Medium sized business owners are in a vulnerable position in that they are growing but are still in need of help so that they don’t stagnate.
But these firms aren’t necessarily dealing with the accounting processes they once knew. HMRC is in the process of rolling out making tax digital (MTD), meaning that many business owners have had to change the way they do their accounting.
The problem is that a lot of accounting software providers gear their products towards small businesses, sole traders and/or freelancer. As the owner of medium sized business, that leaves it up to you to sift through the figures and cast your own judgements.
To help you decide, we’ve looked at the best UK mid-sized business accounting software packages on the market.
Best UK medium sized business accounting software
Every business is different. Most smaller businesses can make do with basic functions like invoicing, bank reconciliation, income and expense tracking and financial report generation. However, some slighter bigger businesses might need more.
Indeed, most UK small business accounting software offers the same features, it’s just that you may feel more comfortable with how one is designed over another – and then of course, there’s the cost.
Best accounting software for UK medium sized businesses 2023
QuickBooks Sage Intacct Xero Ember SAP Business One Pandle
Estimates and invoices x x x x x x
Expense tracking x x x x x* x
Billable time tracker x x x x x x
Self assessment x x x x x
MTD compliant x x x x x x
Corporation Tax x Multi-currency support x x x x x x
Connect your bank x x x x x x
Reporting x x x x x x
Stock mgmt x x x x x
Purchase orders x x x x Payroll x x x x* PayPal x x* x x
Stripe x x* x x x* x
Cloud-based x x x x x x
Mobile iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android iOS, Android
Cost (monthly) New users get 50% discount for first four months, then it goes full price. Simple Start: £7 pcm for 4 months; then £14 pcm Sage Intacct is based on bespoke pricing. Starts at £1,000 pcm Starter: £7 pcm, rising to £14 after four months Starter: £0 Bespoke pricing (contact SAP) Pandle (basic): £0
Essentials: £12 pcm for 4 months; then £24 pcm Standard: £14 pcm, rising to £28 after four months Pro: £33 pcm (based on ave. monthly revenue) Pandle Pro (all on the free package, plus extras like bank feeds, PayPal feeds and cash flow forecasts): £5 pcm + VAT. You can also get free trial of Pro for 14 days.
Plus: £17 pcm for 4 months, then £34 pcm Premium: £18 pcm, rising to £36 after four months Unlimited: £66 pcm (based on average monthly revenue) Ultimate: £35 pcm, rising to £70 Ultimate: bespoke pricing for bigger businesses and more complex SMEs *with integration *with integration
First, make a list of what you need to do in terms of bookkeeping and accounting.
- Do you need to track inventory and purchase ordering?
- Do you need to invoice payment deadlines?
- Do you need foreign currency transactions?
- Do foreign currency transactions convert to sterling?
- How many users will need to use the accounting software?
How much can you afford?
Although there are free options available, when it comes to UK business accounting software – and especially something as sensitive as financial information – it’s probably wise to pay for a package. Back in the 1970s, the US television industry coined the phrase, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” These days that means that the software provider sells on your data. Keep that in mind when doing your search.
The other change that has happened is the rise of monthly subscription as opposed to a one-off software licence. On the plus side, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) means your tech is always up to date. The downside is that, as the months roll on, you eventually end up paying more than if you’d bought a one-off licence.
4 questions you need to ask your accounting software supplier
- How do you back up data?
- Tell me about customer support. What are your hours and how quickly should I expect a response if I raise an issue?
- Can you tell me about a similar client who’s signed up to your software?
- Does your platform support foreign currency payments and convert them into sterling?
Pick an accounting software solution that will grow with you
Don’t be tempted to buy the most basic licence only to find you’ve outgrown what’s provided within a year. Ask your would-be supplier to explain how its accounting software can scale with your growing business.
QuickBooks – best for app integration
QuickBooks is geared at sole traders but also has packages for limited companies and their accountants.
Nifty features include a client portal, where customers can view, print and pay invoices and you can get your accountant involved by letting them review your books and give you up-to-date advice. There’s also a free 45-minute onboarding session from QuickBooks to get you started.
- QuickBooks’ user experience (UX) is easy to understand
- Integrates with over 750 business apps including PayPal, GoCardless and Mailchimp
- Professional accountants rate the professionalism of QuickBooks’ reports and its bank reconciliation features
- Limited functionality for larger businesses
- Reviewers report issues with connecting bank accounts
- There have been complaints that QuickBooks Online is buggy with difficulty accessing customer support
Quickbooks is offering a 50 per cent discount for the first four months.
Simple Start is £7 per month, rising to £14
Essentials is £12 for the first six months, rising to £24
Plus is £17 a month for the first six months, rising to £34
Advanced is £35 a month, rising to £70
Sage Intaact – best for businesses who want easy functionality
Sage Intacct is a more advanced product from the provider, offering core financials, reporting, billing and functions such as project accounting and time and expense management.
Features it offers include:
- General ledger
- Order management
- Multi-currency support
- Accounts payable
- Accounts receivable
- The software is intuitive
- Reviewers rate the reporting function
- Easy to process transactions
- Strong integration capabilities
- Complicated dashboard
- On the more expensive side
- Can struggle with large amounts of data
Sage Intacct is based on bespoke pricing – starts at £1,000 a month.
Mobile: iOS, Android
Xero – best for larger SMEs with multiple users
Like FreeAgent and QuickBooks, Xero offers the following as standard:
- Connects straight to your bank account enabling automatic reconciliation
- Generates quotes and invoices that customers can pay online
- Manages purchase orders, bills and supplier payments digitally
- Helps track stock
- Keeps your account up to date as you buy and sell
- Customisable reports
- Range of apps in marketplace including Shopify, Stripe, PayPal and Square
However, you have to pay extra as bolt-ons if you want to do your payroll on Xero or enable staff to submit expenses, track expense claims.
- Xero is popular with sales-oriented businesses that need basic stock management built in
- Good reviews for customer support
- The Starter plan has limited functionality
- The drop-down menus on Xero can be a bit clunky
- Reviewer report flaws with reporting functions
- You must subscribe to the Premium tier if you want multicurrency transactions
Starter: £7 a month, rising to £14 after four months
Standard: £14 a month, rising to £28 after four months
Premium: £18 a month, rising to £36 after four months
Ultimate: bespoke pricing, for bigger businesses and more complex small businesses
Mobile: iOS, Android
Ember – best for exclusive perks
Ember is relatively new on the scene, offering services in expenses, invoicing, integrations, reporting, reminders and open banking on all of its packages.
- Discounts on other business-related services
- Easy-to-use interface
- Customer service is quick to respond
- Some reviewers on Trustpilot report bugs or teething issues
- Doesn’t integrate with PayPal
Price (for limited companies)
Note that the prices below differ based on your average monthly revenue.
Pro: £33 a month
Unlimited: £66 a month
Mobile: iOS, Android
SAP Business One – best for customisation
SAP Business One (from Sapphire) offers up solutions for financials, purchasing, service management, reporting and analytics, inventory control, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), sales, production control and management and project lifecycle management.
Bolstered by an already strong reputation in financial products, Business One works with other existing SAP products.
- Multi-currency capabilities
- Integrates with other SAP products
- Inventory management
- Highly customisable
- Complicated to set up
- Not a lot of training material available
- Will need to pay extra for payroll
- Package may involve functionality that you don’t need
Bespoke pricing (contact SAP).
Mobile: iOS, Android
Pandle – best for businesses on a budget
Pandle is free but still has a lot of functionality.
- Can handle VAT returns
- Responsive customer service
- Mobile app has plenty of functionality
- Some reviews say that it’s overcomplicated and non-intuitive
- It can have slow periods
- Can’t export financial files to PDF
Pandle (basic): £0
Pandle Pro (everything on the free package, plus extras like bank feeds, PayPal feeds and cash flow forecasting): £5 a month + VAT. You can also get a free trial of this Pandle package for 14 days.
Mobile: iOS, Android.