Bench bookkeeping is an online service that manages bookkeeping and accounting activities for businesses. Through the synergy of online accounting software and an experienced team of in-house bookkeepers, Bench will keep your books balanced, clean, and ready for tax season.
This Bench bookkeeping review will help you understand how Bench differs from the other virtual bookkeeping services, like Quickbooks Live.
You’ll also learn about the problems Bench addresses, which features they are best known for, their plans and pricing, all about their integrations and add-on services, and where they fall short.
What Is Bench?
Bench is the largest online bookkeeping service in the United States for small businesses. They launched in 2013 as an affordable bookkeeping option for businesses that can’t afford dedicated in-house bookkeepers, but who need and want to understand their financial position.
As one of the 30 fastest growing tech companies in North America according to DeLoitte, Bench has proven its ability to simplify business bookkeeping.
Bench accomplishes its goal of making “understanding finances simple, effortless, and affordable for everyone” with the automation of proprietary bookkeeping software, and a team of over 100 full-time bookkeepers are available to reconcile accounts and answer client questions.
The bookkeeping team is what makes Bench different from automated online bookkeeping software.
With Quickbooks, users have to log in, set up, and manage their own accounts – Bench bookkeepers will do this for you.
How Bench Works
When you sign up with Bench, the company will assign a dedicated bookkeeper to your business. Over a phone call, your bookkeeper will ask questions about you and your business.
This helps the bookkeeper understand how to categorize your transactions and customize your account to your industry in a way that will make taxes a lot easier to process, and financial statements a lot easier to understand.
During this call, your bookkeeper will also link your bank accounts, merchant accounts, and credit card accounts with the Bench bookkeeping software. This ensures that each transaction is automatically imported and tracked by the Bench software.
In terms of safety, Bench uses bank-grade security and 256-bit encryption to protect your data and personal information.
Sometimes, you’ll need to show bills and receipts to Bench. Rather than physically mailing them to Bench’s Vancouver headquarters, you can use their receipt scanning app, which will upload them directly to your account.
Every month, your bookkeeper will send you financials including an Income Statement and Balance Sheet. You will also receive visual reports that detail your revenue, expenses, and historical performance.
You have access to your financial reports and transaction data on your account dashboard, but you never have to log in, if you don’t want to.
While Bench doesn’t actually file your taxes, it will put together a Year End Financial Package that includes everything your accountant will need.
This package will include all of your financial statements and expenses, and is sent to you as an email attachment which can be forwarded to your accountant or CPA. Furthermore, your accountant will be granted access to you Bench accounting software and your bookkeeper, should they have any questions.
Whenever you have questions for your bookkeeper, you can get in touch by booking a call, or sending a message through the Bench mobile app on iOS, or the mobile browser on Android.
Problems That Bench Addresses
1. Inaccurate Bookkeeping
Most business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have the financial literacy to accurately manage their own books, which can lead to a misrepresented financial position, as well as costly sessions with a CPA at tax season.
The auto-sync with user bank accounts ensures that no transactions are missed, and the bookkeeper ensures that each transaction is accurately categorized.
2. Time-Consuming Bookkeeping
Your dedicated bookkeeper for your business will handle the time-consuming aspects of bookkeeping for you.
While much of the tedious aspects of bookkeeping are eliminated by the software, the bookkeeper will manually reconcile your accounts and categorize your transactions. As the business owner, you don’t have to spend time on any of it.
3. Expensive Bookkeeping
According to salary.com, the median annual cost of an in-house bookkeeper is over $40k. For many small businesses and startups, this salary falls far outside of their budget.
Bench offers most of the features of an in-house bookkeeper at a price that is based on your business’s monthly expenses. This basically means that what you’ll pay to Bench is more proportionate to what your business can afford.
If you want to compare Bench’s prices with other virtual bookkeeping services, check out our guide on bookkeeping pricing packages.
Bench Bookkeeping Features
Bench aims to give business owners more time to focus on what they care about, and less time crunching numbers. Here, we’ll take a look at the distinctive features of Bench’s service that enable effective online bookkeeping.
Bench uses a proprietary software that is user friendly, even for those that are not computer savvy or financially literate. It has an intuitive layout and delivers financial information in easy-to-understand charts and visuals.
Notably, monthly and yearly income comparisons are visualized on a line graph, and the top ten expenses from each month are always displayed on the home page.
Two of the most useful general purpose financial statements – the income statement and balance sheet – have their own dedicated tabs.
Transactions can be searched for via keyword or date. Each transaction can be flagged and labeled by you, or by your bookkeeper if it needs clarification.
Essentially, Bench has distilled its bookkeeping platform into at-a-glance summaries. The data in the bookkeeping software is pulled in read-only format from your bank, credit, and merchant accounts.
Users should note that because Bench uses proprietary software, it is not compatible with Quickbooks or with any other online bookkeeping software. This isn’t an issue unless you decide to switch bookkeeping services, in which case data transfer could prove to be more of a hassle than if Bench used a common software.
Should you decide to switch, you may have to manually transfer the data yourself or pay another service for assistance.
Bench’s greatest strength lies in its customer support. All Bench plans include support.
Specifically, you will be assigned a team of three dedicated bookkeepers, one of whom will be your account manager.
When you reach out for support, Bench will try to connect you with your account manager, though sometimes you’ll be put in touch with one of the other two bookkeepers. Your bookkeeping team will always be up-to-date on your business and financial status.
If you need to get in touch with your bookkeeper, you can either schedule a phone call or send a message via the app. Usually, you will be able to call within a day, and in-app messages sent during hours of operation usually receive a response within a matter of minutes.
Furthermore, information regarding specific transactions can be communicated on Bench’s platform through labels and notes.
Cash Basis Accounting
Bench primarily uses a cash-based bookkeeping method, rather than an accrual-based accounting method.
Cash-basis bookkeeping means that money is not recorded until it is paid or received, whereas accrual based bookkeeping means that money is recorded when an income or expense is incurred.
For example, if you send an invoice due to be paid in one month, a cash-based bookkeeping method would not record that income for thirty days. An accrual-based bookkeeping method would record that invoice as soon as the invoice is sent.
Cash-basis bookkeeping is useful for knowing exactly how much money your business actually has on hand. But for companies that have a lot of inventory, or for those that process large invoices and accounts payable, accrual accounting is necessary to get a clear picture of a financial position.
For businesses with over $5 million in revenue, accrual-basis bookkeeping is required by the IRS. If your business grows, you may have to switch to accrual-basis accounting system.
Bench Bookkeeping Plans and Pricing
Bench has five packages that you choose based on your projected monthly expenses. If your business’s expenses increase, then Bench will upgrade your package.
|Bench Plan||Average Monthly Expenses||Price|
|Micro||$1,000 to $7,500||$169|
|Boutique||$7,500 to $25,000||$199|
|Venture||$25,000 to $50,000||$249|
|Corporate||$50,000 to $1m||$299|
Integrations and Add-Ons
Each Bench plan provides the same level and standard of bookkeeping and is based on your expenses. However, Bench offers a few additional service packages that can be purchased as add-ons.
The in-house team at Bench is composed of professional bookkeepers, who can make suggestions to keep your bookkeeping stress free. However, bookkeepers cannot legally provide tax or financial advice – this is the job of a CPA or attorney.
For this reason, Bench offers integration with Taxfyle, a team of Bench-trained CPAs that will file your taxes and maximize deductions. In the BenchTax service, Bench will connect directly with a Taxfyle agent to send them your financials and answer their questions.
Each BenchTax plan covers unlimited state filings, investments, rental income, itemized deductions, and quarterly estimates. These prices below are in addition to the bookkeeping service.
|BenchTax Plan||Personal Returns||Schedule C||Business Returns||Filing Fee|
|Sole Prop Filing||$660|
Bench does not handle your payroll in house, but Bench software integrates with outside payroll platforms.
Their preferred payroll service is Gusto, which will integrate with Bench’s proprietary software, and with the popular accounting software QuickBooks and Xero (in case you switch in the future).
Bench users even get three months of Gusto for free, so there’s no risk in trying it out.
By integrating with Bench’s software, the initial Gusto set up process is easy and the interface is intuitive. Gusto services both W-2 employees and 1099 contractors, and allows you to manage employee benefits and timekeeping.
Because Bench is synced to Gusto, deductions are calculated automatically. If you need help, Gusto has payroll specialists that are available for human support.
Gusto offers three plans:
|Gusto Plan||Per Month Fee||Additional Per Employee|
Catch Up Bookkeeping
If you neglected your books for up to two years, you can add Catch Up bookkeeping to any standard Bench plan.
With Catch Up bookkeeping, your bookkeeper will get your books back on track by helping you gather your documents, reconcile bank accounts, collect old W-9s and W-2s, then send your documents to your CPA.
The Catch Up plan is the same rate as the standard plan. So if you have a Starter plan, you’ll pay $119 for each historical month that your bookkeeper reconciles.
BenchRetro is available for businesses who have over two years’ worth of overdue books. For each year of overdue books, BenchRetro provides a Year End Financial Package so that your business can file overdue taxes and apply for loans. Each BenchRetro plan is custom, so you’ll have to book a free consultation to work out a payment plan.
Specialized bookkeeping is necessary if your business requires property tracking, third party revenue collection, or cash revenue and cash expense tracking. Specialized bookkeeping costs an extra $100 per month in addition to your standard plan.
Bench’s software integrates with popular payment processors including Stripe, Square, Shopify, PayPal, and Amazon. When you integrate your Bench account with a payment processor, all of your transactions will automatically sync to Bench.
Relative to most bookkeeping services, Bench is affordable. On average, bookkeeping services will cost between $200 to $400 per month.
But starting at only $149 per month, Bench gives you a comprehensive but no-frills bookkeeping service for less than the competition. If you can get by with basic bookkeeping, then Bench is an excellent option.
The Bench app has proven to be helpful to business owners that are constantly on the go. It allows you to view financials and message your bookkeeper at any moment.
The app is a great tool to have on hand when making purchases, as you can check in on your top expenses and get a good overall picture of your financial position.
Where Bench Falls Short
Cash Basis Accounting
Bench provides most clients with a modified form of cash basis bookkeeping, in which the transactions are recorded as soon as money has been deposited or charged to your bank or credit card.
However, Bench does provide some clients with accrual basis accounting. Bench is vague regarding whether you pay extra for accrual accounting, but it does state that in some cases they will develop a modified bookkeeping plan if you require it.
Bench is not customizable. With the affordability factor comes a lot of standardization, including in the Bench account dashboard and its ability to generate ad hoc financial reports.
With Quickbooks bookkeeping software, you can tailor the dashboard to your businesses needs.
Lack of API
Bench does not have an API, which would allow you to combine your non-financial data with the data that syncs with your Bench software.
If inventory tracking is important, then you might prefer a software that integrates both financial and non-financial data.
Bookkeeper360 is worth consideration if you’re looking for more add-ons and customization. Like Bench, the pricing is based on your monthly expenses, though Bookkeeper360 starts at $399 per month.
|Bookkeeper360 Reconciliation||Accounting Method||Monthly Price|
|Monthly||Cash||Starting at $399|
|Weekly||Cash||Starting at $549|
|Monthly||Accrual||Starting at $549|
|Weekly||Accrual||Starting at $749|
Bookkeeper360 uses Xero bookkeeping software, which makes switching from Bookkeeper360 easier, should you decide to do so.
Furthermore, Bookkeeper360 integrates with popular platforms such as Shopify and Expensify, making it a good option for businesses that sell products and services online.
inDinero was developed for business owners, and targets businesses that are in a startup or growth phase.
Like Bench, inDinero uses proprietary software, though unlike Bench, inDinero’s software is more suited to help scale businesses that sell products rather than services.
|inDinero Plan||Best For||Monthly Price|
|Custom||Accrual Accounting and Fractional CFO services||Custom Pricing|
One benefit of inDinero is that you are able to work through your taxes on the platform with the option to work with an inDinero CPA.
Should You Hire Bench?
Bookkeeping is an absolutely essential business activity. If you cannot afford an in-house or dedicated bookkeeper, then Bench is an excellent alternative.
If $149 per month is out of your budget, note that there is good free bookkeeping software available, if you’re willing to take on all the work yourself.
For a very affordable price, Bench will manage the absolutely necessary bookkeeping such as categorizing transactions and managing receipts. Tax service and payroll integration is available as an add-on, and will raise your monthly payment. However, Bench will not help with such tasks as invoicing, sending out 1099s, or paying sales tax, and there is no customization available.
Whether Bench is a good choice for your business depends on what your business needs are. If you’re looking to save time and have your books done quickly and accurately, then Bench will get the job done.
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Blake Bobit has been an entrepreneur and business owner for over 25 years. He founded Solution Scout to provide the most helpful answers to questions about business solutions. Blake provides strategic advisory services to businesses in many industries nationwide and enjoys the challenge of staying up-to-date on all things HubSpot.