Best free bookkeeping and accounting software

 After reading this post about the best free and paid bookkeeping and accounting software you will be able to make an educated decision about the SOFTWARE FINANCE & CAPITAL SOFTWARE ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE that actually meets your needs.

There are numerous free and paid bookkeeping & Accounting software out there but we picked just the best accounting software in comparison.

 Below is the summary of what we looked at before reaching the conclusion that our list of the best free and paid bookkeeping and accounting software meets the needs for everyone.

  • Test result Product selection
  • Concept and operation
  • Tested package
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Usability
  • Search function
  • Accounting assistant
  • Booking templates
  • Number of bookings
  • Correction / rebooking
  • OCR (text recognition)
  • Automatic account assignment
  • Graphic evaluations
  • Business evaluations (BWA)
  • Accounting functions
  • Simple accounting (EÜR)
  • Double-entry bookkeeping
  • Financial statements / balance)
  • E-balance
  • Every company needs accounting
  • The must-haves of an accounting software
  • Additional functions and extras
  • Desktop program or web app?
  • Which program is suitable for whom?

Simplify accounting and billing

Accounting software simplifies bookkeeping, compiles bills and tax documents and archives digitized receipts.

Accounting and document archiving must be carried out according to formal and standard international rules and applicable tax rights. Up-to-dateness is therefore an important criterion, especially for accounting software.

In addition to the booking assistant, software for small businesses also offers additional functions for accounting, quoting and online banking.

Desktop software and cloud-based accounting software differ in their pricing models.

Our test winners

The winner on points is QuickBooks accounting software. The program does not miss anything in the functions in the area of ​​invoicing and has all the accounting functions that are important for small business owners and the self-employed. It is also easy to use.

Zoho books come in second place. Just like QuickBooks, ZohoBooks is also one of the most recommended accounting software both for startups and established businesses.

Debitoor in third place was also convincing. The user-friendly tool from Denmark simplifies bookkeeping for small business owners and founders and is very versatile thanks to extensions. However, users have to do without telephone support.

The fourth-place winner is Lexoffice. The software enables extensive automation of accounting. Since apps are available, users can easily perform many tasks using a smartphone or tablet. Pre-registration for VAT is also no problem thanks to the ELSTER interface.

The simple bookkeeping consists of the documentation of income and expenditure.

Bookkeeping with accounting is a must for every high-revenue company. Self-employed people and freelancers must also document their income and expenses precisely. However, due to its strict formal rules, bookkeeping and accounting often seem annoying, time-consuming and like science in themselves for laypeople.

An experienced accountant is required here. He has to observe the most diverse legal requirements in his work.

In addition to the correct documentation of the changes in assets of the company and the settlement, this also includes the proper archiving of the supporting documents and the timely submission of the complete tax return.

In small companies, however, the capacity is often not sufficient for an accountant position. Bookkeeping software or an online bookkeeping program is then a useful investment and a great help in the required administrative tasks.

Because the question of who is responsible for accounting in a company should be regulated. For financial reasons, many self-employed people and founders prefer to initially regulate accounting independently. If you have little expertise in this area, you can use solid accounting software, for example.

Caution!

Anyone who does the accounting incorrectly and incorrectly can be punished. This can even lead to the withdrawal of the business license.

The PC as an assistant in the accounting

The software can significantly simplify the administrative work and offers a wide range of support, especially for non-accountants. A plausibility check reports errors and indicates incomplete or contradictory information. Failure to submit documents to the tax office can also be avoided with computer-aided accounting.

Cloud-based accounting software has the following advantage: Thanks to constant updates, the user always works with a current program that is also up to date with regard to new regulations or changed tax laws.

What does the software do for accounting?

  • It simplifies the correct posting of income and expenses.
  • It supports proper billing.
  • It automatically creates final reports and balance sheets from the entered data.
  • It helps with the administration of the receipts.

Bookkeeping – compulsory program for commercial companies

Every entrepreneur, regardless of whether it is a freelancer or a trader, must document his income and expenses precisely and archive all associated documents as soon as he has reported the activity to the tax office. However, this recording of income should not be confused with an accounting obligation.

Bookkeeping includes accounting and the profit and loss account. However, not every entrepreneur is obliged to present his financial changes in this form. The Commercial Act and the Tax Act regulate who is subject to the bookkeeping obligation and who is not.

A trading company that records more than $600,000 in sales and $60,000 in profit each year is required to keep accounts. Commercial companies must also show their changes in assets in the balance sheets and income statements.

Smaller businesses, which are less than these annual amounts in terms of sales and profits, may do without double-entry bookkeeping with regular balancing and profit and loss accounts. Freelancers are also not required to keep accounts. All you have to do is submit an income surplus statement to the tax office.

What is a revenue surplus calculation (EÜR)?

With this simple final invoice, the entrepreneur compares his income of one year with the expenditure. The EÜR facility is provided for this in the tax documents.

The must-haves of an accounting software

Good accounting software has to do more than just add up a few numbers. It is intended to support the user in various accounting and documentation processes, prepare the tax return and present all important key figures in a clear manner. This makes the accounting program a useful controlling tool for the company.

The following services can be part of accounting software:

  • Accounting
  • Accounting and dunning
  • quoting
  • Payroll
  • Cashbook
  • Asset management

What most programs bring with them in the test are functions in the area of ​​accounting and dunning. They also record the documents for their own incoming invoices. There are clear differences in the reports and evaluations. Most can create a Balance sheet, however, Cash flow statement and P&L accounts are only possible with some of the programs.

The programs primarily target self-employed and small companies with few employees who often do not need double-entry bookkeeping. This function is consequently missing in most programs. There are often clear differences in the additional functions as well.

In the following we present the basic functions in more detail.

Bookkeeping and booking of invoices and receipts

The booking of incoming and outgoing invoices is one of the absolute standard functions that the user can expect from a modern accounting program. Since the accounting for a freelancer must be different from that of a corporation, the software should meet these different requirements and offer several input methods: from the simple booking of income and expenses to batch and dialog bookings, which an experienced accountant makes.

Program assistants support the administrative processes by reading all relevant information from the scanned documents and automatically entering the corresponding booking in the correct account. If certain business transactions recur regularly, the user can set up a rule so that the software also makes these bookings automatically.

Digital management of receipts

A classic accountant rule is No booking without a receipt. Accounting programs therefore usually offer the option of scanning, processing and managing receipts. With some applications, the user can stamp the receipt with an entry stamp or other management stamps. In order to meet the requirements for the digital archiving of tax-relevant documents, the program should save the document files with the entire version history. The additional filing of the receipts in paper form is therefore unnecessary.

Creation of reports, financial statements & balancing

Every accounting program should master the most common accounting formats. These include:

Buchhaltungssoftware Taschenrechner

The balance sheet shows a company’s wealth distribution.

the business evaluation (BWA)

the income surplus calculation (EÜR)

the profit and loss account

the opening and closing balance

Not every entrepreneur needs all of these bills for his accounting. When choosing accounting software, consumers should make sure that the program can create the types of accounts that are legally binding on the company.

Some programs can also create liquidity accounts and financial reports. These documents and figures play a crucial role in corporate decisions and planning. Accounting programs that are able to create such reports form a valuable data source for controlling.

Advance sales tax registration with ELSTER

VAT-liable entrepreneurs have to submit an electronic advance notification to the tax office quarterly or monthly. Therefore, two things are mandatory for good accounting software: an interface for the electronic tax return ELSTER and a tool that simplifies this administrative process. The software automatically draws the required amounts from the existing bookings.

A good accounting program can do even more: Before sending data, the program checks that the information is correct. If necessary, the user can request a long-term extension for the delivery via the software. The electronic accounting assistant also calculates the corresponding special advance payments. Some programs also compile a summary report of sales in other EU countries.

DATEV interface to the tax advisor

Many entrepreneurs give their accounts and receipts to a tax advisor who then prepares the financial statements. Most tax advisors use DATEV software. For this reason, a DATEV interface is usually integrated into accounting programs so that the transfer of data and further processing in the control software can be carried out smoothly.

In general, the import and export of data is a helpful function, which is usually an integral part of administrative programs.

Additional functions and extras

In addition to these basic functions, there are other features in the software packages of the different manufacturers.

Since the accounting is about incoming and outgoing invoices, functions for creating invoices and reminders for accounting software are often included. This helps the entrepreneur to keep an eye on his outstanding claims. The feature for managing open items works in reverse. It shows the user all due dates and dunning levels. A good accounting program automatically compares these amounts with the corresponding bookings.

A cashbook records all expenditure and income made in cash. This additional function is particularly interesting for the self-employed.

A module for wages and salary accounting is useful if the number of employees in the company increases and wages and salaries are to be settled “in-house”.

Companies that have extensive fixed assets will not want to do without asset accounting. This tool records additions and disposals of fixed assets and enables the posting of depreciation. Ideally, accounting software with this credit point is also able to create inventory and evaluations.

Comprehensive software solutions in large companies

Corporations and large companies, on the other hand, rely on ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning) that standardize several processes within the company. SAP is definitely worth mentioning as the provider. Microsoft also appeals to this clientele with its Dynamics NAV software.

4. Desktop program or web app?

Fast internet connections and flat rates have greatly influenced the formats of PC programs. The trend is increasingly moving away from the full versions in a box towards software-as-a-service (SaaS) offers. In the latter model, the software manufacturer makes his accounting program available on the Internet. The customer pays a monthly or annual amount for use. He is subscribing to this software service. Accounting software in particular is often sold as an online service. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of the two software formats?

Accounting software as a desktop version

This is the traditional sales channel: the customer pays the sales price once and receives the accounting program as a download or on a data carrier for almost unlimited use. He has to install the accounting program locally on his hard drive. Then he has full access to all functions.

The manufacturer usually provides updates for new program versions as a service. If an improved version comes on the market, however, this support will be discontinued in most cases.

Benefits

  • No follow-up costs
  • Unlimited use
  • Access even without an internet connection

disadvantage

Software version is out of date

End of support

Possibly high acquisition costs

Limited operating system compatibility

Annual license software

Manufacturers like Buhl offer their accounting programs both as downloads and on a data carrier. However, consumers should note that the license to use the program is valid for 365 days each. If you want to continue using the application afterwards, you must purchase a new license. This pricing corresponds to the pricing of web apps, but the software does not offer the flexibility of web apps that can be used independently of the device.

The online accounting assistant

With cloud-based accounting software, the user does not pay for the software, but for the use of a service. The provider makes the software available on the Internet.

This has several advantages. So the user always works with the current program version. The cloud also simplifies collaboration between teams or employees from different departments. In addition, a company can calculate the costs for the software optimally and adapt it to the number of users, since most manufacturers react flexibly to their customers’ needs with their tariffs.

benefits

Low purchase costs

Flexible adjustment of the range of functions and user licenses

Automatic program updates

Compatible with all operating systems

Supports collaboration

Manufacturer takes care of hardware maintenance

disadvantage

If the subscription is canceled, no access to functions

Running costs

Can only be used with an internet connection

External server for data storage

Security risk cloud

As practical and convenient as the cloud is for work, it also carries risks. For companies that work with confidential data and key figures, the data security of web solutions must be reliable.

Tip:

You can find more information on criteria relating to cloud computing in our comparison of the best cloud storage .

Anyone who chooses an online accounting software should make sure that the provider meets the following criteria:

Servers in secure and certified data centers

Server location in Germany

Encrypted data transmission

The best-known cloud-based accounting programs include lexoffice and sevDesk . These renowned providers work together with ISO-certified data centers that meet all applicable DIN standards for data protection and IT security.

5. Which program is suitable for whom?

The various accounting programs in our test have very different performance profiles. We did create an overall rating, but of course different companies have very different requirements for their accounting software. No program can do everything equally well, but not every user needs all functions.

The requirements for the ideal accounting program for the individual area of ​​application can be described with a simple sentence: As complicated as necessary , as simple as possible . It should contain all the necessary functions, but should not confuse the user with complexity that he does not need. Because: All companies need accounting, but especially with small individual companies, there is often only basic accounting know-how available.

Freelancers and small sole proprietorships

Buchhaltungssoftware Steuerberater

Accounting software for freelancers should above all make the entry of receipts as easy as possible.

The tax advisor is responsible for complex accounting issues.

The requirements for accounting are relatively low for freelancers and small sole traders without employees. They are usually not subject to accounting, in many cases there is also no obligation to pre-register for VAT.

The tasks of an accounting program are usually limited to the creation of invoices, the accounting of income and expenses, the archiving of documents as well as the creation of an income surplus invoice and the transmission of data to the tax advisor. In principle, any program in our test can perform these tasks. The target group in question is therefore well advised to pay attention to price aspects and user friendliness when choosing an accounting program.

Paperwork offers a good compromise between price and functionality, which is also very user-friendly.

Accounting software requirements for freelancers and small sole proprietors include the following:

Invoicing

Record income and expenses

Creation of an income surplus calculation

Data transfer to tax consultants

Ease of use

Low cost factor

Online retailer

Even small online retailers usually write significantly more invoices than independent service providers. This can mean a lot of work. It is therefore important for accounting software to be connected to trading platforms such as eBay and Amazon or to web shop software. This means that a lot of data can be transferred automatically, which simplifies the work considerably.

As the only software in our test, easybill is specially designed for this user group. The downside is that easybill is not a complete accounting program. Invoices can do very well, but functions for document entry are missing.

Accounting software requirements for online retailers include the following:

Invoicing

Record income and expenses

Creation of an income surplus calculation

Data transfer to tax consultants

Ease of use

Low cost factor

Connection to trading platforms

Easily create a large amount of invoices

Small business

Small, owner-managed companies that also employ staff have different accounting requirements than freelancers. The advance tax return is an issue, payroll should also be possible, and the software must correctly post depreciation. At the same time, excessive complexity is out of place, because the bookkeeping is usually done by the owner himself, who just doesn’t necessarily have the appropriate training.

For these companies, leoxoffice is the program of choice. It fulfills all of the above requirements, is very user-friendly and, moreover, very affordable.

Accounting software requirements for small businesses include the following:

Invoicing

Record income and expenses

Creation of an income surplus calculation

Data transfer to tax consultants

Ease of use

Advance sales tax return

depreciation

Payroll

Medium and large companies

These companies hire a whole range of employees, at least one of them specifically for bookkeeping. The accounting software should therefore be designed for double-entry bookkeeping , master payroll and also have no other gaps in functionality. But it can be a bit more complicated – after all, it is mainly served by accounting professionals. Costs also don’t matter that much: if the labor savings are large enough, a slightly higher price is acceptable. Software for this target group is not part of our test.

So we test

For our test of the best accounting programs, we selected the programs that are among the most popular applications for freelancers, the self-employed and small businesses. We each registered with a test account and checked the programs for functionality and user-friendliness; just as a consumer with an interest in buying tests the programs. In the reports we present the individual accounting programs with their advantages and disadvantages in detail.

For the comparison, we always opted for the package that at least satisfactorily covers the functions of invoice creation and document entry. Which package this is in the individual case is clear both in the data sheet and in the individual test reports.

Our reports are based on five test categories. Each program receives 0.00 to 5.00 points in each of these categories. All categories flow equally into the overall grade. However, every user has different requirements for accounting software. Our test winner is not necessarily the best accounting program for every application. Depending on the requirements of the user, other software may well be more suitable. Our tests offer comprehensive buying advice.

Concept and operation

This area is about the question: what kind of accounting program is it and how does it feel to work with it? Most of the programs in our test are designed for a target group of self-employed and small business owners. Above all, this target group wants to do their bookkeeping as simply as possible. Double-entry bookkeeping is usually not required here; an income surplus calculation (EÜR) is sufficient.

Debitoor is an exception with which balance sheets can also be created. Easybill is also out of the ordinary. The functionality of this web app is tailored to the needs of online retailers, it is not ideal for independent service providers. SevDesk and paperwork are particularly easy to use.

All accounting tools can be booked in different tariffs. The software concept also includes the product ranges of the providers. We describe the diversification strategies in the test reports, but they have no direct influence on the evaluation.

When it comes to diversifying their product ranges, manufacturers use very different strategies. Certain functions are often missing in cheaper tariffs. However, some manufacturers provide customers with the entire range of functions in all tariffs, although they do have quantitative restrictions.

Functions invoice

Invoicing is at the heart of most accounting tools. Many of these were originally created from pure invoice software, which was supplemented by evaluations and the recording of documents or incoming invoices. Often there is also a cheap basic version, which is marketed as pure billing software. Creating invoices works well and easily with all programs in our test.

Related functions are usually associated with billing. Almost all programs also create offers and, in the event of a successful offer, automatically generate an invoice from them. The programs help to keep an eye on the payment deadlines and, if necessary, to convert the invoice into a reminder. Delivery notes are also part of the standard configuration of accounting programs.

However, there are big differences in the design options for the layouts. Typically, users determine the appearance of documents using two different files. A stationery is responsible for the page background. It is a PDF document that can be designed with any PDF-capable program.

Layout files are responsible for things like spacing, fonts and the exact content of the document. In addition to the standard layouts supplied, users can create layouts themselves. The accounting programs handle this very differently. In the simplest case there is an interface in the program through which the user specifies details of the layout. However, mastery of HTML and CSS is sometimes necessary to design layouts. Although this leads to more freedom of design, the user needs appropriate knowledge – or has to hire someone to design his business correspondence.

Accounting functions

Regardless of whether the digital accounting assistant is intended for the self-employed or for a small company, he must master the basics of accounting with confidence. This includes recording all income and expenses as well as document entry and management and the annual financial statements. The types of financial statements are particularly important because they show whether the accounting software only supports simple bookkeeping with a surplus income statement or double bookkeeping with a profit and loss account and balance sheet.

The consumer can also expect a function such as advance sales tax return from modern accounting software. The accounts that are available for selection in the accounting software are also considered in this section.

In addition, other additional functions are helpful for larger companies, such as payroll and payroll accounting, as well as asset accounting. If the program is to perform functions that go beyond accounting, it is an advantage if it has a modular structure so that the user can tailor the range of functions.

Performance and interfaces

This section deals with the technical requirements that are necessary for the smooth use of the accounting software. This includes compatibility with operating systems, the required hard disk space and the required working memory. Cloud-based accounting programs are more convenient than desktop versions in this regard. They now dominate the market for good reasons – all programs in our test fall into this category. Since access is via apps or the browser, these applications do not require hard disk space and are independent of the operating system. The cloud also facilitates shared file access and collaboration between multiple users.

Performance concerns are unnecessary here: All web apps in the test can be operated as quickly as desktop software, provided the internet connection is sufficiently fast. The loading times for individual pages were normally between one and two seconds.

We also grade whether the accounting software contains features such as a DATEV and ELSTER interface, document recognition, data import and export as well as clear, graphic evaluations of the existing numerical values.

Above all, the DATEV interface and the possibility to submit a sales tax advance notification via ELSTER are important to us. A DATEV interface or export option is almost always available, only in some basic versions that really only serve to create invoices, it is missing. An example of such a pure billing tool is the basic version of Lexoffice .

Documentation and support

Some users need help not only when setting up small business accounting software. In the course of working with the individual modules, questions and problems usually arise with some users. To ensure that the operational processes can continue to run smoothly and that the bookkeeping is always up to date, the entrepreneur is dependent on a swift response from the service team of the software manufacturer.

Bookkeeping software users should therefore value reliable and well-positioned support.

We also honor the rarely available opportunity to solve problems via live chat . Of course, we also look at the available documentation. This includes a well-developed FAQ area, an online manual, web seminars or tutorials. A forum fulfills both the task of a documentation resource, which users search independently and that of support since employees and other forum users respond to questions and help with problems.

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