TechnologyAccounting SoftwareBest accounting software for businesses in the UK

Best accounting software for businesses in the UK

Currently, there are many accounting services targeted at both small proprietors and large businesses. Here is a guide to a number of accounting software options available in the UK

Lead by the “software-as-a-service” revolution, providers of traditional accounting software have been forced to increase their systems’ usability, streamlining weekly, monthly and yearly administrative tasks and ensuring that operations are rolled out more smoothly.

In today’s world, businesses do not need to spend each year on new versions of software, but can instead pay a monthly fee that provides them with an all access pass to their data. These new cloud-based subscription software licensing models mean that the former “one license is only for one computer” protocol has been rendered irrelevant. If a business has access to a web browser and login details, it can easily raise an invoice, process a payment and even reconcile a bank statement. Businesses are also not required to worry about updating their software to comply with new accounting rules as software automatically updates to accommodate these changes.

Currently, there are many accounting services targeted at both small proprietors and large businesses. Here is a guide to a number of accounting software options available in the UK.

Xero

Founded in 2006, New Zealand based Xero is a cloud-based accounting software designed for small and growing businesses. As of February 2018, Xero has a total of 253,000 users in the UK.

Pros

As a cloud-based solution, Xero can easily be accessed from all types of devices with an active internet connection. It is built on a double entry accounting framework and its robust accounting features enables small businesses to view their cash flow, transactions and account details from any location. Bank transactions are all automatically imported and coded.

Online bill payments help keep track of spending and stay on top of bills due, improving relationships with the suppliers that provide critical business services. It also allows businesses to manage personal expenses with a mobile review and approval process of each receipt. Xero offers unlimited user support and integration with over 600 systems through its add-on marketplace, including Curve, Receipt Bank, and Vend. It also updates its software on a regular basis.

Cons

In some areas, Xero’s accounting features are limited, for example it has only two tracking categories.

For this software, business users pay a subscription amount for the most basic version. In order to access functions such as expanded time tracking and inventory tracking, businesses need to purchase add-ons on top of the subscription. Importing data is free, but using payment services like Paypal or Stripe carries a cost.

Pricing

The solution comes with a 30-day free trial period for product testing and feature evaluation. It provides three pricing levels that kick in after a 30-day free trial. Xero Starter (£10 per month) has monthly limits of five invoices and quotes, five bills, and reconciliation for 20 bank transactions, but payroll is not supported. Xero Standard (£22 per month) adds unlimited billing and invoice functionality, quotes, and transaction reconciliations, free payroll for five employees for the first six months and £5 a month thereafter plus £1 a month per extra person with 200 people as a maximum, and bills. Xero Premium (£27.50 per month) is the only version to offer multiple currency support, and on top of that offers the same capabilities as Xero Standard.

Intuit QuickBooks

QuickBooks is another veteran of the accounting software business. Similar to other accounting tools, Quickbooks comes with an attractive dashboard that puts key data such as income (split into open, overdue and paid in the last 30 days), expenses and profit and loss in front of you as soon as you log in.

It offers true double-entry accounting with ample reports and strong accounts charts, as well as customisable invoices, inventory capabilities, payroll support, multiple currencies, and over 400 integrations.

Pros

One of the best aspects about QuickBooks is that the software continues to be updated on a regular basis. One of the most recent updates the software received was the project management feature. The software also provides users with many features that other traditional locally installed software do not provide. These features include automatic sales receipts, split transactions, scheduled invoices, and location and class categories.

Cons

Quickbooks, which is generally a feature-rich, high-quality software, does have disadvantages as the software’s several customers have flagged that the software still does not compare to its desktop counterpart and can sometimes be complicated and hard to navigate over a period of time.

Pricing

Quickbooks currently has three versions for small and medium business owners, all of which offer a 30-day free trial. These are Self-Assessment/Simple Start (£6 per month), aimed at microbusinesses. The simple start allows businesses to track income and expenses, create and send invoices and estimates, and connect to bank accounts and add-on applications. Essentials (£15 per month) provides all the features of self-assessment and additionally provides bill paying and instant reports. Business Plus (£25 per month) enables users to track inventory and prepare 1099s for their contractors. The prices of all three versions do not include payroll, which makes QuickBooks Online less affordable than Xero.

Wave

Wave is one of the most successful free online accounting services. The tool is completely free for accounting, invoicing and receipts; however, businesses are required to pay for payroll and additional personal technical support. Although the software is a little basic for medium-sized businesses, it’s a good option for sole traders, freelancers and small firms.

The free features that Wave provides are unlimited invoicing, unlimited estimates, contact management, expense tracking, personal accounting, lending and reports.

Pros

Wave has rolled out its Android and iPhone apps, and the software has also included a lending feature, demonstrating that it constantly updates the software to better fit customers’ needs. The accounting software is one of the easiest accounting software programs to set up. Navigation is simple, and overall organisation is intuitive.

Cons

Although the software and all its standard features are free, it has additional costs for its payroll and credit card processing features. Also, these two features are only available for users in US and Canada.

Pricing

Wave is a free for life software. The software also does not limit users to the number of invoices, customers or transactions, like other accounting software.

Zoho Books

Zoho Books provides a variety of financial tools for small business owners. The accounting tool has usability, flexibility, and depth in standard bookkeeping areas, such as sales and purchases, time and project-tracking, and inventory management. Zoho also comes with help tutorials and guides on phone, email, chat, and online documentation, which are crucial for accounting solutions.

Pros

The software allows businesses to streamline their back-office functions and also manage all financial activities from a single hub. This also allows businesses to access unrestricted payments from all locations, receiving timely payment requests and reminders on recurrent bills, and even auto-charge options. On Zoho Books, businesses can also adjust the finance management to their project structure and manage all tasks and projects from any device. One of the best aspects about the software is that Zoho Books guarantees that all work and projects are completed and monitored during and after office hours as well.

Cons

User-access permissions cannot be established down to the screen and activity level. The software’s report customisation is also quite weak and it does not have payroll integration. Some features, such as contact and item records, transactions, inventory and project management, customisability (except for reports), automation, and user interface/navigation are some of the best among accounting tools.

Pricing

The accounting tool currently offers a 14-day free trial, following which users can subscribe to the tool. The available plans are the basic plan, standard plan and professional plan. The plan also limits users to 50 contacts, one user plus an accountant, and five automated workflows. The supported features include invoices, expense-tracking, projects, and timesheets. The standard plan, which costs £12 per organisation per month, provides businesses with higher limits on all features that are present in basic. It also additionally adds bills, vendor credits, and reporting tags features. The professional plan offers unlimited contacts and users, and 10 automated workflows per module, in addition to purchase orders, sales orders, and inventory tracking. It costs £18 per organisation per month.

Sage 50c Premium Accounting

Sage 50c is a large small business accounting application that has been primarily designed for desktop use. One of the most significant elements of the software is that it is cloud-based. Businesses can share their financial data with their accountant and other users by storing it on the web-based Sage Drive. Although Sage has adopted the cloud, it still lacks integrated browser-based remote access for transaction entry and data retrieval.

For small businesses looking for an accounting tool that will provide a solution with a strong feature set and exceptional customisability, especially in terms of inventory management, Sage 50c is a good option. The software is known to have the most thorough documentation and provides online and phone-based support, as well as professional advisers.

Pros

Businesses can easily view their financial reports from their laptop, tablet, or smartphone without having to go into Sage 50. Being cloud-based, the software comes with automated offsite back-ups. Businesses can also undo data entry errors by restoring data from the cloud as of a particular date.

Cons

Sage has only released an iOS version of its app and has not released any app specifically for Android users.

Pricing

The Sage 50c premium accounting software comes in three different packages. The most basic package, the Sage 50c Essential is targeted towards micro businesses and provides licence for a single user. The basic plan costs £20 per month and enables businesses to manage cashflow, income expenses and payments, along with secure cloud access and backups. Sage 50c premium provides a 30-day free trial period only for its advanced packages – standard and professional. The Sage 50c premium standard plan is a desktop accounting solution that costs £60 per month and comes with stock management and departmental analysis. The professional plan comes at the cost of £125 per month that provides access to over 20 users. In this plan, businesses can manage an unlimited number of companies and receive in-depth stock reporting. Both the standard and the professional provide support for Microsoft office 365 Business Premium.

KashFlow 

Founded in 2005, KashFlow has won numerous awards including Best SME Accounting and Finance in 2011 and 2012 and Best Small Business Accounting Software in 2008 and 2009. Currently, there are 57,000 businesses using KashFlow in the UK.

Pros

KashFlow now has its own app called the KashFlow Go. The app is targeted towards traders and small business owners. It is available on both Android and iOS and has been designed to provide a financial overview of the business while on the go, create and send quotes and invoices.

A unique aspect about the KashFlow accounting software is that the software directly links to HMRC enabling users to access all data in a single place, easing compliance burdens. It also integrates with industry leading online payment processors like Worldpay and GoCardless.

Cons

Although the accounting software has addressed some user requests, it has still downgraded features in many aspects. The software has dropped the number of integrations on offer and has removed their customisable dashboard feature. KashFlow also faces issues with navigation on the website.

Pricing

The software comes with a free 30-day trial that requires no credit card. Following the free trial, the company offers three pricing plans. There is no annual contract, and users have the right to cancel at any time. These plans are starter, which is £7 per month, business which is £14 per month, and business and payroll, which is £19.

SAP Business One

SAP Business One is often described as an enterprise management tool designed to streamline the flow and storing of information across businesses of all scales. The accounting tool is often used to address the needs of many industry verticals including manufacturing, retail, service, and distribution industries. It features a remote support platform that can perform automatic system health checks, scheduled database maintenance operations, upgrade eligibility checks, and automatic fixes for detected issues. It is deployed on-site and runs on Windows operating systems. Businesses can deploy the tool between one and 30 users.

It primarily provides businesses with access to applications for general ledger, journal entries, project cost accounting, budget management, financial reporting, multi-currency support, and other functions. Business One is often defined as a single system that requires only a single installation.

Pros

In terms of accounting software, SAP Business One is known for its extensive customisation. The software also comes with an underlying SAP HANA database that allows for complex business analytics. It is known for its multi-currency support and extensive documentation.

Cons

Installing and running SAP Business One is sometimes not as quick and easy as other cloud-based mid-range accounting software. Businesses need to plan for implementation, configuration and testing of the software, which could take several weeks, as compared to the quick installation of cloud-based software. These services also incur and additional charge by partners and resellers.

Pricing

The software comes with a free trial for interested customers, and quote-tailored enterprise pricing license for those who decide to purchase it.

NetSuite

NetSuite, which is now known as Oracle Netsuite, is another cloud-based on-demand platform that enables businesses to address real-time global business management and financial consolidation requirements and deliver them to mid-sized companies with multinational and multi-subsidiary operations. It was one of the of the first enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems designed and written exclusively for the cloud. NetSuite effectively enables companies with several subsidiaries, entities and business units to function using a single account, dealing with different currencies, taxation and governance requirements.

The software provides real-time analytics free for all users.

Pros

The tool is often preferred by businesses as it features role-based dashboards and real-time metrics that help improve business performance, encourage and improve accountability and compliance through comprehensive, auditable accounting and speed up settlement of outstanding sales via automated billing management.

One of the best features about the tool is that users will not need to wait and purchase different versions as they are released as there is only one codebase fully controlled by the vendor. The user will also not need to wait for updates and bug fixes to be built and tested, as they are automatically updated by NetSuite.

Cons

The one disadvantage that the software has is that businesses often find it difficult to configure the software for a specific role. Many businesses and users have also shared that the software’s help support can be confusing.

Pricing

Currently, the software is solely available as a subscription-based service. Small and medium businesses need to contact NetSuite or its resellers to receive a quote for purchasing the software. It should be noted that the base price quoted by the company does not include fees for partner/reseller value-add services, like installation, customisation, or training. It is sold primarily through a partner/reseller channel.

Next steps

The availability of a wide range of accounting software can make it difficult for small and medium businesses to choose one software. Businesses need to review each software and choose the system that suits the business’ needs. In order to choose the right software, businesses need to consider the look and feel, customisability and scalability, record keeping, tasks and data access reports and subscription fees. Businesses should also take advantage of the free trials offered to fully understand the software capabilities before opting to purchase or subscribe.

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