Accounts and Bookkeeping

Whatever form your Business takes you need to keep records of your transactions and be able to file them at the end of the Year with the Inland Revenue. If you are self-employed the Year End will probably be 5th April in line with the Tax Year. If you have formed a Limited Company it will (usually) be 1 year from the end of the month of formation – which also makes the first set of Accounts filed more complicated as two sets need to be filed – one partial year and one complete year, with everything prorated.

I have tried a few packages in my time, so here are a few unbiased comments about packages.

Spreadsheets – Excel (Windows) / Open Office Calc (Windows / Linux / OSX) / Numbers (Mac OS)

Pretty much everyone starts here as it’s the obvious (and free, since most people will have a spreadsheet tool of some sort) place. There are plenty of free and paid-for templates for managing your Accounts and, of course, you can create your own. Literally all you need is a sheet with income, outgoings and Bank Balances then you can go. It does, however, get more complicated especially when you get to year end and you are trying to reconcile everything. When I started out I used one. I was also VAT registered from day 1 and it took two weeks to reconcile my first VAT return. It got quicker, but honestly the cost saving in not subscribing to a commercial package was far, far outweighed by my time in managing the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets have nasty habits of hiding errors and throwing hissy fits if you try and insert or delete cells and rows.

Unless your Business is really simple (and I mean a couple of transactions a week at most), don’t bother.

Standalone Accounts Packages

After my spreadsheet I bought a standalone copy of a popular package (Sage) following a recommendation by my Accountant. This was in the 1990s and the User Experience has improved since then but it was really hard work for a non-accountant. This was followed by another Brand, Quickbooks. Still standalone, but easier to use. I ran with that for about 15 years, well past its use by date but I was familiar with it.

I now use a variety of cloud-based packages. You can still get standalone, downloadable packages that run on your computer of choice, but I wouldn’t recommend them. Lack of versatility, irregular updates and inability to access remotely are some of the reasons. A cloud-based package is really the only solution. You are always working with the latest version, you can connect to it from anywhere in the world and can grant access to others, such as team members or a third-party Accountant.

Cloud-based packages

There are quite a few of these, each with advantages and disadvantages. Most have a limited functionality trial trying to draw you in. They work on the basis that if you have gone to the effort of typing data in you will be reluctant to sacrifice that effort. Don’t be taken in. Yes, it is an effort to duplicate but if you are not comfortable with a package don’t be afraid to abandon it. You have to use it for the next few years and need to have it work for you, not fight it. I’ve chopped and changed several times.

Making Tax Digital (MTD). This is coming. It is already here if you are Registered for VAT. You have to file your VAT returns digitally from now onwards – and that will come to Corporate Accounts at some point I am sure. Make sure that whatever package you use, it supports MTD. The only exception is if you use an Accountant and they can use their system instead.

Here is a potted review of some of the better known packages out there. All opinions are my own and features and prices correct as of June 2022.

Brief summary. I am in the process of moving all my Accounts to Quickfile as it is great value and uncomplicated.

Xero

  • ✓ £ – starter package £12 + vat / month
  • ✓ 30 day free trial
  • ✓ 20 invoices / 5 bills / month on starter package
  • ✓ Supports online VAT submission
  • X Payroll is an add-on, not available with the starter package

Very comprehensive product with regular updates. Good fur multiple users and plenty or Reports available.

Kashflow

  • ✓ £ – starter package £95 + vat / year
  • ✓ 14 day free trial
  • ✓ 10 invoices on starter package
  • ✓ Supports online VAT submission
  • X Payroll is an add-on, not available with the starter package

Very clean product. I have been using it for a couple of Businesses without issue. The only reason that I have changed for one Business is that at the transaction volume of the Business, the free version of Quickfile is better value for money. No other negatives.

Quickfile

  • ✓ £ – starter package Free – up to 1000 Ledger entries per rolling 12 months, £45 + vat / year after that
  • ✓ no limit to free trial as long as ledger entries stay under 1000 on a rolling 12 month basis
  • ✓ No invoice limit (subject to above)
  • ✓ Supports online VAT submission. Super simple to use once set up
  • X Payroll is not supported, but it integrates with The Payroll Site (£6.50 + vat / month)
  • X Sometimes you have to fill in fields where they could be left blank and the error message is not clear when this happens

I have moved two businesses to Quickfile, one because it was from a packages that did not support Making Tax Digital and I needed to submit VAT returns online. The other because Quickfile does all I need, but for free at the level of transactions being carried out compared to a monthly subscription.

Quickbooks

This has been my ‘go to’ package for about 7 years, however as a standalone version. As packages are now online and Making Tax Digital requires online access I was forced to upgrade and Quickfile was my personal choice compared to the online version of Quickbooks.

  • ✓ £ – starter package £12 + vat / month
  • ✓ £ – 3 month 90% off trial – starter package £1.20 + vat / month for 3 months. £12 + vat / month after that
  • ✓ Supports online VAT submission.
  • X Payroll is an add-on for all packages
  • X No Bill management with starter package

Other packages worth considering

Setting outGetting set upThe Business sideUseful ResourcesAdvanced resources
(subscription required)
Why become a First Aid TrainerQualifications overviewLegal format of your BusinessBuy equipment & consumablesPremium package
Can I become a First Aid Trainer – have I got what it takes?Getting QualifiedVATList of Training Organisations
How do I become a First Aid TrainerGoverning BodiesBookkeepingList of governing and Awarding Organisations
Equipment neededBusiness toolsUseful websites
Buy equipment and consumablesManging my clients (the Pareto Principle)First Aid abbreviations
Budgeting and pricingBooks and e-books
Marketing and Advertising
Podcasts
Manging my courses
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