These days, choosing to use small business accounting software is a no-brainer.
The software-as-a-service (SaaS) revolution means that rather than having to buy new accounting software every year, UK small businesses can pay a small monthly fee to access an online platform that provides everything you need.
You’ll be able to pay your staff, create forecasts, issue invoices to customers, file your taxes and manage your assets, all from a single platform. And as the software is cloud-based, you’ll be able to access it at any time, from anywhere in the world.
But which is the best?
With more than 20 platforms to choose from, picking the right accounting software for your small business requires a little bit of research. The good news is that we’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to.
Small Business Accounting Software: What Should you Look For?
Every small business is different, so the best accounting platform will be unique to you. Many microbusinesses and freelancers can make do with basic functions such as income and expense tracking, invoicing and the creation of simple financial reports. But there’ll also be businesses that want their accounting platform to work a little bit harder.
The first step is to make a list of your accounting requirements. That could be the tasks you don’t know how to do, don’t like doing, or simply don’t have the time for. For example:
- Do you need help sending out invoices?
- Is self-assessment income tax a headache?
- Do you have payroll to run?
- Would you like to track purchase ordering and inventory?
- Do you make foreign currency transactions?
- How many different users will need access to the software?
Once you know what functionality you need, it’s time to think about your budget. Although there are some very good free small business accounting platforms out there, it could be best to pay for a package when dealing with sensitive financial information. Why? Well, if you’re not paying for the software, you have to ask what the platform’s providers are getting out of it. In some cases, the answer is – your data.
On the plus side, in such a competitive market, you don’t have to spend a lot to make a really useful addition to your business. You’ll pay a monthly subscription fee for software that is always up to date.
As well as functionality and price, there are also a couple of other things to consider:
- What level of customer support are you likely to need, how you can get in touch and how quickly will you receive a response?
- How is your data backed up?
- Will the accounting software be able to support your business as it grows and your requirements increase?
The Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses
If you’re a freelancer or run a very small business, then FreeAgent could well be the right choice for you.
Created by three freelance developers who were frustrated by the inefficiency of their bookkeeping, FreeAgent solves many of the problems that are specific to one-person businesses.
FreeAgent allows you to create quotes and invoices with just a few clicks, track your cash flow, record your expenses and view your income and profitability with bank account connectivity. You can also file your self-assessment income tax and VAT return digitally and calculate your corporation tax if you run a limited company.
Pros: Excellent for project-based businesses that send out lots of invoices for billable hours and expenses to their clients.
Cons: Basic inventory management that may not be sufficient for businesses with multiple product lines.
UK £9.50 per + VAT for the first 6 months (then £19 a month + VAT)
USA $12/month for 6 months, then $24/month
QuickBooks has an excellent range of features, even when buying the cheapest version, and more advanced plans include everything from multiple currencies to stock management and budgeting. That makes it a good fit for all kinds of growing businesses.
In terms of the basic plan, you can send invoices and receive payments, track sales and taxes, run reports, send quotes, capture and organise receipts and track income and expenditure.
However, where QuickBooks excels is in its reporting. You can create and customise high-quality snapshots of your business’s financial performance to help you see exactly what’s going on in your business. Add to that 24/7 chat support and integrations with PayPal, Shopify and Square, and you have a real all-rounder that can streamline many aspects of your business.
Pros: An eye-pleasing and intuitive user experience, excellent reports and plenty of users for growing businesses.
Cons: It can be more difficult to navigate than other platforms, with some features tricky to find. There have also been some complaints about long waiting times for telephone support.
UK– £6 per month rising to £12 after six months
USA – Starts at $8/month
If you do a lot of your business on the go, then Xero, with its excellent mobile functionality on iOS and Android, is worth serious consideration. It allows you to track inventory, send and customise invoices and create purchase orders all from your smartphone.
As the winner of the Accountancy Software Provider of the Year at last year’s British Business Awards, it has some serious pedigree, and 1.8 million users can’t be wrong. They benefit from many of the same features offered by QuickBooks and FreeAgent, such as bank account connectivity, stock tracking, customisable reports, purchase order and integration with apps including Stripe, Shopify and Paypal. However, one cross in the Xero box is that payroll functionality and expense tracking is only available at an extra cost.
Pros: It’s particularly well suited to sales-orientated businesses that need stock management functionality and it has excellent extendability.
Cons: The starter plan is limited with a low allowance of monthly invoices and quotes. The reporting functions can also be difficult to navigate and there’s no built-in payroll functionality.
UK – From £10 per month (allows you to send 5 invoices and quotes, enter 5 bills and reconcile 20 bank transactions)
USA – Starts at $9/month
If you run a very small business or you’re on a tight budget, you could do a lot worse than this offering from Indian tech company Zoho.
Zoho Books is compliant with the Government’s Making Tax Digital drive and offers as many features as some of the more expensive platforms on this list.
Even at entry-level, Zoho converts currencies automatically for accounting purposes when invoicing and receiving payments from businesses overseas. It also boasts an auto-scan feature, so you can scan and upload invoices directly. That sort of functionality is often only available as an add-on to other accounting packages.
Pros: Excellent support, the ability to accept payments online and an easy to use dashboard.
Cons: The biggest drawback is that Zoho Books does not handle payroll.
UK – From £6 per month for two users and up to 50 contacts
USA – Starts at $9/month
If you’re a sole trader or microbusiness that sends out recurring invoices, runs a subscription model or needs time tracking capability, this could be the affordable small business accounting software solution for you.
FreshBooks integrates with a broad range of business applications and allows you to manage all of your finance and accounting requirements from a single dashboard. Regular and secure backups are included and there’s also a mobile app so you can keep track of your finances on the move.
One feature that we like is the ability to see the exact location where a customer opened your invoice, so they can never say that an invoice has not been received. It also offers estimates, expenses and time tracking, which makes it a better fit for freelancers than a lot of the competition in its class.
Pros: Excellent usability and aesthetics combined with all the features that freelancers and microbusinesses need.
Cons: There are limited invoice customisation options and minimal help with set up. Adding additional users costs £7 per person, per month.
UK – Starts at just £4.40 per month
USA – Starts at $15/month
Sage’s small business accounting software is a good fit for microbusiness with limited stock.
It is cloud-based, links seamlessly to your bank account for real-time reporting and includes many of the features you would expect from a platform in its class. That includes tracking payments and expenses, invoicing, stock management and reporting. It also integrates with the Stripe payments processing system.
Unfortunately, there are no time tracking or collaboration features and payroll is a separate product. The interface also feels a bit dated, with the inclusion of technical terms potentially making it a better fit for professional accountants rather than small business owners.
Pros: There’s a sophisticated range of features with excellent inventory management tools and good customer support.
Cons: It has a dated interface, no time tracking functionality and its inventory app is not the best choice if you have many different product lines.
UK – From £6 per month + VAT for three months (then £10 per month + VAT)
USA – Known as Sage 50cloud in the US, pricing is from $28.33 per month (40% discount for new users)
This is the first piece of small business accounting software on this list that is completely free. For your outlay of absolutely nothing, you will receive invoicing, accounting and receipt scanning functionality. For additional features such as payroll, you will have to pay a monthly fee.
Wave doesn’t have a direct connection to send VAT returns to HMRC, but there is approved software that you can use to bridge that gap. The limited number of features, with no built-in time tracking, inventory tracking or project management, means Wave isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a freelancer or run a small business with just a few employees, it could be a cost-effective first step into cloud accounting
Pros: It has a good selection of features for very small businesses, an intuitive user interface and excellent navigation tools.
Cons: There’s no comprehensive mobile app, the record templates are quite simplistic and it lacks a dedicated time-tracking feature.
Free (payments and payroll are available as paid-for add-ons)
Pabbly Subscription Billing is a bit more specific than the small business accounting software we’ve encountered so far. It is designed for small and medium-sized businesses that receive recurring payments such as monthly subscriptions. It gives you real-time metrics on your monthly payments and allows you to manage them from a single interface.
As well as providing actionable metrics on everything from net revenue to new subscriptions, Pabbly automates invoice creation and customer communication so you can focus on growing your business. It also supports more than 20 global currencies and integrates with payment platforms such as PayPal and Stripe.
Pros: Pabbly provides an excellent user experience overall, it’s easy to set up repeat billing and there’s good customer support.
Cons: It lacks some of the higher-level features that you might need to manage more complex subscriptions.
UK – From £7 per month for 50 customers
USA – Starts at $15/month
The unusually named Bokio is another example of free small business accounting software that helps freelancers, sole traders and small businesses simplify their bookkeeping duties.
With its user-friendly interface, Bokio lets you tackle tasks such as unlimited invoicing, recording expenses and automated reporting to save you time and money.
Importantly, Bokio also supports employee expenses and is compliant with Making Tax Digital. That makes it effortless to calculate and submit your VAT return to HMRC. Bokio is also easy to use, secure and uses the power of artificial intelligence to keep accounting errors to an absolute minimum.
Pros: All of Bokio’s features are completely free with no limitations.
Cons: The initial set up can be quite fiddly and premium support comes at a price.
Bokio is free, although the premium package with assistance from a qualified accountant starts at £25 per month. UK only, for now.
The well-known web hosting service GoDaddy has made its foray into the world of small business accounting software with a low-cost option aimed at small businesses that do not need an overly sophisticated range of features.
It estimates your quarterly tax bills and imports data from your bank accounts and third-party applications such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy. That makes it a great option if you sell on those sites.
The interface is easy to use and there’s very little in the way of set up. However, while it does offer an excellent range of features and invoicing tools for a good price, it lacks some of the more advanced features, such as inventory tracking and payroll, that larger businesses are likely to need.
Pros: It’s easy to use, offers great value for money and integrates with leading retail platforms such as Amazon and eBay.
Cons: There’s no payroll, international billing or extensive reporting functionality.
UK From– £2.99 per month
USA – Starts at $4.99/month
If you’re a small business accounting novice, then Kashoo, which is one of the easiest of all the software solutions to use, could be the best fit for you. It also offers free chat, voice and email support, which is a real benefit for beginners whose bookkeeping is driving them nuts.
Kashoo’s strengths are in income and expense management, with an excellent range of tools to give you an accurate picture of your cash flow. It also does a good job of tracking project costs. However, it lacks features that would specifically target freelancers, such as time tracking. That makes it better suited to microbusinesses with an employee or two that will benefit from the integration with SurePayroll.
Pros: Easy to use with a simple and intuitive interface. There’s also excellent customer support and unlimited users.
Cons: There’s no time or inventory tracking functionality or standout features that really set it apart from the competition. Not great for VAT registered businesses.
UK – 14-day free trial with prices starting at £12.25* per month
USA – $16.65 per month
*Prices converted from US Dollars at the time of writing
AccountEdge Pro is small business accounting software with a difference. Unlike the cloud-based options on this list, it is a desktop-based application. That means it must be installed on a desktop computer or laptop for full operation, although you can still access and enter data via a browser-based website or mobile app. That makes it a good fit for small and growing businesses that require more power than online-only accounting services can offer.
AccountEdge Pro provides a suite of comprehensive double-entry accounting tools that allow you to manage complexity in every area of your business. That includes sales and purchases, inventory management, payroll, time billing, company contacts and more. Despite the depth of functionality AccountEdge Pro provides, it’s surprisingly simple to use, with several user-interface enhancements and a wizard-like tool that helps you get started.
Pros: Reasonably priced with an excellent range of tools and a simple interface.
Cons: There’s no cloud-based version so full functionality can only be accessed from your business premises.
AccountEdge Basic – A one-time fee of £110.00*
AccountEdge Pro – From $149 for a single user
For small businesses with reasonably straightforward accounting requirements, the simple interface and automated features of OneUp make it a reliable choice.
It’s certainly flexible, as it can be used on desktops, laptops and mobile devices to provide access on the move. Given the affordable price, it also offers a robust range of core features, including excellent invoice and inventory management functionality. It also syncs with your bank and categorises bank entries so your books can be done nice and quickly.
When it comes to the setup, OneUp guides you through the process to help you configure a solution that meets your needs. There are also excellent support options, with live chat, email and a comprehensive set of FAQs if you get stuck. Unfortunately, it also has a few limitations, such as a lack of wider integration with other software tools and a limited number of reporting options.
Pros: A good user experience with mobile access to all of the platform’s features.
Cons: No telephone support available and some weaknesses in the feature set.
UK – From £6.50 per month – for freelancers and sole traders
USA Starts from $ 900 per month
*Prices converted from US Dollars at the time of writing
Accounting Seed is an intuitive and easy to use cloud-based accounting package that can be customised by the user to meet their specific needs. It’s particularly well-suited to businesses that primarily sell online, such as e-retailers, as it contains an excellent range of subscription and recurring billing options.
Accounting Seed allows you to bill customers, accept payments and create custom financial reports. You can also create invoices from sales orders and set recurring customer bill generation. Importantly, the software can be integrated with your bank account to provide real-time visibility of your finances and Salesforce CRM to help you save time and money.
Pros: Excellent level of customisation and integration with Salesforce to streamline reporting.
Cons: It’s not the easiest software to transition over to and some features can take time to set up and implement.
USA: From $250 per month.
Tipalti small business accounts software automates the entire accounts payable process, freeing up your time to focus on growing your business.
It has flexible features, such as multiple payment methods and currencies, as well as additional benefits including real-time payment reconciliation and compliance with tax and other regulatory bodies.
The tool provides a self-service web portal to improve relationships with suppliers and vendors. It sends them notifications about invoices and payment statuses and provides early payment functionality. It also provides payment reconciliation reports that are integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems such as Oracle, NetSuite, Xero and more.
Pros: Flexible features that can support businesses with multiple locations and brands and a self-service supplier onboarding portal that reduces data entry.
Cons: It could allow for more customisation and the user interface needs an update.
Cost: Tipalti’s pricing varies depending on the client’s needs and the features they require. Contact the developer directly for a quote.
If your small business is struggling to meet your payroll requirements, then OnPay could be the small business accounting software for you. It is a complete payroll solution, allowing you to create comprehensive employee records and run unlimited payrolls every month. Even if you have complex payroll requirements, the unrivalled user experience and comprehensive range of features will allow you to sail through them with ease.
Features include the electronic onboarding of documents, a dashboard for HR and a new payroll listing report. User experience and navigation can be a challenge for payroll software providers, but OnPay delivers an excellent user experience overall and includes navigation links that break a lot of data down into manageable chunks.
Pros: It’s fast and easy to use with custom forms and the ability to run unlimited payrolls.
Cons: The mobile version is missing some functionality and lots of data can require excessive scrolling.
UK: A flat fee of £26 per month plus £2.90 per employee per month
USA: $34 flat fee + $4 per employee per month
NetSuite ERP is cloud-based enterprise resource planning software from Oracle that allows growing businesses to streamline a range of processes, from financial management and billing through to e-commerce and CRM.
It is a unified platform that draws data from a shared database. It is this interconnectivity that helps to combine core functions and streamline back-office operations.
If you anticipate rapid growth, then this scalable solution will provide long-term value for your company. The time to fully implement the system can take anywhere from two to six months and there’s a full array of support available, from standard help desk ticketing to do-it-yourself training courses.
Pros: Very robust and fully customisable with excellent tools for report generation and outstanding customer support.
Cons: The user interface looks outdated and the costs can be quite high when compared with the alternatives.
Cost: Pricing is available on request
Whether you’re a freelancer looking for free small business accounting software or a mid-sized business searching for a paid-for solution, this platform provides the flexible functionality a range of businesses need.
ZipBooks revolves around four areas: accounting, billing, expenses and intelligence. The latter helps to deliver unique insights so you can really get to grips with your business’s finances.
In terms of its features, ZipBooks has just about every area covered, which is impressive when you consider that the basic package is free. Recurring billing, online invoicing, time tracking and expenses are all included and there are plenty of easy to use templates, too. Set up is easy, with a wizard to guide you through all the necessary steps, and the main interface is wonderfully simple. That all adds up to an excellent accounting package that provides unbeatable value for money.
Pros: Really easy to use with packages for every business type and a great range of templates.
Cons: The customer support options are good but not outstanding and the reporting features are somewhat lacking.
UK – Frp, £11* per month – five members, recurring invoices, automated features, multiple bank connections and time tracking
USA – Free version. Paid features starting at $15/month
Holded Accounting is cloud-based software that offers an impressive range of features, from bank reconciliation to real-time monitoring of income and expenditure. It can also be integrated with a large number of other third-party applications to streamline your operations. That includes Amazon, Shopify, PayPal, Stripe, Dropbox, Google Drive and plenty more besides.
When it comes to the user experience, Holded is a powerful piece of software that’s surprisingly easy to master. If you do need support, there’s a knowledge base and lots of instructional articles, while account holders can also get in touch directly via email and live chat.
Pros: Simple set up and easy to master what is an excellent range of features.
Cons: There have been some issues with bugs and the tax elements are quite basic.
Basic – £29 per month
Standard – £59 per month
Advanced – £99 per month
Premium – £199 per month
You’ll receive a 20% reduction on those prices by paying annually.
Sunrise by Lendio is small business accounting software designed with freelancers and sole traders in mind. If you’re on a budget (a free basic package is available) and want to track income and expenses and invoice customers, this easy to use platform with its intuitive dashboard could be an excellent choice. However, it does not have some of the features, such as time tracking and full mobile access, that microbusinesses might need.
While the free edition is an excellent starting point, it’s not until you get into the paid-for packages that Sunrise comes into its own. If you’re not confident handling your accounting duties, the paid-for packages allow you to pass much of the work on to your own dedicated assistant.
Sunrise is only available to customers in the US and Canada.
Pros: Excellent user experience and support from a bookkeeping professional with every package above the free Self-Service edition.
Cons: There’s no time or project tracking functionality and the mobile apps do not include the full range of tools.
UK – Not functional yet, but should be during 2021.
USA – $149 per month – includes assistance from a professional bookkeeper