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Practise software

 I am currently dissatisfied with my accounting and tax software provider and am looking to change supplier early next year.

I run a very small accountancy practise and find my current software (IRIS) to be very expensive, albeit for the daily user, very easy and straightforward to use.

Has anyone any recommendations? I deal with small limited companies, sole traders, partnerships, individuals, 3 trusts and run payroll for some clients.


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Moneysoft for payroll without a shadow of a doubt.  Excellent well priced software.

I currently use PTP for everything else, which is ok, but I am not as happy as I used to be and am really interested to find out what people think of Absolute software.

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I was thinking of posting exactly the same question as the OP

for exactly the same reasons.

I have been with Iris for 8 years and have seen the service decline in inverse proportion to the price. There are a myriad features that we don't use but we have to pay for them anyway.


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I hear they will come up with accounts and CRM modules

for payroll I use 12pay - same proce as moneysoft but much better user interface. matter of taste though....


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I currently use VT accounts for accounts production and Drummohr tax software.

VT is relatively inexpensive, very user-friendly, has no limits on the number of accounts you can produce and gets good reviews from small practitioners (around £100 per year).

I have been with Drummohr for 10 years and have been reasonably satisfied.  However they have been bought by Iris and one wonders if it will continue to be maintained to the standards I have previously experienced, for the same, fairly reasonable price (circa £750 pa for unlimited SA Returns, CT Returns and P11Ds - Trust returns are extra).

This concern has led me to look at other providers and I am considering BTC Tax software.  They include unlimited trust tax returns with their SA package and are meant to integrate well with VT.  Interestingly they are soon to release a practice management module which, if it looks OK, may well swing my decision in their favour.  Their prices are shown on the their website (but would be lower than Drummohr).

I would be interested to know if anyone has tried the VT-BTC combination, and if so how they got on?


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Recent change

I recently changed from Sage Practice software (I previously had CCH integrated software) to TaxCalc & VT. I have designed & programmed my own tailored CRM but may change to TaxCalcs offering if it does what I need.

I thought that cheaper software, that wasn't integrated, would require more time for preparation of accounts & tax returns. I have been pleasantly surprised to find it is actually a LOT quicker to prepare accounts and tax with my current software, even when entering client data from scratch.

Expensive, integrated, software does not guarantee a quick turnaround and time saving. I am highly delighted with my choices and benefitting from reduced time spent working!

My one, and only, criticism of TaxCalc & VT Accounts is that the reports/accounts are not as 'pretty' as Sage's reports. This is easily fixed by creating a macro in Excel to reformat the reports.

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VT and BTC

I use VT for accounts, which I think is great and now use BTC for tax. For my first year in my own practice I used a different tax software but I did not find it easy to use and I was forever having problems with it. I am highly impressed with the BTC software and the customer support has been fantastic. BTC tax software has some really useful features and it really is quick to produce a tax return. The old tax software I used caused me so many problems it just took forever sometimes.


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Website seems to suggest that the P11D software is priced per single user with 25 returns possible.  Does it not allow you to set up different companies as I generally only have 1-5 P11Ds to do per company I do the payroll for.

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Try to get one with a homophone checker.

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Not Unusual

I have for many years heard much praise from IRIS users, who finish by saying that it's #@$%+= expensive I suspect IRIS will say that you get what you pay for.

Anyway, have a look a Taxabilitypro from Digita before you make a final decision. Works very well.


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VT and BTC

I moved from IRIS to a VT Accounts/BTC Software set up last year and have found the setup works just as well as IRIS.  Logical Office was the choice for practice management.  For full year unlimited client licences I pay what I paid IRIS for 3 months for 150 clients.

I would vote for Moneysoft Payroll Manager for payroll - does everything you need and is inexpensive.

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Have a look at the moneysoft product - it will do your P11ds too

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THe Absolute Software is written by David Forbes  He will give you some full working demos ie try before you buy.  The nice thing is that when you have a problem you contact Forbes and normally get a very quick response from David.  31.1.10 I got a response after 7pm

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 Thanks for the comments so far.

I am looking at several options and would like to know if anyone has used the Keytime software and what they think of it?

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VT and TaxCalc

VT Transactions + is extremely simple and fast to use, and great when combined with VT Final Accounts. I have just switched from Digita, and the difference in speed and ease of use is incredible. Much cheaper too.

Also, your clients can use VT Cashbook for free, and you can use the file in VT Transaction +.

For Tax, I just tried out TaxCalc and BTC, and found them both good, but TaxCalx easier to use. In addition, as BTC is new, you cannot use it for returns of tax years more than a few years old. Apparently TaxCalc is bringing out a free CRM module for current users.

So glad I moved from Digita, but annoyed I didn't do it earlier.

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Data Transfer ?

For those who have dumped Iris for different offerings, how easy is the data transfer process?

As a practice we have well over 1,000 accounts and personal tax clients with the subsequent standing data and client histories. Costs with Iris do seem to have spiralled without a similar improvement in support, but data transfer fears allied to wholesale staff training requirement means we haven't even considered a move thus far.

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Have a look at Digita

We use the Digita tax products and have been looking at their accounts too. They are priced around the same as the other big players if you're a larger firm, but I know Digita also has a large and loyal following among sole practitioners too, so they must have a fairly flexible pricing structure.

They have the advantage that all their products work fine as standalone, or if you want to mix and match with other suppliers, but they can also be integrated as an overall pracice suite, so you get the best of both worlds.

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Another nail in the coffin for IRIS?

I think so. Though they have medium and large firms so I am sure not a huge loss to them. This is another reason to move away.

Even after such feedback they are not changing-  not desparate enough to change.


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TaxCalc for taxation and their Anti-Money Laundering software

Have been using TaxCalc for 5 years now and never once regretted the move.  Good solid software that gets better every year at a realistic price for a small practice, including very easy online filing of returns and with a brilliant support service. On the few times that the support service has been needed my call has been answered promptly each time by a human being rather than the usual "select from the following options" situation.  The AML software has also proved to be very useful and at reasonable cost in providing answers needed towards keeping compliant with legislation and regulations.

Moved from Sage tax to PTP tax many years ago as the service from Sage was virtually non-existent, then from PTP to TaxCalc as PTP was getting expensive for a small practice.

The CRM product from TaxCalc is due out this year and has been stated to be an FOC upgrade for existing TaxCalc users at the time or available as a later addition or standalone program for non TaxCalc tax software users for modest cost. Accounts and final accounts software is scheduled for 2011 and I'm looking forward to that.

What you do very soon find out when you become a TaxCalc customer is that the company (Acorah Software Products) is very much a customer focused organisation both at the outset and in the continuing business relationship.

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VT Quicker?

I'm sorry but how on earth is using VT and a separate tax package quicker than say Iris or Digita?

VT is good for sole trader accounts granted and is a nice cheap option but it is not in any way quicker than an integrated product.

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VT is Quicker

VT is integrated. The bookkeeping package integrates with the final accounts package. That is one of the things that make it so much faster than Digita, which does not have a bookkeeping package.

VT also integrates with many personal tax packages, making the self-employment pages so much quicker to complete.

The only integration advantage I got with Digita was between the final accounts programme and the CT programme, and there is minimal re-inputting to do there anyway, so it did not really help that much.

And don't get me started on the speed of Digita or the backup fiasco.

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Integrated packages

Fully integrated packages (eg. Sage/CCH) does not necessarily mean quick, or efficient. It should do, but doesn't.

My experience with VT and TaxCalc has shown me how wrong I was to believe this. I really really wish I had tried them sooner and that I hadn't believed the hype about integrated packages being quicker. I could have saved myself a lot of money, and a lot of time. Also, the installs and updates are a doddle with VT/TaxCalc. CCH installs/upgrades were a complete nightmare (but have hopefully improved) and Sage Practice software installs are not that easy.

It will always be 'Best of breed' for me, from now on.

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Moneysoft Payroll Manager for Payroll

Forgot to mention the above. Only used IRIS before, but Payroll Manager is infinitely better. Seems to be the most highly recommended by AWeb posters too.

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backup fiasco?

"And don't get me started on the speed of Digita or the backup fiasco."

You mean the people who didn't backup properly? Digita provide a free tool to backup and say it is needed because they use SQL. If people ignore the advice given who is to blame?

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Errors and time to update

"The only integration advantage I got with Digita was between the final accounts programme and the CT programme, and there is minimal re-inputting to do there anyway, so it did not really help that much."

The addresses make the difference. Somebody moves home and the registered office, director's address, personal address in personal tax, accounts production and corporation tax changes.

It must cut down on the errors and time to update.

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Errors and time to update

 I agree, it does save some time, Peter, but for me it does not save as much time as the VT/TaxCalc combination has saved me.

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Backup Fiasco

I am sure it was their fault, but my point is that Digita has to provide additional advice on how to backup Digita data because backing up Digita data is harder than backing up data from software that provides a simple data file. My other backups happen automatically, but Digita always required more intervention.

I know you don't mind manually running your Digita backups Peter, but I still contend that it is easier not to have to do this, whether you mind doing it or not. Personally, I do not trust myself to remember to run my backups.

Maybe Digita software is just not suitable to absent-minded fools like me, but VT and Taxcalc seem to be proof against such fools.


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Historic data

When you leave someone like Iris or Digista or Sage what happens to all the historic data?

Can this still be accessed on a read only basis?

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Historic Data Should be Extracted on Migration

I would recommend printing out all your reports (tax comps, TB-to-financial-statements mapping etc) whenever filing a return or a set of accounts. You don't want to be reliant on previous suppliers for your data.

With bookkeeping software I would export all transactions to Excel, and if possible import them to the new package.

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Keep .pdf copies of documents as a matter of routine

I consider it good practice to retain .pdf copies of accounts, nominal ledgers, tax returns, tax computations, etc., regardless of whatever software is used.

Then come the day to migrate to a better software product, access is still available  in years to come to electronic copies of past data from the older software package.

In theory and if software providors played fair, access to old data would be available in perpetuity regardless of renewal of licences, especially when such licences are allegedly for updates / tax year updates.   I can fully understand why software providors wouldn't support ongoing current tax year return support if users don't renew, but I'm not so happy if access to past years data is not available in future years.    Hence the need to keep .pdf copies of key documents already referred to.



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pdf copies

Sorry - that is what I should have said (unless you are living in the 1980s, in which case go with my printing-out advice).

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I think with Digita you still have read only access even if your licence expires.

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In many acses you can not access previous data without an up to date licence.  I was caught out by Keytime when I decided to move suppliers.

Have other practioners found this to be the case when moving? 

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CCH & Sage demand that you remove the software from your system, and destroy the software CD's, or return them!

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 Paul, you mentioned changing from Keytime. I am looking at their product at the moment, so, just out of curiosity, can you say why you changed?

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It was a number of things.  I was encouraged by the low price.

For me support was slow.  Also when I used it you could not have nil capital allowances, it just would not let you.

I had been with Forbes and changed to a more inclusive product with Keytime and then went back to forbes.

I was also angered that when I passed the date when the licence was due for renewal that I could not access files etc from the previous year.



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Thanks Paul,

How long ago did you use this product?

I want to make sure that once I change product (if I change product?) I am making the correct choice, or at least as correct as I can be at this moment in time!!

Thanks again.

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I have used Taxcalc for two years now and VT for one year and find them both to be excellent programs.  Very friendly HUMAN staff, found that I needed 2006,2007 and 2008, no problem, i was supplied with free downloads. I also disagree with the fact that using two packages is slower. In the past I have used a full integrated Sage package and found the CT600 a very complicated system. As for Keytime which I used for 6 months I would never ever consider going back. I note one of your readers comments about Keytime date locking their returns, after some time Keytime allowed me to be able to read the past returns

I only foresee one problem arising in the future from Taxcalc, with the new ixbrl format needed from 1st.April 2011 a licence to use Taxcalc (I have 29 companies) will cost me £300. With the current £400 plus an added £300 the cost will be very close to their competitors and will force small accountants to probably start looking elsewhere (again).

I hope that Taxcalc will look again at this charge.




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TaxCalc will cost £700?

Is that corrrect? When iXBRL is in, TaxCalc will cost £700? 

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@ Elaine

I used Keytime for 1 tax year only plus I had a few goes for the previous year.


Good Luck in your search.  Let us know what you decide

For the record I use forbes for SA100, CT600 partnerships and trusts.  VT for accounts, although the LLP problems are a concern.  I lodge that accounts that I can using the Companies House portal but am looking for something better

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Re chatman

The £300 increase will be nothing compared to the time efficiency savings you will be making compared to using an integrated package surely?



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"I only foresee one problem arising in the future from Taxcalc, with the new ixbrl format needed from 1st.April 2011 a licence to use Taxcalc (I have 29 companies) will cost me £300. With the current £400 plus an added £300 the cost will be very close to their competitors and will force small accountants to probably start looking elsewhere (again)."

What do you mean by current £400 plus an added £300? What is the £400 and £300 for?

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Re: Taxcalc £700 cost

The current price of Taxcalc is £400 + vat. With the introduction of ixbrl the following cost will arise:

1  conversion £25

10                  £100

25                  £187.50

50                  £300

100                £500

I have 29 small companies therefore the 50 pack will be needed at £300.



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VT will allow you to produce iXBRL accounts - you only need TaxCalc to load the file, no need to use their conversion facility if that is extra.

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So you have software without iXBRL and you pay extra for iXBRL.

As I understand it Digita include iXBRL in the price.

I don't agree with those who say that integrated pakages are slower than non-integrated packages. There may be some integrated packages that are not very good but I would have thought that integration reduces the time needed. Anyway, Digita doesn't insist on you integrating their software. I think that anybody who says integrated packages are slower because of their experiences with Sage should try some other packages. Sage is the only package I have found that can't add up.

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I love Iris

Iris is a magnificent tool, (no I am not sponsored by Iris).

I've been using Iris since 2002.   Yes, the price is shocking -  it costs over 15 times the cost of my previous software, but OH! what a difference.   (Ha ha.)

If used properly you can do everything, not just tax work and accounts.   You can use it to run the whole practice.   Every letter, invoice, email and telephone call goes through Iris.   It's a magnificent time saver.

We run a virtually paper free (paper light?) office, using just Iris, Adobe, Microsft Office and Microsoft 7.

If you want speed and accuracy, use Iris.

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VT Taxcalc

Thanks for the information regarding the VT ixbrl tool. I assume that the Taxcalc computations will automatically be in this format when needed.



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Will need iXBRL for TaxCalc

Wouldn't the TaxCalc computations need the TaxCalc iXBRL tool?

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@ macdougall

But you've got your head down the bog.


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Is the extra £300 for TaxCalc necessary if you use VT for accoun

Do I understand correctly from neutro's comment that if I am preparing accounts in VT, I will not need to spend the extra £300 on TaxCalc?

@JackJoshua - I'm sorry; I'm sure I'm being really stupid, but I do not understand your second comment.

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Doesnt the CT100 need to be in iXBRL format?  VT will take care of the accounts but your tax software will need to be able to do the CT100?

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