Friday, 11 December 2015

Simple book keeping and account aggegators

Choosing a UK business bank account
Free, Fast and Pretty: shopping cart software for ecommerce
Simple Bookkeeping and Account Agregators <this page
Free Online Bookkeeping Software for Simple Accounts

These are just some notes-in-progress about account aggregaters considered for income tax but not VAT, and for the self employed. It's relevant if you're choosing a bank account as well, because you'll quite likely want an account that works with one of these if you're self employed and using it for business. There's another post about choosing a bank account

Making tax digital - why a lot of people are changing tax software this year says under "full response" that automatic quarterly tax updates will be expected by software links, and that this is part of a grand design here

Yorkshire building society's version of eWise closed with very little notice, and Quickfile's service for over 1,000 lines of data a month began to charge.

Even if services don't close, it can make sense to have some card accounts on one online accounting system and one on another. Details of cards used for one purpose - like postage - can rest on one online service, used only if there is a tax inspection. The rest can rest more simply on another used for year-to-year tax returns.

When services close, there's a problem of what to do with saved data in one format when your new software wants them in another. The .qif format is something I never want to use again, but the rest are capable, I guess, of conversion. does some of it online. I had to use the older version to cope with odd columns in files, while keeping a total, and I had to use one of the apps on to convert Santander text files to something more common.

While writing this, I discovered the world of payroll software. See the section on downloadable software below and
Since writing this blog post I've found the getapps site, which assumes all online accounting software is paid-for or "fremium" but lets a few free services join the list. It's possible to sort by areas of the world served, the kinds of businesses that review the app or that it's intended for, and that's it. It can't search for all the programs with bank integration. Some free-ish programs I hadn't heard of are and Another site lists, with its own time-tracking software built-in. is over my head because it offers so many apps, as is that's something to do with import export. There are probably others, but I started by looking at ways of downloading UK bank data easily and free, usually via Yodlee, so I will stick to that.

Account downloading software overlaps with free online book keeping and accounting software, with programs like Waveapps here at the overlap, followed by more account downloading software.

There is more about accounting software near the bottom of this page, but for neatness I've started a fresh blog post about it - . It's a shorter blog post listing the free online accounting software that cropped-up in a search for a UK freelance business.

Waveapps is one I'm trying to use now.

    It is more than an app for downloading bank statements; it can write invoices, keep track of bills, run accounts for both of those, reconcile the bank statement lines with different categories, and more. It has a nifty system for accepting bills by email too.

    Good points:
    • It can log-on to UK banks., and can eventually classify this data into its own categories, such as "computer services" for money that comes via Paypal.
    • Invoices can be sent from the program to integrate with it.  They can work with its 1.9% stripe card processing account. When I told waveapps that I had a limited company, the upselling link changed from "save money" to "business deals", and the stripe rate fell slightly.
    • It can split lines of data between categories. This takes a while to find but it's there (put another way, the interface is deceptively simple). If you have a card that you usually only use for paying bribes, which are a business expense, but one day you use it for buying drugs, which are private, then you can label that line as split between two headings.
    • It has heard of VAT and has boxes for itemising input taxes or output taxes on each record of money in and money out. I think it can calculate backwards from the total how-much of a payment is VAT.
    • Payroll in the US or Canada with US or Canadian taxes applied
    Bad points:
    • Payroll only works in the US or Canada according to the menus.
    • It can't be taught how to recognise lines of data from the bank statement and categorise, as can Yodlee.
      It has some system, but this system can't change; paypal income will always be "computers and internet", rather than "sales". I wasn't sure but this more detailed review by Katherine Miller reaches the same conclusion after checking discussion threads and forums.
    • Slow rendering of old data. The program discourages checking of balances in order to reduce the need. Balances are only shown if you display one single account like a bank account in date order. Then if you see that that balance is wrong, and want to go back by screens of 50 or 100 lines over several screens'-worth of data to find the mistake, you have to wait five minutes at each search. Entering dates to narrow down the search in another way is just as slow. As a result, you need to check your data before sending this to an accountant; nobody at an accountants' office can charge you a low fee while waiting five minutes for each screen to load just to check a mistake.
    • No keyword or number search. You can order a period of data by date or amount or I think by name, and you can sort some of the columns, but I have not found a Control+F function or anything more subtle; it's designed to discourage strains on its database
    • Jeremy Marsan's review from the USA compares waveapps to similar products that cost so-much-a-month. It also has a comments section for the disgruntled. These features and integrations are cut-and pasted from his review.
    • Features

      Features it has                            
      Features it Does Not have
      5 Types of Accounts
      Categorization/Automation Rules
      Auto-import Bank Statements
      Time Tracking
      *Payment Processing
      Inventory Management

      *Payment Processing available via Stripe integration
      **Payroll software available as an optional add-on


      Integrations it has
      Integrations it does not have
      Payment Processing (Stripe, Paypal)
      Cloud Storage (Google Drive, DropBox)
      Project Management (Basecamp, Asana)
      Shoeboxed (receipt scanning)
      Time Tracking (Toggl, Harvest)

      CRM (Zoho, Salesforce)

      eCommerce (Shopify, Big Commerce)

      Tax Prep Software

      Digital Signature

    • Glenn Martin reviews the most used so-much-a-month products from a UK accountant's perspective, leaving out waveapps altogether but including some price breakdowns for the others.

    Wonderbill new 2017

    This has just come-out mid-2017 and isn't reviewed here. - "enjoy all of your bills in one place". It logs-on to the bill providers' web sites and not banks, apparently. "We make money by recommending better and cheaper deals." - "a One-Stop-Shop when it comes to managing your bills and saving money."


        • moneydashboard version of yodlee

          Moneydashboard is set-up to monitor your personal spending, and is worth comparing with Buxfer further down the page.
          Moneydashboard automatically logs-on to your bank accounts and backs-up a few years' data for free.
          It gives you the odd spending graph and anticipated regular payment on a screen if you want.
          It can remember budgets and tell you if you are over-budget or under-budget.
          It learns to categorise transactions if you want.
          With practice, you can download data for one bank account or all of them into a .csv file.

          Users can download the resulting categorised transaction lines as a .csv spreadsheet or read them alongside self-set budget headings or expected regular payments on the dashboard site.
          This is the list of supported banks from December 2015: AA | Adam & Company | Amazon | American Express | Asda | Bank of Ireland | Bank of Scotland | Barclaycard | Barclays | Beta | Birmingham Midshires | Cahoot | Capital One | Cater Allen | Citibank | Clydesdale | Derbyshire Building Society | FairFX | First Direct | First Trust | Halifax | House of Fraser | HSBC | ICICI | Intelligent Finance | Investec | John Lewis | Lloyds | Marbles | Marks & Spencer | MBNA | Metro Bank | Mint | Nationwide | NatWest Bank | Nedbank | Newcastle Building Society | Next | Norwich & Peterborough | NS&I | Opus | Post Office | Principality | Royal Bank of Scotland | Saffron Building Society | Saga Group | Sainsburys | Santander | Scottish Widows | Smile | St James Place | Tesco Bank | The Co-operative Bank | The One Account | TSB | Ulster Bank |  Vanquis Bank | Virgin Money | Yorkshire Bank | Yorkshire Building Society |

          Categories are better than Yodlee for a self employed person. For a start, they come under headings.

          I've put the list at the bottom of this page as Appendix 2.

          The second part - money out - included a list of fixed headings when I first wrote this page, but now allows you to choose your own tags and apply them to all similar transactions automatically. There is a list of what each new release tries to do here:

          Moneydashboard produces some graphs of how you're spending compared to last month and anticipates repeated payments. It has heard of payees like Royal Mail and Ebay, and allows you to search for a few more that it knows by typing free text, if its chunky drop-down menus don't suggest one.

          When I looked at this first, it was good for what it was designed to do - tracking where your spending goes - but not good for adapting to other purposes. There was no way to have the same category for money in and money out for example. The list of release notes shows regular improvements to it's worth signing-up just to see what happens next.
        • kublax version of yodlee has closed

        • Lovemoney version of yodlee

          You have to sign-up to Lovemoney to see the option; there isn't a direct link to the account aggregator site. It only allows about five categories of spending under "business expenses", and most of the others like "dentist" and "eating out" are similar to the Yodlee ones and tend to confuse if not used for those purposes. Someone on the Moneydashboard help page commnents says that you can set your own categories on Lovemeny.
        • Ontrees version of yodlee

          You have to sign up to Moneysupermarket. This one is slightly prettier with fewer options, for use on smartphones - for example I don't see how you can split a transaction between categories. They tell me by email that a lot of people have requested the ability to re-name categories, and they might do that, but the target audience of smartphone users can't do anything fiddly.
        • Sage version of yodlee

          There was a free version of Sage One online accounts software with a "feed" for one bank account and one user, with no extra credit card account, as priced for the US market and probably others according to this review by Katherine Miller. Nothing shows under "free" if you search their UK web site. Sage is a big UK accounts software firm, so I expect they just used Yodlee's bank feed and that the rest is more like Sage. Maybe their offers are different if you search from the USA.
        • Godaddy Online Bookkeeping Basic Version

          I only know that there is a review of a free ultra-basic version ; now seems to cost $6.99 monthly or $3 more through their old url. Maybe the offers are different if you search from the USA.
        • Yodlee version of Yodlee

          Yodlee domestic version looks american at first, but covered the UK when I tested it as a web program. It has been closed to new applicants because of technical difficulties during May 2016
          The smartphone version on another url may have taken-over from this...
          Login on categories are in Appendix 1 below.
          (distraction: has a business version, but you can't use it for UK banks. "Currently Yodlee Small Business application is not applicable for residents outside US region due to contractual obligation", they tell me.)

          It can log-on to UK banks. It doesn't give a full list but it's probably the same as Moneydashboard below. Smile bank was recognised for example.
          Categories look mainly domestic, but can be sub-categorised as much as you want. As an experiment I added subcategories 1-13 to one of them, all accepted without complaint, so you could pick a neutral category like "expenses" and add what you wanted as a subcategory.
          Categorisation can be taught, which is more useful than waveapps. There is a screen where you tell it that a payment including "to drug" is to one category drug dealer and "to bribe" is another, but it can only categorise into its own fixed list of heading - not the subcategories you add. The list is below. Other features exist on a "finapp" link, including some for business accounting. I haven't tested them yet 
        Not Sure what connection

          [I don't update this post much, but happened to get an email from Buxfer to say they cease free "synciing" of bank data this November 2017. Syncing is about three pounds a month or more if you want to pay for it, but not free. Try MoneyDashboard. So that's why Buxfer is crossed-out]

          uses something like Yodlee to do a little more than Money dashboard. According to one post online "Based on their implementation I'm guessing they are using the code Wesabe open sourced when they folded.  Pretending to be a valid OFX client and requesting the data from a FI's OFX server pretending to be Quicken or Microsoft Money.". The program also uploads .csv files but hasn't any way of downloading files to your hard disc at first glance.

          A glance at other features shows nothing for tax or accounting beyond the category tags and some pre-set graphs, but a few extras for personal accounts like emails after unusual changes, a calander, and a reminder service. There's a system for sharing information with contacts, in a kind of virtual shared project, which I don't understand and one or two extra paid-for services for predicting spending.

          The free version is good at logging-on automatically and categorising transactions.

          Tagging of bank statement lines is flexible; it doesn't tell you what category to tag a transaction, such as "Paypal: Computer Services"; it lets you tag a transaction and shows you any saved rules for you to edit.

          Editing of descriptions is possible too, and can be automated in a the same flexible way. You can teach it to change a line like "FASTER PAYMENT RECEIPT FROM PAYPAL REF HJLKJHKLJH £30" to "Paypal" if you tell it to change every line with that keyword. It keeps a note of the original so that you can un-do your change later.

          Tagging and description-editing are both better on Buxfer than on Moneydashboard, a similar service.


        • www. eWise is the one I've used before. A shortcut is - is a shortcut to the same page.

          It has a beta test version which will categorise transactions, show them on a time line, and work on several browsers including smartphones. Unfortunately it will do the categorisation for you, assuming that you have a private bank account. Maybe if enough beta-testers tell them, they will allow tweaking of categories.

          Last time I checked, this version only worked on Internet Explorer which is no longer updated for Windows XP. There are probabably other versions for smartphone browsers.

          Other companies have paid to use eWise, and tidied it up a bit.
        • citybank version of eWise has closed
        • egg bank version of eWise has closed
        • yorkshire building society version of eWise has closed
        • first direct - page lists all available accounts before registering for "internet banking plus"

          Skip this if your want book-keeping aids. eWise lets you read statements, and that's it: a password storage system and a way of showing your online statement in read-only form. The original version includes some accounts from other countries outside the UK and some non-bank accounts like ebay and oyster.

          The data is not kept anywhere; it is just displayed as your bank displays it, so you are limited to the ninety days or so that most banks let you browse-back over the statements. On the other hand you are more likely to download them monthly if you can remember how to log-on, so this is good to use for downloading data for desktop accounts programs such as Grisbi below. Formats like 1201.xls for January 2012 are good, to avoid duplicates. A catch when learning to use the software is that it opens -up a window on the dashboard part of the screen for your bank, as an unexpected little icon. The pure version only works in internet explorer, although some banks like Yorkshire Building Society managed to tidy-up this fault. doesn't let new customers open an account from a windows desktop; it could be an android-only application of I could have missed something. The web site hasn't been updated for a few years, so maybe they're looking for business offers. They claim to
        - download years' worth or the maximum possible amount of bank data over wifi (wobbly phone connections aren't recommended) and to be able to
        - translate the bank's labels on your transactions according to your own rules.

        - download NatWest, RBS, Lloyds TSB, HSBC, Santander (Abbey), Halifax, Smile (no credit cards yet), John Lewis Partnership (Waitrose) credit cards
 is a new program that doesn't mention any ability to download data straight from the bank, which doesn't have to be associated with online systems but would be nice. The disadvantage of a cloud-based system remains: they can turn the server off. Two advantages remain. You can use it wherever you are. So can colleagues, like an accountant.
        • Download and import your bank statements
        • BeanBalance currently supports Microsoft Money files, OFX files, Quickbooks or QBO files, Sage Line 50 files and QIF files
        • Additional file format support will be implemented soon
        The software has a good page of information about what it does, but as you can see from the table, the fancy stuff is paid-for. It and Brightbook are unusual in offering free payroll software with upload of data to HMRC for a handfull of staff  - three in this case - which is the main reason for including it on this list. Scroll down the page for downloadable free accounts software that does UK payroll.

        Brightbook: moved to the blog post about book-keeping

          Other online services - with downloadable software below

          • is no longer an automatic account aggregator and although free had a nag saying "one day left of your free subscription" for a long time, and did work to classify uploaded bank statements. Now it has been redesigned as an apple smartphone app, free to download.
          • looks like something to try to sell you a pension

          Receipts to records

          Lifehacker lists some of the smartphone apps that will email a photo of a receipt, with a few attempts at tidying-up the picture for text recognition. Some charge. Shoeboxed charges for more than 5 receipts per month per account. Others are free or have a small one-off charge.

          Wavapps have a free service that will recognise your email address and put the picture of a receipt in a form with guessesd fields filled-in for the organisation and amount

          As someone who sits at a desk with a PC, I've never felt the need to scan every invoice  or paid receipt; I just put them in a folder when they're paid. So I haven't tested any of these apps, but as more and more receipts and invoices are available online or come by email, one day it could be worth photographing the last few paper ones just to add them to the same system.

          Downloadable software: Acemoney Grisbi or Adminsoft

          Desktop software has a more stable market now.

          Quicken and Microsoft Money have admitted that they don't want to provide their paid-for downloadable personal finance software with its private formats like .qif or Quickens "sunset policy", designed to try to make you buy a new bit of software every ten years.

          Book keeping software like Acemoney,, and can't be withdrawn back-off your hard disk by the authors; it can't be closed on a whim like the online services, it can't be stopped by a broken internet connection, and for better or worse it can't be used by anyone anywhere. Unless you put it on a pen drive, but even that only lets you use it in one place at a time till you loose it.

          The only catch is that, so far, is that they can't automatically download data from your bank statement. Acemoney claim to be able to do it in the USA, but not yet in the UK. You have to remember to do it yourself every month or three and remember what the more mysterious items were after that time when you come to categorise them on your software. You can use eWise to log-in to most bank accounts quickly for downloading.

          I know of these three examples because I used Acemoney for a bit and found it easy and good-looking. It's free for two accounts that link together; paid-for for more. Grisbi is one of the open source options at the simpler end of the market. Adminsoft cropped-up in a search just now for UK payroll software.

          Book-keeping aids are a funny bunch because their users have different needs and their authors tend to be accountants, keen to add an element of double-entry which is exactly what customers like me do not want. That's a problem for the sort of software that you download onto your hard disc. Or, put another way, users want a system that compares entries against a bank statement rather than having two sets of entries in the software. Add to that a problem that open source writers tend to go for interesting subjects, like solving world poverty or doing something artistic, leaving jobs like payroll or book keeping to a few rare efforts. One is a South African accounts program from Pink Software that used to sell on giveaway CDs on the fronts of computer magazines. Another - Gnucash - is used a lot as well. The trouble is that users' expectations are so different, and my expectation was not the same as the expectation expected by writers of TurboCash or GnuCash. Grisbi looks from screen shots to be right for the job, which is sorting lines from a bank statement into income tax categories.

          Acemoney is a pretty and easy freemium program, I found, for users of one or two accounts. The version for three or more accounts isn't free, but even two can be two many as they have to agree with each other in a kind of mental puzzle that the world does not need - there have to be out payments in one account that match in payments in another - so I try to stick to one account. The current version can even download data from some US banks, but hasn't cracked-open the UK ones yet. It's a highly international program with versions in over a dozen languages.

          While giving-up, I've found a list of other online programs that no longer exist, an obscure one called Brightbooks that only accepts uploaded data in certain column formats, and a thing called which more or less works. It truncates older lines of data down to thirty-something characters, so older imported files tend to have a lot of lines which read "Faster payment to paypal reference p" or some thing not very useful like that. There are also services like Xero which count your money and tell you that there is less of it than before because they charge for counting it.

          Payroll for more than ten people

          For those who pay staff, there are more hitches that can lead back to desktop software.
          Every hundred years the UK government sets-up a compulsory pension system, nationalises it, forgets that it was ever a pension system, and starts again. We are now on mark two, called "Workplace Pension", while the remnants of mark one, called "National Insurance" are still in place alongside the income tax pay as you earn contributions that employers have to manage. is a starting point to this subject that I know very little about - it looks as though you have to employ staff in groups up to nine, or maybe use HMRC's own software alongside something else, or maybe resort to desktop software from, who say this about their free downloadable accounts software:
          .... developed specifically for the United Kingdom. It can submit information to HMRC using Real Time Information, and we believe at this time, it's the only free payroll that will allow in excess of 10 employees. The maximum is 250 employees. However, Adminsoft Accounts is primarily an accounts system, and so the payroll is basic. While very usable, and fully compliant with payroll legislation, it does not have some of the 'bells and whistles' that some of the paid for (and rather expensive...) alternative products may have. For example, things like the amount of Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, student loans, etc. have to be worked out by hand, where as a more sophisticated payroll would work out the amounts automatically. But I don't want to talk you out of using it! In reality, when running a small payroll, working out the odd Statutory Sick Pay payment or what ever is not really an issue.
          Waveapps software will only do anything to do with payroll if you pretend that you are in the USA or Canada, and I haven't discovered what difference this makes - certainly the deductions and reporting will be different.

 is a free basic uk service. This interview was in early 2016.

          This blog comes from
, the online shoe shop for vegan shoes boots belts & T shirts mainly made in the UK

          Appendix 1: Yodlee categories

          ATM/Cash Withdrawals
          Automotive Expenses
          Business Miscellaneous
          Cable/Satellite Services
          Charitable Giving
          Child/Dependent Expenses
          Dues and Subscriptions
          General Merchandise
          Home Improvement
          Home Maintenance
          Office Maintenance
          Office Supplies
          Online Services
          Other Bills
          Other Expenses
          Personal Care
          Pets/Pet Care
          Postage and Shipping
          Service Charges/Fees
          Telephone Services
          Wages Paid


          Settings for Income Categories
          Show Category Name New Name SubCategories
          Expense Reimbursement
          Investment Income
          Other Income
          Retirement Income


          Settings for Transfer Categories
          Show Category Name New Name SubCategories
          Credit Card Payments
          Securities Trades

          Appendix 2: Moneydashboard fixed categories

          also on their help pages which can be read without logging-on

          Transactions: IN - scroll down for Transactions OUT for tax return headings

          Benefits Family benefits
          Incapacity Benefits
          Job Seekers Benefits
          Other benefits

          Credit funds received Credit Card Cash Advance

          Mortgage release
          Payday loan funds
          Secured loan funds
          Student Loan funds
          Unsecured loan funds

          Employment Bonus
          Employment – other
          Salary (main)
          Salary (secondary)

          Investment Bond Income
          Interest income
          Investment income – other

          Miscellaneous Bursary
          Child Support
          Divorce Settlement
          Miscellaneous income – other
          Rewards/cash back
          Tax Rebate

          Pension Lump Sum
          Pension – other
          State Pension
          Work Pension

          Property Property – other
          Rental income (room)
          Rental income (whole property)

          Refund Refunded purchase

          Electrical Equipment
          Sale – other

          Transfer from other account Credit card payment
          Current account
          Gambling account
          Investment – other
          Paypal account
          Share dealing account

          Transfer from savings Car savings
          Electrical item savings
          Holiday savings
          Other goal savings
          Property savings
          Rainy day savings
          Savings (general)
          Wedding savings

          Transactions: OUT
          Administration Administration – other
          Business Accommodation
          Office supplies
          Staff costs
          Web hosting

          Children Childcare Fees
          Children – other
          Childrens’ Club fees
          Clothes – children
          Nursery fees

          Clothing Accessories
          Clothes – other
          Clothing hire
          Designer clothes
          Dry cleaning and laundry
          Work wear

          Credit Repayment Credit card repayment
          Hire purchase repayment
          Mortgage payment
          Payday loan repayment
          Secured loan repayment
          Store card repayment
          Student loan repayment
          Unsecured loan repayment

          Education Books & Course materials
          Course & Tuition fees
          Education – other
          School fees
          Stationery & consumables

          Financial Bank charges
          Child support
          Divorce settlement
          Financial – other
          Interest charges
          Penalty charges
          Tax payment

          Gifts, Charity & Religion Birthday present
          Charity – other
          Christmas present
          Donation to organisation
          Gifts – other
          Religious celebration
          Religious donation

          Going Out Caravan/Camping


          Concert & Theatre

          Dining & Drinking

          Going out – other




          Social club

          Sports event

          Zoo/theme park

          Hobbies & Sports Art supplies

          Club membership


          Gym Equipment

          Gym Membership

          Hobbies – other

          Hobby Club Membership

          Hobby supplies

          Musical Equipment

          Personal Training


          Sports Club Membership

          Sports Equipment

          Home and Garden Antiques


          Communal charges




          Home and garden – other

          Home electronics

          Kitchen / Household Appliances


          Soft furnishings

          Tradesmen fees

          Household Broadband


          Council tax

          Device rental

          Domestic supplies



          Gas and electricity


          Household – other

          Media bundle


          Phone (land line)



          TV/Movies Package

          TV Licence


          Insurance Dental insurance

          Health insurance

          Home appliance insurance

          Home insurance

          Income insurance

          Insurance – other

          Life insurance

          Mobile phone insurance

          Motorbike insurance

          Payment protection insurance

          Pet insurance

          Vehicle insurance

          Lifestyle Alcohol

          Books/ Magazines /Newspapers



          Games and gaming

          Lifestyle – other

          Mobile app


          Personal Electronics
          Snacks and Refreshments



          Personal care Beauty products

          Beauty treatments

          Dental treatment

          Eye care


          Medical treatment


          Personal care – other




          Pets Pet food

          Pet housing/care

          Pet toys

          Pet training

          Pets – other


          Transfer to other account Current account

          Gambling account

          Investment – other


          Other account

          Paypal account


          Share dealing account

          Transfer to savings Saving (general)

          Saving for a rainy day

          Saving for a car

          Saving for electrical item

          Saving for holiday

          Saving for other goal

          Saving for property

          Saving for wedding

          Transport Breakdown cover

          Driving lessons





          Public Transport

          Road charges

          Road/traffic fines

          Service / Parts / Repairs


          Transport – other

          Vehicle hire

          Vehicle purchase

          Vehicle Tax


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