What’s wrong with online accounting software?

Since 2005 when we were first introduced to NetSuite, we have had a look at all of the major online accounting packages. There is nothing particularly wrong with them if you’re a bookkeeper.

If you’re not a bookkeeper, then you either need to get yourself trained up as a bookkeeper before using any of the online accounting packages, or simply don’t use them!

Alternatively, you could look upon these packages as being a glorified invoice generator and then give the records to a real bookkeeper so that the job can be done properly.

The reason we say this is that (even with the best will in the world) most untrained users will categorise things wrongly in their online package. That leaves us with a jigsaw puzzle to unpick and redo. And it’s a jigsaw puzzle which comes with no picture on the box! That means that we spend twice as long on these jobs, unpicking the damage and putting it right again.

At the end of the day, an online accounting package is not going to give you a set of Statutory Accounts and as that’s what Companies House wants, then you may want to think twice about the cost/benefit analysis of going this route. If all you want is an invoice generator then you could use one of the free open source ones. Don’t take this as a recommendation, but we can tell you that some of our clients used (the now defunct) Bamboo Invoice. Currently WaveApps offers a free invoicing tool (and more “paid for” tools).

The simpler way to generate your invoices is to use a Word or Excel document or a similar tool. Make a master template and reuse it, as long as you never overwrite your original template!

If you are using some major online accounting package to give you the VAT figures and the Corporation Tax figures, you might have realised that getting some of your categorisation wrong will invariably lead to getting the tax figures wrong. Is that what you want?

Lastly, you cannot rely on any of the platforms to import all your bank statements all the time. We’ve had trouble with more than one platform, and when they go wrong it is impossible to get them back to normal. That’s why we always ask for copies of bank statements regardless!


When they have gone wrong we know from experience that you either abandon that platform and use another (equally mediocre) platform, or you set up a new account on the same platform and start again.