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Specialist Accountancy Software

Updated 20/5/13

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Part of our Specialist Software section. Note that the majority of this information hasn't been updated for a couple of years or so - some programs will have changed in significant aspects.

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Introduction

Based on a round-up of software suitable for voluntary organisations which was started in 1996, this has been frequently updated, with a major revamp in connection with an article in NGO Finance (March 2000). A lot of the issues tend to be put in terms of the charity SORP, which requires tracking of Restricted Funds plus a Statement of Financial Activities rather than a Profit and Loss account. However, most of the same issues apply to any voluntary organisation with project funding. See our Issues page for more explanation on this and software trends.

All software runs under Windows unless stated otherwise. Note that consolidation amongst suppliers is growing - contacts, package names and availability may have changed recently.

Budgeting

Many voluntary organisations will use spreadsheets to help them put together budgets. However, these do have problems (see below), and putting budgets into an accounts package is often time consuming. So there is some space for specialist software.

Budget Yourselves has the great advantage of being free and designed specifically for smaller voluntary and community organisations. It is well structured with suggested budget heads already there as a prompt and further help built in. Project managers in larger organisations would benefit too, and could export the results for use by others. As you can record 'actuals', too, it could be used as a crude accounting tool. Works on any PC with Windows 95 or higher. Produced by the charity Funderfinder, the program can be downloaded from their web site (1.95Mb). They are encouraging wide distribution, and support organisations can get a set of floppy disks, labelled as being supplied by themselves, at 75p + VAT per set - email: jo@funderfinder.org.uk for more info.

Funding bids management. An important element of any accounts package of use to voluntary organisations will be management accounts facilities allowing for project funds tracking. There may be a small market for a separate Fund Management tool such as FM2000 Fund Manager from CHL - "a complete project repository [that] is a project-based management accounting, monitoring & evaluation and document management solution."

Checking Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are often used for creating budgets, producing tailored management accounts (with data linking through ODBC or similar) and perhaps grant or project tracking. Not generally recommended for any but the smallest/simplest organisation for bookkeeping.

As well as the rawness of the basic screen format putting many people off , there is huge scope for errors to creep into spreadsheet design. For example summing functions which miss out lines, or links between pages which pick up the wrong figures, for instance. Error checking isn't easy, although there are some tools available which help - we haven't got current links so do a web search.

Accounts for the Mac

We have been asked on various occasions to provide more info on accounts packages for the Apple Mac. Unfortunately, there is a limited range available and none with sector specialism that we know of. You can try:

Open Source Accounts

At time of writing (Nov 03), there isn't really any open source accounting software suitable for small to medium organisations. GNUCash (link problem Jan. 2013) is for personal finances, while SQL-Ledger is web/server based so for the high-end. Both are American. There are supposedly projects in progress, but its likely to be some time before anything useful appears for UK non-profits.

Update June 06 - we note that Turbocash seems to have become a bit more established as open source -see 'Other possibilities' under Band 1 below.

Band 1 - Entry level

Finance Co-ordinator (previously CashCall?) from Data Developments 'software for churches and charities', has been around since 1986. Designed to cope with Fund accounting, SOFA reporting, etc. but not VAT. The double entry bookkeeping convention is visible but doesn't require prior knowledge. £159 at spring 2013.
- Data Developments, Wolverhampton Science Park, Stafford Road, Wolverhampton, WV10 9RU, phone 01902 824044

DO$H is now part of Mamut - their Cashbook (PC and Mac) is still available. The non-VAT Lite version appears to have gone but still provides a simple receipt and payments package, with a neat export facility (produces an exact replica of reports in spreadsheet, via CSV file) allowing report tailoring. The small business version is recommended by The Princes Trust and Lloyds TSB for commercial start-ups. £29-50 at Jan 09 - trial version available to download.

Kubernesis no longer supply their software written specifically to work with Charity SORP accounting requirements, but will support existing users.

Paxton Charities Accounting With a background in providing accounting software for armed forces service funds, which now have to comply with the charity SORP, Paxton Computing has released a SORP 2005 accounting package for wider use, starting from £195 for single user (autumn 07). It has some nice features, such as Gift Aid management in the Donations section, configurable 'favourites' buttons and up to 8 different VAT rates, as well as SORP reporting built in. Plus the type size adjusts automatically with the window size, making it good for those with poor sight. We did find some rough edges in the review copy but annoyances rather than significant issues. The lack of a sales ledger given the good VAT facilities is a bit odd (apparently on its way), and the report export functions could be easier to use (no general export function). Typical user: smallish charity with a need for Fund accounting and someone (treasurer?) trained in traditional bookkeeping.
- Paxton Computers, 15 Kingsway, Bedford, MK42 9EZ, phone 01234 216666.

Quick Books Pro from Intuit An amazingly complete package for around 250 - just add payroll support and you have everything a small organisation could want. You can categorise costs (and income) in two ways (Customer Job, and Class) which could be adapted quite easily for SORP requirements. VAT rates can be customised. Navigator screens are easy to follow, while the alternative drop down menus suffer from too many options. Export facilities (to Excel) have been much improved in recent Pro versions. As Reports can be tweaked quite easily, most needs can be met within QB, though a SoFA would take time to set up. A customised edition for UK non-profits did appear but is probably no longer available (advanced budgeting, membership, donation tracking and fund accounting features) - see our Buy from Amazon page. Don't get confused (in non-UK reviews) by the American QB extension called Nonprofitbooks which won't work here. Typical user: small organisation with no finance staff.
- Sales phone line 0845 606 2161. Get a demonstration version, and if you like it, phone/pay by credit card and get a code to turn it into a fully working version.

Systematics Standard edition including payroll, usual price £175, is offered free to charities and the required £95 annual support fee includes any software updates. It doesn't have the Cost Centre analysis features of the professional edition, which many would want, but a 40% charity discount makes that only £135 for the usual set of modules (Sales, Purchase, Nominal and Cash Book). Work is being done on making SORP reporting more straightforward.

TAS Books (or TAS Ireland). Haven't had a chance to look at the actual product for a while, but for its price, very flexible and integrates with Microsoft Office. Slightly more sophisticated than QuickBooks, and has gained various UK awards and accreditations. Now has Sage import facilities, is due to develop BACS (electronic payment) and has already demonstrated e-commerce facilities via XML web-based protocols (eBIS). Starts at £150 for single user (incl VAT + p&p), with a 60 day money back guarantee. Now part of the Sage company. Typical user: Small organisation with someone doing finance part-time.
- TAS Software, phone 0845 245 0220, email: sales@tassoftware.co.uk

Other possibilities:

The Big Red Book (based in Ireland and available in Gaelic). Screen layout and reports are based on the traditional manual 'red book', so anybody familiar with that approach will find this very easy to use. Not sure analysis will be up to the needs of many charities, but if the idea sounds attractive, take a look. Starts from £95, and have said they will give discounts to registered charities.
- 1 Clonskeagh Square, Dublin 14, Ireland, UK phone 0161 926 8822, email: bigred@iol.ie

My Business is an integrated, easy-to-use, Bookkeeping, Diary/Project and Contact Management program written for small businesses. From £39-99 to £149-99 at spring 03, plus support from £39-99 to £69-99 , it is good value. But analysis is limited, and doesn't appear at all tailorable. May be useful to very small organisations, especially if the non-finance facilities fill a gap on your computer. Payroll module available.
- My Business Ltd, Churchill House, 12 Mosley Street, Newcastle, NE1 1DE, phone 0845 1 20 30 40, email enquiries@mybiz.co.uk

Omni Accounts no longer available in the UK? (there is a South African website).

TurboCash (from Pink Software) is released as 'open source', although we're not sure that there's been any outside development involvement so far. It can be downloaded for free, but as this is very large you may prefer to pay for a CD copy. South African origin.

Band 2 - cost up to £1,000

Sage Line 50 Probably the most widely used package in the sector, but this doesn't mean it has any particularly relevant features. It is more that it is widely known and available, and has been around for sometime in various guises. Rudimentary department analysis, still has quirks such as 3 sorts of date fields with different default values, and not very friendly report writer (at version 6). But ODBC means you can do 'live' links to a spreadsheet such as Excel. Typical user: 'professional' bookkeeper and spreadsheet capable accountant or treasurer, to do monthly reporting. Basic cost, without invoicing facility, £395. 30% charity discount.
- Sage, Sage House, Benton Park Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE7 7LZ, phone 0800 447777.
- See Suppliers page for charity specialist resellers: Intelligent Solutions, Avant-Garde.

Access Accounts - Foundations See Band 3 - Horizons - for fuller details. This is largely a cut-down version of that, with limitations on analysis levels and length of code lists, but still can build up via extra modules, including Project Management, at only £100. Basic cost - £595, 25% charity disocunt. Note, autumn 03, that a 'charity accounts production solution' has been produced, ensuring charity SORP compliance, with full funds analysis and extensive annual report info. Typical user: cash-strapped organisation bent on growth.
- Contact Access Accounting for resellers (make sure you get one with relevant knowledge). The Old School, Stratford St Mary, Colchester, Essex, CO7 6LZ. Phone 01206 322575, email: info@access-accounts.com. See charity web pages. Also Edinburgh office, phone 0131 317 7700, email: info@access-scotland.co.uk, and Dublin, phone 01668 4991, email: accessac@indigo.ie

Pegasus Capital Gold Good analysis features, built-in report writer, strong commercial pedigree, various add-ons. Typical user: small to medium organisation with some commercial activity. £800. Web site Sold via resellers.