Thanks to affordable accounting software, long gone are the days when you’d need a room full of filing cabinets to keep track of your accounts, and even the humble Excel spreadsheet has been rendered a relic.
With accounting software, even the smallest business can easily manage expenses, create and send invoices, keep on top of taxes, and more from one centralised platform.
But it’s no longer just advisable – under Making Tax Digital, it’s becoming obligatory for nearly all businesses to use compliant software for taxes and accounting.
With the extension of Making Tax Digital for VAT in April, all VAT-registered businesses now have to maintain digital records and file VAT returns to HMRC through approved software.
That’s why we’ve taken the time to compare, contrast, and assess the best small business accounting software on the market. Discover their pricing, pros, cons, and top features, and decide which is right for your business.
Best accounting software for UK small businesses
|Estimates and invoices||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Billable time tracker||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Connect your bank||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Online filing of CIS||x||x||x|
|Mobile||iOS, Android||iOS, Android||iOS, Android||iOS, Android||iOS, Android||iOS, Android||iOS, Android|
|Cost (monthly)||Lite: £3.30 per month + VAT with first three months 70% discount||Crunch Free: Free forever|
Sole Trader Pro: from £12.25 per month
Pro: £7.50 per month
Unlimited: £24 per month
Accounting Start for sole traders and microbusinesses: free for one month then £12 per month + VAT a month
|Quickbooks is offering a 75% discount for the first four months.|
Xero offers 50% off for the first four months
Starter: £6 per month
(usually £12 per month)
|Small business £12 per month + VAT with 50% discount for first three months if you sign up during one-month free trial|
|Plus: £5.70 per month + VAT with first three months 70% discount||Limited Company Pro: From £19.75 per month|
Limited Company premium: From £57.75 per month
Limited company: Starter: Free
Pro: £33 per month
Unlimited: £66 per month
Standard (includes invoicing and cash flow management): free for one month then £26 per month + VAT
Self-employed is £2 per month rising to £8.
Simple Start is £3 per month, rising to £12.
Essentials is £5.50 per month, rising to £22.
|Standard: £13 per month (usually £26 per month)|
Large business £26 per month + VAT with 50% discount for three months if you sign up during one-month free trial
|Premium: £9 per month + VAT with first three months 70% discount||Small Business: From £98.25 per month||Plus (adds multicurrency invoicing and inventory management) free for one month then £33 per month + VAT||Plus is £8 per month, rising to £32.||Premium: £16.50 per month (usually £33 per month)|
|Premium: £25pm with 10 users||*online compliance - **bank feed only|
A quick comparison of the best accounting software providers
Get a quick, at a glance summary of what the top 7 providers offer or read on for deep dive reviews.
How to choose the right provider
Every small business is different. Most small businesses can make do with basic functions like invoicing, bank reconciliation, income and expense tracking and financial report generation.
Indeed, most UK small business accounting software offers the same features, it’s just that you may feel more comfortable with how one is designed over another – and then of course, there’s the cost.
First, make a list of what you need to do in terms of bookkeeping and accounting.
- Do you need to track inventory and purchase ordering?
- Do you need to invoice payment deadlines?
- Are you a sole trader and do you plan to do self-assessment?
- Do you have staff and a payroll to run?
- Do you need foreign currency transactions?
- Do foreign currency transactions convert to sterling?
- How many users will need to use the accounting software?
How much can you afford?
Although there are free options available, when it comes to UK small business accounting software – and especially something as sensitive as financial information – it’s probably wise to pay for a package. Back in the 1970s, the US television industry coined the phrase, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” These days that means that the software provider sells on your data.
The other change that has happened is the rise of monthly subscription as opposed to a one-off software licence. On the plus side, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) means your tech is always up to date. The downside is that, as the months roll on, you eventually end up paying more than if you’d bought a one-off licence.
Accounting software deals for small businesses
Want to get started with one of our top accounting software providers? As a new customer, you can take advantage of any of these great deals:
- Freshbooks – 30-day free trial, then from £11 per month, or just £3.30 for first 3 months with 70% discount
- Crunch– 50% off paid plans and a £200 voucher for new customers
- Ember – 100% free forever plan available or from £7.50 month if you pay annually
4 questions you need to ask your UK small business accounting software supplier
- How do you back up data?
- Tell me about customer support. What are your hours and how quickly should I expect a response if I raise an issue?
- Can you tell me about a similar client who’s signed up to your software?
- Does your platform support foreign currency payments and convert them into sterling?
Best UK small business accounting software: In-depth reviews
Here’s a detailed rundown of each accounting software for small businesses provider, with information on pricing, features and pros and cons.
FreshBooks– best for sole traders
Overview: Back in January 2003 FreshBooks founder Mike McDerment, who at the time was running a design studio, lost hours of work, having saved the wrong invoice using Word and Excel. He decided there had to be a better way and over the next fortnight coded what became the beginnings of FreshBooks.
He and two colleagues then spent the next four years working out of McDerment’s parents’ basement building the company, which basically adapted double-entry bookkeeping for the internet age but more importantly was specifically designed for small business.
Today, the Toronto-based company has over 500 employees and more than 24m people in over 160 countries have used FreshBooks.
FreshBooks offers nearly all of the features every other accounting software platform offers but with one caveat: you have to pay to add clients outside of those allowed on its two lower-priced plans. The basic plan means you can only use FreshBooks with five clients.
Another issue that might be off-putting for a UK small business owner is that telephone support only works during US daytime (8am to 8pm EST/-5hrs GMT), which means that no telephone help is available before 1pm.
- Specifically designed for small businesses
- Colourful and intuitive UX
- Lower-level plans have client limits
- Charge for additional users
- Phone support only during US business hours (8am to 8pm EST/-5hrs GMT)
- Lacks functionality larger businesses need
FreshBooks offers the below when it comes to pricing:
Lite: £3.30 per month + VAT with first three months 70 per cent discount
Plus: £5.70 + VAT with first three months 70 per cent discount
Premium: £9 per month + VAT with first three months 70 per cent discount
Mobile: iOS, Android and Windows
Crunch – best for ease of use
Crunch is the easy-to-use tax and accounting software that has Chartered Certified Accountants on hand to ensure you can meet your tax obligations.
Whether you opt for the ‘free forever’ version, or a sole trader, limited company, or small business package, Crunch’s software is MTD-ready and HMRC recognised. All versions allow you to create and send invoices, manage expenses, and connect your bank account.
On premium plans, you also get access to HMRC registration and VAT and Self-Assessment returns. What’s more, Crunch offers a variety of other essential small business services, including bookkeeping, payroll, insurance, and self-employed mortgages
- Easily create and send invoices
- Record and track expenses
- Connect your bank account
- HMRC registration
- VAT filing
- Access to advice from certified chartered accountants
- Easy to switch from another accounting software
- No minimum term for Pro and Premium plans
- Quite expensive compared to some other providers
- Tied into a 12-month contract on the Small Business plan
Crunch Free: Free forever
Sole Trader Pro: £12.25 per month*
Limited Company Pro: £19.75 per month*
Limited Company Premium: £57.75 per month*
Small Business: £98.25 per month*
*50% off for first 3 months
Mobile: iOS, Android and Windows
Ember – best for an all-in-one solution
Built for sole traders and limited companies, Ember is an MTD-ready accounting software that automates all the most mundane tax and accounting tasks to help you save you time and money.
All plans include automated expenses, the ability to create and send invoices, real time financial reporting, integrations with plenty of apps, and open banking. Ember can file your tax return for £99 and your annual accounts for £200.
On premium plans, it also offers support for more complex queries from its in-house accountants, as well as VAT returns, tax insights and multi-currency support.
- Automated expense management
- Invoice creation
- Review and submit VAT returns directly to HMRC
- Open banking
- Tax insights
- You’re not forced into a long-term contract and can cancel any time
- Supports multi-currency accounting, including live foreign exchange in USD and Euros
- Suitable for everyone from sole traders to businesses
- Has in-house accountants to advise you and file your returns
- Multi-user access isn’t yet supported
Starter: Free – for avg. monthly revenue of up to £1,000
Pro: £7.50 per month – for for avg. monthly revenue of up to £5,000
Unlimited: £24 per month – for for avg. monthly revenue of over £5,000
Starter: Free – for avg. monthly revenue of up to £1,000
Pro: £33 per month – for for avg. monthly revenue of up to £10,000Unlimited: £66 per month – for avg. monthly revenue of up to £1,000
Mobile: iOS, Android
QuickBooks – best for fast-growing businesses
Parent company Intuit was founded in 1983 and the QuickBooks brand was introduced in 2002, with QuickBooks Online following two years later. Today, QuickBooks has 2.2 million users across 225 countries.
Nifty features include a client portal, where customers can view, print and pay invoices and a customer relationship management (CRM) system, which helps you keep on top of your customer database.
Where QuickBooks stands out is the quality of its reporting, with punchy snapshots of how your business is performing financially. Its reporting facility is ahead of rivals such as Xero when it comes to customisation.
- QuickBooks’s user experience (UX) is easy to understand and pleasing to the eye
- QuickBooks is mindful of scaling businesses and its software can have anything up to 25 users
- Professional accountants rate the professionalism of QuickBook’s reports and its bank reconciliation features
- QuickBooks can be difficult to navigate with some features hidden in settings
- It’s a steep learning carver for anybody who’s not technically literate
- There have been complaints that QuickBooks online is still buggy with long waiting times for telephone customer support
QuickBooks is offering a 75 per cent discount for the first four months.
Self-employed is £2 per month rising to £8.
Simple Start is £3 per month, rising to £12.
Essentials is £5.50 per month, rising to £22.
Plus is £8 per month, rising to £32.
Sage Accounting – best for micro businesses with limited stock
Another UK-based payment-processing platform, Sage began life in 1981 when its founder got in touch with Newcastle University students asking them to help him develop an automatic accounting processes program. Jump forward nearly 40 years and Sage now has 13,000 employees across 23 countries serving over three million businesses using its software. Sage says that every month it helps UK firms create over 500,000 invoices, process 700,000 transaction and sell 1.5 million products.
Like all the other small business accounting software packages listed here, Sage is cloud based and links seamlessly to your bank account for real-time reporting.
Features it offers include:
- Estimates and invoicing
- Corporation Tax calculator,
- Multi-currency support
- Bank account connectivity
- Stock management
- Linked to Stripe payments processing system.
- Sage Business Cloud Accounting’s bottom Accounting Start tier is well priced, simple and easy to navigate.
- Sage Business Cloud Accounting’s user experiences looks dated compared with other small business accounting software and some of the terms it uses are clunky, better suited to accountants than small business owners
- Its inventory app is not the best choice if you have a business dealing with hundreds of product lines
Start for sole traders and microbusinesses: free for 1 month then £12 per month + VAT
Standard (includes invoicing and cash flow management): free for 1 month then £26 per month + VAT
Plus (adds multicurrency invoicing and inventory management): free for 1 month then £33 per month + VAT
Mobile: iOS, Android
Xero – best for larger SMEs with multiple users
Xero describes itself as “beautiful accounting software” offering unlimited users with free upgrades. It offers an ecosystem of over 1,000 third-party apps and 300 plus connections to banks and other financial partners.
Established in 2006, New Zealand-based Xero has over 2.7m subscribers in 180 countries and is used by over 16,000 accountants.
Like QuickBooks, Xero offers the following as standard:
- Connects straight to your bank account enabling automatic reconciliation
- Generates quotes and invoices that customers can pay online
- Manages purchase orders, bills and supplier payments digitally
- Helps track stock
- Keeps your account up to date as you buy and sell
- Customisable reports
- Range of apps in marketplace including Shopify, Stripe, PayPal and Square
However, you have to pay extra as bolt-ons if you want to do your payroll on Xero or enable staff to submit expenses, track expense claims.
- Xero is popular with small businesses and especially sales-oriented businesses that need basic stock management built in.
- Its usability, features, extendibility, and network of “Xero certified” accountants make it one of the best small business accounting websites available.
- The Starter plan is extremely limited, offering an improbably low allowance of monthly invoices and quotes.
- The drop-down menus on Xero can be a bit clunkier than, say, QuickBooks.
- And its reporting functions can be more difficult to navigate. For example, unlike QuickBooks, Xero lacks any facility to bunch together creditors and debtors by name in its reports, an omission which mystifies some accountants.
- Xero has improved its functionality dramatically but these improvements have come at the cost of dropping built-in payroll with its monthly subscription plans. And you must subscribe to its most expensive tier if you want multicurrency transactions.
- There is no telephone customer support and users complain that the online-only support has deteriorated, despite the monthly subscription hike.
Starter: £6 per month (usually £12 per month) allows you to send 20 invoices and quotes, enter 5 bills, reconcile 20 bank transactions, submit VAT to HMRC for Making Tax Digital and offers automatic calculations and reports; there are optional bolt-one for payroll, expenses, projects and submitting CIS returns from Xero.
Standard: offers all of the above for £13 per month (usually £26 per month) with unlimited invoicing, bills, bank reconciliation. As with Starter, there are bolt-ons for payroll, expenses, projects and adding a CIS contractor.
Premium: only the top tier Premium option handles multiple currencies for £33 per month but payroll, expenses, projects and adding a CIS contractor are all paid-for bolt-ons.
Mobile: iOS, Android
ClearBooks – best for wholly UK small businesses
Overview: Tim Fouracre, then an accountant at KPMG, founded ClearBooks in July 2008 working out of his spare room. He had developed a simple web-based double-entry accounting system to look after the accounts of the small web-development company he was running in his spare time. He then realised there would be thousands of small UK businesses looking for that same kind of software. Fouracre spent nine years building up ClearBooks before stepping down as CEO in 2017.
Today, Clear Books provides clear and simple cloud accounting and payroll software to thousands of small businesses in the UK.
- Simple to use
- Designed for British businesses
- Support team sits alongside developers
- Value for money
- Some functions can be overly complicated
- Not suitable for enterprise level businesses
- Continual UI updates do frustrate some customers
Small business: £12pm + VAT with 50 per cent discount for three months if you sign up during one-month free trial
Large business: £26 per month + VAT with 50 per cent discount for three months if you sign up during one-month free trial
Mobile: iOS, Android and Windows
QuickBooks Online is the best overall accounting software for small businesses of the 19 products we reviewed. Not only do the majority of small business accounting professionals use QuickBooks Online, but there are also endless online training resources and forums to get support when needed.
They offer the best in the class accounting software with a fully customisable dashboard, time tracking tools and a smart bank feed that does all the hard work for you. So if you're looking for accounting software that's easy to use, affordable, and reliable, then Xero is the right choice for your small business.What is the simplest bookkeeping software? ›
FreshBooks is one of the easiest accounting software to use. The software is designed for small business owners who don't have an accounting background. You can create and send invoices, track expenses, manage projects and clients and view reports.
We've taken the decision to discontinue QuickBooks Desktop for our UK customers, and support will end on the 30 June 2023. But don't worry, you can continue managing your business finances with us by switching to one of our QuickBooks Online plans today.What software do most accountants use? ›
QuickBooks Online has become one of the most widely used accounting suites on the market today, and QuickBooks Desktop is the legacy accounting software. The Enterprise Solutions Suite offers the same as Online or Desktop, but with the capacity to handle accounting and finance for the large businesses.
QuickBooks Online is much easier to set up and use than Excel, which requires some knowledge of formulas. QuickBooks Online is a double-entry accounting system that automates most processes, saving time. You'll need a thorough understanding of bookkeeping systems to customize Excel to keep your books.Do I still need an accountant if I use QuickBooks? ›
Even if you manage your money using QuickBooks, it's worth having your tax return checked and approved by an accounting expert. If you have a more complicated business structure, such as a limited company, it's rarely advisable to do your own tax return, given the detailed knowledge required.
Your access to QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Services, Live Support, Online Backup, Online Banking, and other services through QuickBooks Desktop 2020 software will be discontinued after May 31, 2023. This also means you won't receive critical security updates starting June 1, 2023.Is Xero Recognised by HMRC? ›
Xero is MTD-compliant and HMRC-recognised. You can keep digital records and submit your VAT return directly to HMRC from Xero. In fact, based on a recent survey run by Xero, 88% of those surveyed agreed that Xero has made Making Tax digital for VAT easy for them**.
Here are the top alternatives to Xero accounting software:
QuickBooks Online. Sage Business Cloud Accounting. Zoho Books. OneUp.
If your business needs many users to access your accounting data and requires low-cost inventory and fixed asset accounting, Xero is the better choice. If you need a comprehensive bank reconciliation, class and location tracking, good customer support, and easy access to local bookkeepers, then QuickBooks Online wins.
ClearBooks – Best for Bookkeeping
It's easy-to-use online accounting software designed for UK based sole traders, partnerships and small businesses. To start, they have their Small plan at £6 per month for the first 3 months, then £12 per month from there.
The best accounting software for small businesses should be easy to use, include strong reporting and invoicing capabilities and integrate with your payroll software and/or point-of-sale system. Also consider cost, ease of sharing with accountants, customer support, mobile app features and scalability.
- Create a New Business Account.
- Set Budget Aside for Tax Purposes.
- Always Keep Your Records Organised.
- Track Your Expenses.
- Maintain Daily Records.
- Leave an Audit Trail.
- Stay on Top of Your Accounts Receivable.
- Keep Tax Deadlines in Mind.
The maker of QuickBooks, Intuit, announced that QuickBooks Desktop would be discontinued on October 20, 2021. By midnight on January 31, 2023, any company using the desktop version of QuickBooks would have to find a alternative.
The apps will still be available to users as long as their browsers can support them. However, users will no longer be able to download, receive customer support, or software updates to the apps. The company made the decision to discontinue support of these apps because of limited customer use.Is QuickBooks UK easy to use? ›
Quickbooks Online is user friendly, easy to use and it gives you the ability to access and work on it from any device anywhere. It has a great professional layout with customizable templates. It also has a wide of reports to choose from.
- Payment gateways. Payment gateways provide your customers a safe and secure means of paying you online. ...
- Projects and time tracking. ...
- Bank reconciliation. ...
- Tax readiness. ...
What POS System Does McDonald's Use? As of today, McDonald's uses a form of the NewPOS EPOS system, which is now made by Torex, though was originally developed by the Savista point of sale solution company.
Microsoft Excel is an invaluable tool for accountants to make numerous schedules and calculations that traditional bookkeeping software doesn't provide. It comes with functions for performing complex mathematical calculations and also supports many add-ons for activities like financial forecasting and modeling.
QuickBooks is the most popular small business accounting software businesses use to manage income and expenses and keep track of their financial health. You can invoice customers, pay bills, generate reports, and prepare taxes.
Learning to use QuickBooks is easy for someone familiar with accounting concepts and how the accounting software works, but it can be hard for someone tech-challenged or with no bookkeeping knowledge. While Intuit, the company behind QuickBooks, markets QuickBooks as ready to use – it all depends on the end-user.Why is sage better than Excel? ›
- Finally, Sage has access to a huge set of routines, packages, classes and functions. Excel is limited. In total: Excel is a great tool for a simple problem where you can swiftly get nice output. For semi-professional work, Sage wins on almost all aspects IMHO.
QBO doesn't offer the features you need.
This is its own number because this is such a common rejection of the software. As mentioned QBO is not built to handle everything. Construction accounting, job costing, and inventory management are several common limitations. The apps were designed for this purpose.
Let QuickBooks do the hard work for you. QuickBooks Online accounting software comes MTD compliant and recognised by HMRC. Sign up for Making Tax Digital with HMRC and enable MTD in the Taxes tab of your QuickBooks account.
QuickBooks certification can take as little as 2-3 weeks. Intuit QuickBooks training offers two-day live online or self-paced instruction. These include a study guide, practice test, and exam voucher.Do companies still use QuickBooks? ›
Who uses QuickBooks?
Inventory and warehouse problems, operational efficiencies, cost, and lack of third-party software integration are among the most common reasons why companies leave QuickBooks for specialized finance and accounting solutions.What percent of small businesses use QuickBooks? ›
QuickBooks is the accounting software of choice for more than 29 million small businesses in the U.S. They have over 80% market share and have a diverse product offering suited to help both small businesses (QuickBooks Online) and larger growing companies (QuickBooks Enterprise) and everything in between (QuickBooks ...
While you probably could manage your finances through Xero without the help of a professional accountant, you may not be making the most of it. In fact, you could be missing little key details left, right and centre. Think of it like making repairs in your house.
After you post pay runs for all your nil payments, Xero will automatically file your EPS with HMRC.
Xero has direct bank feeds to many UK banks and financial institutions including Barclays, NatWest, RBS and more. Connect your bank to automatically import transactions. You need to be registered for online banking to make the connection between your bank accounts and Xero.Can I get Xero for free? ›
Join and get Xero free
It's free to join, and to use Xero and Xero HQ.
Xero's vast resources, massive online community and straightforward product make it easy to find support for basically any issue. MYOB offers similar online support, but not to the same level. MYOB's advantage over Xero lies in its all-week phone support. Xero does not offer phone support at all.Why is Xero great? ›
Because Xero is cloud-based, it also allows real-time updates. So you and others can look at the same information at the same time from different locations. Security also comes into play here as well, as you're always in control of who has access to Xero and what they're able to do in Xero.
Xero and QuickBooks Online are both powerful accounting software solutions for small businesses. However, when you compare features, QuickBooks Online is the stronger candidate, especially for business owners who prioritize scalability and the ability to loop in accountants.Is there a monthly fee for QuickBooks? ›
QuickBooks Online Pricing Plans. QBO offers four subscription plans: Simple Start, Essentials, Plus, and Advanced. These plans range from $30/month to $200/month. Each tier gives you access to more features and users.
|Standard Price per Month||$15||$30|
|Promotion Price per Month for Three Months||$7.50||$15|
|Number of Users Included||1||1|
|Calculate Estimated Tax Payment||✓||✓|
SAP , RDSAP and BREDEM are used to underpin the delivery of a number of key energy and environmental policy initiatives, for example: Buildings Regulations for England and Wales and the Devolved Administrations.
Designed in collaboration with NHS stakeholders, Odoo Open Source - NHS Finance Edition is a fully-featured accounting system meeting the specific needs of NHS organisations.
Quickbooks Online is user friendly, easy to use and it gives you the ability to access and work on it from any device anywhere. It has a great professional layout with customizable templates. It also has a wide of reports to choose from.Do I need an accountant if I use QuickBooks UK? ›
Even if you manage your money using QuickBooks, it's worth having your tax return checked and approved by an accounting expert. If you have a more complicated business structure, such as a limited company, it's rarely advisable to do your own tax return, given the detailed knowledge required. Getting organised.
Xero Go is now available for UK subscribers on iOS and Android. The app is free to download with a paid add-on invoicing feature, which includes the ability to add Stripe payments to invoices.What system do bookkeepers use? ›
A double-entry system is a far more advanced type of bookkeeping system that is used by most companies, bookkeepers and also by accountants with their own firms.
ERP is basically a software suite of various applications involving business process management. SAP is a software development corporation that provides ERP software solutions in the market. The ERP is a tool used for the management of business processes across various industries.Does Microsoft still use SAP? ›
Microsoft uses various SAP applications: SAP SuccessFactors; SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain; SAP Business Technology Platform; and other SAP software running on Microsoft Azure.
Financial Only: $645 base fee. $185 Pro, $135 Limited per user/per month. SAP Manufacturing: $840 base fee. $220 Pro, $170 Limited per user/ per month.Does the NHS use Oracle? ›
UK National Health Service uses Oracle Machine Learning solutions to reduce treatment costs and save £1B annually. See how the global research community is using a genomic sequencing platform running on Oracle Cloud, to discover and act on coronavirus mutations.
Staff at one of the largest and busiest NHS trusts in the UK have said Microsoft's Azure cloud has enabled them to take “massive steps forward” in using technology to help patients.
What does service discontinuation mean? Your access to QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Services, Live Support, Online Backup, Online Banking, and other services through QuickBooks Desktop 2020 software will be discontinued after May 31, 2023. This also means you won't receive critical security updates starting June 1, 2023.
You can also receive instructions in accounting or payroll basics. If you have a busy schedule, you can sign up for the self-paced online video training. Once you have received the videos, they are yours indefinitely so that you can learn at your own pace.