Here's how to use Sage Instant Accounts to manage your business accounts, from tracking customers, invoicing and supplier tasks. 

For the following workshop you will need: Sage Instant Accounts 16. Read our Sage Instant Accounts review.

Ever since spreadsheet software VisiCalc became popular in the late 1970s, PCs have been a vital tool for human number-crunchers needing to keep track of their accounts. Millions of us now rely on accounting packages to complete our tax returns or keep track of our income and expenditure.

Sage produces a wide range of products, many of which are targeted at large businesses. Its Instant Accounts 16 is ideal for small businesses that want to automate their bookkeeping, however. As well as being up-to-date with current legislation, it helps you manage money, customers, suppliers and invoicing.

As an entry-level application, Instant Accounts aims to make managing your finances as simple as possible. It provides an easy-to-use setup wizard and basic templates for organising your books and collecting data.

With Instant Accounts, you can view all your accounts at a glance, seeing how much money is coming in and going out, and any invoices that need following up. If you've never raised an invoice before, step-by-step guides walk you through the process.

The dashboard interface makes it easy to find and locate information. You can see your best customers, your main suppliers and where you need to take action to manage debts. Reports are available to help you sort and filter information at varying levels.

Over the following workshop, we'll use Instant Accounts to track customers, invoicing and supplier tasks. This HM Revenue and Customs-accredited product also provides the necessary tools to keep on top of your VAT.

We'll show you how to set up your accounts using the program, as well as where you need to go to perform essential tasks. By organising all your key business information using Instant Accounts, you can access data in a way that is useful for presenting to your bank manager or investors.

Getting started with Sage Instant Accounts 16

Step 1. When you install Instant Accounts and elect to work on your own accounts, the ActiveSetup wizard guides you through registration. You'll be prompted for the company type and address, the financial year, your VAT number and the currency in use. You can also experiment with the sample data mode.

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Step 2. Sage will now set up data files and launch Instant Accounts. The default interface displays tips for getting started in the main panel. On the left of this panel is a series of modules that control most of the features you need to handle your accounts. As you click on each module, a list of operations appears.

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Here's how to use Sage Instant Accounts to manage your business accounts, from tracking customers, invoicing and supplier tasks.

Step 3. Set up a Chart of Accounts (COA) for creating profit, loss and balance-sheet reports. Sage Instant Accounts offers several types of COA based on the company type. Typically, it will consist of income, expenses, overheads, assets and liabilities. To set up a COA, click Company, COA, Edit.

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Step 4. Transactions that you make during the year are put into a nominal ledger account. This is displayed when you click Company and select Record. In the window that appears, you may enter budgeted figures and actual amounts under each category, such as sales, rent, rates and utilities.

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Step 5. Next you need to set up your bank details by clicking Bank on the left side of the screen. Bank accounts are nominal records, but should be entered here so that Instant Accounts can handle them more efficiently. You can either enter accounts into a blank record or you can use the Bank Record wizard to guide you.

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Step 6. Finally, enter your customer, supplier and product details by clicking the Customers, Suppliers or Products links on the left and then choosing the New Customer, Supplier or Product links that appear in the Tasks menu. You'll then be prompted to enter more detailed information in each case.

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Here's how to use Sage Instant Accounts to manage your business accounts, from tracking customers, invoicing and supplier tasks.

Accounting tasks in Sage Instant Accounts 16

Step 1. Sage Instant Accounts can be used for checking individual customers' credit. Double-click a customer record and select the Credit Control tab in the window that appears. Any displayed in red are over their credit limit. You can set target levels to ensure you're notified when this happens.

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Step 2. Click New Quotation to create a quote for an order. Individual quotations can have discounts or late-payment charges on them. You can also link invoices to items in the Product Invoice window. To send an invoice to a customer via email or mail, go to Customers, Invoice List, select the invoice and click Update.

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Step 3. As well as tracking money owed to you, Sage tracks what you owe to suppliers. To record invoices from suppliers, click Supplier and choose Batch Invoice. Enter each item on a separate line to make it easier to later identify what the invoice was for and to track your expenditure efficiently. Click Save when you've finished.

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Step 4. Your accounts must record money going out. To make a payment to a supplier, select Supplier and choose Make Payment from the Tasks menu. Select the supplier from the Supplier Payment window, add a bank account to pay from, then use the wizard to specify whether to pay by cheque or on account.

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Here's how to use Sage Instant Accounts to manage your business accounts, from tracking customers, invoicing and supplier tasks.

Step 5. Instant Accounts Plus lets you run an automated stocktake. In the package we're using here, you can simply record product details. Click the Product module and enter details for your item records. These might include unit costs and sale prices, descriptions of the item and any categories to which it belongs.

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Step 6. You can also perform various banking tasks. To record payments, click Bank, Tasks, Receive Payment and select the appropriate customer account from the Customer details list. You can also reconcile your accounts with your bank statement to ensure the correct amounts are being recorded at either end.

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Step 7. Sage provides a range of reports to provide at-a-glance feedback on the state of your business. Each module has its own Report link, accessed in the Links window above the module tab. The Report Browser includes lots of preset reports providing information on your customers, suppliers and other accounts.

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Step 8. Alternatively, you can create your own reports. Go to Start, Programs, Sage Accounts, Sage 50 Report Designer. Launch the program and opt to create a new report. Select the type of report you wish to create, and the data from your accounts will be filtered accordingly.

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