The best free accounting software should include 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 reports. We’ve identified five great free accounting software options for small businesses.
Top 5 Free Accounting Software
- Wave: Best overall free accounting software
- Sunrise: Best free accounting software with an assisted bookkeeping option
- ZipBooks: Best free accounting software to create simple invoices
- GnuCash: Best free desktop accounting software
- Brightbook: Best free accounting software to issue invoices in any currency
How to Choose the Best Free Accounting Software for Your Small Business
If your small business cannot afford accounting software, you’re not necessarily stuck using an Excel spreadsheet. During our research, we found great options for accounting software that have at least one plan that is free and does not expire. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the free accounting software for your small business:
- Price: All of the software options we present have at least one free plan that does not expire. You might also consider the cost of their more advanced plans that might be needed as your company grows.
- Features: Your free accounting software should have some basic features like connecting to your bank accounts, generating and emailing invoices to clients, tracking unpaid bills, and producing financial statements.
- Ease of setup and use: Free software often has little customer support, so it’s important that the product uses simple language that doesn’t require you to have a bookkeeping or accounting background.
- Ability to give other users access: The ability to give a bookkeeper or certified public accountant (CPA) access to your data is a huge time saver. This is one area where cloud-based programs are far superior to desktop programs.
- Mobile accessibility: There is no reason to be tied to a desk when you are keeping your own books. A good accounting program, even a free one, should be accessible from your mobile device.
Wave: Best Overall Free Accounting Software for Small Businesses
Wave is the best overall free accounting software for small businesses because it offers features that rival expensive software. It goes beyond basic bookkeeping by offering an unlimited number of users and the ability to track more than one business with a single login.
Bank accounts are reconciled easily
Remote access to full software is through mobile web instead of app
Bank transactions are imported automatically
Integrations are limited compared to more expensive software
Outstanding vendor bills and customer invoices can be tracked easily
No time tracking for employees or contractors
Wave Receipts mobile app provides easy receipt scanning
Wave is 100% free and does not offer a paid plan. Wave does charge for accepting online payments and processing payroll. However, even expensive software generally charge extra for these services.
- Provide estimates and quotes: Email a customer an estimate or quote for services or products to be provided, and then turn the estimate into an invoice when the customer accepts.
- Track outstanding invoices: Create invoices, accept online payments from customers for a fee, and generate an accounts receivable (A/R) report to view customers that owe you money.
- Pay bills on time: Enter your bills into Wave and run an accounts payable (A/P) report that shows the amount and due date of your unpaid bills.
- Scan receipts from anywhere: Use the Wave Receipts mobile app to scan receipts with your smartphone’s camera.
- Connect your bank and credit card accounts: Connect an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts to Wave and then classify transactions as they are imported.
- Reconcile bank accounts: Reconcile bank accounts easily to make sure all income and expenses are included.
- Print financial statements: Generate all three primary financial statements in Wave: balance sheet, profit and loss (P&L) statement, and statement of cash flows.
- Access your account from anywhere: Access your Wave account on your mobile browser, or use the mobile apps, Wave Invoice and Wave Receipts.
- Pay employees: Pay employees for a fee and produce the required W-2s and 1099s.
For more information, read our complete Wave review.
Sunrise: Best Free Accounting Software With an Assisted Bookkeeping Option
Sunrise’s approach to small business bookkeeping is unique. Predominantly, Sunrise is an online bookkeeping service, but they make their accounting software available for free to any small business that wishes to do their own bookkeeping. This is ideal for new companies that want to do their own books for now but can convert to assisted bookkeeping when they become larger.
Features comparable to high-priced accounting software
Program is not as easy to use as some free programs
Connect unlimited banks
Reports are very limited
Seamlessly transition to assisted bookkeeping in the future
The Sunrise Self Service plan is free and includes the accounting program. Customers can upgrade to the monthly bookkeeping plans to receive support from a dedicated bookkeeper. The monthly bookkeeping plans range from $149 to $499 per month.
- Create invoices: Create and email custom invoices created from scratch or converted from customer quotes.
- Track invoices: Track customers that owe you money on the Invoices dashboard.
- Connect bank and credit card accounts: Connect unlimited bank and credit card accounts.
- Input bills: Input bills as you receive them and track their due dates on the Expenses dashboard.
- Match transactions: Match transactions imported from your bank to existing transactions with a unique click and drag interface.
- Print reports: Produce an income statement and balance sheet.
- Scan receipts: Upload receipts using the Sunrise mobile app or from your desktop computer.
- Access anywhere: Access your account via a very nice mobile website versus a traditional app.
- Invite multiple users: Invite team members to access your company books.
- Set up multiple companies: Create multiple companies within the same Sunrise account.
ZipBooks: Best Free Accounting Software to Create Simple Invoices
ZipBooks is the best free accounting software to produce simple, great-looking invoices. ZipBooks provides an invoice template that you can customize with your logo and then fill-in your sales information. It couldn’t be easier to create and send invoices.
Unlimited invoices are very easy to create
Unpaid bills cannot be tracked
Unlimited vendors and customers
Only one bank can be connected
Digital payments accepted through Square or PayPal
Only one user allowed
ZipBooks has three pricing plans for small businesses that range from free to $35 per month. The plans ZipBooks offers are:
- ZipBooks Starter: $0
- ZipBooks Smarter: $15 per month
- Connect to multiple bank accounts
- Includes five users
- ZipBooks Sophisticated: $35 per month
- Tag transactions with location and project
- Includes unlimited users
ZipBooks Starter Features
- Create invoices: Invoices are very simple to create and do not require setting up complicated products or services as done in other accounting programs. The downside is without defined products and services, the invoices can take longer to complete.
- Track invoices: After sending invoices, produce an A/R report to track the amount owed to you by customers.
- Connect bank and credit card accounts: Connect one bank account and import transactions.
- Input transactions: Track an unlimited number of bank and credit card accounts by manually entering the transactions.
- Print reports: Produce an income statement, balance sheet, and A/R schedule.
- Integrations: ZipBooks integrates with PayPal and Square to accept online payments.
- Mobile access: The ZipBooks mobile app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
GnuCash: Best Free Desktop Accounting Software
GnuCash is the best free accounting software for businesses that want a desktop program for either Windows or Mac. The software is open-source, but programming is not required as the downloadable version is feature-packed. While the program states it is primarily for personal finance, it has all the features of a small business bookkeeping system. The program is very powerful, but it is difficult to use and will take time to learn.
Open-source software can be customized by programmers
Difficult to use
New user tutorial downloads with program
Only accessible from a desktop computer
Incredible list of reports
Invoices cannot be emailed directly from program
GnuCash is 100% free, but the volunteer developers that support GnuCash accept donations. You can download the software to your Windows, Linux, or Mac computer for free with no credit card required.
- Access help documentation: A PDF help manual and tutorial downloads with the program and is accessible through the help menu.
- Create invoices: Create invoices, track their due dates, apply customer payments, and run an A/R aging report.
- Enter bills: Enter your bills, assign due dates, and run an A/P aging report
- Input transactions in checkbook-style register: You can input transactions directly into registers, but this might take some accounting knowledge since you’ll need to know which accounts are affected by the transaction.
- Scheduled transactions: You may set up recurring transactions that will post automatically based on a specified date
- Connect bank accounts: You should be able to connect your bank account, but the interface is very complicated and will take time and research to set up.
- Financial reports and graphs: GnuCash offers users plenty of customizable reports like P&L statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.
Brightbook: Best Free Accounting Software to Issue Invoices in Any Currency
Brightbook allows you to issue an invoice in any currency, and will convert it to your home currency automatically. This is great free software for small companies that have clients in different parts of the world. While Brightbook is great for invoicing, collections, and bill payments, it is not a double-entry bookkeeping system, so it’s not right for businesses that require a balance sheet report.
Invoices can be issued in any currency
Not a double-entry accounting system so no balance sheet is available
Intuitive interface is easy to use
No mobile app and the mobile website is small and hard to read
Bank statements can be individually imported, but banks cannot be connected to your account
Only reports available are the profit and loss report and aged A/P
Brightbook is completely free.
- Create invoices: Create and email invoices in any currency and they will be converted to your home currency. View who owes you money on the Clients screen.
- Enter bills: Input bills and attach a PDF of the receipt. View a list of unpaid bills, along with vendors and due dates.
- Import bank statements: Import bank and credit card transactions from OFX and QIF files, which are available for export from most banks.
- View reports: View your profit and loss report online, but no balance sheet is available.
- Create multiple users: Invite multiple users to view and edit your books, including an external accountant.
- Create multiple companies: Manage the books for multiple companies by creating additional businesses within a single login.
When to Get Paid Accounting Software
You should consider purchasing accounting software for your businesses if you can’t find the features you’re looking for or struggle using free software. Paid accounting software usually has better customer support and more features. I recommend browsing our list of best small business accounting software to get started.
We’ve provided a list of great free accounting software. Both Wave and Sunrise offer great full-featured accounting software, while ZipBooks provides simple invoice creation, and Brightbook allows invoices in multiple currencies. GnuCash is a complicated program but provides incredible power and flexibility to users that are dedicated to learning.