The best tools to automate expenses

Receipt process app reviews
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Tom Herbert
Business editor
AccountingWEB
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Capturing and tracking expenses to keeping a handle on the financial pulse of a business has been the focus of a wave of technology innovation.

Web-based tools give finance departments a platform to simplify data entry, bypass spreadsheets and capture receipts remotely into the accounting system. Adoption rates for expenses management tools have climbed steadily over the past few years. And though some clear leaders have emerged in corporate and small business sectors, new entrants appear on a regular basis to take on established players in a market that continues to expand.

To keep pace with these developments, the we're reviewed a number of expense management apps. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if you have an expenses management tool you would like to review, feel free to leave a comment below.

This article originally appeared on BusinessZone's sister site AccountingWeb.

Concur

Now part of SAP, Concur remains one of the biggest players in the expense management market. As a result, the developer serves up a slick, well-polished app that does the basics of travel and expense management well, while offering superior management and admin facilities.

For employee expenses, Concur is easy to understand and use with just a little training needed to submit claims. Capturing receipts is done in app via the smartphone’s camera. Unlike some newer apps, Concur lacks an optical character recognition (OCR) facility, so employees need to fill in a number of tabs (amount, type, location) before the claim is complete.

As can happen with more powerful tools, Concur can pose a challenge when integrating with accounting systems, and several reviews mention difficulties when it comes to adding custom fields. Fees are based on the management modules, which vary according to company size and user volumes, with an average rate from reviews coming out £5 per user per month. The smartphone app itself is a free download.

Webexpenses

Webexpenses was launched in 2000, by three colleagues working in the finance sector of a major international corporation, and in recent years it's been one of the UK’s fastest growing companies.

The latest version of its app, version 4.3, enables users to record their expense items as and when they are incurred using a smartphone. New features ensure claims stay within policy and mileage is accurately verified with its GPS map function.

Online reviews reveal it’s a great little app, but that a default category would be a nice addition for future versions.

Pricing is based on the number of users submitting expenses a month and the features your organisation requires. As an outline: 10-50 users from £84 per month, 50-500 users from £300 per month, and 500+ users from £1,500 per month.

The latest app is currently available on iOS and Android and it's coming soon for Windows.

Kagazz

Kagazz is an expenses management app for iOS and Android. This strangely-named app is still a minnow in the expenses management market, but to its credit it works intuitively well. Its user interface is also minimal and uncluttered.

Kagazz makes it easy for the less technologically adept - that is, it’s easy once you’ve downloaded and set the app up on your phone. The initial set-up was bit of a rigmarole - it wasn’t extremely difficult but it did take a little time. Herding all employees into downloading and setting up the app could pose a challenge to companies rolling it out to a large group of users.

The app has a built-in OCR system. You allow the app access to your camera and then capture the receipt data with a click of a button. 

When Kagazz started in 2014, it only integrated with FreeAgent and FreshBooks, but has expanded to offer integrations with Xero, Kashflow, Saasu, and Clearbooks.

There is a wide array of pricing plans, structured from freelancers and contractors up to companies and accountants. The company offers managed and DIY solutions: In the managed solution expense data is scanned, uploaded, extracted and input by Kagazz; whereas in the DIY version you need to manage your receipts yourself.

From a few test uses, Kagazz was mostly accurate. When a coding error did show up (a postage receipt listed as "car expenses"), it proved somewhat difficult to correct in the authorisation system.

For a single user, the price starts at £3.60 per month, with a limit of 100 uploads. For companies, the price plans go by user limit. Integration with the user firm’s accounting software comes as standard and, obviously, mobile app and online portal access.

ExpenseMagic

The wand in the ExpenseMagic logo suggests some sort of trick - which in this context boils down to smartphone data capture.

Just photograph your receipt via the app, and this information will be scanned through to ExpenseMagic bookkeepers, who input the receipt information. From this information, the bookkeepers create a monthly spreadsheet/PDF expenses report. You can also schedule a specific date for when the monthly report is emailed. Previous expense reports are stocked in the reports tab and remain available to view.

You can also view any of your previous reports in the reports tab. The tab beside the centre camera option in the app allows you to automatically forward your expense information – the options feature Xero, FreeAgent, Evernote, Dropbox, OfficeDrop and FreshBooks.  

The app was easy to download and set up. You allow the app to access your camera and photographs and you’re ready to snap your receipts.

It also placates any fears that your receipt information has been sent out into the ether by tracking its progress beside your submitted receipt. The bookkeeper service aims to process all receipts within one business day, although most are processed within a few hours.

ExpenseMagic works with HSBC-accredited Business Processing Partners (BPO) in India.

The iPhone app is available for free on the app store and comes with a 30-day trial. Once the trial expires, the bookkeeper services are priced from £10.49 for 30 days unlimited bookkeeping to one year’s subscription at £54.99.

Expensify

San Francisco-based Expensify launched in 2009 with the tagline “expense reports that don't suck”. A bold statement, but does the app live up to it?

Expensify proved simple to set-up and use, and easily captured receipt pictures via a simple interface on the smartphone.

Using the developer's SmartScan technology, the Expensify app automatically pulls details from receipts, minimising manual data entry time. Although some online reviews criticised the effectiveness of this feature, this reviewer found no problems with it. There is also a handy mileage calculator, complete with Google mapping, for travel expenses.

The reporting function is straightforward, with the ability to customise many of the features. The company gets good ratings from users for its flexibility when syncing with different accounting software, with Expensify building customised templates that allow for instant uploading.

The company’s customer service receives mixed reviews; while some commentators evangelical about their positive experiences, others expressed extreme frustration about a lack of response to their issues.

Expensify offers team, corporate or enterprise packages. The team offering starts at US$5 (£3.40) per active user per month, the corporate starts at US$9 (£6.14) per user per month, while the enterprise package requires a quote.

Receipt Bank

Receipt Bank now positions itself as a bookkeeping automation and management platform, but it attained this lofty position by being extremely good at capturing transaction data at the sharp end, where business expenses are incurred and receipts issued.

Focusing specifically on integrating as a mobile add-on for cloud accounting systems (rather than larger, corporate accounting and ERP systems), Receipt Bank adopted smartphone photography and optical character recognition early to enable users to take a picture of their receipts and get the data they contained fed back into their accounts system.

Receipt Bank is also notable for supporting a wide range of systems, including FreeAgent, Sage One and Clear Books as well as the more usual suspects, Xero and QuickBooks Online.

The system is not entirely automated, as the Receipt Bank team does some verification work in the background, but that means the data quality is good - and fewer headaches for the end-user. From those beginnings, Receipt Bank now caters for almost any sort of transaction, so you and your suppliers can email invoices to a Receipt Bank processing address to capture all your payables.

For accountants and bookkeepers, there is a module that simplifies transaction coding, plus a separate Practice Platform based around a dashboard that benchmarks client performance and tells the accountant where work needs to be done. Time and again, Receipt Bank users and AccountingWEB members have testified about the huge amounts of time and money the program saves them and their clients.

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