One of the big knocks against QuickBooks Online has been the lack of support for Accountants. In the Windows desktop versions of QuickBooks we have QuickBooks Accountant for both the Pro/Premier level and Enterprise level of the products, we have the accountant’s copy feature that let’s us make adjustments and corrections, we have the client data review feature, and we have the Accountant Center in the 2012 product that provides us with easy access to various tools. QuickBooks Online hasn’t provided us with any of those features. Until now! Intuit is releasing Intuit QuickBooks Online Accountant. Let’s take a quick look at what this includes.
QuickBooks Online is very different than the desktop versions of QuickBooks, and it might not work for all companies. However, if you want online access to your accounting program, if you have people logging in to your company file from various locations, this is a product worth looking at. Intuit has been placing an increased emphasis in developing this product over the past few years.
However, one of the big drawbacks has been the lack of support for Accountants. In years past the Intuit ProAdvisor program provided us with an “accountant login” that let us access a client’s file directly, but that is no longer a feature of the ProAdvisor program. I was wondering why Intuit dropped this feature – that made working with QuickBooks Online customers much more difficult.
The answer is Intuit QuickBooks Online Accountant.
This is a new product that Intuit is introducing. You can sign up for the “pilot project” at http://accountant.intuit.com/qboa. (Note, this is no longer a pilot project, QBOA is available as a part of the ProAdvisor program for no additional charge).
The two big advantages of this new product are that you can manage your online client’s data in one place, and that Intuit has added an Accountant Center that provides many new tools that can be used to write off invoices, create financial sheet comparisons, create adjusting journal entries and more.
Let’s take a quick look at what this product provides. Please note that I’ve only been using it for a very short time – this is NOT a full analysis of the program. Note also that since this is a pilot project the final release may look different than what I’m showing here. They are still modifying the product based on feedback.
Your customer can “invite” you to connect as an accountant. They will log in to their QBO account and go to the Manage Users section, and click the Invite Accountant button. This starts a “mini interview” process that will send an email to you (the accountant).
When you receive the email you can click on a link to connect this with your QBOA account.
One very important feature here – your client does not have to give you their login information or passwords. By going through this process the client has preapproved your access, and you access the file through your own login. Transactions you add will show as being created by YOU, rather than your using a client’s login. This is very good!
QuickBooks Online Accountant Clients
When you log in to your QuickBooks Online Accountant (QBOA) account you will see a list of the clients that you are working with on the left side of the screen. If you click on one of the clients the contact information shows on the right. It is very convenient to have all of your client information in one place.
If you click on the link for the client file a new browser window will open with the client’s QBO file – but with the additional of an accountant tab. Note that you do NOT have to remember passwords – all that is handled behind the scenes.
Widgets in the Accountant Center
There are a number of “widgets” or sections in this window that provide very useful information. You can drag them to the position that you like. Let’s take a quick look at what is available.
This has some basic information on how to work with QBOA. I’m not sure if these change as time goes on. Essentially some quick tips or help information.
This seems to be similar to the Accountant Updates that we have in the Accountant Center in QuickBooks Desktop. I hope that they have information about planned service outages, changes in the product and such. This could be useful IF they manage it properly.
This is where you will be able to set preferences that apply to all of your client files. At this time there is only one preference – I suspect that as time goes on we’ll see more here. I like the concept – they have this available when you are logged in to the client file, so that I don’t have to go back to the QBOA home screen.
Messages and Tasks
This could be a nifty feature, but I’ve not played with it in detail. You have a place where you can create “tasks” that you want to perform, as well as sending messages to users.
I’m concerned that they may use this for “advertising”, as you can see from the top message shown here. Why not keep that in “What’s New”? So I’ll reserve judgment on this to see how it is used.
You can add to do’s, or you can add messages for yourself or for your client.
I didn’t have this feature enabled, so I can only speculate that you are going to have information available that will allow you to manage the online banking features.
This is a feature that was added to the Desktop version of QuickBooks, and it is proving to be very popular. I’m very glad that they’ve brought this feature to QBOA. This lists the accounts that can be reconciled, their status, and their current balance.
Here is where we start to see significant improvements. The features that marked with a green star are new features only found in QBOA.
Looking at the Accountant Tools
Some of the screen shots I show here are taken from materials provided to me by Intuit, as my test data didn’t always give me something worth showing here.
Reclassify Transactions in Batch
This is a handy feature that will help reclassify transactions with an incorrect account or class all in one step.
Adjusting Journal Entries
What would an accountant do without adjusting journal entries? QBOA adds this check box to the journal entry screen.
Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss Comparison
These two very useful reports are added when you use QBOA.
Adjusted Trial Balance
This feature allows you to reconcile accounts, but it goes beyond what the client can perform. See the two columns marked with green stars – these are available only through QBOA. You can see the changes you make, and any auto adjustments.
Voided / Deleted Transactions
The Voided/Deleted Transactions report lists transactions that are voided or deleted (well, duhhhhh). This can be a very useful report – and you can search it by keywords.
Write Off Invoices
You can select and write-off a group of invoices to the account you specify in one step.
This IS a Pilot Project
I’m not entirely clear what the difference is between a “beta test” and a “pilot project”, other than my not being covered by a Non Disclosure Agreement in a pilot project. It was a “closed” pilot for awhile – available only by invitation. Now it is an “open” pilot that everyone can try.
I have run into a number of rough edges while playing around with this. So far the only issues have been in the signup process and availability. I ran into some funny issues in the process of creating my QBOA account (not many) as well as accessing my “client” accounts.
In Intuit’s defense (to a degree), my “accounts” with Intuit tend to be, shall we say, “messed up”, so this might not be a typical experience. Also, this IS a “pilot project” so rough edges aren’t surprising.
- The QBOA signup process goes through the Intuit App Center, and you have to associate it with a “business profile”. Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve created many “test” business profiles. You can’t delete them (nor can the Intuit support team, unfortunately). I’ve tried to get them straightened out, but sometimes it is a chore. And, I’ll note that I’m not a typical Accountant or ProAdvisor in how I use the Intuit App Center. Hopefully YOU won’t run into these issues.
- I wanted to set up my ProAdvisor copy of QuickBooks Online so that I could test how that would work as a “client”. That isn’t a normal situation, and I may have run into some problems with the way I set this up. Unfortunately, I hadn’t used my ProAdvisor QBO account for some time, so it had “expired” even though my ProAdvisor account is current. Trying to reactivate that was troublesome. This doesn’t work though, as QBOA recognizes that the QBO account is the same account, and it won’t let me see Accountant features. Rats!
- I had a different QBO account that is not associated with my ProAdvisor account, which I used to test the “invitation” process. This didn’t work smoothly, however it is also possibly that I ran into some issues based on a service outage. I was able to get this to work eventually.
So far, all of the rough edges related to setting up my QBOA account and getting the client accounts associated. These are all things that should be worked out once we get past the “pilot project” phase. As far as the features within QBOA, I’ve not run into any problems, but I’ll admit that I’ve only looked at this for a short time.
QuickBooks Online is Offline
My timing is always bad it seems. Just as I started testing this I ran into a big QuickBooks Online service outage. That makes it hard to test! This is why so many of my screen shots have been taken from promotional material rather than from my actual test data. I went through all of the features and played with the various options (and everything worked GREAT), but when I cam back in to take screen shots I was getting an odd error message that didn’t make sense.
QBOA had a hard time understanding when QBO itself wasn’t available. The error messages I received didn’t always make sense. At first I thought that the issue was in QBOA itself.
When I tried to log in to my “client” QBO account, I found that the real problem wasn’t in QBOA (other than the QBOA error message not being clear). QuickBooks Online was Offline!
So, some of my issues in signing up might have been due to the problems that Intuit had with service outages. I would like to note that there was a notice in the Accountant Updates section of my Accountant Center in QuickBooks desktop. That notification saved me a lot of searching around, I’m glad that they used that function to disseminate information.
As I said, this IS a pilot project, and some rough edges are to be expected.
I DO have Concerns…
I’ve only been able to work with this for a short time, so I can’t really give a detailed evaluation of the specific features. However…
- Hey, it is a pilot project. I think that I’d be a bit cautious about rushing into this with my clients at this time. I hope that Intuit can work out some of the signup glitches that I ran into so that a ProAdvisor would be able to use their own account as a test vehicle. I recommend that you get used to the product, see how it works, before you bring clients in. My concern here is that this is a new product, let’s move slowly. Play with it, let’s see if any big issues come up during the “pilot project” phase. If you can’t get it to work with your ProAdvisor QBO account you can always create a free “30 day trial” account with a separate email address.
- Perhaps my biggest concern is that at this time we don’t know how much it is going to cost us. Will it be free as a part of the ProAdvisor program (without Intuit raising our ProAdvisor fee again)? I would like to see that. Will there be a monthly charge to use the program? I wouldn’t be surprised to see that – Accounting Professionals are a profit center for Intuit (directly, not just because we bring in more client business to them). If there is a charge, what will that charge be? That may be my biggest hang-up at this time. How can I get all my clients signed up for this feature, get them hooked, without knowing what the cost to ME will be? I have to build that fee into my billing to them. Heck, Intuit may charge me so much that it isn’t worthwhile, but I would hate to dump clients that I signed up for this.
My personal view of this is that this is a product that could be really great for Accounting Professionals, but that I’m not ready to sign up my clients. I want to play with this more. I want to know what the charges will be. I want to see if there are any hidden gotchas.
If Intuit keeps the fee low (free for ProAdvisors please?) and the product is solid, this could really open up the QuickBooks Online market for accounting professionals. I like the direction that they are going with this.