Sage Business Cloud Accounting UK review
With powerful features and great customer support, Sage Business Cloud Accounting can really help your small business. Discover whether it’s right for you with our in-depth review.
When it comes to small business accounting software, Sage goes way back. The company was founded in 1981, and its first piece of software was for the Amstrad PCW Word Processor. (Never heard of it? Exactly.)
Now, what began as a Newcastle startup is one of the UK’s leading business success stories. Sage has grown exponentially and, while it’s still headquartered in Newcastle, it has offices in 24 countries – and supplies a huge range of business software to 6.1 million customers worldwide.
Despite this storied past, Sage Business Cloud Accounting is bang up to date – a cloud-based small business accounting solution that covers all the key bases, and (unlike many of its competitors) offers UK-based 24/7 customer support both via online live chat and over the phone.
See if Sage Business Cloud Accounting is the right fit for your business with our in-depth review, covering the following areas:
Formerly known as Sage One, Sage Business Cloud Accounting is, as the name suggests, a cloud-based small business accounting solution. This basically means that all you need is a subscription and an internet connection – it’ll work on PC/Mac through the web browser, and your phone/tablet will get a dedicated mobile app so you can create invoices and check your accounts on the go.
Key features include:
- Create, send, and track invoices to get paid quicker
- Connect your bank accounts through open banking
- Manage your stock levels
- Easily calculate and submit your VAT returns to HMRC
- Use the dashboard to forecast your cash flow and explore ‘what if’ scenarios
- Generate and export essential business reports, or upgrade to Sage Intelligence for deeper insight
- Manage your business on the move via the Sage accounting mobile apps
- Easily add payroll services (for an extra fee)
- Take online payments through Stripe (for an extra fee)
Pricing - How much does Sage Business Cloud Accounting cost?
Sage Business Accounting has three price plans.
All come with a 30-day free trial, and (at the time of writing) nothing to pay for your first three months.
- Entry-level accounting software
- Connect your bank account
- Submit VAT returns
- Advanced reporting capabilities
- Unlimited users
- Cash flow statements
- Multi-currency support
- Inventory management
User Experience (UX) - What is Sage Business Cloud Accounting like to use?
Sage Business Accounting takes a sober, sensible approach to its interface. The predominant colours are grey and white, with accents of a darker grey and blue. As shown above, soft pastel shades are used for its charts, including the four options (sales, purchases, cash flow statement, and cash flow forecast) that are easily accessible on the homescreen summary page.
Scrolling down reveals a quick snapshot of your small business, with the information presented changing based on which of the four options you’ve selected.
Choose Sales, for example, and you’ll be shown outstanding sales invoices, overdue sales invoices, quotes & estimates, top five customers, top five debtors, and an estimated VAT return.
You navigate through Sage Business Cloud Accounting with the help of this ever-present bar, which lets you easily locate the function you’re looking for.
Additionally, hovering over the red plus in the top right corner brings up a “Create” menu that allows you to easily jump to making a new invoice or estimate.
It’s a clear, logical approach that is typical of Sage Business Accounting’s attitude to design – everything is clearly laid out and explained, helping to lessen the learning curve for new users.
This also places Sage Business Accounting in stark contrast to colourful rivals like QuickBooks Online, which favour bold colours and graphics.
Which you prefer is partly a matter of personal taste – some may find Sage’s approach a little dated, while others may prefer a more restrained style. The clear explanations and ordered style means that Sage Business Cloud Accounting comes naturally to any small business owner moving on from Excel spreadsheets, making it a great option for small businesses switching to online accounting for the first time.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting Key Features
Cash flow forecast
Accessed via the Summary screen, Sage Business Cloud Accounting’s cash flow forecast is a great tool for small businesses. Primarily, it gives you a quick overview of how your finances are likely to change according to the sales and purchases invoices you have entered into the system, but this can also be manually adjusted.
Handily, if you’re VAT registered, then your likely VAT liability is also factored in.
So, you can easily see just what kind of impact landing that new customer might have, or whether a 10% sales boost from a new advertising campaign would benefit the bottom line.
Create, send and track invoices
Like most accounting software in 2020, Sage Business Cloud Accounting allows you to create and send invoices, so your customers are never in any doubt about what they owe.
What’s really handy about Sage’s approach is that you can also track invoices – simply email them to your customers, and you’ll be able to see when they have been created, sent, viewed, and paid.
The viewed bit is particularly important, as it should bring to an end those tedious arguments about “I never received the invoice” etc.
With any of these options, simply hovering over the corresponding green dot will show you exactly when the invoice was created, sent, or viewed.
There is also a quick entry system that makes it easy to rapidly enter multiple invoices.
Dominic Peter and Ella-Jade Bitton, the duo behind online furniture retailer Roobba, are huge fans of Sage Business Cloud Accounting and the ability to track invoices in particular:
“The process of creating and tracking invoices has been transformational for us – we can see exactly when our customers have received, read, and paid their invoices, with the added benefit of being able to generate delivery notes, which we find very useful being an online retailer.”
If you need to create a delivery note, then it’s simply a matter of clicking “Print delivery note” on the invoice menu (see pic above).
Unfortunately, there’s no way to customise the design of an invoice when you create it. Instead, you have to go into the settings menu and find the logo and document template settings.
Once you’re there, you’ll have the choice of three product-based and three service-based templates, as well as three older, more basic templates.
You can add your company logo to each of these, as well as secondary logos, such as for trade organisations you belong to.
You can also choose your theme colour, either picking one of the 10 standard pastel options or by entering the hex code (which is easily found online) for your custom company colour.
More creative small business owners may find these options a little limiting, but they should be sufficient for most users.
The finished invoice is slick and professional.
If you want to accept online payments, then Sage Business Cloud Accounting seamlessly integrates with Stripe, with a “Pay now” button added to the invoice and the payment added to your records.
This service is charged per transaction, and the fee depends on whether or not the payment is UK/European:
- For UK/European payments, the cost is 1.4% + 20p
- Non-European payments cost 2.9% + 20p
A customer with a UK card paying you £100 would therefore cost £1.60 to process.
Bank account integration
Now it’s 2020, we can finally say goodbye to manually entering bank transactions. With Sage Business Cloud Accounting’s bank connection feature, you can simply link your business bank account, and see your transactions pop up on screen as if by magic.
Hundreds of banks are covered, including big hitters like Lloyds, Natwest, Barclays, HSBC, and Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as business banking specialists such as Tide.
Once you can see your transactions, it’s easy to match them to outstanding invoices, or categorise them into standard expenses like fuel or utility bills. To really speed things up, you can set up rules that automatically categorise transactions according to the transaction value or the reference code.
It’s definitely worth taking the time to set these up as they are huge time savers in the long run, and will make your whole experience of using Sage Business Cloud Accounting much easier.
Easy VAT returns
At the time of writing at least, if you’re a UK business making over £85,000 a year, then you’ll need to file regular Making Tax Digital (MTD) VAT returns to HMRC.
Thankfully, Sage Business Cloud Accounting makes the whole process quick and easy.
Simply click “Reporting”, then “VAT returns”, then “Create VAT return”.
The report pictured above will pop up for you to check. Then, provided you’ve already provided your government gateway log-in detail, you can simply submit to HMRC in a couple of clicks.
You can also print the summary, or click “Detailed report” for a line-by-line breakdown of how much VAT was charged on each invoice.
And remember, your estimated VAT bill will always show up in your cash flow forecast, so you can plan for that expense.
And that’s it – with Sage Business Cloud Accounting, it’s as easy as VAT.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting offers basic business reporting as standard – simply click “Reporting” and then “More” to see what’s available.
These reports include:
- Profit and loss
- Balance sheet
- Aged debtors
- Aged creditors
- Cash flow statement
- Cash flow forecast
- Profit analysis
- Sales revenue
- VAT return
These standard reports are rather no frills, but they clearly display the important information, and can be easily exported into CSV and PDF files.
Anyone who needs deeper, more insightful, more bespoke reporting should really upgrade to Sage Intelligence (included on the Standard and Plus tiers), for a much more powerful reporting tool.
With Sage Intelligence, you’ll get access to a comprehensive range of interactive dashboards that show you exactly what’s going on in your business.
When you view a dashboard, you can easily drill down into the nitty gritty detailed data, or drill up for an overview. You can also export your data into a table with a single click.
There's also the option to export to Excel spreadsheets while retaining the added formatting – perfect if you want to share more widely within the business.
The most useful feature, however, is probably the recently added Management Pack. This produces a colourful document in Word that combines several reports (you can choose which ones are included) to give a clear and easy to follow picture of your business. This is particularly handy for startups seeking investment, as it’s easy to distribute these packs to potential investors or other interested parties via email or print.
More experienced Sage Intelligence users can also create their own reports from scratch, so you can focus on the data that matters to you.
One huge benefit of cloud-based accounting software is that you can basically access your accounts from anywhere with an internet connection – something Sage Business Cloud Accounting takes full advantage of with its iOS and Android mobile accounting apps.
Whether you’re on iOS (iPhone and iPad) or Android (pretty much everything else), the Sage accounting mobile app lets you easily check your cash flow, create quotes and invoices, manage stock levels, and snap photos of receipts for expenses.
This is a real timesaver for small businesses – you can check your accounts on the way to a business meeting, create and email invoices on site, and always be confident that you know how much money is coming in and going out of your business.
Other useful features of Sage Business Cloud Accounting include:
- Add accountant – Sage Business Cloud Accounting makes it easy to add access for your accountant or bookkeeper, so they can keep an eye on your records and quickly correct any mistakes (Standard and Plus tiers only)
- Audit trail – If you do have multiple users, you can easily produce and filter an audit trail report that shows exactly what was corrected, when, and who made the correction
- Multi-currency support – With Sage Business Cloud Accounting, you can get the support you need to trade internationally, and quickly produce invoices that bill your customers in their local currency. The software will even take care of the different tax rates for you, something that could be massively useful in a rapidly changing post-Brexit business world (Plus tier only)
- Stock management – Make sure you never run out of stock or supplies with Sage Business Cloud’s handy stock management feature, which lets you keep track of stock levels and set bespoke reorder levels (Plus tier only)
- Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) calculations – All plans include support for managing CIS transactions, while the Accounting Standard and Accounting Plus plans allow you to submit your CIS payments data directly to HMRC with just a few clicks (a huge timesaver for construction businesses)
Sage offers a powerful, easy-to-use cloud payroll solution that means taking care of your employees’ pay, tax, and pension contributions doesn’t need to be a stressful and time-consuming headache.
It’s a simple process to quickly produce payslips, P60s, and other important payroll documents – and with just a few clicks, you can manage expenses, bonuses, overtime, holiday pay, and more.
And, of course, you can submit real-time payment data to HMRC with a click.
The price of Sage’s cloud payroll solution depends on how many employees you have:
Prices below are excluding VAT
- 1-5 employees – £7 per month
- 6-10 employees – £12 per month
- 11-15 employees – £17 per month
- 16-25 employees – £27 per month
At the time of writing, all plans are free for the first three months.
If you have more than 25 employees, then you’ll need Sage 50cloud Payroll, a more powerful payroll solution designed for larger businesses.
CakeHR by Sage
As your business grows and you hire more employees, HR starts to become about more than just payroll. You’ll want to analyse employee performance, manage confidential data, allow managers to quickly approve time off, and maybe even manage teams working all over the world.
CakeHR by Sage does all this and more, making it easy to manage the needs and requirements of all your employees, and ensure that they’re productive and happy. Each employee gets access to their own portal, where they can track their targets, submit information, and request annual leave or sickness absence. For managers, approving requests is easy – it can even be done on mobile or via Slack.
The solution is also bespoke to your business. Features like shift scheduling and a recruitment platform can easily be added if you need them.
Pricing depends on a range of factors, and is only available by contacting Sage directly.
At the time of writing, Sage offers a six-month free trial, so you can try it with no obligation and see just what CakeHR by Sage could do for your business.
Of course, knowing what your employees are doing is only half the battle – you need to understand your customers, too. Sage can help with that as well – Sage CRM is a leading CRM (customer relationship management) system that can help you manage your teams effectively, improve business expenses, and boost your bottom line.
Sage CRM pricing depends on the precise requirements of your business, and is only available by contacting Sage directly.
All Sage Business Cloud Accounting customers also have access to the Sage Marketplace, which allows integration with a wide range of apps and business tools.
Finally, AutoEntry integrates seamlessly with Sage Business Cloud Accounting, meaning you can simply snap a receipt and have all the important info automatically extracted. All Sage Business Cloud Accounting plans include three months of unlimited AutoEntry usage, with the pricing after that depending on usage levels.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting support - What help is available if I get stuck?
This is one area where Sage Business Cloud Accounting really shines. The customer service and support on offer really are second to none.
Unlike many of its competitors, Sage Business Cloud Accounting offers 24/7 UK telephone support, meaning that no matter when you encounter a problem, there’ll be someone knowledgeable available to help. While it can vary at times of especially high demand, Sage says that the typical wait time is five minutes, so you won’t have to spend hours on hold instead of running your business.
The company’s Trustpilot score supports this, with an average rating of 4.8 from over 11,000 reviews. Moreover, while some reviewers do report long hold times, Sage reviews are not differentiated by the product being used, and Sage have told us that these customers are using older products that have different tiers of customer service. However, this does not apply to Sage Business Cloud Accounting users – no matter what plan you are on, you will get the same standard of customer service.
This is backed up by live webchat support, where you can get a quick answer to your question in seconds, and pre-recorded webinars that feature live Q&As with Sage experts – perfect if you want to learn how to best use Sage Business Cloud Accounting.
What's more, there are masses of support videos and documents available through the Sage website, which are ideal if you like to learn at your own pace.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting Verdict
Sage Business Cloud Accounting is a great option for small businesses. The powerful software is intuitive and easy to use, while the best-in-class 24/7 customer support means there’s always someone available if you need help. It will also grow with you as your business expands – it’s easy to upgrade your plan or add extra features, and Sage’s comprehensive product offering (including payroll, HR and CRM solutions) means it’s easy to develop an integrated solution that meets the evolving needs of your growing small business.
Drawbacks are minor – some may find the UI a little dated, while some added features (such as time tracking) are missing – but anyone looking for great small business accounting software will find lots to like in Sage Business Cloud Accounting.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting alternatives
For a great overview of the leading small business accounting software options, check out our article on the best small business accounting software.
In the meantime, here are three other choices you should definitely consider:
- QuickBooks Online – QuickBooks is hugely popular among UK small businesses, boasting a colourful UI and tons of features. However, it lacks Sage Business Cloud Accounting’s 24/7 phone support, and some find its reporting options a little limited.
- FreshBooks – FreshBooks is one of the more affordable options out there but brings a lot to the table, including invoicing, expense entries, time tracking, and estimates. However, additional fees can bring the cost up, with the charge for adding additional users particularly steep.
- Xero – Xero is bound to appeal to any design-conscious small business owner – its marine colour scheme and clean UI means it’s one of the slickest options out there. It’s also got a great range of reporting options, but you’ll have to pay extra for expenses tracking.
So, make sure to take a good look at the different choices out there before deciding whether Sage Business Cloud Accounting is the right fit for your small business.