Intuit, Inc. — QuickBooks Accountant 2011
Best Fit: Firms whose clients mostly use QuickBooks and who provide general write-up and reconciliation work.
From the Sept. 2011 Review of Client Write-Up Systems
QuickBooks has grown into the most popular small business accounting system on the market and is the most widely used system by professional accountants who provide services to those small businesses. Intuit has long been the standard-bearer for small business accounting, and although the company’s relationship with the accounting community has varied over the years, one of the primary reasons behind this is the fact that using the same general platform across clients and the firm can help streamline functions and simplify training.
Basic System Functions:
Whether or not a firm is already using QuickBooks in-house, most professionals have used the system at some point over their career, making it familiar to most users. The Accountant version uses the same standard work screens, navigation tools, menu structures, drilldown capabilities and features as the other Premier versions of QuickBooks, along with functions specifically designed for professional firms managing any number of client businesses. New for 2011 is the ability to open two company files concurrently using the Multi-Instance feature.
Initial setup of firm data and each client is aided by program wizards and other tools, including the ability to quickly copy charts of accounts structures from other companies, or use templates based on industry type. The main interface for the program shows a workflow diagram with clickable icons for primary system functions and areas, with central dashboards for functions related to clients and customers, vendors, employees, and managerial oversight. Each of these home screens includes additional navigation options, making the program very intuitive to navigate. The management home screen includes customizable at-a-glance views of key data such as sales, income, account balances and alerts.
QuickBooks Accountant can be used by up to five users at the same time, with security functions allowing administrators to modify user access rights to specific clients or specific tasks. The system includes several alert features that notify users of tasks, program issues and other functions, and can be received via email or via a message in the program interface.
Core Write-Up Features:
The professional tools available in QuickBooks Accountant include full GL, AP, AR, check writing and management modules. A new tool is the File Manager, which offers customizable company file management options. The File Manager identifies the version of QuickBooks used to create and store a client’s data file. It helps accountants better manage the version and file formats used in the different versions and editions of QuickBooks. The File Manager can also be set to allow access to all company files with a single password.
With the Client Data Review function, users can automate many data-entry fixes and can make batch edits to data files, such as reclassifying transactions, invoice write-offs, fixing inventory discrepancies, performing bank reconciliations and clearing undeposited funds. Reconciliation tasks are performed on screens that display balances and notes. Additional tools include the ability to identify changes to account balances, make adjusting entries, and find added, changed, deleted or merged list items.
The QuickBooks Accountant edition of the program also includes the firm side of the Accountant’s Copy feature, a tool in business versions of QuickBooks that makes it easy for client users to electronically and securely send their compressed files to the accountant for write-up services. After making necessary edits, changes and performing reconciliation tasks, the firm can then send the files back to the client, with a simple tool that helps them update their files. While the accountant is working on the prior period, the client can continue to work in the current period.
The program can store company logos for all clients for use on checks, which can be printed to plain paper or check stock. The program integrates with Intuit’s payroll systems, allowing full live and after-the-fact payroll processing and compliance, with tax tables included on an annual subscription basis. Analysis, benchmarking tools and financial ratios are available in the management dashboard view.
Reporting & Financial Statements:
QuickBooks Accountant includes fixed asset management functions, with the ability to track various depreciation methods and produce reports. Other client-focused options include more than 100 standard and customizable reports for budgeting, revenues and period comparisons. An integrated trial balance feature is built into the program. Enhanced reporting capabilities, including full financial statement generation, are available with the optional Intuit Statement Writer add-on, which offers live data syncing of reports when viewed on screen. All reports include the ability to drill down to underlying transactions and can include charts, graphs and pivot tables. Reports can be output to Excel and PDF formats.
QuickBooks includes several client communication templates (which can be saved to Word format), as well as billing functions that enable the creation of billing groups and batch invoicing capabilities where users can quickly generate invoices for multiple clients at once. These can be printed or e-mailed to clients from within the program, with the invoice actually being stored on a secure Intuit server and accessed by the client via a link. Clients can also pay their invoices online using the new QuickBooks Collections Center feature.
Users can import client data from common spreadsheet formats and CSV files, with similar options for export, and wizards guiding many of these processes. As previously noted, reports can be saved to Excel, PDF and Word formats. The Accountant’s Copy feature eases the processes involved with pulling in company files and returning them to clients after write-up services are completed. The program integrates with ProSeries, Lacerte and Intuit ProLine Online tax systems for trial balance export, and can integrate with Intuit’s payroll systems, as well.
With the QuickBooks Billing Manager add-on, clients can access current and previous invoices online, and clients can pay electronically. Additional collaboration features aren’t available, which diminishes this function as a portal.
QuickBooks Accountant has the same built-in Help features as the other versions, with wizards, guides, tutorials, tips and right-click access to task-specific Help. Additionally, an online professional user community offers forums, while the company’s support site also has support documentation, how-tos, articles and other tools. The program supports Windows XP/Vista/7 operating systems. A new Mac 2011 version of QuickBooks is available, but it is not available in the Accountant edition. Technical support is free for the first 30 days, after which subscription or per-incident pricing is offered. QuickBooks ProAdvisors (of which there are about 50,000 in the United States), receive free software and marketing on the Find a ProAdvisor website, essentially costing about the same as the software alone. Several application service providers (ASPs) offer hosting of QuickBooks for both accounting firms and clients.
Summary & Pricing
As we’ve noted in previous years, one of the most frequently cited advantages of using QuickBooks Accountant is that it’s based on the same program used by the majority of small business clients, which eases data transfer in both directions. Many accounting firms are starting to use hosted versions of QuickBooks along with QuickBooks Accountant to gain better interaction with clients. The program also offers a good collection of write-up tools, with new tools for batch reclassifying, write-offs and client billing, as well as built-in trial balance, good customization options and a familiar interface. A single-user license costs $399.95; a three-user version is $1,099.95. The optional Intuit Statement Writer is $119.95.
2011 Overall Rating: