So with all that explanation behind us, where do we start? The first choice to make is desktop or cloud. Despite the hype, desktop systems have not yet been replaced by cloud systems, although they are preferred by vendors. We list some features generally claimed for or against each type. However, some programs of the same type are better or worse than others. And other features change over time. And some vendors offer hybrids - of different sorts. Remember there is no such thing as a perfect system.


  Desktop Cloud

Full control


Data ownership




Nightly bank feeds

Accountant / client access



"Proper" backups

Off-site backups

Local security


Internet availability


Access to backups

Continued access to data


Not only are features different, but other factors come into play. For example, family trusts generally have a life of 80 years, and may not have income or transactions for most of those. For example, a trust which owns only a family home with disbursements such as insurance and rates paid by family members occupying the house may go the full 80 years with no transactions. Accounts done in year one (assuming gifting is done at the start) would simply carry forward. As long as the paper trail is complete, manual records are fine. If however, it is computerised, you need to make sure the software runs on the latest systems (they won't last 80 years). Of course, if the system doesn't carry forward transactions from year to year then it may not be so important - you'll need to keep a paper trail. And if you're thinking of a cloud-based system, think of nearly 1000 monthly fees over the life of the trust.


That brings us to fees. If you have only one user and one system that's not a major, although with cloud pricing now applying to most desktop software, it's no longer insignificant. However, if you need more than one system, you may be up for multiples of the system cost, second and subsequent systems may be discounted, or you may run as many systems as you need for the one-off fee. This last might sound good - but there is a catch (isn't there always?) - if you want multiple users to access the system(s) at the same time, you may pay extra.


We have done a detailed analysis of the costs - but it changes frequently. So if you're looking for price comparisons you won't find them on this website. Basically, you shouldn't choose mainly on price. When you've narrowed it down it is relatively easy to compare them. However, even that can be tricky.

If you have a lot of contractors, contracts or stores, make sure the package you are considering does what you need. Since all of these do the basics, don't worry about them until you've sorted out the issues that are important to you. But even the way you invoice can require a lot more time in some systems than in others.


With the dramatic escalation of fees this decade, many are considering some of the free software. As an accountant, some of them would certainly make sense. However, If someone seeks help with such a package (and they should do so before committing to it - set-up is a little more demanding), our fees will be higher than for Kiwi software. This is because these systems require more effort and diligence every day, and so will have a higher error rate. As well, they are unlikely to provide for thing's like the AIM provisional tax system (which requires IRD's approval). However if you are considering that, talk with me (no charge to talk).