5 Best Free Accounting Software Options for Small Businesses
These software options are great for DIY accounting.
- January 27, 2020
- Small Business Finances
- 15 min read
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Tons of accounting software platforms are available for small business applications. But the vast majority are paid accounting software services — or ones that merely offer a free trial. Although there are some good reasons to consider getting paid accounting software, your budget may not allow it, or you may not be ready to invest and commit. Luckily, you have alternatives.
If you’re looking for truly free versions of accounting software — not merely a free trial for a limited period — you’re in luck. Read on to learn about the five best free accounting software platforms for small business and decide which one is right for you.
To help you choose the best free accounting software, Seek Capital analyzed several accounting software platforms using the following criteria:
- Price: To be considered, the small business accounting software had to be actually free or offer a free option.
- Accounting features: Each free accounting software service was evaluated based on if it could perform basic bookkeeping functions like the ability to online invoice customers, pay bills, run financial reports and generate statements.
- User access: Each free accounting platform was evaluated in terms of its ability to give other individual users access to your accounts, such as a bookkeeper or CPA. Also, each platform was evaluated based on how many users could access and work in the account.
- Bank and credit card account connection: Each free accounting platform was evaluated on whether it could automatically connect a bank or credit card account to your business’s free account.
- Mobile access: Lastly, each free accounting software service was evaluated in terms of its mobile access, such as having a mobile app or, if not, a user-friendly cloud-based service for on-the-go applications.
Each of the criteria evaluated is based on features that will help an entrepreneur and small- business owner save time, money and energy. Saving on all three of these puts you in a good position for creating a lasting successful business. The table below shows each platform and its key features.
|Free Accounting Software||Multiple Users Allowed||Online Invoice Customers||Connect Bank or Credit Card Accounts||Mobile App|
|ZipBooks||No||Yes||Yes, limited to 1 bank account||Yes|
|GnuCash||No||Yes||No||Yes, only on Android|
|CloudBooks||No||Yes, limited to only 5 a month||No||No|
Every free accounting software platform has its own strengths and weaknesses. So it’s important to review them thoroughly to see which ones fit your needs best.
Wave ranked as the No.1 best free accounting software platform because it provides the most helpful features as compared to all other platforms evaluated. For example, Wave is a web-based software and is convenient for mobility. With it, users can manage accounts receivable, accounts payable and run financial reports. Additionally, Wave lets you connect an unlimited amount of credit cards and bank accounts, plus an unlimited number of users as well.
Wave’s interface is also very user-friendly, with various actions leading you to logical next steps. For example, when you create a vendor, there is already a button waiting at the top for you to then “Add a bill.”
Wave has also added even more features to its free accounting software, such as the ability to reconcile accounts — something that is almost always part of a paid service plan on other platforms.
Note that Wave does charge for accepting online payments and processing payroll. These features must be turned on and require that you pay fees to use them.
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Wave comes standard with a full-cycle accounts receivable system. With it, you can create customer profiles where you can invoice and accept online payments. Plus, you can run an accounts receivable aging report to point out any unpaid invoices and how long they’ve been outstanding.
Wave’s accounts receivable includes convenient features like recurring billing for repeat customers, automatic payment reminders and automatic invoice status updates. A Checkouts tab is also available, which enables you to accept payments from customers directly on your website.
Until relatively recently, Wave did not offer much when it comes to accounts payable. Now Wave provides a Purchases dashboard, with separate tabs for Bills, Receipts, Vendors and Products and Services. Using the dashboard, you can enter bills and record payments via credit card, cash, check, Paypal or your connected bank account.
Wave is also one of the best free accounting software platforms in terms of the financial reports it can generate. It can do all the essential reports like profit and loss statements, balance sheet statements. Wave even offers a cash flow statement, which is a report that many other free accounting software platforms require an upgrade for.
What’s more, Wave lets you generate both accounts receivable aging report and accounts payable aging report; the former lets you identify unpaid and overdue invoices owed to you, while the latter informs you of unpaid and overdue bills you owe.
- Completely free accounting software
- Full-service accounts receivable and accounts payable systems, including aging reports
- All essential financial reports and statements, including cash flow
- Unlimited number of users
- Unlimited number of bank and credit accounts you can connect
- Must pay for payment processing; fee is charged per credit card or bank payment transaction
- Must pay for payroll services
Wave doesn’t have paid accounting software platforms, but rather additional functions that you can pay for. For instance, if you want to credit card processing and the ability to accept bank payments from customers and clients, you’ll be charged pay-per-use fees for each transaction for this functionality: 2.9% + 30 cents per credit transaction and 1% per transaction with bank payments. If you want to do payroll through Wave, a monthly base fee of $20 to $35 will apply.
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ZipBooks is a web-based software that offers a free plan called ZipBooks Starter. The free accounting plan includes basic accounting functionality, such as invoicing customers, recording transactions and generating profit and loss and balance sheet reports.
One notable drawback with ZipBooks’ free accounting service is that there’s a limit of one user and one connected bank account with the starter plan. With Wave, however, you get multiple users and unlimited connections to bank and credit card accounts
You can accept payments on ZipBooks by connecting your Square or Paypal accounts to the platform, however, other methods of payment will require an upgrade. To stay on top of unpaid invoices, you can run an accounts receivable aging report.
ZipBooks has some interesting additional features. For instance, there’s a built-in time tracker, so you can record how long it takes you to do work for different customers and projects. You can then translate these time-tracking reports into an invoice to bill your clients.
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Connecting bank accounts is convenient and ZipBooks’ interface explains the process concisely and clearly. If you want to connect more than one bank account, however, you will have to upgrade to a paid plan.
Another area of ZipBooks accounts payable that’s hampered in the free Starter version is the lack of being able to pay bills. Not only can you not do that, you can’t even use the Bills dashboard in ZipBooks to simply record bills and payments without upgrading. Instead, you’ll have to enter bills under the Expenses tab of the Transactions dashboard.
ZipBooks does have a mobile app, but it’s available only for iOS. Also, though there are only three user reviews, the average star-rating is rather low, citing limited functionality and difficult visibility.
In the free ZipBooks Starter platform, you can generate income statements, balance sheet reports, taxes, invoiced reports and, the always useful, accounts receivable aging report, which shows which customers owe you and how many days overdue they are.
Other financial statements and reports, such as cash flow statement, general ledger, expense summaries and credit card processing reports, all require an upgrade to one of the paid services.
- Can generate several reports, including accounts receivable aging report
- Very user-friendly platform interface
- Can accept online payments through Square and PayPal with no need for upgrade
- Limited to one user
- Limited to one connected bank account
- Cannot record or pay bills in free version; bills can only be recorded under Expenses
- Cannot run statement of cash flows
ZipBooks has four different accounting software plans, with each more expensive tier naturally providing more functionality:
- ZipBooks Starter price: Free
- ZipBooks Smarter price: $15 per month
- ZipBooks Sophisticated price: $35 per month
- ZipBooks Accounting price: Custom pricing
ZipBooks Smarter unlocks the ability to schedule recurring invoices with auto-bill, connect multiple bank accounts and other features. ZipBooks Sophisticated includes everything Smarter has, plus additional customization features, organizational abilities, financial reports and more. ZipBooks Accounting really allows for enterprise-level capabilities for you and your clients.
Akaunting is an open-source accounting software platform. It has only one price-tier of service, which is free. What’s more, Akaunting has a cloud version of its platform, which you can access online through a web browser on any device. Its open-source counterpart, GnuCash, doesn’t have this capability.
Akaunting offers single-entry accounting, as opposed to double-entry, which most other accounting software platforms have. It also includes features for tasks, such as tracking bank transactions for an unlimited number of accounts, generating and sending out invoices and entering expenses. A few other essential financial reports and statements are included, as well as an inventory tracker. The ability to attach pictures of receipts and other files to transaction data is also available.
Akaunting supports multiple users — whose roles can be customized — and also gives you the ability to manage the finances of multiple companies from one administrative panel.
Akaunting’s platform allows you to create customer profiles so you can send invoices via email. The email contains a concise automated message, with the invoice attached as a PDF. You can accept online payments for your invoices, but it will cost you money to buy the apps for this functionality. Otherwise, the default means of payment are cash or bank transfer.
Akaunting does not offer an accounts receivable aging report function, which is something some of the other free accounting software platforms include as standard. However, Akaunting’s invoice dashboard screen allows you to easily see the status of each invoice and sort by the invoice date or due date.
Another downer is that Akaunting doesn’t connect with bank and credit accounts, so it can’t automatically pull in data from your accounts — let alone allow customers to pay invoices via their bank account. You can, however, manually track all the invoices you send out and payments received from clients, which is great for organized bookkeeping, but not so much for accounting convenience.
With Akaunting, you can manually enter all the bills you owe, including vendors and due dates, under the software’s Bills Dashboard. Or you can import or export files of bills and vendors. The software also allows you to assign bills to categories you create and name. However, there’s no bill payment functionality, so this is all purely for your own organization.
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One of the cool parts about Akaunting is that its cloud version can be easily accessed on any mobile device through your web browser. The downside is that Akaunting doesn’t offer a conventional mobile app. According to their website, a mobile app is in the works, but there’s no further news on when it will be completed. The Akaunting website does have an app store, but they are third-party apps, the majority of which don’t support iOS or Android.
Akaunting comes standard with five basic financial statements, each with its own dashboard: Income summary, expense summary, income versus expense, tax summary and profit and loss statement. You can customize the reports very easily by year, vendor, customer, bank account, category of income or expense, and more.
Beyond those essential reports, Akaunting lacks cash flow reports and the ability to create other types of financial reports. Also, a balance sheet report requires double-entry accounting, which Akaunting does not offer, and therefore necessitates buying the double-entry add-on feature to the platform.
- Totally free accounting software, with no paid plans
- Option to add on paid modules as you see fit
- Supports multiple users
- Cloud version option for desktop, tablet or mobile device through web browser
- Only single-entry accounting; double-entry option available for added fee
- No accounts receivable, payable aging report, or balance sheet or cash flow report
- No automatic pull from bank or credit accounts; can only manually import bank data
- Must pay for online payment acceptance functionality
- No mobile app
There are no paid accounting software plans with Akaunting. It’s a completely free, open-source platform.
GnuCash is a solid choice if you want a completely free accounting software platform that doesn’t angle you into getting an upgrade just for a few more features. You can get this free accounting software by going to the GnuCash website and downloading it for free. GnuCash offers great small business-focused features like entering specific jobs and their cost for each vendor — plus vendor tracking, job costing and invoicing.
GnuCash includes all of the basic accounting features, such as the ability to manage accounts receivable and accounts payable. However, GnuCash does not shine when it comes to users included, which is only one. If you want unlimited users and a free program, then it’s hard not to go with Wave.
Another minor drawback is that the interface is not particularly user-friendly and takes some time getting used to. But once you do, you can really tap GnuCash’s capabilities. The crucial area, however, where GnuCash really has the edge over its competition is in financial reports.
Like many of the free accounting software options, GnuCash lets you manage outstanding customer balances. You can create invoices, track due dates and apply customer payments. A big benefit of GnuCash is the ability to run an accounts receivable aging report, so you’ll know which invoices are coming due. However, the drawback of all this is not being able to connect a bank or credit account, so it’s use is purely organizational.
Accounts payable is one of the highlights of GnuCash, which is designed to help you manage unpaid bills. As such, you can enter bills, assign due dates and run an accounts payable aging report to know which bills are coming due and which ones you may have missed.
GnuCash allows you to create tons of different reports, including the three critical financial reports: income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement — the latter of which is rarest among free accounting software platforms.
What’s great about GnuCash being an open-source software, is that you can customize the existing reports or build a new report from scratch as needed. GnuCash also has a leg up on many other free accounting software platforms by providing both accounts receivable aging reports and accounts payable aging reports.
While GnuCash has a lot of sophisticated features — all for free — when it comes to connecting bank and credit card accounts, it doesn’t cut it. With other free accounting software platforms like Wave and ZipBooks, you can connect multiple bank and credit card accounts, while with GnuCash you cannot connect any. And, although you can import bank and credit card transactions, you have to manually do it, where as Wave and ZipBooks do it automatically.
If you have an Android device, you can download the GnuCash Android app and start monitoring your business’s money anywhere.The drawback with GnuCash mobile is that have to import your data from your mobile device to your desktop to sync your data. And another downer is that there’s no longer a GnuCash mobile app for iOS, which many other free accounting software platforms do support.
- Can run all essential financial reports and more
- All features completely free; no paid service or upgrade required for anything
- Lots of functionalities and tools that other free accounting software do not offer
- Limited to one user
- Cannot connect bank or credit card accounts; must import banking data manually
- Interface is not user-friendly
No paid accounting software plans are available with GnuCash. It’s a totally free, open-source platform.
The free version of CloudBooks offers cloud storage, unlimited users and email support. It has a suite of accounting features, including invoicing, estimates, payments, expenses and reports. It also has a time-tracking app to log the time you and your team members spend working on a client’s project or work.
The main issue with the Cloudbooks free accounting software is that it limits you to one client and five invoices per month. If you want to do more, you’ll have to upgrade from the free version — and pay at least $10 monthly — to be able to send more than five invoices per month, offer online payments on your invoices and more.
Generating invoices is convenient and easy. The software also offers the ability to attach PDFs or images to the images before emailing. While the interface is clean and user-friendly, the limitation of just five invoices a month and just one client undermines much of the positive aspects of this free accounting software.
With Cloudbooks free service, you can manually track expenses and payments. However, there’s no separate bills dashboard or tab designated for bills. You’ll have to enter bills under the expenses dashboard. You also cannot pay bills through the Cloudbooks free platform.
The Cloudbooks free version provides several financial reports, such as an expense report, tax summary, summary of payments collected and others. However, the reports dashboard doesn’t include key reports, like a balance sheet statement, cash flow statement or profit and loss statement. However, there are some interesting report options like tasks invoiced, which shows you how much money you’re making by task.
- User-friendly platform with everything clearly organized
- Can set up recurring invoices, create projects and time track your staff’s work to invoice your clients accurately
- Accounts payable is very limited
- Financial statements and reports are limited; no balance sheet, cash flow reports or aging reports
- Limited to one client and five invoices per month in free version
CloudBooks has three levels of accounting software services. The two paid services come with 30-day free trials.
- CloudBooks Free pricing: $0
- CloudBooks Team pricing: $10 per month
- CloudBooks Agency pricing: $20 per month
CloudBooks Team, the cheapest paid service, allows unlimited clients and only up to five staff users. CloudBooks Agency allows unlimited clients, staff users and invoices, and more.
Over the last year or so, a couple of popular free accounting software platforms either were discontinued or no longer accepting new users. Check out the two of the most popular free accounting software platforms that followed this path.
xTuple PostBooks was another popular free accounting software that was open source. According to a statement on the xTuple website, the free edition of PostBooks has been discontinued effective June 20,2019.
SlickPie is a fairly popular accounting software that has been reviewed on many sites. When you go to SlickPie’s website now, you can “Sign Up” and enter your name and email address. However, once you do all this, the next page posts a message reading, “Thanks for your interest but SlickPie services are not available to new users anymore. We will be revamping the software and will notify you once SlickPie starts accepting more businesses.” So, the good news it seems is that SlickPie will be back to accept new users in the future.
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Deciding on whether to use free accounting software or paid accounting software is ultimately up to you. However, there are plenty of very good reasons to opt for paid accounting software. Businesses should purchase accounting software when they have accounting needs that go beyond what is usually included in free accounting software platforms. Here are a few examples of reasons to move up to a paid service:
- Better and more financial reports: You want reports, such as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, as well as accounts receivable and payable aging reports.
- Payroll integration: Adding payroll services in with your accounting software usually requires an upgrade to or purchase of a paid service.
- Credit card processing: Very few free accounting software platforms allow this, so if you want to accept credit card payments, you may have to get a paid accounting service.
- Ability to connect to bank and credit card accounts: This is a frustratingly obvious need that only very few free accounting software platforms allow. If you want this capability with an unlimited number of accounts, along with other helpful services, then a paid accounting software platform could be your best option.
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