Free small business accounting software that meets all the needs of a small business is difficult to find. The ability to track all income and expenses as well as produce basic financial reports like the profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow statement reports are key features that should be included.
Best Free Accounting Software for 2020
Free Accounting Software
(Best overall) Accounting software with the most features at no cost
Freelancers who need to send quotes and invoices electronically
Startup businesses that don’t have complex bookkeeping needs
Manufacturing & distribution businesses that want to integrate accounting, operations, sales & inventory
Best open-source software for desktop platform
Best online open-source accounting software.
When to Get Paid Accounting Software
Businesses should purchase accounting software when they have a need that goes beyond what’s included in free accounting software. For example, if you need to keep track of unpaid bills, you should go with a paid accounting software program like QuickBooks. If you’re looking for a way to integrate payroll processing or time tracking, you may also need paid accounting software.
FreshBooks starts at $15 per month and provides an integrated time tracking and invoicing system, which helps make billing more streamlined. QuickBooks also starts at $15 per month and can track unpaid bills, manage payroll, and track inventory, which are features not included in any of the free accounting software options on our list.
Wave: Overall Best Free Accounting Software for Small Businesses
Wave is the best overall free accounting software for small businesses because it includes the most features for the very reasonable price of free. It goes beyond basic bookkeeping by offering an unlimited number of users and the ability to track more than one business. Wave is easy to use and ideal for any business that pays most of its bills online and needs to track income and expenses for multiple businesses.
When it comes to pricing, Wave keeps it simple by offering one plan that is 100% free. Unlike most of its competitors, you won’t have to “upgrade” to a paid plan if you need to add a user or start tracking income and expenses for a new business. Similar to Wave, GnuCash is the only other accounting software that is also 100% free and does not offer a paid plan.
However, Wave does charge for accepting online payments and processing payroll. Both of these services must be turned on and require that you pay fees to use them.
Wave is packed with more than just basic bookkeeping features, such as the ability to manage your income and expenses, but you can also invite an unlimited number of users to access your data. In addition, you can connect an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts at no additional cost. Unlike its competitors that put limitations on their “free” software to force you to upgrade to a paid plan, Wave gives you the same features for free.
Wave includes full-cycle accounts receivable (A/R), which means that you can create invoices, accept online payments from customers, and generate an A/R report to stay on top of unpaid invoices.
Wave also includes the following features to help you get paid faster:
- Recurring billing
- Automatic payment reminders
- Automatic invoice status: sent, viewed, or paid
Wave is the only software we looked at that does not allow you to keep track of unpaid bills. This means you cannot enter your bills into Wave and run a report that shows which bills are due when and for how much. However, you can record payments that have been made by downloading the transactions directly from your financial institution or manually entering them into Wave.
While accounts payable (A/P) aging reports are very useful for budgeting and cash forecasting, it’s generally not a deal-breaker for accounting software to not have A/P functionality. This function, if needed, can be done outside the accounting software.
Bank & Credit Card Accounts
Similar to SlickPie and ZipBooks, you can connect an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts to Wave. This will reduce the amount of manual data entry that you would normally have to do. By having the ability to sync your bank and credit card accounts with Wave, you can ensure that your financial statements remain accurate and always up to date.
Key Financial Statements
Similar to GnuCash and xTuple PostBooks, you can create all three financial statements in Wave: the balance sheet, profit and loss (P&L) statement, and the statement of cash flows. This will help you to stay on top of the overall health of your business.
Like most cloud accounting software products, you can download a mobile app to manage certain aspects of your business. Wave has two apps: one for invoicing customers and one for scanning receipts. Both apps sync automatically with your Wave account.
The following Wave apps are available for iOS and Android devices:
- Wave Invoicing App for Android
- Wave Invoicing App for iOS
- Wave Receipts App for Android
- Wave Receipts App for iOS
Wave Customer Service
Customers love being able to use accounting software for free. However, customers are extremely dissatisfied with the lack of customer service. The only support Wave offers is email, and some customers say the response time can be days while others say they have never received a response.
Wave User Reviews
When it comes to Wave user reviews, Wave has a 4 out of 5-star rating. Users love the user-friendly interface and easy setup that comes with Wave. However, if you need your accounting software to scale with your business, Wave may not be the right choice for you.
What Wave Is Missing
There is one primary area where Wave misses the boat. Wave cannot track unpaid bills, and it cannot scale along with your business if it grows. Wave only offers one plan. The free features may seem like everything you need unless your business grows to such a size that A/P reports and payroll become necessary. Then, you need to move to another accounting software and/or pay for additional features like payroll.
ZipBooks: Best Free Accounting Software for Freelancers
ZipBooks is best for freelancers who need to send quotes and invoices electronically. With ZipBooks, you can send unlimited electronic invoices with its free plan and accept digital payments through Square or PayPal.
Unlike Wave and GnuCash, which only offer one plan—free, ZipBooks has four pricing plans that range between $0 per month and custom pricing. The ZipBooks Starter plan is free, and it is the pricing plan we will focus on for this guide. If you decide to accept online payments or process payroll, both of these services must be turned on and will require that you pay fees to use them. As with other accounting software providers, the four tiers of ZipBooks subscriptions offer different features.
The plans ZipBooks offers are:
- ZipBooks Starter: $0
- ZipBooks Smarter: $15 per month
- ZipBooks Sophisticated: $35 per month
- ZipBooks Accountant: Custom pricing
The ZipBooks Starter plan is the free plan that is capable of handling basic bookkeeping like invoicing customers and paying bills. Similar to Wave and SlickPie, you can keep track of multiple businesses. However, you are limited to one user and one back account, whereas both Wave and SlickPie include an unlimited number of users and bank accounts. If you need to give additional users access to your data, you can upgrade to a paid plan starting at $15 per month.
Similar to its competitors, you can invoice your customers and accept online payments in ZipBooks. You can also run an A/R aging report to keep track of unpaid invoices. ZipBooks also has a time tracking tool that will allow you to transfer hours worked to an invoice.
Unlike Wave, you can keep track of unpaid vendor bills manually in ZipBooks. The way this works is you enter all of your bills as they come in and run an A/P aging report to keep track of their due dates. When it’s time to pay a bill, you manually mark the bill paid by entering the payment method like check, credit card, or online. Unlike GnuCash and xTuple, this is an entirely manual process in ZipBooks.
Bank & Credit Card Accounts
ZipBooks Starter limits you to connecting one bank or credit card account vs unlimited accounts with Wave and SlickPie. If you have more than one account that you need to connect to ZipBooks, you will have to upgrade to one of its paid plans that start at $15 per month. All ZipBooks paid plans allow you to connect an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts.
Key Financial Statements
Similar to SlickPie, you cannot generate a statement of cash flows in ZipBooks. However, you can create a P&L report and a balance sheet report. Also, in the free version of ZipBooks, you can switch between cash-based and accrual-based reporting.
The ZipBooks mobile app is currently for iOS devices only. So, if you use an Android device, you will need to use ZipBooks through a browser.
ZipBooks Customer Service
ZipBooks does offer live customer support via chat. However, customers feel that there is significant improvement needed in this area.
ZipBooks User Reviews
ZipBooks has an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars on our ZipBooks user reviews page. What customers like most about ZipBooks is the number of features that are included at such an affordable price. Users also enjoy integrations with popular software like Google Drive and Asana. Some users, however, report a lack of guidance on using the more complicated features of ZipBooks and a mobile app that leaves a lot to be desired.
What ZipBooks Is Missing
Compared to its competitors, ZipBooks falls short in three main areas: the number of users is limited to one, you can only connect one bank and credit card account, and you cannot run a statement of cash flows. While two of these limitations can be resolved by upgrading to a paid subscription, Wave and SlickPie include an unlimited number of users and an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts for free.
SlickPie: Best Free Accounting Software for Startups
If you’ve just started your business and don’t have a ton of experience with using bookkeeping software, but you want something more sophisticated than Excel, SlickPie is a good solution. SlickPie is extremely easy to use and has many of the features you need as a small business owner.
Similar to ZipBooks, SlickPie offers both free and paid plans. The free Starter plan provides accounting functionality, but it’s limited to 10 companies, and you can only interact with customer support by email. SlickPie’s Pro plan ($39.95 per month) allows up to 50 companies and provides support both by email and telephone.
Similar to its competitors, you can manage your bills, customer invoices, and generate financial reports for up to 10 separate businesses with the free plan. Nearly identical to Wave, SlickPie includes an unlimited number of users and the ability to connect an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts. Like ZipBooks, you cannot generate a statement of cash flows. However, you can track your bills manually, which you can’t do with Wave.
Similar to its competitors, you can manage your entire A/R process in SlickPie. This includes creating invoices, emailing invoices to customers, and managing customer payments. You can also run an A/R aging report to see which invoices are past due.
Some additional key tools included in SlickPie to manage the A/R process are:
- Recurring invoices
- Payment reminders before and after invoices become due
- Online payment acceptance
Unlike Wave, you can manage your unpaid supplier bills manually in SlickPie. Similar to what we discussed with ZipBooks, you can manually enter your bills and mark them paid with the payment method used like cash, check, or credit card. You can also run an A/P report to keep track of the unpaid bills that are coming due or are already past due.
Bank & Credit Card Accounts
Like Wave, you can connect an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts to SlickPie. This will ensure you don’t miss out on any tax deductions because you lost a receipt or forgot to enter an expense. You also can reconcile your bank and credit card accounts easily to ensure your financial statements are always current.
Key Financial Statements
SlickPie includes many financial statements, including profit and loss and balance sheet reports. Similar to ZipBooks, SlickPie does not include a statement of cash flows report. However, it does include an aged receivables report, aged payables report, and a detailed budget report.
SlickPie is a cloud solution, so you must use a browser. SlickPie does not offer any mobile applications for iOS or Android devices.
SlickPie Customer Service
SlickPie offers customer service via online tutorials and help articles. You may contact the company through email during its normal business hours.
SlickPie User Reviews
SlickPie user reviews are mostly positive, with users enjoying the easy setup and use of SlickPie combined with unlimited users. Customers would like to see more graphic representation of their data through graphs and charts as well as the possibility of integrating their SlickPie account with more external tools.
What SlickPie Is Missing
Compared to its competitors, SlickPie falls short in two areas: A/P is a manual process, and you can’t run a statement of cash flows. The good news is that you can track A/P manually, which is better than not having the functionality at all, like Wave.
xTuple PostBooks: Best Free Accounting Software for Manufacturing & Distribution Businesses
xTuple PostBooks is open-source accounting software that includes modules to manage every aspect of your business. Unlike its competitors, xTuple is a desktop application, meaning you need to download and install the files on your computer. You do not access xTuple through an internet browser.
xTuple PostBooks Pricing
Similar to ZipBooks, xTuple PostBooks offers both free and paid plans. The paid plans run between $45 and $150 per user, per month. This is definitely on the steep side when it comes to the average cost of accounting software. The free plan is limited to four users. If you need to give more than four people access to your data, you will need to upgrade to one of the paid pricing plans.
The four paid pricing plans for an annual license with xTuple are:
- PostBooks (Commercial): $45 per user, per month
- Distribution: $90 per user, per month
- Manufacturing: $130 per user, per month
- Enterprise: $150 per user, per month
What’s neat about xTuple PostBooks is that it goes beyond accounting by integrating your entire business process like sales, operations, inventory control, and customer relations. GnuCash and Akaunting are probably the only products we looked at that are similar in customization capabilities. That’s because, like xTuple, both GnuCash and Akaunting are open-source software. This makes them a lot more customizable than most accounting software.
xTuple PostBooks Features
Like its competitors, xTuple PostBooks allows you to manage all of your income and expenses easily. Unlike its competitors, it has an extensive inventory management module that is ideal for both distribution and manufacturing businesses. Another unique feature you will find in xTuple PostBooks is its customer relationship management (CRM) system. Unlike its competitors, you can organize and track all business contacts, including customers, vendors, competitors, and partners.
Like its competitors, xTuple PostBooks allows you to create customer invoices, apply payments, and keep track of unpaid invoices with an A/R aging report. You can also accept credit and debit card payments from customers to get paid faster. If you sell products and would like to create and send an order confirmation to your customer, you can do that easily in xTuple PostBooks.
Like GnuCash, xTuple PostBooks has full A/P functionality. This means that you can enter all of your unpaid bills and keep track of when they are due. This will allow you to run an A/P report at any time to see how much you owe to your suppliers. Using this information, you can create accurate cash flow projections for your business.
Bank & Credit Card Accounts
You can set up and manage all of your bank and credit card accounts manually in xTuple PostBooks. Similar to GnuCash, you cannot connect your bank accounts to the software for automatic data synchronization. However, you can import a data file from your bank into xTuple PostBooks.
Key Financial Statements
Unlike SlickPie and ZipBooks, which do not include a statement of cash flow, xTuple PostBooks includes all three of the primary financial statements: P&L, balance sheet, and statement of cash flow. In addition, xTuple includes a free, open-source structured query language (SQL) report writer that can be used to build any type of report you need. GnuCash has a similar feature, but Akaunting does not.
xTuple does not currently offer a way for you to access your data from a mobile device. As we have discussed, the software is downloaded to a desktop computer and can be accessed by multiple users via your business network.
xTuple PostBooks Customer Service
When it comes to providing good customer service, xTuple excels. According to customers, xTuple goes out of its way to give you the best experience possible. If you want self-service options, xTuple PostBooks offers an online knowledge base, customer portal, and user forums. If you have an xTuple support contract, you have additional support options available to you.
xTuple PostBooks User Reviews
The user reviews for xTuple are very positive. Customers like the ability to download free software to see what it can do and, if they want more functionality, they can always upgrade to a paid version. In addition, xTuple integrates with other modules to give you a customizable all-around solution for your business.
However, because xTuple is a more intricate system than most accounting software options, it can be confusing to figure out and does have a large learning curve. Another thing users don’t like is that xTuple’s support is not included with the paid versions. It is an additional, optional cost to purchase the support contract.
What xTuple PostBooks Is Missing
One area where xTuple is lacking is the inability to access your data on the go like you can with Wave, SlickPie, and ZipBooks. With as many hats as business owners have to wear, it’s not realistic that they must be chained to a desktop computer to get work done.
Another area where xTuple fell short is not being able to connect bank and credit card accounts to the software. Having the ability to look at your software to see up-to-date financials is key to managing cash flow.
GnuCash: Best Open-source Accounting Software for Desktop Platforms
GnuCash is the best free accounting software for businesses that want open-source accounting software that you can customize to meet your needs. For example, if you need a report that is not in the list of report options, you can build it from scratch in GnuCash because a programmer or developer can change the code behind the scenes.
Like Wave and SlickPie, GnuCash has one pricing plan—and it is 100% free. Volunteer developers support GnuCash, so they accept donations. You can download the software to your Windows, Linux, or Mac computer for free with no credit card required.
GnuCash includes all of the basic accounting features, such as the ability to manage A/R and A/P. However, GnuCash falls short when it comes to users included, which is only one. By comparison, Wave and SlickPie allow an unlimited number of users. However, GnuCash beats all of its competitors when it comes to reports. Unlike SlickPie and ZipBooks, you can run a statement of cash flow report in GnuCash.
Similar to its competitors, GnuCash allows you to manage outstanding customer balances. This includes creating invoices, tracking their due dates, applying customer payments, and running an A/R aging report.
Unlike Wave, SlickPie, and ZipBooks, GnuCash is designed to help you manage unpaid bills. This means that you can enter your bills, assign due dates, and run an A/P aging report. In addition, you can pay a bill directly from within GnuCash, which will allow your A/P balances to update automatically.
Bank & Credit Card Accounts
When it comes to connecting bank and credit card accounts, GnuCash falls short. While you can connect multiple bank and credit card accounts to Wave, SlickPie, and ZipBooks, you cannot connect bank and credit card accounts to GnuCash at all. However, you can import bank and credit card transactions from a QIF, OFX, or HBCI file type. However, this process is manual and not automatic like its competitors offer.
Key Financial Statements
GnuCash allows you to create the three primary financial reports: income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. Also, you can customize the existing reports or build a new report from scratch if you need to. This is one of the benefits of being open-source software.
GnuCash allows you to keep track of your business on the go. If you have an Android device, download the GnuCash Android app, and you’re all set. Unlike its competitors, you will have to import your data from your mobile device to your desktop to sync your data. The GnuCash app for iOS devices is no longer available. By comparison, Wave, SlickPie, and ZipBooks offer iOS applications.
GnuCash Customer Service
Users report the GnuCash customer support as leaving a lot to be desired. Because it is open-source software, there is no paid support staff to assist users with questions and problems. To even post a question in the support forum, users must sign up for an account, and the wait time for a response is often several days or months.
GnuCash User Reviews
GnuCash user reviews show that customers like the features included at no cost like detailed graphs and charts and a fully functional ledger system. However, customers report an interface that is not user-friendly. As a result, they have to invest a lot of time to learn how the program works because of the steep learning curve.
What GnuCash Is Missing
GnuCash falls short in a couple of areas. First, you can only have one person in the file at a time. Second, your bank and credit card information will not download into GnuCash automatically. Instead, you have to obtain the file from your financial institution and then import the data into GnuCash. We recommend that you choose Wave because you can add unlimited users, and you can connect all of your bank and credit card accounts.
Akaunting: Best Online Open-source Accounting Software
Akaunting includes single entry accounting functionality, not double-entry like most accounting software. Like GnuCash and xTuple, it is open-source software, but you can access it online through a web browser vs through a desktop computer like GnuCash. Akaunting is very easy to use and allows multiple users to track income and expenses, create invoices, and generate reports.
Similar to GnuCash and Wave, Akaunting has just one pricing plan: free. Akaunting’s server-based software and the web-based cloud version are free of charge. There are third-party add-ons available for purchase to extend Akaunting’s functionality. These add-ons are available through Akaunting’s App Store.
Akaunting provides single-entry accounting features such as tracking bank transactions for an unlimited number of accounts, managing inventory, creating invoices, entering expenses in multiple currencies, and attaching pictures of receipts and other files to transaction data. Akaunting supports multiple users, and each user can have customized roles and permissions.
With Akaunting, you can create invoices and send links for customers to view the digital invoice. However, Akaunting does not offer an A/R aging report, unlike all the other free accounting software we reviewed. Instead, users see all their invoices from the Invoices Dashboard, where invoices can be sorted by due date or payment status. Akaunting can integrate an online payment service with invoices. Add-ons are available to integrate Akaunting with PayPal, Stripe, and other payment gateways.
Akaunting can enter bills and due dates, similar to GnuCash. Users view all their bills from the Bills Dashboard, where bills can be sorted by due date or payment status. This data can also be exported to a spreadsheet for more in-depth analysis. Users can also track outstanding payments by vendor.
Bank & Credit Card Accounts
Unlike Wave, SlickPie, or ZipBooks, Akaunting does not connect to bank and credit card accounts. Akaunting can import bank and credit card data from Open Financial Exchange (OFX) files, but that functionality is available only through the OFX add-on. Unlike GnuCash, Akaunting cannot import data from QIF or HBCI files.
Key Financial Statements
Akaunting cannot generate the three essential financial statements easily but does have some other important reports such as an income summary, an expense summary, an income vs expense summary, and a tax summary. The balance sheet report can be generated by purchasing a double-entry add-on tool, but the statement of cash flows is not supported. Akaunting does not have a feature to create other types of financial reports, nor can you create custom reports as you can with GnuCash and xTuple PostBooks.
Similar to SlickPie, the cloud version of Akaunting can be accessed on any mobile device through a web browser. Akaunting’s server software does not integrate with any mobile device. There are currently no third-party apps in Akaunting’s app store that provide support for iOS or Android devices.
Akaunting Customer Service
Support for Akaunting users is provided via an online document library as well as customer forums where users can post questions. You can also receive dedicated support for your Akaunting issue by purchasing a support plan. For problems with applications purchased from the App Store, you can submit a ticket for help.
Akaunting User Reviews
User reviews for Akaunting show that most customers are happy with the product. The software is user-friendly and free with a customizable dashboard. Akaunting also supports multicurrency transactions, which users love. Some customers report the accounting modules are not as robust as other solutions, lacking such features as subaccounts, customizable invoices and templates, and complete reporting options.
What Akaunting Is Missing
Similar to FreshBooks, Akaunting is missing a double-entry accounting system. Akaunting also does not automatically pull in data from bank and credit card accounts. Unlike GnuCash, which can manually import three different file types, Akaunting can only import OFX files at present. Akaunting is also missing essential financial statements like the balance sheet and statement of cash flows.
How We Evaluated the Best Free Accounting Software for Small Business
Many small businesses cannot afford to invest in accounting software but need something more sophisticated than an Excel spreadsheet. During our research, our number one criterion was that the software had to be 100% free or include a free plan that did not expire. Based on this, we were left with six great options for which we compared features, ease of setup and use, and a few other criteria. See the methodology in detail.
The criteria we used to compare the best free accounting software are:
- Price: To make the cut, the accounting software had to be 100% free or offer a free option.
- Overall features for the price: Each product was evaluated based on whether or not it could perform basic bookkeeping tasks like invoice customers, pay bills, and run reports.
- Ease of setup and use: Most of these products do not offer live tech support, so it was very important that they use simple language that does not require the user to have a bookkeeping or accounting background.
- Ability to give other users access: Having the ability to give a bookkeeper or CPA access to your data is going to save you time, allowing you to work on other areas of your business without having to be interrupted to fulfill requests for information.
- Mobile accessibility: With the many hats that business owners wear, it is also imperative that you can run your business on the go using any device with an internet connection.
Positive cash flow and time are two of the most precious commodities that a small business owner could never have too much of. Each of the criteria that we used to evaluate our top free accounting software picks will either save you time, money, or both.
Out of the six products that made our list, Wave is our best overall free accounting software for small business. Wave goes well beyond the basic bookkeeping requirements to give you an unlimited number of users, a mobile app so you can work on the go, tools like automatic reminders, and the ability to accept online payments.