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MTD software for accountant in a small business?

Currently using Sage Line 50 version 8 (yes really!) but it's not compatible with MTD

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I am an ACA qualified accountant currently working in our family haulage business. We have been using Sage Line 50 version 8 for donkeys years and it does what it needs to do quite nicely thank you and we've never needed to upgrade. Until Making Tax Digital came along and our fully functional, does what it needs to do exactly how we want it to, software is now considered defunct because it won't link straight through to HMRC for MTD for VAT.

I currently use Sage for bookkeeping and produce our accounts on my own excel spreadsheet. I'm happy with my financial accounts system on excel, I'm just looking for something to replace the bookkeeping system. We don't have a big budget (I would rather not have bought anything at all). I want something where I can see what the system is doing, not some fancy end user package with all the double entry behind the scenes so you don't know if it's done it right or not. We are registered for VAT cash accounting.

Please does anybody have a recommendation of suitable software?  I looked at Sage but the fancy screens make me uneasy. As an accountant can you tell what's the actual postings are? Can you manually post unusual entries? Is there a better system? I've heard of VT but never used it. Would this be a good option for us potentially please? I've been out of practice for over ten years, I don't know what options there are anymore.

Thank you in advance for any help or pointers.

Replies (53)

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By Duggimon
26th Apr 2021 12:29

Does Sage v8 allow you to export the detailed transactions for a VAT return? If so I would suggest bridging software that can file the resulting export for you would be the way to go, it's cheap, simple and means you don't have to abandon a system that's otherwise working well.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 13:05

Thank you for your response. I have been using something like this, taking advantage of the soft landing period, but I think it's time now to accept that new software is needed.

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By Moonbeam
26th Apr 2021 12:35

Don't mess about. Just move over to Xero. It will be cheaper, and dead easy for you to learn. You can get your old data automatically converted. All your users can use Xero at no extra cost. You can access it from any computer. There are loads of industry specific apps that could be useful in future to link to Xero. Oh Yes, and MTD for VAT comes as standard.
I'm exhausted, and there are so many other positive things I could say. (Don't use the payroll, as it's pants.)

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Replying to Moonbeam:
By Duggimon
26th Apr 2021 12:58

Cheaper than what? Currently they pay nothing, your suggested solution is what, £24 a month?

If everything works fine except MTD for VAT, they can solve that problem for much less than £24 a month.

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Replying to Moonbeam:
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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 13:11

Thank you for your response. There are no other users, only me. I don't want to convert my old data, I am happy to start afresh and post all of the opening balance items from scratch (which is another reason why I need to be sure of what's going on behind the scenes).
I doubt any industry specific apps would be needed, though it may be useful to be able to use my iphone as well as the computer. If £24 a month is accurate though I was hoping for a bit cheaper than that.

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By Sandnickel
26th Apr 2021 12:42

VT is fine, I'm sure you will pick it up fairly quickly. There are a range of different softwares out there though, my advice would be to pick a couple of them and get a trial period on them to see which one you like best. I use Quickfile which is free up to a certain level of transaction and then is £45 per year.

Someone else has mentioned bridging software, whilst this is possible I wouldn't recommend it with such an old version (which will be unsupported by SAGE now).

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Replying to Sandnickel:
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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 13:14

Thank you for your response. There are loads out there, but I need something ASAP since I need to post April onwards onto it. Hence my trying to shortlist a few options.
I will take a look at VT and quickfile thank you. Do those both include sales and purchase ledgers and a bank rec please?

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Replying to Helen Stevens WES:
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By Sandnickel
26th Apr 2021 13:19

Yes, they are both full bookkeeping softwares so have everything that you need plus the MTD facility you are missing in SAGE.

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By kenny achampong
26th Apr 2021 13:26

Why not just get the Absolute bridging spreadsheet and stick with the Sage that you know ?

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By DaveyJonesLocker
26th Apr 2021 13:52

Don't jump to the all-shiny Xero and QB, it's fools gold. Stick to what works and use bridging software.

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Replying to DaveyJonesLocker:
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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 14:13

I had the misfortune of creating accounts from a client's QuickBooks records many years ago and hated it. I seem to remember the lack of an audit trail, and the client being able to delete transactions without it keeping a record of the transactions ever existing which, as an auditor working with clients with unreliable bookkeeping abilities, I found particularly horrifying. I would hope it has come on somewhat since then but it definitely wouldn't be my first choice to test!

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Replying to Helen Stevens WES:
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By DaveyJonesLocker
26th Apr 2021 14:22

This is the trouble, neither has as much detailed reporting as you get currently.

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By carnmores
26th Apr 2021 19:12

wrong again

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Replying to carnmores:
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By DaveyJonesLocker
26th Apr 2021 20:56

Absolute rubbish as I use both systems. Try taking your rose tinted glasses off

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By carnmores
29th Apr 2021 11:00

Then you simply don't know how to use the software. Can you please give me a couple of examples so that I can help you. if i am wrong I will happily apologise. I have been using Sage since 1986 and QB since mid 1990's

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Replying to DaveyJonesLocker:
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By carnmores
29th Apr 2021 11:00

Then you simply don't know how to use the software. Can you please give me a couple of examples so that I can help you. if i am wrong I will happily apologise. I have been using Sage since 1986 and QB since mid 1990's

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Replying to Helen Stevens WES:
By kenny achampong
26th Apr 2021 15:54

I had exactly the same problem every time with Quick Books. It turned out that it was better just to bin it and start from scratch using spreadsheets. In the end, I refused to deal with it and told clients who had used it to go elsewhere.

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Replying to Helen Stevens WES:
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By carnmores
26th Apr 2021 19:01

wrong , there has been an audit trail for year, and if you are basing your recommendations on your experiences of years ago then update them

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
26th Apr 2021 13:56

Don't get too excited about the "soft landing" period ending.

The filings are not changing to HMRC, nor do they have a scrap of resource to look at what you might or might not be doing your end and what might or might not constitute digital filing, and even if they dont like it ........... they have little power to do much about it. Its all mind games from HMRC.

Fundamentally however what you are doing is "digital" and you can still bridge.

Whilst I find SAGE horrible to use myself and a big time drain - if you can use it and you know your way around all the weird stuff - don't change just due to MTD.

That said we recently shaved 3 days a month off a clients bookkeeping using Xero (they were manually doing a huge number of repeat bills which Xero just does for them) so it might be worth looking at what something more modern would do for you......but MTD integrated vs a bridge is probably 30 minutes a year so dont do it for that.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 14:20

I was using VAT Direct (run by the very helpful John Hemming) as a bridge, but it requires me to cut and paste the entries into the excel spreadsheet in order to feed this through, and as I understand it HMRC don't allow that from quarters beginning 1/4/21 onwards. While I possibly could continue to use it, I would rather not fall foul of the wrath of HMRC if they come out to check on us at some point.

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Replying to Helen Stevens WES:
By Duggimon
26th Apr 2021 14:23

If you can export from Sage into a spreadsheet that is not what HMRC mean by "cut and paste" and it's absolutely fine to carry on doing that.

If there's some weird quirk whereby you have to export, then copy that and paste it somewhere else, you may have an issue.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 14:30

It was a bit funny, but perhaps I was not doing it completely right. I had to manually add the links to the exported CSV file each return, so that the figures could be grabbed by the import system. It wasn't automated and when I read up what HMRC said we need, we didn't seem to quite fit the bill.

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Replying to Helen Stevens WES:
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By johnhemming
26th Apr 2021 14:39

It is "automated" because it is mapped through. You are not copying and pasting the individual figures.

You can also do it via uploading a CSV file.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 14:37

I should possibly add that the computer with SAGE on is an old one which is no longer online (viruses would most likely tear it to shreds) so any files downloaded from it have to be transferred to a USB and uploaded onto my other laptop.
In some ways MTD for Vat may do me a favour if it means I can rely a little less on my old computer. Though working across two computers can be an advantage when one decides not to work for some reason.

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By Truthsayer
26th Apr 2021 14:19

I thoroughly recommend VT Transaction Plus, as it shows the double entry, it does not have umpteen useless screens and features like Sage and Xero, is very cheap, easy to learn and use, and very easy to correct mistakes. I consider Sage and Xero to be abominations. Xero has no backup facility, so you cannot restore an earlier save if something goes badly wrong, and it has no proper sales and purchase ledgers. It is so bad in so many ways, I am baffled why so many accountants are enamoured with it.

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By DaveyJonesLocker
26th Apr 2021 14:26

This is what I hate about all the cloud products, you can never go back in time. Feels like the Emperor's New Clothes fable at times

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Replying to Truthsayer:
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By graeme kempson
29th Apr 2021 12:47

I recognise that to some I may be considered a dinosaur, but I am relieved to see someone else has the same opinion positively on VT, and negatively on Xero and QB and for me, some lesser extent, Sage.

VT is so simple for people who understand double entry and know what they are doing.

It reminds me of the simplicity of the Orchard bookkeeping system that was created in the early 80s for practices. The accountant who specced it apparently said to the programmer something like "I can use an eraser/tippex to change an original entry on paper, so I want the software to be able to do the same - and not have to do a journal or have reversed entries everywhere"

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Replying to graeme kempson:
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By peterhool
02nd May 2021 10:05

Hi Graeme
I was that accountant who started Orchard with a client. I seem to remember your name despite old age creep.

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By Helen Stevens WES
26th Apr 2021 14:25

Thank you all for your helpful comments and healthy debate. It is good to see the pros and cons of the various systems.
Based on the comments here (and having checked the price) I have downloaded VT Transactions + and am currently creating new customers and suppliers using the help files. It looks reasonably simple so far so fingers crossed it will do what it needs to and I will like it.
I will leave this thread open for now for healthy debate, hopefully it may help others in a similar situation. I was surprised I didn't find a similar question already asked and answered, but maybe it is only me who is still using such an ancient system!

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Replying to Helen Stevens WES:
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By loverboyfullofjoy
27th Apr 2021 08:53

You will be able to file your VAT online using VT but I wouldn't use it for your book-keeping because Sage will give you the double entry system you need for your business. I have been dealing with Haulage firms for years and know how much work is involved with the book-keeping. I don't like VT at all having dealt with it before filing CT returns online using IRIS. I take figures straight off client's software and put them onto spreadsheet and then upload them to IRIS to file all my VAT returns using MTD and it only costs me a small amount for IRIS which I need for statutory accounts and CT.

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Replying to loverboyfullofjoy:
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By cbp99
27th Apr 2021 12:16

I am puzzled - are you suggesting VT is not a double-entry bookkeeping system?

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By loverboyfullofjoy
27th Apr 2021 23:40

There are certain things that VT struggles on where it is easier to do on VT. Not comfortable with VT at all.

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By cbp99
28th Apr 2021 12:08

What does VT struggle with?

As wittily observed by Hugo, it is great at repeat entries!

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By loverboyfullofjoy
27th Apr 2021 23:40

There are certain things that VT struggles on where it is easier to do on VT. Not comfortable with VT at all.

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Replying to cbp99:
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By loverboyfullofjoy
27th Apr 2021 23:40

There are certain things that VT struggles on where it is easier to do on VT. Not comfortable with VT at all.

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Replying to cbp99:
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By loverboyfullofjoy
27th Apr 2021 23:40

There are certain things that VT struggles on where it is easier to do on VT. Not comfortable with VT at all.

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By Hugo Fair
28th Apr 2021 00:01

Does it not facilitate repeat entries?

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
26th Apr 2021 15:47

Best option would be to move to Xero, will cost you £24 per month but will save you a lot of time and you wont need to use excel extra to generate your MI. I am suprised anyone would stick with desktop software after Covid. People get hung up on the £24 cost but It really should save you hours per month, what cost do you put on that.

Middle option something like VT I think its maybe £100 as a one off purchase will do a job but not really be much different to what you do now.

Cheapest option some VAT bridging software maybe £40 per year.

The version of Sage you have is so far behind current release it will be a massive problem if it ever goes wrong.

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By cbp99
27th Apr 2021 12:17

What has covid to do with desktop software for a single user like the OP?

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Jason Croke
By Jason Croke
26th Apr 2021 16:50

With MTD there are two aspects to tackle.

The first is the actual physical filing of the VAT return, that needs to be done either via cloud software or API enabled Excel spreadsheet, there are a number of free or very cheap API spreadsheets. So that fixes the filing part of MTD.

The second is the data in the accounting software (Sage), Sage is more than capable of meeting MTD standards, the key is ensuring you can export the data from sage into the API enabled spreadsheet, Sage does allow you to export data in XLS or CSV formats.

MTD does also allow data to be transferred via USB, but it does beg the question if you have a computer not connected to the internet , how will you file the VAT return, presumably you have another computer which does have internet access, if so, then you can download export the data to a USB file and imp[ort it into the ABI-enabled spreadsheet which the uploads that data to the HMRC computer digitally.

The future is moving towards cloud accounting and so if you can consider cloud software then there are benefits for you and the client (but at a monthly cost) or Sage will meet your needs for now and likely into the future as well.

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Replying to Jason Croke:
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By Helen Stevens WES
29th Apr 2021 14:31

Thank you for your response. Apologies for my delay in replying, I have been laid low by the covid vaccine I had a couple of days ago which knocked me sideways somewhat.
So far I have been using the VAT Direct bridging software, and yes I have a newer laptop which I use for internet stuff. I tried to put SAGE onto it but foolishly allowed the Dell software support people to attempt to copy the software across (despite my having worked many years ago in a software house and knowing that SAGE has anti copying devices built in) so of course it corrupted after a while. Despite my carefully following online instructions to purge SAGE from my new laptop so I could start again with a plug in CD-ROM drive, it hasn't worked on my new laptop since.
There is no client, just me. But I appreciate your advice, thank you.

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Replying to Jason Croke:
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By Helen Stevens WES
29th Apr 2021 14:31

Thank you for your response. Apologies for my delay in replying, I have been laid low by the covid vaccine I had a couple of days ago which knocked me sideways somewhat.
So far I have been using the VAT Direct bridging software, and yes I have a newer laptop which I use for internet stuff. I tried to put SAGE onto it but foolishly allowed the Dell software support people to attempt to copy the software across (despite my having worked many years ago in a software house and knowing that SAGE has anti copying devices built in) so of course it corrupted after a while. Despite my carefully following online instructions to purge SAGE from my new laptop so I could start again with a plug in CD-ROM drive, it hasn't worked on my new laptop since.
There is no client, just me. But I appreciate your advice, thank you.

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By tltodman
26th Apr 2021 17:03

If it is just one competent user then VT gets my vote. I use it for the clients that I do their bookkeeping and for my own business. I have a couple of clients using it too. You can delete transactions and they disappear without trace - which is why I say a competent and/or single user. MTD is a breeze. If you need to access from different locations then you can use dropbox/onedrive for the data file though you can sometimes get duplicate files if you don't close one before opening from the other can create a right pigs ear to sort out. But knowing those restrictions for a single user it's easy to use, trace transactions and is competitvely priced.

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By susieq
27th Apr 2021 09:27

I've got a client who used really old version of Sage, and although yes, bridging software can be used, isn't the problem that you can never update your pc because old sage versions can't run with up to date windows? This client has recently swopped to VT and is finding it saves time and MTD compliant.

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Replying to susieq:
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By Helen Stevens WES
29th Apr 2021 14:34

Thank you for your response. I already have a newer laptop, and the old one doesn't need to go on the internet. So I have no need to update the software on the old computer, it can just tick along happily as it is. It's good to hear that VT is an option for the future, thank you.

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SamPayne
By SamPayne
29th Apr 2021 10:41

Funnily enough we had a similar issue, so decided to go for MTDfVAT. Its cheap (£50 a year) and allows us to import the VAT return export from Sage. They even checked my export before I bought to make sure it worked!

I'd suggest checking them out.

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By johnjenkins
29th Apr 2021 10:42

If you've used sage then you will find VT Transaction+ a doddle. This in combination with IRIS Keytime tax has kept my job very easy. We've actually put our non vat clients on VT cashbook (which is free) ready for the (will they won't they) MTD for the non vated business.

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By North East Accountant
29th Apr 2021 11:49

Xero is no good if you manually enter purchase invoices and has no decent sales or purchase ledger.

Sage Business Cloud Accounting (stupid name) will be easier if you want cloud and easier to adjust to having used Sage 50 for years.

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Morph
By kevinringer
29th Apr 2021 13:20

Asking accountants might not be the right people to ask. Someone in business needs software that can efficiently do all they need to do on a day to day basis. Accountants need software that will enable them to produce a set of books for last year's data. That's a different end goal. Whilst bank feeds etc will be useful to whoever is inputting the data, it's of no use to the accountant who's job it is to work on the data. Same goes for invoicing and a whole plethora of functions.

Our practice has hundreds of Sage desktop users, hundreds of QuickBooks Online users, a handful of Xero, Sage Online (whatever it is called today) and a few others. From an accounting point of view I prefer Sage desktop. It is solid with a good audit trail. With Sage Drive (or whatever it is called today) you can have the data residing on your workplace PC and also work on the data from home. Xero and QBO do a lot more than Sage desktop, functions that small business owners would use, but they're of no use to the accountant.

Almost all our hundreds of Sage users have now upgraded to the latest software (monthly subscription). It handles MTD etc but most long-time Sage users prefer the way the old software worked. It was quicker too (contrast saving a bank reconciliation in the recent versions with the old versions). But most of our Sage users would rather put up with the new Sage than switch to something completely new.

I would advise you to look at all the software recommended on this thread and look at all the extra functions the various software has, that Sage 8 didn't. Are any of those functions of any use to you? If so, go with it. The cost of all mainstream software is not huge. The cost of your time is greater: time to learn, setup and maintain.

Whatever happens, you need to get a new computer. Even if you stick with Sage 8 and bridging software. A new computer will likely be a lot quicker and a lot more secure.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By carnmores
29th Apr 2021 13:37

Kevin thank you . I commend you for your opening sentence. I would possibly go a bit further! Most accountants are reluctant to change, slow to embrace new technology, dont invest enough time in teaching themselves or their clients. We are probably all guilty of that to varying degrees.
Your advise is succint,generous and totally lacking in hubris which is present in so many other posts and very welcome. Nick

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