Best Accounting Software

Updated November 2020
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Buying guide for best accounting software

If you run a small business, you want to be as successful as possible as quickly as possible. Sounds like a great plan. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. There are sure to be bumps along the way, forcing you to make course corrections. To make those adjustments successfully, you need data, and the more accurate data the better. That’s where accounting software for small businesses enters the picture.

With accounting software, you can determine things like cash flow, expenses, profits, and trends for your business. Finding just the right accounting software requires that you first figure out the financial tracking needs you have for your business and then seek the software that has strengths in those areas.

We’re here to help with that search. Our buying guide has the information you need to find the right accounting software for your business. We’ve included some recommendations to get you started, too.

Accounting software helps those who don’t have much experience with accounting, but it’s not made for the complete novice. You need to have a basic understanding of the terminology.

Key considerations

Small business accounting software can give you a variety of benefits, making it easier to operate your business smoothly. The basic components include basic accounting, data entry, invoicing, and payroll.

Basic accounting

To give you a better level of performance versus tracking your finances in a spreadsheet, accounting software must give you several basic accounting features. With all of this information, and the various reports the software generates, you should be able to see the performance of your business in real time. Some of these features include the following:

  • Tracking accounts receivable
  • Tracking accounts payable
  • Keeping up with the day-to-day ledger
  • Reconciling the bank statement
  • Marking data needed for tax filing                                                         

Data entry

If you struggle to enter your financial data accurately into your spreadsheets, accounting software can help. It can pull data from places like your bank accounts and point-of-sale software, automatically transferring it to the accounting software and eliminating most data entry errors. It also saves time versus entering data by hand at the end of each business day.

Invoicing

It’s difficult to run a small business successfully if you struggle to generate bills and invoices in a timely manner. Accounting software excels in this area, ensuring that all transactions appear on each bill that you send to your clients so you don’t miss any payments. Many accounting software packages generate invoices automatically at certain intervals, such as every week, every month, or on a customized schedule.

With invoice generation and tracking in the software, you can generate reports to see who has paid you and who hasn’t. At tax time, all of your income information is at your fingertips.

Payroll

Some accounting software includes payroll generation, making it easier to track your payroll expenses when creating reports to see how your business is doing. Like invoicing, the data is all in one place.

Tracking taxes should also be easier with all of the payroll information in the accounting software. You may be able to customize the software to follow tax laws and regulations in your location.

If you choose an accounting software package that does not include payroll capabilities, you will save some money. If you use a payroll company to handle this aspect of your business, it might be able to connect with your accounting software to pull the data it needs to generate the payroll.

Features

With the basics in hand, you can focus on the features that will enable the accounting software to precisely meet your needs. Keep in mind that some of these features generate an extra fee for you as you use the software, so you’ll only want to add those features to your software package that you know you’ll use.

Access

If multiple people in your organization need access to the accounting software, you might want the ability to restrict the type of data certain people can see or restrict the changes they can make in the software. You also may want to be able to give some third-party software packages the ability to send and receive data to and from your accounting software.

Asset management

If your business has pieces of equipment that it considers assets for tax purposes, your accounting software should be able to track your ownership and use of this equipment. It may be able to track depreciation costs, too, which simplifies the process of calculating your taxes.

Managing workflow

If your employees must fill out a timesheet or punch a time clock every day, you can simplify this process with accounting software. Employees can sign in to the software when they arrive in the morning. The software serves as a digital time clock that it uses to generate payroll. Some software packages allow employees to sign in on their smartphones through an app.

Budgeting

Many types of accounting software have tools that help you create a budget for your business. You can set goals for revenue and limitations on how much you want to spend on various aspects of the business. You then can track your progress toward meeting your budget through the software’s various reporting functions.

Along with budgeting, you can use the data you’ve collected in past months and years to create accurate forecasts about what you can expect in the months and years to come.

Tracking performance

If your small business has multiple departments or groups, you can use the accounting software to assign profits and expenses to each department. This simplifies the process of determining what kind of return you’re receiving from each department, helping you identify areas where you can make improvements. Should you run marketing campaigns within certain departments, you also can track their financial success.

Accounting software prices

With accounting software, you may be able to purchase the software outright with a one-time fee, or you can purchase it as a monthly subscription. On top of the basic fees, you may have extra fees for help with installation, tech support, customized features, extra storage space, or extra user access.

Monthly: These accounting software services are growing in popularity. You may need to commit to purchasing the software for a year, but some programs operate on a month-to-month basis. You can expect to pay from $10 to $50 per month for small business accounting software. For more advanced versions for larger businesses, you could pay $50 to $100 per month per user. You may receive a discount of 5% to 20% if you pay for the entire year up front.

Purchase: The cost of purchasing accounting software depends on the complexity of the version you select. Basic software costs $100 to $250 for a single purchase. More complex software costs from $250 to several thousand dollars.

Tips

Here are some questions you should answer as you look for the best accounting software for your needs.

  • What is your budget? Accounting software that’s made for general use may meet the basic needs of your business for a reasonable price. But if you have a bigger budget, you may want to consider a type of software that has specific features for your type of business.
  • Who will run the software? Before picking a software package, let those who will be using it have a say in the features they would like. They may have some requests that only someone who uses this type of software every day would understand.
  • Do you need mobile access? Some cloud-based accounting software packages include a mobile app as part of the software, allowing you to access your reports and business data from anywhere.
  • Do you have a CPA or accountant who helps with your taxes? If you use a professional to calculate your taxes, they may have some advice on the accounting software package you should choose.
Some accounting software gives you a free trial period or a free version you can use to see if you like the interface before you commit to a paid version.

FAQ

Q. How do I know if I need accounting software for my business?
A.
If you find yourself making errors in data entry while trying to track your business finances on a spreadsheet, accounting software makes it easier to track the data accurately. The software can give you a clearer picture of your financial situation, so it can help you find areas where you need to make changes.
 

Q. Will accounting software protect my data from hackers?
A.
A cloud-based software package can protect your data by employing high-level encryption security. Should you have the data stored at your business address, it probably won’t have the same level of security applied to it.
 

Q. Do I need to hire an accountant instead of using this software?
A.
If you don’t feel comfortable tracking your own financial data or you don’t have the time, hiring an accountant is an option. However, you will save money by doing this work yourself with accounting software.
 

Q. Should I consider a free accounting software package?
A.
Free software is available, but most of its features won’t give you much more than you can probably do on your own with a spreadsheet. Think about the primary issues you’re having with tracking your accounting now. If you only need a couple of minor upgrades, a free package may work for you, but if you need help in multiple areas, you’ll probably need a paid version.

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