Best free accounting software for UK small businesses 2024

Free accounting software can make running your business a lot simpler, but which are the best, and are they worth it? Check out the options below to find out.

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: is reader supported – we may earn a commission from our recommendations, at no extra cost to you and without impacting our editorial impartiality.

Our expert researchers found that the best free accounting software in 2024 is Zoho Books. For zero charge, you’re able to access professional features including automated workflows, customised invoices, and the ability to make your own customised VAT returns at the end of each tax year.

As April 2024 approaches, so does the turn of the tax year. This juncture is about making strategic choices for the financial health of your business – which means that now is the opportune moment to set up, or evaluate, your accounting software.

With the current cost of living crisis driving an increase in overhead costs for small businesses, opting for free accounting software is sometimes a smart way to save. In the event that your small business is ready to move on to more powerful software however, you might want to check out our best accounting software picks overall.

While Zoho Books is our favourite, we’ve also picked 5 other free accounting software platforms to help you find the right solution for your small business.

Best free accounting software at a glance

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Zoho Books



Wave Accounting


VT Cashbook

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Free (for Natwest/RBS business banking customers)

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Overall accounting software


Free accounting software


Small businesses that trade overseas


RBS/Natwest customers


Free invoice creation


Businesses that need a desktop solution


Businesses looking for simplicity

Key Benefits
Key Benefits
  • Create and send invoices
  • MTD VAT filing
  • Expenses & mileage tracking
Key Benefits
  • Bank feed integration
  • MTD VAT filing
  • Multi-currency support
Key Benefits
  • Corporation tax forecasting
  • Project tracking
  • Time tracking tools
Key Benefits
  • Personalised invoice creation
  • Powerful business reporting
  • Sort income and expenses into tax categories
Key Benefits
  • Completely free
  • Checkbook-style interface
  • Open-source desktop software
Key Benefits
  • Fast data entry with autocomplete
  • Track multiple bank/cash accounts
  • Produce basic reports

What is accounting software?

Accounting software is a computer-run program or application designed to manage and streamline financial processes within a business, and used to track financial transactions and generate financial statements, among other accounting-related tasks.

The software can automate many tasks that were originally manual and time-consuming, such as recording sales and purchases, managing accounts payable and receivable, payroll processing, inventory management, budgeting, and generating financial reports.

With accounting software, you should be able to maintain accurate and up-to-date financial records, improve efficiency, reduce errors, and obtain valuable insights into the financial health of your business.

1. 🥇 Best free accounting software – Zoho Books

Zoho Books accounting software for small businesses

Zoho Books’ cash flow dashboard

  • Compliant with Making Tax Digital for VAT
  • Powerful features (though the best ones are paid for)
  • Cloud-based, works on web browser, mobile and tablet
  • Colourful, intuitive interface
  • Limited to 1,000 invoices per year
  • Lacks key features
  • Only free for businesses with annual turnover under £35k

What is Zoho Books?

Zoho made its name with its CRM systems (check out our Zoho CRM review to learn more) but it has offered accounting software since 2011. Zoho Books’ free plan is the best overall choice for free accounting software, though things improve further if you pay out for a premium tier.

It combines a simple and intuitive interface with powerful features that means, even on the free tier, Zoho Books effortlessly handles all the basics.

In short, it’s a great choice for businesses just starting out.

What can Zoho Books do?

On the free tier, Zoho Books offers all this:

  • Create, customise and send invoices (up to 1,000 per year)
  • MTD VAT filing
  • Automated payment reminders
  • Expenses & mileage tracking
  • Create business reports
  • Run an audit trail
  • Produce recurring invoices
  • Integrate with other Zoho apps and other apps like GSuite, Office 365 and Dropbox
  • Email support

What support does Zoho Books offer?

On the Free plan, Zoho gives support via email, while its paid plans add assistance via email, phone, and live chat.

QuickFile on the other hand, which we’ll be reviewing next, primarily offers customer support through email and a community forum. Zoho Books provides a wider range of support options, including live chat and phone support, while QuickFile primarily relies on the forums to provide you with any help you need.

Why is Zoho Books free?

Zoho offers a free plan, but of course, there are drawbacks. For one, it’s limited to 1,000 invoices per year, and lacks a number of features that can make a huge difference to the level of debt in which accounting software can help your small business.

You’ll also be automatically upgraded to a paid plan if your annual turnover exceeds £35,000.

We’ve taken a closer look at how Zoho’s free plan matches up to its £12 per month (+VAT) Standard plan below.

Zoho Books Free vs Standard

While Zoho’s free plan is very useful for businesses just starting out, there are some big reasons you should consider signing up for the Standard plan.

Most notably, the Standard plan lets you create up to 5,000 invoices per year, as opposed to just 1,000 for the Free plan. This means that Zoho Free won’t be suitable for businesses with high transaction volumes, and SMEs with serious growth plans should go for a paid plan.

Another key point is that Zoho Standard comes with bank feed integration – meaning once you’ve linked your business bank account, any transactions you make will automatically appear in Zoho Books. This is opposed to Zoho Free, where you have to download and import bank transactions manually: an annoying and time-consuming task when you’re busy running your business.

On a paid tier, you’ll also be able to create recurring expenses, add up to three users, track project expenses, use a larger number of payment gateways, integrate with other services including Uber and Zendesk, and get support via voice and chat.

So, while the Free plan definitely has its plus points, the extra features and higher limits of Zoho Standard make it a very persuasive option for UK small businesses.

If your business has more complex needs or requires higher limits, Zoho also offers the Professional (£24 per month +VAT) and Premium (£30 per month +VAT) plans.

You can see how all four Zoho Books plans stack up below:

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£10 a month (excl. VAT)


£20 per month (excl. VAT)


£25 per month (excl. VAT)

Zoho Books Verdict

With loads of powerful features and a great interface, Zoho Books Free is the perfect free accounting software for businesses just starting out. The integrations with Zoho’s other leading business apps are the icing on the cake, but SMEs who are serious about growth should consider going for a paid Zoho plan.

2. QuickFile

Quickfile dashboard (best free accounting software)

Quickfile’s dashboard for invoicing, banking and important notes

  • Compliant with Making Tax Digital for VAT
  • Great range of features
  • Responsive support community
  • Cloud-based, works on web browser, mobile and tablet
  • Fee applies for larger accounts
  • Free version is supported by ads
  • Fairly basic visuals

What is QuickFile?

Founded in 2010, QuickFile is accounting software that’s specifically aimed at freelancers, small businesses, and entrepreneurs. It’s a simple and intuitive cloud-based solution that helps any small business owner with little accounting knowledge to easily keep track of their finances.

It’s also got great reviews on Trustpilot, amassing an average score of 4.7 out of 5 from over 1,100 reviews, with reviewers praising its ease of use and range of features.

What can QuickFile do?

QuickFile boasts an enviable range of features, including:

  • Integration with over 50 automated bank feeds
  • Easily manage invoices through a branded portal, which your clients can use to view and pay invoices through a range of online payment providers like PayPal and Stripe
  • Track and file VAT returns – QuickFile is fully compatible with Making Tax Digital
  • Generate a range of reports that give insight into your business
  • Full multi-currency support
  • Tools to create estimates, purchase orders, and delivery notes
  • A mobile app that allows you to create invoices/estimates and snap expenses receipts on the go
  • A seamless ‘click to print’ service if you need to post hard copies of your invoices, estimates, or statements

QuickFile offers a good range of accounting features, however, compared to other software there are differences in the depth and extent when it comes to certain features, so it all depends on what you need.

FreeAgent, for example, includes features specifically designed for freelancers, such as time tracking, project management, and self-assessment tax return filing.

QuickFile focuses on core accounting functionalities – but does also offer additional features like automated bank feeds and additional file storage for a small extra fee if you were looking to enhance your experience.

What support does QuickFile offer?

While there is no phone support available, QuickFile has a very active online community forum, and promises to answer most questions posted there within a few hours. You can also email their support team directly, but you’re likely to get a quicker response by posting a question in the forum.

Why is QuickFile free?

QuickFile is only free for accounts of a certain size. This is slightly technical, but you’re limited to 1,000 ledger entries (this includes all invoices, purchases and bank transactions). Once you go over this limit, you pay a set fee of £45+VAT per year (approximately £54 in total at current rates).  Moreover, this fee grants you access to some advanced features, such as enhanced bulk invoice entry and VAT bridging tools.

The free version is also supported by ads.

This pricing structure makes it perfect for startups – who can upgrade as their business grows – and means that you can easily try QuickFile for free to see if it’s the right fit for your business.

QuickFile Verdict

QuickFile is the ideal free solution for very small businesses that can stay under the ledger entry limit. Its highly competitive pricing and great range of features means it should also be strongly considered by larger businesses, too.

3. FreeAgent

FreeAgent screengrab (best free accounting software)

FreeAgent’s cash flow dashboard

  • Compliant with Making Tax Digital for VAT
  • Powerful cloud-based accounting software with a huge range of features
  • Free for Natwest/Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) business banking customers
  • Dedicated phone and email assistance from UK-based support accountants
  • Your bank will have access to your detailed financial data

What is FreeAgent?

Set up in 2007, FreeAgent is now used by over 90,000 small businesses across the UK, who use it to keep track of their finances, expenses, invoices, estimates, and more. It boasts some great advanced features, like automatically generated VAT returns, corporation tax forecasts, and self-assessment tools that automatically fill in up to 90% of the self employment tax return form.

It has also won awards (it was named the Small Business Accounting Software of the Year at the 2018 Accounting Excellence Awards, for example), and has an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 (from nearly 1,000 reviews) on Trustpilot.

What can FreeAgent do?

FreeAgent’s huge range of features includes:

  • Tools to create and send professional estimates and invoices
  • Time tracking tools so you can easily create smart timesheets
  • Powerful HMRC integration that makes doing your tax return a doddle
  • Automatic creation of VAT returns
  • Corporation tax forecasting
  • A dashboard that lets you easily monitor your cash flow
  • Automatic importation of bank transactions
  • A projects view that clearly shows the income, time, and expenses associated with each project, and whether it’s making a profit or loss
  • A fully featured mobile app that allows you to snap receipts, create invoices, track time, manage payments, and see your accounts on the go

What support does FreeAgent offer?

FreeAgent offers excellent customer service, with help available from UK-based support accountants via phone and email during business hours (9am-5pm Monday to Friday). The website also has lots of resources that explain things like expenses, invoices, and VAT filing.

Why is FreeAgent free?

FreeAgent is only free for RBS/Natwest business banking customers.

For everyone else, the standard pricing is as follows:

  • Sole trader – £19+VAT per month – includes self-assessment filing tool
  • Partnership/LLP – £24+VAT per month – includes profit share calculation tool
  • Limited company – £29+VAT per month – includes self-assessment filing, dividend vouchers, and corporation tax forecasting tools

All plans have a 30-day free trial.

If you are an RBS/Natwest business banking customer, then you can get FreeAgent for free. However, remember that you are giving up something valuable in exchange – your financial data. Quite what your bank intends to do with this is not yet clear, but make sure you consider how this might affect you before signing up, and discuss this decision with your accountant if you have one.

This is one big prerequisite that the other software such as Zoho Books, Wave Accounting and GnuCash for example do not have – instead, anyone can sign up for their software instantly without any similar barriers to entry.

FreeAgent Verdict

As a product, FreeAgent is a great solution for small businesses – it’s got loads of powerful features, and responsive customer support if you get stuck. Getting all this for free as an RBS/Natwest business banking customer is very tempting, but make sure you consider the potential consequences of giving up access to your detailed financial data in return.

4. Wave Accounting

Wave (best free accounting software)

Wave’s accounting features including dashboard and invoices

  • Powerful accounting software that's completely free
  • Handy mobile app
  • Cloud-based, works on web browser, mobile and tablet
  • Not compatible with Making Tax Digital - you will need to use bridging software to submit VAT returns to HMRC
  • US/Canada focus limits UK functionality
  • No MTD support

What is Wave Accounting?

Founded in 2010 in Toronto, Canada, Wave Accounting is powerful, free, cloud-based accounting software that has a great UI and a slick marine design scheme. It makes its money by selling payroll and payments services (alongside display ads), which means its free accounting software is pretty much unlimited in terms of account size etc. All this means Wave Accounting is beloved by US startups, but its US/Canada focus means it’s not an ideal fit for UK small businesses – and some may find it a non-starter for this reason.

What can Wave Accounting do?

Wave Accounting has a great range of features which include:

  • Tools to create and send professional invoices, even on the go
  • Unlimited income and expense tracking
  • Keep digital copies of your receipts via an iPhone/Android mobile app
  • Create and export a range of accounting reports
  • Multi-currency support with automatic exchange rate calculations
  • A smart dashboard that organises income, expenses, payments, and invoices
  • As well as receipt snapping and invoice creation, the mobile app allows you to easily keep track of your accounts on the move

Wave Accounting is cloud-based and operates online, requiring an internet connection for access. It offers the convenience of accessing your accounting data from anywhere, but it relies on an internet connection to function, whereas GnuCash is a desktop-based accounting software that needs to be installed on a computer and can then work offline.

What support does Wave Accounting offer?

Wave offers expert help via its community forum, and you can also ask for technical support via a help function built into the platform. There is no phone support available, however.

Why is Wave Accounting free?

As mentioned above, Wave Accounting makes its money by displaying ads, and most importantly, by selling payments and payroll services. These services are targeted at US/Canadian customers, with the payroll service being exclusive to those customers. This focus means that, for UK small businesses, Wave Accounting has some significant deficiencies.

Most notably, Wave Accounting does not support the new Making Tax Digital (MTD) protocol for VAT, and so it will be of only limited use to businesses that need to register for VAT and file VAT tax returns digitally. Unlike some of the other providers discussed here, it also does not support the automatic importation of bank transactions via open banking, making keeping track of your financial activity a more time-consuming process.

Wave Accounting Verdict

Wave Accounting boasts a great range of features, has a stylish look, and there are virtually no usage limits. However, the US/Canadian focus means it won’t suit the needs of all UK small businesses.

5. GnuCash

GnuCash homepage (best free accounting software)

GnuCash’s accounts dashboard

  • Completely free
  • Open-source desktop accounting software
  • Not compatible with Making Tax Digital - you will need to use bridging software to submit VAT returns to HMRC
  • Basic features
  • Only works on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs

What is GnuCash?

GnuCash began life in 2001, and is a desktop open-source accounting software. If you’re confused by any of that; desktop means you need to actually download and install it, while open-source means that anyone can download and edit the actual code that makes up the program, in order to add extra functionality and fix errors.

This means it’s completely free forever, but it won’t win any awards for its UI, and it’s not particularly tailored to the needs of small businesses (there’s no open banking integration or mobile app, for example). There’s also a bit of a learning curve, and doing your accounts is a more manual and fiddly process than with some of the other software discussed in this piece.

VT Cashbook, with its simplified interface and streamlined features, is specifically designed for small businesses, self-employed individuals, and startups who are looking for an easy-to-use accounting solution without the need for the more advanced functionalities GnuCash offers.

What can GnuCash do?

GnuCash offers a basic range of accounting features. This includes:

  • A checkbook-style interface that allows you to record transactions via double entry accounting
  • Support for recurring transactions
  • Generated reports that show balance sheets, profit and loss etc.
  • Customer and vendor tracking tools
  • Multiple currency support
  • Compatible with QIF files used by some other accounting software

What support does GnuCash offer?

GnuCash supports its users through its forums (called Mailing Lists), and an extensive manual and FAQ. There’s also a part of the GnuCash wiki called Using GnuCash, which gives solutions to common issues encountered by real-world GnuCash users. This probably goes without saying, but there’s no phone or email support for GnuCash.

Why is GnuCash free?

Essentially, GnuCash is made on an entirely voluntary basis, so no one who makes it gets paid at all. The product is then provided free of charge to anyone who wants to use it, and keeps being updated by a dedicated army of volunteer developers. In other words, GnuCash is free because it’s not trying to make money at all – it just wants to help people who can’t afford professional accounting software. If you want to help them out, then you can donate via the GnuCash website, or even volunteer to test new updates.

GnuCash Verdict

Comparing GnuCash to some of the other providers on this list feels like weighing up the relative benefits of apples and oranges. They have different objectives, business models, and hugely different functionality. However, if you don’t mind the dated visuals and sometimes fiddly interface, then GnuCash is a great option for no-frills accounting software. It’s also not reliant on an internet connection, so ideal if you often work in remote areas with patchy internet coverage.

6. VT Cashbook

VT Cashbook (best free accounting software)

VT Cashbook’s accounts dashboard

  • Compliant with Making Tax Digital for VAT
  • Basic desktop accounting software
  • Easy to use
  • Paid upgrade required for MTD VAT returns
  • Only works on Windows PCs

What is VT Cashbook?

VT Cashbook was released in 2019, but it’s from a company with a strong track record in accounting software. VT Software was founded in 1997, and its professional products (VT Accounts and VT Transaction+) are beloved by accountants, especially small firms that work with small businesses. Cashbook is the starter product – straightforward, easy-to-use desktop accounting software that’s perfect for anyone looking for a simple way to keep track of their accounts.

What can VT Cashbook do?

VT Cashbook offers the following:

  • Fast data entry with autocomplete
  • Keep track of multiple bank/cash accounts
  • Bank reconciliations (check your accounts against your bank statements)
  • Produce VAT returns (with paid upgrade)
  • Easily correct mistakes
  • Produce profit and loss accounts, balance sheets, and ledger reports

What support does VT Cashbook offer?

VT Software doesn’t offer any dedicated support for its free Cashbook program, with the only assistance given is a user guide, available on its website. For the Transaction+ and Accounts programs, support is available by both phone and email, with the requirement that the user is either a current subscriber or purchased the software in the last 12 months.

This may not be a huge problem for most business owners however as VT Cashbook was designed with user experience in mind. GnuCash for example has a comprehensive interface that may have a steeper learning curve for users who are not familiar with accounting principles. It offers a more technical interface with a focus on customization and advanced functionality. VT Cashbook, on the other hand, provides a simpler and more user-friendly interface, making it easier for individuals with limited accounting knowledge to navigate and use the software.

Why is VT Cashbook free?

As with some of the other software on this list, VT Cashbook is free software with basic functionality that is designed to encourage business owners to upgrade to a more advanced paid version.

In this case, VT Software offers two paid options.

The cheaper option is VT Transaction+, which costs £75+VAT a year for a single user. This allows users to create and file Making Tax Digital VAT returns, as well as maintain customer and supplier ledgers.

The full VT Accounts suite costs £150+VAT per year, and allows users to easily create professional reports for their companies, as well as quickly calculate corporation tax. It also works as a Microsoft Excel plugin, making it attractive for any Excel users that don’t want to learn the nuances of a new program.

All VT products come with a 60-day free trial.

VT Cashbook Verdict

There’s a reason professional accountants love VT Software products – they’re simple, they’re easy to use, and you’re not reliant on an internet connection. VT Cashbook is a great way to get started with maintaining company accounts, especially if you don’t want or need the bells, whistles and added complexity associated with some of the cloud-based accounting software services on this list. It also has no usage limits, so you won’t have to pay anything until you need to file VAT returns.

Best accounting software with a free trial

While completely free-for-life software can seem appealing, their heavy functional limitations mean they ultimately won’t be a good long-term solution for your business.

All free accounting software comes with caveats and drawbacks, which is why it might be worth the extra few pounds to find the perfect accounting software for your firm.

That’s why as well as free software, we’ll also be looking at paid accounting systems (the best self-employed accounting software as well) and the top contenders in both categories, so you can be certain about which you want to download.

Here are three of the most popular paid accountancy software programs on the market:


Quickbooks online (best free accounting software)

QuickBooks comes from another company with a long history in accounting software – Intuit software was founded in 1983, and has grown from its US origins to satisfy users all over the world. QuickBooks is cloud-based accounting software that has been specifically designed for UK small businesses, and our researchers tested it as the best accounting software overall (however, FreshBooks is never too far behind – check out our QuickBooks vs FreshBooks review for more information).

It ticks all the standard boxes – track income and expenses, produce and submit Making Tax Digital VAT returns, create and send invoices, and connect multiple bank accounts – but also has great features like a cash flow planner, and built-in integration for Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) deductions. All plans also come with reporting capabilities and 24/7 customer support.

When it comes to QuickBooks’ prices, there are three small business plans:

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Self Employed


Simple Start








At the time of writing, QuickBooks is offering these plans for 90% off for 6 months. All plans have a 60-day free trial, so you can try it for yourself with no obligation.

Take a look at our full QuickBooks review to find out more about it.

Did you know?

According to a report by ClearBooks, the size of the online accounting software market was estimated to be around 200,000 paying users in the UK.


Freshbooks (best free accounting software)

FreshBooks started in 2004, and has been cloud-based since the beginning. From its Toronto home, it has gradually spread worldwide, and has a tailored offering for the UK. All FreshBooks plans include unlimited customised invoices, unlimited expense entries, a tool that helps you create and send Making Tax Digital VAT returns, the ability to accept credit card payments online, open banking integration, unlimited time tracking, unlimited estimates, and specialised tax time reports.

There are two FreshBooks plans designed for small businesses, as well as a Lite plan for sole traders:

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The Plus plan costs £25+VAT per month and offers all the features discussed above, plus automated recurring invoices, scheduled late fees, automated late payment reminders, and the ability to create client retainers.

There’s also a handy feature called ‘Proposals’, which helps creative professionals to produce company documents that explain their services or clearly explain their creative plans and associated fees.

This plan is limited to 50 billable clients, but FreshBooks makes clear that this limit applies to active and archived clients, and that old clients can be deleted to make space. You will also still see the info for deleted clients, and deleted clients can be undeleted later.

If you have more than 50 clients, then you’ll need the Premium plan. This costs £35+VAT per month, and supports up to 500 billable clients.

If you have more than 500 billable clients, then you’ll need to contact FreshBooks directly for a custom solution, with a personal account manager and customised training.

On both the plans discussed in detail above, extra users can be added for £7+VAT per person per month, while advanced payments (so you can process cards in person or over the phone) can be added for £15+VAT per month.

At the time of writing, FreshBooks is offering 50% off these plans for the first three months, and all plans have a 30-day free trial so you can try FreshBooks for yourself.

Check out our full review of FreshBooks’ costs.

Sage Business Cloud Accounting

Sage Business Cloud Accounting (best free accounting software)

Sage is a UK company that has been producing accounting software for the best part of four decades. Founded in 1981, its latest offering – Sage Business Cloud Accounting – is a cloud-based accounting solution that’s perfect for businesses large, small, and anywhere in between.

Alongside everything you’d expect from cloud-based accounting software in 2024 – including open banking integration, invoice creation, and Making Tax Digital VAT returns – Sage Business Cloud Accounting includes award-winning customer service. This is available 24/7 via phone and live chat, and vital for all those small business owners whose working hours frequently stretch beyond the standard 9 to 5 (and that’s most of you, in our experience).

The price depends on which Sage Business Cloud Accounting package you select:

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Accounting Start


Accounting Standard


Accounting Plus


£14 per month (plus VAT)


£28 per month (plus VAT)


£36 per month (plus VAT)

Sage is also offering 3 months free on all its Business Cloud Accounting packages, as well as a 30-day free trial so you can see if it’s right for your business.

You can check out our full Sage Business review to find out more about it.

How does accounting software work?

Accounting software is user-friendly, as most offer intuitive interfaces that are easy to navigate, which makes it accessible to beginners or more experienced users alike.

It simplifies financial tasks, improves reporting accuracy, facilitates integration with other systems, and enables businesses to efficiently manage their finances so they can 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 should use free accounting software?

Accounting software is suitable for a wide range of businesses, regardless of their size or industry – for example, businesses involved in retail, e-commerce, professional services, consulting, hospitality, construction, and many other sectors. It can definitely be utilised by small startups, freelancers, sole proprietors and mid-sized companies as well as larger enterprises.

The software’s features are flexible, allowing 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.

Accounting software provides benefits to businesses with different levels of financial expertise. The software’s easy and customisable features make it accessible to users with varying levels of accounting knowledge and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of many different industries.

Buying guide: How to choose the right free accounting software

Here are some key things you should consider when comparing providers:

  • Check with your accountant (if you have one): If you do already work with an accountant, then it may be useful to get their input on what software is likely to work best for your business, and which works best with their systems.
  • Choose your compromise: Every piece of free accounting software discussed in this article has benefits and drawbacks. To work out which one is right for you, you need to decide which of the bad points you can live with. Do you want a basic solution that has no usage limits? A slick cloud-based service that you’ll have to pay for once your business reaches a certain size? Regardless of which you choose, chances are you will have to compromise on something – there’s a reason this software is free, after all.
  • Take them for a spin: With free accounting software, you can simply sign up/download, put your data in, and see how each feels. Many of the top paid accounting software providers also offer free trials, so you can see exactly what the extra outlay will give you in return.

For a more comprehensive overview of the different paid accounting packages available, check out our page on the best accounting software for small UK businesses.

What should I look for in a free accounting software?

When seeking free accounting software, consider these vital features:

  • Bookkeeping: Look for software that simplifies recording financial transactions, managing invoices, and categorising expenses. It should offer an intuitive interface for easy navigation through accounts.
  • Accounts payable: the software should streamline tracking and managing outgoing payments, ensuring timely vendor payments and accurate cash flow management.
  • Accounts receivable: seek tools that facilitate creating and tracking invoices, sending reminders for overdue payments, and managing incoming cash flow efficiently.
  • Financial reporting: opt for software that generates clear and comprehensive reports, enabling you to understand your business’s financial health at a glance.
  • More advanced features: while free software has limitations, functionalities like budgeting tools, inventory management, or project tracking might prove very beneficial as your business grows. Be aware that you’ll likely need to pay for accounting software in order to get features like these.
  • Integrations: ensure compatibility with other essential tools your business relies on, such as CRM systems, payment gateways, or ecommerce platforms.
  • Mobile capability: accessing and managing financial data on the go can be crucial. Look for software that comes with a mobile app or responsive mobile site for convenient access.
  • Help and support: check for available resources like tutorials, FAQs, and responsive customer support to assist you in case of queries or issues.
Did you know?

  • A report by Intuit (Quickbooks) found that 89% of small businesses that use accounting software say it is essential for their business, while 63% say it has helped them save time and be more productive.

How we test accounting software for UK small businesses

At 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

The Startups product testing process diagram

Final thoughts

As we edge closer to the tax year flip in April 2024, setting up accounting software, or upgrading or changing your current software, might just be the smartest move you make. These decisions can help shape the coming year’s financial success, so think of this transition as your opportunity to embark on a more efficient, accurate, and ultimately more successful financial future.

Free accounting software is hugely attractive to UK small businesses, especially those that are just starting out.

But you don’t want your small business to stay small forever.

As this piece has explained, all free accounting software comes with compromises. If you can afford it, finding a paid solution that will grow with your business like QuickBooks or FreshBooks could make this whole process much easier.

All the options discussed on this page are either free or offer a 30-day free trial, so be sure to make use of these options. It’s only by actually using the software that you’ll be able to work out which is right for you, which compromises are tolerable, and which extra features are really worth paying for.

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Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is it ever worth paying for accounting software?
    It's definitely advisable to upgrade to paid accounting software in line with your business's growth and needs. Paid software often offers more features, better support, and scalability.
  • What's the cheapest paid accounting software?
    The cheapest paid accounting software for you will vary depending on which features you want, and the subscription plan you need. Popular affordable options include QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Wave.
  • Why should I choose accounting software in time for the new financial year?
    Starting the new financial year with accounting software ensures better organisation, accurate financial records, and easier tax preparation. Getting set up before the financial year starts means you won't have to transfer records from partway through the year later on. In short, it sets you up for smoother operations.
  • What's the difference between accounting and bookkeeping?
    Accounting involves interpreting, analysing, and summarising financial data to make business decisions. Bookkeeping is more about recording day-to-day financial transactions, laying the foundation for accounting.
  • What is the easiest bookkeeping software?
    FreshBooks is the easiest accounting software to use, thanks to its simple interface and smooth user experience.
  • Can you get Xero for free?
    Xero doesn't have a free plan. However, it does offer a 30-day free trial, so you can sign up risk-free to see exactly what it has to offer.
  • Is QuickBooks free to use?
    QuickBooks doesn't have a free package, but it does offer a 60-day free trial so you can see if it's the right fit for your business.
  • What is Making Tax Digital?
    Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a UK initiative to digitise tax reporting. It requires businesses to maintain digital records and submit tax returns using compatible software, making the process more efficient and accurate. Making Tax Digital for VAT has been in place since April 2022, while Making Tax Digital for Income Tax, which is relevant tax reporting for self-employed people, will become a requirement from April 2026. 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 to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Written by:
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 14 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.
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