Best accounting software
Bookkeeping doesn’t have to be tied to just one computer, we look at the options for keeping accounts in the cloud
Cloud-based accounts are increasing in popularity and there are many services from which to choose from. While a lot of these are US-based, there are some from the UK and further afield.
Choosing the right cloud-based accounts software for you is not an easy task. The capabilities vary greatly from company to company. Some target the sole proprietor, freelancer or contractor while others aim to be a one-stop shop for SMEs
Some offer ancillary services such as expense tracking, invoicing, and even human resources functionalities.
We look at the options available in cloud-based accounts software.
Price: From free
Wave Accounting has been designed for micro businesses - those with ten employees or less and as such, it's been designed to fit in with very small budgets. The basic version is completely free and that includes more premium features that other accounting apps charge for. For example, double entry accounting is supported in the free version - a service you normally have to pay for when using Wave Accounting's rivals.
If you want people to be able to pay you online, you'll have to pay fees to the company and this is how it makes its money. You can also add on extra modules, including the ability to manage payroll for $20-$34 a month, although this feature is only reserved for US-based companies at the moment.
Wave's user experience is really top notch, with an easy to use app across all devices. It also supports multiple currencies, so if you're paid in dollars but want to account in pound sterling, you can do so.
Like other accounting apps for small businesses, you can use Wave Accounting for your entire accounting process, including invoicing, linking your bank and PayPal account to import transactions automatically and generating reports.
Price: Cashbook: £5 per month; Accounts: £10 per month; Payroll: from £5 a month
Sage is well known in the UK for its accountancy software and Sage One is its foray into the cloud.
It offers a number of packages aimed at the sole trader up to the larger SMB. Sage One Cashbooks costs £5 per month and has a simple graphical interface for entering income and expenses. This is aimed at sole traders and cash-based businesses.
Sage One Accounting has features aimed at larger businesses and costs £10 per month. This package supports multiple currencies, can raise and send invoices, track quotes as well as manage and submit VAT returns.
The interface makes it easy to use and is logically laid out. You don’t particularly need knowledge of the previous software versions to figure out how to use this.
Price: Self-employed package costs £4.80; Simple Start is £5.60 per month; Essentials costs £10.50 a month; Plus package costs £15
QuickBooks Online has offerings aimed at different types and sizes of business. It sports a colourful dashboard and users can quickly get up to speed entering details such as suppliers, creditor, expenses and invoicing.
The service will tailor itself to the industry you work in and the welcome guide helps in sorting out any queries you might have in using the service.
It supports a number of third-party apps to extend its usefulness. Support for online payment services PayPal and Stripe are built-in.
Price: Sprout costs $14.95 per month; Seedling costs $24.95 per month
This online accounts software is aimed at small businesses and comes in a range of packages to suit users with differing numbers of billable clients.
The service offers step-by-step guides to get users up and running. There are also online videos to show things in more detail, such as invoicing.
Clients can be important via CSV and vCard formats and can import from QuickBooks.
It can also send recurring invoices, create credit notes for advance payments and overpayments, and review all the invoices created.
It also has mobile apps that include a time tracker to log billable hours as well as the ability to create invoices and estimates while with clients in the field.
Price: Starter: £4.50; Standard: £10 per month; Premium: £12.50
Offering a complete package for small businesses, Xero offers plenty of information about accounting and allows external accountants access to your books.
The Starter version allows users to create and send five invoices, so most firms will go for the Standard version or Premium version. The Premium version is necessary if you do business internationally.
It includes live bank feeds via Yodlee, mobile apps for iOS and Android, and integration with a wide range of external applications and services.
There is also an add-on directory featuring over 350 services and applications that work with Xero.
Price: Starter edition: £5.00 per month; Business edition: £10.00 per month; Business and Payroll: £15.00 per month
Quite possibly the only cloud-based accounting package started by a former drug dealer, Kashflow should not be overlooked. The firm was bought out by Iris a few years back and has gone from strength to strength.
As well as services for SMEs there are also packages aimed at accountants. The interface is simple but possibly dated as the package has added few features in the intervening years.
That said the loyal fanbase loves the package and it is easy to set up. There is guidance whenever a user accesses a new part of the service for the first time.
It integrates with more than 40 add-ons and 17 payment processors (such as PayPal, Shopify and Salesforce).
Pricing: Sole Trader: £19 per month; Partnership: £24 per month; Limited Company: £29 per month
The UK-based service has grown beyond these shores and now offers US and Universal packages for those wanting to do accounts anywhere in the world.
It sports a simple, jargon-free interface that will appeal to freelancers and small businesses. The service allows access to unlimited number of users, both inside and outside of your organisation. FreeAgent settings allow you to customize each user’s access level.
It boasts excellent support for filling out the dreaded tax return and makes it easy to not only send invoices but also keep track of payments and reporting income and expenses.
Pricing: Standard: £64.50 per month; Plus: £96.50 per month; Premium: £126.50 per month
Crunch is not just a cloud-based accounting package, there is also a fully-fledged accountancy firm behind the scenes as well. This means (as you can probably guess) that you can get access to real-life accountants for the not insubstantial monthly fee.
The standard service offers the basics such as accounting, VAT, year-end accounting and directors' payroll. The Plus service adds employee payroll, IR35, secure bank feeds, filing of annual returns and self-assessment. The Premium includes bookkeeping.
The interface is tabbed with different sections and signing lands you on the home page, which is a dashboard that gives you an overview of important information about your firm.
As mentioned earlier, there are a host of accountants that are there to help out if you need anything and will oversee your accounts too.
Activation playbook: Deliver data that powers impactful, game-changing campaigns
Bringing together data and technology to drive better business outcomesFree Download
In unpredictable times, a data strategy is key
Data processes are crucial to guide decisions and drive business growthFree Download
Achieving resiliency with Everything-as-a-Service (XAAS)
Transforming the enterprise IT landscapeFree Download
What is contextual analytics?
Creating more customer value in HR software applicationsFree Download