by Lauren Maffeo
Published on 5 April 2017
We sang "Auld Lang Syne" months ago, but the UK accounting world's new year starts today. The country's tax year concludes on April 5th, which means that the new tax year starts on April 6th. History buffs can learn about this date's medieval origins here.
Every new year brings an onslaught of resolutions. Since you've officially got a fresh financial start for your small business, this is the best time of year to find the right cloud-based accounting software.
Before you groan and bounce, don't dismiss this as an unaffordable expense. Several software vendors provide free plans. They also offer additional options as your small business scales.
To help you make the best choice, we've reviewed five free UK accounting software apps. To earn a spot on this list, each app had to serve UK small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and provide a freemium option. They also needed an average rating of four stars or higher based on GetApp reviews.
This article describes a range of features that each app offers. That's because every app provides paid plans that can scale as your small business grows. So, you should review what each app's free plan offers against your most pressing needs. You might decide that some features are worth paying for.
Finally, each app is available on iPhone/iPad and Android. If we can't end the iOS vs. Android war, at least we can play Switzerland:
Best for: Small business owners with nine employees or less.
Many small businesses use accounting software apps that were built for larger teams. Wave is the exception that was built for small business owners. Bank reconciliation allows you to upload your information without manual entry. You can also work with your bookkeeper in real time to review work side-by-side.
Wave offers a full suite of accounting services. Key features include invoicing and payroll; personal finance and expense tracking; automatic exchange rate calculations and data backup; and reminders for billing and invoicing.
"After a tough first year trying to file taxes as a freelancer I wanted something that would help me keep track of everything throughout the year," says GetApp Reviewer Stephanie Ramos. "This app makes keeping my expenses logged in an easy way, and gives me access to various accounting reports."
Pricing: Wave offers accounting and invoicing, receipt management, and personal financial management for free. Services like monthly payroll and credit card processing are processed on a pay-as-you-go system. Several GetApp readers say that no accounting software beats Wave's bare-bones pricing. This makes it ideal if you don't have funds for a paid plan.
Best for: Solicitors who bill clients hourly.
CaseFox earns high marks for its intuitive interface and strong suite of timekeeping features. Users can track time-based billing and invoicing, task and case management, time tracking, and more. Attorneys with their own small businesses might find CaseFox especially helpful - data including clients and case lists can be exported to Excel.
CaseFox's role-based user management allows you to control contract attorneys' access to cases. You can even configure hourly rates per case.
"The price is more than reasonable for all the flexibility you get in this software," GetApp Reviewer Jill Forcier says. "It tracks everything. I also love the capabilities of making the invoices my own and tracking my own file numbers plus entering all trust funds right into CaseFox. It helps me with my daily run of my business in the legal field and I highly recommend this software to any small business."
Pricing: CaseFox's basic plan can be used cost-free. It supports four cases, two timekeepers, and integrations with Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive for document storage. CaseFox bases its pricing model on the number of cases in your account. So, its Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans allow you to scale within the app as your small business grows.
Best for: Warehouse management solopreneurs who need enterprise resource planning (ERP).
British SMBs in the warehouse management space should consider ERPAG. It offers warehouse-specific tax and currency settings and price lists. Other industry-specific features include barcode scanning, expense and fixed asset training, and inventory management.
It's worth noting that ERPAG is not a pure accounting app. So, its accounting features are less robust than some of the other options on this list. One GetApp reviewer says that ERPAG's users will need bookkeepers. But if you're shopping for an all-in-one ERP system with a few key accounting features, ERPAG's worth a look. It provides profit and loss statements, multi-currency support, and incoming and outgoing payment recording. It also integrates with QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Xero.
"Besides having modules that are easy and understandable to use, ERPAG supports multiple warehouse system[s] and I can finally control access by users," GetApp Reviewer Aleksandar Stavrov says.
"There were a few bugs and glitches, but the development and support team are really fast so they fix them within a few days," Shuhrat Kamolov recalls. "Overall, it's a great app which allows you to have excellent insight [into] your inventory and production plans."
Pricing: ERPAG's free plan provides all features, integrated in-app chat, and 250 MB of server storage. However, the free plan only supports one user. So, you'll need to upgrade based on your small business' number of employees.
Best for: Solopreneurs that need mobile expense tracking.
Expensify earns lots of love for its clean user interface, easy mobile app, and reliable receipt generation. It exports to major accounting packages including QuickBooks, Xero, and Sage. Other features include OCR receipt scanning, one-click scanning, and invoicing.
Freelancers can use Expensify to earn auto-reimbursement via PayPal and direct deposit. Corporate card reconciliation and support are also available.
"I've only used this for a couple months, and haven't had any team members start using it yet, but so far, so good," says GetApp Reviewer Leila Blauner. "Some of the automated workflows will be useful once I deploy this to a team. And I like the dashboard for the expense breakdown by category at a glance. The automatic receipt creation and the integration with external accounts (eg AMEX) is especially helpful."
Pricing: Expensify's Individual plan is free of charge. It includes a free mobile app, unlimited receipt storage, customer support via email and chat, and 10 free SmartScans per month. If you build a team down the road, Expensify's Team and Corporate plans can scale with your small business. All three plans start with a free 30-day trial.
Best for: Service-based small business owners who are often on the road.
FreshBooks is a familiar name in the small business accounting software world. It regularly appears at or near the top of GetApp's quarterly Category Leaders ranking of the top accounting software apps. That's due in large part to its robust list of features like team timesheets, time tracking against projects and clients, and automatic tax calculations.
FreshBooks also gets high marks for its performance on iPhones and iPads. You can photograph receipts using these devices, then attach them to expense sheets for reimbursement and tax purposes. You can even create and send invoices via your mobile device. FreshBooks lets you know when your invoice has been seen, and any errors can be corrected within the app.
"I don't need a whole lot of bells and whistles for my accounting software, so instead of messing with some of the more complex systems, I decided to give FreshBooks a try," GetApp Reviewer Nicholas Scalice says. "It's a perfect fit for my business. It lets me track time, send invoices, collect payments, and more. But those are the main features I use.
"They also have some awesome reports that I can send to my accountant. At times, it can be a little slow, but for the most part, you [can't] beat FreshBooks for the value and the service. Their customer support team is super friendly too."
Pricing: All users start a free 30-day trial on FreshBooks with no restrictions on clients or staff. At the end of your trial, you'll be asked to upgrade to one of FreshBooks' paid plans. If you choose not to, you can contact customer support. In the past, they've extended free trials for a few extra days so users can export their data.