A good piece of accounting software package can help any small business – it is much much better than using spreadsheets! With a package you can automate most business processes and produce detailed reports on precisely how you’re doing.
Deciding you need an accounting package is the easy part, of course – picking the best one for you is a different matter.
If you’re a total beginner at running a business and accounting scares you then it may be wise to choose a commercial package perhaps recommended by an accountant or book keeper you know and trust.
If you are a bit more experienced, then there is a range of free accounting packages available that all conform to UK accounting practices. Here are my recommendations.
1. VT Cash Book
If your accounting needs are simple then this product may suit you very well. It simply about running your business on a ‘cash basis’, i.e. recording your income and expenditure when it happens and reconciling it against your bank statement. There are no databases of customers or suppliers, no invoices or purchase orders – just the ability entering transactions via VT Cash Book’s straightforward interface.
VT Cash supports multiple accounts, has a simple reconciliation option, and very importantly can help with your VAT returns. So if you’re a small trader, and just looking for a way to record your cash transactions, then VT Cash Book is worth a look.
This is the grand father of free accounting software as it was 1st released in 1998. It is Open Source so it has been improved and developed ever since – it is now a very flexible accounting system.
A straightforward screen makes it quick and easy to enter transactions, but there is much more under the bonnet, ie customer and supplier tracking, invoicing and bill payment, scheduled transaction support, and lots of reports.
It can also do budget management and stock portfolios, while each of your accounts can be in different currencies. It is based on double entry accounting and has a reconciliation tool help you uncover any errors. Versions are available for Windows, Linux and Mac (and even an Android app) – so you can run this almost anywhere.
Like GnuCash, this is an open source small business accounting package, which the developers say has more than 80,000 users worldwide. It has all the usual standard functions – stock control, invoicing, debtors, creditors, general ledger, VAT accounting, balance sheet and income statements, and plenty of reports – and also supports multiple users, and even multiple companies.
As with any similar package, if you’re new to accounting in general then there’s a great deal to learn, so this package does have example books and a detailed online manual helps you to get started. This software is also configurable and should meet the demands of most businesses regardless of size.