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Best small business accounting software in 2021

A calculator laid on top of paper accounts.
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

The best small business accounting software makes it simple and easy to manage financial records for all costs and profit.

Having the right package is non-negotiable if you're trying to run your own small business business, and the sooner you deploy one of the best accounting bundles the better.

While there are standalone platforms for invoicing software and tax software for small businesses, generally your accounting platforms will be more comprehensive.

While there are some very good paid-for accounting programs around, there are also a strong number of free accounting software solutions currently available, as well as bookkeeping software. While some of these are simply free tiers for paid software, others are freeware programs you can download and use without charge to help with budgeting. There are also time management apps that can integrate for consultants or freelancers who need to charge by hour.

This can be very helpful for start-ups who want to keep their accounts organized without committing to a solution, while also reducing initial costs. Other businesses might simply prefer them because they often allow for a greater control of your data, by running on your own machines rather than on third-party clouds.

The best accounting solution will also integrate with any ecommerce software you're running, regardless of the theme installed. 

Here we'll feature the best accounting software currently available on the market, and also include further options to consider, as you can opt for specific expense tracker apps or even customer accounts.

The best accounting software for small business in 2021

Freshbooks

Freshbooks is our best all round accounting software option for small businesses (Image credit: Freshbooks)

1. Freshbooks

Best all-rounder for small businesses

Reasons to buy
+User-friendly interface+Plenty of depth and features+Integrates with many popular services
Reasons to avoid
-Too many features for some-Complex features need time-More costs for more features

FreshBooks is a popular cloud-based accounting service designed specifically for small business owners.

The package has plenty of features – invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking, a host of business reports, even an option to take credit card payments – and a straightforward interface aimed at non-accountants ensures you'll be up-and-running right away.

Despite the simplicity, there's real depth here. You can bill in any currency, save time by setting up recurring invoices, allow customers to pay via credit card by checking a box, and even automatically bill their credit card to keep life simple for everyone.

If you need more power, the system integrates with many other services, including PayPal, MailChimp, Basecamp, WordPress, Gusto, Zendesk and more. 

Management hassles are kept to a minimum. You're able to access and use the system from your desktop or its free iOS and Android apps, and because it's a cloud-based system there's no need to worry about backups.

If this sounds appealing, you can try FreshBooks for 30 days without using a credit card.

Read our FreshBooks review.

FreshBooks - Best all round accounting software for SMBs

FreshBooks - Best all round accounting software for SMBs
FreshBooks comes packed with great features that allow you to get on top of all your cloud-based accounting and invoicing needs. Business owners will find it easy to use, even if you’re short on accountancy or bookkeeping skills. With an intuitive interface and competitive pricing options this accountancy package can also be used from just about any location and via any kind of device. Now with 50% off for 3 months.

Intuit QuickBooks

QuickBooks is perfect accounting software for all small business needs (Image credit: Intuit QuickBooks)

2. QuickBooks

Most comprehensive accounting software for small business

Reasons to buy
+Even basic plan is well-featured+Lots of extras available+Free trial
Reasons to avoid
-Several versions-Deals change frequently-Lots to learn

QuickBooks is an instantly recognizable name in the world of accountancy and bookkeeping. It’s owned by Intuit, which also has other options for small business and large ones too, with a diverse portfolio that includes Turbotax, Mint and Proconnect. QuickBooks also comes in numerous different varieties, from desktop editions through to the hugely popular Online edition.

Depending on your requirements, you can choose from QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Self-Employed, QuickBooks Online Advanced, QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping, QuickBooks Desktop for Mac, QuickBooks Desktop Pro, QuickBooks Premier and QuickBooks Enterprise. However, it is possible to create a custom package using the help of the QuickBooks team if you need a more bespoke option.

Due to the sheer expanse of QuickBooks-based products it’s best to check out the website in order to get the latest update on pricing, versions available and also any deals that Intuit has on this vast range of accounting solutions.

Read our full QuickBooks review.

QuickBooks - Best accounting software for all SMB needs

QuickBooks - Best accounting software for all SMB needs
QuickBooks benefits from having the muscle of Intuit behind it, a large software company that has helped it become one of the leading lights in the world of accountancy software. While there’s cloud-based convenience there are also variations on the theme, depending on what kind of business accounting needs you have. Small and medium-sized businesses will find it comes bristling with lots of features and there's also 50% off for 3 months.

Xero

Xero is an excellent option for small businesses that need extra accounting features (Image credit: Xero)

3. Xero

Best small business accounting software for extra features

Reasons to buy
+Temptingly cheap Starter plan+Excellent mobile apps+Fully expandable
Reasons to avoid
-Basic plan has limitations-Costs start to add up-Some limitations

Xero might grab your attention with its low-cost Early plan account but look closely and limitations soon become apparent – like being restricted to sending a maximum of five invoices, entering five bills, or reconciling only 20 bank transactions.

Still, if you can live with those restrictions there are some pluses here. The service offers smart expense tracking and management, optionally on your mobile with Xero's excellent app for Android and iOS. There are dozens of configurable reports, simple budgeting, and no limits at all on additional users or the accountants you might want to access the data.

If the invoice, bank or billing issues are a problem then the Xero Growing plan looks like a better deal. It's a lot more money, but you can issue as many invoices and enter as many bills as you like.

Xero offers plenty of functionality for any small business, including a handy "convert your QuickBooks files" service to help you get started, and it's certainly easy to use. But if you don't quite need all that power, there's better value to be had elsewhere.

Read our full Xero review.

Xero - Best SMB accounting software for extra features

Xero - Best SMB accounting software for extra features
Xero has built up its cloud-accounting services substantially in recent years and how has an easy to use package that can be tailored to suit the needs of small business owners, accountants and bookkeepers alike. Central to its universal appeal is a simplistic dashboard design that lets multiple users makes use of its many and varied features and functions. The accountancy package is additional appealing thanks to several extra features that include expense and project tracking. Start a 30-day free trial.

Sage

Sage provides the best small business accounting solution for multiple users (Image credit: Sage)

4. Sage Accounting

Best small business accounting solution for multiple users

Reasons to buy
+Good value proposition+Neatly presented and easy-to-use+Impressive customer support
Reasons to avoid
-Basic options quite limited-Paid for means more to learn-Steepish learning curve

Sage Accounting makes a good first impression with its clear and gimmick-free pricing. The top Sage Accounting plan offers decent value and there is also a 30-day free trial.

For this, you get modules to manage quotes, invoices, handle and submit VAT online, smart bank feeds and reconciliation, cash flow forecasting, some detailed reports, multiple currency support, project tracking and more, all available from your desktop or via a mobile app.

All this is well presented and generally easy-to-use. If you run into trouble, detailed web help and video tutorials are only a click or two away, with the offer of “free unlimited 24/7 telephone and email support” that should help make any newbie comfortable.

Sage also has a more basic offering called Accounting Start. This doesn't include support for quotes, estimates or vendor bills, and has no cash flow forecasts, but it could be enough for start-ups as well as small businesses.

Read our full Sage Accounting review.

Sage - Best SMB accounting solution for multiple users

Sage - Best SMB accounting solution for multiple users
Sage delivers a slick but simple to use accountancy package that will appeal to small businesses. The British company has been for 40 years or so, and as a result has evolved its software to suit the needs of a very diverse portfolio of customers. The great thing about this package is its flexibility and can be configured so that multiple users can make use of its many and varied accounting tools. Buy now and save 70%.

Kashoo

Kashoo delivers the best hassle-free accounting software for small business users (Image credit: Kashoo)

5. Kashoo

Best hassle-free accounting software for small business users

Reasons to buy
+Multi-currency support+Neatly designed dashboard
Reasons to avoid
-No Android mobile app-Basic in some areas

Choosing an accounting package often involves browsing a complicated comparison table, looking for hidden catches and trying to figure out which is the best product for you. Kashoo avoids all that and delivers just about everything you're likely to need.

Kashoo shines when it comes to multi-currency support, an important feature for today’s global economy. It also supports credit card transactions for all the major carriers such as Amex, Visa and Mastercard – at a competitive fee.

You also benefit from unlimited invoices and connections to over 5,000 financial institutions to reconcile accounts online. We liked the uncluttered interface of this product, and the dashboard that provides a good summary of your current financial situation at a glance. 

Kashoo also offers customer support across the gamut of email, phone, live chat and social media – this company will even respond to an old-fashioned letter! One current shortcoming to note, however, is that there is only a mobile app for iOS, leaving Android users out in the cold for the time being. Kashoo offers a 14-day trial for those looking to test the service out.

Read our full Kashoo review.

Kashoo - Best hassle-free accounting software

Kashoo - Best hassle-free accounting software
Kashoo is aimed squarely at small and medium-sized businesses and, while it’s certainly easy to use, this is a cloud-based accounting package that has plenty of muscle. It’s also useful if you’re dealing with a global customer base as there’s multi currency support. So, alongside all of the usual accounting tools you’ll get the ability to handle more complex issues. Get advanced accounting for just $30 per month.

Zoho Books

Zoho Books packs the best automated features for small business accounting (Image credit: Zoho)

6. Zoho Books

Best accounting software with an automated edge

Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Many features and functions
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of payroll-Basic plan limited

Zoho Books is just one small part of a much greater business concern based in India that offers all manner of solutions for anyone and everyone. With its clean and simple cloud-based interface Zoho Books makes a great cost-effective option if you’re a freelancer, sole trader or someone running a small business. 

While the desktop route is a solid one Zoho Books also has an impressive app presence, making it a good mobile bet too. The basic plan offers a limited number of contacts (as in the maximum amount of customers or vendors you can create transactions for), 2 users (as in yourself and your accountant) and 5 automated workflows. 

The most popular package is Standard, which comes with up to 500 contacts, 3 users and 10 automated workflows. Professional, meanwhile, is a full bells-and-whistles experience that offers 500 contacts, 10 users and 10 automated workflows.

Incidentally, sign up for a yearly package and you get 2 months off. Zoho does offer additional add-ons, more about which you can glean from its website. There’s also a free 14-day trial available. 

Read our full Zoho Books review.

ZohoBooks - Best accounting software with an automated edge

ZohoBooks - Best accounting software with an automated edge
ZohoBooks is just one of many different software packages available from this software publisher. It makes a great choice if you’re a small or medium-sized business owner who needs plenty of features and functions. It’s made even more appealing thanks to a high level of automated functionality. Get the Standard package for just $15 per month.

Wave

Wave boasts some of the best small business accounting tools for little outlay (Image credit: Wave)

7. Wave

Best value accounting software for small business use

Reasons to buy
+Hugely popular service+Nicely designed and put together
Reasons to avoid
-Will be too basic for medium-sized firms-Paid for tech support

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. 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.

Read our full Wave review.

Wave - Best value accounting software for small business use

Wave - Best value accounting software for small business use
Wave makes a great accounting software option if you’re looking to use other features within your business, such as payroll and credit card services. The cloud-based accountancy package is well suited to small businesses because its basic accounting and invoicing tools are free to use. However, if you want to exploit the rest of the power tools you'll need to pay for them. Sign up for free.

KashFlow

KashFlow delivers the best simplified online accounting option (Image credit: KashFlow)

8. Kashflow

Best simplified online accounting option

Reasons to buy
+Solid VAT support in UK+Useful payroll option
Reasons to avoid
-Chargeable video tutorials-Complex structure

KashFlow prides itself on keeping things simple, which is always good news when you’re dealing with your accounts and anything tax-related. This cloud-based software solution can be used from anywhere and at any time, just as long as you can get connected. 

The service comes armed with a full suite of tools, which can not only let you tackle your accounting chores, but can also be used to take on payroll and HR duties too.

The Starter package is aimed at sole traders, contractors and small businesses. You can send unlimited quotes and 10 invoices, along with reconciling 25 bank transactions. Although it’s only a single user account it works with bank feeds, has a mobile app along with a customizable dashboard. 

The Business edition is aimed at growing businesses and limited companies. This has the benefit of allowing unlimited quotes and invoices, plus you can reconcile unlimited bank transactions. It’s multi-user and lets you manage and submit VAT returns online. 

Finally, KashFlow offers a Business and Payroll package, which has all of the aforementioned features along with added payroll functionality. At the time of writing KashFlow also had more competitive pricing based on an Annual payment plan, rather than the monthly costings shown above. If you’re happy to commit then that might offer savings.

Read our full KashFlow review.

KashFlow - Best simplified online accounting option

KashFlow - Best simplified online accounting option
KashFlow is a cloud-based accounting package that comes bristling with lots of features and functions, all designed to make life easier for the small business owner. One of the main benefits is its scalable range of packages, meaning you can extend the reach of its features as and when your business needs them. That avoids spending cash on unwanted features. Try it now for free.


Best accounting software: how did we choose?

Best accounting software: how did we choose?

Choosing our selection of the best accounting software has involved trying out each of the packages featured here over a period of time. Our real world testing scenarios include checking how accounts software performs generally, along with scrutinising all of the features and functions. 

Best accounting software aimed at SMB users needs to be straightforward and efficient to use too, because not everyone has experience of accounting. Therefore, simplicity and value for money are two major factors we also look out for. 

Similarly, the best accounting software also has to be flexible and adaptable in order to suit the needs of business users as well as featuring compatibility with other software, apps and cloud-based backup tools.

Bookkeeping vs Accounting, what's the difference?

Bookkeeping vs Accounting, what's the difference?

If you're in business, or even if you just want to keep on top of your financial affairs, it's likely you'll encounter both bookkeeping and accounting. However, they are slightly different in that bookkeeping is the process of keeping tabs on daily financial transactions and recording them. 

Accounting, on the other hand, is the process of compiling all of that information prior to filing tax returns. In both cases, you can make either task much easier by enlisting the help of bookkeeping and account software. Most packages now let you carry out both jobs and all within the framework of one interface.

The other bonus with using software to manage your books and submit accounts for taxation purposes is that the package will invariably come complete with tools for making the job that much easier. In many cases you'll simply need to add in your figures, collated from things like bank statements and receipts.

Thankfully that job is made much easier than it used to be because much of the information you need to record is captured digitally. Most bookkeeping and accounting software will allow you to import a lot of this digital data into your chosen program, meaning much less work is needed to stay on top of both your books and your accounts.


Best free accounting software

Best free accounting software

ZipBooks accounting software is a great option if you've got a limited budget to play with (Image credit: ZipBooks)

1. ZipBooks

The best free accounting software around...

Reasons to buy
+Modern interface+Unlimited invoicing
Reasons to avoid
-Advanced features bundled into paid tiers

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 include most of the features you'll ever need, including advanced ones such as smart tagging, with advanced reporting and intelligence. 

Read our full ZipBooks review.

ZipBooks - The best free accounting software bar none

ZipBooks - The best free accounting software bar none
ZipBooks is a great free accounting software package for small businesses. It comes packed with plenty of accounting features aimed at smoothing the process for SMB's. Lookout for reporting functionality, bank syncing and billing tools too, while it's also possible to use ZipBooks for day to day administration duties including expense tracking and invoicing.

Money Manager Ex is a great option if you're self-employed and on a tight budget (Image credit: Money Manager Ex)

2. Money Manager Ex

Best straightforward free accounting software

Reasons to buy
+Impressively user-friendly+Plenty of features+Can be used straight from a USB stick

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.

Read our full Money Manager Ex review.

Money Manager EX - Best no messing free accounting software

Money Manager EX - Best no messing free accounting software
Money Manager EX is the perfect solution if you've got relatively simple and straightforward accounting tasks to handle and don't want to sign up for a paid-for cloud-based package. It's therefore a good bet if you work for yourself and have a workload that can be easily tracked without the need for too many features and functions.

GnuCash offers a simplified accounting software experience (Image credit: GnuCash)

3. GnuCash

Best simple approach option for accounting

Reasons to buy
+Hugely flexible software+Boasts some payroll features+Handles multiple currencies

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 is 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.

Read our full GnuCash review.

GnuCash - Best simple approach option for accounting

GnuCash - Best simple approach option for accounting
GnuCash is pretty simple to look at and even more straightforward to get to grips with, making it suitable for small business owners with simple accounting needs. The accounting software has been around for a long time, so it works surprisingly well for a package that can be used for free.

VT Software is an accounting package that's simple but effective (Image credit: VT Software)

4. VT Cash Book

Free bookkeeping software for accounts

Reasons to buy
+No-fuss accounting+Can be used to prepare VAT returns
Reasons to avoid
-Graphics are 'no frills'

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.

Read our full T Cash Book review.

VT Software - Basic free bookkeeping software for accounts

VT Software - Basic free bookkeeping software for accounts
VT Software has to have one of the most minimalist interface out there, which if you're starting out in business might be a boon. It's certainly appealing as the accounts package is free, but the tools inside are also reasonably potent. VT Software is therefore really useful for small business owners, particularly those working for themselves who don't need a more sophisticated cloud-based accounting bundle.

(Image credit: Adminsoft)

5. Adminsoft Accounts

Complete accounting software for small business owners

Reasons to buy
+Free with no strings attached+Handles stock control and more+Even has some HR capabilities

Adminsoft Accounts is a software accounting package that's powered by advertising to generate revenue, making it free to download and use. It delivers 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 a slightly higher cost if you also want to include AutoManager or Shop/Cafe Manager.

Read our full Adminsoft Accounts review.

Adminsoft Accounts - Complete accounting for SMBs

Adminsoft Accounts - Complete accounting for SMBs
Adminsoft Accounts will fit the bill if you need a small business accounting package that can also cover a raft of other common administration tasks. So, alongside bookkeeping you can tackle invoicing, budgeting and other SMB focused chores. The fact that the UK-based company has built in functionality that allows it to work with other currencies makes it popular in a variety of territories.

Also consider

The best accounting software marketplace might be dominated by the big names above, but there are other options if you're a SMB with with additional needs. Alongside bookkeeping software and small business accounting software you might need to track expenses, manage inventory and carry out all of those other tasks related to running a business. Here are just a few of your additional SMB software options.

1. Certify

1. Certify
Certify is a solution for tracking expenses rather than full accounts, but could be very useful to have in addition to some of the platforms above, not least because not all of them can track expenses with such dedication. This is especially the case for small businesses with a number of employees, where expenses might not always be reported or submitted properly, even though there is a potential tax deductible saving for the business for doing so.

2. Financial Force

2. Financial Force
Financial Force is specifically designed to provide a cloud accounting and finance solution for Salesforce. This means full tracking of customer accounts across multiple workbooks, as well as recording assets, payables, collections, and more. This makes Financial Force less of a simple accounting platform and takes it into the realm of enterprise resource planning (ERP), and it is potentially very useful for those businesses already running Salesforce software.

3. Holded

3. Holded
Holded is another software platform aimed more at small and medium businesses, offering an ERP that brings together sales, accounting, inventory, project and time management into a single dashboard. However, despite these diverse elements, the accounting feature is fully developed, and includes automated billing, along with instant reports on profit/loss, and the balance sheet.

4. Tipalti

4. Tipalti
Tipalti is another big ERM platform and bills itself as the only end-to-end solution to automate the entire global payables operation in a unified cloud platform. At this point we're talking about a platform that goes well beyond accounting and into direct tax compliance and financial risk assessment, clearly intended for Fortune 500 companies that need full audit trails on a global scale, which is probably why Amazon is advertised as a customer.

Also worth a look are the likes of Connected Accounting, ZarMoney, Avanquest Bookkeeper and Finsync.

We've also featured the best personal finance software.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.