Best free accounting software
Whether you're a freelancer or a full-time business owner, a graphic designer or a greengrocer, if you're running any kind of business you really need some kind of accounting software to stay on top of things – as we discovered, the age-old system of throwing everything into a drawer and panicking at tax return time isn't the best way to go.
But that doesn't mean you need to invest huge sums or learn something hopelessly complicated. The best free accounting software is easy to use and enables you to see how well you're doing and who owes you money.
When it comes to highlighting our favorites here, we considered not just available features, but also professional reviews and user experiences.
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The best free accounting software around...
ZipBooks offers accounting software that has a contemporary interface along with a robust feature set. It promises to make accounting easy so the user can save time, and get on with other tasks.
The Starter tier is available for free. It provides unlimited invoices to an unlimited number of customers, making it less restrictive than some other free accounting offerings. It can also be used for unlimited bookkeeping, and can accept payments from credit cards and PayPal.
Paid tiers begins at $15 (£12) per month, and includes most of the features you'll ever need. However, if you need really advanced ones such as smart tagging, with advanced reporting and intelligence, it will cost $35 (£30) per month. For $125 per month you can even get your own supplied bookkeeper to provided analyses and recommendations.
Download here: ZipBooks
Straightforward enough for home use, as well as small businesses
Another superb open source tool, Money Manager Ex is well designed and packed with enough features to rival premium software. It's easy to understand, and you'll have your accounts and transactions set up in no time. Money Manager Ex's simplicity makes it a particularly good choice for sole traders or your own home finances.
This free accounting software is a portable app, so you can save and use it straight from a USB stick without even needing to install it. There's an Android app for updating your accounts on the move, too.
Review and where to download: Money Manager Ex
A simple approach to bookkeeping
GnuCash is accounting software designed for individuals and small businesses, and was initially conceived as an open source alternative to apps such as Intuit's Quicken.
This app has been around since the late 1990s, and the most recent version is GnuCash 3.4. It's available for Linux, GNU, OpenBSD, Android, macOS and Windows.
It handles invoicing and credit notes, accounts payable and receivable, employee expenses and some payroll features too, and it's quite happy with multiple currencies, cards and accounts. Its sheer flexibility makes it our top choice when it comes to accounting software for kitchen table businesses.
Review and where to download: GnuCash
A heftier accounting tool that will suit owners of SMBs
TurboCASH is free accounting software that's been in continuous development since April 1985, and it's hugely popular in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. It's available in 23 languages and boasts an online community of more than 100,000 users.
Designed for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), it's probably a bit much for freelancers or sole traders, but if you need something a bit more useful than a cash book TurboCASH can handle VAT, debtors and creditors, purchase orders, multiple companies and multiple users.
While TurboCASH is free and covers most of the basics needed with accounting software, there's a paid-for version available as an upgrade which provides more advanced features. This paid-for version allows for it be to run from the cloud, as well as providing budgets, payroll, PDF reports, and a ledger analyzer among other things.
Download here: TurboCASH
Slick, cloud-based free accounting that works well for freelancers
With more than two million users, Wave is one of the most successful online accounting services - and it's completely free for accounting, invoicing and receipts, although if you want personal technical support you'll need to pay for it. Payroll isn't included in the free service either, and you do get the occasional advert – just as you do with pretty much any free online service.
It's a very well designed and carefully thought out application, and while it's probably a little basic for medium-sized businesses it's a good option for sole traders, freelancers and small firms.
However, note that while Wave is free to use, you still pay per transaction, currently between 1.4%-2.9% plus a fee of around $0.25. For start-ups and businesses with low sales volume this may not matter, but for businesses with significant sales volume they may be able to find a more competitive pricing model.
Try it online: Wave
Generate forms, invoices, quotes and orders in moments
With versions for PC, Mac, iPad and Android, NCH Express Invoice caters for most kinds of businesses - and if you have fewer than five members of staff, you can have it for free without time limits or other restrictions.
It's designed to create invoices, quotes and orders easily, to automate recurring ones and to send them by email or fax, and there's a decent range of reports to pore over. The free accounting software is really just a front-end for a web-based service, but that's no bad thing unless your business struggles to get a decent internet connection.
Download here: NCH Express Invoice
Minimalist bookkeeping that uses Excel for the grunt work
It's not going to win any awards for aesthetics, but VT Cash Book isn't there to look good: its priority is to record day to day cash transactions with the least amount of fuss. It uses Autocomplete to speed up data entry, supports multiple bank accounts and bank reconciliation, can be used to prepare VAT returns and enables you to create profit and loss, balance sheets and ledgers.
The free accounting software installs alongside its companion program, the paid-for VT Transaction+, but you don't need to buy the latter to use the former.
Download here: VT Cash Book
A good option for anyone selling physical products
The free (Lite) version of Invoice Expert is limited to 100 customers/products, but it retains the features of the paid-for Advanced Edition – which retails at $69.95 (about £55) – including inventory and customer management, invoicing and quoting, purchase orders and inventory management.
This free accounting software is a little bit intimidating at first glance, especially in the template-editing screens, but it's straightforward enough. It's an American program but it uses your Windows location to set the currency, so it should adjust itself accordingly for those outside the US.
Download here: Invoice Expert Lite Edition
A complete money-management toolkit for small business owners
Adminsoft Accounts is a software accounting package that's powered by advertising to generate revenue, making it free to download and use. According to the website, more than 300,00 people have taken advantage of what is a surprisingly thorough free accounting system (and an refreshingly honest set of terms and conditions).
It can handle not just invoicing and statements but remittance advice, stock control, purchase orders, budgeting and some HR functions too. It's a UK program so the default is pounds sterling, but it works happily in other currencies too.
There is a paid-for version you can buy to run the software without advertising, with pricing starting at $259 (£199) for the main accounting software platform, with a slightly higher cost if you also want to include AutoManager or Shop/Cafe Manager.
Download here: AdminSoft Accounts
Free small business accounting in the cloud – no desktop software needed
Designed specifically for non-accountants, QuickFile offers multiple free tiers for small businesses while still delivering automatic invoicing, purchase/receipt management, quotations and multi-currency support. Add in a fully branded client area, and this makes for a professional solution at a hard to beat price.
It’s cloud-based rather than a software download, and if you like the free version you can upgrade to an ad-free, more advanced version with bulk invoicing, revision history and a host of power user features for a modest fee of $58/£45 annually.
Try it online: QuickFile
- Need something a bit more complex? Try one of these best accounting software packages