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Dealing with the numbers, double-checking your expenses, and making sure your taxes are in order are all essential for any business – but can you do it at zero cost? Free accounting software can be surprisingly dependable, so long as you pick the right brand.
If you’re looking for a quick answer, we think the best free accounting software is either Sunrise or SlickPie. Sunrise offers a very simple user experience, while SlickPie gives you the most useful tools and information for running a small business.
These days, we now have all kinds of software options to help us with even the simplest tasks. We have software that can reconnect us with friends, log the books and movies we’ve watched, and, yes, we have software that can do our accounting (even for free). For a comprehensive breakdown of the various software to choose between, read on.
The best free accounting software
We’ve researched accounting software, free and paid alike, looking at their features, ease of use, and the pricing of their advanced tiers. With this information in mind, we’ve determined the best free accounting software options for small businesses in 2021:
- SlickPie – Best for small businesses
- Sunrise – Best for sleek interface
- Wave – Best for unlimited resources
- ZipBooks – Best for amount of features
- CloudBooks – Cheap paid tiers
- Quickfile – Best for amount of information
- Akaunting – Best for language support
- GnuCash – Best for simple, standard service
- NCH Express – Best for amount of features
Above, we’ve picked nine notable free accounting software programs to go over. In the rest of this guide, we will explain our reasoning for why each brand belongs in our list of the best free accounting software.
However, every software we touch on will have its merits among different crowds, so they’re all worth consideration – read on to be sure you're choosing the best one for you.
Best for: Best for small businesses
Firstly we have software with the most interesting name, SlickPie. They claim that their software isn’t just for small businesses, it’s for “micro businesses.” The features they offer are:
- Creation of quotes and estimates: Create official quotes to send to your customers
- Tracking expenses: See what your company is paying out as well as what it’s making
- Tracking sales tax: See concrete numbers on how much tax you owe
- Adding multiple users: Limitless users can be added to your company on SlickPie, meaning you won’t have to cut some people out of the loop
- Recurring invoices and late notices: Make sure you get what you’re owed by sending recurring invoices and reminders to your clients and customers
- Support for PayPal, Stripe, and credit cards: Never lose out on a sale due to an unsupported payment method
- Bank grade security: They boast military-grade 256-bit encryption
- Usable on any device: iOS, Android, Windows phones, tablets, Mac, PC – it doesn’t matter what you use, you’ll be able to access SlickPie
As far as reviews go, SlickPie is one of the most well-received softwares on this list. The only complaints were occasional tech hiccups, but the ease of use, interface, and functionality are all highly praised.
If you’re looking to beef up your slice of the SlickPie, you can always go for their paid option. However, it is $39.95 a month, which is more expensive than most paid software, like both QuickBooks’ and Freshbooks’ top tiers, priced at $31 and $15 respectively.
The only things you can gain from their priced options are phone support and 50 registerable companies, compared to the free plan’s email-only support and maximum of 10 companies, so you’d really have to be infatuated with this specific software to want to splurge on it.
Best for: Sleek interface
Here we have Sunrise, one of the nicest-looking softwares on the market. But it’s not all surface level, let see what they offer:
- Invoices, quotes, and estimates: Interaction with clients and customers can all be done via Sunrise
- Financial reports: Get a comprehensive breakdown of where all your money is coming from, and where it’s going
- View unpaid invoices: See all your loose ends in one handy place, and follow them up with simple messages
- Discounts and refunds: Apply discounts and refunds to your website with a few easy clicks
- Tax functions: Add your accountant to your business via Sunrise and they’ll be able to do all your taxes in one easy spot
- Security: High rate encryption ensures that your data and information is safe
Looking at reviews for Sunrise, people love it! Everyone seems to love the visual interface of the app, which makes it extremely easy to navigate and use, as well as the standard features being very well praised.
If you’re looking to pay for further services, make sure you’re willing to commit to this. They’re the most expensive paid services by a mile, coming in at monthly payments of $149, $299, and $499. And all these tiers offer is a larger amount of permitted transactions per month, so for some, it might not be worth it.
Best for: Unlimited users, invoices, and bank connections
Our next accounting software is Wave. Wave is a very comprehensive service, covering a lot of accounting bases. Here are some of their major features:
- Unlimited invoices: Don’t worry about any quotas or limits, you can send as many invoices as you like, with Wave sending automatic follow-ups
- Receipt scanning: Keep track of your expenses in one place, by keeping all your receipts logged by scanning them with your phone
- Unlimited bank/card connections: Sync up as many bank cards or accounts as you’d like
- Multiple businesses: You can connect multiple businesses to one Wave account, allowing for easy management
- Unlimited user accounts: Allow as many people as you’d like to view your books
- Comprehensive reports: See all kinds of numbers and figures on your business that allow you to know where your business stands financially
When looking at user reviews for Wave, we found that it was received well by freelancers and accountants alike. The only cited downsides were the lack of support (there’s no phone or chat support) and the fact that learning the software can take a bit of time.
If you love Wave’s free service, you might be looking to know what you could get on their paid tiers. If you decide to go all in on Wave, they’ll be able to manage your payroll as well. Depending on your state, you’ll have to pay either $20 or $35, plus an additional $6 for every employee on your payroll.
Best for: Amount of features on offer
ZipBooks is one of the larger scale softwares on this list. There is a ton on offer when opening the ZipBooks platform for the first time. A free ZipBooks account can offer you:
- Unlimited invoices: Never worry about keeping track of how many invoices you’re allowed to send
- Management of unlimited vendors and customers: If you have a larger business, you’ll be able to keep track of them all in one spot
- Digital payments from PayPal and Square
- Estimates and quotes: Craft estimates and quotes specifically for each client you’re sending to
- Viewing basic reports, including their “business health score,” which looks at various aspects of your business and tabulates an estimated grade of how well it’s faring overall
As far as optional payment goes, you can spend $15/month for things like multiple bank accounts and time tracking, or go all out with their $35/month option, and get your hands on unlimited users and book-locking capabilities.
Best for: Cheap higher tiers
CloudBooks claims that their product pays for itself, but that’s not hard when the product itself is free. Even if it wasn’t free, they might still be right to make that claim, as CloudBooks offers loads of great accounting features. These features include:
- Online invoicing: A basic accounting feature, you can send, receive, and stay on top of outstanding invoices
- Project management and time tracking: Manage your staff and project progress, while keeping track of of billable hours and travel distance
- Expenses: Keep track of your expenditure and make sure no money is going missing or bills are going unpaid.
- Estimates: Make sure customers or clients are enticed by your quotes
- Payment integration options: Notify your customers when payment is due, and allow them to pay via PayPal or 2Checkout
- Comprehensive business reports: See everything on one page with reports on your company’s profits, losses, revenue, and many other important figures.
- Client reviews: A rarer feature in account software, CloudBooks lets you ask your client for feedback, allowing you to improve and grow your business
Of the user reviews we found, CloudBooks received generally positive feedback. However, a lot of users found that the interface was a bit difficult to navigate, with certain buttons being hard to select.
They do have paid tiers that you can advance up to if you’re so inclined. These tiers cost $10/mo and $20/mo, letting you upgrade your client/staff user amounts, or offering phone/chat support. However, no crucial features are locked behind paywalls.
Best for: Amount of information on offer
Quickfile is, as the name suggests, a no-nonsense accounting software that works to have your information with you as quickly and easily as possible. In the free tiers of Quickfile, you can expect to find:
- Professional invoicing: Craft trackable invoices that can be paid through PayPal, Stripe, GoCardless, Worldpay, SagePay, and more
- Fully branded client area: Each of your clients can be given a dedicated account to see all their invoices, statements, and quotes, as well as make payments and contact you directly
- Purchase/receipt management: Log all receipts and expenditures in one place, so you can stay on top of where your money is going
- Banking automation: Upload a bank statement and tag entries as you go, or even automate tags for routine income or expenses
- MTD compatible VAT returns: Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a HMRC-recognized method of doing your VAT returns
- Estimates/Quotations: Send your clients estimates for your costs
- Full multi-currency support: With rates provided by xe.com, make sure any sales made in other currencies are valid and converted
- Reporting: See all the important income and outgoing money on one page, giving you a birds eye view of your business
- Up to 1000 ledger entries: You can make up to 1000 ledger entries before needing to upgrade to a priced plan
As far as user reviews go, Quickfile seems to have an average reputation in the accounting world. Navigation can be a pain, since the user is presented with a lot of options from the get go, with little support offered by Quickfile themselves. Instead, you’ll need to rely on community support, which can take a while.
For $60 a year you can upgrade your Quickfile plan to allow for more ledger entries. You’ll also get access to further customization, no ads, and other quality of life improvements.
Best for: Language support
Akaunting is one of the larger softwares, being available in 45 languages. One top of these languages, we have some other great features:
- App store/dashboard and widgets: Akaunting has its own app store, allowing you to download/buy add-ons or widgets that might suit your niche, like shipping trackers or inventory management
- Recurring everything: If you’ve got invoices, revenue, bills, or payments that need to happen repeatedly over time, you can set these up to happen automatically
- Multi-currency: Allow buyers to pay in whatever currency they prefer
- Client portals and summaries: Give your clients their own space to contact you and view their own records, and allow yourself to refresh on who’s who amongst your clients
- Tax rates: Keep track of which tax costs you what amount
- Email templates: Look nice and official when creating emails to your clients or customers
- Fine-grained permissions: Make sure you control who can see what by giving individual users specific permissions
User reviews for Akaunting are middling. People don’t find it particularly user-friendly, and the customer support isn’t too helpful either. Still, it performs its primary functions well enough that it’s still a fair pick.
Akaunting doesn’t have any paid tiers above the free option so you won’t have to worry about missing out on some key features if you can’t afford them.
Best for: Simple, middle-of-the-road service
GnuCash is one of the older accounting softwares on our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated, at least when it comes to features. If you use GnuCash, you’ll be able to:
- Scheduled transactions: Arrange a time for money to clear while you’re away from the computer
- Double entry: A transaction can only clear once an account has been debited, meaning no money can get lost or stuck in limbo
- Comprehensive reports: See your business’s important figures in one easy to digest place
- Multi-currency: Allow transactions to clear in any currency worldwide
- Online stock and mutual funds: Update your investment portfolio automatically with quotes from recognized sites
As far as features go, GnuCash received generally favorable reviews. However, it’s probably the most antiquated-looking software on this list, as the mobile support isn’t great, and the interface can be hard to navigate.
There are also no paid add-ons for GnuCash. It’s all one free software, with nothing locked behind paywalls.
Best for: Rare free features
NCH makes many different kinds of software, one of which is their free accounting software, NCH Express. Here’s a look at the various things NCH Express can do for you:
- Generate quotes and estimates: Craft estimates and quotes specifically for each client you’re sending to
- Recurring orders and invoices: If you have clients who regularly buy from you, have these orders and invoices appear automatically
- Create an income statement: If you’re ever going to seek out investors, use an income statement to show off about your company’s revenue
- View a balance sheet: Get a dense rundown of what your company currently owns and how it’s faring on a larger scale
- Inventory management: A rare feature in free accounting software, this allows you to stay on top of your company’s stock
When looking at reviews, NCH Express fares pretty well. It lacks in the customer service field, and some find the interface to be a bit abrasive, but overall, people enjoy the features and benefits.
If you’re looking to expand your NCH software, you can pay $139 for a Basic account, or $159 for a Plus account. All this does is increase the amount of users or invoices you can attach to your account, so this extremely steep price isn’t worth it. If you’re willing to pay that much, a regular paid software, like QuickBooks, would be a better option.
If you don’t love the look of any of the free accounting software we’ve listed, but you’re also not thrilled about the idea of paying for something without knowing what you’re committing to, a free trial might be just what you need.
A free trial can give you a good sense of what you’ll be getting out of accounting software, without you needing to commit to a full subscription or purchase. Here are some paid accounting software that offer free trials.
QuickBooks offers a free trial for all three of their plans. These plans are the Simple Start, Essentials, and Plus plans, and you can sign up for any of them using their free 30-day trial. These plans offer the following:
Does it include bookkeeping functions?
Does it include a range of accounts payable functions?
Does it include a range of accounts receivable functions?
Does it offers tools to track different projects?
Does it offer financial reporting tools?
Budget & forecasting
Does it offer budgeting and forecasting tools?
$15 per month
$25 per month
$40 per month
$70 per month
$150 per month
While these plans are obviously tiered, you’re able to try any one of them for 30 days, so you can spring for Plus and see everything it has to offer. Keep in mind though, you’ll obviously need to pay the highest rates to keep any features you get used to, so if you know you’re only looking for lower end functionality, maybe try the Simple Start trial.
FreshBooks is another paid accounting software. Like QuickBooks, they offer three tiers of service. These tiers are Lite, Plus, and Premium. There is a fourth option, the Select option, where you can customize your plan based on what you want and don’t want, but you aren’t able to get a free trial of a Select plan.
While none of their tiers are free beyond the trial, the first tier is obviously extremely cheap at only $4.50 a month. In fact, even Plus, the second tier, is cheaper than a lot of the paid tiers found in free software, so if you’re looking to avoid spending money, both of these would offer you some great features without breaking the bank.
There are a lot of features that are only available through a custom plan, like data migration services or secure card storage, but again, you won’t be able to try a free trial of a custom plan. We recommend doing a free trial, and seeing if you like the features offered by FreshBooks. Only then should you look into a Select plan.
Our final stop on our free trial quest is Xero. Like our other two options, Xero offers three tiers, all with an option for a free thirty day trial. These tiers are:
You can see that Xero offers a smaller array of features than QuickBooks and FreshBooks. However, one of their biggest benefits is the fact that even the simplest plan can allow you to add unlimited users to your account, meaning you won’t have to pick and choose who in your company has access to your books.
Keen to learn more? Compare QuickBooks vs Xero
Free services offer a great opportunity to test out new software or provide much-needed features for a small business in the short term, but ultimately, you get what you pay for.
If you're looking for a reliable, effective accounting software to help manage and grow your business you'll need to invest a few dollars each month. To save money in trying them out, you can always test them with a free trial, a service offered by many paid accounting software, like QuickBooks or Xero.
If you’re looking for any of the following services, you might have to want to take advantage of paid accounting software. Here are some of the benefits of paying for accounting software
1. Payroll and Tax Capabilities
If you’re looking for software that can automatically take the money you owe out of your pot and give it to the correct recipients, you might have to pay for that. If you elect for a software like Quickbooks, that can handle payroll and taxes, your taxes and wages will be automatically distributed to the deserving parties, giving you one less thing to worry about.
2. Sophisticated Reports
“Sophisticated reports” is a bit of a broad term, but mainly refers to the nitty gritty details of your income and outcome. If you decide to fork out for a paid accounting software, they will be able to offer you more comprehensive information, like data visualization, customizable invoices, or a number of other details that can help you get a more accurate grip on your business.
If you want to know not just where your business has been, but where it’s going, forecasting can help you out. It will take the numbers and data of the past and use that to project possible trajectories, allowing you to prepare for drier sales periods, or get excited about an upcoming influx of customers.
4. Inventory and Order Tracking
If you’re selling physical products, you might want to have some software to stay on top of your inventory. Some paid accounting software can keep tabs on your stock, as well as tracking any orders as they’re sent, both of which are crucial if you’re hoping to run a smooth business.
5. User and Invoicing Count
It’s common among free accounting software that they can limit the amount of users per account (typically capped at five users). Some software will also cap the amount of customers you can invoice or the amount of invoices you can send per month. If your small business is growing fast, you might want to look at a paid service that allows you to handle higher numbers.
See our guide to the Best Invoicing Software for Small Business
The best free accounting software – the verdict
So there you have it, SlickPie comes in first, thanks to its ease of use and wide array of features, with Sunrise not far behind.
However, free software can only take you so far. If you’re looking for free software as a way to save money, keep in mind that FreshBooks’ cheapest plan, priced at $4.50, is extremely cheap. It offers many more options than standard free software, while also being a lot easier on the wallet than its contemporaries. They also offer a free trial, so you can try before you commit.
The best thing about these software being free (other than the fact that you don’t have to spend money) is that you’re free to experiment with what you decide on. However, if you’re looking to shop around to find the best software for your company, we do recommend free trials of paid software.
These free trials can give you a good grasp on how the software works, and if you enjoy your experience, you can always continue by paying for the lowest tier, never higher than $10 a month.
Services like Sunrise can definitely hold a candle to QuickBooks, with an easy interface and a healthy set of features meaning that you could mistake Sunrise for a paid service.
However, you’ll never find a free service with every feature offered by QuickBooks, so make a list of two or three features that you can’t live without, and you may decide QuickBooks is worth the investment.
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