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Online accounting system for an accountancy practice

Do any of you accountants in practice use any of the online accounting systems as an alternative to Sage etc?

I am looking for such a system which should have the at least the following features:

1. Multi client - i e allow you to do the books for multiple clients
2. Purchase and sales ledger
3. Bank payments and receipts and reconciliations
4. Generate the basic reports that Sage does (Transaction history in various ledgers etc).
5. Affordable and easy to use.

Any advice gratefully awaited


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We use Kashflow for around 40 clients
It is generally well received by clients (Everyone who has used Sage or Quickbooks has said how much easier it is to use, I find Sage quite straightforward so have to listen to what users say).

It has most of the basic functionality of Sage but without the other non accounting areas such as a stock control (It has a very basic stock control but not one that I would use although I'm sure that this will be developed overtime).

It is multi client in that you can put as many licences on as you require(If you sign up for the partner program it can all be managed from one area).

The Kashflow team have always in the past been open to requests for development work (Not always to the timescales I would like but rather more proactive generally than many of the larger companies)

You can also upload data from a current Sage client.

You can easily trial the system for 60 days free so you can make your mind up for just the time you put in.

Affordability is down to individual perception :)

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Thanks for that. I shall have a look at it straight away

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Kashflow Online Accounting
We use Kashflow accounting through the partner programme for a number of clients. It is very user friendly and constantly being upgraded at no extra cost. The clients love it. It generates all the basic reports.

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We use WinWeb –, it works for us, does everything you could ask of it and more.

Sign up for a free trial and see what you think.

Holden Associates
A Blog for Small Business

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Hi - I've recently signed up for e-conomic. Firstly the chart of accounts mimics Sage and there is a great deal of flexibility around how you design the books and what you make available online to the client.

What finally sold it to me however is that it costs us nothing, ie no partner programme to pay for, you have the basic system to play with and design to your own specifications and the charges only start when you sign up clients and then you can chose for them to be charged directly by e-conomic or for e-conomic to charge you, leaving you to roll up the cost in the annual charges to the client.

Takes some time to get you head around the terminology but they are extremely helpful and I have seen nothing but good reports. Anyway, worth a look to compare with Kashflow.

Good Luck

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Another vote for KashFlow - has all the functionality that you require and more.

Its ease of use makes it very simple for clients to keep good, reconciled records minimising rework at year end - additionally the online aspect allows you to be more pro active year round with your advice.

Without exception every client we have on it loves it, and when clients are happy with the software they are more likely to use it properly.

Jason Dormer

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We use Kashflow for approximately 200 clients via the partner program.

Our staff and clients find Kashflow very user friendly, our clients input the core data which includes Sales invoices, Bank receipts / payments and purchase invoices.

Kashflow has user friendly functions to easily enter receipts to match invoices and has good sales ledger features with options to email the client when invoices are outstanding.

Kashflow will then prepare the VAT figures, we check the figures over before the client finalises the return.

We find it useful as we can enter journals each quarter and at year end that brings Kashflow in line with the finalised accounts, so the book-keeping is always up to date.

I would recommend Kashflow as a multi client online accounting software.

Hope that helps.

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Having studied the market for some time we also opted for Kashflow and the system has helped us to grow our own practice.

We and our clients like both the simplicity and flexibility of the system.

Although it is very friendly to the non-financially minded client it also provides all the reports that the accountant needs. This helps advise the client on a day to day basis and also makes the end of year accounts production easy.

Crucially the support is excellent.

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Thnks guys
Thanks guys to everyone who has contributed. By the way do Sage have an online version and anyone used it?

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Does economic and kswhflow deal with VAT cash accounting or VAT flat rate scheme ?


Anyone use Keytime ?

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Hi - in answer to Anonymi (!?) I heard that Sage pulled it's online system (sure there's a posting on AA somewhere) and e-conomic handles all VAT, in fact you don't have to set the client up as flat rate, cash accounting, invoice based, you chose which method of calculation you want, when you do the VAT return.

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Kashflow deals with both cash accounting and flat rate scheme.

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Sage Live
Sage did breifly have an online system, but they had to withdraw it due to security problems.

See the KashFlow blog (which was also the first place to reveal the existence of Sage's online product, Sage Live):

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advantages of online
sorry to change tack slightly.

Could I ask - what are the advantages of using online accounting system over emailing appropriate software files to each other to load onto remote software.

Thanks and regards

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The Advantages
Thanks for all the comments in favour of KashFlow, much appreciated.

There are numerous advantages to using online software.

Compare to the situation above, the benefit is simultaneous access – you can both be working on it at the same time. Nor would you need to wait for the client to email you files (and then he’d have to wait for you to send them back) – it’s all done whenever you want to do it.

But I think the main reason people use KashFlow isn’t just because it’s online – it’s the ease of use. Clients that would struggle to get to grips with Sage (or perhaps worse, make a hash of it) find KashFlow very intuitive and easy to use.

If any accountants reading this that don’t yet have a Partner Programme account or trial with us are interested in a demonstration, please give either Michelle or Chris a call on 0800 848 8301.

If you get in touch before the end of this week and mention this post, you’ll get a 10% discount should you choose to buy. (offer only valid to those of you who don’t already have a trial ongoing)

And don’t worry, we don’t do “hard sell”!

Duane Jackson
KashFlow Software Ltd
Founder and CEO

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Online accounting system
I would strongly recommend e-conomic. See them at It is an excellent and fully functional system and an excellentt online alternative to Sage.

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Liberty Accounts
We have been using Liberty Accounts with our clients .....very responsive to enhancement suggestions, and clients like it too!!

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Online50 and Ambition Accounts
We use the ITinsideOut Online50 service for hosted software. We are particularly pleased with their Ambition Accounts offering. It allows a scaleable upgrade path as our clients grow, with crucially the same software at the core so there's no data transfer or major retraining issues. It copes easily with multicurrencies and large volumes of transactions and has proper period end close downs. In fact I recommend the software as a first choice to clients who want a hosted software solution. Its also cost effective, there's not a major difference in price between Ambition and the usual Online 50 hosted version of Sage software. We do a lot of outsourced bookkeeping for clients so we have a mix of clients posting their own books on the hosted service, and our staff posting the books for them, and both client staff and internal staff are happy with the Ambition software.

Peter Guinn - Alliotts Chartered Accountants

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We use Liberty Accounts for 50 clients
It has an integrated payroll, with online filing of HMRC returns. We also file VAT Returns online - Liberty introduced this the day HMRC made it available and were first in the UK. The user interface is very easy for non Accountants to use. Just been helping a new client enter Purchase invoices, just needed a bit of advice on VAT and Account coding. Takes me about 15 minutes to set up a new client, including payroll and VAT and I manage user licences through Liberty's partnership programme.

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FreeAgent for small businesses, Pearl for larger ones
I use FreeAgent for my own clients, partly because again the partner programme is free, but also because it's very simple indeed.

A lot of small business clients simply don't need the full functionality of Sage and personally I think that FreeAgent is more user friendly for small businesses even than KashFlow (sorry Duane). For example, it manages mileage and expenses beautifully easily and there are far fewer entry screens to confuse a client.

If you do need the full functionality of Sage but don't want the headache of playing ping-pong with backups and wondering who's got the latest version, then I would strongly recommend Pearl. They, like KashFlow, use the same nominal codes as Sage, and Pearl also have a facility to import transactions and information from Sage to Pearl, so the transfer would be easy as pie.

Pearl isn't just an accounting system either, it has lots of other modules such as CRM and websites, and has a fantastic stock control system which knocks Sage's stock into a cocked hat.

For further information see or

And congratulations on making the wise decision to go online.


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Diamond Discovery On-Line
Have a look at Diamond Discovery's on-line solution at

You'll find it very flexible with options for a wide range of clients


Roger Neale
Business Systems Consultant
Tel 07714 670 789

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Wow, quite a few choices to consider. Thanks everybody for contributing.

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Online Accounting
We use Free Agent at its an excelent tool, and I like the way the product is developing with both accountants and end users in mind.

The application is particularly good for clients, it easy to use and easy to explain to clients and support, I would describe it as more than an accounting system, it actually helps clients manage their business too.

There are plenty of other good applications arround, we based our decision firstly on what we thought clients could handle best and secondly on whether we could work with the supplier and manage our clients. My experience so far is that was a successful approach for us.


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What type of clients use online accounts and why?
It all looks interesting but I do not know which of my clients would be interested in using an online system. So am I missing something by not offering it.

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we use accountsiq and have test drived a few others at our client sites with varying pluses and minuses...

Kind regards
Mehul Kotedia
Mekad Limited

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Diamond Discovery On-Line
I dont know about the other systems mentioned but some of the benefits of Diamond Discovery On-line are:

1. You can access the client's data at any time you wish and from anywhere you wish, allowing you to run reports and extract data when you need to.
2. You can choose what level of access you give to the client depending upon their capabilities.
3. A full suit of office programs is offered, including payroll, not just accounts software.

If you want to give Diamond On-Line a try, speak to Ian Vickers at Diamond Discovery on 0845 223 2170.
(please mention my name if you do)


Roger Neale
Business Systems Consultant
07714 670 789

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Why clients like online software
Here's a few reasons:

- A lot of the packages are very simple for end users to use, because they were built by non-accountants - you try finding a desktop-based package that's as simple as FreeAgent or KashFlow (unless you pay several grand and sign up to offer More to your clients)

- The client can access their information from any computer with Internet access

- You can access your client's data in real time, just by logging in, so there's lots of scope for collaboration like helping your client learn the package, posting journals for your client, preparing accurate management accounts

- Everyone's always on the same version and same copy of the software - no messing about playing ping-pong with backups, wondering who's got the latest one, having to upload on to a different version and realising you can't send it back once you've input the journals because the package isn't backward-compatible

So good news for you and your client.

I don't know why everyone isn't doing it :-)


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On-line accounting from Keytime
I agree with everything that Duane says about on-line accounting software, it is the ease of use rather than the on-line functionailty that is the key.

So why not have a look at Keytime Books? Keytime Books makes bookkeeping quick, simple and cost effective. It does all the things you are looking for and more...

As you would expect it also links directly into our own Accounts Production program and from there straight into Tax, providing a seemless workflow.

If you would like to trial it please call 0845 456 3103 or email [email protected] and visit for more information.

Vaughan Thompson
Director, Keytime

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Tried FreeAgent but...
Tried to register for trial on Freeagent website. But they ask for a secure website address from which to access their system.

1. Don't know what they mean
2. Don't have a secure website anyway
3. Why need a secure website anyway? I thought the idea is to access from anywhere any time and normal web browsers should allow this?
4. Never seen this requirement with other online providers any way.
5. Have contact them but heard nothing yet. Give it until end of today, otherwise won't bother with them

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Re: Tried FreeAgent but...
Hi Anonymous,

Ed from FreeAgent Central here.

Sorry we've managed to confuse you about the 'secure website' - Roan did get back to you about this yesterday afternoon seven minutes after you left the message on our website. If you didn't get that email could you email me directly ([email protected]) and we'll find out how it got lost in transit (wrong email address, or overzealous spam filter, maybe?)

Anyway, Roan replied (paraphrasing slightly to preserve your anonymity!)
You do not require a secure website to sign up to FreeAgent. That field is for you to pick your own website address where you will log in to Freeagent.

So for example:

Every account gets its own unique login address which you can bookmark and quickly come back to, and it's one of the ways we ensure each users' data is kept private to them.

Does that make sense now? Yes, we could probably make things clearer on the signup page, and we'll have a think about how to do that.


Ed Molyneux
Founder and CEO
FreeAgent Central Ltd

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Thanks for clarifying that. I shall try again at some point today and tomorrow and hopefully should be able to go through to the trial version

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Found the email
Yes I have located the email.

I shall make a point of always checking my junk emails before deleting them in one big sweep.

Unreserved apologies for insinuating that you did not reply. You DID reply yesterday. Thanks

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Looks quite simple
All set up now.

Had a quick feel through. Looks pretty simple. Will need to do a detailed walk through later.

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Project management
Do any of these online programs enable you to account for projects? i.e. can the purchase invoices, time and sales invoice be linked to a project.

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KashFlow does
KashFlow has some built-in project management features.

For some seriously extensive project management, you can use one of the many dedicated time/project management applications that intergate seamlessly with KashFlow. See this page for more info.

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Project Management and FreeAgent
Hi firtrees:

FreeAgent was designed precisely to support that common usage. It fully supports project-based accounting - you can attach time and expenses (from either bills, the bank account or out-of-pocket) to a project, and then produce an invoice to rebill them in about 20 seconds.

We're also working on the ability to attach expenses to a project without rebilling them - so you can get a real-time view of project profitability. One good reason to have the project side of things fully integrated into the accounting engine ;->

Do let us know if you have any specific requests in relation to the way you work, either by email ([email protected]) or on our customer-service site GetSatisfaction (


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What about Xero?
Our practice uses Xero - for our own accounts and for providing a management information service to over 50 clients. I am surprised that no one else mentioned this great product here. One thing I do find interesting is the constant referencing back to Sage, as if the nearer a product is to Sage the better it must be. I find this strange, as I have always thought QuickBooks a vastly superior product. Come on folks, I think it's time to look at the new wave of online systems through a fresh pair of eyes.

Adrian Pearson
The Independent Xero Users Online Community

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How about our system?
Arithmo has all the functions required above, and comes fully white-labelled as the practice's system. It's been designed for the end user, but has all the capabilities you'd expect, with full management facilities for the accountant. And it's pretty good value.

It's pretty new, so we don't have the coverage of our competitors, but it's worth a look.

Julian Shaw

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Quetion re cost?
Do you use say Kahflow for your bookkeeping clients where the client is not interested in having access to their records and if so do you have to pay Kashflow £79 to use it.

I use Sage for my bookeeping clients. I know that it is not the best but as part of the accounting club I get a muliclient copy which is always up to date. I always need the latest version of Sage for my other Accounts clients so in some respenct the software for the bookkeeping clients is £NIL.

How do I therefore justify the £79 cost per client.

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Cost, or opportunity?
From what I can see, you'd have to stump up the £x for the client. A small cost, but also an opportunity. As online accounting software makes it incredibly easy for both accountant and client to work on the books, there is a clear opportunity to have the client perform the data entry, so you can spend your billable time actually giving value - identifying opportunities for improvement, giving real-time advice etc, rather than entering the invoices.

There is a clear benefit to the business owner too; a greater involvement with the books gives them a better understanding of how their business is performing on a daily basis, so they can make improvements now, not once the books have come back from the accountants. That has to be worth more than the cost of doing the data entry, and is a clear win-win for both the client and their accountant.

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Smart, not Stupid

Spot on - and looking at it from the client point of view (very important) that understanding is absolutely critical, especially in these difficult times.

My favourite user quote to date is "FreeAgent makes me feel smart, not stupid, about my company finances".

Now, that makes all the hard work worthwhile...

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Having just spent 2 days ...

... with a broken internet connection, I am currently thanking my lucky stars that our application software is not stuck in some inaccessible "cloud".  I have not done the sums but I suspect that the cost of lost productivity for those two days in our office would more than offset any other savings.

With kind regards

Clint Westwood

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Bonded Broadband

If it's a hosted system, and your application is "business critical", it would be a good idea to consider bonded broadband.

Alternatively, invest in a "pay as you go" mobile broadband dongle for those emergancy situations.

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Kashflow et al

I have read this chain of comments with great interest before attending Softworld tomorrow as I would like to decide on a system for our practice to use and recommend as soon as possible. When looking at the Kashflow website and their accountants' users forum I noticed a couple of comments about the bank reconciliation routine not being great..... is this something others have found?

Have practices having made the decision to recommend one of these packages tried to convert existing clients using Sage/QuickBooks etc .... or only recommended it to new clients?

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Bulk invoice entery

The only problem I can see is that all invoices must be produced on the system.  Most of my client issue invoices from their invoice book as they are required.  It would not be possible for a mechanic to do anything else!

Can anyone recommend an online programme for this bulk entry?

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Customer Satisfaction

You may like to note that Kashflow received both the award for Small Business Accounting Software and Web Hosted Accounting Software at the Software Satisfaction Awards 2009 last week. The awards are based purely on customer votes, not the decision of judges.

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Softworld, Bank Rec and Fast data entry

Hi Loz,

We have had some less than favourable feedback from accountants on the bank reconciliation. Most of this has been taken into account and implemented. Although some accountants do still find it less than ideal. It's usually those that have come from Sage that have the difficulty with it. We designed the bank reconciliation process by working with business owners that hadn't used Sage or similar before - and for them and most SMEs, they're very happy with it.

If you call my office on 0800 848 8301 or 020 7403 0101 and ask for Michelle or Debbi - either of them can put you in touch with one of the hundreds of accountants using our Partner Programme, many of which have come from Sage and/or QB.

I'm popping in to Softworld tomorrow afternoon to have a look around, so I may see you there.
Hi Firtrees,

We have something in development to aid very fast data entry. This should be done wihtin a month or so. I assume this is the kind of thing you mean? If you just want to import in bulk, this is easily done already with KashFlow.


Hi Rebecca,

Thanks for reminding everyone about our double win last week! I hoep the KashFlow tables weren't too noisy for you.


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