The Basics of Franchise Accounting

StrategyDriven Managing Your Finances Article |Franchising Your Business |The Basics of Franchise AccountingOwning a franchise is an easy and affordable way of starting a new business. As a franchise owner, a lot of the heavy lifting involved in starting a business is already done for you. Franchisees can take on an already established brand and don’t have to worry about marketing themselves, as this is done by the franchise centrally.

All the franchisee needs to worry about is dealing with the day to day running of the business, which includes the accounting. Many aspects of a franchise business will be managed centrally. In particular, the costs of marketing and developing new products don’t fall on the shoulders of individual franchisees.

Franchise accounting is similar to accounting for any other type of business, although there are a few extra steps. Let’s take a look at exactly what a franchise is and how they are run and managed.

How do Franchises Work?

A franchise location is owned by an individual, the franchisee. However, the franchise as a whole is owned by a larger corporation. For example, each individual McDonalds store is owned and operated by an individual franchisee. However, McDonald’s decides what’s on the menu, how the store functions, etc. They also handle all of the marketing and other costs of developing and growing the business.

franchising makes owning and operating a business accessible to people who would otherwise be unable to. Returning to the example of McDonald’s, a franchisee may be able to open a McDonald’s franchise as the first business that they run themselves. It’s hard to envisage most people launching a startup that has the kind of name recognition that McDonald’s does, or the existing infrastructure.

With the franchising model, new locations can be opened easily and quickly. From the perspective of the larger franchise business, this makes expanding a much simpler proposition. New franchisees will bear many of the responsibilities, and some of the costs, of opening a new franchise. If the new franchisee fails, the franchising corporation hasn’t lost as much in terms of time and money as it would if it had invested fully in a new physical location.

Franchisees, on the other hand, get to open a new business with an already established customer base, marketing strategy, etc. The franchisee will have to pay the franchising business according to their contract. This can either be in the form of a percentage of the profits, or it might be a flat rate.

Role of the Franchisor

The franchisor is the larger corporation that ultimately owns all the franchises. They manage the brand and business as a whole, deciding how to market the business and how to develop the available product ranges. The franchisor also provides assistance to their franchisees as and when it is needed.

Fees and Franchise Accounting

A franchisee owns the franchise location that they run, even though the business they operate is under license from the franchisor. They are required to follow all the guidelines set out by the franchisor. If they don’t, the license can be revoked and the franchisee can end up with a location but no business to occupy it. The franchisee will be required to pay fees to the franchisor; that’s how the franchising business makes their money.

The fees a franchisee pays are used to cover a number of costs. For example, these fees allow the franchisee to use the franchisor’s trademarks, brands, products, and services. Franchisors are legally required to set out all the fees involved in being a franchisee upfront and they cannot spring unexpected charges on the franchisee at a later date.

There will be an initial fee to pay the franchisor, which serves as a kind of entry charge. There will also be some form of ongoing fee, usually a royalty fee. Proper franchise accounting requires you to be familiar with all the expected fees and charges; you won’t be able to maintain accurate accounts unless you know what deductions and fees to factor in.

Initial Fees

The initial fee is the entry fee that grants the franchisee the right to use the franchisor’s trademarks, including brand, products, services, logos, etc. And, of course, the most important thing your initial fees will pay for is the right to use the franchisor’s name. Finally, your initial fee will cover some of the costs associated with opening a new business.

For example, the franchisor will cover the costs of training staff to use their point of sale systems, as well as any other in-house sales software. Initial costs are paid as a lump sum to the franchisor. Before you pay any initial fees, it is important that you establish exactly how much business capital you will need.

Amortizing Initial Fees

When filling out a business tax return, a franchisee can deduct their initial fee from their total profits; this is known as amortizing. Amortizing is similar in nature to depreciation, except that it deals with tangible rather than abstract assets. By amortizing a fee, its cost can be spread out over several years. This makes it possible for franchisees who can’t afford to pay a lump sum to instead pay the fee gradually over the useful lifetime of tangible assets, such as trademarks.

You can amortize the fee over a relatively long period of time, paying off fractions of it annually. For example, if you amortize your initial fee over a period of 20 years, you divide the total fee by 20 to work out how much of it you will pay per annum.

Royalty Fees

Royalty fees are the main way that the franchisor makes their money. Royalty fees are a little bit like a tax that the franchisee pays on every sale. This is the cut of the profits that the franchisor gets in exchange for essentially providing the core business. In some cases, royalty fees might be specified at a flat rate. However, the majority of the time they will be paid as a percentage of sales.

Marketing Fees

Some franchisors will further charge franchisees to cover the costs of marketing. Even though individual franchisees aren’t involved in the centralized marketing efforts, they still benefit from the effects of new marketing campaigns, so it does make sense that the franchisor would want to recover some of their investment.

Both franchisors and franchisees need to understand the intricacies of franchise accounting if the arrangement is to work. A mistake in a franchisee’s bookkeeping can end up in the franchisor being paid incorrectly and can lead to a distorted image of how healthy individual franchises are. For this reason, many franchisors are now centralizing their accounting and utilizing cloud-based accounting software. This allows individual franchisees to access and update their business accounts on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.


Franchise accounting needs sophisticated accounting software like QuickBooks Enterprise hosting which can be accessed on Citrix Xendesktop VDI that enables accountants to work remotely for franchise-based models to work from anywhere anytime.

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