Thursday, 18 August 2016

Free online book-keeping software for simple accounts

Choosing a UK business bank account
Free, Fast and Pretty: shopping cart software for ecommerce
Simple Bookkeeping and Account Agregators
Free Online Bookkeeping Software for Simple Accounts < this page
These free online accounts programs are in alphabetical order with a link and paragraph for each. A few more details could appear over time. The list is Beanbalance, Brightbook, Slickpie, Pandle, and Wavapps.

Introduction to free online accounting for income tax

I pay UK self-assessed income tax, using software to help with the job. That's what I know. I may pay UK VAT and Corporation Tax in future and look for programs written for the UK market. UK payroll is specialised too, and I mention something about that at the bottom of the page.
UK income tax self-assessment requires
  • transactions, probably imported from a bank statement
  • categories of transaction: income, cost of sales, overheads, non-business, and probably loads of others added out of curiosity, or to match any income tax expenses that have their own box on the form or their own rules.
  • payments can be split into two categories, such as splitting electricity into home and home-based office costs.
  • A total for a year for each category.
  • Cash accounting by default, with the option to measure invoices un-paid and bills un-paid if the business ever gets large. At the moment I just check against a bank statement - if my accounting is double-entry (I'm not sure) then that's only because it's checked against the bank statement; I try to enter things only once and in as automated a way as possible. 
I guess all the programs below can do all of these jobs and more; it's what they're for. That's what they know.

Oh, this follows a previous post on account aggregators - mainly based on yodlee - that extract data from your bank accounts to save you downloading the things. One of them - Moneydashboard - can automatically log-in to a single bank account via the yodlee system and store your transactions, which you can download as a form of .csv file, without totals, linked from the bottom left of their page. However your bank lets you download data, it can probably be converted to something you can upload to an accounts program. Cruch Accounting have a Santander Text File to CSV converter for example, Beanbalance have a Co-Op Bank .csv to .ofx converter, and can handle other formats for free.  Midata, the .csv format used for comparing bank accounts, goes back a year but has some of the payee descriptions asterisked-out. As a general rule, .csv data is good but requires your accounts program to learn which column goes where; .ofx data is good, .qif data was accident-prone last time I used it. Accounts programs like my version of Wave often ignore the column for totals, if it's available, which it often isn't.

I've put quotes from company web sites in italics. There's a little bit at the bottom of the page about downloadable programs.

Most of this information is from August 2016 with no routine up-dates.
Slickpie's entry was updated in May 2017
No premium service vs Free; everything is free but commission paid by accountants for referrals

Bank statements:

download and upload. You have to log-on to see the formats which in August 2016 were: Microsoft Money (any version) .ofx format .qbo or Quickbooks format Sage Line 50 .qif format

Transactions to categories:

Probably smart, but I don't see a quick note on their web site
No premium service vs Free; everything is free. A dot next to a circle on their front page converts the screen to a less bright colour, and the screen art might change if someone sends them another suggestion.

Bank statements:

.ofx or .qif format. We recommend.ofx format, if it's available, as it provides more transaction information.
(Co-op Bank .csv to .ofx converter Use this tool to convert Co-op .CSV exports into .ofx files, ready for upload into Brightbook. Note: this only works with Co-op .csv files) .qbo format; Sage Line 50

Transactions to categories:

With your help, Brightbook can recognise what the items on your statements are. For example, if your statement shows the description 'TELEPHONE CD.286', you simply choose the Bill Type (Telephone) and Payment Method (Direct Debit) and tick the box next to the save button - Brightbook will then remember it for future imports.
Slick service with a premium version coming soon and a promise to keep a free version forever. suggests that invoice reminders, bank feeds, stripe and paypal integration will be paid for.

Digression on Fremium services like Quickfile

(There can be no promises about what will be free. is based in the UK and worth a look at £45+VAT a year, but was initially free and still has a free version for something like 80 lines of bank statement per month with only the features that you find on other free programs. When the price hike happened, they let me download my data and I found ways of uploading it to another program. While using it I found that it took a while to turn-off or work-around the double entry booko-keeping system of an invoice account to balance payments made, but it worked. You can teach it to recognise bank statement lines and categorise them ).

Bank statements:  

We have developed integrations with all the major banks in the UK. So no matter who you bank with Pandle will be able to automatically import your bank statements. - presumably this is Yodlee. For upload instructions, there is a video headed Select one of our pre-formatted upload types depending on your bank account and easily upload all of your transactions in one go. I tried uploading some Waveapps data, converted to .ofx by but just got error message number one each time I tried a variation. It says something like "does not match". Pandle is very new and this quirk might be sorted by the time you try.

Transactions to categories:

Learns from previous category decisions
(Getapp lists this service but doesn't list most of the free ones or allow comparison of any)

Bank statements:

In May 2017 they write "Now, users from all the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries worldwide will enjoy unlimited access to live bank feeds from their own local banks! That’s right! SlickPie has just expanded to support all the major banks out there! "

To import bank statement in SlickPie, you need to download your bank statement in
.csv (Comma Separated File) or .ofx (Microsoft Money) format.

Transactions to categories:

Probably something slick, but I haven't found a quick note on their web site

This program doesn't seem to have a version for the UK market, but has subtle tweaks and instructions available for setting-up tax systems and a helpdesk who tout for trade asking if they can help with anything.

In contrast Kashflow can upload a VAT return automatically to a UK tax office but costs so-much a month - a price that rises steeply from £5+VAT if you use it much.
(Getapp lists this service but doesn't list most of the free ones or allow comparison of any)
No premium service except payroll, which is only available in the US and Canada anyway The free version can recognise bills and receipts sent from your own email address and keep them ready for matching against the bank statement. There isn't a page of features because the url is broken-down by features, which are /accounting /invoice /payments /receipts

Bank statements:

Imported on request, by pressing a button, once set-up. The feed system used is from Yodlee, which has been criticised by accountants as accident-prone, but works for me. I still have to learn how to import bank and card statements into their separate bank and card accounts. Or you can upload saved statements from your had disk. The .csv option shows you the top few lines of result and asks you to confirm which one is the date, description, and payment column before recognising the rest automatically. It claims to be able to flag entries that you upload twice by mistake, but hasn't done that for me. .ofx Microsoft Money .qbo QuickBooks .qfx Quicken .aso Simply Accounting .csv CSV file

Transactions to categories:

The system is slow to list a load of transactions on the screen, even when you try to think of knacks like only showing a months' transactions at a time. This makes manual processing slow, but it's necessary as Yodlee bank feeds have been known to mess-up. There is an automatic system that counts a paypal payment as "computer services". There is no way to change the automatic system. The nearest is to wait to the end of the year, list the ledger screen by the description column, click the tickbox beside every paypal receipt, and then press a button to reclassify the lot as something else.


The program has heard of VAT so I expect it can be set-up to handle UK or non-american taxes, but one review is less sure: "Basically Wave Accounting doesn’t handle VAT properly. There is no option for cash accounting or the flat rate scheme, trying to incorporate VAT in transactions is difficult and the VAT return is useless, does not transfer anything into a liability account and no ability to reconcile VAT transactions.". Wave themselves say that the program is fine for VAT

Chance findings - the programs that cropped-up and don't qualify for the list but might interest someone

Never do anything for the first time: paying self-assesed income tax with software as a guide
...can be a strain on anyone's ability to make sense of HMRC web sites and guides. There are cheap bits of software for the purpose, with their own guides, prompts and estimates as well as special cases like paying from abroad where the HMRC website doesn't work. The Guardian had a joint deal one year with a firm that is now called GoSimple; others are among the list on . I guess that they are less for book-keeping than the software listed at the top of this page, and more for help filling-in the tax form. Some of the programs have free trials, so you can use them for the help screens to check that you've got the hang, and then fill-in your own figures on the HMRC web site if you would rather save the cost of the software.
Payroll programs
I've never done UK payroll, but found-out some software for it by accident. - guide to real time reporting requirements for employers lists software.

HMRC list a few online programs that can report detail for less than ten UK employees alongside paid versions of the same software that can do more, as can HMRC's own downloadable software which is also free and has no limit on use. is a down-loadable accounts program that can do UK payroll for over 10 employees. The payroll was developed specifically for the United Kingdom. It can submit information to HMRC using RTI, and we believe at this time, it's the only free payroll that will allow in excess of 10 employees. The maximum is 250 employees. However, Adminsoft Accounts is primarily an accounts system, and so the payroll is basic. While very useable, and fully compliant with payroll legislation, it does not have some of the 'bells ad whistles' that some of the paid for (and rather expensive...) alternative products may have. For example, things like the amount of SSP, SMP, student loans, etc. have to be worked out by hand, where as a more sophisticated payroll would work out the amounts automatically.

Adminsoft describes itself as a double-entry accounts program that handles stock control and has addons for cafe-restaurants and motor repair or car parts shops, so it's a different animal to most of the programs listed above. It's also coy about importing bank statements; I can't see anything that says what formats it accepts from your hard disk, and it doesn't mention yodlee connections. It's supported as free software - like Wave - by ads on your working screens and a credit on your invoices. They're more intrusive than the add on Wave, but Adminsoft does do stock control and payroll, and has modules for car parts shops and cafes. Unlike Wave, Adminsoft can't be used online like a web site; there is an faq post about how to use if over an internal network. The fact that it's on your hard disc ought to make it faster than Wave on a bad day, when Wave is very bad; downloadable software might be more efficient. I don't know how much. looks next cheapest from a quick search of HMRC's first list of programs - - the ones that are free for the first three or nine employees. Payroo is cheapest on the list for employers of ten or more, who pay £3+VAT a year when submitting an end of year report. It runs from a web site, like the list of accounts software above. A couple of posts on the accountingweb link suggest that when something goes wrong there is no way to put it right; you can't contact Payroo to ask them to put right a mistake even if it's their mistake. On the other hand, the £3+VAT cost is yearly; other companies charge per month.
Downloadable open source and free accounts software
There are plenty of downloadable open source programs, but so far as I know they all make double entry a priority which makes the learning curve steep and accounting slow. This is a problem with Gnucash and its simpler relative, Grisbi, as well as the now open source Turbocash. I have not tried VTCashbook which is often mentioned on other sites. When I used downloaded software for work I used Acemoney, which is free for one or two tracked accounts or freemium for more and geared to a sole trader or freelancer. It claims to download data from some of the US banks automatically, but I don't have any US bank accounts to test it on and UK banks aren't so easy to deal with. I guess that open source software is more of an option when looking for larger-scale more complicated options with different names like "ERP" and more functions. You might prove me wrong by checking Wikipedia
Time tracking programs
This is a feature on some account programs but not others. I haven't spotted whether it's on any of the list above, but the american program has it. The program is funded by commission from services like Paypal in North America, so it won't include specialised features for the UK any time soon, but hey: it has time tracking and something called Project Management as well.

Installable open source and free accounts software for web servers

Web servers nowadays include an easy software installation panel called something like Vistapanel, Softulicious, Installatron or Fantastico. Even the slow, free servers like Byethost have it. If you search the web sites of these one-click installer companies, or sign-up for a web host, you'll see the list of what they can install which is mainly rather corporate multi-purpose stuff.
Stock control programs and ERP
One of the hassles of growing a business is that after a while you want to integrate things like the accounts software and the e-commerce software, and find that it can't easily be done and that you need something like a Drupal set-up or some sprawling-great program do it, and apparently sprawling-great programs are called ERP, which probably stands for sprawling great program in some language.  Oodoo is an example.
I haven't reached that stage; I hope to use the stock control software that's glued to the back of Prestashop e-commerce. For the moment, I just count the shoe boxes on a shelf. Anyway, one of two of the programs above might do stock control.
The purpose of all this blogging is to promote an online vegan shoe web site called that sells vegan shoes boots belts and jackets mainly made in a democratic welfare state - the UK.


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