Founded in 2006 by two entrepreneurs in New Zealand, Xero now claims more than 200,000 users in over 100 countries. Xero bills itself as the ideal solution for modern SMEs offering online software for accountants in practice and for small businesses to update and manage business transactions in real time.

An additional smartphone app, Xero Touch for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone lets subscribers manage their business while on the go. Simplicity is the watchword with the online accounting package, with the user instantly able to see bank balances, recent sales, money coming in or out, and expense claims on the dashboard. See all finance software reviews.

The dashboard features five other tabs with drop-down menus for the user to manage all aspects of business accounts: Accounts, Reports, Adviser (see later), Contacts and Settings. The Contacts tab is where the user can easily manage customers, suppliers, employees and more; the Settings tab is for managing general settings as well as managing inventory items. Here you can also manage and set-up account codes with simple descriptions for the income and expense accounts.

The Reports tab generates various reports for a user to see at-a-glance how their business is doing in real time – profit and loss reports, balance sheet, age and amount of outstanding debts, and so on. The Accounts tab is for managing business bank accounts, debtor and creditor amounts (with graphical/pictorial analysis), employee pay runs and expense claims, and fixed assets (computer and office equipment, for example).

Some sections have an optional ‘Getting Started’ message explaining briefly what each section is for and how to use it. The best thing about this software is that it boasts many features for different levels of user: keeping it straightforward for the business owner with little experience in managing accounts – but also including functionalities for those with more experience.

It will suit finance-trained entrepreneurs and even bookkeepers and accountants in practice. The Adviser tab contains additional functions for more accounts-experienced types, whereas the inexperienced can leave the accounts management functions under this tab to their bookkeeper or accountant. Indeed, when posting or editing a manual journal, for example, a message helpfully pops up recommending that ‘only your accountant or bookkeeper create journals, unless you have experience managing your general ledger’.

The Adviser section also contains options to fill in and file your VAT return online, create annual accounts to be filed to Companies House, and export general ledger transactions. However, Xero does not have any corporation tax or self-assessment functionalities. Separate tax software would be needed for these, although one can add on certain other services, such as payroll, CRM or inventory management, from one of Xero software developer partner firms.

Prices excluding VAT for the online solution start from £12 per month for the simplest small businesses – freelancers and small property investors, for instance – to £19 per month for most small- and medium-sized businesses Pay £24 per month for small- and medium-sized businesses that bank or transact in foreign currencies. Visit: Business Advisor.

Xero: Specs

  • Any internet-connected computer (PC, Mac, etc), iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone
  • Any internet-connected computer (PC, Mac, etc), iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

OUR VERDICT

An easy-to-use, reasonably priced cloud software solution which is suitable for a variety of SMEs, with a smartphone app that is handy for those who like to manage their business on the go. Xero can be used by both the wholly inexperienced and the more experienced user. However, the only business tax it supports is VAT; so corporation tax, payroll and self-assessment will have to be dealt with by another package or by a tax advisor.

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