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We are a general practice that currently use Iris software to prepare accounts and tax returns, our clients cross most of the accounting spectrum, trust, charities, soletraders, LLP's, limited co's etc. Due to the costs of Iris we are deliberating over changing our software provider to either Sage, Keytime or VT, has anyone had experience of these other software providers that they would care to share.

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By The Innkeeper
02nd Aug 2013 12:16


does exactly what it says on the tin. most wonderful bit of kit ever. I just hope that they never sell out to someone else

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By girlofwight
02nd Aug 2013 12:29


We use Compac (now part of Keytime) for Accounts Production, have done for many years, and although Keytime bogged up the Ibrxl a bit - overdid licensing and security - the programme is stable and works well.  Haven't used other products.


Tax is done via Drummohr, great software still despite Iris owning it, although Iris's customer service is beyond abysmal - two months on and then still haven't responded:


Practice management is via excel I'm afraid, nothing complex.

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By Xcast
02nd Aug 2013 12:46

Iris costs seem to be getting a lot of posts lately

Have you considered Digita?

Similar set up to Iris, but a lot cheaper.

We've just made the move from Iris and are very happy with the product.

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By ShirleyM
02nd Aug 2013 12:49

I do not recommend Sage

We dumped it a couple of years ago, and I wouldn't go back to Sage if they paid me. It isn't user-friendly, it is overcomplicated, and you can never trust what they say about the cost/prices.

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Euan's picture
By Euan MacLennan
02nd Aug 2013 12:51


Do not spend any more time considering Sage - their costs rise faster than IRIS's!

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By DMGbus
02nd Aug 2013 19:01

Sage Accounts Prosuction ( + Advanced) NOT RECOMMENDED - why...

For accounting practices there are two Sage products - neither recommended from a user-friendly point of view:

Sage Accounts Production - recommended by Sage for practices with upto 4 partners.   The bad bit is the complexity - so difficult that Sage support have recently been unable to explain to me how to get a specific note into the accounts, so I'm now forced into the horrendous task of trial and error playing with computer code along the lines of:

((&A.LDIR=0  AND &B.LDIR=0) AND &D.6175="" AND &D.6100+&D.6105+&D.6110+&D.6115+&D.6120+&D.6125+&D.6130+&D.6135+&D.6140+&D.6145=0) OR &D.0155="Y"

It all revolves around a database that is very hard to navigate / discover where to input data (illogical and too difficult to remember).   Some processes (eg. prepare Abbreviated Accounts) require telling the program TWICE - in two different places - what you want.

An example of how bad the database is: a single director company - input 100% accurate info of a single director in the "Directors" section of the database, yet accounts still refer to directors (plural) - there's a second well-hidden database tick box to be searched out - not in the Directors database but in the Accounts database and scrolled off the page for good measure! 

Sage Accounts Production Advanced is Sage's "solution" for larger practices and I'm in the early stages of getting into this, it looks all very complicated (but seems to show some promise of being less horrible than SAP).   No Formatted TB available in this version.   There appear to be some technical errors in the default master copy for a Ltd Co., so an unfortunate colleague will have to spend time putting right Sage's errors in this respect.   The master copy for a sole trader is a partnership and I'm told that I have to allocate a 100% profit share to a single person to make it into a sole trader.    I'm also told that I'm unable to have a sole trader without a balance sheet in the finalised accounts (time to start using Excel instead of Sage, I think).   One (maybe) positive thing - accounts preview loads up / shows as an RTF document, so easy to edit in MS Word if some really difficult to edit out errors show up.

Common to both products are constant (nearly every day) iXBRL tagging issues for myself and colleagues.   A fair degree of manual tagging is required (eg. share capital, postcodes in addresses), even after this process I got about 20 errors when a test submission was made yesterday (duplicate value error code 3314 nonesense with no comprehensible guidance how to sort out from Sage online help).  Another recent iXBRL rejection was an error stating that I'd missed tagging details of a third director - this was for a company with just two directors!   So I had to invent a third director named "There is no third director"!

CONCLUSION : SAGE IS NOT RECOMMENDED (even it were free I'd prefer not to use it given the choice).


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By Witch-Queen
02nd Aug 2013 15:34

Another vote against Sage

I totally agree with DMGbus on everything

Every time I set up a new client in Sage I have to phone support because I can't remember where something is in the Database

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By marks
03rd Aug 2013 00:38


Good integrated accounts production and tax return package.

I used to use VT for accounts and taxcalc for tax but the additional costs are offset by the cost saving in preparing the accounts and doing the tax.

Not sure if it does charities, trusts and LLP as I stay clear of all them.


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By Ned Ludd
03rd Aug 2013 01:18

Sage accounts prod
Not used this for yeas but I actually liked it.

I really liked the way you could map your own set of accounts specific to a trade etc.

For example I built our own specialised template for working men's clubs that way. WAs time consuming initially but worth the effort.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
By petersaxton
03rd Aug 2013 16:13

Digita Accounts Production

Ned Ludd wrote:
Not used this for yeas but I actually liked it. I really liked the way you could map your own set of accounts specific to a trade etc. For example I built our own specialised template for working men's clubs that way. WAs time consuming initially but worth the effort.

With Digita Accounts Production you can have as many templates as you want. The simple accounts are easy to prepare and if you need something complicated it's very flexible.

Somebody sent me a Sage Accounts Production trial balance and it didn't balance!

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By MJ Green Accountancy
03rd Aug 2013 11:31

I use Sage Accounts Production Advanced and it is far more versatile than Sage accounts Production. Once you have the settings correct for your master set of accounts, you shouldn't experience many problems.


The ixbrl tagging has changed recently and there is some manual tagging required but once you've done a couple, this is pretty straight forward in my opinion.



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By carnmores
03rd Aug 2013 14:51

am actively using Digita again so with Peter Saxton

also you have the integration with their excellent tax packages , and you can have it all hosted 

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By chatman
04th Aug 2013 20:49

VT and BTC
I have used Digita, VT, Taxcalc and BTC. Of these, I found VT and BTC the easiest, quickest and most intuitive to use. Cheapest too.

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By CW2012
30th Aug 2013 11:38

Thanks for the replies, having used Hartley (which I believe sage took over) many years ago I was quite keen to migrate to Sage, I must say the replies have altered my thinking drastically, VT appears to be well regarded in the industry, one of the better features of Iris is the tax integration, how good at this is VT, I see people are using additional tax packages, does this slow the process down, how integrated can they be made.



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By MJ Green Accountancy
30th Aug 2013 12:28

Sage Accounts Production Advanced is the old Hartley program, I know this because one of my former employers used it when it was still Hartley.


As I said above, I don't have any problems with it but it is quite expensive. i haven't used the other programs suggested so can't compare it to them objectively.


All I can say is that SAPA is still basically the same as it was years ago when it was Hartley, it has obviously been updated, but it works in the same way and still produces the same quality reports, so if you were comfortable with it before, you shouldn't have any problems getting back in to the swing of it.

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By DMGbus
30th Aug 2013 13:28

Sage Accounts Production Advanced - NOT UPTO DATE

I have to use a brand new installation of SAPA.

As a brand new installation I'd have hoped that it was fully upto date with modern accounting practices, policies and standards.

The supplied master copies falls short of being satisfactory.

Work in progress in the default setting per the master copy talks about valuation of WIP at cost and opening and closing WIP in cost of sales.

Now, some years ago (2005?), accounting standards changed in respect of WIP - the terminolgy was changed and it was valued instead at selling price and adjusted through sales rather than through cost of sales.

Things like this make me wonder what else is not upto date in SAPA.  

Clearly a steep learning curve here, another example being the accounting policies note (again by default from the supplied master copy) including a note that is two-thirds of a page long headed up Financial Instruments - clearly not required, but now got to learn how to put right this SAPA default error (and hope that the correction is saved for next year).


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By MJ Green Accountancy
30th Aug 2013 22:30

You do have to make a few changes to get the accounts to what you require and to be compliant, the way to do this and save yourself some work is to make the changes to your master set of accounts. Every set that you produce after that defaults to your master. It's quite simple to do, click on help or phone sage support if you're unsure. In my opinion, you should never just rely on what any program initially produces, without checking it first.

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