QuickBooks Desktop shutdown looms as accountants ponder alternativesby
Intuit’s decision to shutter support for its UK desktop product from 30 June has left users and accountants asking what will happen after the deadline and whether there are viable replacements that offer feature parity on the market.
In October 2021, Intuit announced it was discontinuing QuickBooks Desktop support and updates for its UK customers, citing compliance changes and a shift in UK product development focus.
Initially slated for 31 January 2023, Intuit pushed the discontinuation back to 30 June 2023 in response to users’ demands for more time. However, with the new deadline inching closer, accountants have reported a surge in enquiries from desktop users looking to migrate, and accounting forums have been busy with discussions about the practical considerations and implications of the closure for their firms and clients.
What will happen on 1 July 2023?
AccountingWEB contacted Intuit to ask what will happen after the shutdown deadline to QuickBooks Desktop software for UK users who don’t move to another software and export all data from their desktop system. A spokesperson provided the following statement: “Customers who purchased a perpetual licence for a one-time fee either directly or through a retail outlet and/or accountant can continue to use QuickBooks for Desktop as normal but without support,” said the statement. “The security risks here, linked to using unsupported versions, are the same as using any other older software – high and will only get greater over time. In some cases the outright versions haven’t had security updates for years, so changing to newer software would be recommended anyway.
“Subscribed customers paying a monthly fee and using QuickBooks for Desktop on a SaaS [software as a service] basis need to take action now,” continued the statement. “Billing will stop at the end of May and access to Desktop will stop at the end of June. Once customers have moved to QuickBooks Online or alternative financial management software, they will have the ability to view and export data from their desktop company file using a new AWS data export service which will be available until 2030.”
Several accountants working with QuickBooks Desktop clients told AccountingWEB that after 30 June all live connections and add-ons will drop out for perpetual licence users, with a variety of knock-on effects.
Without a live connection, VAT-registered businesses will not be able to file VAT returns through the software, although exporting data to file VAT returns using bridging software is an alternative.
Updates and support will also be discontinued, with users left to manually troubleshoot any issues. For example, if data becomes corrupted there will be no support on hand to help, or if hackers discover a weakness in a particular desktop version (and can access it), the system could be left comprised without an upcoming update to patch the vulnerability.
For subscription customers, based on the statement above and forum posts from Intuit, users who have not moved to another software look likely to lose access to their accounting system. Access to records could also be made read-only in a similar way to if a user’s subscription had lapsed. AccountingWEB asked Intuit for clarification on the issue and received the following statement: "Our data export tool has been provided to help meet certain requirements - such as HMRC audits. It is not intended to replace the desktop version. It will enable some data to be viewed and exported but not all. Reports and invoices can be downloaded but they cannot be edited or deleted. Attachments to bills/invoices are not available to view or download."
The information above depends on the version the user is operating, and users are advised to check their individual circumstances with Intuit directly.
Alternatives and feature parity
Discussions about the move have centred on alternatives to QuickBooks Desktop, and among the chief topics of conversation has been a lack of comparable features from many of its online equivalents.
Ryan Pearcy, associate partner at Scrutton Bland, told AccountingWEB his firm followed a set process for all QuickBooks Desktop clients. “We let clients know that the program is coming to an end and our SBDigital team use it as an opportunity to assess their systems, ask what they actually use in QuickBooks Desktop and find out what they want from a system in the future,” said Pearcy. “We then set out the options: some go for the transition to QuickBooks Online, some look around and move to the likes of Xero, while others with more complex requirements often end up with multiple integrated solutions.”
Aaron Patrick, head of accounts at Boffix and co-host of the QuickBooks Labs podcast, told AccountingWEB he’d been inundated with enquiries from desktop software users looking to make the move.
“When there’s feature parity the majority go to QuickBooks Online,” said Patrick. “It’s just about making that jump and learning a few new tricks – the biggest issue is change.”
However, Patrick added that for some this was not possible, particularly for multicurrency businesses and those using QuickBooks to manage stock. “There are some we can’t migrate because there isn’t feature parity,” he said. “The stock issue is a major sticking point. We’re looking at third-party apps such as Loyverse to find a solution.”
Back in 2020, Intuit acquired inventory platform TradeGecko but the following year shut it down as a standalone company. Some TradeGecko features have since re-emerged on the vendor’s QuickBooks Advanced product in the US but have yet to make it across the Atlantic, leaving businesses managing stock and looking to stay with QuickBooks in limbo.
“Where it’s appropriate, we’re challenging users to find a really good stock management solution and see if they can find efficiencies through automation,” continued Patrick. “The emphasis shouldn’t be on stock management within your financial management system.”
Exporting tool and Movemybooks
To ensure data isn’t lost after the shutdown, QuickBooks Desktop users can create a backup using the data export tool to download company data. However, according to an Intuit support page, this can’t be used to directly move data from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online.
For those looking to move to QuickBooks Online or other accounting systems, initially Intuit made a migration tool available but this was pulled last year. Instead, desktop users can use third-party data conversion tools. QuickBooks itself has partnered with Movemybooks to allow users to migrate the current financial year and the previous year to QuickBooks Online (or Xero or Sage) free of charge, according to Intuit. In a statement provided to AccountingWEB, Intuit stated this offer would not be permanent, but gave no specific date at which it would be rescinded.
For additional years of transaction history, there will be a charge. According to its website (at the time of writing), Movemybooks will charge £75 per additional year converted, the exact cost of which can be established using the Movemybooks pricing Wizard.
Users can also use Movemybooks to move to Sage Accounting or Xero for the data conversion tool’s standard fee.
In a thread discussing the move, AccountingWEB member AndrenaM said they had used the Movemybooks tool for QuickBooks data export with a limited number of issues. “I did have to use it the other week to move from [QuickBooks] Desktop to Online and it came up with five accounts that had discrepancies between the Desktop figure and the figure in the Online version which then needed investigating,” said AndrenaM. “It was mainly VAT codes and credit note allocations that caused the issues. Make sure all the VAT codes that you used in the Desktop version are set up in the Online version before you move, even if they are old codes that aren’t used any more.”
“Movemybooks is a great tool but is not without its faults,” added Scrutton Bland’s Pearcy. “Depending on the data in the original file and its processes, it can leave areas unreconciled, reports not making sense or data just missing. It is imperative a thorough review is carried out post-conversion. At SBDigital we complete the conversions for clients as we’ve plenty of experience of what may go wrong and if it does, how to fix it quickly, minimising the downtime for the client.”
Patrick also flagged that key customer information could be lost in the migration to QuickBooks Online such as the ability to store bank payment details. Users need to upgrade to QuickBooks Online Advanced, which offers custom fields including customer and supplier information.
The move echoes a wider shift in the accounting software industry, as established desktop vendors seek to establish and support one cloud platform rather than having to regularly update multiple versions of desktop software.
Last year Sage conducted a desktop-cloud shift, where users of several older Sage desktop products potentially faced losing access to their data unless they upgraded to a subscription product or exported their files.
QuickBooks Desktop continues to be sold and supported in North America.
For QuickBooks customers looking to move from Desktop, Intuit sent AccountingWEB the following links.
Quickbooks Desktop discontinuation (overviews and FAQs)
Viewing and moving historical data
- Download your QuickBooks Desktop data with the data export tool
- Moving from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online
- Product feature comparison for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop
- Move lists and balances from QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Desktop
- Import and export data in QuickBooks Desktop
- Resolve potential data issues in QuickBooks
*25 May 2023: This article was amended to correct the date when the discontinuation was announced
*26 May 2023: This article was amended to add the fact that users can use Movemybooks to move records from QB Desktop to Xero or Sage as well