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Accounting Software needn’t be taxing

With the need to now go digital, it’s increasingly important to analyse the most-suitable tax return programmes for your business. Below are a selection of five different programmes for you to consider.


Bokio is a smart solution that helps small businesses and sole traders grow their company and profits. Powered by AI, it will help you do your bookkeeping, create, send and track invoices, and file your VAT return – all for free

Is it compatible with Making Tax Digital? Yes, you can submit your VAT return for free with Bokio. VAT returns are calculated automatically when you do your bookkeeping and invoicing.

Is there a free trial? Bokio is completely free with no limitations. There is a paid add-on – Accounting Partner – if you would like an accountant to do the work for you

How much is the subscription? Free. The Accounting Partner add-on starts at £25 per month for a sole trader and from £50 per month for a limited company, depending on your annual turnover

Is payroll included? Not at present, although you can manage staff expenses. This is in the pipeline for next year.

Can it be used on a Mac and PC? Yes.

Is it cloud based? Yes, with secure backups.

Is it mobile friendly? Yes, it can be used on a mobile and tablet. There isn’t an app at present but Bokio is working on it

Is there training available? Bokio uses a simple step-by-step approach to accounting, so it’s really easy to use. There is an extensive FAQ with guides and video to ensure everyone can do their accounting correctly. You can also contact support for any extra help and training


FreeAgent is award-winning online accounting software that’s designed specifically for the way small businesses work. More than 90,000 small business owners and freelancers use FreeAgent to track time against projects, raise invoices, file tax returns and get on with the work they love – not the paperwork

Is it compatible with Making Tax Digital? Yes, thousands of small businesses have already made VAT submissions through FreeAgent under the new legislation. It also enables business owners to submit Self Assessment tax returns directly to HMRC.

Is there a free trial? There is a 30-day, no-obligation free trial period

How much is the subscription? For sole traders, £9.50 per month + VAT for six months, £19 p/m afterwards. For partnerships/LLPs, £12 per month + VAT for six months, £24 p/m afterwards. For limited companies, £14.50 per month + VAT for six months, £29 p/ afterwards. FreeAgent is also available for free as part of Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest’s small business banking offering

Is payroll included? Yes, at no extra cost

Can it be used on a Mac and PC? Yes

Is it cloud based? Yes

Is it mobile friendly? Yes. FreeAgent is not only optimised for mobile devices, but also has companion apps available on iOS and Android

Is there training available? FreeAgent is designed to be as intuitive as possible for small business owners and freelancers to use. However, it does have a UK-based support team on-hand to help customers with specific queries about using FreeAgent (although they cannot provide accounting advice). It also hosts regular ‘Getting Started’ webinars for new customers and has an extensive Knowledge Base and Accounting Glossary on its website to aid customers with any queries



Powerful and easy accounting software. With unlimited invoicing and free expense tracking, you get everything you need in one simple subscription with no add-on costs. The new SmartScan™ feature even checks your VAT return.

Is it compatible with Making Tax Digital? Yes, including bridging software. You can prepare VAT, view submitted returns, check what is owed and view payment history. Use SmartScan™ to check your VAT for common errors, duplicates and anomalies for peace of mind your return is accurate and ready for submission

Is there a free trial? Yes, a month’s free trial or choose to get six months half price

How much is the subscription? Range of competitive pricing to suit different sizes of business. QuickBooks Online starts at just £12 per month

Is payroll included? Yes – choose between a simple or advanced product depending on your needs

Can it be used on a Mac and PC? Yes

Is it cloud based? Yes

Is it mobile friendly? Yes, its features include automatic mileage tracking to make sure every business mile goes towards your annual deductions, and mobile invoicing reduces the average time spent waiting for an invoice from 28 to eight days

Is there training available? Yes, including free local phone support and 24/7 live messaging

Zoho Books

Zoho Books is an HMRC recognized MTD ready accounting software for SMBs. It helps business owners track day-to-day financial operations like invoicing, online payments, bank feeds and bank reconciliation, expense management, sales and purchase order, inventory management, credit notes, thereby simplifying back office tasks of small to mid-sized businesses.

Is it compatible with Making Tax Digital? Yes, and has been since October 2018. Customers can file VAT returns with HMRC. It calculates the tax customers owe, creates VAT reports, and tracks the VAT customers have paid and reclaimed with HMRC

Is there a free trial? Yes, those interested can start a free trial for 14 days which gives access to the full featured professional plan

How much is the subscription? Per organisation, per month: Basic £6, Standard £12, and Professional £18. Those interested can also sign up to an annual plan, which provides two months free of charge, making the costs per year: Basic £60, Standard £120, Professional £180.

Organisations can also choose to sign up to Zoho One, an all-in-one suite of apps, to take more financial application and apps such as Analytics, which enables users to access and create visually appealing reports from their data

Is payroll included? Zoho Books does not offer payroll but does provide open APIs so payroll services can integrate

Can it be used on a Mac and PC? Yes

Is it cloud based? Yes

Is it mobile friendly? Yes, like all of Zoho’s 45+ apps, Zoho Books has native mobile apps which can be downloaded from iOS, Android and Windows store

Is there training available? Zoho supports customers/prospects with a help document, FAQs, webinars and demos, and every year there are customer meetups to help them to learn new features. Zoho Books also engages with partners and trains them


Xero is an easy-to-use platform for small businesses and their advisors. Born in the cloud, this accounting software is accessible online via any device, allowing you to run your business on-the-go and manage your numbers effortlessly. Xero also provides its 1.8 million subscribers with connections to a thriving ecosystem of over 800 third-party apps and over 200 connections to banks and financial service providers, helping businesses grow and thrive

Is it compatible with Making Tax Digital? Xero is fully compatible with Making Tax Digital, and has been working with HMRC for over three years to ensure everyone is supported through this transition to digital tax. Xero is HMRC-recognised. Its VAT online software makes it simple to create and submit VAT returns online to HMRC, as well as to track and manage VAT

Is there a free trial? Yes. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial

How much is the subscription? Standard prices range from £10-30 per month, with the packages regularly on offer

Is payroll included? Xero’s easy-to-use payroll software allows you to pay staff, send payslips and run reports. It provides everything you need to track working hours, manage leave and process pay – with controlled access for employees. It also automatically updates your accounts and creates HMRC submissions too

Can it be used on a Mac and PC? Yes

Is it cloud based? Yes. This allows you to log in online anytime, anywhere on your Mac, PC, tablet or phone and see up-to-date financials in real time

Is it mobile friendly? Yes. Xero’s mobile app allows you to take care of your accounting from your phone, on both iOS and Android. This allows you to record your expenses whilst you’re out and about, invoice whilst you’re on the job and have your customer contact details on hand at any time.

Is there training available? Xero has a wide range of courses available to ensure you’re fully equipped to use the software. Choose from a variety of subjects, from payroll to growing your business. You can also join a webinar or go to a live event, like the annual Xero Roadshow

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