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Kashflow Vs Xero Online Accounting Review UK & Ireland

19 Jun 2015

We've been using Kashflow for our online accounting since about 2012 and overall we'd say we've been happy enough but we've had two significant issues with the software that have caused us to question whether we should stick with Kashflow or take a serious look at the competition.  The obvious choice is Xero - they appear to be on a major growth path and have a very rich feature list.  So we thought we'd set out our experience with Kashflow and our thoughts not just on Xero but on the whole issue of moving to another provider - because therein lies the genius of the cloud-based SAAS model.

We came to Kashflow from a desk-top based product from Mamut.  At the time, it was a revelation - our accounts were in the cloud so we could access them from anywhere, the software was pretty intuitive and UI, whilst fairly basic, was intelligible and intuitive.  The company was run by Duane Jackson - a guy with a great backstory and a very hands-on CEO and accessible by e-mail and twitter.  I liked him and found him direct, honest and a breath of fresh air.  We spent a decent sum of money integrating with the Kashflow API on our old, non-Shopify website so we were committed financially and got stuck into using Kashflow.  Day to day it was fine, until about a year in.

Then one day I got a call from my accountant to tell me there was a major problem with the way Kashflow had been handling our VAT returns and we owed Revenue a significant sum of money.  We didn't get much joy from Kashflow I have to say.  Duane was okay about it - apologised and offered us a free year's subscription and an assurance that the bug was fixed but that was it.  And this is a key point - their T&C's are so tightly defined, that you use the service entirely at your own risk.  Even if their software turns out to have major flaws, it's not their problem.  

We probably should have moved to another software provider but that would have been the API integration money down the drain as well.  So I stuck with Kashflow.  This year just gone, we've had another VAT related issue with Kashflow which has caused me to seriously consider taking another look at Xero.  On the plus side, because we're now with Shopify, moving provider is no longer such a big deal (but still a hassle).  Shopify have apps for both Kashflow and Xero on their app store - developed by Carry The One.  So you can pretty much immediately switch over with a little preparation.  It's another major selling point for the Shopify platform and one that is easily overlooked.

Where Kashflow seriously falls down is in it's suite of reporting tools - they are incredibly basic and need a major overhaul.  In particular, their income reporting tools are clunky and lack what I would consider to be even the most basic features. For example, you can't even analyse income from two periods side by side and when you run their Income by Source Report, it will split the sources but then fail to give you a total on screen.  Until recently, they did not offer Bank Feeds for reconciliations but to be fair, they have made strides in this area.  Their VAT reporting is also fairly basic. Their suite of third party apps is also pretty limited.  I have found their e-mail support to be pretty good but there's no chat and their online knowledge base is not very good. To be fair, they are trying to improve this. 

Xero appear to me to have a much more advanced set of reporting tools, a superior app and a much more advanced bank feeds set up.  They do look like the stronger proposition at the moment but really is it worth the hassle of moving? I'm not so sure and I think this is where online accounting packages are on a winner.  There could well be a "moving inertia" factor - a little like bank accounts.  When you've gone to the trouble of integrating your website with a cloud-based package and when you're  a small business owner/manager, you could probably find about ten things to do other than sit down and work out the logistics of moving your accounts software.  

The bottom line? Kashflow has lots going for it and has served us well enough, despite some gaps and one major clanger but Xero is tough competition and I think Kashflow need to up their game to compete. 


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