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Good with figures? The best small business accounting software out there

So you’ve got a great idea, a growing team, and the future is looking bright – but, unfortunately, there’s a side to all small businesses that often fills the founder with dread. Yes – we’re talking accounts.

Now, the more mathematically gifted of you may do better in this sphere, but it’s not just a matter of doing a few sums – there are still issues of filing, organisation, and the dreaded taxes (boo, hiss). You could outsource to an accountant – but why not try some of the amazing cloud-based software that’s out there instead? It could save you time, money and a whole lot of headaches!

We’ve done a bit of detective work and compared a few of the best out there, from the cheap as chips to the more specialised. There’s an accounting software package for everyone – get involved!

Clearbooks

Price:

From £7 to £20 a month (ex VAT).

With four options to choose from you can use Clearbooks for everything from a simple invoicing service to a more complex plan, depending on your business needs – at according price levels. 8/10

Free Trial?

Yes – 30 days. 10/10

Design:

Simple and fun – the colour scheme is appealing and it’s really accessible, which is welcome in accounting software. 7/10

Ease of use:

Clearbooks is generally fairly easy to use, and is great if you want to customise your experience to your business. It can, however, be a little difficult navigate at times, so perhaps not best for the easily flustered. 7/10

Features:

Clearbooks allows you to register unlimited users with varying access levels (perfect for keeping employees in the loop), and it offers some nifty integrations with systems such as PayPal, Mailchimp and HMRC. It’s also available in an app, so you can ‘remain accountable’ (sorry) on the go. Speaking of tax, however, Clearbooks only supports the flat-rate VAT scheme, or businesses not registered for VAT – which could be a problem if you’re a bigger company. 7/10

Verdict:

A great option for start-ups looking to get off the ground, small businesses that don’t require a complex service, and micro-businesses or sole traders who have simple tax needs. Overall, an impressive 39/50.

Xero

Price:

£9-£25 per month (ex VAT)

Choose from ‘Starter’, ‘Standard’ or ‘Premium’. The starter account is simply the standard account but with limited transactions and invoices, whilst the premium account introduces a multi-currency option for international trade. 8/10

Free Trial?

Yes – 30 days. 10/10

Design:

Marketed as “beautiful accounting software”, Xero is one of the more attractive of the comprehensive packages, with easy-to-read graphs taking pride of place. If you respond well to more visual representations rather than endless tables and blocks of text, this might be a winner. 9/10

Ease of use:

Xero is user-friendly, although can sometimes fall into the trap of being too jargon-heavy. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a major downfall, it’s worth considering how well you can deal with accountancy vocab, especially as users have complained in the past that it isn’t the easiest to set up. 7/10

Features:

Xero’s huge range of integrations make it one of the more flexible pieces of software and, again, it supports multiple users. Its banking integrations are more user-friendly than other systems and it is often more intuitive so that, over time, regular processes become easier and more fluid. Basically, it’s smart. And there’s an app too. 9/10

Verdict:

Great for small businesses looking for a simplified process rather than a helping hand onto the first rung of accountancy, and the premium version is particularly useful for businesses that operate abroad. Overall, a tidy 43/50 for this one.

Kashflow

Price:

£5-15 per month (ex VAT).

For just £5 per month Kashflow’s basic package offers a good introduction to accounting, but its most popular ‘Business’ account is also great value at £10, allowing unlimited transactions and invoices as well as a range of new features. The extra £5 for the high-end package adds in some fantastic payroll features. 8/10

Free Trial?

Yes – 14 days. 7/10

Design:

Kashflow is not as stylised as the other systems, offering a more basic design. Although it’s not as flashy as some of the others on offer, it’s still easy to follow and navigate. 7/10

Ease of use:

Kashflow has a ‘no accountant speak’ policy which is usually welcome, but can sometimes complicate things further. It does, however, turn off features you aren’t using at that moment to make sure you are only looking at the information you want, which is handy. 7/10

Features:

Kashflow’s biggest and best feature is its ability to file your VAT reports direct to HMRC, without you having to log in to the government system each time. If that wasn’t enough, its invoicing service is speedy and it offers a great stock management service not present in a lot of other offerings. On the down side there is no integrated bank feed, meaning banking data must be input manually, and there is limited support for multiple users. There’s also an app. 7/10

Verdict:

Good for product-based SMEs looking to take the hassle out of April 1st with a comprehensive yet simple system, but points docked for lack of banking automation and lack of support for multiple users. Overall, a score of 36/50.

Sage One

Price:

£5-25 per month (ex VAT).

From the basic Payroll or Cashbook (£5) features, which let you keep track of your employees and cashflow, to Accounts (£10) and Accounts Extra (£25) with increasingly specialised benefits, there’s something for everyone. 9/10

Free Trial?

Yes – 30 days. 10/10

Design:

Expect a lot of different shades of green within this modular design – it’s professional rather than cutesy, as it’s aimed more at ‘proper’ accountants, but it still looks good. 6/10

Ease of use:

Sage One has been criticised for being complicated and inflexible, and there’s no smoke without fire. While it’s definitely better suited to accountants, or those who can at least talk the talk, it’s still one of the most comprehensive systems on the market – it just depends if you want to trade off the many features for a less frustrating user experience. 6/10

Features:

All major VAT systems are supported and your package comes with 24 hour email and telephone support, so you’ll never be left in the dark. Although you’ll need a premium account to support foreign currency, it also offers a range of services for trading abroad, as well as a function for managing multiple businesses from the same account. Like the others so far, there’s an app available too. 9/10

Verdict:

Well-suited to more established SMEs with a good head for numbers, prior accounting experience, or a need for extensive features (especially for transactions abroad). Overall, a high score of 40/50

Wave

Price:

Free – although you can pay for add-ons such as payroll. 10/10

Free Trial?

N/A – it’s all free! Hooray! 10/10

Design:

Clean and simple, this is one of the more stylish of the lot – great if too much going on distracts or terrifies you. 8/10

Ease of use:

As a free service, Wave is one of the more simplistic pieces of software, which makes it very easy to use and navigate – a good starting point for anyone trying to get to grips with their finances. 8/10

Features:

The free version of Wave is basically just an invoicing software. Logins can be done through Facebook or Yahoo, making account management easier, and perhaps its best feature is the ‘Invoice Now’ button, making it easier than ever to manage your money – but it’s lacking in the other handy features, such as integration and tax tools, that other software boasts. It also has an app. 4/10

Verdict:

A freebie and a goody for very small businesses or sole traders (it’s designed for 9 people or less) looking for a simple way to manage cashflow through invoices – a perfect stepping stone. 40/50

The winner?

With an impressive 43/50, Xero’s stylish design, intuitive set-up and range of integration takes top place in our round-up of the best accounting software – congratulations!