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Intuit woos accountants with QuickBooks 2010

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9th Jun 2010
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After the Vista-like disappointments of the last version, John Stokdyk presents an overview of some of the accountant-friendly improvements in QuickBooks 2010.

In recent years, AccountingWEB.co.uk has documented a series of technical and corporate changes that saw QuickBooks stumble from its perch as the UK accountants' favourite during the early part of the century to something of an also-ran.

With the release of QuickBooks 2010, Intuit put a lot of effort into regaining ground lost during the past five years following the company's decision to retire Quicken and withdraw from the tax software market. The developer overhauled the underlying technical architecture in QuickBooks 2008, but as part of the shift it removed the multicurrency function that had attracted many users in the first place.

For all its acknowledged flexibility, QuickBooks lagged behind other desktop accounting applications in its implementation of VAT. Both VAT and multicurrency functions feature very prominently in QuickBooks 2010, released last month.

Focus on making VAT easier
Intuit product manager Alex Blakey acknowledged some of the issues that had been raised by users with the 2008 release. "Existing customers found it hard to understand [the 2008 VAT system] and struggled when they had to change VAT rate," he said.

Based on this feedback, Intuit devoted a lot of effort to making it much easier to use. The Manage VAT module now presents an on-screen summary of current VAT liabilities, returns and payments in one place.

QuickBooks 2010 Manage VAT window

A new mechanism to simplify adjusting VAT rates has been created in response to difficulties experienced with the 2008-09 changes, and filing returns online has been streamlined into a two-click process, Blakey said.

As part of the VAT reporting process, QuickBooks 2010 produces an Exception report showing any transaction that has been entered, modified or deleted in a previously filed VAT return – for examples transactions that might have been entered after the previous return was submitted. "Whatever your clients do in the product will be carried forward into the VAT return," said Blakey.

The VAT100 return, VAT Detail and Exception reports and a copy of the efiling notice are saved automatically as part of the filing process so the accountant has a full suite of reports to explain or defend a VAT compliance check, he added.

In response to requests from accountants Intuit added a new feature to handle early payment discounts. When creating an invoice, the user can invoke a slightly reduced VAT rate to reflect any early payment discounts the company offers. If payment arrives within the discount period, QuickBooks will take the 1% off net payment, but not affect the VAT. If the payment is outside the period, the customer will be charged the full amount, with minimal input from the user, Blakey said.

Many QuickBooks users struggled to cope with the upgrade to the underlying VAT engine in the 2008 edition, specifically with how the program forced them to deal with and "uncategorise" transactions in the VAT history where the account didn't match the filed returns. Intuit has added a new VAT Resolve wizard to walk users through the upgrade process. If any discrepancies are found in previous returns it alerts the user and offers them three options to adjust the amount. Feedback has been very positive to this function Blakey said, adding, "We expect anyone upgrading from 2006 to have a much better experience."

Multicurrency
Having taken it away in 2008, Intuit bowed to user pressure and has reintroduced an improved multicurrency function in QuickBooks 2010. The multicurrency facility has been completely rewritten, but retains a strong resemblance to the previous implementation. The mechanism is based on a list of currencies used, with an option to call in the latest exchange rates from Wall Street On Demand.

QuickBooks 2010 Currency List

"What we've done now is made it more powerful and easier to use," said Blakey. "If you do the books on Saturday for transactions in the previous week QuickBooks will apply the right rate for the date of each transaction. That reduces headaches for accountants who would otherwise have to adjust them manually."

Invoices show the billed and base currency totals (for example EUR and GBP) alongside customer and supplier VAT codes, which are applied according to the rules in the jurisdiction where the transaction takes place.

As a final treat, Intuit also added a Home Currency Adjustment wizard, so that if an accountant needs to revalue foreign holdings, they can run a quick update within the multicurrency module rather than needing to do it via a journal entry. "That used to take some practice and was quite easy to get wrong," said Blakey.

Daily sales summary – at-a-glance sales day book
Intuit has obviously been stung by criticisms from AccountingWEB's David Carter and other commentators about the difficulties of creating a sales day book in QuickBooks. That has been resolved by a new report that shows sales figures as both net and gross, with the ability to compile line items from different accounts into summary totals. Like all QuickBooks reports, the user can click straight through to the underlying transactions, or download the data to Excel.

Company snapshot
After around half an hour fielding queries about what users didn't like about QuickBooks 2008, Blakey was keen to talk about some of the more eye-catching enhancements in the new version. The most visible addition is the Company Snapshot – a view that presents a graph and summary information of all income and expenses, plus account balances, to-do lists and suppliers who are waiting to be paid. The Snapshot can be reached by clicking an icon at the top of the main screen, or by a quick alteration in My Preferences, it can be saved as the default view when opening the company's accounts.

QuickBooks 2010 Company Snapshot

Previously, accountants would create a collection of custom reports to update managers on the company's financial status. "Rather than the client having to run them, the Company Snapshot does away with those reports and the client can just have a look at the Snapshot," said Blakey.

Accountant-friendly tools
Highlighting yet more accountant-friendly features, Blakey commented that the guiding philosophy behind the 2010 release was to simplify as much as possible so accountants could focus their attention on more meaningful tasks. Three new functions fall into this category:

  • Client Data Review – a new tool that helps the accountant find and fix errors in client files. Presented as a checklist, the Client Data Review is presented in the form of a to-do list with a pull-down menu of status indicators, and includes a notes facility, so that one member of staff can record a commentary about what they found or the work they have done on a particular portion of the accounts.
  • Accountant's Copy improvements – desktop software developers are getting cleverer about the way users share data with their accountants. Once they have used the Accountant's Copy output option, QuickBooks sets a closing date and prevents users from editing data prior to that date. Users can continue adding new transactions in QuickBooks while the accountant can carry out bank and VAT reconciliations, or make adjustments to their copy of the data. When the adviser is happy with the accounts, they send the file back for the client to reimport into QuickBooks.
  • File transfer process - the data transfers take place via a File Transfer Protocol built into the system. The Accountant's Copy goes up to a file server operated by Intuit that sends an email notification to the accountant, and the file is returned via a similar process.

Interface enhancements
As might be expected in a release that prioritises ease of use, the user interface has been given some new features. A QuickFilter option now operates in a similar way to web browsers (and other systems such as Windows 7) where the software starts looking for matches as you type in the first few letters of a search string.
The password function now includes a reminder question to prompt anyone who forgets their password.  Finally, a lot of the new features and functions are explained in a series of videos, many of which can be found on the support page, What's new in QuickBooks 2010.

Do the 2010 improvements answer the critics?

The negative response to QuickBooks 2008 has obviously been a chastening experience for Intuit and the new release reflects the company's focus on listening to users. The big issues have been addressed and many wishlist items have been included. Some of the other additions – such as the streamlined client file sharing and search text recognition – reflect the way software innovations percolate through the marketplace over time.

In summary, QuickBooks 2010 seems to mirror the Windows experience, where a lot of the flaws in the Vista release were significantly improved in Windows 7. If you held back from QuickBooks 2008, you will eventually have to move. For anyone in this situation, QuickBooks 2010 is likely to offer a smoother transition and deliver more benefits that the 2008 upgrade.

But there's an alternative view, summarised by AccountingWEB member Adrian Pearson in his Top Accountants blog. After reading through the QuickBooks 2010 upgrade guide, he noted that it could take one to two hours to install the new version (depending on the data file size), and a few more hours will be needed to deal with things such as the VAT Resolve wizard.

During the upgrade, users also have to make quite technical choices about which PCs and directories to install the software and its data files and to set user access rights. As Pearson points out, "These decisions add to the chore of the upgrade process and many of them would not even need asking in a web-based delivery model."

As we have pointed out with previous Sage 50 upgrades, each new release emphasises the difficulty desktop accounting software developers have where they need to produce a new version to keep licence revenues flowing in, but find it difficult to innovate within the constraints of the existing system. Most Cloud accounting applications are nowhere near as comprehensive as QuickBooks 2010, but they are getting better and improvements take place quietly in the background rather than disrupting users and requiring them to pay out a lump sum for the new upgrade. It's hard to argue with Pearson's conclusion that each new desktop upgrade such as QuickBooks 2010 is "another nail in the coffin of the old-school vendor".

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Replies (8)

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By Iain Mcritchie
09th Jun 2010 13:02

2010 let hope it's works this time :)

 

I really hope this is fixed as Quickbooks is a country mile a head of sage in features and functions. I use QB for a web based business with 1500 stock lines. It’s stock reporting and control functions straight from the box are the best I have seen with easy to use stock reordering and control features.  

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By BryanS1958
10th Jun 2010 11:48

Let's hope for an improvement!

I advised clients not to move to 2008 and stay with 2006.  Let's hope 2010 is all it's cracked up to be!

I'm starting to waver slightly - I've been a fan of QuickBooks for years, but 2008 was a big let down.  For some clients who have very simple accounting requirements I am now suggesting online programs, but I have yet to find an online program that has the same ease of drill down, advanced find facility, having multlple windows open and being able to switch between them easily, etc., so for accountants such as myself who need to correct errors, etc quickly and clients with more complex affairs I still much prefer QuickBooks.  If only QuickBooks was available online with the same speed and functionality!

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By abelljms
10th Jun 2010 12:56

quick 2010

i have just received the upgrade spam letter from qbooks - i am favoured to be offered a measly 10% reduction on their massive prices - it does not make sense - they need me to flog their stuff to my clients but they have no real programme to persuade me to do this

 

when will they launch an accountants version that will read and WRITE multiple versions of qbooks so that clients get my services? i have several on 2004, also 2006. i can think of no reason at all why any of them should upgrade - most accounts packages are mature now, there is nothing for them to invent

 

Without looking..... i bet 2010 qbooks VAT accounting is still patently an add-on to the US package and clunky.

Oh and i bet it is still a massive file load each time it fires up - it's like an old V12 starting up - the only thing equally slow is Sage and that's another tail...... to wag

 

 

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By Briar
10th Jun 2010 13:19

Does QB2010 have an import facility?

One reason I stopped using QB was that there was no way to import data from a csv file. I can do it in Sage and find it extremely useful. For example, having set up a pro-forma spreadsheet of accruals/prepayments/depreciation, etc (month/quarter/year-end adjustments), it is a very easy matter to import the resulting data into Sage via its Import facility. As far as I know, QB cannot do it (or at least not as easily)

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By cookie71
10th Jun 2010 16:38

Fingers crossed!

We haves sold, used and trained clients on Quickbooks back to the very early days of it first coming over here and I can only hope that 2010 is as good as it would first appear. Since the hike in prices and backward step of version 2008 we have wavered and I am currently looking at Kashflow. Maybe Quickbooks can drag me and my client base back with this version. We can but hope.

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By txcjg
11th Jun 2010 08:41

No XBRL in QB 2010?

Having looked at the Intuit (UK) website I can see no mention of XBRL on QB 2010. For accountants this is now important as the cost of tagging is not cheap in time and effort.

HMRC requirement for iXBRL Accounts for CT filing is mandatory from next April. It is a shame QB 2010 appears not to offer tagging. Only a handful of packages including Sage are shown on the HMRC website to be able to produce iXBRL documents.  My understanding is QB UK is based on the US XML engine which XBRL is built on. A lot of small companies and non incorporated bodies who file CT returns will need to either change their software or move from Excel/Word produced accounts to a package or third party tagger in the next 12 months. Intuit appear to have missed an opportunity to increase market share or produce a new revenue stream. In addition how many existing customers will move away from QB in the next 12 months to a product that supports iXBRL. It could have been incorporated in the higher end product or their financial statement designer.

If QB2010 does support iXBRL then Intuit should make this clear as a new feature on their website.

Chris

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By User deleted
11th Jun 2010 13:48

Why XBRL?

Quickbooks is a bookkeeping product, not accounts production. Why would Intuit spend huge amonts of money to incorporate XBRL tagging if 99% of customers will not use it? As far as I know, Sage have XBRL tagging in their accounts production software, not bookkeeping software.

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By Alistair Hindmarsh
14th Jun 2010 09:45

Sage & Quickbooks Vs Cloud

Is the suggestion in the part seriously saying that its better to use Cloud Computing rather than a "old school" package ? You mean put all my most confidential and vital data on a server somewhere on the Internet run by a bunch of techies who when it comes down to it wouldn't care what happened to my data ? No-one has ever seriously answered the data problems surrounding Cloud Computing i.e. what happens when you can't get your data.

 

Alistair

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