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If you are looking for free basic accounting software, and are not VAT-registered, then Ember could be a good option for your business.
Meanwhile, if you want to submit your VAT directly to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), you will need to opt for one of Ember’s paid plans. The good news is that Ember’s Pro plan for sole traders is one of the cheaper of the paid plans on the market.
Ember’s paid plans come with access to its in-house accountants, alongside exclusive discounts on other business tools.
There are limitations to Ember’s accounting software, however. There is no multi-user access, no cash-flow forecasting, and full payroll is only available under its most expensive Unlimited plan for limited companies.
» MORE: Best accounting software for small businesses
- Making Tax Digital-compliantThe Pro and Unlimited plans are MTD-complaint. You cannot access a free Starter account if your business is VAT-registered.
- Free accountEmber offers free basic accounting software plans for sole traders and limited companies alike.
- Discounts on business tools and servicesEvery Ember plan includes the ability to access discounts on other business tools, such as legal services and insurance.
- In-house accountantsDepending on your plan, you can access live chats with Ember’s in-house accountants, and even arrange one-to-one video calls.
Ember accounting software pros & cons
- Ember offers its free account to both sole traders and limited companies.
- Ember’s Pro plan for sole traders is one of the cheaper paid accounts on the market.
- The Pro and Unlimited plans are Making Tax Digital-compliant.
- Ability to submit VAT tax returns directly to HMRC with the Pro and Unlimited plans.
- Every Ember plan comes with discounts on other business tools and services.
- The free Starter plans are not MTD-compliant, and you will not be able to sign up for that plan if your business is VAT-registered. This means you cannot submit your VAT returns directly to HMRC if you are on a free plan.
- There is currently no multi-user access, regardless of which plan you are on.
- Ember’s full payroll function is only available to limited companies paying for the Unlimited plan and as a paid extra
- There is no built-in cash-flow forecasting function, regardless of your plan.
The pros and cons featured here are chosen by us based on our expert, research-based opinions. They are unlikely to be the only product features and restrictions that you should consider. Pros and cons are subjective and you should align them to your own personal and business circumstances. Information was correct at the time of publication but may have changed since.
Ember accounting software full review
Founded in 2019, Ember provides specific accounting software plans for sole traders and limited companies.
The Ember Pro and Unlimited plans are compliant with Making Tax Digital. However, the free Starter plan is not, but Ember will not let you sign up for its Starter plan if you are a VAT-registered business anyway. It is now required by the UK government that you use MTD-compatible software when submitting returns as a VAT-registered business. Further MTD rules will be introduced around income tax returns in April 2026 and 2027.
For sole traders, there are three options to choose from: Starter, Pro and Unlimited. Pre-VAT and pre-discounts, these plans are as follows:
- Starter: This plan is completely free and is recommended for sole traders with an average monthly revenue of up to £1,000. With this plan, you can automate your expense management; create and send invoices; integrate with other apps; create financial reports; set automated reminders; and utilise open banking. It also comes with the basic level of Ember discounts on other business tools.
- Pro: This plan, which costs £9 a month, is recommended for sole traders with an average monthly revenue of up to £5,000. It includes everything from the Starter plan, as well as expert support from Ember’s in-house accountants; the ability to submit your VAT returns directly to HMRC; tax insights to keep on top of how much you owe; and multi-currency accounting. It also comes with the extra tier of exclusive discounts on other business tools.
- Unlimited: This plan, which costs £29, includes everything from the Starter and Pro plans, as well as assistance with your tax registrations, and real-time tax-saving tips and one-to-one video consultations from Ember’s accountants.
You can also pay £129 for your self-assessment tax returns to be created and filed by Ember’s accountants.
The plans available for limited companies are also called Starter, Pro and Unlimited. Pre-VAT and pre-discounts, these plans are as follows:
- Starter: This plan is completely free and is recommended for limited companies with an average monthly revenue of up to £1,000. It includes automated expenses; the ability to create and send invoices; app integrations; financial reporting; automated reminders; open banking; and the basic level of Ember discounts.
- Pro: This plan is £39 a month and is recommended for limited companies with an average monthly revenue of up to £10,000. It includes everything from the Starter plan, as well as expert support from Ember’s in-house accountants; the ability to submit VAT returns directly to HMRC; tax insights into how much you owe; multi-currency accounting; payroll for one company director; and more exclusive Ember discounts.
- Unlimited: This plan, which is £79 a month, is recommended for limited companies with average monthly revenue greater than £10,000. It includes everything from the Starter and Pro plans, as well as assistance with your tax registrations; real-time tax-saving tips and one-to-one video consultations from Ember’s accountants; full payroll costing £4 per employee a month; and the creation and filing of your confirmation statement to HMRC.
You can also pay £129 for help with your self-assessment tax return, £200 for help with your annual accounts, and £149 (plus VAT) for Ember’s registered business and director address service. The latter two services are free with Ember’s Unlimited plan.
Ember accounting software features: at a glance
|Monthly fee (pre-discounts, pre-VAT)||Sole traders:|
|Free trial||14 days|
|Making Tax Digital compliant||No (Starter)|
Yes (all other plans)
|Submit VAT to HMRC||No (Starter)|
Yes (all other plans)
|Payroll costs per month (for five employees, pre-discounts, pre-VAT)||£20 (£4 per employee, only available for limited companies on the Unlimited plan)|
|Customer service||Live chat (via the app and online)|
[email protected] (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday)
Where Ember stands out
Free trial and annual payment offer: Ember offers a 14-day free trial when you sign up. Ember also offers discounts, which can vary depending on when you apply. At the time of writing, it offers a discount worth up to 35% if you choose to pay annually instead of monthly.
Free account: Both sole traders and limited companies can sign up for a free basic Ember account. Ember recommends this plan for businesses with average revenue of up to £1,000 a month.
Monthly fee: Ember’s sole trader Pro plan is one of the cheapest paid-for accounting software plans on the market.
Account perks: Every Ember plan, free and paid, has access to discounts on other business services and tools. Users of the free plans can claim up to £500 in discounts, while paid account holders can claim up to £1,000, and access a greater number of offers.
In-house accountants The Pro and Unlimited plans can chat to Ember’s in-house accountants via its mobile app, while Unlimited users can also arrange one-to-one video calls. You can still schedule these calls on the other plans, but you will be required to pay a fee.
Where Ember falls short
Not all plans are Making Tax Digital-compliant: The free Ember Starter plans are not MTD-compliant. Ember will not let you sign up for a Starter plan if you are a VAT-registered business.
Not all plans can submit VAT returns: You can only submit your VAT returns directly to HMRC on the Pro and Unlimited plans. This feature is not available for free account holders.
Payroll: With the free plan, you cannot access any payroll features. The limited company Starter and Unlimited plans, meanwhile, both allow for payroll for one company director. However, you can only access full payroll if you are a limited company paying for the most expensive Unlimited plan. And at an additional £4 per employee per month (pre-VAT), the cost of running payroll through Ember is pricier than many of its competitors.
Multi-user access: None of Ember’s plans, whether you are a sole trader or a limited company, currently offer multi-user access.
Cash-flow forecasting: Ember does not have a cash-flow forecasting feature, regardless of which plan you pay for.
Ember customer reviews
Ember’s customers have left reviews on a range of sites. Generally, these reviews are mixed to very positive. It is important to note that Ember has fewer reviews than its competitors.
- App Store: 4.3 out of 5, based on over 37 reviews
- Google Play: 2.9 out of 5, based on over 40 reviews
- Trustpilot: 4.8 out of 5, based on over 200 reviews
This information is correct as of 19 September 2023.
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