QuickBooks vs. Xero: A Detailed Breakdown for Canadian SMEs

QuickBooks vs. Xero: A Detailed Breakdown for Canadian SMEs

Sebastien Prost, CPA

Selecting the right accounting software is a critical decision for Canadian SMEs, impacting not only financial management but also the ability to grow and adapt to market changes. Two of the most prominent accounting solutions on the market are QuickBooks (QBO) and Xero, both offering a range of features designed to simplify financial processes. QuickBooks, with its range of customizable options, is renowned for its automation capabilities, while Xero is praised for its user-friendly interface and unlimited user support.

However, each software comes with its respective strengths and challenges. Canadian SMEs must consider various aspects such as financial management features, user experience, integration options, and the reliability of each platform. Additionally, local businesses should weigh the quality of customer support and the ability to analyze financial data through comprehensive reports. The feedback from existing clients also plays a significant role in determining the suitability of the software for specific business needs.

Key Takeaways

  • QuickBooks and Xero offer distinctly different features suitable for diverse business needs.
  • Integration capabilities and user experiences vary significantly between the two software options.
  • Security, reliability, and customer feedback are important considerations for choosing the right platform.

Overview of QuickBooks

QuickBooks is a comprehensive accounting software developed by Intuit, tailored for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It offers robust features to streamline financial management and is recognized for its strong presence in the Canadian SME marketplace.

Key Features of QBO

  • Double-entry accounting: Ensures accuracy and compliance with accounting standards.
  • Invoicing and Payments: Simplifies invoicing and payment processing, with options for online payments.
  • Expense Tracking: Allows easy tracking of expenses, categorization, and tax deduction identification.
  • Payroll: Integrated payroll services accommodate direct deposit and tax calculations.
  • Reporting: Provides a range of financial reports, including profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow statements.
  • Mobile Application: An intuitive app for financial tracking and transactions on-the-go.

Pricing Structure for QuickBooks

Price (CAD)
Notable Features
QuickBooks Online EasyStart
Approx. $24/month
Basic features for small businesses.
QuickBooks Online Essentials
Approx. $48/month
Adds billing, multi-user support.
QuickBooks Online Plus
Approx. $72/month
Adds inventory tracking, project profitability.
QuickBooks Online Advanced
Approx. $140/month
Advanced reporting, business analytics.


Note: Prices are approximate as of February 2024 and may vary based on promotions and specific business requirements.

QuickBooks in the Canadian Market

QuickBooks has tailored offerings for the Canadian market including GST/HST tracking, payroll compliant with Canadian regulations, and French-language support. Its adaptability to the Canadian tax system and bilingual capabilities makes it a preferred choice for many local businesses. QuickBooks also connects with a broad ecosystem of apps such as Shopify, PayPal, and Square, enhancing its utility for Canadian SMEs.

Overview of Xero

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software tailored for small to medium-sized enterprises. It offers a comprehensive suite of features designed to assist with the streamlined management of financial processes.

Key Features of Xero

  • Invoicing: Xero facilitates custom invoice creation and automates tasks like recurring billing and payment reminders.
  • Bank Reconciliation: Users can connect bank accounts to automatically import and categorize transactions.
  • Financial Reporting: It provides detailed financial reporting and performance analytics readily accessible in a few clicks.
  • Mobile App: Xero’s app enables users to handle accounting tasks from anywhere.

Pricing Structure for Xero

Xero’s subscription model is based on three plans:

  1. Starter: Suitable for freelancers and small businesses at approximately $20 CAD per month.
  2. Standard: Offers extended features for growing companies at about $48 CAD per month.
  3. Premium: Designed for well-established businesses with multifaceted needs, costing around $67 CAD per month.

Note: Prices are approximate as of February 2024 and may vary based on promotions and specific business requirements.

Xero’s Presence in Canada

Xero provides a dedicated Canadian version equipped with GST/HST tracking tailored to the country’s tax requirements. It supports multi-currency accounting, facilitating international trade for Canadian businesses. Moreover, its wide acceptance among Canadian accountants and bookkeepers demonstrates its strong presence and reliability in the Canadian marketplace.

User Experience Comparison

User experience is a core aspect when comparing QuickBooks and Xero, specifically focusing on interface usability, customer support services, and mobile accessibility. These areas are pivot points for user satisfaction and workflow efficiency.

Interface and Usability

QuickBooks is renowned for its extensive customization capabilities, which allows for more tailored bookkeeping processes. This adaptability is particularly beneficial for complex accounting needs. Alternatively, Xero boasts a more modern interface that users find intuitive and easier to navigate, particularly for those with minimal accounting experience.

  • QuickBooks: Highly customizable dashboards and reports.
  • Xero: Streamlined and intuitive design.

Customer Support Services

Customer support is a significant factor affecting user experience. Xero provides users with extensive online resources and community support, while QuickBooks offers more direct support options.

  • QuickBooks: Offers phone, live chat, and online community support.
  • Xero: Focus on extensive online help center and community forums.

Mobile Accessibility

The ability to manage finances on-the-go is essential for many users. QuickBooks’ mobile app is noted for its functionality that includes mobile payment processing. Meanwhile, Xero’s mobile app excels in allowing users to manage bills and payments efficiently while away from the desk.

  • QuickBooks: Robust mobile app with payment processing capabilities.
  • Xero: Effective bill management features within its mobile app.

Financial Management Features

In this section, we compare QuickBooks and Xero in terms of their financial management features, particularly focusing on their abilities to handle invoicing and payments, track expenses, manage inventory, process payroll, and comply with tax regulations.

Invoicing and Payments

QuickBooks allows for custom, professional invoice creation and offers features like invoice tracking and automated payment reminders. It also supports multiple payment methods and currencies, which can be especially beneficial for businesses with a diverse client base. In contrast, Xero provides a more streamlined invoicing system with repeat invoicing capabilities and integrates directly with Stripe and PayPal for payments, emphasizing ease of use for both the business and its clients.

Expense Tracking and Management

They both offer thorough expense tracking and management. QuickBooks has a comprehensive system that records expenses and categorizes them, making it easier to monitor costs and improve budgeting. Xero equally facilitates the tracking of expenses but stands out with its mobile app, which allows users to upload receipts and reconcile transactions on the go, giving immediate insights into financial data.

Inventory Management

Xero has straightforward inventory management tools suitable for small businesses, which allow them to track stock levels, manage orders, and get insights into top-selling items. QuickBooks, however, offers a more detailed inventory tracking system that includes features like inventory valuation and is better suited for businesses with more complex inventory needs.

Payroll Processing

QuickBooks provides an integrated payroll system within its platform for an added fee, which simplifies payroll processing, tax calculations, and payroll tax filing for employers. Xero offers payroll services as well, with features like direct deposit and electronic filing. However, for comprehensive functionality, it may require additional fees or third-party applications depending on the region.

Tax Compliance Tools

Both platforms provide tools to aid in tax compliance. QuickBooks features tax calculation and filing tools adapted to the Canadian tax system, including GST/HST tracking. Xero also supports tax rate management and preparation of tax forms, ensuring that businesses remain compliant with minimal hassle.

Both QuickBooks and Xero offer robust financial management features that can cater to the different needs of Canadian SMEs in a confident and clear manner.

Integration and Expansion

In the competitive landscape of accounting software, the ease of integrating third-party apps and the capacity to scale with business growth are critical factors for Canadian SMEs when choosing between QuickBooks and Xero.

Third-Party App Integration

QuickBooks and Xero both offer robust marketplaces for third-party applications that extend their core functionalities. For instance, QuickBooks has a comprehensive App Store with a wide array of solutions tailored for inventory management, time tracking, and CRM, among other needs. Xero aligns with modern business ecosystems by offering strong integrations and add-ons, especially useful for companies looking for enhanced marketing or sales tools.

Scalability for Growing Businesses

Scalability is a cornerstone for any SME envisioning growth. QuickBooks provides a range of plans, allowing businesses to upgrade seamlessly as they expand. On the other hand, Xero packages – Starter, Standard, and Premium – are designed to cater to different business sizes and needs, making scaling a straightforward process. Both services accommodate increasing transactions and users, ensuring SMEs can maintain efficiency as they evolve.

Security and Reliability

When selecting accounting software, Canadian SMEs prioritize not only functionality but also the security and reliability of the system. A solid platform ensures that financial data is well-protected and readily accessible.

Data Security Measures

QuickBooks and Xero both employ robust security protocols to safeguard user data. QuickBooks protects user data with 128-bit SSL encryption and offers two-factor authentication (2FA) for additional login security. It also operates on cloud infrastructure designed for high security, including password-protected data access and multi-tiered firewall protection.

In parallel, Xero prioritizes data security with multiple layers of protection. Essential measures include SSL encryption, 2FA, and regular security audits. Xero’s data centers are ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified, which is a globally recognized standard for information security.

System Uptime and Reliability

The confidence in a system’s uptime is crucial for businesses that rely on continual access to their financial records.

QuickBooks maintains a commitment to providing a reliable service by offering 99.9% uptime, as documented in their service level agreement (SLA). They provide real-time updates on their system status via an online dashboard, ensuring transparency with their users regarding any potential or ongoing issues.

Xero similarly assures its users of consistent access to their accounting data. It boasts a 99.97% uptime record for the past year, demonstrating a highly reliable platform for SME accounting needs. Xero has a dedicated status page that informs users of any interruptions or maintenance, making sure businesses are apprised of system performance.

Reports and Analysis

In the realm of accounting software, the depth and customizability of reporting features are pivotal. They empower Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grasp their financial health accurately and make informed decisions.

Reporting Capabilities

QuickBooks has a robust set of reporting features, with the capacity to generate a wide range of reports. Users can create custom reports and utilize tags to track specific data points. This affords businesses a high degree of flexibility in how they view and manipulate their financial information.

  • Standard Reports: Profit and loss, balance sheet, cash flow.
  • Customization Options: Filters, date ranges, and display settings.

Xero, while offering a solid reporting function, provides slightly fewer reports out of the box compared to QuickBooks. However, it maintains a strong and user-friendly interface for accessing core financial reports.

  • Standard Reports: Includes essential financial reports required for analysis.
  • Customization Options: Predesigned report templates with certain customization abilities.

Performance Insight Tools

Both QuickBooks and Xero offer tools that can assist SMEs in Canada with gaining deeper insights into their performance.

QuickBooks users benefit from the software’s industry-specific reports and benchmarking tools, allowing comparisons against similar businesses. Advanced options like profitability analysis and key performance indicators (KPIs) are also available, furnishing companies with the intelligence needed to drive growth.

Xero provides a dashboard with key financial information at a glance, including cash flow and outstanding invoices. It integrates with various add-ons for extended functionality like detailed financial metrics and trend analysis tools, although it may lack some of the native, in-depth performance analytics found in QuickBooks.

Client Feedback and Reviews

In evaluating QuickBooks and Xero, Canadian SMEs rely heavily on the experiences of other users. Client feedback and independent review scores are critical sources of insight into the reliability, functionality, and user-friendliness of these accounting systems.

Customer Testimonials


  • “The customization options have been a game changer for our invoicing system,” shares a small business owner from Toronto.
  • “I appreciate the timely and knowledgeable customer support,” adds a Vancouver-based entrepreneur.


  • Xero’s simplicity and unlimited user policy fit our company as we scale,” notes a startup founder in Montreal.
  • “Integrating with our existing systems was seamless,” a retailer in Calgary states.

Independent Review Scores


Average Score (out of 10)
Ease of Use
Customer Service
Value for Money

[Source: Software Advice]


Average Score (out of 10)
Ease of Use
Customer Service
Value for Money

[Source: G2 Crowd]

Final Thoughts

When Canadian SMEs consider accounting solutions, both QuickBooks and Xero stand out for their specific offerings. QuickBooks is renowned for its intricate features, such as enhanced customization and automation capabilities that can align with various business needs. With a starting price of $24 per month, it’s a robust solution known for its extensive support networks.

On the other side, Xero is celebrated for its simplicity and ease of use. It supports unlimited users and comes with a starting price of $20 per month. Although it offers a leaner set of features compared to QuickBooks, Xero has a strong appeal for those who prioritize a straightforward user experience.

Customizable to the user’s needs
Unlimited users
From $10/month
From $13/month


It’s important for businesses to weigh their accounting software options carefully. A decisive factor may be whether a desktop version is essential, which QuickBooks provides, unlike Xero. QuickBooks’ synchronization with Jobber also enhances functionality, streamlining workflow for service-based businesses.

Ultimately, the choice between QuickBooks and Xero for Canadian SMEs will hinge on the individual business requirements, including budget constraints, the need for scalability, and the desired level of customer support. As the market dynamics continue to evolve, both platforms persist in updating and refining their services to meet the diverse needs of businesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, readers will find precise answers to common inquiries regarding the distinction in features, tax support, user satisfaction, pricing, integration capabilities, and advantages of using QuickBooks compared to Xero for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as of 2024.

What are the primary differences in features between QuickBooks and Xero as of 2024?

QuickBooks distinguishes itself by offering more customizable accounting features and advanced bookkeeping automation. Conversely, Xero supports unlimited users and is often appreciated for its clarity in pricing and robust mobile capabilities.

Which software offers better tax support for Canadian SMEs, QuickBooks or Xero?

For Canadian SMEs, QuickBooks typically provides more comprehensive tax support, including features that cater to the specific tax requirements in Canada, such as GST/HST.

How do user reviews compare for QuickBooks and Xero among Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises?

User reviews for both QuickBooks and Xero reveal that Canadian SMEs favor QuickBooks for its integration with other software, while Xero is praised for its user-friendly design and predictable pricing structure.

What are the cost differences between QuickBooks and Xero for businesses in Canada?

When comparing QuickBooks and Xero, pricing may vary; QuickBooks offers a starting price of CAD 24 per month while Xero’s starting point is CAD 20 per month. However, feature variation across plans can affect overall value for SMEs in Canada.

Can QuickBooks and Xero integrate seamlessly with other financial tools commonly used in Canada?

Both QuickBooks and Xero are designed to integrate with popular financial tools, but QuickBooks is known for having more extensive compatibility that may provide added convenience for Canadian businesses.

What are the advantages of using Xero over QuickBooks for Canadian businesses?

Xero may offer advantages for Canadian businesses seeking a lower-cost accounting solution with unlimited user support, despite having limited payroll tools compared to QuickBooks. Xero is also recognized for its strong mobile experience.

Sebastien Prost, CPA

Written by Sebastien Prost, CPA

Seb Prost, a CPA with over 10 years of experience in taxation and accounting, offers a unique blend of insights from his time at the CRA and his experience in public practice. Originally from QC and now based in Nelson, BC, he specializes in guiding Canadian startups, SaaS companies and other online businesses for all of their accounting and taxation needs.

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