Note: this article is part of our guide to small business expense management.
For your small business to thrive, you must habitually track and account for all of your revenues and expenses on a monthly basis (at the very least). Otherwise you won’t understand how your business is performing and be able to react quickly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 20% of small businesses fail by year two. And two big reasons for that are: imprudent financial management and poor bookkeeping.
Having a tight grasp on your finances is critical for success as a small business owner (or accounting professional). Fortunately, what was once a largely manual process has been replaced by accounting software and additional tools that automate accounting and spend management.
But which accounting software is best for you as a small business owner?
For small- to medium-sized (SMB) businesses—less than 1,000 employees and $1B revenue—Xero and QuickBooks are the top solutions. For businesses that are growing into enterprise organizations—more than 1,000 employees and $1B revenue—NetSuite and Sage Intacct provide more features and greater customizability.
Here’s a quick overview of the solutions we discuss in this article:
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Best small business accounting software
Keeping a tight rein on your bookkeeping is easier said than done. Traditionally, this took a lot of time and effort and was conducted via Excel.
Paying bills and tracking revenue is hard enough, but the work becomes infinitely more complex when you start getting into questions of profitability, cashflow management, financing, small business tax deductions, or where you should be directing future investment.
For small businesses in the early stages of growth, the burden of managing the company’s books often falls to the business owner—who is neither an accountant nor has the time to log everything in Excel, let alone to organize and make sense of all of the financial data. This is what makes accounting software an essential investment no matter the size of your company.
The right accounting & bookkeeping software can automate many of these considerations, instantly providing useful financial information and actionable insights. It can categorize all of your financials into one easily accessible spot, creating customizable reports.
There are several accounting softwares that are tailored for SMBs, the top two being:
Intuit’s QuickBooks is (and has been) one of the most popular and user-friendly accounting software applications on the market, best known for its ease of use. The cloud-based accounting software solution is geared towards small businesses, which means it’s affordable, effective, and simple to understand.
Over the years, Intuit has continued to make improvements, ranging from quality-of-life tweaks to major changes to the dashboard, invoice forms, and account reconciliation. PC Magazine praised the accounting software, saying:
“Intuit has also made smaller changes in almost every part of the site, all geared to help you get in, see what you need to see, do your work quickly, and get out. It's once again an Editors' Choice winner for online accounting software, based on its flexible functionality, financial connectivity, user experience, and extensibility.”
The basic “Simple Start” model comes jam packed with a host of useful features for a small business of ten employees or less. These features include:
- Accounting – Accounts receivable, billing & invoicing, expense tracking, project accounting, bank reconciliation, payroll management, purchase orders, and fixed asset management.
- Accounting practice management – Client, document, and staff management, billing & invoicing, client portal, due date tracking, and project management.
- Accounts payable – Vendor invoice processing and recurring payments.
- Bookkeeping – Bank reconciliation, billing & invoicing, expense tracking.
- Financial reporting – General ledger, profit & loss statement, balance sheet.
Companies that are growing quickly made need to upgrade to the “Plus” or “Advanced” models, with additional features like:
- Order management – Order entry and order tracking.
- Accounts receivable – ACH payment processing, billing & invoicing, collections management, online payment processing, recurring billing.
- Billing & invoicing – Mobile payments, online invoicing and payments, recurring & subscription billing, hourly billing, and customizable invoices.
To find the plan with the services you need, see QuickBooks plan options.
One of the major selling points of QuickBooks is that it provides a user-friendly mobile app. With it, you can perform practically all of the tasks the software can, which is a unique and useful feature.
QuickBooks does not offer a free version, though they do provide a free trial. Pricing for the cloud-based SaaS is arranged by tiers:
- Self-employed ($15/month) – Designed for independent contractors and freelancers, it can help estimate quarterly tax payments, automatically track mileage, create and send invoices, and invite the accountant to review the books.
- Simple Start ($25/month) – This small business plan is designed to help LLCs, sole proprietors and partnerships meet their accounting needs. It comes with income and expense tracking, unlimited estimates, invoices and sales receipts, automatic sales tax rates, expense categorization and receipt capture, and running basic reports.
- Essentials ($40/month) – Adds bill management, support for multiple users (up to three), recurring transactions, time tracking, and detailed reporting on your financials.
- Plus ($70/month) – Lets you project profitability, track inventory, support up to five users, create budgets, and it contains powerful analytics to measure the health of your business.
- Advanced ($150/month) – Supports up to 25 users and provides customizable accounting features that a larger business may need. Should a business need more than 25 users, unfortunately, they will need to upgrade to a different software.
In recent years, Xero has surpassed QuickBooks as the go-to accounting solution for small businesses. It has a bit of a learning curve, due to its many features, but it makes up for that in pricing, capabilities, and accounting collaboration.
Xero comes with a variety of accounting features, integrations, and is unique in that it’s built around collaboration—that means unlimited users. Additionally, you can set various levels of user permissions and control feature access. Business.org rated it their best overall small business accounting software of 2020, listing the following as its greatest strengths:
- Unlimited users with every plan
- Robust features suited for both small and large businesses
- Basic inventory tracking with all plans
- Easy integration with 800+ third-party apps
Xero’s cheapest plan comes with limited invoice, billing, and bank transaction reconciliation. However, every tier above that comes with a range of powerful features. At the uppermost tier, those include:
- Accounting – Accounts receivable, bank reconciliation, billing & invoicing, expense tracking, fixed asset and payroll management, fund and project accounting, and purchase orders.
- Accounts payable – Approval process control, cash and vendor management, check writing, duplicate payment alert, fraud detection, and invoice processing.
- Accounts receivable – ACH and online payment processing, billing & invoicing, check processing, collections management, overpayment and partial payment processing, receivables ledger, and recurring billing.
- Billing and invoicing – Billing portal, contact database, contingency, hourly, project, SaaS subscription management and billing, customizable invoices, mobile payments, multi-currency, online invoicing and payments, payment processing, and tax calculator.
- Budget building – “What if” scenarios and financial forecasting.
- Financial reporting – Audit trail, balance sheet, budgeting & forecasting, cash management, general ledger, and profit & loss statements.
- Inventory Management – Alerts & notifications, forecasting, inventory optimization, multi-channel, supplier, warehouse, and reorder management, product ID, and automated expense reporting & analytics.
- Legal billing – Accounting management, automatic billing, calendar, case, and document management, and expense and time tracking.
- Purchasing – Compliance, contract, inventory, purchase order, requisition, sourcing, procurement planning, spend, and supplier management.
Pricing tiers are as follows:
- Early ($11 per month) – Limits to 20 transactions and five invoices, quotes, and bills. Provides reports and live feeds of your bank accounts.
- Growing ($32 per month) – Includes all the features of the early plan with unlimited quotes, transactions, and billing.
Established ($60 per month) – Adds project management, expense claims, and multi-currency payment support, to name a few.
Accounting software for small businesses that are graduating
At a certain stage of growth, every facet of your business will need to expand to keep up with market demands. That goes for everything from your office space to your accounting software features. If your business is at this stage, the accounting software options to consider are:
- Sage Intacct
Note: Both software often require a separate third-party system integrator to help you set up, configure, and migrate your old books to the new platform. Depending on the size and complexity of your business, this accounting software migration could be a few months to a year-long process.
Oracle’s NetSuite is a powerful, cloud-based financial and accounting tool that can help you close your books more quickly and accurately, while providing greater visibility over your financial reporting.
It comes with strong customer relationship management features, enterprise resource planning (which is applicable to a wide array of businesses), and pairs powerful, customizable capabilities with simple reporting.
It's a multipurpose enterprise resource planning system, meaning it can function as a:
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform – Provides support for front- and back-office processes, including financial, order, revenue, and inventory management, fixed assets, and billing. It provides real-time visibility over your supply chain and fulfillment flow, as well as the critical data that’s important for tracking a major business’ financial health and performance.
- General ledger – The accounting tool that helps you record, categorize, and analyze your financial health.
- Inventory management platform – Makes it easy for manufacturers, producers, or distributors to follow assets from acquisition through disposal. This includes advanced inventory UI, Bill of Materials capability, and Materials Requirement Planning modules.
- Customer relationships management (CRM) – Covers all of the CRM essentials, including, sales orders & fulfillment, contact & lead management, marketing automation, and up-sells & cross-sells.
When it comes to pricing for major enterprise accounting software, it’s difficult to find a definitive number since it largely depends on the features you select. There are a variety of highly customizable modules and configurations. So, as a general rule, the more complex your system, the more it’ll likely cost.
That said, it’s available solely as a subscription-based service that starts at $999 per month with an additional $99 per user, per month. But, as PC Magazine notes:
“The base price quoted above does not include fees for partner/reseller value-add services, like installation, customization, or training. This is similar to almost all of the software in this roundup, and is simply how midrange, SME accounting systems are generally sold.”
2. Sage Intacct
Sage Intacct is a cloud-based software that can help you get real-time financial and operational visibility over various parts of your growing business, while maintaining compliance. It comes with drag-and-drop functionality, built-in reporting tools with real-time data, and integration to hundreds of different third-party applications.
Like NetSuite, Sage is highly customizable for enterprise operations, so what you get depends largely on what you need. Its core modules come with the baseline service, including:
- Accounts payable & receivable – Offers automated workflows and data entry, real-time access to AP transactions and payments, multiple types of payment acceptance, and accounts receivable management.
- Cash management – Allows for real-time fund transfers, invoiceless account payments, and statement reconciliation against checking, savings, and credit card accounts.
- Collaboration – Promotes collaboration with in-app communication, and collaboration centers with alerts to groups or individuals on action items.
- General ledger – Built with a multi-ledger architecture that makes it possible to manage both domestic and global locations. This includes real-time transaction documentation with configurable workflows.
- Order management – Generate orders from sales quotes, and invoices from fulfilled orders. It offers powerful calculations and access to various reporting metrics.
- Purchasing – Handles all aspects of purchasing from creating a purchase order to tracking all purchasing data in real-time.
- Reporting and dashboards – Comes with more than 150 built-in customizable reporting templates and powerful visualization features and automated reporting.
Also, you can add on one or any of the following modules:
- Contract revenue management
- Contract and subscription billing
- Inventory management
- Multi-entity management and global consolidation
- Project accounting
- Sales and use tax
- Time and expense management
Like NetSuite, pricing is largely dependent on your company’s needs and the types of product upgrades and support you require. That said, it tends to be slightly cheaper, though it’s difficult to say by how much.
Have you considered outsourcing?
Some businesses decide that they don’t have the resources to handle accounting in-house, even with the help of automated software. Instead, it may be more cost-efficient to outsource the accounting task to experts. This is especially common for young businesses.
If you're considering this route, then the accounting firm may already have their preferred accounting software set up. As a result, by partnering with them, you may end up simply going with the software that the outsourced accounting firm is most familiar and comfortable with.
For reputable and real time accounting services, consider:
For tailored recommendations based on your company’s specific needs and growth stage, feel free to reach out to your Ramp team.
Ramp's automated and integrated accounting
These days, there are a variety of accounting softwares built expressly for different company sizes and industries. For those in the early stages, QuickBooks and Xero are the top choices. And for those rapidly growing businesses, there are NetSuite and Sage Intacct.
Once you’ve settled on the right accounting SaaS for your business, you should also look to partner with a corporate card and spend management platform that integrates with all of those platforms.
Ramp’s corporate card helps you take control of your business finances and end-of-month bookkeeping. It can integrate seamlessly with all of the programs discussed above (among others), making bookkeeping a breeze.
Built with powerful automated accounting and expense management systems, high credit limits, and 1.5% cashback on every purchase, Ramp is the spend management solution that was built to empower small and enterprise businesses alike. With Ramp in your wallet, you can not only take control but also strengthen your finances like never before.
Check out how Ramp can power your business.