QuickBooks UK review 2021 – costs, features and benefits QuickBooks is one of the big players when it comes to small business accounting software, with some great features and superb tax planning support. Find out if it’s right for you here. Alec Hawley October 18, 2021 12 min read Our experts We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by: Alec Hawley QuickBooks is relied upon by small businesses across the UK – who love its features, straightforward pricing (including regular deals and discounts) and customer support.It’s also the clear winner in terms of self-employed accounting software. In fact, it’s the only major accounting software with a low-cost plan that’s designed for sole traders, freelancers and anyone else running a microbusiness.All QuickBooks plans have no usage limits (a huge plus). And, within the stylish interface, you’ll find massively useful features like direct HMRC-approved VAT return submission and a self-assessment income tax assessment estimator that lets you get a decent idea of your impending tax bill in seconds.Obviously, QuickBooks covers all the standard stuff too (invoices, expenses, reporting) and, while these features could be a bit slicker in places (we have reservations about invoice creation and expense submission for example), overall QuickBooks does everything you’d want it to do.Of course, we’ll cover all this properly in the review below but, if you’d rather just try it for yourself, visit QuickBooks to choose your plan and sign up for a 30-day free trial. Save on QuickBooks – there are Regular Deals and a 30-day Free Trial Do you use Accounting Software already? Yes No Overview QuickBooks Pros and Cons Pricing - How much does QuickBooks cost? User Experience (UX) - What is QuickBooks like to use? QuickBooks Key Features QuickBooks Add-Ons QuickBooks Support - What help is available if I get stuck? QuickBooks Verdict QuickBooks Alternatives OverviewQuickBooks was one of the first pieces of accounting software to move to the cloud – with QuickBooks online launched way back in 2001.This means you can keep track of your business finances anywhere with an internet connection, on whichever device you have to hand. On PC/Mac you’ll access QuickBooks through your web browser, while your phone/tablet has a dedicated mobile app that makes it easy to create invoices and snap expenses receipts on the go.QuickBooks’ key features include:A dedicated self-employed package, which lets you easily separate business and personal expensesSuperb tax planning support, including real-time income tax estimates and being able to file VAT returns directly to HMRC without leaving QuickBooksSnap expense receipts and have the important info automatically extractedEasily create customisable, pay-enabled invoices – and track when they’ve been opened and paidGet insight into your business with 150 easy-to-use dashboards and reportsConnect your bank accounts to effortlessly keep track of the money coming in and going out of your businessUse the mobile app to automatically track your mileage, and assign it to business or personal use with a tapA cloud-based payroll solution that handles payslips, pensions, statutory payments and more with ease (for an extra fee)Visit QuickBooks today to discover more about how it can help you run your business QuickBooks Pros and Cons Pros A great self-employed plan Clear pricing, with no usage limits First-class tax planning support Cons Support options depend on plan Invoices are functional rather than stylish Invoice creation is a bit fiddly Pricing – How much does QuickBooks cost?QuickBooks has three standard plans, plus a dedicated self-employed plan.All four plans offer a 30-day free trial, and prices are often discounted. At the time of writing for example, you can get 50% off the first four months of your QuickBooks subscription.We’ll tackle the self-employed plan first as it’s the cheapest optionCost – £8 per month (excl. VAT)Features – Prepare your self-assessment tax return and access income tax estimates, separate personal and business transactions, automatically import bank transactions Save on QuickBooks – there are Regular Deals and a 30-day Free Trial Do you use Accounting Software already? Yes No Two things that the self-employed plan doesn’t include are VAT filing and phone support. For that, you’ll want one of these three plans: 0 out of 0 backward forward Plan Cost Features BEST VALUE Simple StartEssentialsPlus£12 per month (excl. VAT)£20 per month (excl. VAT)£30 per month (excl. VAT)Prepare and submit VAT returns directly to HMRCSend pay-enabled invoicesCreate estimates and quotesManage billsAccept and make payments in over 145 currencies3 usersManage stockTrack employee time5 usersCompare Plans and find the latest Deals QuickBooks Deals As you can see, unlike some of its competitors, QuickBooks has no usage limits on any of its plans. The QuickBooks StoryIn terms of accounting software, few companies can match QuickBooks maker Intuit’s lengthy track record.Founded in 1984 when PCs were the hot new thing that could transform household finances, Intuit became a household name over the next few decades. It all started with Quicken – the first accounting software aimed at normal people. And then in 1998, Intuit released Quickbooks – the first accounting software aimed at normal people who run businesses.Both proved to be huge successes and, alongside other acquisitions and product launches, set Intuit on the way to being a multibillion dollar company whose products are used all over the world.In the US, research by Codat found that over half of small businesses use a QuickBooks product and, globally, QuickBooks online is used by 4.5 million businesses.The UK version of QuickBooks online launched in 2011, and is hugely popular with small businesses that love its powerful tax planning features, award-winning customer service, and range of affordable plans. User Experience (UX) – What is QuickBooks like to use?There’s an elegant minimalism to the way QuickBooks works. As you can see above, when you log in (and you’ve completed the setup steps), you’ll be presented with six shortcuts to frequent and recurring tasks.You’ll also instantly see the balance of any bank accounts you’ve connected to QuickBooks.For more info on your finances, hit business overview.The first thing you’ll see in this section is QuickBooks’ cash flow view – this is based on your connected bank accounts and shows the money coming in and going out of your business.Far more importantly, it also gives you an idea of your future cash flow, letting you see if there are any big bumps on the road ahead. Obviously, this isn’t 100% accurate as it’s based on recurring invoices and bills, but it’s still a very useful guide.Scroll down further and you get charts showing your profit/loss and expenses, plus the balance in your connected bank accounts.The default view for these charts is the last 30 days, but they can be easily changed to show a variety of time periods.This cool grey sidebar on the left is the gateway to everything that QuickBooks has to offer – hovering over any of the entries with arrows brings up the options within that category.So, “Taxes” gives you a choice of VAT and income tax for example.Clicking the “+ New” button at the top lets you easily create everything from a new invoice to a fresh time tracking entry (depending on what’s included in your plan).Finally, unlike a lot of accounting software, QuickBooks includes a powerful search function.It’s accessed via the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner and, as you can see, lets you search for entries using name, address, transaction value, date and others. This is a great timesaver, meaning you can easily find what you’re looking for without trawling your accounts.This search function also gives you easy access to your most recent transactions, another handy little time saver.Overall, QuickBooks just works. There are some areas where it could be a bit slicker, but it’s generally extremely intuitive and easy to use – with everything located where you expect it to be. The design is restrained without being dull, and the colours that are used really stand out because of this. It’s often said that good design fades into the background and this sums up QuickBooks perfectly. QuickBooks Key FeaturesTax planningOne of QuickBooks’ best features is its tax planning. If you submit VAT returns, then you can prepare and file without ever leaving QuickBooks, while anyone grappling with the intricacies of a self-assessment tax return can access combined income tax/National Insurance estimates that clearly break down all the vital info.Of course, these aren’t 100% accurate, but should give you a decent idea of how much you should be setting aside to pay the taxman.Here’s what that estimate looks like:Obviously, the headline figure is pretty clear – this is a combination of the total income tax and National Insurance you owe in that tax year.Scroll down this page and your estimate is broken down in more detail.For even more detail, select any heading.Click “export” and you can download an excel file with the same information, saving you loads of time when you need to submit your self-assessment tax return.This income tax estimates feature, coupled with the ability to e-file VAT returns, gives QuickBooks some of the best tax planning support we’ve seen in any accounting software – and sets it apart from many of its rivals. It’s a powerful, easy to use, and easy to understand solution that is massive plus for anyone running a small business.InvoicesNowadays, invoice creation is a key part of the appeal for any accounting software. Time-pressed business owners want a quick and easy process that produces professional results, and a decent range of customisation options.On the whole, QuickBooks’ invoice creation is solid rather than spectacular – it does everything you want it to do but the process isn’t as seamless as Freshbooks, our favourite in this area.One issue is the fact that everything is handled in separate menus, which feels a bit fiddly. The screen above shows the menu you use for customising invoices but, when you create a new invoice, you’ll see this screen.It’s fine, and does everything you’d want it to do – but feels a bit clunky compared to the rest of QuickBooks.QuickBooks does at least remember what you’ve entered in previous invoices, so you won’t need to repeatedly type the names of customers or products/services.Once you’ve entered your data, to see your invoice, you’ll have to use the “Print or preview option”. Again, this feels clunky and needlessly complicated.Once you’ve downloaded the finished invoice as a PDF, you get something along these lines.You track invoices via this screen – which is effective but a bit basic.Compared to some of its rivals, invoice creation is not one of QuickBooks’ strengths. It does what it says on the tin but the process feels a bit fragmented, and the finished result is functional rather than stylish.For most people, this won’t be a significant issue but it’s definitely an area where QuickBooks could do better.Invoice payment methodsLike most accounting software, QuickBooks lets you create “pay-enabled” invoices. This means that your customers/clients can pay you what they owe with just a few clicks.QuickBooks offers two different payment methods:It uses PayPal for credit and debit card transactionsAnd it uses GoCardless for Direct Debit paymentsThese providers charge fees on a per transaction basis, and the cost is shown below:That’s a bit complicated, so let’s use an example.Let’s say you had a £100 payment:For a PayPal credit and debit card transaction, the total fee would be:1.45% of £100 = £1.45PLUS £0.30So, a total fee of £1.75For a Paypal Wallet transaction, the total fee would be:£2.90 (2.9% of £100) PLUS £0.30 = £3.20For a PayPal American Express transaction, the total fee would be:£3.50 (3.5% of £100)And for a GoCardless Direct Debit transaction, the total fee would be:£1 (1% of £100) PLUS £0.20 PLUS £0.20 (20% VAT on £100) = £1.40This is definitely a useful service, although it’s worth noting that most of QuickBooks’ rivals offer something similar, with Freshbooks for example offering the choice of PayPal and Stripe.ExpensesA key part of running any small business is handling expenses, and this makes expense tracking a vital part of any accounting software.When you create a new expense, you get this screen.This is a lot like the invoice creation screen – it does what it needs to but isn’t particularly attractive or intuitive.However, you’re unlikely to have to use it much, as most expenses will either be imported from your connected bank account or snapped and scanned using the QuickBooks mobile app.Connecting your bank accountThanks to open banking, the days of having to spend hours typing in details of your sales and expenses are over. Instead, you just connect your bank account and your incomings and outgoings automatically appear in your accounting software.The video above explains how the process operates in QuickBooks (it’s for the US version but the UK version works in the same way). You’ll select your bank, sign in and then choose which accounts you want to connect (i.e., only the ones used by your business), and when you want to import transactions from.Once you’ve done this, you can then set up rules, so transactions that meet certain criteria are automatically put into particular categories.Being able to connect your bank account is a must-have feature for any serious accounting software, and QuickBooks more than ticks that box.Scanning expense receiptsOf course, the world hasn’t gone entirely cashless yet and sometimes you will have expenses that aren’t automatically connected to your bank account.Thankfully, if you’ve got a receipt, you’re in luck – just whip out your phone, open the QuickBooks mobile app and scan the receipt.Using some very clever tech, the app then reads the vital info, takes a photo and creates an expense for you to review.The speed this all happens at is seriously impressive, it only takes a few seconds for the receipt to scan and for the expense to be created.The only slightly annoying thing is you have to go into the full browser version on PC/Mac to review the expense. You do this via the “Transactions” menu on the left hand side bar, hovering over and then clicking “Receipts”. Once you’ve reviewed and approved the expense, then it appears in the expenses menu.This feels more complicated than it needs to be but it works very well, and the receipt scanning tech is a great time saver for anyone running a small business.Aside from receipt scanning, the QuickBooks mobile app feels slick and well designed. You can create invoices/estimates, check your cash flow situation, see your recent transactions, and track mileage using your phone’s GPS.And the customer ratings back this up – the QuickBooks accounting app on the Apple App Store has an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 from 18,000 ratings. QuickBooks Add-OnsPayrollAs your business grows, you’ll have to tackle payroll at some point, and it can be very complicated. You might have some employees who are paid weekly and some who are paid monthly – and then there’s the headache of working out National Insurance/tax deductions, and submitting all that data to HMRC.Luckily, for an extra monthly fee (see below), QuickBooks will handle all of it for you. And, because it’s powered by the same cloud-based software as QuickBooks Online, you can run payroll anywhere and, of course, QuickBooks Payroll seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks’ accounting software.QuickBooks offers two payroll plans – Standard and Advanced – and here’s how they stack up:StandardAdditional cost – £4 a month (exc VAT), plus £1 per paid employee per monthKey features:HMRC recognised payroll that automatically updates, and lets you submit your data with just a few clicksEasily pay different employees either weekly or monthlyAutomatically generate payslips, and share them via a self-serve employee portal, email or printCalculates statutory maternity, paternity and sick payMake automatic pension contributions to NestAdvancedAdditional cost – £8 per month (exc VAT) plus £1 per paid employee per monthObviously this includes everything in the Standard plan PLUS:Manage timesheets, rotas, leave, expenses and even keep track of employee satisfactionPay employees on any frequency (weekly, monthly, fortnightly, 4 weekly, quarterly or annually)Make automatic pension contributions to one of five different pension schemes (Nest, Smart Pension, The People’s Pension, NOW and Aviva)Handle other deductions like salary sacrifice, court order payments and attachment of earningsAs you can see, unless you have particularly complex payroll needs, the standard plan should be ideal for most small businesses. QuickBooks Support – What help is available if I get stuck?The support available on QuickBooks depends on your plan. Everyone gets access to online live chat with screen sharing, while users of the Simple Start, Essentials and Plus plans (everything apart from Self-Employed) can also get assistance through phone support.If you are having problems though, your first port of call should be the support centre. This has, according to QuickBooks, “thousands” of articles that should help you resolve your issue. There are loads of “getting started” videos that show you the basics, as well as webinars (which you can either watch on demand or register to watch live and ask questions).Another neat feature is the QuickBooks assistant, a built-in chatbot that can be found by clicking “help” in the top right corner.You then simply type what you need help with and the chatbot either gives you the answer or directs you to a help article on that topic.It’s a clever way of integrating help within the accounting interface and works really well.Sometimes though, you really need to speak to an actual person.As mentioned above, all QuickBooks plans come with live chat support (that includes screen sharing). This is offered between 8am and midnight Monday to Friday, and 8am to 8pm on Saturdays and Sundays.The Simple Start, Essentials and Plus plans also include UK-based phone support. This runs from 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday.These are generous hours, and should meet the needs of most small businesses. However, they aren’t 24/7 and, if you think that you might need round-the-clock help, then Sage Business Cloud Accounting might be a better fit.Most importantly though, QuickBooks has a hard-earned reputation for excellent customer service. This is backed up by an impressive 4.5 Trustpilot rating (out of 5) from over 7,000 customer reviews – with many praising the patience and knowledge of the people that helped them. QuickBooks Verdict When it comes to accounting software, QuickBooks is a great fit for most small businesses.It boasts a great range of plans with no usage limits (including a dedicated self-employed plan), a stylish interface, and superb tax planning tools. It’s this last feature that really sets QuickBooks apart – not only can you prepare and submit VAT returns, but also quickly get a detailed estimate of your self-assessment income tax bill. In short, it’s easy to see why Quickbooks is used by countless small businesses across the UK.The criticisms are minor. The interface and expense process could be a bit slicker, the support options might not suit every business, and the invoices QuickBooks creates feel functional rather than distinctive.Overall, it’s accounting software that handles everything you throw at it, is packed with features, and is available at a price to suit your business. What more could you want?To see how it could help your business, visit QuickBooks today. QuickBooks AlternativesTo see how QuickBooks compares to its main rivals, check out our guide to the best small business accounting software.But here are three other options that could be a great fit for your small business:Freshbooks – Freshbooks has a bright, colourful interface and superb invoice creation tools. However, its plans do have client limits, and its support team works on US business hours. Sage Business Cloud Accounting – Sage is a real contrast from most accounting software – it has a far more sober interface that does more “hand holding” than the likes of Freshbooks and Quickbooks. This makes it ideal for less confident IT users; and, with 24/7 phone support included as standard, there’s always someone you can call if you need help. Xero – Xero bills itself as “beautiful accounting software” and it’s certainly distinctive – with a clean interface and striking marine colour scheme. Under this attractive exterior, Xero has all the features you’d expect, and some really insightful reporting options. However, some features – like project tracking and Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) submissions – are only available for an extra fee. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Tags LAUNCH Guides and Resources News and Features Alec Hawley Alec is Startups’ resident expert on politics and finance. He’s provided live updates on the budget, written guides on investing and property development, and demystified topics like corporation tax, accounting software, and invoice discounting. Before joining, he worked in the media for over a decade, conducting media analysis at Kantar Media and YouGov, and writing a wide variety of freelance pieces.