The Best Accounting Software

The accounting software market is valued at upwards of $12 billion and it’s no wonder since accounting is the one thing you want done right, regardless of whether you are a freelancer or a big enterprise. How do you find the right solution for you, though? Thankfully, this list of the best accounting software products can help you with just that. Read on to learn more about our top choices and what they can do for you. We’ve also prepared some pointers on what to look for in an efficient accounting solution and how to pick the best option for your business.

The Top Accounting Software

Freshbooks Logo

FreshBooks

Accounting software built for owners.

Offered by Canada-based 2ndSite Inc., FreshBooks is an invoicing and accounting app run on the SaaS model. Over 20 million people across 160+ countries trust this solution which wins praise from businesses of all sizes for its usability, affordability, and strong automation and customization features.

  • Core features: Double-entry accounting, Invoicing, Project management, Time tracking, Inventory management, Payroll management, Financial reporting
  • Desktop/Cloud-based: Cloud
  • No. of users: 1 ($10/month/user for more)
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Customer support: Excellent
  • Base price: $15/month
  • Free trial: Yes
QuickBooks Logo

QuickBooks Online

Smart, simple online accounting software for small business.

Industry veteran QuickBooks has been used by SMEs since the 1980s, but with many features that add to its functionality, scalability, and customizability, it caters excellently to large businesses as well.

  • Core features: Double-entry accounting, Invoicing, Project management, Time tracking, Inventory management, Payroll management, Financial reporting
  • Desktop/Cloud-based: Cloud
  • No. of users: 1 to 25, depending on the plan
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Customer support: Excellent
  • Base price: $25/month
  • Free trial: Yes
Sage 50cloud Accounting Logo

Sage 50cloud Accounting

Boss your finances, boss your business.

Sage 50cloud Accounting blends features of desktop and online accounting apps, allowing companies to take full control of their finances. It further enables entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by offering substantial automation to minimize time on admin tasks.

  • Core features: Double-entry accounting, Invoicing, Project management, Time tracking, Inventory management, Payroll management, Financial reporting, Industry-specific functionality
  • Desktop/Cloud-based: Hybrid
  • No. of users: 1 to 40, depending on the plan
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Customer support: Excellent
  • Base price: $56.08/month
  • Free trial: No
Zoho Books Logo

Zoho Books

Online accounting software, built for your business.

Part of the Zoho Office Suite of SaaS applications, Zoho Books has won the trust of multiple businesses worldwide, and for a good reason. Known for keeping up with ever-changing business trends, it is the ideal solution for any venture requiring scalability and flexibility.

  • Core features: Double-entry accounting, Invoicing, Project management, Time tracking, Inventory management, Financial reporting
  • Desktop/Cloud-based: Cloud
  • No. of users: 1 to 10 users, depending on the plan. Additional users at $2.5/user/month
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Customer support: Excellent
  • Base price: Free
  • Free trial: Yes
Deskera Books Logo

Deskera

The platform to run your #accounting

Deskera’s all-in-one platform puts growth front and center. This integrated accounting, CRM, and HR software promises to streamline the business operations of any venture, any time, anywhere, and on any device, courtesy of a highly rated mobile app.

  • Core features: Double-entry accounting, Invoicing, Project management, Time tracking, Inventory management, Financial reporting
  • Desktop/Cloud-based: Cloud
  • No. of users: 1 with full access; 15 to 100 with limited access
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Customer support: Excellent
  • Base price: Free
  • Free trial: Yes

How We Ranked the Best Accounting Software

We began this ranking process with a long list of accounting solutions which we pared down to just a few select choices based on a comprehensive set of criteria. Read on to learn more about what they are and how they helped us separate the wheat from the chaff.

Function-Based Features

We started out by filtering out the solutions based on the accounting-related processes they can perform. What follows is a list of the functions we took into account.

Cash- and accrual-based accounting and reporting

The most basic process business accounting software can help with is the convenient recording of all transactions and other financial items. All software products included here are good for at least one of these accounting methods, and most can be used for both. Products that offer the flexibility to choose between the two get ranked higher. We have also evaluated the convenience of moving from cash-based to accrual-based accounting, which is likely to happen as a business grows. 

The software’s ability to generate financial statement reports, including balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements is equally important. Accounting software programs get extra points if they allow for greater granularity in reporting, for example, providing department-wise or function-wise reports on receivables, payables, taxes, and more.

Accounts receivable and payable

Another critical accounting process is tracking the money you are to receive or spend. Strong accounts receivable features include the smooth creation of professional invoices, sending of reminders, and linkage to different options to collect payments. On the other hand, accounts payable features cover aspects such as keeping tabs on expenses, recording vendor bills, and reminders to ensure timely payments.

Inventory management

We checked if the financial accounting software helps with managing raw materials, components, and finished products, along with warehousing and logistics. Flexibility across different inventory management methods, such as JIT and MRP, got extra points. While this function may not be important to all businesses, it is critical enough for many to warrant inclusion in our criteria.

Bank reconciliation

The accounting system should make your business’s banking transactions easier through functions like automatically fetching your statements and allowing setting up rules to categorize transactions. Overall, using it should help you reconcile your accounts much quicker and be audit-ready.

Tax readiness

Another critical function performed by the most popular accounting software products is keeping your business tax-ready. The software should automatically calculate your tax liability, be able to work with different tax rates, generate relevant reports, and simplify the process of complying with the tax rules applicable to your business.

Other vital features

Apart from the key processes mentioned above, there are several other benefits of an efficient accounting platform. For example, it should automate functions like invoicing for recurring transactions, auto-charging customer credit cards, and capturing data from receipts, minimizing the business’s reliance on manual labor.

For businesses that carry out projects, the software should effectively handle project-based billing, whether it’s at per-hour rates or fixed costs. The best business accounting software products have time-tracking built into them, with the ability to convert timesheets into invoices automatically.

Payroll management is another desirable function. With payroll management integrated into the software, your business can easily calculate gross wages, deductions, net payments, and several other labor-intensive tasks.

We also prefer software products that offer multiple payment options through secure payment gateways and support for multi-currency transactions. Once the payment is made, the corresponding invoice should be automatically updated in the records. 

Finally, there’s the crucial feature of integration with other tools. Businesses often use different apps specialized in functions like CRM, inventory management, and project management. Accounting platforms should let you work with these apps without having to move out of the platform. Any updates made to these different third-party apps should also be automatically updated in the accounting system.

Usability Features

As the name suggests, these are features that add to the software’s ease of use and overall efficiency.

Intuitive interface

Easy-to-navigate is the first quality we look for at this stage of our evaluation. Your chosen software will handle different kinds of data under varying headings. Plus, it might be used by different team members. Consequently, an easy accounting software product should have an interface that reduces clutter and simplifies accounting. 

There are other interface-related aspects, as well. The system should make it easy for you to spot critical pieces of information, especially those requiring an immediate response.

Mobile access

While desktop-based and cloud-based accounting apps both have their pros and cons, mobile accessibility is likely to be found in the latter. A mobile version is handy because it lets you access your business’s data on the move. This has become essential in recent years, with team members often using the same online accounting software from home or off-site. 

Security and data protection

It should go without saying that any software that handles your financial data should be secure from cyber threats. Products that come with features like two-factor authentication, encryption, and secure communication are obvious winners in this regard. We also go through the data handling policies shared by the vendors on their websites.

Role-based access

In most firms, multiple people need to access the accounting platform for different purposes. The best accounting software would allow the administrator to control who gets access to what module. This role-based authorization limits access to critical data, minimizing the likelihood of loss due to human error. 

Customer support

Once you have purchased the software, some handholding might be needed before your team becomes well-versed with all features. Plus, even the most well-designed software needs occasional troubleshooting. We evaluate the products on these and similar support-related factors through personal experience and feedback from past clients. 

To that end, we go through customer reviews on trusted websites. We also check any user feedback on all relevant features. We appreciate that all accounting software providers will earn a few negative comments, so minor issues don’t affect the ranking much. However, if any specific issue crops up consistently in customer reviews, we do dock some points while rating the product.

Cost

Since purchasing an accounting solution for your business is an investment with long-term benefits, we evaluate the cost against the software’s utility. Apart from the pricing of the different packages and modules offered as part of the accounting platform, we also look for auxiliary costs such as maintenance and training fees. 

We need to consider factors such as seemingly cheap accounting software ending up being expensive if it charges for use by every additional team member. Sometimes, the basic form of the software might be very affordable, but an additional module for a critical function might cost a lot.

Finally, software makers that offer free trials or demos get more points. This is because such trials go a long way in letting businesses figure out the ins and outs of the product without having to pay a hefty sum, better guiding the eventual purchase decision.

Reviews of Top Accounting Software

FreshBooks

This cloud-based accounting solution is ideal for businesses of all sizes. Whether you are a freelancer or run a large company, it offers robust features, handy functions, multi-tiered affordable pricing, and mobility.

Pros

Cons

FreshBooks’ greatest asset is its intuitive interface. Creating an invoice takes less than a minute, with options to customize the appearance, make it recurring, set reminders and currency, etc.

Managing expenses, creating project proposals, managing inventory, and payroll (through the integration with Gusto), or tracking accounts payable and receivable is also a breeze. The time-tracking feature works particularly smoothly, indicating why FreshBooks often ranks as the best accounting software for self-employed professionals. A new project can be created in minutes, and you can choose between an hourly or a flat-rate one.  

Role-based access is another useful feature, allowing you to add business partners (complete access), basic employees (time and expense tracking and viewing personal information), contractors (time and expense tracking and invoice creation), and accountants (report access, expense categorization, journal-entry creation).

Reporting, however, is an area that could use improvement. Customization options are limited compared to competing accounting software packages, but it has recently added double-entry reporting with extra options. The reports are exported to MS Excel and partially customized.

FreshBooks meanwhile scores well in the provision of multiple payment options and its integration with over 100 apps. The software works on all widely used web browsers and has well-designed iOS and Android apps for mobile access.

Finally, with live phone support during extended business hours included in the subscription, the FreshBooks customer service is fitting for this top accounting software. Support is also available through email, the website contact form, and from within the accounting app

Pricing: FreshBooks offers four subscription plans, starting with Lite ($15/month, 5 billable clients), Plus ($25/month, 50 clients), Premium ($50, unlimited clients), and Select (custom pricing, unlimited clients, specialized features). Longer-term subscriptions can get you substantial savings. A free trial is available for 30 days.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online by Intuit was originally designed for small-business owners. However, in recent years, it has added enough features for growing businesses to make it excellent automated accounting software for all types of teams.

Pros

Cons

QuickBooks Online has a well-designed interface, with the main dashboard providing a clear overview of items like sales, invoices, expenses, and cash flow. You can easily import files from any other accounting software you may have used earlier. 

The banking tab helps connect all your bank and credit card accounts to your financial accounting software. Thus, QuickBooks can automatically download and categorize transactions and allow a quick review when reconciling your books. 

You can also assign rules to specific accounts to reduce the level of data entry needed or upload snapshots of receipts for expense matching. Equally convenient is managing processes related to sales taxation and tracking employees and contractors.

The My Accountant feature, not found in most popular accounting software, lets you invite and provide admin access to your accountant. You can customize sales and expenses, playing around with custom sales fields, discounts, inventory tracking, progress invoicing, accounting method, and time tracking.

QuickBooks offers comprehensive reporting, with a wide selection of standard reports, such as business overview, sales and customers, expenses and vendors, sales tax, and employees. Reports can be emailed to recipients from the system, printed, or exported in MS Excel and PDF formats. 

This business accounting software integrates with hundreds of third-party apps in categories like inventory, payroll, tax preparation, human resources, and project management. These integrations more than make up for the few features from the desktop version missing from QuickBooks Online.

On the negative side, the QuickBooks iOS and Android accounting apps offer fewer features than the browser version. While you can still manage many basic functions on the go, tasks like creating projects and defining sales taxes aren’t possible. 

Customer support is another aspect that keeps QuickBooks from being the very best accounting software. Customer reviews suggest that the support available through the website or from within the QuickBooks Online system is not always prompt or effective. On the upside, QuickBooks’s vast user community can help you troubleshoot most issues.

Pricing: QuickBooks Online has four subscription plans, starting with Simple Start ($25/month, 1 user), Essentials ($50/month, 3 users), Plus ($80/month, 5 users), and Advanced ($180/month, 25 users). Annual plans and 30-day free trials are available.

Sage 50cloud Accounting

Sage 50cloud Accounting is a sophisticated solution that targets primarily small businesses. This hybrid accounting software bundles the reliability of desktop-based software with the remote access features of a cloud-based application.

Pros 

Cons

Logging in to Sage 50cloud’s system will take you to a screen so dense with information that new users will need some time to get the hang of it. However, like most popular accounting software, it allows customizing the dashboard. Then, through the drop-down menu or the tabs on the left, you get to the main modules. 

In the Customer and Sales module, you can access quotes, proposals, sales orders, and invoices; set credit limits and discount levels; add different payment methods; track details through user-defined fields. Similarly, for Vendors and Purchases, you can create a purchase order, enter and pay bills, manage 1099 settings, and so on. All this makes Sage a top choice if you’re looking for retail accounting software.  

For banking-related processes, this automated accounting software lets you choose between linking your bank accounts for automatic synchronization and uploading statements manually. For managing inventory, you can set different pricing levels for every item, track sales history, and make inventory adjustments.

You can pay your employees using direct deposit, utilize e-file options for reporting, ensure tax calculations abide by the labor laws and track all payroll-related information conveniently. 

While reporting is another area that makes this one of the best business accounting software, some of the customizable report options are offered with Premium and Quantum plans only, while some are optional services. A useful time-saving feature for reporting is the menu bar that allows you to complete tasks such as emailing, saving as PDF, or exporting as MS Excel from within the print screen.

There are a few areas where Sage 50cloud could improve. Its offline accounting software features are exclusive to the Windows platform. The mobile app doesn’t offer many of the features you get on the desktop. Finally, since several useful features are offered with higher plans only, Sage 50cloud ends up being more expensive than rivals.

Pricing: Sage 50cloud has three subscription plans, with additional features with higher plans. These are Pro ($56.08/month), Premium ($87.58/month), and Quantum ($145.17/month). These prices are for one user, but the Premium and Quantum plans allow up to five and 40 users, respectively, for additional charges. Annual plans and one-on-one demos are available.

Zoho Books

Zoho Books is among the best cloud accounting software for businesses of all sizes because of its excellent customization and automation. Larger businesses may have avoided the software in the past because of its lack of payroll-related features; however, with the integration with SurePayroll, Zoho Books can now assist you in this area too.

Pros 

Cons

Even in its free plan, meant for businesses with annual revenue of under $50,000, Zoho Books offers several handy features — automated payment reminders, multilingual invoicing, expense tracking, several payment gateways, extensive reporting and customization, and management of 1099 contractors. 

It incorporates most accounting solutions you would expect from the best accounting software. So, for banking, you have quick linking, auto imports, and easy categorization. Under sales, you can manage sales orders, invoices, credit notes, payments received, customer tracking, and more. For purchases, you can set payment terms and currencies to different vendors.

Collaborating with other stakeholders is one of the highlights of Zoho Books. The Accountant feature enables your CPA or accountant to manage journal entries and set up charts. The unique client portal of this top accounting software allows you to provide selective access to different clients to share invoices.

Zoho Books also scores high in terms of interface and reporting. The dashboard is informative, and navigation is convenient, thanks to different drop-down lists, checkboxes, and buttons. The range of standard reports is excellent, with the options to customize and schedule automatic runs. The reports can be exported in CSV or Excel formats, or to other Zoho apps.

In terms of support, Zoho Books is among the better accounting platforms. Apart from contacting its team via telephone or email during business hours, you can also benefit from the video overview and setup webinar. Other resources include guides for migration from another accounting app and navigation, product videos, an FAQ page, and the user community forum.

Payroll is one area where Zoho Books used to lack. The accounting platform has incorporated a few tools for payroll management, apart from offering its SurePayroll integration across the US now. So, functions like tracking employee status, running reports, and managing taxation are possible within the Zoho Books system. Of course, you’ll have to shell out extra to use SurePayroll for features you get within the subscription from other accounting software providers

Zoho Books has a few other negatives. While we liked its customizable interface and mobile app, the learning curve for new users can be a bit steep. The software also caps the monthly transactions it can handle.

Pricing: Zoho Books’s plans include Free (1 user + 1 accountant), Standard ($20/month; max 3 users), Professional ($50/month; max 5 users), and Premium ($70/month; max 10 users). Annual plans and 14-day free trials are available.

Deskera

Despite advertising itself as a tool with enterprise-level features and small-business pricing, Deskera is primarily small business accounting software, especially when packaged with the firm’s CRM and HR offering.

Pros 

Cons

Deskera’s clean interface means that even first-timers can quickly figure out the basics, courtesy of the intuitive dashboard and neat icons. However, customer reviews indicate a steeper learning curve for advanced features. Most of the browser-based features are accessible through the mobile app, ensuring you can make updates from anywhere.

Deskera further makes it easy to manage sales and orders, create estimates, track the cost of goods sold, and receive and record payments. This easy accounting software also comes with several customizable templates for proposals and invoices and supports several payment gateways.

Inventory management is a notable highlight, indicating the software’s greater utility for manufacturing businesses and as ecommerce accounting software. You can take care of almost all your inventory management processes from a single dashboard, including tracking different raw materials and finished goods. 

Backorder management becomes efficient with quick notifications of inventory shortfall. You can quickly create drop-ship orders for your supplier with fields auto-population. You also get premium inventory functions such as pick pack shipping and real-time shipment tracking (through integration with FedEx and USPS tracking apps).

This small business accounting software supports 110+ currencies, and features reports on forex gain or loss, preconfigured chart of accounts to save time on GL configuration, easy adjustment of bills and invoices with credit and debit notes, and convenient tracking of payables and expenses. 

If users are to derive full utility from Deskera Books, we recommend giving its CRM and HRIS tools a try. This will make the overall accounting process smoother through additional functions such as tracking dealings with different customers and managing payroll-related processes.

Deskera’s key negatives come from its apparent focus on being accounting software for small business teams. Its reporting is a bit limited while the additional subscription fee for the CRM and HRIS tools means paying extra for features that many other providers offer as part of their accounting solution

Pricing: Deskera Books’ plans include Startup ($59/user/month), Essential ($119/user/month), and Professional ($259/user/month). Tailor-made enterprise-level plans, annual plans, and a 15-day free trial are also available.

How to Identify the Best Accounting Software for You

By now, you have plenty of information on the best solutions out there. However, it’s not necessary that the top-ranked software is also the best product for your business. You, therefore, need to evaluate the options based on your specific needs. Here’s how to go about it.

Understand Your Accounting Needs

This first step is probably the most important, so we strongly recommend spending time on it. If you plan well now, you can save the effort spent on going through another list of accounting software soon. Understanding the business’s accounting needs involves thinking about its comprehensive financial and managerial needs now and how they could change over the next few years. 

What does your business need?

Most business owners tend to have at least a reasonable understanding, but it’s always good to brush up on basic recordkeeping and accounting before you evaluate software options. Understand the data your business accounting software will need to record for managerial decisions, regular operations, and reporting. There are several tools available both online and offline to help you out with this. 

What are your team members saying?

Talk to your accounts department. In many cases, the accounting function could have been outsourced to an external team or person. Either way, consulting with the people who handle your business’s accounting day in and day out can be enlightening. Based on their experience with such tools, they might suggest factors you hadn’t considered and even help you set up the software.

Consult your IT team. They will be involved in setting up and running any accounting software programs. You will also get a better idea of the existing and future hardware needs of the business, which is a critical but often overlooked aspect when planning software deployment.

What are other businesses using?

Complement the above steps by reaching out to similar businesses to understand how they are handling their accounting needs. This could be through your associates working with other companies or by talking to business owners at industry gatherings. 

Reliable review sites on the internet are another useful way to get a read on popular software products. There are also software consulting sites today that can help you shortlist products based on specific criteria.

Understand the Types of Accounting Software

Once you have figured out your needs, it’s time to match them with the options available. Accounting software products can be categorized in different ways. The first is based on the type of software. The broad categories are:

Free accounting software

If your business’s needs are limited to creating invoices, handling the most basic payroll needs, and managing a handful of customer accounts, you could evaluate the free bookkeeping programs available in the market. However, there are several issues to consider here, security being the most critical. Moreover, given the constrained functionality of such cheap accounting software, any growth in your business would mean you will have to start looking for better options.

Payroll and accounting products

These are basic software programs, available as one-time purchases or online subscriptions, with accounting tools for small businesses. Some of these also include different tiers with add-ons to assist a business as it grows in scale. Several small businesses do not require complex accounting systems, and these relatively cheaper products could get the job done.

Business management software

These are more expensive accounting software packages with additional functions for inventory control, CRM, ERP, and more. Mid-sized to large businesses, as well as smaller but growing ones, might prefer a product in this category, as it enables greater automation and integration across different business functions. Despite the expense at the outset, the long-term savings can be immense.

Web-hosted applications

Apart from the fundamental difference with desktop-based solutions, these products could also offer a different set of functionalities that may suit your business needs better. With online accounting software products connected to the internet, however, they require closer scrutiny of their security features.

Accounting software can also be categorized based on the type of business they serve. While some are generic, others cater to specific sectors, such as legal accounting software

This is where your understanding of your business comes in handy. For instance, if yours is a manufacturing venture, robust inventory handling, and labor management are critical, meaning, you should consider specialized industrial or construction accounting software.

Work Out the Financial Aspects

The cost of any software is a crucial consideration as business decisions are always about the ROI. Follow these steps to determine which solutions fit your budget.

Understand all costs

Start with deployment. Desktop-based offline accounting software would usually require a sizeable one-time expense. A cloud-based accounting app, on the other hand, would involve periodic subscription payments, which could add up to a lot.

Some products will allow limited users at the base price, so businesses with larger teams would have to shell out more. Others are modular, so the more add-ons you purchase, the bigger the overall cost. There can be additional fees, such as for maintenance, support, and updates. Also, don’t forget the indirect costs, for example, the likelihood of upgrading the hardware and providing training to staff to work with the financial accounting software.

Create a wish list

Based on your needs, what are the accounting features you can’t do without? Which ones are optional—features you won’t mind having as long as they aren’t too expensive? All your research from the earlier steps should help keep this list realistic. 

Note that apart from the accounting-related features, you also need to consider the usability factors such as security, scalability, ease of use, and customer support. 

For additional assistance, you can check out the free trial versions where available or ask the vendor for a demo.

Figure out your budgetary limits

The costs of available products and your requirements have to be balanced with what makes monetary sense for your business. The advanced features of the best accounting software might make marginal improvements to the processes of a small business; however, these minor gains might not be justified by the cost incurred. It all comes down to analyzing what combination is likely to get you the best ROI.

At the end of all the above steps, you should have one or a handful of viable options. It’s time to make the final decision and get that accounting system that works the best for your business.