Xero Multicurrency Version Review
Xero Multicurrency Functionality – What is does and doesn’t do
We get a steady stream of requests asking if we support the multicurrency version of Xero. The multicurrency version of Xero enables you to do very limited partial multicurrency (MC) accounting. You can generate invoices and purchase orders plus receive bills and payments in up to multiple currencies and that is about it. This is useful if you are actively selling in different countries with different currencies as it means that the customer gets charged in his own familiar currency. It also means that you can readily reconcile payments with bank feeds in multiple currencies from Stripe, PayPal etc. Some plugins for Woocommerce will also enable local languages to be used in the checkout too.
So Xero MC is good as far as it goes but on the downside it can only be used on accounts of type bank and not on type assets/liability which users find very restrictive as you cannot set up clearing or tax accounts for example or for that matter a balance sheet – see more. Furthermore you cannot use tracked inventory to regularly buy and sell items in different currencies which is surely meant to be one of the main benefits of it! Item prices aren’t automatically converted in foreign currency transactions so need to be manually calculated. This is all within the one organisation so it doesn’t permit a company with different branches in different countries and currencies to be set up.
Whilst Xeroom will work with the Xero MC version it will only do so in the base currency of Woocommerce matches that set in Xero. It will still work if this is not the case but the figures will obviously be all wrong since it will be mapping WooCommerce base currency in say USD to Xero base currency in say GBP ie no conversion takes place.
True Multicurrency Accounting
Large multinational groups operate their businesses in a full true multicurrency way. In a nutshell this is how it works. The group subsidiaries all maintain separate sets of books in the local currencies of the countries where they have legal entities and operations in. Buying and selling of goods between the group entities is handled via intercompany transfers and balances. Group accounts are prepared by doing a consolidation of these entities’ books using a common core chart of accounts, eliminating any partial shareholdings, converting flows and balances into the parent’s reporting currency at the appropriate exchange rates (average, opening, closing etc), eliminating the intercompany balances and finally making any miscellaneous adjustments to get the final figures. Balance sheet items such as property and inventory will have unrealised forex gains/losses which can be carried whereas realised gains/losses get crystallised and taken into the profit and loss account. Once the data collection and number crunching has been done the data needs easy-to-use spreadsheet style tools to enable the standard financial reports to be run and queried by the upper management and users. Hyperion is perhaps the most well known software for handling management and statutory consolidation and its nice user interface has made it the market leader.
After years of trying to compete with Hyperion the company was finally purchased by Oracle around 2012. Prior to this in the 1990’s and 00’s I personally spent 10 years working on Oracle’s own statutory consolidation software called Oracle Financial Controller (and before that FCRS) which was used by many large publicly quoted companies to prepare their figures for the stock market. Apart from product support and development I was involved in implementing the software for very large corporations. One typical example was Europe’s largest paper company Antalis which had almost 500 companies using many different General Ledgers at the time that we consolidated for monthly, quarterly and annual reporting to management and the stock market. This software used a very powerful multidimensional database engine to make light work of the manipulation and number crunching of the complex data. I also implemented Oracle General Ledger in Barclays Capital and other major companies where I saw the strengths and weaknesses of using the General Ledger for consolidation.
Partial multicurrency is where a business sells or buys a part of its turnover in different currencies. It is useful to maintain a customer’s or suppliers account in their own currencies to make payments easier to follow and settle but sooner or later the balance or transactions need to be converted into the home base currency of the legal entity. Reconciling these accounts will give rise to forex currency gains/losses and have to be posted through a clearing account.
Our view is that for most small businesses this is a limited benefit in comparison to the costs. The added complications, confusion and mistakes as well as the added direct expense not only in the higher subscription of Xero MC but also in extra bookkeeping and accounting fees to manage it are just not worth it. If you are doing more than a small part of your business in other countries and currencies it is best to have a separate Xero organisation for each one and for the rest simply convert the transactions in real-time as they occur into your base currency which will give the most “true and fair” view of your accounts.
Xero does not provide for the consolidation of multiple entities or sets of books so this will have to be handled by a spreadsheet or a dedicated consolidation tool like Hyperion.
Connecting Woocommerce to Xero in Multiple Currencies
If you add extra currencies to your Woocommerce setup then transactions can take place in them and get stored but also are converted into your store’s base currency. There are some plugins that will map these transactions over to Xero. For the reasons already discussed we think unless you are actively selling to multiple countries in different currencies with frequent transactions, it is not worth doing.
Currency Switching – A Better Solution
We think it is much better to use a currency switching widget on your shop so that you can make sales and take payments in any currency using the current live or daily updated conversion rate. Products are held in the base currency but the widget will convert and display them in the shop to the desired currency of the shopper at the current rate. When a sale occurs, it is converted into your Woocommerce base currency and these transactions can be posted as normal by Xeroom into Xero.
There are a number around and I use the Realmag one here on this site which integrates into the Woocommerce settings and works well. A daily update of exchange rates is sufficient. Woocommerce also have their own widget and also a multicurrency plug-in which does the same thing. This article compares 3 of the main ones. https://shopitpress.com/blog/woocommerce-setup/woocommerce-multi-currency/
Multiple Woocommerce Sites Feeding to One Xero Instance
Some businesses use different localised versions of their sites to sell into different countries and currencies. These can all be mapped into the same Xero instance provided that they all use the same base currency (otherwise they will simple post numbers but they will be in the wrong currency).
The multicurrency version of Xero is good as far as it goes and enables buying and selling (invoices and payments) in multiple currencies which can be useful if you are doing regular transactions in other countries. It is however quite limited (to accounts of type bank) and should not be considered other than for the smallest of businesses with a single branch. There is a lot of serious development needed by Xero to turn this into a serious half-decent MC accounting package. It should not be considered as a accounting consolidation tool whether for management or statutory purposes. In view of the added complication, confusion, scope for errors and extra costs we recommend that for the occassional forex transactions it is avoided and a currency widget is used instead. If you have serious operations branches and/or legal entities in other countries then use another instance of Xero for a separate organisation.