The best accounting software for small businesses 2023 Accounting software is a smart, scalable solution for small businesses, but which provider is right for you? Browse our top picks below to find out. Written by Stephanie Lennox Updated on 14 September 2023 Our Research To recommend the best accounting software, our writers and researchers focused on the factors that matter most to small business owners – ease of use, features, design, scalability, and suitability for the UK taxation system. Written and reviewed by: Stephanie Lennox Writer Heleana Neil Business Services Editor Our independent reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers. With 2023 events such as the cost of living crisis causing consumers to withdraw and cut back on discretionary spending, small businesses have been particularly burdened.One powerful tool that can significantly ease one of the burdens however, is the right accounting software for when things pick up again. Because who wants to be worried about taxes on top of all the other struggles?Using our 20 years of small business experience, Startups have deemed that QuickBooks is the best overall accounting software for 2023 for its intuitive, modern platform, regular deals and discounts and first-class tax planning features.But it is a competitive market – so QuickBooks may not be the top choice for all businesses. Those seeking a bargain may wish to snap up rival brand FreshBooks, for example, where you can claim a 50% off for three months deal now for all new users. Other contenders such as Xero and Clear Books have plenty of merit for small business owners too. Read on to find out more. Best accounting software at a glance QuickBooks – best overall & currently 90% off for 6 monthsFreshBooks– best for ease of use & 50% off for the first 3 monthsXero – best user interface and layoutClear Books – best for bookkeepingZoho Books – best for project tracking A report by Intuit found that 89% of small businesses say that accounting software is essential for their business, while 63% say it has helped them save time and be more productive. So, where to begin? How do you know what you'll need, or what to look for? To learn more about how the top contenders stack up in terms of cost, features, ease of use and customer support, use our handy 🔍free cost comparison tool or read on. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward BEST OVERALL 90% OFF DEAL QuickBooks FreshBooks Xero Clear Books Zoho Books Price From £10 per month 90% off for 6 months Price From £12 per month 50% off for 3 months Price From £12 per month (excl. VAT) Price From £12.00/mo £6.00/mo *first 3 months (excl. VAT) Price From Free, or £12 per month (excl. VAT) Rating 4.7 Rating 4.0 Rating 4.6 Rating 4.2 Rating 4.0 Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Compare accounting software and find the right deal for you Compare now 1. QuickBooks - Best overall 2. Xero – Best for user interface and layout 3. Clear Books - Best for bookkeeping 4. Zoho Books - Best for project tracking 5. FreshBooks - Easiest to use How does accounting software work? What types of businesses is accounting software suitable for? How we test accounting software Next Steps FAQs What is accounting software?Accounting software is a type of online program or application used all around the world, designed to manage and streamline financial processes within a business. It is used by companies of all sizes to record, process, and track financial transactions, generate financial statements, and perform other accounting-related tasks.Accounting software automates many of the manual and time-consuming tasks involved in financial management, such as recording sales and purchases, managing accounts payable and receivable, payroll processing, inventory management, budgeting, and generating financial reports.All in all, it helps you maintain accurate and up-to-date financial records, improve efficiency, reduce errors, and obtain valuable insights into the financial health of your business. 1. QuickBooks – Best overall🥇 4.7 out of 5 Bookkeeping 5 Advanced Features 4.5 Financial Reporting 5 Try QuickBooks Why we chose QuickBooks for best overall accounting softwareWe chose QuickBooks as the best choice for UK small businesses overall as mentioned above for its intuitive, modern platform, great value plans, regular deals and discounts, and first-class tax planning features. Currently you can get 90% off for six months!With over 4.5 million businesses around the world relying on its services, this accounting software powerhouse is leading the industry – our expert researchers gave the software a score of 4.7 out of 5 because of its great features and some of the most transparent, affordable pricing around.All plans come with award-winning support, an intuitive mobile app, over 700 app integrations, and there isn’t a contract in sight.QuickBooks caters to a broader range of businesses with robust features (as you can learn more about in our full QuickBooks review), but if you're in a specialised industry you might still want to read on for other alternatives such as FreshBooks, which specialises in invoicing and time tracking, making it ideal for service-based industries.QuickBooks' pricing Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward BEST VALUE Plan Self Employed Plan Simple Start Plan Essentials Plan Plus Plan Advanced Cost £10 per month (excl. VAT)90% off for 6 months Cost £14 per month (excl. VAT)90% off for 6 months Cost £24 per month (excl. VAT)90% off for 6 months Cost £34 per month (excl. VAT)90% off for 6 months Cost £70 per month (excl. VAT)90% off for 6 months QuickBooks are one of the few providers to offer a dedicated Self Employed plan, full of all the simple but necessary functions for an individual just starting out.Small businesses will want to go for Simple Start – which adds income tax estimates, phone support, and pay-enabled invoices. Essentials adds multi-currency support, bill and payment management, and increases the cap to three users.Plus offers more control over your budget, employee time, stock management, and project productivity, and has a five user limit. And finally, they have Advanced, and up to 25 users can use this corporate plan – and it works well for businesses who need in-depth reporting, user permissions and batch actions.For the full overview, check out our full guide to QuickBooks' pricing.QuickBooks' accounting dashboard and mobile app QuickBooks pros An intuitive and easy-to-navigate interface, making it accessible for users with varying levels of accounting knowledge Seamlessly integrates with a wide range of third-party apps and financial institutions, streamlining data import and export Provides a robust set of financial reporting tools, allowing users to generate detailed financial statements and custom reports QuickBooks cons QuickBooks may become less efficient for larger enterprises with complex accounting needs Some users have reported challenges with QuickBooks' customer support, including long response times and difficulty in reaching knowledgeable representatives QuickBooks higher-tiered pricing can be relatively expensive for small businesses or startups on tight budgets. Did you know? QuickBooks are also the only accounting software company that enable users to file CIS returns on their lowest tier plan. 2. Xero – Best for user interface and layout 4.6 out of 5 Bookkeeping 5 Price 3.8 Financial Reporting 5 Compare Why we chose Xero for best user interface and layoutAccounting should ultimately make your bookkeeping (the actual recording of your cash flow figures and stats, etc) visually appealing, easily readable and accessible. And so for sleek, stylish self-employed accounting software, Xero was our choice. Our experts found that it also has an impressive range of features, including being able to integrate easily with things like merchant account services – making this software perfect for any small-scale sole traders that need to work out VAT or CIS deductions.Xero's comprehensive accounting solution offers multi-currency support, while FreshBooks excels in invoicing and time tracking, so both of these accounting software cater to slightly different business priorities.One feature Xero offers is 24/7 support, although through our research of the software we discovered that it's unclear what Xero’s promise of “24/7 support” actually means. Its website is full of helpful guides and instructional videos, but things are much less clear-cut when it comes to getting help from an actual human.Xero has no support number you can call, and no live chat option either, leaving our expert researchers no choice but to give it an underwhelming 2.3 out of 5 in this area. Instead, you send a message, and then wait for them to get back to you. It’s hard to tell how long this takes, and there’s at least one disgruntled customer on the Xero forums complaining about waiting several hours for a response to their query.Xero's pricing Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Plan Starter Plan Standard Plan Premium Cost £12 per month (plus VAT) Cost £26 per month (plus VAT) Cost £33 per month (plus VAT) The Basic starter plan offers you some good features, for example you can create invoices and quotes, enter bills, reconcile bank transactions and submit VAT returns to HMRC. However, this plan does also come with some strict usage limits – you can only send 20 invoices and quotes and enter five bills per month. Go above this, and you’ll need to start paying for the Standard plan. It’s a steep increase, especially given that the Standard plan offers no other extra features.Xero's accounting dashboard and mobile app Xero pros Excellent multi-currency support, making it a great choice for businesses with international operations A range of powerful reporting tools, including budgeting, forecasting, and cash flow analysis A vast marketplace of third-party integrations, allowing businesses to customize and extend its functionality Xero cons Xero's pricing can be higher than some of its competitors, which may be a drawback for smaller businesses While user-friendly, it may take some time for new users to become familiar with its extensive features and settings Some users have reported mixed experiences with Xero's customer support, with occasional delays in response Did you know? If you are self-employed in the building or construction trade, then you pay tax or around 20-30% under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). 3. Clear Books – Best for bookkeeping 4.2 out of 5 Bookkeeping 5 Advanced Features 4 Financial Reporting 3.8 Compare Why we chose Clear Books for best bookkeepingClear Books aim is to provide an easier way for you to manage your business finances. It's easy-to-use online accounting software is designed for UK-based sole traders, partnerships and small businesses.One common criticism some customers have of Clear Books, and what our expert researchers found themselves while testing the software – is that it tends to have a steeper learning curve compared to some other accounting software – for example, some on our best self employed accounting software line-up. Some users have reported that it can take some time to get used to the software's interface and functionality, which is said to be a little more complex than other options on the market. However, once users are more familiar with Clear Books, they often report it to be a robust and effective accounting solution.Clear Books is budget-friendly but may lack some advanced features, while Xero is robust and scalable, making it a viable alternative for growing businesses at that slightly higher price point.Clear Book's range is also still quite limited when it comes to third-party integrations currently, and they do not provide any budgeting or cash-flow projection tools, but as an overall accounting software that can provide you with all the basics you need, its score of 4.2 out of 5 overall from our researchers is well earned.Clear Book's pricing Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Plan Small Plan Medium Plan Large Cost £12 per month (excl. VAT) Cost £28 per month (excl. VAT) Cost £34 per month (excl. VAT) The great thing about Clear Books and even their smallest plan is that it provides some of the most important features for any accounting provider at such an affordable price – not keeping them gate-kept behind any unreasonably higher-priced plans. For instance, they provide an accounts payable functionality on their lowest tier w/ no restrictions, as well as a project accounting functionality. It also includes many other useful accounting features, including enabling users (on all tiers) to track their billable hours and add them to invoices.One thing that is only available to their higher-priced plan however is their MTD VAT return reporting, which was brought into UK legislation on the 1 April 2022 and now requires all businesses to have their VAT returns documented digitally. This is not a huge issue for smaller businesses however, who don't really need it officially until they reach a certain level of profit.Clear Books' reporting system and mobile app Clear Books pros Clear Books is known for its cost-effectiveness, making it a suitable choice for small businesses and freelancers It offers robust VAT management tools, helping businesses handle Value Added Tax requirements efficiently Allows businesses to assign different access levels and permissions to users, enhancing security and control Clear Books cons Compared to some other accounting software options, Clear Books may lack certain advanced features required by larger or more complex businesses While it's generally user-friendly, new users might find it takes some time to get accustomed to the interface and functionality Customer support options for Clear Books may not be as comprehensive or readily available as those of larger competitors Did you know? When a company purchases goods on credit or takes out a business loan from personal lenders or banks which needs to be paid back in a short period of time, are known as accounts payable. 4. Zoho Books – Best for project tracking 4 out of 5 Bookkeeping 4.5 Advanced Features 3.5 Financial Reporting 4 Compare Why we chose Zoho Books for best project trackingZoho Books has built a reputation of being one of the simpler, user-friendly project management solutions for businesses – with a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, email hosting, and project management solutions — its accounting software doesn’t disappoint.Our expert researchers found that this accounting software makes it possible for you to control and manage multiple projects, including the ability to assign specific tasks to your employees. This is great for people like construction workers or agencies who bring multiple people together to fulfil one project goal.Another key feature is that you are able to manage expenses for different projects. With Zoho Books, you can associate all expenses relating to a project at the time of billing, easily, which saves you the time of billing expenses one by one.There's even a high-quality free Zoho Books plan that's perfectly respectable for small teams or single-person setups – though we'd recommend investing just a little to upgrade to one of the good value paid tiers. It was our number one overall pick for the best free accounting software.Zoho Books integrates well with the Zoho ecosystem and offers expense tracking, but if you're a business with international aspirations, Xero shines with its multi-currency support and wide array of third-party integrations that may fare better for your business.Zoho's pricing Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Plan Free Plan Standard Plan Professional Plan Premium Cost Free Cost £10 a month (excl. VAT) Cost £20 per month (excl. VAT) Cost £25 per month (excl. VAT) Zoho's free plan is only suitable for very small businesses as it doesn't offer important features like bank feeds, and only includes email support.Zoho Standard allows up to three users to track, reconcile, and budget with ease, from your smartphone or computer. You can stay on top of your projects and timesheets, and manage up to 5,000 invoices. Professional is for five users – and adds bills, multi-currency handling, reporting tags, purchase approval, and up to 10 workflow rules to its list of accessible features. For more established businesses there is Premium (for ten users). For the money, you’ll be able to track activity across multiple branches, create custom reports – and get a snazzy custom domain, too.Adding extra users will set you back £2.50 per user, per month. Auto-scans also need to be purchased in bulk – 50 monthly scans costs £8 per month.Zoho's accounting dashboard and mobile app Did you know? Billable hours are an agreed amount of time spent working on a business project that can be charged to a client if accurately measured and tracked. Zoho Books pros If you use other Zoho applications, Zoho Books seamlessly integrates with them, providing a unified ecosystem for your business Zoho Books offers robust expense tracking features, making it easier to manage and categorise expenses. It provides a client portal for customers to view invoices, make payments, and communicate with your business Zoho Books cons Some users may find Zoho Books to have a steeper learning curve, especially if they are new to the Zoho ecosystem While it integrates well with other Zoho apps, its compatibility with third-party apps may be more limited compared to some other software Customer support quality can vary, and some users have reported issues with response times and problem resolution 5. FreshBooks – Best for ease of use 4 out of 5 Bookkeeping 4 Advanced Features 3.6 Financial Reporting 4.4 Compare Why we chose FreshBooks as best for ease of useYou want to make sure the accounting software you choose is efficient and compliant – software that has taken into account what you will need, particularly at legally-required phases in your businesses lifecycle, such as tax season.This also includes ensuring that the software you choose are HMRC recognised to comply with the new MTD laws – as all the ones on this list are – and integrate seamlessly with other softwares your small business might need to increase ease and convenience for you in your day-to-day life.While testing the software, our experts found that FreshBooks is one of the better options for all of these things – boasting its own range of feature-rich plans and a beginner-friendly interface that makes it easy to get everything you need done, such as attention-grabbing invoices and estimates.This contrasts slightly to QuickBooks. While QuickBooks focuses on a comprehensive interface with robust features for their first impression to new customers, FreshBooks prioritises a clean and intuitive design, making it easier for users to get started. You can find a full breakdown of the comparisons between QuickBooks vs FreshBooks here.FreshBooks' pricing Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward 90% OFF DEAL Plan Lite Plan Plus Plan Premium Cost £12 per month 50% off for 3 months Cost £22 per month 50% off for 3 months Cost £35 per month 50% off for 3 months FreshBooks' basic plan, Lite, with its unlimited invoices, expense entries, time tracking, and estimates, was one of the most generous we'd come across… however, you’re limited to five billable clients only. Upgrading to Plus adds unlimited proposals, and allows you to automate recurring invoices and late payment reminders. It also extends your client limit to 50. Larger businesses will want to look at a Premium plan which has a capacity of 500 billable clients. If you’re a sole trader, then FreshBooks is one of the cheaper options out there. However, you will also need to remember to keep an eye on any costs lurking below the surface.Adding additional team members costs £7 per person, per month – so we don’t recommend it for larger teams. FreshBooks’ more advanced payment features will also incur a fee of £15 per month.You can find a further breakdown of FreshBooks' costs here.FreshBooks' dashboard app FreshBooks pros FreshBooks excels in invoicing and billing, offering features like automated invoicing, late payment reminders, and online payment options It includes a built-in time tracking feature, making it an excellent choice for service-based businesses that bill by the hour FreshBooks offers a mobile app, allowing users to manage their finances on the go FreshBooks cons It may lack some of the advanced accounting features required by larger or more complex businesses FreshBooks may not be the best choice for rapidly growing companies with evolving accounting needs While it offers basic customization options, some users may find it lacks the level of customisation available in other software Did you know? The Making Tax Digital (MTD) legislation came into effect on April 1 2022. It was a move from the UK government to make it easier for individuals and businesses to get their taxes digitalised, and help the environment by going paper-free. How does accounting software work?Accounting software is designed to be user-friendly, with intuitive interfaces and navigation. This makes it accessible to users with varying levels of accounting knowledge. It simplifies financial tasks, automates calculations, improves reporting accuracy, facilitates integration with other systems, enhances security, and offers user-friendly interfaces, enabling businesses to efficiently manage their finances and make better-informed decisions.Many software providers offer customer support and training resources to assist users in getting the most out of their accounting software.You can also rest assured that while managing all these large financial processes, accounting software also offers features like user access controls, data encryption, and regular backups to safeguard sensitive financial data. What types of businesses is accounting software suitable for?Accounting software is suitable for a wide range of businesses, regardless of their size or industry. It can be utilised by small startups, freelancers, sole proprietors, mid-sized companies, and large enterprises.The software's flexibility allows it to adapt to various business models and structures. It can handle different types of transactions, such as sales, purchases, expenses, payroll, and inventory management. This makes it applicable to businesses involved in retail, e-commerce, professional services, consulting, hospitality, construction, and many other sectors.Accounting software provides benefits to businesses with different levels of financial expertise. The software's user-friendly interfaces and customisable features make it accessible to users with varying levels of accounting knowledge, and tailored to meet the specific needs of many different industries. How we test accounting software for UK small businessesAt Startups, it's important to us that the product recommendations we make to small UK businesses are useful, accurate, and based on thorough product testing.We tested ten market-leading accounting software platforms across four main categories of investigation and 24 subcategories – all in all, we covered 111 areas of investigation. Next, we gave a ‘relevance weighting' to the final product category scores - this ensures the products' final ratings perfectly reflect the specific needs and requirements of Startups readers.Our main testing categories for accounting software are:Help and Support: Help and support refer to the assistance and resources available to users when they encounter issues or need guidance while using the accounting software.Pricing: Pricing refers to the cost associated with using the accounting software. It includes factors such as licensing fees and subscription plans.Main functions: This represents the key areas of accounting that the software focuses on. This includes functionalities such as financial statement preparation, income and expense tracking, and managing vendor and customer accounts.Software Functionality: Refers to the software capabilities such as integrations, mobile capability, and confirming any additional features outside of accounting.The Startups product testing process Next StepsQuickBooks currently remains on top as the best accounting software for 2023.To learn more about how the top contenders stack up in terms of cost, features, ease of use and customer support, you can use our handy, 🔍free cost comparison tool, which will give you a personalised quote for your small business in minutes. Frequently Asked Questions What is the easiest accounting software to use? FreshBooks is the easiest accounting software to use, thanks to its simple interface and smooth user experience. However, we’d also recommend QuickBooks, which combines user-friendliness, powerful features and transparent, affordable pricing. What software do most accountants use? The majority of accountants and other small business accounting professionals currently use QuickBooks as their main choice of accounting software. What is the best software tool for bookkeeping? We have determined that Clear Books is the best accounting software when it comes to bookkeeping needs. Which is better: Xero or QuickBooks? We'd go with QuickBooks over Xero on this one. Both are great solutions for your small business accounting software needs, but QuickBooks offers a greater range of features and is better value too. Is there free accounting software? You can get accounting software for free, however, free accounting software tends to impose hefty limits on features and functionality, and is rarely (if ever) a good solution for businesses looking to scale. We don’t recommend it overall, even for those just starting out. What does 'cloud-based' software mean? Almost all accounting software is cloud-based these days. What this means is that. instead of downloading and installing software, you'll access your it through your web browser or mobile app and your data will be stored by your accounting software provider 'in the cloud'. For a monthly fee, you can easily access your files on multiple devices and keep on top of your finances from anywhere with an internet connection. Startups.co.uk is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps Startups.co.uk to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Tags Topic spotlight Written by: Stephanie Lennox Writer Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 11 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.