The Best Small-Business Accounting Software of 2021

Want an affordable compromise between spreadsheet software and a full-time accountant? The right small-business accounting software can automate record-keeping tasks and keep you up to date on your business's financial health.
Best overall
Xero
Xero
4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4
Starting from
$11.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Built0in inventory management
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Unlimited users with every plan
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    Plan-limited invoicing
Best invoicing
Fresh Books
FreshBooks
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
Starting from
$15.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Inventory management (third-party integration)
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    $10.00/mo. for additional users
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    Plan-limited clients
Most user-friendly
Quickbooks
QuickBooks
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
Starting from
$25.00/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Inventory management (pricier plans only)
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    1 user with basic plan
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Unlimited invoicing
Most affordable
Wave
Wave
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
Free
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    No inventory management
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Unlimited users
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Unlimited invoicing
Best automation
Zoho
Zoho Books
3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6
Starting from
$15.00/mo.*
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Inventory management (add-on only)
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    $2.50/mo. for additional users
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Nearly unlimited invoicing

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*When billed annually

Xero is our favorite accounting service for small businesses, but FreshBooks is a good alternative for business owners who want unlimited invoices. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Online works well for business owners who value solid reporting and tax tracking, Wave Accounting is a good free option for budget-cautious freelancers, and Zoho Books automates key tasks that can suck up business owners’ time.

2021's best business financial software

The year's best accounting software for small businesses

Brand
Starting cost
Price for additional users
Free trial
Standout features
Learn more
Xero

Xero

$11.00/mo.

Unlimited users

30 days

Unlimited users, inventory tracking, third-party app integration (800+ apps)

Fresh Books

FreshBooks

$15.00/mo.

$10.00/additional user/mo.

30 days

Unlimited invoicing, automatic expense tracking, team project management

Quickbooks

QuickBooks Online

$25.00/mo

Users limited by plan

30 days*

Comprehensive reports and features, low learning curve, stellar mobile app

Wave

Wave

Free

Unlimited users

N/A

Receipt scanning, online payment acceptance, affordable payroll add-ons

Zoho

Zoho Books

$15.00/mo.**

$2.50/additional user/mo.

14 days

Inventory management, client portal for easy collaboration, automated workflows

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*30-day free trial or 50% off first three months
**When billed annually

Best accounting software overall: Xero

Best overall
Xero
Xero
4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4
  • Starting at $11.00/mo.
  • Check
    Low starting price
  • Check
    Unlimited users with each plan
  • Check
    Inventory management with each plan

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

We love Xero for its robust features and low starting price. For just $11 a month, Xero lets you send custom invoices, reconcile bank transactions, capture receipts for easier record keeping, and track inventory.

But as a small-business accounting tool, Xero really stands out on the collaboration front. Unlike nearly every other accounting solution (including QuickBooks and FreshBooks), all of Xero's accounting and inventory software plans include unlimited users. You don't have to pay extra to delegate responsibilities like bank reconciliation or expense tracking to another team member: time-saving collaboration is built into your price.

However, Xero's $11 a month plan limits you to entering only five bills and sending only 20 invoices a month. You can send unlimited invoices and quotes with only the Growing and Established plans, which start at $32 and $62 a month, respectively. Plus, you can only track expenses with the priciest plan—both QuickBooks and FreshBooks offer small-business expense tracking up front.

Best invoicing: FreshBooks

Best invoicing
Fresh Books
FreshBooks
4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1
  • Starting at $15.00/mo.
  • Check
    Middle-of-the-road starting price
  • Check
    $10.00/mo./additional user
  • Check
    Expense and time tracking with each plan

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

FreshBooks’s combination of stellar features, customizable invoices, and well-reviewed mobile apps make it pretty much perfect—especially for freelancers. Unlike Xero, FreshBooks lets you send an unlimited number of invoices and estimates with every plan. Each plan also includes time tracking for easier, more accurate client billing. FreshBooks’s built-in small-business expense tracking helps you maintain a balanced budget. And, like QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks includes built-in mileage tracking—a must for freelancers who plan to claim mileage expenses on their year-end tax forms.

Money
Price check: FreshBooks' discounts

FreshBooks starts at $15 a month, but the company’s frequent discounts make its financial software even more affordable. As of May 2021, FreshBooks is offering new customers 60% off for six months—which knocks your starting price to $4.50 a month. Plus, paying annually takes 10% off your monthly price. (If you sign up for a new annual subscription during this current promo, you’ll lock in 70% off for the first six months.)

But while FreshBooks doesn’t limit your invoices, it does limit the number of customers you can bill each month. You can send your customers an unlimited amount of invoices, but the cheapest plan limits that client number to just five. Additionally, FreshBooks doesn’t include bank reconciliation with its cheapest plan. Since bank reconciliation is a foundational accounting task, we can only recommend FreshBooks’s cheapest plan to freelancers or brand-new startups with just a few transactions a month.

Most user-friendly: QuickBooks Online

Most user-friendly
Quickbooks
QuickBooks Online
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
  • Starting at $25.00/mo.
  • X
    Above-average starting price
  • X
    Users limited by plan
  • Check
    Expense and sales tax tracking with each plan

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

QuickBooks is easily one of the most popular financial, tax, and accounting software options in the world. And while QuickBooks Desktop is still an option for those who prefer desktops to laptops, QuickBooks Online is Intuit’s cloud-accounting software solution. QuickBooks’s basic plan includes typical features like invoicing, billing, and receipt scanning along with more comprehensive tracking than many competitors:

  • Mileage tracking
  • Sales tax tracking
  • Automatic tax deduction categorization
  • 1099 contractor payment tracking

QuickBooks also has the absolute best mobile accounting app you can find. The app can do basically everything the software can (a rarity for any software provider, no matter the industry). If you work on the go, QuickBooks's app, which includes mobile mileage tracking, might make it a good fit.

QuickBooks's stellar reporting and tracking features come at a price, though: its cheapest small-business plan starts at $25 a month and restricts you to one user plus an accountant. The priciest plan, which includes 25 users, starts at $150 a month. At $15 a month, QuickBooks Self-Employed is a cheaper option, but it’s primarily an invoicing, mileage-tracking, and tax-tracking plan—not a fully featured bookkeeping or accounting app.

Most affordable: Wave

Most affordable
Wave
Wave Accounting
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
  • Free
  • Check
    Free-for-life accounting software
  • Check
    Unlimited users
  • Check
    Income and expense tracking

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

For exactly $0, Wave presents you with a slick, user-friendly dashboard and a slew of features that rival those of its paid competitors. For instance, Wave Accounting includes multi-currency support, expense tracking, unlimited invoicing, and double-entry accounting—a more accurate method of accounting that FreshBooks' basic business accounting plan notably lacks.

Wave also lets you juggle multiple businesses with the same account. If you're an Amazon or eBay seller who also manages a small team of contractors, you can track both sets of finances without paying anything.

Even though Wave has a useful payroll tool, its accounting software isn't necessarily right for businesses with dozens of employees. Since Wave offers just one accounting plan, businesses can't scale up to plans with more features as they grow. And Wave's lack of inventory tracking makes it better matched to service-based solopreneurs and freelancers who don't need both accounting and inventory software.

Best automation: Zoho Books

Best automation
Zoho
Zoho Books
3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6
  • Starting at $15.00/mo.*
  • Check
    Middle-of-the-road starting price
  • Check
    Additional users for $2.50/user/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic recurring invoicing

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*When billed annually.

Zoho Books easily automates the most common (and, let's face it, boring) bookkeeping tasks—which means you can dedicate more time to your business and customers and less time to the tedious task of data entry. Most notably, it lets you set automatic customer payment reminders, create recurring expense profiles, and manage 1099 contractors.

Plus, Zoho Books is just one piece of software in the larger suite of Zoho products. Each Zoho product integrates easily with the rest, which means you can use Zoho for accounting, project management, and customer relationship management (CRM) for a start. Zoho Books costs $15 a month if you pay annually or $20 if you pay month to month. The cheapest plan includes three users, but you can also pay an extra $2.50 per month for each additional user. That’s a standout bargain, especially compared to FreshBooks' extra $10 per user per month.

Unfortunately, even though it’s a solid accounting tool, Zoho Books has one huge flaw: Zoho doesn't offer a payroll plan unless you live in California, Texas, or India. And it doesn't integrate with third-party payroll providers either. Instead, you have to manually update the payroll-related aspects of your books—which detracts from Zoho's primary perk of automation in a big way.

Similarly, Zoho Books’s cheapest plan doesn’t include automatic journal entry creation. Instead, whenever you debit or credit an account, you’ll have to manually create an entry. If you log more than a few transactions a month, the lack of automation adds major time and hassle—you’ll want the $40 a month (or $50, billed monthly) Professional plan instead.

Find Your Money—and Keep More of It

With plans starting at $15 a month, FreshBooks is well-suited for freelancers, solopreneurs, and small-business owners alike.

  • Track time and expenses
  • Create custom invoices
  • Accept online payments

Still not sure which accounting software is best?

Accounting software honorable mentions

Not sold on our top picks? Here are five more small-business accounting software options that could work better for you.

Top feature comparison: Accounting software honorable mentions

Brand name
Starting price
Price for additional users
Free trial
Standout features
Learn more
Sage

Sage

$10.00/mo.Limited by plan30 daysBank reconciliation, cash flow forecasting (pricier plan only)
One Up

OneUp

$9.00/mo.Limited by plan30 daysInvoicing, inventory tracking, CRM
Kashoo

Kashoo

$20.00/mo.Limited by plan14 daysIncome and expense tracking, mobile app, payment acceptance
GoDaddy

GoDaddy

$4.99/mo.One user onlyNoneInvoicing, estimates, mileage tracking
ZipBooks

ZipBooks

FreeAccountant accessN/AUnlimited invoicing, unlimited customers, credit card payment acceptance

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Best user-experience runner-up: Sage Business Cloud Accounting

Best user experience
Sage
Sage
  • Starting at $10.00/mo.
  • Check
    Low starting price
  • Check
    Unlimited users ($25.00/mo. plan only)
  • Check
    Automatic bank reconciliation

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Sage Business Cloud Accounting’s cheapest plan lets you create invoices, track amounts owed, and automatically reconcile your bank accounts. If you’re willing to pay a bit more ($25 a month), Sage adds unlimited users, quotes, estimates, cash flow forecasting, and purchase invoice management. Unfortunately, Sage charges extra for receipt scanning, a feature competitors like Wave, FreshBooks, Xero, and QuickBooks include for free. And Sage’s pricier plan has fewer features than, say, Xero’s cheapest plan (though Sage doesn’t limit your monthly invoice amount).

Looking for more fully featured plans with intense support and automation? Sage Intacct could be a good pick, and it’s also our top accounting software recommendation for nonprofits.

Best for sales teams: OneUp

Best for sales teams
One Up
OneUp
  • Starting at $9.00/mo.
  • Check
    Low starting price
  • Check
    Plan-limited users
  • Check
    Unlimited invoicing

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

All of OneUp's plans include customer relationship management (CRM) features, which makes it perfectly suited to sales teams that frequently follow up with customers. Plus, it's affordable: pricing for one user starts at $9 per month. If you’re a Mac user, though, you’re out of luck: OneUp works only for Windows users. And while every OneUp plan includes all of OneUp’s features, its plans limit your user numbers. Only the priciest plan, which starts at $169 a month, includes unlimited users.

Easiest setup: Kashoo

Simplest setup
Kashoo
Kashoo
  • Starting at $20.00/mo.
  • X
    Above-average starting price
  • Check
    Additional user options
  • Check
    Income, expense, and sales tax tracking

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Got a minute to spare? You can set up Kashoo in 60 or so seconds, and the app immediately starts to categorize your expenses and learn your business spending habits. Like Zoho Books, Kashoo's automation is its selling point—and unlike Zoho Books, it syncs with SurePayroll, one of our top payroll providers. However, Kashoo's simplicity makes it ill-suited to larger businesses that need more features and functions than Kashoo's straightforward software can provide.

If you’re looking for a cheaper solution, Kashoo offers an invoice-only plan for $0.00. It’s also in the process of developing payment-only and expense-only plans for the smallest of small businesses.

Best bookkeeping software: GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping

Best for bookkeeping only
GoDaddy
GoDaddy
  • Starting at $4.99/mo.
  • Check
    Low starting price
  • X
    One user only
  • Check
    Time and mileage tracking with every plan

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Don’t need full-service accounting software? GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping is an easy-to-use bookkeeping software program perfect for freelancers and eBay sellers who don’t need more than the basics. This bare-bones, no-frills software lets you process debit and credit payments, send invoices, and track finances for $4.99 a month. Bear in mind, though, that it's just bookkeeping: GoDaddy can help you chart your finances, but it can't help you analyze those finances to grow your business.

Best free alternative: ZipBooks

Most affordable alternative
ZipBooks
ZipBooks
  • Starting at $0.00/mo.
  • Check
    Low starting price
  • Check
    One user plus accountant access
  • Check
    Unlimited invoices, billable clients, and vendors

Data as of 5/19/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

If you don't need quite as many features as Wave offers, ZipBooks is a solid free accounting software alternative. Even though it's free, it doesn't limit the number of invoices you can send (like Xero) or clients you can bill (like FreshBooks) per month—you can access unlimited customizable invoices and accept payments too. ZipBooks' paid plan starts at $15 a month and offers better bookkeeping and automation features than its free accounting plan. But if you prefer your accounting tools on the go, look elsewhere. ZipBooks has a solid billing-only app for Apple users, but its Android accounting app is near-uniformly panned on Google Play.1

Accounting software FAQ

What is the best accounting software for small businesses?

Xero offers fantastic accounting features at a reasonable starting price, but the best accounting software option for you depends on your business’s unique needs and budget. For instance, Wave works very well for freelancers on a budget, QuickBooks helps small-business owners who travel a lot for work, and FreshBooks’s customizable invoices are great for business owners who frequently collaborate with clients.

Is QuickBooks the best software for small businesses?

QuickBooks is definitely among the most popular accounting software for small businesses, but being popular isn't the same as being the best. Sure, QuickBooks could be the best software for your small business, or you might find its prices too high and its features too limited. Depending on what you need, another bookkeeping software pick like FreshBooks or Sage could be better for your business. Not sure what your other options are? Check out our list of the year's best QuickBooks alternatives to get started.

What is the best free accounting software for small businesses?

Wave Accounting is one of the most fully featured free accounting software options for small businesses. Its user-friendly dashboard, low learning curve, and easy expense tracking make it ideal for freelancers and small-business owners who don't mind finding another app to manage inventory. It’s also a lot more comprehensive than most other free cloud-accounting software options.

But if Wave doesn’t have the right features for your small business, you do have other free accounting options—ZipBooks, SlickPie, or another free accounting software provider could work better for you.

Can I use accounting software with payroll software?

Most accounting software providers sync with one or more popular payroll providers (Zoho Books, which doesn’t sync with most payroll software, is a notable exception). Xero, FreshBooks, and QuickBooks all sync with Gusto, our favorite payroll provider for small businesses. At $39 plus $6 per user per month, Gusto is also fairly reasonably priced.

Of the accounting software providers listed here, only QuickBooks and Wave offer payroll plans in all 50 states. Of the two, we recommend Wave Payroll over QuickBooks Payroll, which is on the pricier end and doesn’t offer a tax-filing guarantee—a key industry standard you should expect from any payroll provider.

Best Free Accounting Software Options
Wave
Best overall
ZipBooks
Best invoicing
SlickPie
Best for multiple businesses
NCH Software
Best bookkeeping
Expensify
Best expense tracking
Learn more about our top brands.

The takeaway

Finding the best online accounting software for your small business can seriously transform your working life. With less time spent on data entry, you have more time for the things you like most about small-business ownership, whether that's getting to know customers or making products you're proud of.

Most of our top accounting software picks include a free trial, so don't be shy about trying a few different brands if you don't hit on your favorite right away.

Need to pair payroll software with your new small-business bookkeeping and accounting software? Head over to our piece on the best payroll software for small businesses.

Related reading

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources
1. Google Play, “ZipBooks—Accounting Software.” Accessed May 19, 2021.

Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie is an accounting writer for Business.org. Kylie spent two of the last four years writing for and with small-business owners—from dentists in Australia to plumbers in the Midwest. She spent the other two writing in depth about internet and security. She’s passionate about reading, hiking, and dedicating every spare second to writing for fun (at lunch, between meetings, on the train, before breakfast . . . ). Her content helps small-business owners tackle the logistics of running a business so they can focus more on their passions too.
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