Online accounting review: FreeAgent/IRIS OpenBooks

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Nigel Harris presents an update on FreeAgent Central, one of the pioneers of online accounting in the UK with an application tailored for freelances.

FreeAgent Central was one of the pioneers of online accounting in the UK and has successfully carved out a niche with IT contractors and one-man companies. More recently it was adopted by IRIS as its online solution for its accountant clients and co-branded IRIS OpenBooks ‘powered by FreeAgent’.

The two services are virtually identical, the main difference being that FreeAgent can be used directly from the company’s website (£15 + VAT pm sole trader/£20 pm partnership or LLP/£25pm limited company), while IRIS OpenBooks is resold by accountants who can buy subscriptions for their clients at a sliding price starting at £15 per month (down to £6 pm for firms with more than 200 OpenBooks clients). Accountants can either resell the application to clients at a price of their own choosing, or bundle it with bookkeeping or other services. The flat monthly fee includes unlimited users.

Final thoughts

FreeAgent and IRIS OpenBooks represents the ideal solution for one-man IT contractors and freelancers. The service has been fine tuned to meet the needs of that sector, but more recently features such as user access controls and stock management have been added to cater for 1-10 person microbusinesses and product-based businesses.

For a business with employees the built-in payroll function makes this an extremely cost-effective package. As an accountant I was disappointed at the lack of export or print options in the reporting section; surely not that difficult to add, but apparently something for which there is no demand at the moment. If the majority of users are in fact one-man businesses perhaps on-screen reporting is adequate in most cases.

This is obviously not an issue for accountants using IRIS Accounts Production either. Accountants looking to manage clients using online accounts will find that IRIS OpenBooks provides a dashboard overview of all the firm’s OpenBooks users, with the last login details and latest bank balance shown against each client. Unlike services such as KashFlow, IRIS makes no charge to firms for this dashboard facility.

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About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and


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11th Aug 2011 11:20


I am surprised at the comments on printing - whilst there is no obvious print option, I have found that every report I have tried (including the equivilent of nominal activity(all transactions) and aged creditors) has automatically reverted to a sensible 'printable' version if you just hit print in internet explorer - excluding images and formatting them properly over the page.


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11th Aug 2011 11:41

Invoices without projects

I was wondering if there is a way to create invoices in FA without first having to declare a project? I couldn't find an obvious way to do this last time I used the service.

Recently I stumbled upon Quick File which seems like a very well put together system, best of all it's free! I'm just a bit apprehensive committing at this stage as they appear to be more orientated towards the business user. Does anybody know if there is a way to export the TB on Quick File?

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12th Aug 2011 08:35

Printing and reports

Printing from the pages in my browser has worked fine, and I have also been able to copy and paste what I see on the screen into excel, which I found useful in some cases.

I think you will find that all transactions can be exported as a CSV too.


-- Accounting the PaperLess way™

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15th Aug 2012 08:32

We compared over 150 accounting apps


There are a few great invoicing tools available on the cloud. The trick is using ones which will integrate nicely with your your entire ecosystem of cloud-based solutions. Some we have identified for our clients include Harvest, FreeAgent, Bizmo for iOS, Anybill, inniAccounts, Outright, and Kashoo.


Read more about our research covering over 150 accounting applications.

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30th Aug 2013 22:30



I'm surprised that this hasn't been provided in the article, so for anyone who wants to try FreeAgent out, here's a 10% discount code: 42s6vwox


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