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Does anyone know of any basic accounting software for new start up businesses


Does anyone know of any good, simple/basic accounting software which a start up business can use to record their receipts and payments before sending them to an accountant?

have tried excel but the formulas keep getting messed up when lines are inserted.

Any help would be appreciated.



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Excel is simplest

Excel is the easiest software to use if just want to record receipts and payments.

After that you need to get use an accounting package which will be inherently more difficult to follow for the non accountant

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Learn to use formula's

marks wrote:

have tried excel but the formulas keep getting messed up when lines are inserted.

Your formula's are getting 'messed up' because your probably adding together individual cells.  Try learning and using the '+sum' formula to avoid the issue.  Type sum into the help box on the top right of excel and it should guide you as to how to use it.

If you keep it simple enough, excel should be fine.  If your messing excel up, what are your chances with software?

For software recommendations, VT Cash Book wins.

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Can't beat VT...

Try VT cashbook - its actually free as well:



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VT is best

Unless you are a trained bookkeeper VT Cashbook (free) will sort out all the things you would find complicated, or just never think of, in Excel.

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Can I suggest Xero?

If all that the small business needs at this stage is to record receipts and payments, I would argue that Xero would be the best option.

If we assume that the business is not cash based and therefore the receipts and payments are themselves already recorded by the bank on bank statements, a new business can use Xero's live bank feeds to have all of their transactions entered automatically.

All that is then left to do is "code" the transactions to appropriate analysis accounts. Xero's smart technology means that it learns from previous postings so, after a month or so, even the coding bit becomes automatic.


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try the new version of Money Manager



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The trouble with VT Cash book is that the user needs to understand ledgers. For every transaction you have to select a ledger from the drop down menu before selecting the account description. Pick the wrong ledger and you have a different set of accounts to choose from.

I have seen very intelligent clients make a complete mess of this. Bearing in mind it is a free introductory product I don't know why VT persist with this banana skin of a process. It has put off some of my clients upgrading to VTT+.

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andy.partridge wrote:

The trouble with VT Cash book is that the user needs to understand ledgers. For every transaction you have to select a ledger from the drop down menu before selecting the account description. Pick the wrong ledger and you have a different set of accounts to choose from.

When you first enter a payment in VT Cash Book or VT Transaction+, the input screen defaults to the Expenses ledger. You change that to any other section of the nominal ledger if necessary. If you enter the same payee for a second time the last ledger/account is pre-selected. Is that really difficult? It is the first time I have heard the criticism in 15 years. Maybe other users would like to comment.

For those who have not used the software, VT Cash Book is just a sub-set of the features in VT Transaction+.

In the recent ICAEW IT in practices survey report, VT Transaction+ got higher scores across all categories (performance, reliability, ease of use etc) than any other bookkeeping package. VT Final Accounts came out top in the accounts production category.

Philip Hodgson
VT Software

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Let me explain a little

vtsoftware wrote:

andy.partridge wrote:

The trouble with VT Cash book is that the user needs to understand ledgers. For every transaction you have to select a ledger from the drop down menu before selecting the account description. Pick the wrong ledger and you have a different set of accounts to choose from.

Is that really difficult? It is the first time I have heard the criticism in 15 years. Maybe other users would like to comment.

Philip Hodgson
VT Software

Philip, just to erase any doubt, I am a big fan of VT. I don't regret for one moment the day I jettisoned Sage from my practice and moved lock stock and barrel to VT. I continue to recommend VT Cash book to clients because I trust the system, it makes my life easier and it should make their lives easier. However, perfectly intelligent clients, who have little or no accounts experience do come unstuck with the concept of ledgers. You would be surprised at how creative clients can be to generate bookkeeping errors.

As a piece of constructive criticism I would suggest that many users of Cash book would prefer just to post payments and receipts from a list of account descriptions. Assembling the information into ledgers could be an option in the system or something done by the accountant. Alternatively, a tick box to switch off 'ledgers' is also something you could consider.

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Do look at KashFlow, it is simple for non accountants, works well in the UK and inexpensive.

A further guide can be found here:


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Having trialled IRIS Openbooks ...

... this would seem ideal, very simple to use and excellent help function. Most of the transactions can be downloaded straight from the bank statement and it learns as it goes so you only have to allocate a standing order, direct debit etc. to a heading once.

If you find an IRIS accountant (from the IRIS website) for your business they will be able to get it for you at a good price too.

Regarding Excel, it is bnot ideal unless you know how to use it, most of teh night mare jobs are on excel where formal are wrong, or the sum function only adds up half a column, far better to use a simple package.

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re IRIS Openbooks

I looked at this and was amused/annoyed that the pricing page of the website says 'No Hidden Costs' but it is then impossible to find the cost on the site ! What's this if it's not hidden ?


Just a personal bugbear of mine and I won't deal with a company that won't be open about their prices before I give them all my spamming details (is that a swear word ?).

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As an accountant that could potentially receive your books and records to do your accounts, I would recommend sticking to excel, even if the spreadsheet doesn't add up.  I would then email the spreadsheet to the accountant and then the accountant can edit and format the spreadsheets to their hearts content.  This is a lot easier for the accountant, rather than trying to check whether you've used an accounting package correctly and work out where you may have gone wrong (if you do go wrong).

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The point with Open books is ...

... it is a monthly cost, and the more users an accountant has the lower the unit cost.

You wouldn't expect to go onto Wicks website and it say Kitchen, £2000. It would depend on many factors, the same with Openbooks. 

The costs are not hidden, they just depend! The price will be bespoke for each client, but that is it, the price includes all upgrades, helpline etc. 

Some accountants provide it free, absorbing the cost in the year end fee as it helps with the year end process.

Depending on what input is expected from the accountant will help determine the price as the accountant can access the product from their side, make corrections as you go etc. If you want you accountant to review your entries weekly he will charge you more than if you just pass the data over at the year end.

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Quickbooks is a one off purchase, as is Sage.

Xero & Cashflow are a montly commitment

All are OK to analyse one or more bank statemnts and keep track of debtors.

Ther are a group on here who love VT, personallly I hate it but there you go.


Perhaps you should find an accountant you can work with first and then go with their reccomendation.

Chris Smail


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Chris Smail wrote:

Ther are a group on here who love VT, personallly I hate it but there you go.


Perhaps you should find an accountant you can work with first and then go with their reccomendation.

Chris Smail



I can't see any reason for not liking VT, especially when you say compare it to say SAPA, or in fact any sage product.


VT is perfect for the newbie the cashbook is free, clients love it when they start using.


It does not need bells and whistles to work.


In the hands of an experienced book keeper or accountant it is fast and simple to use. If the client makes a hash of it, no problem , it really  is simple to correct.


Dont bother messing around with excel spreadsheets, or clunky cloud products, embrace VT go for it.


For all you accountants who still have clients turning up with carrier bags full of receipts and statements and no real books, fire up VTT+ and don't look back.



Now if only there was a mac version of LOL, VT.


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without fail - works everytime - clients do occasionally mess up but VERY easily sorted

I often ask clients to have their spreadsheets in google docs so I can access anytime I choose and check - works a treat!

Failing spreadsheets I still have a lot of clients who use manual books (cashbook etc) as even in these days of computerisation, taking their manual records and summarising ourselves in excel is far quicker than trying to undo the mess they have made in whatever software package they are using.!

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Iris Open Books

Sorry, OGA, but I disagree that reducing prices for high volume accountants is a good enough reason for not publishing prices at all. The only reason prices are not published is because they use 'value' pricing, ie. how much is it worth to you, and how easy will it be to sell it to you! 

They could very easily say £xx for 1-5 users, £yy for 6-10 users, etc.  Sage use the same excuse for not publishing prices and it can end up in the silly situation where people are paying different prices for identical packages, but it is hidden until you start chatting to someone.

Also, in the case of Sage, the high volume sellers can sell at a lower cost than the low volume accountants can buy direct from Sage, effectively squeezing out the smaller players who then have no incentive, or opportunity, to become a high volume player, unless they withhold telling the client that they can buy it cheaper elsewhere.

I am no good at 'bargaining' so I like to see prices, and also have a working demo that I can play with first, as I have been bitten too frequently in the past.

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Ah but Shirley ...

... all clients are unique and some you may give the software to, others you may make pay. The price reductions on Openbooks are nothing like the SAGE discounts, but if you publish a price you are restricting the accountants ability to tailor a package to his client. Openbooks is not expensive, and many accountants would absorb the cost at some point.

If you talk to Paul Scholes he will tell you better, but after year two the savings from the client having a good set off records to work from mean you can stop charging them for the software and absorb it in your annual fees.

IRIS give accountants a full working copy for free so they can allow clients to trial it first, not being the other side of the fence not sure what they offer the punters, but I think their prefered route is through accountants as the software is designed to be used interactively in real time by the accountant and the client together.

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OGA - ok, I can see your point

Maybe past experiences with software suppliers (not just accountancy software) have made me very wary. 

It wouldn't suit me, and as we see above, it doesn't suit some others either, so they maybe lose a fair bit of business because of the lack of clarity and openness over pricing, but win in other ways in being able to juggle the prices!

How often do we see people asking on AWeb how much others pay for Sage, Iris, and the like? Why do they not trust them over pricing? Probably for the same reasons as me!

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In my opinion it really depends on the business.  It maybe a start up but is it likely to grow quickly into a larger business that needs a more complicated accounting product than say just a product where you record bank payments/receipts.  Always better to try and get the right product to start with rather than change at a later stage.  

I personally never recommend Sage to anyone as I think it is utter ****!

I do tend to recommend VT more often than not partly because my client base is generally small businesses and because I think it is a fantastic package.  I have used and have no problems with recommending Quickbooks, Iris bookkeeping or Kashflow.  I am considering about having a look at Xero due to the good press it gets on Aweb as I feel it may well suit a couple of clients.




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The thing is ...

... like anything there is a set up cost. Openbooks is a cloud product so there will be cost involved in setting up a "slot" for an accountant, adding additional users is less expensive which is why the prices slide.

If you have letterheads printed you know you pay less per ream the more reams you have as additional units have only variable costs,. you might pay £80 for 1 ream but only £100 for two reams. I see openbooks pricing in this way.

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How is this ...

... hidden costs?

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Another vote for Excel.

As stated above, it is much easier to clear up any errors made in Excel than in an accounts package. I had one small sole trader who was using an accounts software package because he thought he had to. When I said he could just use Excel and give up grappling with the a/cs s/w, it was like a weight was lifted from his shoulders.

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Not the same deal

Old Greying Accountant wrote:

... hidden costs?

That's FreeAgent. It's the same product but if you are an accountant you can sign up for the software via Iris and get it for £15 + VAT per month per client. The reductions for quantity are not worth bothering about unless you have a 100 or more. Iris used to show the prices but it looks like they have stopped doing it.

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@Andy - our solution

If clients don't understand Ledgers, we tell them to create new accounts to describe the income/expenditure.

So if they have money coming in, we tell them just to create an account under income. If it is money going out, we tell them to create a new account under expenses.

It does mean that the reports are useless, as balance sheet items will be in the P&L, and possibly vice versa, but they are aware of this.

Also, with these clients we tell them to start a new VT data file each year. It is much easier than trying to correct the B/Sheet on their copy.

It is fairly easy to reallocate everything, thanks to VT allowing us to block move all the transactions in an account.

Some clients will never be good at bookkeeping, but we find it much easier to sort out VT bookkeeping than a spreadsheet.

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VT Cash Book

Andy, thanks for your further comments.

A bit of background information might help explain why VT Cash Book is the way it is. At the time VT Cash Book was created, a few users were complaining that they found VT Transaction+ difficult compared with the old VT Transaction. With the benefit of hindsight, there was no problem with VTT+; it was just that the change was irksome for some.

Hence I was looking for a way to make a simpler version of VTT+. Early one morning it struck me that I could just hide the more advanced features of VTT+, enlarge a few toolbar buttons and hide the rest. It was virtually no work. By the end of that day VT Cash Book was largely complete. VT Cash Book is compiled from the same source code as VT Transaction+. Depending on the setting of a switch out comes either VT Transaction+ or VT Cash Book. As it was virtually no additional work, VT Cash Book is provided free of charge.

There is always a trade off between flexibility (allowing the user to select any analysis account when entering a payment) and bolting everything down. The VT philosophy has always been to make things as flexible as possible. However, at least in VT you can easily fix things if the user makes a hash of it.

Philip Hodgson
VT Software

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We have used VT for a number of years now and yes good, the accountant set it up for us and showed us how to use it, however it can only be used by one person at a time.  I have staff with two separate roles fighting to grab VT time, one invoicing and one bank rec and inputting, this is beginning to cause problems and costing time.  This really is designed for a one man band, In my opinion and not suitable for a growing company.  Any suggestions always welcome

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Only having a one user function is is now beginning to hold us back as a company.

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Might be worth checking out

It’s designed specifically for startups. No obligation 30 day trial; from £5/mth thereafter for the Cashbook version. Plus, your accountant can also get a realtime view if you wish.

If you give it a go, let me know how you get on. & good luck with the startup!


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"For all you accountants who still have clients turning up with carrier bags full of receipts and statements and no real books, fire up VTT+ and don't look back."

You see I can't understand why accountants transfer receipts and bank statements to an accounts package. First I would impress on the client that it would be cheaper if they did some rudimentary sorting. If they didn't want to do that I would charge them to do it and either enter it on a spreadsheet or sort the receipts and total the different types of expenditure. Accounts/bookeeping packages are for managing your accounts on a day to day basis not for doing them once a year.

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Receipts and bank statements

These days you can get bank statements imported by Xero and soon VT will be able to do it too (hopefully). There are services like Keebo that will scan and input all your receipts/invoices for you too.

There is no need to do much inputting these days.

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start up software

It is easiest and by far the quickest to use Excel - when used correctly. If you have transactions in an Excel List, you can import bank transactions directly from a bank download, give each transactions an account code, separate column for VAT and net.  Have a subtotal at the top of the amount column and check it agrees to the bank statement.  Job done!!  It easy to correct multiple wrong allocations by filtering and then choosing the correct account from the list of accounts.

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While you're looking at the rest.........

Does your accountant or bookkeeper (3 double letters in a row for those who read a previous posting in that subject) subscribe to the ICPA ?

If so, ask them about Diamond Discovery software.

If not, while you're looking at all the other recommendations, take a look at Diamond Discovery Prelude.

Diamond is recommended by the ICPA, is very easy to use and, importantly, is also very easy to upgrade, without changing the software, when your business expands.

There is also Diamond Discovery on-line version for those who prefer it.

If you need any information, please feel free to contact me.

Roger Neale
Business Systems Consultant
Perkeo Computer Systems Ltd
Tel 07714 670 789

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ABC Accounts Books (Cost £8)

I tackled this issue back in 1979.  Since then each of my clients has been issued with one FREE.  Accounts production is fast.  The pressure is no longer on the Accountant, but back with the Client (as it should always be).  Analysing most records can be done in an hour-and-a-half.  Mapping the results back to an Excel Spreadsheet - another hour or so.  Job done. 

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Start up Software

Something that might be worth considering.

I have been around a long time and have used most of the accounting suites small and large.  I use VT for accounts production but have never got into Cashbook - looked at it briefly but did not go further.  I use TAS as a bureau service for my (very small) business. My aim is to give clients management accounts which are never more than a week or so behind the activity.

A long time ago I had a Nursing Home client who had an "IT person" using Sage for their accounts - after struggling for a long time to make sense of it all I decided that the only thing I could rely on was the bank activity.

I used Excel to enter all bank Income and Expenditure for the year.  Opening bank balance and closing is self checking if all entries are accounted for.  Carry out what is in effect an extended Trial Balance and there you have it. 

I will do all posting in appropriate cases (i.e. subbie who was 3 years in arrears with poor and incomplete records) otherwise I have trained a couple of clients to do it themselves - makes VAT returns simple through the year and gives them a real feel for their business.

I have thought through the years this would be the way to go if only the banks would co-operate - now we have something akin with the Cloud products.

Just a thought........................


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You could also try FreePlus Accounts (  It's completely free, easy to use and should meet all of your needs.

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VT Cash books

Hi all,

I have been an avid spreadsheet user for the last ten or so years, developing my Excel skills as and when needed.

Due to a number of factors I have decided now is the time to move over to a more tailored package which enforces the correct way of entering data.

The question I have, is should you be entering a separate payee for each person paid or just put a generic 'Payment' in the payee field?

The reason I ask, is part of the speed entering with VT Cashbooks is achieved through memory of previous payee's - if this is then cluttered with hundreds of different selections it defeats the purpose.

I had thought about using the note field but this doesn't appear visible in the 'entering transactions' menu, only in account summary.





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Perfect software



Recently I've bought the one, which is really really really good :)

It's 12Pay. They provide quality software for small and medium-sized UK companies. 

In keeping with our objectives to help you to keep your pay costs down they have three main payroll software packages, Express, Premium and Bureau Editions, each with its own features that will suit your payroll requirements perfectly.

I recommend it without hesitation. Good luck! ;) Iren

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Basic Accounting Software for Recording Receipts and Payments

I know this reply is a little bit late in the day, but as the post turns up in SERPS I thought I would make a suggestion.

MyBookkeepingManager is a really simple bookkeeping tool that allows recipts and expenditure to be recorded and presented on a spreadsheet. Figures for the current month and year can be recorded, as well as figures for previous years. A large range of reports are available, which are suitable for passing on to an accountant.

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Take a look at our new solution for freelancers and small (0-5) companies. Developed by a small company, it's simple to use and does a lot.

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Front Accounting - more than one person at a time

Front Accounting is Opensource.

Install it on your website.

Access it online. 

The first company you create is the platform company from which you can setup as many companies as you want to. 

Assign as many users as you want with different rights.

Imports Bank statements with account code allocation facility with Import Transactions extension.

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Not enough sale pitches ;)

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