Sunday, December 15, 2013

QuickBooks Online New Look

Since it was launched over a decade ago, QuickBooks Online has been easy to use. It’s been quicker and “lighter” than the desktop versions, thanks to its cloud-based platform and a feature set that was more limited than the software at the top of Intuit’s food chain.

Still, Intuit recently did a major overhaul of its online offering, and the results will be startling to anyone who has visited the site even once. Beyond being cleaner, leaner and more intuitive, this totally-rebuilt application sits on an open platform that readies it for users who want a state-of-the-art accounting solution that integrates seamlessly with the other web-based tools they use to run their businesses.

Those companies can access QuickBooks Online and its other business management systems from anywhere via a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet.

You’ll most likely start your day on QuickBooks Online’s dashboard, its home page. As you move on to other elements of QuickBooks Online by clicking on the navigational tabs in the left pane, you’ll see this new emphasis on usability continued. Every screen has been rebuilt so that you’re not hunting around the page, looking for the rather small links to the tasks you want to do

If you just want to get in and create a quick transaction, you can click on the X at the top of the page, which opens a list of links to the most commonly-used ones. Two other links here take you to tools that you’re likely to use regularly. A small icon opens a window containing your most recent transactions. And the magnifying glass gives you access to QuickBooks Online’s Search function.

The new QuickBooks Online also pulls together links that used to be scattered throughout the site. You can easily get to these by clicking the small wheel icon in the upper right corner. From here, you can work with:

· Settings (Company Settings, Chart of Accounts)
· Lists (Products and Services, Recurring Transactions, etc.)
· Tools (Import Desktop Data, Reconcile, Activity Log, etc.)
· Your Company (Your Account, Manage Users, etc.)

This consolidation of important site functions will accelerate your workflow greatly. You use the tabs on the left side of the screen to do your actual accounting work, while all of your other “background” tasks are accessible through one icon.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

QuickBooks 2014 Simplifies, Accelerates Common Tasks

If Intuit named its desktop versions of QuickBooks by the version number rather than the year, we’d be in version 20-something by now. QuickBooks, still the preferred software for small businesses, keeps getting smarter in its annual upgrades. Rather than pile on tons of new features in its upgrades, Intuit – for many years – has concentrated on making it easier for you to access the tools and data that are already there.

QuickBooks 2014 is no exception. Its combination of small-but-effective changes makes it easier to get in and do what needs to be done quickly, and then get out and move on to activities that will help build your business.

A Superior View

If you do upgrade to QuickBooks 2014, head first to the new Income Tracker (Customers | Income Tracker). QuickBooks offers numerous reports and other tools for following the progress of your incoming revenue, but this new feature provides the best we’ve seen in the software.

More Descriptive Email
If you regularly send invoices through email, you may have wondered how many of them actually get opened by your customers in a timely fashion. QuickBooks 2014 contains a new tool that makes the details of each invoice available within the body of the email itself.
 Smaller Changes

Intuit has made many small-but-useful features to QuickBooks 2014, all designed to help you work faster and smarter, and simply to support more convenient operations. For example, the Ribbon toolbars on transactions now include a tab or menu that lets you open related reports.
In addition:
·       QuickBooks’ color scheme has been changed.
·       The program runs faster.
·       You can now copy and paste lines within forms.
·       We can communicate with you (and vice versa) via an email window that’s been embedded into the software. This tool even auto-pastes the transaction in question into the email window.
·       There’s been some retooling of online banking (now called “Bank Feeds”), making it more accessible and understandable.

Upgrading to a new version of QuickBooks can be challenging, so we encourage you to let us know if you’d like to explore the process. New functionality and usability that improves your workflow and your understanding of your finances can be worth the time and trouble.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How to receive payments in QuickBooks

There are a variety of methods for receiving payments from customers or one-time receipts.  If you have submitted an invoice to the customer, then you will want to Receive Payment (found on the home page or under the Customers menu).  If the client sends you money before you have invoiced them, you can create a Sales Receipt (also under the Customer menu).  If you are going to be receiving installment payments or a deposit, then you will want to create a payment item for each situation.  Finally, you can go to the Banking menu, select Make deposit and simply record the check information and deposit the funds into the proper bank account at the same time.

For more detailed information on receiving payments, go to for an extended article.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Gift of Giving

The news from the Philippines is heartbreaking and bound to get worse over the next few days as officials and volunteers gather to assess the full damage.  I have seen the aftermath of a tornado and realize that that damage was nothing in comparison.

Disasters bring out the giving spirit in people and business, but why does it take a disaster for that to happen?  Giving money, goods or your time is always appreciated by someone else and lets us feel good about ourselves.

My sister-in-law didn't know what to do with herself when she retired.  She tried a couple different part time jobs but they didn't last long.  One day she sent a post that she was volunteering at the local animal shelter, bringing home cats to foster them over the week-ends and posting pictures of dogs trying to find new homes for them.

One of my clients, a small women-owned business, has had several obstacles to overcome in both their personal lives and in the business.  Nevertheless, they signed up to adopt a family for Christmas as they do every year.  All of their staff participate in this and other charitable programs.

The "return on investment" from giving to others can't always be measured in definitive terms but the act of selflessness is always returned in some manner.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Budgeting for the new year

I am knee deep in creating  budgets for one of my clients.  It always amazes me that the less money a government entity gives you, the more hoops there are to jump through.  When I worked on a $400 million dollar budget, there was plenty of wriggle room, but in a $260,000 budget, not so much.

Where to start?  First step is to lay out the programs/services the money requires you to provide and determine how you meet the requirements.  Is it just a matter of assigning a task to a staff member or will you need to identify a dedicated position?  If you need a dedicated position, how many hours a week and at what cost per hour?  Will the individual qualify for benefits?  Which ones?  What supplies, equipment, physical space is needed?

In most cases, you will end up apportioning the funds over more than one position.  Once you have done that for each requirement, go back to see which full time employees positions have not been fully funded.  Of the remaining funds, which are best applied to each position?  Still have money remaining? - which of your part time staff or contract positions still need funding?

If there is any money left over, you will need to cover the fixed expenses - rent, heat, lights, insurance.  The leftovers, if there are any, go to supplies, equipment and other miscellaneous expenses.

If it is a federal grant, take out the indirect cost first so you don't forget it.  Nothing worse than allocating all the money and then realizing you have to start all over again because of that pesky indirect cost.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Business "Housework"

It's the week-end and for me, like most employed adults, that means housework - cooking, cleaning, washing.  It's an automatic function in our personal lives.  But what about our business?

Huh?  What does housework have to do with your business?  Well, have you clean out the Chart of Accounts lately?  Have you reviewed your Accounts Receivable to determine if some of it should just be written off to bad debt?  Is your inventory in order?  Have you done a physical count of your inventory this year to make sure it matches your accounting records?  Do you know what your clients/customers are buying from you?  Is it the same as they were buying a year ago?

There is all kinds of housework to do when you are a business owner, but frequently owners get too busy to do any of it.  Make it a habit to set aside time on a regular basis to perform your "housework" chores - quarterly will probably work for most business owners.  Doing so just may save you money or help you to identify a new revenue source.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Recording Payments by Credit Card

I have clients who send me their credit card statement whereby I make a single entry in QuickBooks, allocating each charge to the correct expense account.  Other clients give me their charge receipts each week for me to enter.  Which method you use is personal choice with the same end result.

If you are going to record the charges as they are incurred, then you will need to create a Credit Card account.  I usually name the account by the type of card (Visa, MC, AmEx, etc.) and the last four digits of the card account.  This is especially helpful if there is more than one credit card account.
To enter the charge, you can either enter the bill and then pay it by the Credit Card account or “write a check” on the Credit Card account.

When the statement arrives, compare it to the balance in the Credit Card account.  If all of the charges have been entered, then you can write a check for the total, thereby relieving the balance in the Credit Card account.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Consistent entries

The key to mining information from any database is consistency in entries.  Any column in a database can be searchable - the value of the search lies in making "free form" entries look the same.  Huh???

In QuickBooks, many fields are defined - name, address, account.  Fields such as Memo are "free form", meaning you can write whatever you want.  If you will need to search that field for information, then you will need to decide on a format for the Memo field.

For example, my real estate clients collect earnest money from their buyer clients.  Rather that create an invoice and then receive payment, I just use the Make Deposit from Banking to enter these checks.  A client may buy multiple properties over a period of time so to identify the property I enter the address in the memo field.  By using the same format every time, I can perform a search function of the memo field and find every transaction related to a particular property.  This is especially helpful in reconciling the liability account to ensure that the liability was relieved after closing.  It is also an easy way to verify that an earnest deposit was made and when.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fall cleanup

Labor Day is here already, so fall is just around the corner.  Are you ready to do some fall cleaning on your business records?  Too small to spend money on an accounting software program?  Are you tracking your revenue and expenses on a spreadsheet?  This will make your taxes much easier.  Set up a sheet for each month, showing revenues and expenses by category.  What categories?  Well, how about Automobile for gas, oil changes, tires and other repair work; Cost of Goods sold for any items you buy to resell directly to your customers or using to build/repair something for your customers; Supplies - office, janitorial, maintenance; Computer - track you expenses not only for computers but also monthly fees for programs/apps you use; Utilities; Rent (office or storage space); Labor (1099 contractors, not employees); Insurance (health, life, general liability, errors and omissions).  Get in the habit of entering this information every month (or even better, every week) to make tax time a little less trying.

Have a great day and enjoy the upcoming cooler weather (and for those of in the Southeast, hopefully dryer weather).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Continuing Eduaction

I do accounting and budgeting for an Adult Education program where we are pushing students to take classes and take the GED test before the new, harder version comes out in January 2014.  In my personal life, I began studying for the QuickBooks Advanced Certification late fall/early winter.  If I don't complete the test before mid-September, I will have to first pass the current year test and then begin studying for the new version of the advanced test.  Guess you know what I am doing this week-end?

Learning new facts/programs/skills should be an ongoing process until the day you die.  It keeps the mind active, helps you to understand at least some of the things going on in the world (politics not among them), and provides topics of conversation that are less argumentative than the aforementioned politics.

I am also learning a new software program called Buildium.  My property management client has doubled in size over the past year and needed a more pro-active method of tracking information on properties, tenants and owners.  The new program is web based, so the Property Manager can actually have some time off and other staff members will be able to access information to engage vendors to take care of problems tenants have called in.  While it has taken quite a bit of time to front load all of the information in the new system (thanks goodness for technology which let me copy and paste from one program to another), it will make my life easier as well.

Isn't that another reason to learn new things?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Items – Part II

Today I will discuss the other items types that are not used as often but could be very helpful to you in your business.  Remember, one of the main functions of Items is to make it easy for you to invoice your clients/customers for the items or services they buy from you.

Do you offer delivery services at a fee?  Perhaps the fee is dependent on where the customer lives in relation to where your business is located.  For this circumstance, you will create an Other Charge.  You can also use this item type to charge a flat service charge – for example, a plumber charges $60 to go to a customer’s home to assess the situation.

As a building contractor, you may not stock supplies but purchase them as needed.  To show a charge on the customer’s invoice, you will create a Non-Inventory Item for each item you supply.
Want to total the cost of inventory or non-inventory parts separate from service or hourly labor charges?  Then set up a Subtotal in between the two types of charges.  This will also be helpful for your customers to check taxes if you are only required to charge tax on parts but not labor.

Contractors often require a down payment prior to beginning work.  Use the Payment Item to create a separate line item showing the amount the customer will be paying upon acceptance of the contract/estimate.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Customize Reports - Desktop Part II

One of my clients has been so successful in growing one of their business lines that they are looking at new management software to keep everything organized.  There was immediate panic by employees, dreading the thought of having to hand enter all the customer and vendor information in the new system.

I was able to put them at ease by assuring them that all the information could be pulled from their QuickBooks files.  The first step was to add Custom Fields to both the customer and vendor files, providing a unique identity to the needed files.  Adding this field ID to specific customers and vendors did take a little time, but not near as much as hand entering the data.

Next, I opened the Vendor Contact List Report.   By clicking on the Customize Report button, then the Filters tab you can select the Vendor Type and from the drop down box, you can select the custom field name you chose.  A review of the new software program gave me the data fields required for specific tasks.  I went to the Display tab on Customize Reports to eliminate the fields I didn’t need and add the ones I would need.  The next step was to run the report to see what information was missing from my QuickBooks data.  I memorized the report, entered the missing data, then reran the report and created an Excel worksheet.  I choose to export through Excel as that was an option provided by the new program.

Not only was this a much simpler method of transferring data from one software program to another, it highlighted the information which was missing from the QuickBooks records.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Customize Reports - Desktop Part I

QuickBooks provides its users with a vast array of reports.  This has been expanded in recent versions with reports contributed by users.  Trying to find a contributed report that meets your needs can almost seem like looking for the needle in the haystack.  Customizing a stock report and then saving it in an area you specify with a name that will be easy for you to remember is not difficult.  In this first article, I will explain how to change the columns appearing on your report.

Open the report that meets most of your needs then click on the Customize button (I am working from the report Income by Customer Detail).  The report has more detail to it than my manager wants to see, so I am going to remove some of the columns.  In the Customize box on the Display tab, in the lower left hand corner you will see a list under the header Columns.  The items with a checkmark next to them are the current column headers.  To remove a column from the report, simply click on the item to remove the checkmark.  In the Income by Customer Detail report, I am going to remove the “Account”, “Clr” (this indicates if the transaction has been reconciled), “Split”, “Debit,” “Credit” and “Balance” columns.  Next, I am going to click on “Amount” to add it as a column to my report. I now have a report which highlights the information my manager really needs – how much income the company has received from each customer over the selected period of time.

Next, click on the Header/Footer tab so you can rename the report.  In the Report Title section, highlight the current title and type in your new one.  You can also eliminate information such as time and date the report was prepared by unchecking the box.

When you are finished with your changes, be sure to click on the OK box to save the changes you have made.  If the new report meets your needs, click on the Memorize button to save this report in your company file.  Enter the new name of the report and determine which report group you want to save it to.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Items – Part I

Consider that you are writing a paper invoice for your business – the description that you use for the item of inventory or type of service provided is an Item in QuickBooks.  The sales tax(es) that you charge will also be an Item.  There are 11 different types of Items in QuickBooks.  Today I will discuss the key types and how you would use them in your business

The first type we will look at is the Inventory Part Item.  You will create an Inventory Part for every part that you stock in your business for sale.  This means every size nut and bolt, every color of a 4 ounce skein of baby yarn, every brand of oil filter that you stock in your store for sale.  For each item, you will enter a separate, distinctive name, determine if you want it to be part of a larger group (i.e. the “parent” group is Nuts and each size is a subset of the group).

If you combine individual parts to make a pre-assembled part, then you will record them as an Inventory Assembly Item.

The next type is Service.  If you own a plumbing supply store selling parts to do-it-yourselfers and also have a staff of plumbers who will do the repairs for customers, then you will use both Inventory and Service Items.  The parts you use will be Inventory Items and the labor will be a Service.  As a QuickBooks consultant, I bill for services such a bookkeeping, training, trouble shooting.

The last one to be discussed today is Sales Tax.  For each taxing authority, you will need to set up a separate item for each.  You may be fortunate to only have a single statewide sales tax – then you would only need to set up one tax item.  If you collect sales tax for a city, county, or other designated tax region, you will set up an item for each.  Only enter the amount that goes to each tax authority – i.e. the overall tax you need to charge is 8% where 7% goes to the state and 1% goes to the city.  If you only want to show a single tax line on your invoice, then you will need to create a Sales Tax Group with all of the individual taxes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Classes in QuickBooks

Classes can represent many different things – departments, regions, individuals, lines of business, service types, or locations.  Tracking performance by class can give you valuable insight into your company, showing you where you need to make tweaks or even radical changes.

To determine your classes, look at how your business runs (or where you will be making future expansion).  What is the most important way to track your business?  Do you have sites throughout the region – then creating a Class for each site might work best for you.  Are you a sales or service business and want to track by sales person or service provider?  Are you sole proprietor who is providing different services and want to see which gives you the best income or profit potential?  Any of these needs can be tracked by using Classes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Setting up a Chart of Accounts

You just bought an accounting software program to track your business.  After you enter some basic information about the company, you will need to set up the accounts you will use.  Accounts are divided into types – Asset, Liability, Equity, Income, Cost of Goods Sold and Expense.  Assets include bank accounts, petty cash, land, building, equipment (which will be depreciated), inventory, and monies owed to you by customers.  Liabilities are what you owe to someone else including items you have purchased by credit card or on account and loans.  Equity represents the net value of the company.  Income represents what you have earned through sales or charges for services rendered.  Cost of Goods is a type expense which is directly related to how you earn money.  For example, commissions paid to sales staff based on sales they have made.  Expenses represent things you buy or other charges such as rent, utilities.
Start by setting up your banking accounts.  You will need to enter the beginning balance from your bank statement or based on when you open the account.  Give each account a name that will make it easy to identify the type or purpose of the account.  If you only have one checking account, then you can just identify it as Checking.
Equity accounts will be based on the type of business you have – sole proprietor, partnership, incorporated, non-profit.  You should not have to enter any additional Equity accounts.
If you have selected an industry specific version of the software, income accounts will have been included in the basic Chart of Accounts.  You may want to have sub-accounts to track various services or business lines.  For example, in a service company you may have an account called Service Income.  You can create accounts for the specific types of service you provide and make them sub-accounts of Service Income.
Cost of Goods Sold may be those goods purchased to make or assemble something you sell, supplies you buy for a construction project, commission costs to sales staff or other expenses directly related to producing income for your company.  You may want to create specific accounts to indicate the type of costs incurred, i.e. Inventory, Direct labor, Commissions.
The basic expense accounts will be included in the base Chart of Accounts.  Once again, you may want to add sub-accounts to better track where your money is being spent, such as adding Water & Sewer, Gas & Electric as sub-accounts under Utilities.  Are you in a service industry where continuing education is required?  Then create an expense account for expenses tied to this training, including seminars and the purchase of printed materials.

You do not have to add your accounts when you first set up your books.  Live with the accounts that came with the program and make additions as you get a feel for your business and see which income and expense accounts you want to add to track various aspects of your business.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I got my start in bookkeeping beginning my senior year of high school when I worked part time in the family business, helping my grandmother in the office.  At the end of my sophomore year of college, my grandmother retired from the business and I took over, starting a career I hadn’t expected.  To better prepare myself to assume a leadership role in the business, I went back to college to get a Master’s degree in Finance.  Unfortunately, the Rust Belt Recession of the late 1970’s to early 1980’s took its toll on the business.  Using my advanced degree and experience, I began a career in accounting management.

My first job was with a county agency with a progressive director.  My first assignment was to buy a computerized word processing system for the secretarial staff.  Six months later, I was buying my first PC and Lotus 1-2-3 and beginning my “love affair” with computers.

By the late 1980’s, I discovered Intuit – first buying Turbo Tax and then Quicken.  In the late 1990’s, I went to work for a community development agency which had just declared bankruptcy.  The Director and I made the decision to go with QuickBooks to set up the new financial records.  After I taught myself how to use the program I trained the rest of the accounting staff on its use.  One of my major accomplishments was to set up the Customer:Job function to track payments from parents for the pre-school program.

Today, I am certified on all QuickBooks products and working on the advanced certification; certified on and have a working knowledge of Xero, Peachtree, SAP, Great Plains and CYMA.

I will be using this format to discuss the practical aspects of QuickBooks, provide some tips on how to perform different functions, share some ideas for specific industries and give you some shortcuts.  I will also provide some basic accounting tips.