and cash flow drama with electronic funds transfer support. You’ll even save some trees by cutting down on your check printing.

7. Advance payment scheduling

You’ve only got so many fingers to tie strings around. Advance payment scheduling is just what it sounds like—and a proven remedy for chronic late payment-itis.

8. Accounts payable purchase order reconciliation

Trust, but verify. Reconciling AP payments to an originating PO adds an important security safeguard.

9. AP document attachment

Internal documents like purchase orders aren’t the only ones useful for substantiating AP payments. Attaching vendor invoices fosters transparency and accountability.

Accounts receivable and billing

10. Customer accounts management

First commandment of accounts receivable: Know thy customer! And, yes, advanced functionality also allows for custom fields and quick customer creation with records cloning.

11. Invoice creation

There are a million and one possible invoice layouts. That’s a scientific fact. Seek flexibility to present invoices with just the fields you need for shipping, billing, terms, item, and pricing info.

12. Custom accounts receivable terms

Every accounts receivable record is really a short term loan. Make sure the Bank of Your Business can easily set the terms and rate of your choice.

13. AR aging reports

Time spares no AR record. Find your receivables senior citizens with due date and issue date aging reports.

14. Progress billing

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Same could be said for the tricky task of progress billing! But advanced AR features make timing invoices and tracking payments easier.

15. Sales attributions

To the victor, go the spoils. And to the seller goes the commission. Or at least the credit. Agent, location, and departmental sales attribution provide performance metrics and a mechanism for enabling incentive compensation.

16. Cost of goods sold reporting

Breakdown! Go ahead and give it to me. Granular AR reporting on COGS categories like shipping, handling, taxes, and tariffs, that is.

17. Account holds

Sometimes the Bank of Your Business needs to pump the breaks on the deadbeats. Account hold features prevent delivery of goods to customers unlikely to pay.

18. AR comment support

Bart in shipping called your top customer a mean name, so that’s why you issued that credit. Things don’t always go as planned. Notate AR exceptions with comments.

19. Recurring invoices

The ability to automatically generate invoices for repeating invoices: Now the number 1 recommended approach for preventing carpal-tunnel in AR clerks!

20. Balance-forward

Back to the future. Easily move old balances into new invoices with balance forward functionality.

21. Sales tax calculation

Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, & Oregon. They don’t collect sales tax. The other ones do. So do many municipalities. It’s complicated, but easier with automatic calculation tools.

22. Credit card payment support

If you really want to have fun, try reconciling credit card processor transaction records with open AR records, said no one. Integration tools make the task quicker and, in some rare cases, automatic.

23. Invoice duplication

Same customer ordered the same product as last week? Why not just copy the invoice and make the necessary change or two instead of re-entering every last invoice field?

24. Envelopes, receipts, reminders, credit notes, pack slips

Because invoices aren’t the only documents that need to be created to fill customer orders.

25. Estimating and quoting

Pesky customers always wanting to know what stuff will cost before they buy! Save time by automating the conversion of estimates and quotes into orders and invoices.

26. Email invoicing

Does anyone not have an email address anymore? Pretty safe to assume a big chunk of your customers would prefer email invoices. And it saves printing and postage. Win-win!

27. EFT support

What’s not to like about supporting electronic funds transfer payments? Collect payments faster, reduce uncollected accounts with auto-pay options, and ease reconciliation tasks.

28. Promotions, coupons, rebates

Eligibility, tracking, redemption. There’s a lot to keep up with to when it comes to discounting. More robust systems automate much of the administration.

29. RMA support

Returned orders can wreak havoc on your books. Normalize your returns management record-keeping with built-in features designed to support best practices.

30. Customer credit management

You know who’s good for it and who might not be. Flexibly managing maximum outstanding balances by customer can help reduce uncollected receivables.

Budgeting and forecasting

31. What if scenarios

When the crystal ball isn’t perfectly clear, what-if scenario support allows you to apply changes to revenue and expense drivers and consider the potential financial impact.

32. Versioning & approvals

Is there a bit of back and forth in your budgeting process? Allow for collaboration, approvals, and versioning to create budgets everyone can live with.

33. Sales forecasts

It’s part art and part science. Consider previous performance, weighted trends, seasonal patterns, and market changes to better predict sales revenues.

34. Actual variance reporting

Does “what it is” match up with “what it was supposed to be”? Software that links your budgeting tools and general ledger answers that question.

35. Rolling budgets

Should where you are in a calendar year should determine how far out you’ve budgeted? Adding a new budgeting period at the conclusion of a completed period fixes the total length of budgeting visibility.

Cash management

36. Bank reconciliation

Good software imports bank records in real-time. Better software tries to auto-match bank and accounting records. The best options smoothly handle split payments and other tricky situations.

37. Cash flow analysis and positioning

Are you prepared for upcoming capital events? Do your accounts hold sufficient cash to pay the bills? Is free cash earning optimal interest? Cash flow software supplies the answers.

Fixed assets

38. Multiple depreciation formulas

Is it a necessity for accurate balance sheet valuation and tax optimization to support the right depreciation method? You bet your assets!

General ledger & financial reporting

39. Double entry, accrual accounting

Back to the basics. Support for double-entry, accrual-based accounting is an absolute must for GAAP compliance.

40. Balance sheet

Any accounting software supports balance sheets to report on a business’s financial condition. Some offer more control over presentation and detail.

41. Profit and loss

How’d you do during X period? The profit and loss statement knows. Like the balance sheet, P&L vary in different programs by ease of compilation and visual display.

42. Chart of accounts

Generally, you can choose between pre-defined account codes or importing/defining your own when establishing a chart of accounts. Sorting options and navigation tools differ between programs.

43. Flexible accounting periods

4/4/5, 52/53. If those numbers carry meaning for you, support for flexible accounting periods is likely a baseline qualifier for which software will work for you.

44. Departmental tracking

It slices, it dices, it juliennes! Okay, well maybe not juliennes. But dividing revenues and expenses to departments, locations, and cost center does offer more granular performance visibility.

45. Inter-company transfers

Transactions between commonly-owned businesses quickly multiply the number of required journal entries. Avoid mistakes with automatic posting.

46. Automatic reversing entries

Adjusting and reversing entries are easy opportunities for mistakes. Automation helps move accruals forward without opening the opportunity for human error.

47. Fund accounting

When being accountable is more important than being profitable, there’s fund accounting. Many non-profit and government organizations find it indispensable when working with grants and allocations.

48. Flexible account codes

Length, starting point, format. Make sure your software allows the account coding structure you require.

49. Financial statement consolidations

Merge financials to get a clearer view of the road your business is on.

50. Statistical accounts

The fancy term for it is business intelligence. But many accounting programs have long allowed for the tracking of non-financial data like headcounts and units sold.

Inventory

51. SKU tracking and stock counts

Managing SKUs and stock counts represents the fundamental basis of any inventory control system.

52. Bar-coding or RFID

When you move from carrying a little bit of stock to a lot, inventory scanning technologies like bar-coding and RFID are the ultimate time-savers.

53. Serial number or lot tracking

That’s the one! The ability to recognize not just the type of item, but the specific unit or batch helps with everything from warranty tracking to avoiding unnecessary recall costs.

54. Location tracking & movement history

Location is everything. Well, maybe not everything. But it’s pretty important when you want to find and ship the stuff you sold.

55. Product movement history

Track product movement history to optimize handling performance, dissuade potential thieves, and trace breakage.

56. Price management

Setting pricing on just a handful of products is straightforward. Managing prices on a large number of items with volume or customer-based discounting requires more sophisticated controls.

57. Bill of materials, kitting

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts? Must be because it was assembled from a reliable bill of materials!

58. Stock level alerts

We’re almost out of X, time to reorder! Stock level alerts help avoid shortages, back-orders, and, most importantly, disappointed customers.

59. LIFO, FIFO, average cost options

Finding a program with support for flexible costing isn’t hard, but it is important for minimizing your tax burden.

60. Landed costs

It’s not just the cost of your products and supplies that matters. It’s also the cost to acquire and store them. Landed costs help you understand product profitability more accurately.

61. Unit of measurement conversion

Gallons to pounds. Pallets to cases. Boxes to units. Whatever your conversions are, pre-defining custom calculations prevents an opportunity to introduce manual errors and saves time.

Job costing

62. Estimate vs actual reporting

Did you earn the profit you expected to? Tracking costs against the original estimate lets you see which jobs brought home the bacon.

63. Customizable cost breakdowns

Isolating each individual cost driver in job performance is the first step to reducing costs. Tracking labor, materials, sub-costs, equipment, and other costs improves job profitability visibility.

Payroll

64. Check printing

Employees generally won’t work for free. Ergo: payroll checks. Customizable stubs and batch printing options differentiate your options.

65. Federal W2, 940, 941, 944 forms

Forms, forms, and more forms! Any comprehensive payroll software should be able to create all the forms you need for your payroll tax filing.

66. Tax withholding calculation

Another baseline payroll software capability is automatically calculating withholdings.

67. Benefits deductions

The ability to properly deduct for 401k, insurance, or other employer provided benefits is a critical component of any complete payroll program.

6 8. Canadian payroll tax support

North of the border? Support federal and provincial payroll taxes with Canadian tax tables and forms.

69. State payroll forms

Every state has its own tax rules. But some payroll solutions don’t support every state—or do so only at increased cost.

70. Direct deposit

Do away with lost checks, printing costs, and reconciliation hassles with direct deposit capability.

71. Time and attendance

Does how much employees work affect how much you’re going to pay them? Integrated time tracking features reduce the time associated with hourly-based paychecks.

72. Employee self-service

Knock, knock. It’s another employee checking on their vacation days or benefits again. Give the power to the people and save yourself some time on common payroll questions.

73. Electronic tax filing

Electronic tax filing. Just one more thing you can have your payroll software do for you, so you don’t have to.

74. Prevailing wage and certified payroll

Government contractors often need to submit payroll certification reports to verify compliance with labor standards. More capable payroll programs automate the creation of these reports.

75. Tips, vacation pay, bonuses, commissions

Incentives! They’re great to get employees performing, but a pain for payroll administrators. Ease the burden with custom support features for incentive calculation and application.

Purchasing

76. Purchase orders

Maintain product order histories, avoid duplicate purchases, satisfy supplier requirements, and create a check and balance for outgoing payments by using purchase orders.

77. Purchase requisitions

You can’t just have anybody buying anything wily-nily! Purchase requisitions create workflows demanding proper authorization and approval.

78. Auto-generated PO’s

High demand, high turns, regular supplier? Sounds like a good time to auto-generate PO’s based on inventory thresholds.

79. Vendor management

Keeping up with lead times and consolidating orders to take advantage of discounts are procurement pro maneuvers available to amateurs with the right software.

Security

80. Role-based authentication & user privileges

Lay down the law on who can do what when and under which conditions. Authenticating users and granting privileges as required is a cornerstone of good accounting application security.

81. Audit trails

Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant. Audit trails aren’t bad either. A key to preventing fraud is software that captures all account activity and tags it to the originating user.

82. Encryption

Did you know that storing unencrypted credit card data is a big time no-no? PCI standards forbid it. Protect your customers data and then show off on your website that you’ve done so with fancy logos from compliance orgs.

83. Automatic data back-up

Lots of options these days: disk, cloud, tape. Automatic backup functionality helps turn potential catastrophes into minor annoyances.

84. Locked reporting periods

Protect the past from the future. Lock down and close accounting periods to avoid issues with accounting irregularities.

System

85. Search tools

Capable and efficient search functionality is a hidden time-saver. Find out what fields are searchable when talking to vendors. Give yourself extra credit as a savvy buyer, by asking their existing customers about search speed in a live environment.

86. Import/export

Data migration is about as much fun as a root canal. Forgetting to check on the ease of migrating data with import/export tools is a good way to lose days or even weeks to cumbersome manual data input.

87. Web-based

You can use your web browser for just about anything these days. And, guess what, there are plenty of accounting applications that make use of it too.

88. SaaS

Two propositions for you: 1) Let somebody else handle the software hosting and techy stuff. 2) Lease rather than buy. If that sounds good, check out software as a service (SaaS) options for your next accounting system.

89. Unlimited records

Surprise! Some accounting software options have records or data file size limits. Whether it’s a hard limit or just one that moves you to another price level, it’s something to be aware of.

90. Custom reporting

Your accounting software is a rich source of information about your business. Custom reporting tools let you fish out the info you need. Front end reporting GUIs spare you the pain of authoring your own database query statements.

91. Report templating

Doing the exact same work you’ve already done before. That’s public enemy #1 when it comes to efficient software. Report templates provide the info you need without repetitive effort.

92. Multi-currency

Doing business overseas? The ability to store multiple currencies and move between them is a functionality you’ll definitely want access to.

93. Integration

So many opportunities for integration needs! APIs can connect CRM, POS, HR, manufacturing, project management, and many other types of software to your core accounting system.

94. Mobile apps

If you do business when you’re away from your main business workstation, you may want to ask yourself: Does your accounting software?

95. Approvals management

Configurable workflows and approvals let you manage and authorize processes across a range of financial activities.

96. Keyboard shortcuts

Every time you reach for your mouse unnecessarily a kitten dies. Ok, maybe not. But you do get less efficient. For repetitive tasks, shortcuts cut the time and labor costs.

97. Multi-user

Expect to set up individual accounts for multiple users? Expect to pay for multiple user licenses.

98. Multi-entity

One is supposed to be the loneliest number. But accounting software solutions that only support one company entity have plenty of company.

99. Graphical management dashboards

1000/1. Last I heard, it’s still the going rate when exchanging words for pictures. Quickly share KPI data with top decision makers via graphical management dashboards.

100. Configurable alerts

If a tree falls and nobody hears it, it still definitely makes a sound. Make sure you’re tuned in and listening for critical business events with conditional alerting.

Dive deeper

Hey, you’re still here! 100 accounting software features later and still reading. You are a true accounting software glutton for punishment, aren’t you? Impressive!

For even more info on features and functionality, continue reading our software application guides:

Have an indispensable feature we didn’t include on the list you’re burning to share? Have other questions or comments? Send us a tweet at @FindMySoftware.

Adam Bluemner

is a Managing Editor at Find Accounting Software. He's been helping software buyers make informed investments in business software for over a decade.

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