Top eight free accounting software for small businesses

1 min readLast updated February 7, 2024by Iain Thomson

Even if you use an accountant, you can reduce your overall costs by tackling some of the workload yourself. For example, suppose you handle simpler tasks like bookkeeping and cash flow management. In that case, you can save your accountant’s time for the heavier lifting, such as managing your corporation tax returns. But if you do this, it really helps to use software compatible with whatever your accountant uses, so you can simply share files and transfer your data over to them.

With accounting software, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Accounting is quite literally serious business, and errors can prove damaging and costly. So if your business is above a certain size, it’s worth shelling out for a mainstream accounting package such as Sage, QuickBooks, or FreshBooks. However, if your turnover is small or your finances are relatively simple, you may get all the performance you need from a freeware accounting app. 

For example, if you’re setting up in business and getting the lie of the land, free accounting software may help you get started without too much initial expenditure. You can then get a better idea of what kinds of additional accounting features you’d be willing to pay for. It may also help you decide which accounting services to source from an accountant. 

Top eight free accounting packages 

Bearing in mind that no software is a substitute for a trained human accountant and that free packages are inevitably more limited than paid ones, here is a list of the accounting freeware that has impressed us most recently. N.B. This isn’t a ranking but a simple list – some packages will be superior in some areas and inferior in others, depending on your specific needs. 

1. GnuCash 

GnuCash is open-source desktop accounting software. Unlike a cloud-based system, this means you’ll need to download and install it onto your device. However, the code is also available to anyone, allowing volunteer developers to add extra functionalities or fix errors. This makes the platform very flexible and completely free forever. You won’t have to put up with adverts, but on the downside, it’s not the prettiest or most intuitive platform to work with. 

GnuCash is often described as a ‘no-frills’ version of accounting software. It handles invoicing and credit notes, accounts payable and receivable, and some payroll features but doesn’t offer more advanced features such as open banking integration or a mobile app. 

2. Wave 

Wave is a popular free service among sole traders, freelancers, and small firms. It promises unlimited accounting, invoicing, and receipt tracking services, meaning you can use as much as you want for as long as you want. It’s also known for having a beautiful, easy-to-use interface. 

However, payroll isn’t included in the free service, predominantly targeted at US customers. There’s also a pay-per-use policy for online payments, where you’ll pay per transaction. For this reason, it’s often not recommended for businesses with high sales volumes and is often considered too basic for medium-sized companies. 

3. ZipBooks 

In the free version of ZipBooks, you can produce unlimited invoices to an unlimited number of customers. You can also use it for unlimited bookkeeping. As a cloud-based piece of software, it’s known for being really easy to use, with a modern-looking design. 

However, you’ll only have access to basic reporting features and can only connect one bank account. If you want to take advantage of the more advanced and intelligent features, you’ll need to upgrade to one of their paid packages. 

4.Money Manager Ex 

Similar to GnuCash, this is another open-source tool recognized for being well-designed and with features to rival even premium software. It’s easy to understand and simple to use, making it a good option for sole traders. It’s great for budgeting and forecasting cash flow, but getting set up initially is known to be fiddly and time-consuming. It also operates entirely offline, meaning you won’t be able to link to online banking. Still, the entire program can run from a USB drive, making it portable. 

5.Adminsoft Accounts 

Adminsoft Accounts was developed in the UK by a small business owner for other small business owners, including those in the US. The concept behind it is that it’s designed to work the same way entrepreneurs do and doesn’t require an accounting background to understand. It’s been downloaded over 300,000 times and provides a full double-entry accounting system, stock control, purchase order processing, payroll software, and even some HR functions. The platform, however, is powered by ads and designed for Windows only. 

6. TurboCASH 

Another open-source option, this tool has been evolving since the Dark Ages (well, 1985) and is especially popular in Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia, with over two million downloads. It can handle VAT, purchase orders, multiple companies, and multiple users. However, you’ll need the paid version if you want to run it from the cloud and use it to manage payroll. Most reviews also say it suits small and mid-sized companies better than sole traders. 

7.NCH Express Invoice 

NCH Express Invoice offers invoicing software specifically for small businesses. In fact, to qualify for the free version, you need to have fewer than five employees. With this tool, you can create invoices and quotes, automate recurring invoices, and produce a useful range of reports on business activity. It’s useful for everyday activity but isn’t powered by the cloud, so it misses out on the more advanced features. 

8.TrulySmall Invoices 

TrulySmall Invoices offers invoicing software for those who require the basics. Perfect for freelancers who do not need the features that come with a more comprehensive solution. Instead, TrulySmall Invoices does what it says on the tin, offering a bare-bones double-entry accounting housed in an attractive, intuitive user interface. 

Any of the above packages may prove a useful tool for your business and reduce the amount of work you need to give to an external accountant. However, none of them can replace the services of a qualified accountant, who can bring a level of expertise, proactivity, and professional experience to your business that no software package can emulate.

Iain is the Chief Product Officer at Unbiased.com.

Iain Thomson

Iain is the CPO at Unbiased.com. He has over 20 years of experience as a product leader building high-performing, cross-functional product teams that generate both customer and business value.