It’s one of the most divisive words in the small business world. You say it, and people tend to immediately go, “Oh, I love them!” or “No, not this again!”


This seemingly innocuous word holds a lot of baggage for some small business owners — many of whom started their own businesses so they didn’t have to mess about with all the forms and formalities that come with the corporate world.

But whether you love them or hate them, you’re going to have to start getting on board with them soon. Why? Because of another thing that’s making waves in the small business world, the Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative.

As a small business owner, you’re going to have to start using some kind of bookkeeping spreadsheet so you can report your financial data to HMRC via the MTD interface.

bookkeeping template

There has to be a better way to do bookkeeping than with a bookkeeping template, surely?

Right now, you’ve got three not-so-great options for bookkeeping templates:

The DIY spreadsheet:

We think this is going to become the next “shoebox method” — you know how now some small business owners dump a box of receipts on their accountant’s desk at the end of the year? It’s inefficient, not the best way to do things, but it’s cheaper and seemingly easier than other methods, if you haven’t used them before.

The same goes for using DIY spreadsheets or blank templates that you download off the Internet. While you can make them work, they’re just not ideal for purpose, since they’re not designed to work with your business, they don’t have all the features you need to keep track of things, they’re hard to share with your accountant in real time, and they aren’t automatically stored in the cloud.

Bottom line: unless you’re already really good with numbers, and you like paying a lot of attention to dealing with your finances, then the DIY option is almost certainly going to be more trouble than it’s worth.



There are a few apps out there with bookkeeping templates for small businesses, but by and large, they’re not fantastic. Many are no more than a DIY spreadsheet that happens to open on your phone rather than your computer. What’s more, many were designed before talk of MTD began, which means they may not be compliant with the upcoming standards when they come into effect. Finally, most of them aren’t designed with an accountant’s input, so they may not have the features you need.


The expensive, in-house option:

Some accounting firms offer bespoke, in-house bookkeeping templates for their clients. They have all the bells and whistles (even those you don’t need.) But most small business owners don’t really need that type of high-level software. Whilst there are hoops you’ll have to jump through for MTD, they’re relatively simple when it comes down to it. And since these types of templates or software can sometimes be so complicated that people don’t end up using them, we’re still putting them in the “not-so-great” category.


5 reasons to use Clear Books Micro instead:

1. It’s free!

Clear Books Micro is free for UK SMEs, so you can enjoy using a spreadsheet designed by accountants who love small businesses without having to pay a pound.


2. It’s simple.

We’ve been working with UK small businesses since 2008. In that span of nearly a decade, we’ve got to know their needs and wants really well. We put all of that experience into making Clear Books Micro, so it has exactly what you need to get your business ready for MTD — including the ability to track your sales receipts, your bank receipts, and your expenditures — and none of the extra stuff you don’t need clogging up the interface.

What’s more, it’s incredibly easy and intuitive to use, which makes it perfect for you if technology isn’t really your thing, you don’t want to learn a new system, or you’re simply too busy to figure out another app.


3. Everything is saved in the cloud.

Just imagine: it’s tax time and you get a call from your accountant saying they need a receipt from last year. You know you saved it … but you can’t find it now. Situations like this are frustrating both for you and your accountant, and they often mean you end up paying more tax than you need to. With Clear Books Micro, all your data is saved in the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about last-minute searches — or panic if someone’s computer crashes!


4. You can easily invite your accountant to view your data.

No more emailing spreadsheets back and forth and hoping you remembered to attach the latest version, no more making your accountant wait on you for information. With Clear Books Micro, you can invite your accountant to view and work with your financial data at any time.


5. Submit MTD for VAT returns easily.

With many bookkeeping templates, you have to take the data you record in them, transfer it over into something else, and then use that information to submit your returns. But with Clear Books Micro, your accountant can submit your returns to HMRC from the same interface they use to view your financial data. It’s as simple as you can possibly imagine — and will help you get ready for Making Tax Digital.

Want to try Clear Books Micro for yourself? Create your account for free here!

Posted by Darren Taylor

Darren is a Marketing Manager specialising in Digital Marketing