We’ve reviewed Patriot Software’s payroll processing website for several years. The company also has an integrated small business accounting service that we looked at for the first time this year. Patriot Software Accounting Premium lacks some of the features offered by competitors in this group, but it’s less expensive—by quite a bit in some cases. It supports customer, vendor, and product records, invoices and estimates, management of imported transactions, bill-tracking, and reports. The user experience is simple, clean, and understandable, both on desktop and on a mobile browser. The site incorporates some back-end accounting conventions that competitors tend to shun (like period closes and journal entries), but these aren’t mandatory. Finally, support is plentiful and useful.
The best small business accounting websites incorporate more tools and functionality, but Patriot Software Accounting Premium offers enough to accommodate many small businesses, even those with employees. It has a ways to go to compete seriously with our Editors’ Choices for 2022, Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus and Zoho Books Premium, but there’s a place for it in today’s still-competitive field of accounting applications.
How Much Does Patriot Software Accounting Cost?
At $30 per month, Patriot Software Accounting Premium is the least expensive application when measured up against the comparable Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus, Zoho Books Premium, Xero Established, and Sage 50cloud Accounting.
The Basic version, which lacks some tools like account reconciliation and automatic payment reminders, is $20 per month. There’s no charge for additional users. This review looks at the Premium version specifically.
Is Patriot Software Accounting Safe to Use?
Patriot Software protects your data the exact same way that the company protects its own critical data. Patriot Software also adheres to all required federal privacy, anti-fraud, and security laws. The company participates in outside audits and scrutiny by expert specialists. It bonds its employees after putting them through reference checks, background checks, drug screenings, and skill/aptitude testing.
How Do You Get Started With Patriot Software?
After you create an account, you can either proceed with the site’s default settings or customize them for your company. If you choose the latter, you can modify the Chart of Accounts, specify accounts for incoming payments, and enter your beginning balance date. The app also asks you to supply a trial balance, which is a report that displays your general ledger account balances in two columns, debits and credits. Competitors don’t go into such back-end accounting details.
New users should at least visit the settings before starting to enter data. From here you can link to screens that allow you to, for example, work with transaction rules and settings, customize form templates, and enter sales tax rates.
Part of the setup involves connecting your bank accounts and credit cards to Patriot. It works the same way as it does with other accounting services. You enter your online username and password for your accounts and submit to multi-factor authentication security requirements, and the site imports a user-defined range of recently cleared transactions, up to two years.
Simple and Spacious
Patriot Software Accounting’s user interface is simple and spacious. It’s attractive, especially if you like the company’s signature purple, and intuitive to use. It’s laid out in a way that often doesn’t require any scrolling. The pages where you spend the most time actually doing accounting aren’t cramped or difficult to read. The simplicity and orderliness may ease some of the anxiety that novices tend to feel when doing accounting.
Navigation is effortless. A toolbar on the left divides the site into its primary financial elements, like Overview, Invoices, Products & Services, and Reports. Patriot’s accounting application uses the same login and interface as Patriot Payroll, and some of your actions may cause the toolbar that’s shared between them to show items related to Payroll. You only have to click Accounting to get back to the other toolbar.
Many of the toolbar links open to list views of data, like Estimates and Vendors. These pages have additional links at the top that take you to related actions. Click Customers, for example, and you get links to add a new customer, import your own list of customers, and download a spreadsheet of customers. Once you get into areas that require data entry, you use standard conventions like typing information in fields, selecting options from drop-down lists, and clicking buttons.
The user experience is not as elegant and polished as what you get from Intuit QuickBooks Online, but it’s equally easy to find your way around. Maybe more so, considering that QuickBooks’ new navigation toolbar can be confusing at first.
Patriot’s Overview page is similar to what you’d expect to find in an accounting application’s dashboard. (Patriot’s actual Dashboard is instead a page with links to places where you manage users, create invoices, receive payment, and enter and pay bills.) The Overview has buttons at the top for common tasks, such as Add Customer and Add Product.
Below that is a series of tables nested in tabs. The first lists all your account balances, not just bank and credit card accounts like competitors show, but all your account types from the Chart of Accounts: Assets, Liabilities, Equity, Income, and Expenses.
Click the Receivables Invoice tab to see the most recent invoices and those that are unpaid. The Paid Bills tab opens a list of the most recent bills you’ve. I’d like to see a few charts and graphs here, however, like the ones competitors have on their dashboards, such as Profit & Loss or Income vs. Expenses. The right vertical pane displays a link to Patriot Software’s Quick Guide (a series of how-tos for basic tasks) and more messages from the company.
How Do You Add Customers and Vendors?
Patriot Software Accounting lets you import customer data from .XLS, .XLSX, and .CSV files and both instructions on the page and a link to a help article walk you through the process. It’s not difficult because the customer records contain minimal fields, just business and contact names, address, email, and phone number. You can add notes and select default terms if you like. Once you save a record, you can set up automatic payment reminders that will go out between one and 21 days past due.
The site uses mail merge tools in its default email template. You choose the data tags that need to be replaced with your own data, like Customer Name, Invoice Number, Invoice Amount, and Days Past Due. I haven’t seen this kind of email message customization in other small business accounting applications.
(Credit: Patriot Software)
Vendor records are more complicated. Besides contact information and default expense account, you need to specify the vendor’s 1099 type, like non-employee compensation, non-1099 payment (probably the most common if you’re just paying bills), medical and health care payments, or royalties. Patriot Software can prepare your 1099s, but it comes with additional fees. There’s a field for an identification number (EIN or SSN/ITIN) and for a default check memo. And you can select the vendor’s business entity type, such as individual/sole proprietor or S Corporation.
(Credit: Patriot Software)
Once you create records for customers and vendors, Patriot builds a home page for each contact. Customer information and additional details are front and center with additional details such as invoices, payments, attachments, and credits (for customers) tucked away into tabs. Vendor lists include payments and 1099 reports.
Product and Service Records
Patriot Software Accounting doesn’t track inventory or allow you to specify cost and sale prices, like competitors do, but you can create product and service records to use in transactions like invoices. The records can contain a description and a default price per hour, per job, per pound for product sold by weight, and more. The number of options here is unusual. You can indicate whether the item is subject to sales tax and select the Income Account.
If you connect your banks to your Patriot account and import transactions, they appear in a register when you click Manage Imported Transactions. The first column in the table shows each transaction’s date and bank account of origin. The second has a description that comes from your bank; usually it’s the vendor’s name for the transaction, but sometimes it’s an odd combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. You can edit them.
The third column in the table is labeled Post to Account—this is an example of Patriot using slightly obscure accounting language that other accounting software avoids. In any other application, the column would probably be called Category, meaning spending category, such as travel or meals and entertainment.
At the end of each row in the table is a gear icon that opens a list of options for the transaction, like Assign to Vendor/Department, Split Transaction, and Dismiss Transaction. You can also click on any transaction to open a window where you can edit it.
(Credit: Patriot Software)
Patriot will have guessed at which account to assign, and you can edit them if they’re wrong. AI helps the app learn from your changes so that it makes more correct guesses in the future. You can also set up rules for assigning transactions to accounts. For example, if a transaction includes [Description text], then always post it to [X Account]. You can also assign it to a Department. Other accounting software works the same way.
You can’t enter transactions manually in the account register because it only contains imported transactions. Most competitors generally let you do this, however. Rather in Patriot, you have to go to the toolbar and select Deposit/Withdrawal or Record Past Payments to enter a transaction manually. The site also uses more traditional tools for account reconciliation.
Do You Have to Understand Accounting to Use Patriot?
Patriot supports some accounting concepts that usually occur in the background (or not at all) in small business accounting applications. One is accounting journal entries(Opens in a new window). Usually you can avoid them, or at least let your accountant enter them if they’re needed. You can turn off debit and credit language in the journal, but you still have to understand the concept of increasing and decreasing account amounts for journal entries, a process that is not intuitive.
You can also close your accounting periods(Opens in a new window) (another accounting concept that is usually reserved for midrange and high-end accounting software) in Patriot, which means you can no longer enter transactions for that date range. This part, at least, is totally optional.
Creating Invoices and Estimates
Invoice and estimate templates are as thorough as those of some competitors, though they lack QuickBooks Online’s more flexible customization options and Zoho Books’ custom fields. They’re standard fare. You select a customer from a drop-down list and verify or edit the invoice number, date, terms, and department. You can also add a reference number.
Then you select products and/or services from a drop-down list and enter the quantity, select an account, and indicate where each line item should include sales tax or a discount, both of which you can create from within an active invoice. You can add comments, notes, and attachments and save a draft copy or create the invoice. If you want to store documents and receipts that you’ve uploaded, you can do so on a separate page.
(Credit: Patriot Software)
Some customization is possible. You can choose from three template styles, change the color, and add a logo. You can also use the mail merge tools described earlier to modify the email that goes out with your invoices.
Estimates are created and managed in a similar fashion, except that there’s a field for Expiration Date and a box for Project Description.
How Do Customers Pay Invoices?
Patriot Software offers integrated merchant accounts through Clover Connect, which allows you to accept online payments from customers. Next-day funding is available, and there are no setup or annual fees. A link labeled Receive Payment on the Overview page takes you to the payment screen. A link to Apply Payment also appears in the Action menu at the end of the row on the Invoices screen.
The payment page that opens displays all the invoices from that customer with their outstanding amounts at the bottom. Above that are fields where you can select Payment Type (check, credit, ACH, and so on), Deposit Account, Payment Received, and Date. You can either enter partial payments or pay invoices in full.
What About Bills?
You can’t pay bills through Patriot Software Accounting Premium like you can through Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus. You also can’t have documents such as bills (and invoices and receipts) sent to a unique email address or otherwise imported into the application, like some competitors allow.
Patriot, however, does have separate places for entering bills and recording bill payments. You must enter the vendor name, payment type, bill date and due date, account, 1099 type, and amount. Bill and purchase order number and department are optional. Once you complete a bill, the app asks you to approve it. After that, you can print a vendor check. If you’ve paid with a credit/debit card, ACH payment, or cash, you can indicate it in the payment type field.
Some Reports, Mobile Access Via Browser
Patriot Software Accounting Premium displays both its accounting and payroll reports on the same page. You get 21 accounting reports, fewer than what’s offered by some competitors. Reports are divided into several categories: Customer, Vendor, Financial (complex standard reports that accountants generally run and analyze), 1099 Contractors, and 1099 Contractor Forms. Customization is minimal but some reports, like Accounts Receivable Aging, include a chart. You can’t drill down on report data to get to the underlying transactions, nor can you export them to an external format like .XLS.
(Credit: Patriot Software)
Patriot doesn’t have a companion mobile app for its accounting solutions, but you can sign in on a mobile browser. It looks and works just like the desktop version, except that the navigation bar is collapsible. Links to help resources are all there, and every page has a log out link at the top so you don’t have to search the site when you want to leave. Even though there are no downloadable apps, Patriot has done a beautiful job with mobile access. One shortcoming, however, is you can’t snap a picture of a receipt and have the application read it. Minus that one point, it’s the best mobile access overall of all the accounting application apps I’ve reviewed.
(Credit: Patriot Software)
Should You Subscribe to Patriot Software?
Patriot Software Accounting Premium might be a good choice if you don’t need to track inventory or time and you’re satisfied with simple customer and vendor records. It only supports one vendor for merchant accounts, and reports could use more customization and export capabilities. But its user interface is about as simple and understandable as they come, and its price is affordable. It’s a good accounting website for beginners who don’t plan to grow much, as long as they can overlook some of the more advanced accounting terminology that’s sprinkled into the app. Integration with Patriot Software’s payroll site is a definite plus.
The site lacks the data depth, customizability, and strong feature set offered by our Editors’ Choice winners, Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus and Zoho Books Premium. Both have more advanced versions that brush up against midrange accounting applications, as well as simpler versions for less demanding users. The small business accounting solution market is still crowded and competitive, but these two clearly come out on top.
Patriot Software Accounting
The Bottom Line
Because of its affordability, simplicity, and robust support options, Patriot Software Accounting could appeal to startups and small businesses whose accounting employees are beginners. Exceptional mobile access and integration with Patriot Software’s payroll application are plusses.
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