Monday, November 30, 2009

QuickBooks Online No Cost Offer? - Pros and Cons

Like any other consumer I was interested in knowing exactly what was being offered for free by QuickBooks. An old finance professor of mine in an introductory finance course taught us the “no free lunch theorem”, which basically states that, there are no free lunches. I think what we have here, is a quick lunch rather than a three course meal. This article will address the pros and cons of QuickBooks online free version which was launched in October 2009.

Like any other optimist, I'll begin with the pros before the cons concerning the QuickBooks Online free version software.

Some of the positive aspects are as follows:

• Easy set up which includes many sample chart accounts with different companies in different industries.
• It is web-based which provides anytime and anywhere access and includes automatic backups at the Intuit's servers.
• The ability to print expense checks.
• Basic financial statements with some other supplemental reporting capabilities
• iPhone compatible with read-only rights and the ability to invoice customers on the fly.

Some of them that negative aspects are as follows:

• It is only limited to five customers.
• Lacks the ability to use form 1099s.
• No statement of cash flows -- this is important, because this financial statement portrays the sources and uses of your business’s cash from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
• Only one user access and your accountant does not have free online Internet access.
• Does not export to Excel.

When you're using this software you're actually using the bare-bones version of QuickBooks which is called QuickBooks Online Simple Start. For a detailed analysis of all of the features please feel free to click this link and you'll be directed to Intuit's website(you will be asked to sign in to use the website) that compares and contrasts the different features of QuickBooks Simple Start as compared to QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus.

As I mentioned above the setup is relatively easy, however there is one aspect that deserves discussion and a word of caution. The setup begins with a simple registration, completion of a company profile which includes selecting an industry, classifying your source of revenue as a customer, client, patient, etc... Towards the end of this process, Intuit requests billing information, i.e. Credit card information which they clearly state that it will not be used unless you purchase the software. To Intuit's credit this is very clear on the website after you press the submit button and you receive a receipt indicating that the price is free.

So in summary, unless you have a very small business with less than five customers or it's not important to track revenue by customer, then this version might be suited for your purposes. In addition, another use of the software would be to perform a write up of the accounting transactions which generally occurs after the fact, which means it's not used for real-time purposes. An example of a write up, would be to prepare the year-end tax return or to prepare a financial statement long after the transactions have occurred .

Notwithstanding the above, since there is no expiration period for the free use of the QuickBooks Online Simple Start, it does provide a good mechanism to test and more importantly use QuickBooks Online for more than 30 days. It should also be noted that QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus, both offer a 30 day free period to test drive the software. My experience is that 30 days may not be sufficient. So the remaining option is to either use the free 30 day period for QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus and if you need more than 30 days then purchase QuickBooks Online Basic for $9.95 a month or QuickBooks Online Plus for $34.95 a month. This is a viable option, since the software can be purchased on a month-to-month basis. The website clearly states “No contract, cancel anytime”.

Learn more about how QuickBooks Online can help your business and why not obtain this free accounting software before Intuit ends this free offer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Intuit - Affordable New Tax Software For Small and Home Based Businesses Tax Preparers

In September 2009, Intuit released a new web based tax software called Intuit ProLine(TM) Tax Online Edition (beta) for tax preparer's and those individuals that need a comprehensive, low-cost and Web based 1040 tax program. This software is designed for low volume users whose customer base does not justify an expensive PC or networked tax software. Similar to other web-based software programs, and similar to QuickBooks Online, this program permits the tax preparers to work any time from anywhere providing they have web access. Intuit has many years experienced in the tax preparation business and has its TurboTax ,Pro Series ,and Lacerte brands. Intuit understands its customers' needs and has the foresight to know that many of the tax software applications are heading towards "cloud computing" and this tax software is another example of a Web enabled program.

How it Works- Behind this program is the concept of simplicity, and Intuit accomplishes this by setting up 3 basic workspaces for the tax preparer. These workspaces are "input"," review" and "file". The "input" workspace is where the preparer enters tax information such as W-2, 1099, Schedule A and B,etc ..It is easy to find the proper form. When you open up the form you're able to make multiple data entries by using a list and total feature in the software. The second workspace, is the "review" section which provides the preparer with a diagnostics summary and a list of tax suggestions. The third workspace, is "file", which permits the tax preparer to electronically file the return or to print out the tax return for manual transmission to the IRS.

In the past, tax preparers have purchased TurboTax software and pirated the tax software to prepare hundreds of tax returns by using TurboTax. In order to capture and capitalize from this market, Intuit designed a low cost tax software for a preparer that wants to prepare a tax return in the dining room of a client or their own dining room or from any location with web access. The value proposition is that this software is low priced and simple to use. Although the Intuit website currently offers the beta software for 2008 at no cost, I've been unofficially informed that Intuit will sell the software on a pay-per-use basis of $16 per tax return. This price is not currently shown in the Intuit website.This tax software becomes an affordable alternative for the tax preparers whose practice cannot afford to purchase the Pro Series or Lacerte brands.

Some of the features of the software include the following: (a) 1040 only- single user (b) Pay per return (c) E - file or paper file for two states. It is expected that by the end of the 4th quarter 2009 that filing will be available for most of the other states. (d) Data conversion (e) Status tracking with the IRS (f) Notes and listing features and totaling capabilities embedded in the various forms and schedules(g) Diagnostics and suggestions and (h) Support from Intuit Like any other new software, the concerns at this point relate to the fact that the software is still in beta.

Notwithstanding the hundreds of users that have beta tested the software, there are invariably issues arising from any new software release and, only with the passage of time can the software achieve its expectations. Also, like any other web enabled software the connection and performance is dependent on the web connection, and quite frankly may result in sluggish performance. Also despite the Web-enabled software, there are taxpayer's homes that may not have web access which would prevent the tax preparer from entering the tax information "on the fly". Not a major issue, since the preparer can prepare the tax return later, or back in his or her the office or home.

I commend Intuit for producing a web-based tax preparer software for new low volume users as well as making it easy for those individuals that have used "pirated" versions of TurboTax in the past, to legally use a low-cost and affordable tax software.

Sandor Lenner,CPA has provided accounting services for companies for 35 years. He is also a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and provides QuickBooks support and business accounting services. As an Intuit Authorized Affiliate, he can offer you discounted QuickBooks and Intuit software. He works as a part-time consultant  for Susan Missal Lenner, P.A.