SaaS Accounting

SaaS Accounting in 2024: Best Strategies for SaaS Companies

SaaS Accounting in 2024: Best Strategies for Financial Success

The SaaS industry has blossomed into an incredible business landscape filled with opportunity. Shrewd entrepreneurs have already made their mark in the industry, and everyone hopes to become the next Intuit. If you are looking to dip your toes into SaaS, you must see beyond the glamor and fame and into what matters most. One of the more overlooked reasons for the success of SaaS companies is SaaS accounting. Being able to manage and invest finances properly is vital to succeed in this industry.

The question then arises: What is SaaS accounting and how can it be leveraged for success?

This is the topic of today’s detailed discussion. We will be doing a deep dive into the intricacies of SaaS accounting. We will be starting with an introduction to SaaS accounting, moving on to important regulatory information and revenue recognition per ASC 606, etc. Strategizing around SaaS accounting will be the final subject explored.

Doors will only open when one knows the right password. So come join us and open the door to financial success in the SaaS industry.

What is SaaS Accounting?

SaaS Accounting

SaaS accounting is accounting specifically designed to facilitate Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Companies. It includes everything from basic GAAP compliance all the way to complex concepts like revenue recognition over time.

The Key Differences Between Business Accounting and SaaS Accounting

The Subscription-based Model

The vast majority of SaaS businesses operate on a subscription-based business model. This is a completely distinct model from traditional businesses and therefore demands special attention. In the context of consistent customer retention rates, SaaS companies have reliable and consistent revenue streams. Revenue growth comes with new client influx while client churn negatively affects revenue.

On the face of it, SaaS revenue may seem very predictable. After all, you know how many subscriptions are active.

Things could not be further from the truth. The reality is that SaaS companies are constantly at risk due to the unpredictability of the subscription model. External economic factors as well as competitor presence all contribute to client decision-making. Subscriptions can get canceled on a dime if a client feels the value is not worth the cost. In the same vein, clients can recommend the SaaS company to acquaintances, as well as upgrade their existing subscription for more features.

The point is that SaaS revenue streams are very fragile. It is very hard to guarantee a consistent flow of customers, and the churn rate is also largely out of your hands. A robust SaaS accounting system is all that can stand between success and failure at times. SaaS companies need to have tailored accounting solutions to minimize unpredictability and maximize returns.

Not having a solid SaaS accounting strategy can land you in hot water and force you to make drastic choices because of sudden financial changes. Controlling the volatility of the situation is the key to regaining control and steering the business toward clear skies.

Cost Structure of SaaS Companies

Unlike regular businesses working on variable product costs, SaaS companies are typically operating on fixed operational expenses. These are distinctly termed as Selling, General & Administrative (SG&A) Expenses and include office space and utility bill expenses, marketing costs, payroll, etc.

A specialized SaaS accounting model is needed to manage these fixed costs and monitor crucial KPIs like burn rate.

Investments and Funding for SaaS Start-ups

SaaS companies all start as start-ups operating at a loss. The main goal is product development, refinement, and successful launch. A lot of capital is required upfront to maintain operational efficiency until the start-up can turn a profit. Investors and bank loans are the primary options open to SaaS start-ups in search of funding.

Both investors and banks demand assurance that the start-up can deliver results. Being able to demonstrate the business’ financial reliability is integral to securing funding. Having a GAAP-compliant, robust SaaS accounting structure in place makes this part much easier. A skilled SaaS accountant can compile all the relevant financial information and KPIs and present a transparent picture of financial trustworthiness.

Key Features of SaaS Accounting

Accruals Accounting for SaaS Companies

When it comes to business accounting cash and accrual-based accounting are the two major systems in use. Start-ups typically opt for a cash-based accounting system, where revenue is recognized on cash reception and expenses are recorded on cash payment.

Practically speaking, entrepreneurs usually set up an automated cash-based accounting system with QuickBooks, integrating it with order management and other systems. After that, it is a matter of regular check-ins to make sure things are working.

Cash-based accounting is acceptable at the start but becomes unsustainable when scaling and securing funding. Switching to accrual-based accounting is the logical next step for SaaS companies. Accrual accounting is a good match for SaaS companies handling a growing subscription revenue stream. In accrual accounting, revenue is recorded when it is earned and spent, which makes transaction reporting much more accurate.

It makes cash flow analysis and financial forecasting much more accurate and potent, as well as boosts the company’s financial trustworthiness.

Revenue Recognition Principles for SaaS Businesses

The recurring revenue from subscriptions is a feature unique to SaaS companies. How it typically works is that customers can either subscribe to a service package for a full year at a slightly discounted price and pay upfront, or they can pay monthly. The former is the preferable choice for SaaS businesses, and from a SaaS accounting point-of-view creates a liability that must be recorded as deferred revenue. The revenue is then recognized on a pro-rata basis as the terms of the contract are fulfilled.

It is also fairly popular among customers to negotiate an annual subscription contract with fixed monthly payments.

Regardless of how the contract turns out, the important part is knowing how to recognize revenue the right way for SaaS companies. This is a major tenet of SaaS accounting, as revenue recognition comes under specific principles for subscription services. These principles are derived from the ASC 606 framework codified by the FASB and IASB in 2014.

Here is a brief rundown of ASC 606 in five easy steps:

  1. Contract identification and agreement
  2. Verifying performance obligations
  3. Calculating the transaction amount
  4. Allocating transaction amount to performance obligations
  5. Revenue recognition upon performance obligation fulfillment

Strategies for Achieving Financial Success with SaaS Accounting

Setting up a Robust, Evolving Financial Structure

In the hustle and bustle of today, businesses need to be future-facing and build functions geared towards adaptability. The one certainty these days is that nothing is certain. Evolving technologies are creating waves every week, and things are consistently in flux.

SaaS companies are in the eye of the storm in this regard. Software is growing at an incredible pace, and competition is at an all-time high. Having a robust SaaS accounting structure in place can be a great aid in securing that competitive edge you need.

A veteran SaaS accounting professional can be game-changing. They can draw detailed financial forecasts based on data, as well as account for potential fluctuations from external factors. A SaaS company’s growth depends entirely on how well it manages its finances. Capital is always in demand for working on new projects and refining existing products. Investing in Cloud Accounts Payable services, and technology like AP automation can also drastically improve things.

The ideal SaaS accounting structure will differ from business to business. What’s important is that it is built on a rock-solid foundation of financial data and KPI monitoring. The structure should be flexible and malleable, allowing for strategic pivoting for better results in dynamic situations. A good financial structure will have a positive effect on the business as a whole.

It will improve decision-making, contribute to expansion and HR management, enhance budgeting, and allow you to build as accurate a financial plan as possible.

Read more about building a future-proof accounting function here and setting out on the road to success.

Leveraging Non-GAAP Key Performance Indicators

While adopting GAAP principles and monitoring GAAP KPIs is incredibly important, there is no prohibition on utilizing non-GAAP KPIs for performance evaluation. To truly get the complete financial picture, a mixture of GAAP and non-GAAP KPIs is required. The specific KPIs will vary from business to business, but there are some generally useful KPIs to watch out for.

Before we dive into these KPIs, it is also important to preface that GAAP compliance is paramount. Slacking on GAAP KPIs and skipping to such advanced analysis is a bad idea. The business needs to perfectly implement GAAP and then move towards a more diverse analysis.

Relevant non-GAAP KPIs to monitor include:

  • Recurring Revenue

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) are commonly used KPIs by investors for company valuation. These are also efficient for understanding the company’s income projections and making complimentary decisions.

  • Logo Churn Rate

The logo churn rate is concerned with the number of clients that canceled their subscriptions. It helps with measuring performance and narrowing down potential problems in the business.

  • Revenue Churn Rate

100% client retention is a myth, and there will always be canceled subscriptions. The Revenue churn rate tells you what percentage of revenue you lose from subscription cancellation and customer loss. The goal is to minimize the revenue churn rate for best performance.

  • Cash Runway

The cash runway is the projected amount of time it would take the business to run out of cash. The burn rate informs the cash runway and is usually represented in terms of months remaining.  Knowing your cash runway lets you plan for the worst-case scenario and make wise investments.

  • Burn Rate

The burn rate represents the business’ negative cash flow in a given time period. It is not uncommon for SaaS businesses to slip into negative cash flow when expanding and investing in growth. Nevertheless, keeping a close eye on the burn rate is good to prevent any disasters from happening.

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

The CAC is the money it costs SaaS companies to secure a client’s patronage. Typically denoted by the dollar amount, the CAC is a good measure of your business’ outreach and marketing effectiveness.

There are of course many more KPIs that may be better-suited for particular SaaS companies. We highly advise readers to do their own research and expand their horizons past just this article. There are numerous knowledge sources available online, not to mention that securing the services of a SaaS accounting consultant is a good option and worthy investment.

Leveraging SaaS Accounting for Strengthening Business Relations

By developing a deep understanding of these key metrics, you can also learn a great deal about how they reflect your business. Your business’ stakeholders and investors will take a keen interest in your finances, and you can get ahead and proactively prepare to explain why things are the way they are.

Beyond just performance measuring, these metrics are a great tool for relationship building. They equip you with a solid idea of your business in the wider landscape, and its faults and strengths. You can carve a strong narrative around these facts to support your business’ case to stakeholders and prove that you are worth the investment.

Successfully leveraging accounting for SaaS companies in relationship-building empowers leadership. It instills a sense of confidence within them that has a positive impact on the rest of the business.


That concludes our detailed exploration of SaaS accounting. Readers should feel much more confident and informed with regard to the accounting for their SaaS companies.

The most important takeaway from this discussion is recognizing the unique value of SaaS accounting, and why it is worth focusing on. Use this knowledge and insight to rise above the competition and pave the road to financial success with your own two hands.