Quickbooks Accuracy Tips

Keeping Your 941 Report Accurate

Do not pay your payroll liabilities from the “Write Checks” window. If you use this window, QuickBooks will warn you to use the “Pay Liabilities” window, but will let you write the check. However when you print the 941, it will not reflect any payments that you made using the “Write Checks” window.

Use the “Pay Liabilities” window to create checks for all tax liabilities. Using this window will ensure that the payments are reflected accurately on the 941 report and that your liability accounts are properly reduced.

Recording of Barter Exchanges

If you have customers who are also vendors you may decide to trade some or all of your services / products in exchange for payment.

To record such a barter transaction, invoice the customer for the goods provided or services performed as you normally would. To record the “payment” use the “Receive Payment” function to apply the barter amount against the invoice the same as you would when receiving cash or a check as follows:

Go to Customers: Receive Payment. Payment Amount will be the barter amount (the amount of the invoice you received from your vendor). Pmt. Method will be Barter. Check the radio button for “Group with other undeposited funds”. Save this transaction.

Go to Banking: Make Deposits. The payment you just received will come up in the Payments to Deposit screen. If there are also other payments to deposit, make sure you select only the payment(s) being recorded for the barter exchange. When you hit OK the Make Deposits screen will come up with the barter deposit(s) showing. Before recording the deposit make a negative deposit entry on the next blank line below the barter deposit for the amount of the barter as follows:

Deposit To is your normal operating checking account. Date is the date you would have normally paid your vendors invoice. Memo should be changed from Deposit to Barter.

If you have entered the vendors invoice as a bill for payment, Received From is the vendor name and From Account is Accounts Payable.

If you have not entered the vendors invoice as a bill for payment, leave Received From blank. In the From Account column select the expense account you would charge the vendors invoice to, the same as if you were entering it for payment. In the Memo column note the vendors invoice number.

In the Amount column enter the vendors invoice amount with a negative sign first. This negative amount should exactly offset the deposit amount above, resulting in a “Zero” deposit transaction. Save the “deposit” and the transaction is complete.

Recording Infrequent Transactions in QuickBooks

Day-to-day transactions like receiving payments from customers or paying vendors occur so frequently that most QuickBooks users do them automatically. However, from time to time you may encounter an infrequent transaction that will stop you in your tracks. In this article we’ll discuss several common tricky transactions and offer advice on how to handle them.

Security Deposits

Security deposits, such as for a rental space or to a utility company, require special tracking so that you can be sure to get the money back later. It’s best to maintain a separate account for each security deposit so that you can track each individually. If you have numerous security deposits, consider creating individual subaccounts for each deposit:

  1. Choose Lists, and then Chart of Accounts (or press Ctrl-A).
  2. Click the Account button, and then choose New (or press Ctrl-N).
  3. As shown in Figure 1, choose Other Account Type, Other Current Asset, and then click Continue.
  4. Assign an Account Name such as Contributions from Owner, (and account number if applicable). If necessary, click Subaccount Of, and specify the Deposits account. Click Save and Close to save the new account.

Figure 1:
An easy way to manage security deposits is to post them to a new Other Current Asset account.

Refunds from utility companies, insurance companies, or other sources

Choose Banking, and then Make Deposits. Specify the vendor, and then choose the account. In the case of deposit refunds, you should have an asset account that you’ll apply the money against, as shown in Figure 2. For other types of refunds, use the expense account from which you originally paid the money.

Figure 2:
Apply utility deposit refunds back to the deposit account on your balance sheet.

Owner Contributions

This is a situation where an owner of the company invests money into the firm. The owner does so in hopes of making a return on their investment, but does not have a specific timetable in mind for repayment of the loan. If you don’t already have a Contributions from Owner account, follow these steps described previously for creating a new account, but choose Equity and name the account Contributions from Owner.

Distributions to Owner

Distributions allow an owner to take profits out of the company on a non-salary basis. Distributions can be paid through payroll or on a separate check. Your chart of accounts should already include a Distributions to Owner account, but if it doesn’t, you can establish this new Equity account, which you can then use in either of these types of transactions.

  • Payroll: Distributions require special treatment in payroll because they’re not subject to income or payroll taxes in QuickBooks. The owner settles the income tax due when filing their annual return. Before you can pay distributions through payroll you must establish a payroll item. To do so, follow these steps:
  1. Choose Employees, Manage Payroll Items, and then New Payroll Item.
  2. Choose Custom Setup, and then click Next.
  3. Choose Addition, and then click Next.
  4. Enter the word Distribution and then click Next.
  5. Choose the Distributions to Owner account from your chart of accounts, and then click Next.
  6. Choose None for the Tax Tracking type, and then click Next.
  7. Leave all of the taxes unselected, and then click Next.
  8. Choose Calculate This Item Based on Quantity and then click Next when the Calculate Based on Quantity screen appears.
  9. Accept the default choice of Gross Pay and then click Next.
  10. Leave the Default Rate and Limit fields at zero and then click Finish.

Next, select the employee in the Employee Center, and then choose Edit Employee. Choose Payroll and Compensation Info from the Change Tabs list, and then add Distributions to the Additions, Deductions, and Company Contributions list, as shown in Figure 3. You can fill in the distribution amount now if you know the ongoing amount, or you can fill it in on the fly during the payroll process. Simply display the Paycheck Detail during the payroll process to access this field and enter the distribution amount.

Figure 3:
Add Distributions to the Additions, Deductions, and Company Contributions section.

  • Separate check: A much simpler approach is to write a separate check to the owner. To do so, choose Banking, and then Write Checks. Choose the Distributions to Owner account and fill in the amount.

Loans to the Company

From time to time the owner may need to make a loan to the company. If the owner expects this money to be repaid, establish a Loan account on the chart of accounts and record the deposit of the loan to this new account.

Company Loans Money to Others

Sometimes your company may make a salary advance to an employee, or the firm may loan money to an affiliate. In such cases it’s important to always establish a separate Current Asset account for such transactions so that you can easily track the outstanding balance. Such accounts can be a subaccount of a general Loans Receivable account, as shown in Figure 4. As shown in Figure 5, you’ll code the check to that subaccount.

Figure 4:
Make sure to create individual subaccounts for loans to employees or other parties.

Figure 5:
Be sure to use the proper subaccount when issuing an employee loan.

Loan Payments

Many users struggle with loan payments because there are usually three different scenarios:

  • Interest only payment: In this case there’s only one account to charge, which will be Interest Expense, as shown in Figure 6.
  • Interest and principal payment: If you’re amortizing the loan over time – your payments include principal and interest – then you’ll have to charge two accounts on the transaction, both the Interest Expense and the Loan account itself, as shown in Figure 7. These amounts will be different each month. Your lender can provide an amortization table, or you can search for one for free on the Internet. Simply use the search term “amortization table” to uncover a variety of free resources, or use this search term to locate an Excel-based solution: “amortization table site:microsoft.com”
  • Extra principal payment: Extra principal payments being submitted on a separate check should be applied directly to the Loan account.

Figure 6:
Interest-only loan payments post directly to the Interest Expense account.


Figure 7:
Make sure to break out principal and interest when a loan payment reduces the outstanding balance.


Expert tip: You can use the QuickBooks Account Reconciliation feature to reconcile your loan balance with the periodic statement that you receive from your lender. This ensures that your financial statements are correct, and helps you confirm that the lender is applying your principal payments correctly.

Petty Cash

Many offices keep a small amount of cash on hand to simply accounting for activities like running to the post office to buy stamps or make small purchases for the office. To establish a petty cash fund, you first write a check to Cash, which you then exchange for money at your bank. Let’s say that you establish a $100 petty cash account, and need to replenish it to cover three purchases:

  • Lunch for the office: $24.72
  • Postage stamps: $44.00
  • Office supplies: $23.18

In QuickBooks, you would choose Banking, Write Checks, and then write another check to Cash, and code it to the corresponding expense accounts for the three purchases.

Expert tip: Petty cash is easily subjected to abuse, so be sure to require receipts for all petty cash transactions.

5 Ways To Audit Your QuickBooks Activity

In the past QuickBooks had an optional Audit Trail feature that you could choose whether or not to enable. However, recent versions of the program automatically enable Audit Trail, so every change made to a transaction in QuickBooks is logged automatically.

Although this may seem Orwellian, you may find that you sometimes need to carry out forensic research on a particular QuickBooks transaction. In layman’s terms, this means looking into who changed or deleted a transaction, determining what date the transaction changed, and how the transaction looked before it changed.

In this article we’ll discuss five different audit reports that QuickBooks provides, as well as show you some easier ways to mine the data within these reports.

Expert tip: It’s best to assign a separate user ID to each QuickBooks user. To do so, choose Company, Set up Users and Passwords, and then follow the onscreen prompts. Once you set it up, you’ll be able to have accountability for every transaction entered or modified in QuickBooks.

Audit Trail Report

As previously discussed, the Audit Trail is automatically enabled in QuickBooks, and it cannot be disabled. To view the audit trail, choose Reports, Accountant & Taxes, and then Audit Trail. As shown in Figure 1, the audit trail report will appear onscreen.

Figure 1: By default, the Audit Trail shows all activity for today.

Although the Audit Trail report defaults to today’s date, you can easily change the date range at the top of the screen. As you might expect, this report may contain a lot of data, so you may need to trim down the data shown:

  • Click the Modify Report button.
  • Click on the Filters tab.
  • Choose Transaction Type from the Filter List, and then choose Multiple Transaction Types from the Transaction Type list. As shown in Figure 2, you can then select one or more transaction types to display.
  • Click OK twice to display the report.

Figure 2: You can limit the Audit Report to certain transaction types.

Even with changing the filters and date range, you may still have a tough time navigating the report. Unfortunately QuickBooks does not allow you to search the report onscreen, however, you can easily export the report to Excel or another program so that you can carry out your research:

  • To export to Excel: Click the Export button at the top of the Audit Trail report screen, choose A New Excel Workbook, and then click Export.
  • To export to another program: The Export button also allows you to export the report to a CSV file, which means a comma-separated value format. This type of report is best viewed in a spreadsheet such as Excel.
  • If you don’t have Excel available, choose File, Save As PDF, and then save the report to a PDF file. You should then be able to copy and paste the resulting report into the program of your choice or use the search feature within your PDF viewer – the free Adobe Acrobat Reader is a common choice.

If you choose to export the report to Excel, you’ll have some advanced filtering capabilities at your disposal:

  • Excel 2007: Click on cell A1, and then press Shift-End-Home. This will select the entire workbook. You can then choose Sort & Filter from the Filtering section of the Home ribbon, and then choose Filter. As shown in Figure 3, you can then click the arrow in cell J1 and choose to which transactions to display:
    • Latest means the most recent version of the transaction.
    • Prior means the transaction has been edited. The Audit Trail shows both the latest and previous versions of the transaction.
    • Deleted means that the transaction has been deleted and must be manually reentered in QuickBooks if necessary.
  • Earlier versions of Excel: Click on cell A1, press Shift-End-Home, and then choose Data, Filter, and then AutoFilter. You can then click any of the arrows in row 1 to filter the list to meet specific criteria.

Figure 3: Sending the report to Excel enables you to filter for deleted or modified transactions.

Alternatively you can press Ctrl-F and search for the words Prior or Deleted. Click the Find Next button to move to the next transaction as you carry out your review, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Excel’s Find feature is another way to sift through a lengthy Audit Trail report.

Fraud alert: Perpetrators often generate checks or invoices under one vendor or customer ID, and then modify the accounting records to obfuscate their deed. Always review transactions with a Prior label carefully.

Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary and Detail Reports

Deleted transactions often appear as a discrepancy when you attempt to reconcile a bank or credit card account. Typically the starting balance that QuickBooks displays will differ from the ending balance on your bank statement. In such instances, it’s a good practice to first check the Voided/Deleted Transaction Reports:

  • Choose Reports, and then Accountant & Taxes.
  • Select either the Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary or Detail reports. Both provide basically the same information, but the Detail report includes the entire transaction, rather than just the top level information shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Double-click a transaction on the summary report to view its details.

Closing Date Exception Report

You can use this report to determine if anyone has made changes to transactions subsequent to you specifying a closing date in the QuickBooks preferences. To do so, choose Edit, and then Preferences. Next, choose Accounting, and then Company Preferences.

Finally, click the Set Date/Password button, and then follow the onscreen prompts. Going forward you can choose Reports, Accountant & Taxes, and then Closing Date Exception Report to monitor any chances to closed periods in QuickBooks.

Customer Credit Card Audit Log

QuickBooks offers additional protection if you store customer credit card data in QuickBooks. The Customer Credit Card Audit Log report, shown in Figure 6, records all activity related to customer credit cards:

  • When credit card numbers are entered
  • Whenever credit card numbers are displayed onscreen
  • When credit card numbers are edited or deleted

Figure 6: The Customer Credit Card Audit Log tracks all activity related to customer credit cards.

To enable logging of customer credit card activity in QuickBooks, choose Company and then Customer Credit Card Protection. Follow the onscreen prompts once you click the Enable button.

Minimize Your Exposure to Fraud

Do you know how to detect and protect yourself from fraud? Most of us want to naively believe it will never happen to us. In reality, fraud impacts small and mid-size businesses far more often than large corporations. Why? Smaller businesses tend to take fewer precautionary measures to prevent fraudulent behavior.

Also, fraud is often perpetrated by a family member, long time employee, or friend that’s been given too much freedom with too few controls. However, you must not be naïve when it comes to your business. Fraud is very much a reality that can happen in your business.

In this article we’ll discuss how fraud happens, how to identify if fraud is happening, and what to do if you discover fraud has happened. We’ll also discuss some measures that you can take within QuickBooks to limit your exposure.

Why does fraud happen?

A combination of three aspects usually set the stage for fraud:

Opportunity: Companies often unknowingly present opportunities for fraud. In particular, small businesses are more prone to these because it’s harder to separate duties when you have a small staff.

Pressure: Personal pressures can put people over the edge and cause irrational thinking. Someone you know may be under duress due to medical and/or financial issues, or any of a number of other personal situations that influence their judgment.

Rationalization: The perpetrator believes they can rationalize their behavior, i.e. they need the money more then the company, the company won’t ever notice, or other insidious thoughts. Indeed, fraud often starts as a “loan”, with the perpetrator fully intending to “pay it back”.

Fraudsters will go to extreme measures to cover their tracks. Many small business owners believe it could never happen to them, as their employees are like family.

However, it is critical that you separate your thoughts with regard to what happens at work versus what happens outside the four walls of your business. No business is 100% safe.

What are five popular types of fraud?

  1. Claiming additional payroll hours or falsifying an employee.
  2. Stealing merchandise or cash.
  3. Giving unauthorized discounts to friends and family.
  4. Selling private business information to outsiders.
  5. Exaggerating on expense reports.

Although it’s often enticing to delegate tasks to subordinates, you should keep a hand in as many of your business practices as you can, even if it’s on a random basis. Fortunately there are some simple ways you can do so:

Payroll: Hand-deliver the paychecks, and use this as an opportunity to thank your employees for their work. This will help identify any “false” employees, as well as foster good will among your team.

Further, a process for tracking hours will help to minimize extra hours appearing on anyone’s time card. You might have a manager sign off on subordinate’s time sheets, or install a modern time clock that uses swipe cards or biometric identification.

Theft of cash or merchandise: Separate duties to the extent possible. Ideally those who receive money should be different than those who that generate invoices.

You should also try to separate inventory duties, and implement checks and balances for purchase orders, receiving and invoicing. Don’t rule out video surveillance of warehouse areas, even if it feels like “Big Brother.”

Unauthorized discounts: Track discounts given to customers. In QuickBooks:

  1. Choose Reports, Sales, and then Sales By Item Detail.
  2. Click the Modify Report button, and then click the Filters tab.
  3. As shown in Figure 1, choose Items from the Choose Filter List.
  4. Select Multiple Items from the Item list, and then choose all discount and bad debt items.
  5. Click OK twice to view your report. If you find this report helpful, click the Memorize button and assign a benign name, such as Accounting Review.

Figure 2 demonstrates another filtering technique for the Sales by Item report. Clear the Item filter, and specify Amount, and then >=0. This will display any negative or zero amounts listed on a customer invoice, as well as credit memo items.

It may seem counterintuitive to look for amounts that are greater than or equal to zero, but in accounting jargon, invoice amounts should always be credits to an account, which means they’ll be less than zero.

Negative items or discounts on an invoice post to your books post as debits, or positive amounts, which will be greater than zero.

Figure 1: You can filter the Sales by Item report to track discounts and other write-offs.

Figure 2: It’s also helpful to search for amounts that are equal to or greater than zero.

Selling private information: This is particularly difficult to guard against. One level of defense to require employees to sign confidentiality agreements at the time of hire that discuss what the company considers confidential and the consequences of violating said agreement.

Computer systems and paper work should also be protected with passwords, lock and key and whatever other measures may be warranted to minimize unnecessary access.

In QuickBooks, choose Company, Users, and then Set Up Users and Roles to assign unique log in names and passwords. As shown in Figure 3, QuickBooks offers predefined roles that automatically limit access to specified areas, but you can easily tweak a user’s role to meet their exact needs.

You should also require users to change their passwords periodically, and whenever possible, have your IT specialist restrict access to the folder where your QuickBooks data resides. However, do be aware that anyone can purchase a password recovery tool for $45 from www.lostpassword.com.

Figure 3: Use passwords in QuickBooks to limit employee access on a need-to-know basis.

Expense Reports: Always require receipts on all reports for reimbursement with no exceptions. You should also establish guidelines so that employees know when to seek approval so that they avoid the risk of unreimbursed expenses.

Unfortunately there’s no magic cloak that you can place over your business to protect it from fraud. Your best defense is to limit opportunities and remain vigilant. Fraud perpetrators have seemingly limitless imagination, so be sure that you’re always keeping a hand on the tiller of your business.

16 Bank Reconciliation Tips and Tricks

Although it may seem like drudgery, reconciling your bank account is a critical accounting task that you should carry out each month. Doing so helps ensure the integrity of your financial reports, since most of your accounting transactions ultimately affect cash in some fashion.

Further, QuickBooks is a much more powerful tool for your business if you use it to its fullest extent. Most likely you’ve been reconciling your bank account all along, so in this article we’ll discuss the tricks and techniques you need to know to streamline the process.

If you’re new to QuickBooks, you start the bank reconciliation process by having your bank statement in hand, and then choose Banking, and then Reconcile. The Reconciliation screen shown in Figure 1 appears. In most cases, you enter the ending balance from your bank statement, add any interest or fees, and then click Continue.

You mark transactions as cleared, as shown in Figure 2, and then click Reconcile Now. However, it’s not always that simple, so read on to learn how to sail over any hurdles that may appear.

Figure 1: The QuickBooks Begin Reconciliation window.

Figure 2: The QuickBooks Reconcile window.

1. Locate discrepancies
As shown in Figure 1, click the Locate Discrepancies button to display the Locate Discrepancies window shown in Figure 3.

From there, click the Discrepancy Report button to display the report, as shown in Figure 4. This identifies any edited or deleted transactions that may affect your reconciliation.

Figure 3: QuickBooks can help you identify edited transactions that may disrupt your reconciliation.

Figure 4: Ideally your discrepancy report should never have any transactions listed.

2. Confirm your beginning balance
Your beginning balance should always tie to your bank statement, but if it doesn’t, click the Undo Last Reconciliation button until you reach a point where the beginning balance matches your bank statement. You must then redo the reconciliations to bring your books current and resolve the discrepancy.

3. Don’t forget interest and fees
Be sure to record any interest and fees in the window shown in Figure 1. Alternatively you can record deposit and check transactions to record interest and fees, or the very savvy can use journal entries.

If you go this route, be sure to debit cash and credit interest income for interest earnings or credit cash and debit bank charges for any fees incurred.

4. Double-check your ending balance
Always double-check your ending balance input when you start the reconciliation. A simple transposition or other error here can make it appear that you’ve missed a transaction.

5. Look for transpositions
Sometimes you’ll mark all transactions as cleared, but still have a difference. In such cases, divide the difference by 9. If it divides out evenly, then there’s a good chance that you transposed a number on a transaction.

For instance, a $63 dollar difference divided by 9 returns 7 could mean that a transaction was entered incorrectly. As shown in Figure 5, you can right-click on an amount, and then choose Edit Transaction to fix the error.

Figure 5:Right-click on an amount and choose Edit Transaction to correct a mistake.

6. Pick a side, any side
Don’t mix and match deposits and withdrawals. Reconcile your Deposits and Other Credits first, and then confirm that the total items you marked cleared ties to the amount shown on the Reconcile window.

Then reconcile Checks and Payments – doing one side a time limits your search area for missing or misposted transactions.

7. Clear the decks
If you get tangled up in a reconciliation, click the Unmark All button shown in Figure 2 to start over.

8. Enter missing transactions
You can add missing transactions without closing the reconciliation window. Simply choose a command from the menu across the top or from the Home screen. Saved transactions will instantly appear in the reconciliation window.

9. Check undeposited funds
Choose Banking, and then Make Deposits. If the window shown in Figure 6 appears, you must complete the deposit process for these transactions.

Figure 6: Undeposited funds can pose problems with your reconciliation.

10. Hide unnecessary transactions
Click the Hide Transactions after the Statement’s End Date check box shown in Figure 2 to have fewer transactions to sift through.

11. Void old transactions
Old, uncleared transactions can linger on forever – locate such transactions within your register, choose Edit, and then Void. The banking system generally considers checks to be stale after six months.

Such lingering transactions are often duplicates of a transaction that cleared.

12. Clear voided transactions
Always clear transactions with a zero balance as these won’t affect your reconciliation, but do clutter up the Reconcile window.

13. Bank online
Some institutions allow you to synchronize your records with your online statement. This involves a matching process that automatically clears transactions that match, and makes it easy to quickly post new transactions.

14. Use your keyboard
Rather than using your mouse to click on each transaction that you wish to clear, use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move up and down. Press the spacebar to toggle a transaction as cleared or uncleared.

15. Walk away and come back later
If you just can’t seem to get the unreconciled difference down to zero, the best thing to do is click the Leave button shown in Figure 2, and then resume the reconciliation tomorrow. A fresh eye can do wonders.

16. Reconcile More Frequently
If you can access your bank account online, you can reconcile your bank statement as often as you wish. Consider reconciling accounts with heavy volume weekly or twice a month.

Ten Overlooked QuickBooks Reports That You Should Use

Just about every QuickBooks user relies on the Report Center and Reports menu, but if you’re like most, you have a small handful of reports that you tend to rely on. In this article we’ll go off the beaten path and explore ten reports that many users overlook. Even if you are using some of these reports, we’re sure you’ll find a few more to add to your repertoire.

1. Profit & Loss Summary Prev Year Comparison: To access this report, choose Reports, Company and Financial, and then Profit & Loss Summary Prev Year Comparison. Most business owners rely on the Profit & Loss Summary report, but comparing your results to last year can provide quick insight into whether your revenue is growing or contracting-as well as how fast expenses are rising.

2. Balance Sheet Prev Year Comparison: You’ll find this report also within the Company and Financial section of the Reports menu. As with your income statement, it’s important to compare where certain balances stand now versus last year:

  1. Cash
  2. Accounts Receivable
  3. Inventory
  4. Accounts Payable
  5. Other Liabilities, such as lines of credit or short term loans

3. Statement of Cash Flows: As with the two preceding reports, you’ll find the Statement of Cash Flows in the Company & Financial section of the Reports menu. Profit & Loss reports enable you to see what you earned, while Balance Sheet reports help you determine what you have-as well as what you owe. However, neither report necessarily provides a clear picture of where cash is coming from, or going to. As shown in Figure 1, you’ll be able to see:

  1. How much cash you’ve taken in from sales and spent on expenses
  2. Cash inflows or outflows from borrowing, repayment, or investing activities

In short, this report shows you exactly what caused your bank balance to increase or decrease during a given report period.

Figure 1: The Statement of Cash Flows report explains changes in your bank account balance.

4. Collections Report: Tricky economic times mean it is more important than ever to keep track of your collections. Fortunately QuickBooks makes it easy to contact customers with overdue invoices: choose Reports, Customers & Receivables, and then Collections Report. As shown in Figure 2, the report provides a phone list and shows all overdue invoices. However, you can also use this report to quickly e-mail copies of overdue invoices to your customers. To do so, double-click on a transaction within the Collections report to view the invoice, and then click the Send button at the top of the invoice form to display the Send Invoice form shown in Figure 3. You can modify the wording shown to be more direct, such as a subject line of “Overdue Invoice” or perhaps e-mail text along the lines of “I’ve attached a copy of your overdue invoice. If there’s a problem with our products or services, please let me know immediately, otherwise I trust that you’ll remit payment promptly.” To change the default e-mail text, choose Edit, Preferences, and then choose Send Forms. Select Invoice from the Change Default For list, make your changes, and then click OK.

Figure 2: The Collections Report gives you a jump start on dunning overdue customers.

Figure 3: You can adjust the wording of an overdue invoice e-mail for one customer at a time or change the default text.

5. A/P Aging Summary: Although it’s key to make sure that your customers are paying in a timely fashion, it’s just as important to pay your vendors, too. Unpaid bills can result in phone calls, e-mails, and other unnecessary interruptions. Choose Reports, Vendors & Payables, and then A/P Aging Summary to display the report shown in Figure 4. As with most reports in QuickBooks, you double-click on amounts to ultimately drill down to the original transaction.

Figure 4: The A/P Aging Summary helps you determine when bills are slipping into overdue status.

6. Trial Balance: Many business owners overlook the Trial Balance report, since it’s one of the few reports in QuickBooks that uses the terms Debit and Credit. However, it’s a helpful report, as it shows you all account balances in a concise format. If anything looks out of order, simply double-click on the amount to view the underlying detail. Choose Reports, Accountant & Taxes, and then Trial Balance to view this report.

7. Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary: It’s no surprise that small businesses are much more prone to fraud than large businesses. Small business employees usually wear multiple hats, so it’s often impossible to separate financial duties (bigger businesses can do this with ease). Fortunately QuickBooks makes it hard for perpetrators to cover their tracks: choose Reports, Accountant & Taxes, and then Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary. As shown in Figure 5, you’ll be able quickly identify any transactions that have been deleted from QuickBooks. Granted, this isn’t an end-all solution by any means, but it is a helpful management tool. Plus, if a transaction ends up “vanishing” from QuickBooks, you can use this report to see who deleted it!

Figure 5: The Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary enables you to find transactions that appear to have vanished.

8. Audit Trail: The audit trail was an optional feature in earlier versions of QuickBooks, but is permanently enabled in recent versions of QuickBooks. This provides a complete record of every entry made in QuickBooks, as shown in Figure 6. The downside to that is that you can end up with a massive report. Don’t worry, as it’s easy to filter this report and narrow your search. To do so, choose Reports, Accountant & Taxes, and then Audit Trail. Once the report appears, click the Modify button, and then click on the Filters tab. You can filter by date range, amount, or dozens more fields.

Figure 6: The audit trail shows every transaction-including modifications-in QuickBooks.

9. Previous Reconciliation: It’s a good practice to always print at least the summary report once you’ve reconciled a bank or credit card account. Someone else could edit a reconciled transaction, which could cause the reconciliation to be out of balance. A printed copy of the report shows that the account reconciled as of the report date, although you will still have to untangle the edited transaction. However, if you close out the reconciliation screen, you have a second chance to print your report: choose Reports, Banking, and then Previous Reconciliation. As shown in Figure 7, you can choose from multiple reports.

Figure 7: The Previous Reconciliation report option allows you to reprint missing account reconciliation reports.

10. Transaction History: Think of this as a “report within a report”, as you can only run it in certain circumstances. As shown in Figure 6, you must have a transaction open on the screen or single-click on a transaction within a report. You can then choose Reports, and then Transaction History. As shown in Figure 8, QuickBooks will display a report that shows the entire history for a given transaction.

Figure 8: The Transaction History report provides shows all activity related to a given transaction.

Did You Know?

The Microsoft web site offers hundreds of free spreadsheet and word processing templates. Options range from timesheets to analysis tools to contract documents. Visit http://office.microsoft.com/templates, and then search for a template by use (home, office, school), collection (real estate, small business, wedding), or keyword. Indeed, if you’ve created a template that you rely on, you can submit it to the site and share your work with others!

Use Accounting Ratios to Stave Off Financial Problems

Does the mere mention of accounting ratios may put your teeth on edge, and bring back bad memories of Accounting 101? It shouldn’t as ratios can help your quickly determine how your business compares against others.

Banks often use ratios to analyze your financial statements as part of the loan approval process, so it’s helpful to know in advance how you’ll be measured. Even better, ratios allow you to compare your business against your peers since many trade groups publish lists of average ratios within an industry.

Although ratios may have made you drowsy during accounting class, they can be a fascinating way to measure your company’s financial performance.

Gross Profit Margin

Simply put, gross profit margin-sometimes referred to as gross margin-is your revenues less your cost of sales. For some industries, this is a very meaningful metric, while it won’t mean as much to others. For instance, manufacturers, restaurants, and retailers often treat gross profit as a key performance indicator.

In such environments, one typically purchases inventory at one price, and ideally sells it to someone else at a higher price. The spread between these two numbers is the gross profit margin.

Let’s say that you buy $40 of pine straw (we’re trying to avoid the accounting class term widget) and sell it for $60. In this case, $20 of gross margin divided by $60 of sales yields a gross margin percentage of 33%. Thus one-third of your sales are available to put toward overhead items, such as office supplies, payroll, rent, taxes, and so on.

Ideally your gross margin is high enough to cover your overhead and leave you with a profit. With that example in mind, let’s see how you can calculate your own gross profit margin.
Caveat: Gross profit margin isn’t meaningful to everyone. For instance, if you’re a self-employed service provider, you may not have any cost of sales.

Your salary is arguably all or most of your profit. You can certainly count your salary as cost of sales and compute a gross profit margin, but you might not find much value in the result.

To begin, choose Reports, Company and Financial, and then Profit & Loss Standard. As shown in Figure 1, look for the Gross Profit amount, and then divide this by Total Income.

Figure 1: The Profit and Loss Standard report provides the figures you need to calculate gross profit.

In this case, $30,953.20/$51,241.16 shows a gross profit margin of 60.4%. Is that good? Is it bad? Very often the answer is “it depends”, which is why you should try to compare yourself to similar companies in your industry.

However, let’s consider the restaurant industry. Many owners strive to keep their gross margin at around 63%, which means a cost of goods sold percentage of 37%. The gross profit ratio enables you to track this key measurement, but you must ensure that your transactions are being recorded in the proper accounts.

The percentages can skew if, let’s say a telephone bill, is miscoded to Food Costs, instead of Telephone. Similarly, your cost of goods sold might look great only because someone miscoded food costs into an overhead account, such as Supplies.

Profit Margin

Profit margin is another commonly used ratio that you can derive from the Profit & Loss Standard report by dividing Net Income by Total Income. In essence, this is the percentage of sales that the owner of a business gets to keep-before Uncle Sam gets his share. Profit margins vary widely by industry.

For example, a grocery store chain may have profits of $2 billion, but a profit margin of just 2.6%. An oil company may have staggering profits in dollars, but their profit margin is often just 10%. Conversely, some software companies have a profit margin of 28% or more.

As with gross profit, the best way to determine whether a profit margin is reasonable is by comparing the result to one’s peers. The construction company shown in Figure 1 has Net Income for the period of $13,123.48, which when divided by Total Income of $51,241.16 returns a profit margin of 25.6%.

Inventory Turnover Ratio

This ratio illustrates how many times a year that you’re selling your entire inventory. This can help you gauge whether you may be holding too much inventory, or not enough. This ratio is based on cost of goods sold divided by average inventory.

As you’ve seen, cost of goods sold appears on the Profit and Loss Standard report-look for Total COGS-but you’ll have to perform a quick calculation to determine average inventory. To do so, divide the sum of your beginning inventory plus ending inventory by 2.

Although you can use several different reports in QuickBooks to determine the beginning and ending balance of your inventory, try this first: choose Reports, Company and Financial, and then Balance Sheet Prev Year Comparison.

Change the report date to This Fiscal Year, and then look for the inventory account balance, as shown in Figure 2.The ending balance for last year is also the beginning balance for this year.

If you need beginning and ending balances for a shorter period, such as a quarter, choose Reports, Accountant and Taxes, and then General Ledger. Set the report dates to the period of your choice, and then use the beginning and ending balances for your inventory account.

Figure 2: The Balance Sheet Prev Year Comparison can provide beginning and ending inventory balances.

Average Collection Period

This ratio helps you determine how long it takes your customers to pay their invoices. The formula is a little more complex than some of the other ratios: number of days multiplied by average accounts receivable balance, divided by credit sales.

For instance, let’s say that your average accounts receivable balance is $30,000, and you had total sales of$400,000 for the year. 365 multiplied by 30,000 is 10,950,000. This amount divided by our total sales of $400,000 is 27.38, meaning that on average your customers pay their invoice in just under 30 days.

Be sure to monitor your average collection period, as your cash flow can tighten quickly if that ratio increases. If you typically invoice your customers, then you can use the Total Income figure from your Profit & Loss Standard report.

Keep in mind: Average collection period won’t be of interest if your customers pay on the spot, such as in a retail store or restaurant.

Although QuickBooks doesn’t directly provide a figure for average accounts receivable, you can quickly customize a report to aid in this calculation:

  • Choose Reports, Company and Financial, and then Balance Sheet Standard.
  • Click the Modify report button, and then set the From and To dates to match the period shown on your Profit & Loss report. As shown in Figure 3, change the Display Columns By to Months, and then click OK.

Figure 3: Change Display Columns By to Months when you want a month-by-month report.

When QuickBooks displays the 12-month report, as shown in Figure 4, click the Export button, and then click OK to send the report to Microsoft Excel.

Figure 4: You can convert the Balance Sheet Standard report into a twelve-month format.

As shown in Figure 5, row 9 contains the Accounts Receivable figures. In cell R9, enter this formula to calculate your average accounts receivable balance: =AVERAGE(F9:R9).

Figure 5: Use the Accounts Receivable figures to calculate your average accounts receivable balance.

As you can see, the average collection period ratio enables you to determine how long it takes your customers to honor your invoices, which in turn has a direct impact on your cash flow.

Other Common Ratios

Current Ratio: Divide current assets by current liabilities to determine a firm’s liquidity.

Quick Ratio: Subtract inventory from current assets, and then divide by current liabilities to apply a more severe liquidity measurement.
Debt Ratio: Divide total debt by total assets to determine how much of the company is financed by debt.
Return On Assets: Banks often add net income plus interest expense together, and then divide this by total assets to determine the firm’s return on assets. This figure typically needs to exceed the interest rate of a loan that you may be contemplating.

Compare Yourself to Others

Now that you understand how to calculate ratios based on your financial results, the next step is to compare yourself to your peers. You may belong to a trade group that makes benchmarks available to its members. If not, a good first step is the BizStats web site, at www.bizstats.com.

Your line of business may be included in their free offerings, but even more information is available on a subscription basis. You can find even more resources by searching the Internet search for the term “industry benchmarks”.

Did You Know?

You can send your thoughts about QuickBooks to Intuit directly from within QuickBooks. To do so, choose Help, Send Feedback Online, and then one of these choices:

  • Product Suggestion, as shown in Figure 6
  • Bug Report
  • Help System Suggestion

Any of these links will display an online from in your web browser so that you can submit your thoughts directly to the QuickBooks development team. QuickBooks frequently updates its products, so before you send a bug report, choose Help, and then Update QuickBooks. Click the Update Now button to ensure that you have the latest patches and fixes for your version of QuickBooks.

Figure 6: Submit your wish-list items directly to the development team from within QuickBooks.

QuickBooks Payroll Runs: Easy, Fast, Accurate

It’s not just a catchy ad slogan: It’s true. Unless you have dozens of employees or numerous exceptions each payday, you can literally process a payroll run in just a few minutes using the employee compensation tools in QuickBooks.

No matter which version of desktop QuickBooks you’re using, payday chores are similar. Even if you’ve subscribed to Full Service Payroll and are having most of the work done by Intuit, you still have to enter the number and type of hours worked for each pay period.

If you’re doing payroll manually or through a payroll service, you might be surprised at how quickly and easily your payroll tasks can be completed once you’ve finished entering information about your company and its employees, taxes and deductions.

A Simple Process

When you get a reminder that it’s time to run payroll, go to Employees | Pay Employees and choose Scheduled Payroll to get to this window:

Figure 1: No matter how many payrolls you’ve run, it’s important to verify that these dates are correct.

When you click Start Scheduled Payroll, a new screen displays your employee list in a spreadsheet grid. By default, QuickBooks displays several columns, including Employee, Regular Pay and Sick Hourly; you can opt to include others, like Employee Number. If you hide columns that contain information, that data will still be used in paycheck calculation. Then:

  • Verify that the information at the top of the screen is correct (Payroll Schedule, Bank Account, etc.).
  • Make sure that all employees to be paid have check marks next to their names.
  • Enter the number of hours worked for each hourly employee, placing them in the correct pay type column.

Select one and click Open Paycheck Detail to see a complete breakdown of compensation and withholding — all calculated automatically by QuickBooks based on your setup data — within the Preview Paycheck screen. Close the window when finished.

Figure 2: The Preview Paycheck screen shows the numbers behind the check amount.

Checking Your Work

If you’re satisfied that everything is correct, click Continue. In the next screen, you’ll verify Payroll Information again and check a box to indicate whether checks will be printed or handwritten (you can assign a starting check number to the latter). QuickBooks displays a grid containing each employee’s total gross pay, total taxes and deductions, net pay, employer taxes, contributions and total hours. The Direct Deposit field will be checked if the individual is signed up.

If you’re not sure that your payroll information is correct, you can click Finish Later, otherwise, select Create Paychecks.

The Final Step

QuickBooks will then display your results:

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Figure 3: Once you’ve previewed and approved a payroll, you can simply click to print any paper checks and pay stubs.

Check the box at the bottom of this window next to Do not advance the dates of this payroll schedule in the Payroll Center if you still have employees to process for this run. If the box isn’t checked, QuickBooks will change the dates in the Pay Employees window to reflect your next pay period.

When you select Print Paychecks or Print Pay Stubs, the selection window opens. You can toggle among views of Paychecks, Direct Deposit or Both. Select the ones you want to dispatch and click Print or E-Mail. You’ll have the option to reprint any checks if you need to; otherwise, click OK.

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Figure 4: Click Preferences in the print selection window to customize paycheck vouchers and pay stubs.

No Room for Errors

Sounds simple, and it is — as long as your setup was error-free. As you well know, you can’t make mistakes running payroll or you’ll initiate a whole series of incorrect numbers, making employees, benefits providers and government agencies unhappy.

So do not proceed if something doesn’t look right; QuickBooks always gives you an out. And let us know how we can help with setup, taxes or payroll runs — or anything in between.

Use QuickBooks’ Tools to Prevent Financial Fraud

Whether your accounting tasks are done on a single PC or you have multiple users working on different screens, it’s critical that you make use of all that QuickBooks offers in terms of internal controls.

First Stop: Audit Trail

An audit trail is a very large report that displays every addition, deletion and modification of every transaction. In older versions of QuickBooks you could turn it on and off, but it’s permanently on now.

Because of its size, you’ll probably have to use QuickBooks’ filtering tools to zero in on the user and/or date(s) you’re looking for. Go to Reports | Accountant & Taxes | Audit Trail. Click Customize Report | Filters to set up your search.

Your audit trail won’t alert you when someone tries to enter a prohibited area, and it won’t detect changes to lists. Setting up permissions will help (Company | Set Up Users and Passwords | Set Up Users), but you need more than that.

Figure 1: Be especially careful when granting user access to areas that contain customer, vendor and employee information.

Run the Right Reports

Other QuickBooks features help prevent fraud as well. Review these reports regularly:

  • Closing Date Exception. Why were those changes necessary?
  • Voided/Deleted Transactions. Is there supporting documentation? Should you be reviewing these daily?
  • Expenses by Vendor Detail. Look for irregularities, especially multiple payments made to a vendor in a short period of time.
  • Check registers. Use the Balance Sheet for this. Go to Reports | Company & Financial | Balance Sheet Standard and customize the report for the correct period and, if necessary, for specific customers, vendors and/or jobs.

Adhere to Best Practices

You undoubtedly implement financial best practices in your personal life. You reconcile your accounts. You don’t give your online banking password to anyone. And you glance through your recently-posted transactions on your financial institutions’ websites.

If your company is large enough that you have multiple accounting employees, you probably can’t be as hands-on as you are at home. But you can still set up internal control procedures.

Figure 2: Debit? Credit? Reverse the transaction? No one should be making General Journal entries but you. It’s easy to err here; talk to us before using this feature.

For example, if your company has grown to the point where you’re removed from the daily workflow, you may still want to have approval rights for some procedures, like bank balance adjustments, refunds and credits, printed checks (you should still be signing them), timesheets and expense reports.

It goes without saying that you should password-protect your QuickBooks company file and change the password regularly, even–and especially–if you are the entire accounting department. It’s important to protect yourself from external fraud too. We can do a review of your security procedures and make suggestions.

Reinforce the Rules

Figure 3: Anyone in your company who has access to accounting data should have a background check.

Know who your employees are (consider running background checks) and, if you can, rotate the duties assigned to accounting staff. If you have only one person managing all of your bookkeeping work, conduct an even more thorough background search: credit, references, and criminal activity.

Finally, make sure that all employees understand the definition and consequences of fraud. Let them know about the steps being taken to prevent it, but do some unannounced auditing on your own. Include a session on fraud in orientation and get current staff up to speed. Explain that this is necessary for their protection, too. Make it easy to report fraud anonymously, with no fear of repercussions.

This may seem like a lot of extra tasks in your workday, but imagine the time you’ll lose tracking down fraudulent activity if it occurs. So spend a fraction of that time upfront.

If you have questions on this subject, or anything else Accounting or QuickBooks related, give us a call or email. We’re here to be your partner.

10 Tips to Perfect Check-Printing in QuickBooks

If you used small business accounting products in the early days, you know how frustrating it was to print checks correctly from your software. Pre-printed checks weren’t cheap, and you probably printed at least a few that didn’t line up right or were otherwise unusable.

Figure 1: The Write Checks window in QuickBooks 2013.

Printing checks from QuickBooks has gotten easier, and online banking has made this task less of a necessity for many businesses. But when you do print checks, precision is still required.

So to minimize frustration, save time and money, and ensure that everything will be accurate when your checks are processed at the bank, it’s important that you use the tools that QuickBooks offers appropriately.

If you’ve been having trouble with check-printing or you’re considering attempting it, keep these tips in mind:

1. First, be sure you are creating standard checks, not paychecks. Go to Banking | Write Checks or click the Write Checks icon on the home page.

2. QuickBooks offers a few options for check creation. Click Edit | Preferences | Checking | My Preferences. Here, you can specify a default account for the Write Checks function. Click Company Preferences for additional options.

Figure 2: Check the boxes here to activate options.

3. You can customize the appearance of your checks. Click File | Printer Setup | Check/PayCheck. Specify printer options and check style, change the fonts in some fields, designate a partial page printing style (using the envelope feed) and add your company’s name and address, logo and a signature image.

Figure 3: The Printer Setup window provides access to your output options.

4. Be sure that your printer has enough ink or toner before you begin a job.

5. If you print a lot of checks, consider dedicating one printer to that task. But secure your blank checks. Don’t leave them in the printer.

6. Does your printer process pages in reverse order, last page first? This can cause problems when you’re printing multiple checks. You have several options here. You can:

  • Modify your printer’s property settings in Windows and/or consult your printer documentation
  • Load the paper to accommodate reverse printing or
  • Alter the check numbers in QuickBooks. Go to Lists | Chart of Accounts and open the correct checkbook register to change them. (This option is the least elegant and most risky, and not something you want to do on a regular basis. Let us help you with your printer setup if you can’t resolve the problem.)

7. QuickBooks supports batch printing. If you’re writing multiple checks that you’ll want to print later, click the Print Later or To be printed link (depending on your version of QuickBooks). When you’re ready, you can either select File | Print Forms | Checks or click the Print Checks link on the home page. Both will open this window:

Figure 4: Uncheck any items you don’t want printed to remove them from the batch job.

8. Printing a batch of checks and realize that you’ve set something up wrong? Hit the Esc key to halt it.

9. Double-check to make sure that your numbers match before you launch a print job. Compare the number in the First Check Number field to the number of the first check queued up in the printer.

10. Ruin a check or an entire page of them? If your accounting protocol allows you to skip check numbers, just start over by changing the First Check Number so that it corresponds with the starting number on a fresh batch of check blanks. If not, you’ll have to create a check for each one that was ruined, choosing a name and account and an amount of $0.00. Then void the check(s). (Click Banking | Use Register and select the account. Highlight the transaction(s), select the edit option and void. Do not delete them.

Check-printing can be tricky, but it must absolutely follow the rules. Let us know if you get stuck or want some guidance upfront ‘ or if you want to switch to online banking and bill-pay.

25 Accounting Terms You Should Know

QuickBooks is intuitive, easy to use, and flexible, but it is not an accounting manual or class or tutorial.

If your business is not particularly complicated, you might get by without knowing a lot about the principles of bookkeeping. Still, it helps to understand the basics, so let’s take a look at some terms and phrases that are helpful for you to understand.

Account. You set up financial accounts like checking and savings in QuickBooks, but in accounting terms, these are referred to as the accounts in your Chart of Accounts: asset, liability, owners’ equity, income and expense.

Figure 1: A QuickBooks Chart of Accounts

Accounts Payable (A/P). Everything that you owe to vendors, contractors, consultants, etc. is tracked in this account.

Accounts Receivable (A/R). This account tracks income that hasn’t been realized yet, like outstanding invoices.

Accrual Basis. This is one of two basic accounting methods. Using it, you record income as it is invoiced, not when it’s actually received, and you records expenses like bills when you receive them. Using the other method, Cash Basis, you would report income when you receive it and expenses when you pay the bills.

Asset. What physical items do you own that have value? This could be cash, office equipment and real estate. In QuickBooks you’ll be managing two types. Current Assets are generally used within 12 months (or you could convert them to cash in that length of time). Fixed Assets refers to belongings like vehicles, furniture and land, property that you probably won’t use up in a year and which usually depreciates in value. Depreciation is very complex; you may need our help with that.

Average Cost. This is the inventory costing method that programs like QuickBooks Pro and Premier use to calculate the value of your stock.

Figure 2: QuickBooks provides a Statement of Cash Flows report.

Cash Flow. This refers to the relationship between incoming and outgoing funds during a specific time period.

Double-Entry Accounting. This is the system that QuickBooks uses–that all legitimate small business accounting software uses. Every transaction must show where the funds came from and where they went. Each has a Credit (decreases asset and expense accounts) and Debit (decreases liability and income accounts) which must balance out (other types of accounts can be affected).

Equity. This refers to your company’s net worth and is the difference between your assets and liabilities.

General Journal. QuickBooks handles this in the background, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever be exposed to it. We sometimes have to create General Journal Entries, transactions required for various reasons (errors, depreciation, etc.) that contain debits and credits. Please leave that to us.

Item Receipt. You’ll create these when you receive inventory from a vendor without a bill.

Job. QuickBooks often associates customers with multi-part projects that you’ve taken on, like a kitchen remodel.

Net income. This is your revenue minus expenses.

Non-Inventory Part. When you purchase an item but don’t sell it or you buy something and resell it immediately to a customer, this is what it’s called. It’s merchandise that isn’t stored by you for future sales.

Payroll Liabilities Account. QuickBooks tracks federal, state and local withholding taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare obligations, that you’ve deducted from employees’ paychecks and will remit to the appropriate agencies.

Figure 3: QuickBooks helps you track and remit Payroll Liabilities.

Post. You won’t run into this term in QuickBooks. It simply refers to recording a transaction within one of your accounts.

Reconcile. QuickBooks helps you with this. It’s the process of making sure your records and those of your financial institutions agree.

Sales Receipt. This is how you record a sale when payment is made in full during the transaction.

Statement. You’ll generally use invoices to bill customers in QuickBooks, but you can also send statements, which contain transaction information for a given date range.

Trial Balance. This standard financial report tells you whether your debits and credits are in balance. Should you run this report and find a problem, let us know right away.

Vendor. With the exception of employees, QuickBooks uses this term to refer to anyone who you pay as a part of your business operations.

These are just a few of the terms you should recognize and understand. We hope you’ll contact us when you need help understanding how the accounting process fits into your workflow.

Using Statements in QuickBooks: The Basics

Sending invoices to your customers to bill for products and/or services is probably one of the more enjoyable parts of your job–second only to recording payments received. And thanks to the company file you’ve built in QuickBooks, creating invoices is generally a very simple process that requires no duplicate data entry.

Figure 1: You probably use QuickBooks’ invoice forms frequently, so you know how much easier it is to fill them out than to create paper bills.

QuickBooks also includes easy-to-use templates for another kind of customer form: the statement. These forms are generally not used nearly as frequently as invoices. However, you may find them more appropriate if you:

  • Want to create a form that lists all of a customer’s open charges
  • Have a customer who accrues multiple charges before being billed
  • Receive advance–or regular–payments, or
  • Need a historical accounting of a customer’s activity, including charges, payments, and balance.

Limitations of Statements

QuickBooks places some restrictions on statements. For example if you have a number of related charges for which you want to create a subtotal for, you’ll have to use an invoice. Statements also cannot include sales tax, percentage discounts, or payment items. Products or services requiring descriptions that run more than a paragraph can’t go on a statement. Customization options, too, are limited: you can’t add custom fields to the statement form, nor can you include a message to your customers, like, “We appreciate your business.”

The “Reminder Statement”

There may be occasions when you want to create a form that lists invoices received, payments made, and any credits given for one or more customers. This may be necessary when, for example, a customer disputes a charge. You may also want to send out these statements to remind customers of delinquent payments.

You do not have to enter any new data for these statements. Instead QuickBooks will pull the existing activity that you ask for in the Create Statements window, shown below. To get there, either click on the Statements icon on the home page, or open the Customers menu and select Create Statements.

Figure 2: The Create Statements window in QuickBooks offers multiple options for defining the statements you want to send to customers.

As you can see, QuickBooks offers a lot of flexibility in the creation of statements. You can specify:

  • The active date range. Under SELECT STATEMENT OPTIONS, you can either enter a date range or request a statement for every customer who has open transactions as of the Statement Date (be sure that this date is correct before proceeding). You can also ask to include only transactions that are past due by a specified number of days.
  • The customers to include. Do you want to use the conditions you just outlined to apply to All Customers? If so, click on the button in front of that options. If you choose Multiple Customers, a small button labeled Choose… will appear. Click on it, and a window displaying your customer list opens. One Customer also opens your list of customers. If you’ve assigned types to your customers and want to include only those in one category (like Residential or Commercial), click Customers of Type. And Preferred Send Method lets you limit your statement output to customers who receive either emailed or printed forms.
  • The template to use. Click the down arrow to see the statement templates available. If you have not customized QuickBooks’ standard form and want to do so, let us help.
  • Whether QuickBooks prepares one statement per customer or per job. This is a very important distinction, so choose carefully.
  • Miscellaneous attributes of your statement run. Click on the box in front of any that should apply.

If you assess finance charges, you can do so here. This is an advanced activity in QuickBooks, and we’d be happy to provide guidance in this area.

When you’re done, you can Preview your statements, Print, or E-Mailthem by clicking those buttons.

Entering Individual Charges

If you need to enter individual charges, you’ll have to work with QuickBooks’ customer registers. You’ll find these by either opening the Customers menu and selecting Enter Statement Charges or highlighting a customer in the Customer Center, then clicking the down arrow next to New Transactions and selecting Statement Charges.

Figure 3: A Statement Charge in the customer register.

We highly recommend that you let us help you get started if individual charges are necessary. Like many of QuickBooks’ functions, this isn’t a difficult activity once you understand it. But it’s much easier and economical for you to get upfront guidance than for us to come in and untangle your company file.

QuickBooks Reminders Prevent Problems

How many calendars do you maintain? Many businesspeople have more than one. Maybe you use a web-based or desktop application like Google Calendar or Outlook for meetings, task deadlines, travel dates, etc. Your Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) might have another. Perhaps you still have a paper calendar as back-up.

But where do you keep track of bills that need to be paid, invoices that have to be sent, inventory items that must be ordered, etc.? Do you include that information in your general business calendar(s) and hope they don’t get lost in the shuffle?

QuickBooks has a better solution. The software contains a dedicated set of tools that automates the process of setting up and displaying reminders. Once you’ve created them, they can be the first thing you see when you open QuickBooks in the morning.

Warning: If you do not launch QuickBooks frequently, consider tracking your critical accounting tasks using a different method.

Getting a Head Start

QuickBooks lets you specify exactly when you want to receive reminders of upcoming activities. To set this up, open the Edit menu, click Preferences, and then click Reminders | Company Preferences.

Note: If you want QuickBooks to display your reminders every time you launch the software, click on the My Preferences tab and make sure that the box in front of Show Reminders List when opening a Company fileis checked. If it isn’t, click in the box.

Figure 1: QuickBooks provides personalization tools for your reminders.

As you can see, QuickBooks offers three options for every activity type. It can either display a summary of the tasks that need to be completed, or it can actually list all of them in the Reminders window. And you’ll be able to tell QuickBooks how many days prior to the deadline your reminders should appear. You can also opt not to be reminded.

Making modifications in this window is easy; just click in the appropriate circle next to each task to indicate your preference, and change any numbers in the Remind Me column to tell QuickBooks when it should start showing the reminder.

If you didn’t indicate that you wanted the Reminders window to open every time you launch QuickBooks, you can always access it by opening the Company menu and selecting Reminders.

Using the List

Figure 2: Reminders in the left column are current, and those on the right are upcoming tasks.

The Reminders list displays items in two columns. Tasks that need to be done on the current day appear on the left (overdue tasks appear in red). The list in the right column consists of upcoming transactions that will need to be processed soon. Each type of activity has a number in parentheses after it; this tells you how many individual tasks are pending. Click on the arrow to see the list, and double-click on any entry to open the actual transaction form.

You can add generic to-do items to either column by clicking on the plus sign in the upper right. These will appear along with your other reminders. If you want to modify anything related to your reminders, click on the gear icon in the upper right. This opens the Preferences window again.

Recurring Reminders

Transactions that repeat on a regular basis (bills, invoices, etc.) can be memorized. If the amount is always the same, create the transaction and enter the amount; if not, just leave that field blank. Click Memorize to open the Memorize Transaction window and click on the button in front of Add to my Reminders List. Open the drop-down list to the right of How Often and select the desired frequency. Make sure that the Next Date is correct, and then click OK.

Figure 3: QuickBooks can add memorized transactions to your reminders list.

Reminders can help prevent serious accounting problems such as cash flow irregularities. Let us know if you’re experiencing these. We can help you determine whether poor task management is contributing to your shortfall, or if there are deeper issues that we can work with you to resolve.