The (4) best accounting software for small businesses in South Africa

A person doing accounting on paper with a calculator and pen to represent accounting software

There are a lot of programs in the marketplace that provides accounting software for small business in South Africa. Some are very good with automation, others are very cheap, others can only be used offline and on one computer.

Which accounting program you choose depends on your needs for your business and what you can afford at the moment, as well as how big you want to grow.

I have used some of these programs in the past, such as Pastel, Sage, Xero, Quickbooks and Zoho. For our business we use the suite of apps found in Zoho One.

All of the accounting software packages discussed in this blog are online, accessible from anywhere and have a mobile app that you can use. These features seem to be standard now.

The best free accounting software in South Africa: Zoho Books

Zoho Books is a free accounting software for small businesses in South Africa. As mentioned above, it is the program we use at Orcanically. We are not on the free version anymore, however, when we started out, the free version provided a lot of functionality that we needed.

To use Zoho Books’ free version, your business needs to have yearly revenues of less than 1 million rand. This is suitable for most small businesses in South Africa.

You also have the freedom to create and send up to 1000 invoices per year, add 1 user plus your accountant, manage clients, let your clients access all their records through a portal, collect online or offline payments, automate payment reminders, and the list goes on and on. If you want to view all of the functionality in the free version, visit their website.

Zoho Books accounting software for small business in South Africa pricing plans.

In this above picture you can see all of the features.

If you carry stock and need to track your stock, you will need to subscribe to professional.

We are subscribed to Zoho One and therefore we get to be on professional, included in our Zoho subscription.

Zoho books also has a smartphone app that you can use to do accounting on the go. I use it every week to make and send invoices. It is the best accounting app that I’ve used.

The best accounting software for automation and e-commerce: Xero

No matter who I speak to in the business automation and e-commerce space in South Africa, they all say that Xero is the best accounting software for automation.

They have a plugin for WordPress websites that work well with WooCommerce that we’ve used in the past. Basically it creates an invoice on Xero automatically whenever someone purchases from your online shop. This saves a lot of time if you have an online shop in South Africa.

However, Xero is very expensive for small businesses in South Africa especially if you make a lot of small invoices during the month.

If you need any additional features with Xero you have to pay extra, this is probably true for most accounting platforms. The reason I’ve moved away from Xero is because of the cost.

Whether you are a micro business or a fairly large business in South Africa, only trading nationally, you will need to be on the standard plan, which is almost R700 per month.

For more detail, here are the pricing plans for Xero at the moment:

Xero accounting software for small business in South Africa pricing plans.

The above picture shows the pricing for Xero Accounting. The starter package is R435 per month and is limited to 20 invoices per month and 5 bills per month.

The standard package is R695 per month and is basically unlimited. So if your business is a bit bigger than the average business in South Africa, this could be a great package for you.

If you use multiple currencies for making invoices and receiving payments, you will need to upgrade to the premium subscription for R955 per month.

If you buy Xero through your accountant that is affiliated with Xero, you can get a discount of 10-15%. So if your accountant is affiliated with Xero, you may be able to get a further discount.

Overall, Xero accounting software is great for small to medium businesses in South Africa that sells online or that need to automate their accounting.

One business automation specialist that I spoke to recently used Xero to automate accounting for a multinational company that used to have 5 accountants on their books, now they only need 1 accountant part time. That is how much can be automated with Xero Accounting.

The best accounting software for multinationals: Quickbooks

Quickbooks by Intuit is one of the best accounting software programs for multinational businesses that need to do transactions in multiple currencies.

One of the multinational businesses that we volunteer at use Quickbooks to seamlessly manage their accounting in multiple currencies and in multiple countries.

Quickbooks make it easy for businesses to log transactions, make out invoices and track bills and expenses on a monthly basis.

They also do progress invoicing, which is great for big projects like developers and contractors.

Quickbooks don’t have a free account, but on the Simple Start package you can track income and expenses, send invoices and quotes, connect your bank, track VAT, view insights and reports, and more features.

This is the second time I view their pricing, and they seem to always have a special going. Right now it is 90% discount for the first 6 months on most packages, which is great for when you start your business.

Here are their packages in detail:

If you buy from your suppliers on credit, you will have to take the Essentials package, which includes bills & payments as well as multi-currency. This costs R408 per month.

If you only purchase in cash and only do business in South African Rand then the Simple Start package is good enough. This costs R264 per month.

Best for government and big business: Sage Accounting

Sage accounting seems to focus more on government and big businesses with their accounting software. They also have specific resources on their website for the construction and agricultural industry in South Africa.

Sage accounting is also one of the best software programs for accountants and bookkeepers, as Peterson Khumalo testifies on their website. He has an accounting firm that uses Sage to see an overview on all his clients on one simple dashboard.

Sage accounting has some packages ranging from solo entrepreneur to big business, starting at R200 per month. However, if you need additional features, you will have to pay extra, as seen in this picture:

For most small businesses just starting out the Start package should be enough. You can make invoices and track what you are owed by your customers.

However, if your business is registered for VAT, you will need to get on the Standard package which starts at R370. With this package you can add more users and manage VAT and additional bookkeeping.

The third package seems to be a huge special. It includes standard accounting as well as payroll if you pay R4150 yearly, which works out to R346 per month. With this package you can also manage your payroll.

Sage accounting software seems like a good option if you don’t need any of their extra services. If you do, it can get very expensive very quickly.

Conclusion

As you can see in the above analysis of the best accounting software for small business in South Africa, each of the competitors offer a great product.

However, each of them focus on a different part of the market. It is summarised as follows:

  • Zoho Books – The best free accounting software and for micro businesses
  • Xero – The best for automation and e-commerce
  • Quickbooks – The best for multinational businesses
  • Sage – The best for government and big business

What is your favourite accounting program for your small business in South Africa. Please comment below.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best software for accountants?

All of the accountants we have spoken to have their own preference. They usually recommend Xero, Sage or Quickbooks. Accountants would usually recommend the program that they use for all their clients, as this saves them time and sometimes money. Why don’t you ask your accountant which program she prefers?

What accounting software does South Africa use?

South African small businesses prefer to use Zoho Books, Wave Accounting, Xero, Sage or Quickbooks. All of these programs are available in South Africa and have the local accounting laws built in.

What is the most common software used for accounting?

The most common software programs used for accounting by small businesses in South Africa are the following:

  • Zoho Books
  • Sage
  • Xero
  • Quickbooks

There are many other software programs used for businesses in South Africa, but the above are the most common or popular.

Is Excell an accounting software program?

Although you can use Excel as an accounting program, it is not preferable. Many accountants use Excel with another accounting program to help with complex calculations. If you’re doing your accounting on Excel, we would recommend you move to a more advanced accounting program such as Zoho Books.

Which banks offer free accounting software in South Africa?

FNB has a free accounting software with their business accounts called Instant Accounting Solutions. ABSA has an accounting software called Cashflow Manager. As far as we could tell, these are the only banks in South Africa that offer accounting software. The other banks in South Africa offer to integrate with existing accounting programs.

Is QuickBooks free?

No, QuickBooks is not free. However, they do offer a 30-day free trial on most of their packages.

Does Xero offer free training?

Yes, Xero does offer free training. Xero Certifications are free of charge.

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