The Barnes & Noble Review
Whether you're working out of your spare bedroom or a storefront, the decision to use QuickBooks 2002 will profoundly change the way you do business -- for the better. You'll be in control of your finances like never before. You'll know what you're owed. You'll actually send those statements and collection letters when they ought to go out. You'll look far more professional to your customers and suppliers. Reports that were never worth the trouble will be accessible with just a few mouse-clicks. You might pay less to your accountant. And, incredible as it may seem, next year, April 15th may not be quite so intimidating.
Of course, nothing comes free: you'll have to work for those benefits. QuickBooks is the No. 1 small business financial software because it's the easiest one out there -- but that doesn't mean it's easy. You have to know far less about accounting than used to be the case, but you've still got to know something.
That's where QuickBooks 2002: The Official Guide comes in. This is the only Intuit-authorized guide to QuickBooks 2002, but more important -- it's really good. Kathy Ivens specializes in translating amongst the world of accounting, the somewhat different world of QuickBooks, and the utterly different world small businesspeople actually live in.
Get started fast -- without the confusion
The book pays for itself in the first two chapters. It takes a significant amount of effort to get started with QuickBooks, and that's a hump many users never get over. Ivens smooths it out as much as possible.
Her "Do This First!" section makes sure you've gathered all the information you need before you start, so QuickBooks doesn't blindside you with a question you can't answer. Then, she doesn't just walk you through QuickBooks' startup interview: she tells you which questions you can ignore for the time being, and which questions you'd better answer correctly -- even, in many cases, what the right answers are likely to be.
Ivens makes sense of the old chestnuts that have bedeviled folks for years (accrual or cash accounting); then helps you avoid mistakes that could foul up your chart of accounts for years to come (explaining, for instance, why it makes sense to stick with numbered accounts, and how to set them up).
This book's full of tips. Tips that Ivens has discovered by running her own business on QuickBooks. Tips she's learned by asking Intuit's own QuickBooks development team. Tips she's learned in eye-glazing discussions with accountants (including those who visit her web site, www.cpa911.com, for guidance in setting up their own clients with QuickBooks). If there's a shortcut hidden in QuickBooks, Ivens unearths it: entering all your employee information with templates, using zero-based bills to simplify tracking of monthly credit card invoices.
There's also a full chapter on end-of-year procedures: running year-end financials, issuing 1099s to your non-employee contractors, getting ready for tax time, closing the books (and preventing unauthorized folks from messing with last year's closed books).
Ivens covers both QuickBooks and the "Pro" version, which includes (among other things) detailed time tracking capabilities. You'll learn how to set QuickBooks up so all your employees can enter their timesheets (without getting into your private accounting data); providing Quicken's on-screen timer software to everyone, and using it to automate timesheet tracking; editing and adjusting employee timesheets once they're entered; and, finally, translating timesheets into invoices.
There's a lot that's new in QuickBooks 2002, and Ivens covers the new stuff seamlessly. Creating multiple estimates for the same job. More flexible sales tax tracking. Using QuickBooks' growing portfolio of online banking and payment services. And -- for some people, the most useful of all -- integration with Microsoft Office, so you can synchronize your QuickBooks and Outlook customer lists, massage your financial numbers in Excel, send funky letters to all your customers with Word.
If you're investing a couple hundred bucks in QuickBooks 2002, invest just a little more to make it work for you a whole lot better. Get QuickBooks 2002: The Official Guide.
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. He served for nearly ten years as vice president of a New Jerseybased marketing company, where he supervised a wide range of graphics and web design projects. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Using QuickBooks for the First Time Payroll Feature
if you have employees, QuickBooks wants to know about it, and also wants to know how many. Here are the guidelines for answering that question:
If you do have employees, you're asked whether you want to use the payroll feature. Say Yes, if that's the appropriate answer.
- An employee is someone you pay for whom you withhold taxes and issue a W-2 form at the end of the year.
- Subcontractors are not employees.
- If you write a payroll check and withhold taxes for yourself, you are an employee.
- If you write checks to yourself but don't withhold taxes, you are not an employee.
See Chapters 8 and 9 to learn everything about doing your own payroll.
Estimating, Invoicing, and Reports Preferences
If you provide estimates and then bill your customers according to a formula that tracks the progress of a job, QuickBooks has some features you may want to use. Answer the questions to match the way you do business. if you bill for time and want to track the amount of time you or your employees spend on each job, an interview question is provided for that, also. See Chapters 18 through 20 for information about using this feature.
You also are given an opportunity to turn on the classes feature, which is a way to combine categories and accounts to create reports that produce an overview. The feature can be useful for tracking types of customers, jobs, or even branch offices. More information about setting up and using classes is found in Chapter 21. if you turn on the classes feature here, you must establish the classes at some point after the interview (or answer No now and turnon the feature when you're ready to set up the classes).
Accounts Payable Preferences
The next section in the interview process is the determination of the method for handling your bills from vendors. You have two choices and both offer advantages and disadvantages:
- Enter the checks directly.
- Enter the bills first and then enter the payments later.
If you opt to enter your checks directly, it means that as bills arrive in your office, you put them somewhere (an envelope, a folder, or a shoebox) until you're ready to pay them. Then, you just have to enter the checks in the QuickBooks check register, place the checks in the envelopes, and attach a stamp. The advantage of this method is that it takes less time and less data entry. The disadvantage is that the only way to know how much money you owe at a given moment is to take the bills out of the container and to total them manually. Also, unless you specially mark and store those bills that offer a discount for timely payment, you might inadvertently miss a deadline and lose the discount.
If you decide to enter the bills first and then go through the process of paying them in QuickBooks, you can let the software remind you about due dates and you can get a current accounts payable total from the software. Another consideration when you opt to enter your bills into the software is that your accountant might have to make an adjustment when it's time to figure your taxes. Tracking accounts payable (and accounts receivable, for that matter) is called accrual accounting. If you file on a cash basis instead of an accrual basis, the accrued amount owing is not considered an expense and has to be subtracted from your total expenses. This isn't terribly unusual or difficult, but you should be aware of it. Most small businesses that don't have inventory file on a cash basis.
QuickBooks has a feature which tracks the things you need to do and shows you a To Do list when you start the software. Included in the list are any due dates that exist (as a result of your data entry) in addition to any notes you wrote yourself and asked for a reminder about.
You can continue to let QuickBooks show you the reminder list when you open the software, or opt to display it manually through the menu. Make your decision based on the way you're most comfortable working. (You can always change it later.)
Cash or Accrual Reporting
QuickBooks has a specific interview question about the way you want to keep your books, offering cash or accrual options. Before you make the decision, check with your accountant. The smart way to do that is to ask your accountant to give a full explanation (don't just say "Which way?" and accept a one-word answer).
Here's a quick overview of what's really involved in this decision. (For details that apply specifically to your business, you should have a fuller discussion with your accountant.) in cash-based accounting, an expense doesn't exist until you write the check. Even if you enter the bill into the software and post it to an expense account in the general ledger, it isn' t really an expense until the check is written. The same is true for revenue, meaning income isn't considered to be real until payment is received from your customer. Even though you enter an invoice and post it to a revenue account in the general ledger, it isn't revenue until its paid.
In accrual-based accounting, as soon as you incur an expense (receive a bill from a vendor) or earn income (send an invoice to a customer), it's real.
Because most accounting software is accrual-based, most businesses, especially small businesses, keep accrual books and report to the IRS on a cash basis. Most accounting software is accrual-based because business owners want to know those accrued totals: "How much did I earn (bill customers for)?" and "How much do I owe?"
The Start Date Interview
if today is the first day of your fiscal year (usually January 1) and your accountant has just completed all the accounting stuff for last year, and your numbers are pristine and perfect, you can keep going now. If any other situation exists, you should stop right here, right now, and read the section on selecting a start date in Appendix A. (You might also want to call your accountant.)
The start date you select has an enormous impact on the amount of detail your QuickBooks reports will have. in fact, it has an enormous impact on the accuracy of the numbers QuickBooks reports.
Without repeating all the information in Appendix A, the following is a quick overview of the choices you have:
Choose the start date that represents the first day of your fiscal year and enter every transaction...