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Changing software

Having just received the renewal for Iris I can no longer justify the extremely high cost of running this software so I am looking for alternatives.  To date I have looked at Forbes and Keytime online details and will be having a look at some more over this weekend.  Whilst Forbes and Keytime seem to offer good value for money, I am pretty disappointed with their report presentation. Given that the reports are the final bit of the work the clients see, I am very particular about their presentation.  I am not averse to tidying up in Word or something if the cost of doing that would not be too excessive, but having been "spoilt" with the seamless quality of the Iris reports that would come a bit hard.  I wonder if any Forbes or Keytime users out there can tell me if the reports can be edited within the software without export to say Word, and how they deal with notes and accounts disclosures that are not within the "standard" reports offered. For example how do the reports deal with say directors disclosures for overdrawn current accounts, operating lease commitments, assets on HP etc.  I know I cannot directly compare with Iris as they are totally different ends of the market, so I am looking for a bit of balance between the two really.

I am also going to have a look at Digita - can any users out there offer any feedback on Digita's reporting quality also?

Thanks for any input on this.


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29th Mar 2012 11:06

Look beyond the "all in ones"

Look at VT linked with BTC or taxcalc.  Yes, it is two different packages, but they link in very well.

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By Jimess
29th Mar 2012 11:14

More expensive?

Thanks Taxhound

Doesn't that work out more expensive in the long run?  How do you keep track with two different peices of software?  I have only ever worked with integrated stuff so I had not considered different peices of software working together.  Food for thought though.

Do you use BTC for all tax work or is it just a partnership/CT module - sorry I cannot find it on the web so I might be asking the obvious...

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29th Mar 2012 11:16

I agree with taxhound

The time saved by using Best of Breed more than makes up for the lack of integration. You will save massive amounts of time on every single tax return and set of accounts you prepare ... and save money too.

I changed from integrated to VT/TaxCalc 3 years ago and I wish I had done it years earlier, but better late than never. There are many good options out there for tax, but VT is the king for accounts.

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29th Mar 2012 11:36

VT for accounts

I also use Taxcalc and am happy with it. I've used PTP but not too keen on that, didn't find it as user friendly and its think its perhaps better suited for bigger practices than mine.

BTC, heard lots of good stuff about this but have no experience of it.

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29th Mar 2012 11:59


VT is £199 plus VAT for year 1 and then £150 plus VAT after that.  It is an "add in" to excel and you save each set of accounts into an excel spreadsheet, so I save each client's accounts into the folder I have for each client in my docs.

BTC - I use for SA and CT - it also does partnerships and trusts.  Cost for 2012 including the client management system is £690 plus vat for the ct and sa software (£495 + £195 for the two modules you will need).  You can then pick up the xbrl file from vt and it will pick up info from this to fill in the SA return or CT return as appropriate - and you can file abbreviated accounts with Companies House on line via BTC too.

I used PTP for many many years until just over a year ago when they tried to change their accounts software and I had a nightmare with support.  I am very happy with my new setup.  And I have saved lots of money too.  (Software providers nb - this is not an invitation to you to increase your prices!)

You can download a trial for both.


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By Jimess
29th Mar 2012 12:37


Thanks so much for the information.  I am paying almost £5kpa for Iris so on the face of it the savings would be astounding.  I will definitely have a look at how it can work in my practice.  It is making me feel guilty that I have been so laissez faire over the last few years on this.


Thanks Shirley M and Kent accountant for your input too.




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29th Mar 2012 13:09

How big??

Just our of interest how large is your practice?

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29th Mar 2012 14:26

Happy to walk you through report editing options

Hi Jimess, 

I can arrange a chat with one of our training team if you'd like?  They'll happily run through the scenarios you mentioned, and how we handle them.  If you are interested, let me know by PM or email to jim |dot| mackenzie |at|, and I'll get someone to call you back and set it up.


They will also be able to recommend whether you should be looking at Accounts Production, or Accounts Plus (we have two iXBRL ready final accounts packages, each aimed at a different approach to doing the accounts).





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29th Mar 2012 14:45

TaxCalc & BTC

Does anyone know if there's much difference between these two?

I must admit I've used TaxCalc for years and think it's excellent... as a side issue, does anyone know when the 2012 version is release?

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By Jimess
29th Mar 2012 16:16

Jim Mackenzie

Thanks for your posting.  I am going to have another look at everything this weekend and will get back to you. 

Kind regards


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Dear Jimess,

We are proud to announce that TaxCalc 2012 is now available to purchase and download from Please feel free to take a look at our demo and see what you think - we would love to hear your feedback.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to give our sales team a call on 0845 5190 883.

Best wishes

Kate Ebdon-Poole

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29th Mar 2012 19:14


Re Digita - the reporting is good. I have just recently ditched it in favour of VT as VT works better for our practice which is heavily excel driven and I was hacked off with Digita's iXBRL integration which does now work but was very clunky and wasting a lot of time. VT is quite basic in terms of reporting so would not be ideal if you have lots of decent sized clients with complex notes as you will have to write most of the text yourself. But for tiddlers (small service business etc) then its really good and quick to use IF you spend a couple of hours modifying the templates. The defaults are not too great. If I had a few more larger clients (I only have 3 of any size) I might be tempted to have a small user licence for Digita and the rest on VT (ie the consultants and all the other small fry)

I was never tempted by Digita's tax software is its ££££ compared to taxcalc, and taxcalc is very good, I just pray no bright spark tries to "improve" it and messes it up!  Only thing I have brought that was a disaster was Keytime's tax software but that was a while ago.

We have just over 75 ltd cos and 200 odd SA returns and the workflow (2 or us plus occasional subby) is managed via an excel spreadsheet which just pushes the clients through the process from "on the list" to "past the year end" through to each stage.    The main irritation is we dont have centralised addresses/emails so you can cock it up on letters etc if you dont have a strict system and stick to it, what we do is if one comes in, you sit and change it on every system. In theory (!) That's not worth £4,500 of my money but if we were a lot bigger it might be.



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By Randify
30th Mar 2012 10:07

VT, Taxcalc and Moneysoft Payroll

I have been using the three pieces of software shown above and unless they do something silly with pricing and or quality / ease of use will NOT be changing.  The total cost for all three is £712+VAT for unlimited clients - fantastic value for money and all super easy to use.

I must admit I haven't looked at taxcalcs accounts production software yet but it is significantly more expensive that VT.  Although if you want full integration the full taxcalc accounts / tax package would still save you money.


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By Jimess
02nd Apr 2012 09:22

Thanks everyone for your postings.

I really appreciate your help.

Kind regards


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04th Apr 2012 22:12


I moved from Iris to Absolute (which I believe is the same as Forbes, with a different wrapper) a year ago.   Saved about £3,500.   Bought the "Absolute Everything" package.

Once I understood that I was moving from a Rolls Royce to a small Mercedes I have been very happy.   But you will notice the difference.

Absolute does the job and does it well.

Take care with leaving Iris and their requests for another 12 months money when you leave.

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02nd May 2012 14:48

Moving from IRIS

We are looking at moving from IRIS, the costs are exorbitant! Was all your IRIS data transferred to Absolute in its entirety?


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By Jimess
10th Apr 2012 09:38


Thanks for the tip on Absolute I will have a look at that one.  I know what you mean about Iris.  I rang them last week to find out what notice period they require - I thought it was 30 days - they said 90 days because we are on quarterly billing and they can't bill us for any less than that! I am astounded!!

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By chatman
10th Apr 2012 10:06

VT and TaxCalc (NOT DIGITA)

I used Digita for a few years, but moved to VT and TaxCalc a soon as I found time to evaluate a few new packages.

Digita was awful: expensive, slow, user-unfriendly and the pricing is very misleading. They make it appear that things are included in the price of a package only to reveal (after you have bought the package) that the functionality you wanted is restricted and you have to pay extra to enable it. Their technical people are nice but the company is run by the marketing department.

VT and TaxCalc were like a breath of fresh air and save me hours over Digita every month.

Don't fall for the integration myth; there is only a certain amount you can integrate. The biggest time waster for me was manually inputting a TB into Digita, as imports were so difficult; with VT it takes seconds each time. Altering notes to the accounts was hard work in Digita too, but very easy in VT. Same goes for amending the chart of accounts.  Huge resource hog too.  These are just things that spring to mind several years after leaving them.

Backups in Digita are hard work too. Digita once had to send out an email telling their customers that many of them were not backing up their data properly because the process was so complicated.

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10th Apr 2012 10:29


I agree with you that most integrated packages are unwieldy when it comes to backing up, and the file structure of TaxCalc and VT makes it so easy to restore just one client.

Example: we get a power cut/PC crash while processing a tax return or accounts, or I realise I have changed the data for the wrong client. I can go to our backup and restore just the one client return/accounts, whereas with the integrated packages I have used in the past I would have to restore all clients from the previous day, and redo all my day's work.

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By Jimess
02nd May 2012 16:00

Just to follow up on my original post

I finally decided to go with VT and BTC and I am saving thousands on our software costs compared to Iris.  We are currently in the throes of setting up our database on BTC and I am so pleased at how easy this is to do and how user friendly the software is.

@verybigshot - Just be aware that Iris will almost certainly do their best to try to tie you in to them for a further annual contract - they told me they wanted 90 days notice prior to the start of the new contract year, which for me was 1st May this year.  I gave notice last month and just doggedly kept telling them that was all the notice they were getting.  I ended up having to pay for 1 months notice which I find much more palatable but had to work quite hard on them to get it. 

I feel quite liberated knowing that I am not going to have to do battle with Iris over licensing costs to upgrade from one customer limit to another, and that point was coming up very soon - the worry just disappeared when we made the decision to move.  It felt scary - and still does, I have used Iris for a lot of years so the move to other software was a biggie for me, but I am really pleased with the way things are going.

Thank you to everyone posting here with your recommendations, it gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do.






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03rd May 2012 09:49

Thanks, Jimess

It is always good to hear what someone finally decides upon. Thanks for taking the trouble to let us know.

Good luck. I am sure you will be happy with your choice.   :)

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By chatman
03rd May 2012 10:10

Good decision

Sounds like a good decision. People speak very well of BTC, and I know VT is good.

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