What is the best business expense-tracking tool? Is an accountant better or can Turbo Tax be just as effective when starting off with a limited budget?



There are several factors that you need to consider before deciding whether to purchase an accounting software package or to hire an accountant to help keep track of your business transactions. The size and the nature of your business will help determine the level of accounting expertise you will need for reporting and for tax-filing purposes.

If you are a sole proprietor, dealing primarily with simple and infrequent transactions, Excel will probably be sufficient in helping you keep track of your business income and related expenses.

If your business has a payroll component or is a non-profit entity, it would be beneficial for you to use more sophisticated accounting software. There are various commercial accounting software programs available, including QuickBooks by Intuit, Sage 50 (formerly Sage Peachtree) and Dynamic GP by Microsoft. These accounting software packages are relatively easy to use, but you will want to spend some time getting acquainted with the various features and functions available.

Another factor you should consider is your proficiency in accounting. Your proficiency level will help determine if you need to hire an accountant to manage your transactions. There are various ways, including referrals, to find an accountant to help with your business. The Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants ( has a resource page that would help you find an accountant who may fit the needs of your business.

Lawrence Chui, PhD, CPA, Department of Accounting, University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business