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Outright is Only a Good Start for Finances

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Heads up, QuickBooks lovers, there's a cool new way for small businesses to count beans. It's called Outright and it competes step for step with Intuit's (INTU - Get Report) accounting darling.

Yes, I realize tax day is months away. But Q3 2010 prepayments are due Sept. 15. And considering all the newbies the Great Recession has tossed up on the independent-contractor beach, one can't start soon enough on taxes.

To wit, I have been testing a hot new Web 2.0 accounting program aimed mostly at independent contractors and small businesses. Mountain View, Calif.-based Outright, which a company representative said tracks roughly $3 billion in small-business sales and expenses since launch in 2008, gives away a high-quality ledger and tax tool as a means to build a community and seeks to make money by up-selling such services as filing complex IRS forms.

So does this "fremium" model have small-business play? Let's find out.

WHAT YOU GET Outright is a powerful tool that helps you track your sales, expenses and estimated taxes. And it's free.

I'll be blunt: Outright is impressive. Simply surf over to outright.com, sign up for a free account and start entering sales and expense data. Very quickly -- like in 15 minutes -- you will get a solid, if back-of-the-envelope, feel for your gross sales, bottom-line profit and federal tax exposure.

A truly accurate, to-the-penny read on your business's finances, complete with state and local returns, takes much more effort and probably an actual accountant. But Outright makes it relatively painless to enter even very accurate fiscal information: There is an automatic expense-importing feature for more than 4,000 banks, credit cards and Paypal info via the Web. Profit and loss, expense and quarterly reports were excellent and exported smoothly to Excel (MSFT).

I was particularly impressed with their upsell, the Independent Contractor 1099 form filing feature. For just $5 for each form filed, they fulfill your IRS obligation here. Not bad.

In all, Outright is a powerful and feature-rich bean counting experience that is on par with pricey online tools -- even those from Intuit.

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