Cloud Accounting QuickBooks Xero

Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor Program

Written by Charlie Russell

Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor ProgramOK, that is a mouthful – what is this? Intuit is introducing a new kind of “ProAdvisor” program aimed solely at the “Cloud”. The Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor Program  is NOT another “certification” within the traditional ProAdvisor program – it is something very different and separate. This is a program that anyone can apply to, with multiple benefits, and it is free!

When Intuit presented this to me I just about fell off my chair, it was so surprising. So, let me pick myself up off the floor and we’ll take a look at what this is. I almost made this one of my “Rant” articles, but I’m still trying to figure some things out.

What Does The Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor Program Include?

Since this is a new program I won’t be surprised if some of the details change in the near term.

This program is free – there is NO fee to become a member of the Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor (dang it, wait a moment, I have to pick myself up off the floor again).

Jyothi Trishuleshwar is Intuit’s Product Manager for North America ProAdvisor Programs, says that this program is aimed at accounting professionals ready to move their entire practice to the cloud. As such, you’ll note that this program does not include any of the desktop products.

This is the US announcement of the program. A similar program already exists in Australia and the UK, and it will be launching soon in Canada as well (there could be variations in the details in each country).

The US program includes:

  • Intuit Certified ProAdvisor QuickBooks OnlineOpportunities to take ONE certification – QuickBooks Online. This is the same certification, with the same badge, as members of the QuickBooks ProAdvisor program get.
  • Training for this certification.
  • A license for:
    • QuickBooks Online for Accountants (QBOA). I’m not sure if this includes a license to QuickBooks Online Plus for your own use, but I assume it does (just like the regular QuickBooks ProAdvisor program).
  • Five free returns for Intuit Tax Online.
  • A one year subscription to Intuit Online Payroll for Accountants for one client.
  • Free phone support for QBOA.
  • Chat support for all other Cloud ProAdvisor Program needs (I believe that this means for Intuit Tax Online and Intuit Online Payroll for Accountants).
  • Turnkey marketing tools such as templates for email campaigns and newsletters, etc.
  • Listing in the “Find A ProAdvisor” website once you are certified.

What Does The “Regular” ProAdvisor Program Include?

Intuit QuickBooks ProAdvisor ProgramAgain, programs like this are moving targets, but here is what is included in the Intuit QuickBooks ProAdvisor Program now (this is what I’m calling the “regular” program, to distinguish it from the “cloud” program).

The fee is $549 a year (discount rate, normally $599, and there is a monthly payment option). This gets you:

  • Opportunities to take several different Certifications for free (QuickBooks, QuickBooks Advanced, Enterprise, Online, POS)
  • Training for these certifications
  • A license for:
    • QuickBooks Accountant
    • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions for Accountants
    • Advanced Inventory (for Enterprise)
    • QuickBooks Point of Sale Pro
    • QuickBooks for Mac
    • QuickBooks Online for Accountants (includes QuickBooks Online Plus for your own use)
  • Five free returns for Intuit Tax Online.
  • A one year subscription to Intuit Online Payroll for Accountants for one client.
  • Special discounts on Intuit products and services that you can pass on to your clients
  • Phone and Chat support (varies with your certification level)
  • Intuit Payment Solutions Bundle
  • Discounts on a variety of products and services from Intuit
  • Discounts and demo subscriptions to a variety of third-party add-on products
  • Turnkey marketing tools such as templates for email campaigns and newsletters, etc.
  • Listing in the “Find A ProAdvisor” website once you are certified

The big difference between the programs is the software that is included and the price. If you are working with clients who have the desktop product, and you work with a variety of clients, the QuickBooks ProAdvisor program provides you with a significant amount of software at a very low price. No question about that.

What About Xero?

XeroSure, I know that this is an article about an Intuit program, but I have to say that one of the first things that came to mind when this was presented to me was “this is a direct response to Xero”.

In addition to my QuickBooks certifications, I’m also a Xero Certified Partner. As Greg Lam said, Xero is the up and comer, and it is getting a lot of attention from accounting professionals lately.

The Xero Partner Program is organized in a different way that Intuit’s QuickBooks ProAdvisor program – you get a sliding scale of features based on the number of organizations (clients) you bring to the table.  At the Starter level, you get:

  • Free membership
  • Free Xero Partner Edition (similar concept as QBOA)
  • Free Xero Business Edition – large plan (your account for your own business, like the QBO account Intuit gives in their program)
  • A “dedicated account manager”, your Xero contact for any kind of issues you need help with
  • An “enablement specialist” to help you with conversions and technical accounting queries
  • Free email support
  • Free training (basic training, “introduction” and “essentials”)
  • Free marketing resource guide
  • Free “quarterly forums” (I haven’t been to one yet, can’t comment on that)

As you move up the scale by adding more clients, you start gaining other benefits. These include things like a directory listing (similar concept to Find A ProAdvisor), their practice management product, contributions towards promotional events you want to put on to attract clients, discounts on business subscriptions, and more.

Starter level benefits are free to everyone who signs up. HOWEVER, it is important to note that Xero does require you to be an accounting professional, although I’m not entirely clear as to how they check on that. If you wish to be a “certified”, there is a one time fee (currently $399 for an in-person class, $249 for a live online class), although there are discounts at special events like their conference and summer camp. This means there is at least some sort of commitment/cost (albeit very low) to get certified, and therefore be listed in their contact website.

Xero has aggressively courted accounting professionals in the US and abroad, and their program gives you a low cost way of getting your foot in this door.

My First Impressions

I have to say, that as a ProAdvisor myself (since 2005), with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Advanced, QuickBooks Enterprise and QuickBooks Online certifications, when the new Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor Program was presented to me I just about fell off my chair (yes, I seem to be doing that a lot). I was stunned. This is so very different than what we have had all along, it is taking me a long time to decide what it means to all of us who have been long time members of the regular ProAdvisor program.

From Intuit’s perspective I can see the advantages, I think. They want to gather in all of the accounting professionals to the Intuit Cloud world. There has been a lot of resistance and foot dragging by many accounting professionals, so Intuit is trying to lower the barriers. Intuit is clearly focusing on Cloud Accounting – look at the QuickBooks main website and it is all about QuickBooks Online – you have to scroll way down or dig about before you see the desktop products. At all the trade shows they push QuickBooks Online to the forefront. The Cloud is the future at Intuit.

Intuit is also taking great pains to tell us “No Desktop Left Behind”, probably in response to the many people who have speculated (as I have in the past) that we see the end of Intuit’s desktop products coming. Almost every presentation by Intuit on QuickBooks Online seems to include that statement these days (so I had to include it here). OK, I get it, as long as you have millions of users running QuickBooks desktop products, you’ll continue to develop and support them. And we DO see new versions of the desktop products coming out each year, with new and improved features. But, come on, it is very clear that Intuit is trying to push everyone into the Cloud very aggressively.

So, a few random thoughts and questions, from where I’m sitting (still on the floor)…

  • Wait, what does this say to long-time ProAdvisors? We’ve been loyal (well, lots of us have), we’ve paid our dues (and our fees). Now you are letting anyone in for free? You are adding all this competition for me and THEY don’t have to pay their dues?
  • Of course (and Intuit was quick to point this out to me) – members of the regular QuickBooks ProAdvisor program get ALL of these features as well. In addition, QuickBooks ProAdvisors get a significant amount of Desktop products as a part of our program. Many ProAdvisors still find that the bulk of their business comes from the desktop product, and the ProAdvisor program is still the best way to get your software for that environment.
  • Wait, you are telling me that there no requirements or qualifications to sign up for this? That is the way it is now, you just sign up. So, if I’m the owner of a small business and I want to get a free license to QuickBooks Online, I can just sign up for the Cloud ProAdvisor program and get my account for free. I don’t need to be certified! I don’t need to be an accounting professional! That doesn’t seem right, but I don’t see anything that will stop this. Is that intentional?
  • Of course, even though these new Cloud ProAdvisors get their listing in the Find A ProAdvisor website for free (after certification), I expect that MY listing will show at the top of the list. This has been a long, painful trip over the past few years, but at THIS time the order of listing in the Find A ProAdvisor website uses a “point system” that takes into account (in no particular order): Advanced certification, Current year QuickBooks certification, Enterprise certification, total number of certifications, QBPOS certification, ratings, photo in profile and distance from the search location. This means that long term QuickBooks ProAdvisors should always get listed ahead of Cloud ProAdvisors.
  • Wait -I’m a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, I’m QuickBooks Online Certified, but I don’t get to call myself an “Intuit QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor? If I’m pursuing the Cloud clients, don’t I want to be able to say that is what I am, too? Doesn’t seem fair (whine, whine).

Like I said, I am still chewing on what all this means. My first impressions were very negative, but that is partly because of the shock. I shouldn’t have been THAT shocked – it is clear that Intuit is noticing what Xero is doing and this has to be at least partly a response to that. It is a good opportunity for those accounting professionals that don’t want anything to do with the desktop product – and for those of us who still depend heavily on that desktop market this doesn’t open the door for more competition THERE.

I have a feeling that this program is going to evolve quite a bit over the next few months. I also am interested to see what kinds of comments we see about this program…

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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been the managing editor and primary writer for the Sleeter Report since 2011. Charlie can be reached at

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • WOW WOW WOW!! I am on the floor next to you Charlie. It is interesting that QB Online has been around for a decade or more and it wasn’t until last year, after Xero hit the pavement in the US, that Intuit decided to even OFFER certification. Now they are going full steam ahead into the Cloud after they basically showed it little attention for 10 years.

    I appreciate that Xero recognizes the importance of businesses having an accounting professional involved in their accounting. Since QBO is offering business owners access to the Cloud program for free, this tells me that Intuit does not value the accounting professional’s role in helping clients with their accounting. It feels like a slap in the face. They are basically putting our clients in a position to do things themselves and not involve their accountant, undermining all we have worked toward for so many years.

    Looking forward to next week’s Xerocon in San Francisco more and more every day!

    Thanks for posting this Charlie, because I sure haven’t heard about it from Intuit.

    • Stacey, a couple of comments:
      -You hadn’t heard about it before, because they just announced it today at the Midwest Accounting show. This is “hot off the presses” info.

      -I don’t think that Xero has influenced Intuit to start to upgrade QBO after 10 years of neglect – Intuit has been strongly emphasizing Cloud/Mobile stuff for several years now. They had a study they commissioned several years ago (can’t remember if it was 2010 or 2011) that clearly showed that Cloud/Mobile was the future, and they have been working on shifting to that for a long time, before Xero was even available here.

      Xero’s influence here is how Intuit is looking at how they deal with accounting professionals, as well as (perhaps) some of the product features. At least, that is my guess.

  • Wow. Interesting days in the accountant space, to be sure. @Stacey, I’m scheduled to get a briefing on this pretty soon and will look forward to hearing what is said about this program.

    I’m attending events from Xero and Intuit next week in the Bay area, and this will definitely give us all something to talk about besides the weather and forest fires….

  • Wow is all I can say at the moment. Much of my business comes from Accountants – I still think they won’t want to be an expert when it comes to QuickBooks whether it is on the cloud or on the desktop. I am certified in the Online version and I am trying very hard to get used to it as more and more clients are going that route. So my question is can you be both?

  • You don’t have to be “both”. If you are a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, you get everything that is available to a QuickBooks Cloud ProAdvisor, plus all the desktop stuff and opportunities for other certifications.

    I view the Cloud PAP as a subset of the regular PAP.

    The QuickBooks Online certification is the same for both, the “certification badge” is the same for both.

    If you are already a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and you continue to work with desktop clients but want to branch out, I would say that you want to get as many of the QB certifications as you can (so you can be as high as possible in the Find A ProAdvisor site), spend time working with QuickBooks Online, and strongly consider looking into the Xero Partner program as well.

    And, of course, subscribe to this blog and keep on reading it, and go to the Sleeter Conference ever year…

  • If nothing else, I find it interesting (and no accident) that they made this announcement the week before the first US Xerocon.

    I’ll be very interested to watch as this all unfolds.

    • While I don’t normally defend Intuit, and I do believe that they are taking aim at Xero in many ways, I will also point out that this program was introduced at the Midwest Accounting & Finance Showcase, which is where Intuit traditionally introduces their new Fall lineup.

  • How about that! I am a little surprised by this, but not too much. I sort of suspected that the Cloud is the way Intuit is going to eventually. Maybe sooner than I expected.

    My background here is that earlier this year, I met with the folks at Intuit to suggest a subscription based Pro Advisor Program, and to my surprised it was met with immediate enthusiasm. As you can see it is now in place and working well as I am told. I also mentioned that I think the QBOA (Quick Books On Line Accountant) should have a more robust set of Business Metrics tools similar to Sage Accountings BI for client analysis and collaboration. This would include ratio analysis, break even points, AR Days outstanding, etc. This too is soon to appear. Currently, I along with several others are beta testing the “Virtual Office” which combines QBOA and Intuit Tax program. So far so good. They say roll out of this is soon. I believe this new Cloud Certification has some merit, but as I mentioned I believe that sooner or later the desktop will disappear into the “clouds” and be more of a relic than a useful tool.

  • Wow, there is a price to be paid for ‘free.’ Although the ‘regular PAP’ charges a fee, we all know that a lot of people just use it to get the software and add a ‘certification.’ I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve run into who said they had already gone through another (or more), ‘certified Pro Advisors’ who didn’t know which way was up! Over the years, the reputation of the PAP has gotten watered down by anybody who tests well, versus the rest of us who pass all of the certs and genuinely and professionally serve our clients. Now, Intuit is opening the flood gates to so-called, ‘professionals’ who don’t even have a financial commitment to support their upcoming flagship product. Those of us who truly know what we’re doing are going to get ‘lost’ in the sea of ‘experts’ out there in the eyes of the clients. How much business will we lose to those who have better marketing programs?

    Get your name established quickly, because I see the waters rising!

    • Another reason for you to accumulate different Intuit “certifications”, because the more certifications you have the higher you rate in the Find A ProAdvisor site. And you can only get those other certifications if you are enrolled in the regular PAP program.

  • The fact that they seem to be undercutting the PAP is the only real surprise. They have to respond to the Xero offerings if they are going to continue to compete, and they do need to provide more tools in the online product for accounting professionals. The reporting capabilities alone within Xero seem to be far superior.

    It is also only natural for them to push the cloud product. The cost benefits for Intuit must be incredible. No packaging, shipping, etc., easier to capture multiple users, and so on. Their real challenge lies in converting desktop users and I understand the interface and functionality are being updated towards that end.

    As always, good article.

    • Clearly Intuit is pushing everything Cloud based, they have been emphasizing that for several years now. QB Desktop is buried if you look at the QuickBooks websites.

      I am surprised at more than just the “undercutting PAP” part. I’m surprised that there are (at least at this time) NO qualifications for entering the program. You don’t even have to pretend that you are an accounting professional!

      • @Charlie, you don’t have to do anything to prove you are an accouting professional for the paid PAP either.

        • OK, Crystal, fair enough. I think that in the past that might not have been the case, but I’m not sure. It has been a long time since I applied.

          I’ll keep that in mind the next time someone calls and asks what it costs to get a single user copy of Enterprise, since this seems to be a lower cost way to get the product.

          There is still no financial commitment with the new program. I’m still chewing on the impact of this to existing ProAdvisors.

          While this may

  • Charlie,

    Several observations:

    1. Intuit’s strategy of moving clients to the Cloud is a little risky because it is not altogether clear to me that QBO is a superior product to Xero. Based on my personal experience, I have had more glitches ( such as not being able to open up QBO in Chrome, having trouble with making connections with the client’s bank account for downloads) than I have had with Xero.

    2. A desktop software product such as QB seems to appeal to a more frugal, do it yourself type of client who would need to be educated/persuaded to have a more collaborative relationship with their accountant.Since the accounting industry seems to be moving to a more monthly value price/fixed fee pricing model, you really need to be able to leverage technology (i.e., using the cloud) to be able to make this kind of model work. It seems to me that desktop accounting software with the syncing and possible duplicate file issues makes it more difficult for a value priced collaborative model to work.

    3. Since, in my opinion, the desktop is becoming less attractive to me in terms of the type of client it is attracting, how long are people going to be willing to pay $600 a year for a ProAdvisor membership?

    4. There are a lot less Xero Advisors (which requires a test to become an Advisor)so there is a lot less competition to differentiate yourself than with QB.

    Dennis Thompson

    • All good points/questions, Dennis.

      I’m hedging my bets – I’m a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, I’m QBO Certified, and I’m Xero Certified.

      Xero and QBO are both advancing, both are backed by well-funded companies. While you may have more problems with QBO than Xero now, in some cases, you can’t assume that this will always be the case. Intuit is putting a lot of engineering focus on QBO now. Xero isn’t sitting still, either.

      Intuit continues to support the desktop, so people have options. We, as “trusted advisors”, have to determine what the customer needs and then pick the right tool for the task. We have more options now than we did before!

  • Well…my wife and I are trying to expand our small bookkeeping and consulting service, but haven’t had the funds to get her a ProAdvisor membership yet. After reading this article, she is now a “QuickBooks Cloud Advisor” and will probably be Certified today.

    Other than helping on a few projects and being a sounding board for me, she really hasn’t had an active roll in our business – to the point that I would say I’m blown away that Intuit will be recommending her as an “Accounting Professional”. Now…since we co-own the business I know that we will service our clients perfectly well…but this leads me to my main point.

    ANYONE can now be a ProAdvisor with NO financial commitment whatsoever! Someone could basically start a consulting firm with a cell phone and internet connection and no capital, knowledge, or even ethics and the general public is going to consider them an equal to those of us that have spent time and money being PROFESSIONAL!

    Ok – rant over. Once again…it is time to educate our clients, prospects, and contacts to the fact that there’s always low-hanging fruit on every tree, but there’s benefits in reaching higher for those of us that take pride in our work!

  • What bothers me the most about this whole ‘Free’ program is that it includes 5 free ITO tax returns. So now anyone, qualified or not, can prepare tax returns and charge a fee. Coming from a tax background this really annoys me, especially since I just picked up a new client whose prior tax preparer and QuickBooks ProAdvisor has no idea how to properly prepare a corporate tax return and incidentally does not have the credentials to prepare tax returns. Unless IRS steps up and pushes through with the licensing requirement this ‘free’ cloud program will create thousands of wanna be tax preparers putting the public at risk for bad tax returns and audits (as if Turbo Tax wasn’t bad enough already)

    • I’m with you, Anita.

      Intuit needs to pull these 5 free tax filings part of this free program. It seems as if this decision was market driven, but someone in management needs to temper it relative to a bigger picture. Intuit is moving from making it easy for the consumer to making it unsafe for the consumer.

      Thanks Charlie for breaking the news, and laying it out in such a clear manner.

    • Anita, one thing to point out is that the 5 free tax filings are also a part of the regular QuickBooks ProAdvisor program also, so what you say about being unqualified to prepare tax returns applies to the existing program as well as the new program.

  • Hi Charlie. I think I missed something. You said the QB Cloud Advisor gets the same software as the PAP. The QBCA gets Intuit Online Payroll but I don’t see that listed as one of the free software in the PAP program. I even looked this up on the PAP website. Please verify. I’m currently a PAP with payroll. All these terms 😉 PAP, QBCA LOL

    • I believe that you have to call them to get that, but I’m not sure. I don’t work with Payroll so it isn’t something I’ve done.

      The list of benefits was provided to me by the Intuit PR folks. I didn’t find it on the website either. It might only be available to you in the first year you sign up – but I’m not sure.

      Call the PAP customer service folks and see what they have to say…

  • Thank you Charlie for breaking the news! As someone who has been a member of the PAP since its inception, way back when before any certification, I am never really surprised by Intuit’s marketing techniques, resulting in interesting changes to the PAP.
    I do not test well, so the certification exams, especially the Advanced Certif. have always been a tremendous accomplishment for me. In the past few years, I have experienced several “issues” with the exams and after weeks of several telephone conversations with PAP customer support, resolved. The confusion over the Advanced Certif. requirements has also affected many PA.
    I also am concerned that, once again, it appears that anyone, with little or no bookkeeping, accounting or possibly extensive QB experience, will have an opportunity to call themselves, Accounting Professional!
    For me, the PAP has lost it’s charm and now it appears that Intuit feels the same.

    • Michele, the Advanced Certification test is a notoriously (and overly) picky test. The Online test wasn’t nearly that bad.

      I’ve just completed two days of sessions at the Intuit VIP Summit, and Intuit clearly values accounting professionals. They just seem to struggle when it comes to how WE all view the ProAdvisor programs…

  • I’ve actually just recently discovered the free cloud QBO Proadvisor program and I’ve been pretty surprised as well. I’ve always wanted the regular certification, but I was indecisive as to whether the hefty cost was worth it.

    Because the cloud certification comes free, I’m sure the value of the certification will go down. Nevertheless, I’m still going to go for it while it’s available. I find it hard to believe that Intuit will keep this program free for much longer. It’s a little ridiculous and I feel for those that paid for and earned their normal certifications. But you can’t blame people for trying to capitalize on this.

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