Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Which accounting software is the best for small businesses in the USA and Canada?

Over at Quora we came across the following question: Which accounting software is the best for small businesses in the USA and Canada?

Sara RosenfeldManager of Cross-Product Marke... (more) Wave AppsGreat question!
While there's no one size fits all answer, there are certainly some common factors that will help you decide what software is best for your business.

The first questions who's going to be handling the accounting. How much experience do they have, and how much time do they have to devote to accounting. Something like QuickBooks is popular with accountants, who have a lot of experience with not only accounting, but that tool in particular. However, you'll often here small business owners new to the tool saying that the learning curve is pretty steep.

There are new options on the market that are pretty intuitive. One I'd definitely recommend is Wave (note, I work at Wave). The most common feedback we hear from customers is that they couldn't believe just how easy Wave was to learn, and they "got" everything pretty much immediately.

The next thing you'll want to look at is budget: How much do you want to spend. There are some great free options (like Wave), or if your needs are much more extensive you can check out tools like Xero or QuickBooks online. Fortunately, in addition to tools like Wave being free, many other tools offer free trials. I definitely recommend taking advantage of this, and checking out 2 or 3 tools to decide what feels best for you.

Next, you need to decide what you want your software to do. Is it accounting only? How about invoicing, credit card processing, or payroll? You'll find some tools specialize in one thing (such as FreshBooks who has a larger focus on invoicing), and some tools offer a much more integrated approach to all of these things, such as Wave.

At the end of the day, you'll need to find the tool that's best for you. But with free trials and free tools, you should be able to set aside an hour, test our 2-3 tools, and find the best fit for your business.

I'll second Sara's answer Wave is a great option for small business. Built to support businesses with nine employees or less, anything over that you may want to switch up to one of the larger operators like Xero, FreshBooks or Quickbooks. 
Xero is a great alternative worth considering. Accessible from anywhere and any device it combines an attractive easy to use interface with powerful accounting capabilities. It's been said (something which I find hard to believe) that it makes accounting fun. Features include:
  • Online accounting
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Payroll
  • Expense claims
  • Financial Reporting
QuickBooks similar to Xero but not as simple to use. With Quickbooks you'll be able to take care of all your accounting, billing and invoicing on one platform. Like most accounting software these days it can be accessed from anywhere and on any device. Features include:
  • Create and Mange Invoices
  • Track sales expenses
  • Automated online banking
  • enter and manage bills
  • P&L and Balance Sheet reports
FreshBooks the last on the list worth considering. It has much the same capabilities as the other accounting providers mentioned earlier. Check out some the features:
  • Online invoicing
  • Time Tracking
  • Recurring Invoices
  • team Timesheets
  • Expense Tracking
Finally I completely agree with Sara about trying them out on a free trial and find which one works best for you.

Greg LamEntrepreneur

It's a fairly broad question to answer.

In Canada, you have GST / PST / HST. GST/HST is recoverable whereas PST is not. This creates some complications for software that is not made in Canada or with Canada in mind. Also, payroll taxes and how they are calculated are different in Canada than in other countries.

In the U.S. there are unique things surrounding sales taxes in multiple jurisdictions, 1099's, and payroll that you have to consider. 

You mentioned QuickBooks and Peachtree, which are desktop products. I've personally moved on from desktop, not because they're not good, but because I now specialize in online software. But if you're going desktop and are not an accounting professional, QuickBooks is a safe bet, whether in Canada or the U.S.

For online, there are many choices. If you're looking for free, there's no better choice than Wave. They do charge for payroll or payment processing, but so do all the other competitors. While Wave is easy, I don't necessarily think it's that much easier than other software, it's just different. There's less learning curve than bigger software like Xero or QuickBooks Online, but that's mostly because it has less features. Wave has payroll both for the U.S. and Canada. While it can handle sales taxes in both countries, the tax reporting is very basic. 

Kashoo comes in at about $5 a month. Feature-wise its a bit comparable to Wave, in that it covers the basics that a small business would need, but doesn't have things like inventory nor does it have a bunch of add-on software that can give you extra capabilities. The way it does taxes is more customizable than Wave, so it can handle taxes both in the U.S. and Canada. They also have extra payroll add-ons for the U.S. and Canada, but it's not integrated like Wave. Also, it doesn't do payment processing, something that Wave can. 

QuickBooks Online has specific U.S. and Canadian versions. The U.S. version is more capable than the Canadian version. Amongst all the software, QuickBooks Online handles sales taxes in Canada the best, as it has a dedicated sales tax center. They also have integrated payroll in both countries. It's a bit more expensive, starting around $10 a month for basic functionality and going up to about $70 or so, depending on the feature set and country.

Xero is quite comparable feature-wise to QuickBooks Online. It's better in some areas, in other areas its worse. You just have to know what you want in order to see which is better. In most cases it's probably a bit more expensive. In the U.S., the starting price is $10 a month, whereas in Canada it's $10 a month. It also goes up to $70 a month or so for extra functionality. If you need multi-currency and are in the U.S., Xero is the way to go, since it's the only software that does it well in the small business space. Xero also has great automatic bank feed reconciliation functionality and has decent document attachments as well. Xero started in New Zealand, so it can handle Canadian sales tax requirements, but it's tax reporting in Canada is basic. Xero has integrated payroll in select states in the U.S., but you need an add-on to get Canadian payroll. 

Lastly, Zoho Books is good software in the States. It can handle Canadian sales taxes as well, but like Xero, it has limited tax reporting. It has no payroll, integrated or via add-on. Zoho Books is in most regards as powerful as QuickBooks Online or Xero. It's not as known, so finding a community or support may be tougher. It's got a set price of $24 a month, which may make it pricey for very small businesses, but since that it's max price as well, it can be cheaper for businesses who require more complex functionality.

After writing this, I don't know if helps much, since the question is quite general. I do have some in-depth video reviews that you can find at:


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