Converting QuickBooks to SAGE

It seems that accounting packages are better at importing data than they are at exporting data in a generally usable form.  Which is unfortunate since I use QuickBooks and my accountant uses SAGE.

To make life easier for my accountant when doing my annual return, I wrote some Perl scripts to convert the little that QuickBooks exports as files plus, via Excel, the data from a non-standard transaction report into what SAGE imports.  The account balances on the two packages now all match (though at one point yesterday, account balances in one were -2 times the balances in the other).

I am expecting that the accountant will find few enough things to correct that I won’t have to automate conversion in the other direction.

Impressed by Letterpress

It was interesting to learn about letterpress printing at the National Print Museum workshop by printing a letterhead based on the letterhead I produce on the computer.   I had fun; doing the 36pt “Menteith” was a doddle; the instructor, Con, was great, and very helpful when it came to letterspacing “CONSULTING”; but, boy, 8pt text takes a long time when done by hand, especially when you don’t know the layout of letters in the case. Continue reading

Cost of VAT

VAT in Ireland is a mere 21%.

Then there’s the cost to process it and keep track of it. No doubt large companies have large systems to do all that, and large rooms in which to keep six years of receipts in case the VAT inspectors come avisiting. I don’t. I wouldn’t even say I have a large room in which to keep myself.

VAT has no doubt added to the cost of any accounting software I would buy. It has also cost me an accountant, since my first accountant inexplicably didn’t submit the signed VAT registration form on my behalf and, even more inexplicably, didn’t respond when asked about why there was no record of a VAT registration request for the company.

VAT is still costing me time and money, and it’s costing a company in Germany time and money. My new accountant did submit a new form (thanks, Pat!), and I was told nearly two weeks ago that the company had a VAT number. On the strength of that, I ordered a computer from Hush Technologies (http://www.hushtest.de/hushshop/shop/index.html). I’d been waiting since October, when I signed the first VAT registration form, to have a VAT number so I could buy the computer without paying VAT: the VAT isn’t charged across borders when the buyer is registered for VAT.

Registered doesn’t always mean registered. It turned out that the company didn’t show up in a search on the VIES VAT Number Validation form at http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/en/vieshome.htm so the Hush people couldn’t sell the computer to me without VAT. Working backwards, I found that the VIES people in Ireland had no record of the company’s registration, then I found that my local Revenue office still had the the application marked as “applicant” and it would probably be made “approved” either last Friday or yesterday. I was pushing my luck trying to get an explanation of when it would become “approved”, and I never got an explanation of what had to happen for it to be approved (or why I’d been told a week before that it was approved).

While all this was going on, the Hush people were also repeatedly checking the VIES site, their CEO took it upon himself to follow up on this, and I just got a phone call from the long-suffering Ivonne in their sales department asking for something, anything to show that the company is registered for VAT.

Needless to say, the company still doesn’t show up in a VIES search, and I’m about to call the Revenue office yet again to find out if the company is yet in a state of approval.

Efficiency, banking-style

A mere two months, multiple forms, one reminder to the bank manager, and a personal guarantee later, I yesterday received the credit card that I asked for when opening the bank account.

A mere day later, I received the credit card statement showing I’d been charged the annual fee for the card before I’d even received it.

A mere phone call, one warning that I was being recorded for “training porpoises”, two times on hold, and two conversations later, I now have the charge cancelled since, as a ’startup’ customer, I shouldn’t have been charged it in the first place.

Sport of any kind…

I received the Terms and Conditions for business travel insurance today. Glancing through it, I saw a large paragraph listing the excluded sports.

However, in the paragraph that started “taking part in abseiling, American football, big game hunting…” and ended “…white water rafting or white water canoeing or wrestling” was the text “sport of any kind”!!! Why not just put “sport of any kind” instead of 16 lines of names and types of sports?

Okay, I am simplifiying things. Also tucked away in that 16-line paragraph of sports is “manual work”.

It’s a good thing that reading T&Cs isn’t classified as a sport (or is it?), otherwise if I did it while travelling and injured myself by falling about laughing, I would not be covered.

A good bank is hard to find

In Ireland, you can’t open a company bank account until you have your original Certificate of Incorporation (and getting that took far longer than I ever thought possible). Once you have that, you then need to persuade a bank to let you open a company bank account with them. Even when you’re not asking for either a loan or an overdraft, you still need to chat with the bank manager before they’ll let you put your money in their bank.

I tried AIB first, but they wouldn’t let me get to the chat stage until I filled out their multi-page form and provided my business plan. All I want at this point is a place to lodge a cheque and to transfer in money so the company can set itself up, so there’s no meeting of the minds on the need for them to see my business plan, and since my business plan is still in the draft stage, there’ll also be no meeting of the bodies for a while yet either.

So I went to the next street over and tried Bank of Ireland. I thought I was onto a good thing when the bank manager agreed to meet me without first asking for my business plan, so we made an appointment to chat the next day. Unfortunately, I said 3:00 PM and the bank manager put 1:30 PM in his diary, so I ended up spending 50 minutes waiting in the bank lobby for the bank manager to be free. I left without seeing him once I’d finished reading the application form, the terms and conditions, and all the business account marketing fluff that I could find..

Did I mention the forms? Multi-page forms wanting to know everything about the company and everybody associated with it. They don’t, quite, want to know how many dental fillings you have, but they do, for example, want to know how many dependent children you have. It’s more information than you would have to provide if you were applying for a job, and if you were applying for a job, it would be discrimination if they based their selection on the sorts of information they’re asking for just to open a bank account.

Reading the terms and conditions is always fun, though harrowing. I was expecting to see “Overdrafts are repayable on demand.”, and I’ve read enough T&Cs to come to expect something like “The Bank may at any time, without notice to the Customer, set off and apply the credit balance in any current account toward payment of the debit balance on any other current account.” but I was surprised by the total, and I mean total, lack of comeback “Where the Customer authorises the Bank to act on instructions received by telephone, fax, or any electronic system used by the Bank and capable of receiving instructions”. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not you instructed the bank that it should or should not accept such instructions, whether there’s any possibility that it could be a forgery, or even if it’s just a scratchy telephone connection, it seems the bank can do whatever it sees fit and you’ve agreed to pay the bank’s costs for doing it.

The other eye-opener, or eye-waterer, is the schedule of fees and charges. On top of the fee just for the bank account to exist, there’s seemingly a separate fee for every possible interaction with the bank, and just in case there’s some possible interaction that they didn’t think to slap a charge on, there’s a per-hour Account Administration Service Charge for “a service for which there is no standard charge, or else the nature of the request is such that it would incur exceptional workload.” If you’re lucky, they might even tell you about it before they’re going to charge you it, but they seemingly don’t have to.

After the temporal dislocation at Bank of Ireland, I then went down the street to the National Irish Bank. They were kind and courteous, and wanted to photocopy everything in sight. There wasn’t time for me to talk to the bank manager that day, but nor did they hit me with their version of the form that day. I was to receive a call from the bank manager, but it’s now over a day later, and I haven’t heard anything.