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Best accounting package for small business

Hi all

I'm fairly new in practice and don't have too much experience of accounting packages for small companies.  My client currently just records cash ins and outs on Excel, but wants to start using an accounting package.  It would need to be simple, easy to use and not take too much time to record the transactions (it will be an office manager using it mainly, not an accountant).  He wants to be able to use it for sales, purchases, debtors and creditors ledger and if it can produce invoices as well, I think that would be useful.  There aren't many transactions each month - maybe 5-10 invoices sent out and 30 expense items.  Can anyone give me any suggestions as to which packages to look at?  I don't think money is too much of an issue but he probably wouldn't want one that is over the top expensive.

Thank you very much in advance.

Donna Meneses


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Have a look at QuickBooks

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VT Transaction+
All the way. It's about £150 inc vat, its really simple to use, especially if they're coming from spreadsheets. I've transferred all my clients to it (well, except the one who insists sage are gods, but he's going shortly too)m. I think its worth every penny.

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Xero would be my recommendation.  It is an internet-based system.  It seems to cater well for clients that are not particularly familiar with accounting.  You can log in and review your client's progress as he goes along and correct any problems there and then, without having to swap backups back and forth.  Bank account data can be directly imported from most major banks online banking systems.

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VT Transaction+
Cheap, user-friendly and interfaces well with VT Final Accounts making it really really quick to produce final accounts.

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You could do a lot worse than download a trial of Money Manager from Moneysoft. Very easy to use, also reasonably priced,and has big advantages in the reports it gives you as the accountant to review and amend/re-analyze transactions as necessary. The new windows 7 version is due to have invoicing facilities later this year, and a new windows 7 version of Final accounts at a similar time which will incorporate accruals, prepayments,depreciation etc to prepare final figures.                 

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QB Zero Cashflow Sage

Probably in that order

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Another vote for VT

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VT gets my vote.

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Data Import

Can Moneysoft Money Manager import transactions, including ones with different dates on the same import? With QuickBooks it is so hard it is not worth the effort; VT can import transactions but gives them all the same date.

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VT is great! 


I have to say I did not get on very well with Money Manager from Moneysoft - I love Payroll Manger - but I couldn't get my head around Money Manager.

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And here's another

VTT+ beats the lot for small businesses. It is easy to learn and is very quick in use.

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Small bookkeeping/accounting packages

Take a look at Solar accounts. Excellent. Dead easy to use. Does professional looking invoices too.

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Sage Instant - however...

You could have the use of Sage 50 Accounts Professional for 6 months and use it to also have funded training, this will give you a good grounding in what a computerised package is able to do for a small business such as emailing invoices, statements and banking electronically, all of which save a huge amount of costs.  You can also use it for CRM.

The information learnt can then be transposed into a smaller package - such as Sage Instant.  You will lose some of the features that Sage 50 has, but it is a cost benefit exercise.  Quite a few trainng providers offer this course from Sage and the IAB  with funding- depends where you are in the country.  If you email me I can help with a provider in your area if you are interseted.

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Another vote of VTT+

Some small businesses can even use the free VT cashbook version of VTT+, they enter all their transactions, then send you the data file and you can then add accruals, depreciation etc. to the same data file using VTT+


Tim Charles


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How much for 6 months use of Sage?

@fionab24 - How much does it cost for the 6 months use of Sage to which you prefer?

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Sage 50 - Training and Qualifications from Sage UK in partnershi

Hi Sage Uk have partnered with the IAB to produce Qualifications, during the training you get the use of Sage 50 Accounts Professional 2012 for 6 months - some of the training is funded, sometimes its free - depends where you live.  See for more information and a list of providers.

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Solar nice and easy.  Quickbooks good too.

Sage good if the user is an experienced accountant.



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Not QuickBooks

VAT in Quickbooks is a nightmare; it is very difficult to import journals, and every version has bugs that are only fixed in subsequent versions. Intuit makes it difficult for you not to constantly buy new versions, which ends up being very expensive.

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VTT+ is the best it has been proven by ICAEW Survey check out the link

Sage is too fiddly and are money grabbers. We were sage dealers but they were charging too much for it. plus they try to make it easier for people but they only make it harder. clients I know who hate doing the bank reconciliation.

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If you need to hold the clients hand then Xero would be a good choice as you can view remotely (as cloud based) plus its a doddle to correct any mistakes made by client.

Very easy to use and uncomplicated


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Another vote for VTT+

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@Donna Meneses
If your client is just recording cash in and cash out then you cannot get better than VT Cashbook. Why have your client pay over £100 for software when a free product gives them everything they need?

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Absolutely FREE Adminsoft Accounts

Try It is freeware, but absolutely amazing and with lot more to ffer than Sage. Includes UK Payroll as well and for the marketing purpose an emailshot facility too. No limits. Upgrades are free and no one bothers you asking you to pay for this or that.

After an extensive research I found it and wrote a book to simplify it for businesses in terms of transactions involved.

Nothing to lose, try it.


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Renewed link to Adminsoft Accounts

Sorry the link is

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A vote for Quickbooks

I would vote Quickbooks.  Unless you have payroll, you don't have to keep upgrading unless you want the new functionality.

One of the biggest of Quickbooks over Sage (and possibly VT - although I have never used it for bookkeeping just for year end accounts, and I didn't like it!) is the reporting - you can easily adapt reports to show exactly what you want them to show (eg profit and loss by month, department, etc etc) and can just double click on any figure for a breakdown.

I think it is also much easier for non-accountants to understand.

In my view, Sage just doesn't cut cut it any more - it needs a complete rewrite to bring it into the 21st century!  The reporting on it is awful - no drill down on most reports and very very difficult to change reports to show what you want them to.

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I have been following this thread and decided to try VTT+ as I had installed Simply Books a few weeks ago. Simply Books was of buggy and really is outdated. 

VTT+ seems fine as a bookkeeping tool but from what I have seen so far the reporting side is far below what I would have expected. The aged debtors/suppliers does not even work and reporting is based on year end only. You can copy/paste directly to excel but its a fiddly process to convert the data to a useful format.

As a CA I would recommend this as a tool to do bookkeeping and prepare year end financials but it won't provide much in the way of management information to analyse performance or control cashflow.

A programmer could create some reports from the database but that is a potentially costly and long process.

I will probably stick with it and do my management reporting on excel. As at the end of the day its quick and relatively straightforward.

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Monthly reporting in VT Transaction+

<a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a> wrote:

The aged debtors/suppliers does not even work and reporting is based on year end only.

Neither comment is correct. If you click on Entire year on the status bar at the bottom of VT Transaction+, you can change the reporting period to any month or other period within the currently selected financial year. The columns in the age analysis (which does work) are based on the period currently selected.

Philip Hodgson
VT Software

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QB forces you to buy the later versions whether you use the payroll or not (and who would want to use QB payroll?).

Later versions of QB are not compatible with earlier versions, so when you get a client with a later version than yours, you will have to buy it too if you want to look at their data, and it's not cheap.

Also, it is very hard to get hold of earlier versions, so don't think you can keep all your clients on the same version.  I assume Intuit intentionally restricts sales of earlier versions.

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How do they force you to use later versions? I still have clients using QB 2003 with no problems.

It is quite usual for software not to be backwards compatible, so I dont think that is a fair criticism either (have you tried opening a sage file in an older version - it doesn't work!, so you always have to have the latest version of Sage too)

At least with QB you can open older versions in any newer version (at least back to 2003). With Sage, you can only open the last couple of versions.

You also said earlier that VAT is a nightmare - I would dispute that too. They have made huge improvements to the VAT over the last 5 or 6 years - its only probably going back to about QB 2004 that, I admit, the VAT cash accounting was a bit weak.

PS I'm not connected with Quickbooks!

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QB Backwards Compatible? Really?

cathwalker wrote:
How do they force you to use later versions? I still have clients using QB 2003 with no problems.
You also said earlier that VAT is a nightmare - I would dispute that too. They have made huge improvements to the VAT over the last 5 or 6 years - its only probably going back to about QB 2004 that, I admit, the VAT cash accounting was a bit weak.

If you edit your clients QB 2003 file in QB 200//6/8/10 and then send it back to them, can they then open the file? I believe you cannot because the later version converts the file to the later format.

I still use QB 2008. In the VAT100, I cannot drill down on figures from previous quarters. When the VAT rate changed, clients messed up their VAT codings because it is so difficult to do it properly. EC goods often seem to end up in the wrong boxes.

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I didn't say it was backwards compatible, I said it is not usual to be backwards compatible - eg Sage isn't.

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QB: Subject seems to have changed

cathwalker wrote:
I didn't say it was backwards compatible

I didn't say you did. Is this what they call a straw man argument?

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Quickbooks - best by far for your needs, in my opinion.

We use it for all bookkeeping, but use Moneysoft for payroll.

As we subscribe to Intuit's support package at £14 plus VAT per month, whenever there is an upgrade or new version, we receive the new software absolutely FREE! 

Brilliant package and so easily sent over the internet to clients and or associates in various formats.

All software providers (except the Sage dinosaur) seem to be continually tweeking their products - we just have to accept that in the fast-moving world of I.T. - we MUST keep up to date.

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@ Sneeze

Apologies for being pedantic, but your upgrades are not free.  They cost you £14 per month....

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taxhound - you're right of course, but ..

I considered the support, my main priority (with the new computers etc I'd purchased) was the software support-line, so to me, the free upgrades were a "gift"!

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All too heavy!

I would recommend It is free, cloud based and as many people as needed can log in. It handles VAT and also imports transactions. It emails you weekly, readable backups. Having used Sage, Quickbooks and Clearbooks I wouldn't go back!

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Happy to answer any detailed questions about QuickBooks?

Hello Donna,

Looks like you got a great response here - and many accountants are recommending QuickBooks because of its flexible reporting and ease of use.

I head up the Accountant Programme at Intuit UK so if you feel you need a more detailed explanation of the features and capabilities of QuickBooks (Pro, Premier, or QuickBooks Online) please just let me know.  We would need to know a few details about your client's business, and the types of reporting they need/want to do, and then it will be fairly easy to make a recommendation. 

Please feel free to email me directly at [email protected]

Kind regards,


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QB easy to use?

alisonatintuit wrote:
many accountants are recommending QuickBooks because of its ... ease of use.

I haven't seen anyone say that, and would be surprised if anyone did.

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You are soooooo biased against QuickBooks! When did you last actually use it properly?

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More on QB

cathwalker wrote:
You are soooooo biased against QuickBooks!

I know. I think I need therapy.

cathwalker wrote:
When did you last actually use it properly?

Today, to produce a client's VAT return. I used it for my own bookkeeping until last year, when I finally got time to migrate to Xero.

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Are they VAT registered?


Hi Donna, one question I wondered is whether or not they are VAT registered?

If they are not, then I would suggest QB as it is easy to use for the non accountant; easy to customise etc. Even then, if they are on the flat rate scheme QB works quite well for that but if you think their turnover is going to approach the level at which you have to switch to standard VAT accounting then I would suggest the Sage 50 2012 basic version. Either you or the client (with your help) can import the spreadsheet information directly to audit trail (making sure you have set up the COA adequately first of all).

Hope this helps.


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I have a lot of clients using QuickBooks, and they would all say it is easy to use.

A number of them have swapped from Sage and all find QB easier than Sage.

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I have used Sage (ugh - would never touch it ever again) and QuickBooks (maybe the new versions are better but VAT in the past with QB has been nothing short of a nightmare) so tried Xero... and will never go back to anything else.

The management reporting is stunning - at least one client has been blown away by it - the help centre is amazing, and it's just SO easy to use... in my opinion, it's the best.

I have just converted over to Moneysoft for payroll from Iris, who were getting far too greedy - now again having used Moneysoft I would never use anything else - for payroll, it's simply brilliant.

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Transferring from Iris to Moneysoft Payroll
I noticed that you had the courage to transfer to Moneysoft Payroll. I'd love to do the same for the same reason as you, but with over 100 payrolls to transfer we are reluctant to make the decision given the potential for errors arising on transfer. Are you able to tell us how you managed the transfer and what difficulties you came across?

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I would recommend sage instant.

It is fairly easy to pick up and offers ability to upgrade to more advanced packages at a later date such as network versions of line 50.

I used to provide training to clients who had not used accounts packages previously. I found most clients were able to use sage instant satisfactorily with around 4 to 5 hours training.

Sage also offer an excellent support helpline if support cover is also purchased.

Cost is reasonable £120+vat for accounts or £170 for accounts and payroll. take a look at their site, you can try the online demo for free.


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sorry, but this is why I hate Sage

carosims wrote:

Sage also offer an excellent support helpline if support cover is also purchased.

... which is why I hate Sage with an absolute passion - out to grab every single penny they can - a client of mine has just cancelled their subscription to Sage Payroll as they wanted over £800 for 'support' - truly outrageous!!!

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Another vote for VT

we use it ourselves and for simple clients - it's a doddle!

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QB and Sage...

...VT and Xero all the way.

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Adminsoft Accounts

It always amazes me, how people will not even look at the excellent product available or try it!

QuickBooks or Sage or any big packages have obviously sleek marketing to convice everyone that there is nothing better than them

Habits by many often results in creating a norm in the market. If we all follow Microaft Office, we will ignore free OpenOfficeOrg. Unbelievable and free! What it says is that habit here plays a big part in opinions expressed here.

VT+ plus is excellent too. Only problem is that the transactions are so easy to correct it looses its authentisity as it is prone to any manipulation without any records locked of amanedments,, and thus open to fraudulant usage. Yet it is the simplest system I have come accross, and accounts love it, because they know what they are doing with all creative accountign they wish to inject. I have clients on them, and I will not write o9ff the use, as systems in placed in businesses are alsi important for good record keeing.

Why I appeal to use Adminsoft Accounts is that it follows 'norms' in the market established by Sage and Quickbooks, but does much more than what they do to help businesses, free withoput any catch. It doesn't upset yor Windows as it just doesn't write anything in it! Copy the whole folder on your dongle or CD, and start work on it on any Wondows computer anywhere in the world! How many systems will do that?Dos? W95? W98?W2K? W Vista? W7? Well, V3 will work on any, and V4 will work anything from W95. The scope this software offers doesn't match any, and yet it is free. Admionsoft will even do multiple Sa;es Tax for USA, Canada, Australia or wehereever. SelectedUK, it will do VAT reports as well.

By the way I use TAS, Sage, VT, Quickbooks, Xero, Pegasus and Adminsoft, GnuCash, and TurboCash for my clients.  So know the score.

I appeal do try out what I am recommending for you and your clients.


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I am currently happily using Adminsoft.

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