Online accounting review: QuickBooks Online

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QuickBooks Online is an established leader in online accounting in the USA, so it was only a matter of time before Intuit brought it to the UK. At long last, Nigel Harris got his hands on it and produced this overview.

With a 10-year track record in north America, QuickBooks Online is tried and tested technology and seems to cover most small business requirements. It comes in three versions:

  • QuickBooks Online Simple Start, for one user at £9 + VAT per month – there’s no VAT or suppliers ledger with this version and only basic reporting
  • QuickBooks Online Essential, for up to three users at £19 + VAT per month – all accounting functions, multi-currency and some 40 reports including a graphical Snapshot dashboard view
  • QuickBooks Online Plus, for up to five users at £29 + VAT per month -  adds budgets, recharge of expenses to customers and location tracking, and more reports (“over 65”)

The business can also set up its accountant as an additional user in addition to the maximum number allowed with each version, and can also create unlimited “read only” users. There doesn’t appear to be a special accountant’s edition though, so accountants will need to maintain a list of separate logins and user names for each client using QuickBooks online.


Despite the superficial similarities with QuickBooks desktop software, especially the presentation of reports and transaction “registers”, there is no facility yet to exchange data between the desktop and online versions of QuickBooks. Data import is limited to customer data as a .CSV file from Excel, Outlook and other email applications.

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About Nigel Harris


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19th May 2011 12:38

No accountant's edition

As Nigel points out:

'There doesn’t appear to be a special accountant’s edition though, so accountants will need to maintain a list of separate logins and user names for each client using QuickBooks online'


Surely this is something that accountants would find frustrating as it would require them to keep hundreds of usernames and passwords.

With Fusion's accounting system the accountant has one username and password and this provides them with access to all of their clients data.  They can simply browse their client list and move between clients without having to log in and out.

Fusion Accounts Online Accounting - Anytime, Anywhere

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By chatman
19th May 2011 14:06

"Data import is limited to customer data"

Amazing in 2011! That alone would be enough to put me off.

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19th May 2011 16:57

Elegant ??

Not sure I agree that a nominal called "Ask my accountant" would qualify as elegant by my definition.

In my business we often use Suspense to hold credit card receipts which are being refunded next day on the PDQ machine. I wouldn't want the boss to look at the accounts at the end of day and think I was so incompetent that I had to "ask my accountant" about things every other day !!

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25th May 2011 15:51

Accountants' edition

Contrary to what Nigel says about maintaining separate logins for each client, accountants can indeed easily use one login for all of their clients. When setting up a new client, you simply add a new user with whatever login name the accountant uses for his other clients on QuickBooks Online.

Client data files are linked to each user's login name. I have a number of clients using QBO and only need to log in once, from where I can flip back and forth between my clients at will without logging in again. If a client owns two companies (for example) he can also use the same login name on both if he wishes and his login will then give him access to both of his companies. Other users can then be set up with a login name linked to just one (or both) of those companies and have access to one or both data files, as determined by whether that login name is linked to one or the other or both.

In addition, you can tick the box marked "accountant" when setting up the user, which allows that user to have full functionality but doesn’t use up one of the extra limited users (as noted in Nigel's review). The accountant then gets another menu item when logging in that adds a couple of extra easily accessible reports, albeit ones that are also available in the 'reports' screen for non-accountants!

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26th Jul 2011 18:01

Quickbooks Online comments - feedback

Charlie, Im interested to know how you operate with paying for the subscriptions etc.. Does the client pay and then give you the ability to log in or do you have to subscribe directly to have access.

Also do you use Quickbooks desktop editions, how do they compare to the online addition ? Have you suffered from slow connections etc




Martyn Smith

The Mobile Accountant and Quickbooks Trainer

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26th Jul 2011 18:05

Quickbooks online

Now as you work for a competitor you are surely biased.




Martyn Smith

The Mobile Accountant

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26th Jul 2011 18:10

Quickbooks Online - Review

Thanks Nigel for  a very succinct review. From what you say it sounds very similar to the Desktop versions of Quickbooks, which I find head and shoulders above the competition, albeit with their own failings.

My reluctance to go this way ( and I would love not to be tied to desktops/laptops etc) is down to the access speeds I get from my broadband.. until that is faster I will probably give it a miss.


Martyn Smith

The Mobile Accountant





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17th Aug 2011 12:51


@Martyn - you say that "as you work for a competitor you are surely biased". I don't work for anyone but myself. I have, on one or two occasions, provided paid advice to and online seminars for QuickBooks, but I don't work for them. But which competitor did you think I worked for?

To answer your other questions:

Subscriptions - I tend to get the client to pay by direct debit themselves but would consider paying myself if QBO (QuickBooks Online) offered a single discounted monthly payment for accountants to sign up their clients (as Xero do). However, access to data is not determined by who pays, so that's not an issue.

Comparison to desktop - QBO is pretty fast on a decent broadband connection. Some reports or pages can take a second or two to load. However, I have noticed that long reports run more quickly on QBO than on my desktop version (which can take 10-20 seconds for a report with many transactions and filters). I've used the desktop versions for over 10 years and like QBO very much. Though it has some limitations, it is excellent for sharing data with clients. Less useful for data files that clients do not access (i.e. where my staff do all of the data input), for which I continue to use QB Desktop.

Comparison to competition - I agree with you that QB is much better than other desktop accounting products (I try never to use Sage, for example, as it is so clumsy and slow by comparison). Online, QBO is the best bookkeeping cloud solution that I have used; however, Xero offer fantastic add-on solutions that make their entire package very enticing.

The main feature of Xero that I'd like to see in QBO (and which will surely come in the near future) is a bank feed. But Xero are also very good at marketing nice little touches that make using the cloud so much more enticing. Last week they launched a feature whereby a user can photograph expenses receipts on their iPhone, which uploads it into their data file in the cloud and links it to the transaction, so the original receipt can be thrown away. They even have a lovely little demo video that shows this off more as a lifestyle feature than an accounting one....nice! It reminds me of the earliest Orange adverts when they distinguished themselves from big bad Vodafone and O2 by portraying the newly-launched Orange as a cool lifestyle gadget, rather than a business tool. Many accountants will read this and say "who cares", but a great advantage of cloud is to encourage my clients to use it more. I have many creative clients and anything that makes the product a little cool and fun and easy to use is a positive. There are huge time savings to be gained by getting my clients' staff to write their expenses directly into the bookkeeping product, rather than completing a spreadsheet for my staff to then re-transcribe into the accounts software and then hunt around a box of papers for the underlying VAT receipt. I still prefer QBO to Xero, as QBO's core bookkeeping is better, but they will need to quickly catch up with the younger, cooler competition if they don't want to get left behind.

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By chatman
21st Jun 2013 22:36

"Robust, mature product from respected developer"

Just noticed this: "Robust,mature product from respected developer" LOL

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By chatman
21st Jun 2013 22:41

How would data migration work with no import?

Hate Intuit though I do, I was considering making one of my two remaining QB users (they don't want to learn another package) aware of QB Online, but how would the data be moved over from the desktop programme? I couldn't tell them to re-input every outstanding sales invoice.

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