Say Good-Bye to 2012 and Ready QuickBooks for 2013

We hope you'll be ringing out a successful financial year at month's end. In any case, here's what you should know about preparing for 2013.

End of the year. QuickBooks has been hard at work for the past 11+ months, recording and tracking and storing all of that financial data that you've entered so faithfully.

But when you turn the calendar page and make a new start January 1, your accounting software could use some closure on the year that's just passed. Here are some actions you can take to ring out the old and ring in the new. There's more you can do (we can help you with the advanced activities) but we'll just hit the highlights here.
  • Reconcile, reconcile, reconcile. Yes, we know it's not one of your favorite chores, but we really like to see all bank and credit card accounts reconciled by the end of the year if at all possible. Void all checks necessary and enter missing transactions. 


Figure 1: You can make yourself crazy looking for a nickel when you're reconciling, but it's a critical function.
  • Make accrual adjustments. This is complicated, and it only applies if you accrue payroll and liabilities or prepay expenses that are then carried as assets. We'll need to create journal entries for you.

  • Close your books. This is totally optional. It depends on whether you want to lock 2012 data to everyone except those who have the password and permissions. If you don't close them, you'll have easier access to last year's transaction details. Regardless of what you choose, QuickBooks will automatically make some year-end adjustments.

  • Do a physical inventory. Then compare this with what QuickBooks says. Reports | Inventory | Physical Inventory Worksheet.


Figure 2: It's good to match up your physical inventory count with QuickBooks occasionally, and the end of the year is as good a time as any.

  • Run income tax reports. As you know, QuickBooks lets you assign tax lines to tax-related transactions. Use the Income Tax Preparation Report and the Income Tax Summary Report. Let us know about any errors or omissions.

  • Check W-2 and 1099 data. You can't create these forms, of course, until after your final 2012 payroll, but you can get a head start. Ask employees to verify their names, addresses and Social Security numbers for accuracy. Also, make sure that your EIN and SEIN are correct, as well as the company address.

  • Clean up, back up. We can monitor the health of your QuickBooks data file anytime. But year-end is a good time to scrutinize your software's performance. Has it slowed down, started crashing or returning error messages? We can troubleshoot to find the problem and clean it up. We're sure you've been backing up your file faithfully, but archive all of 2012 and store it in a very safe offsite location – or use Intuit Data Protect for online storage. 


Figure 3: Frequent backups are critical, but you should be sure to have a copy of your entire 2012 data file stored somewhere safe.
  • Double-check tax liabilities. If you're handling your own payroll, look back to see whether all of your payments and filings have been completed.
Thanks for another year.

Again, these are suggestions. QuickBooks does not require you to do any of them. There's more you can do, and you will need assistance with some of these. So let's set up a December or early January meeting to get you started right in 2013.

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for letting us serve your company in 2012. We certainly appreciate your business, and we're happy to do what we can to help your business prosper.

P.S. It's not too early to think about taxes, so let us know if you want to get a jump on planning and preparation in January.

Are You Defining Items in QuickBooks Correctly?

Create item records in QuickBooks carefully, and QuickBooks will return the favor by running useful, accurate reports.



Figure 1: Clearly-defined items result in precise reports.

Obviously, you're using QuickBooks because you buy and/or sell products and/or services. You want to know at least weekly -- if not daily -- what's selling and what's not, so you can make informed plans about your company's future.

You get that information from the reports that you so painstakingly customize and create. But their accuracy depends in large part on how carefully you define each item. This can be a laborious process, but it's a critical part of QuickBooks' foundation.

QuickBooks' Item Lineup
You may not be aware of all of your options here. So let's take a look at what you see when you go to Lists | Item List | Item | New:

Service.
Simple enough. Do you or your employees do something for clients? Training? Construction labor? Web design? This is usually tracked by the hour.

Inventory Part. If you want to maintain detailed records about inventory that contain up-to-date information about value, quantities on hand and cost of goods sold, you must define these items as inventory parts. Before you start creating individual records, make sure that QuickBooks is set up for this purpose. Go to Edit | Preferences | Items & Inventory | Company Preferences and select the desired options there, like this:



Figure 2: QuickBooks needs to know that you're planning to track at least some items as inventory parts.

Inventory Assembly. Just what it sounds like; it's sometimes referred to as a Bill of Materials. Do you sell items that actually consist of multiple individual products, services and/or other charges (though you may also sell the parts separately)? If you're planning to track the compilations as individual units, then you must define them as assemblies.

Non-Inventory Parts. If you don't track inventory, you can set up items as non-inventory parts. Even if you do track inventory, there may be times when you'll want to use this designation. For instance, you might sell something to a customer that they asked you to obtain, but you don't plan to stock it. In that case, QuickBooks only records the incoming and outgoing funds.



Figure 3: The New Item window looks a bit intimidating, but it's critical that you complete it thoroughly and correctly. We can help you get started.

Other Charges. This is a catch-all category for items like delivery charges or setup fees. You can't designate a unit or measure here; they're just standard costs.

Groups. Unlike assemblies, these are not recorded as individual inventory units. Use this designation when you sell a combination of items together frequently but you don't want them tracked as one entity.

Discount. This is a fixed amount or a percentage that you subtract from a subtotal or total.

Payment. Normally, you would use the Receive Payments window to record a payment made. But if your customer has made a partial or advance payment upfront, use this item to subtract it from the total when you create the invoice or statement.



Figure 4: Use the Payment item to record an upfront remittance.

Sales Tax Item. One sales tax, one rate, one agency. Sales Tax Group. If a sale requires two or more sales tax items, QuickBooks calculates the total and displays it for the customer, but the items are tracked individually.

Additional Actions

The Item menu provides other options for working with items. You can:
  • Edit or delete
  • Duplicate
  • Make inactive
  • Find in transactions and
  • Customize the list's columns.
Let us know if you're not confident about items you've already created or if you're just getting started with this important QuickBooks feature. Some extra work and attention upfront can save you from hours of back-tracking and frustration – and from reports that don't tell the truth.


QuickBooks 2013 Gives You A Reason To Upgrade

Tired of QuickBooks' cramped, claustrophobic screens and uneven interface? You'll be pleased to see the 2013 version.

You chose QuickBooks for a variety of reasons, a major one being its simplicity and usability.

But the software is more than 20 years old now, and hundreds of features have been added over the years. QuickBooks looks old, tired and in need of a makeover.

Not anymore. Intuit has totally redesigned the program's interface and navigational tools, providing a more consistent, streamlined, state-of-the-art look and feel. For the first time in a few years, there's a compelling reason to consider moving up.



Figure 1: The QuickBooks 2013 home page.

Clean, Efficient, Customizable

What Intuit heard from customers was that they wanted a clean, simple experience. They wanted QuickBooks optimized for efficiency, and they wanted to be able to customize quickly.

So Intuit built a brand new interface, one that offers:
  • An across-the-board, consistent look and feel
  • A minimal learning curve, aided by familiar software conventions
  • A clearer, more obvious workflow.
QuickBooks' 2013's dramatic changes are evident from its first screen. The home page has been cleaned up, and many icons removed (with their functions available elsewhere). But the interactive flowchart graphic is still there, along with icons for other commonly-used features.

You can still use the software's standard drop-down menus. But you now have a choice between the old horizontal Icon Toolbar and a new vertical navigational panel (or neither of the latter two). You can customize the new panel to give you quick access to the functions and reports you use most often, saving time and unnecessary clicking.



Figure 2: The new vertical navigational panel can be customized to display the icons you want.


Familiarity, and Clear Signals

Whether you just handle a subset of your company's financial data or you're the only one working with QuickBooks, your workflow will be faster and more intuitive.

QuickBooks 2013 uses colors and other visual cues to provide helpful hints and speed up your work. If the same option occurs within more than one screen, it's always the identical color. When you're completing an invoice, for example, the Save & New button is a bright blue color, as it is on many other screens. The Save & Close and OK icons are the same shade within the forms and records where they occur.

Color is also used to signify related actions in the new navigational Ribbon, a familiar interface convention that replaces the mismatched icons that used to be displayed at the top of transaction forms. In QuickBooks 2013, the icons for related tasks are the same color, and the graphics themselves are much cleaner and well-positioned.



Figure 3: QuickBooks 2013's new navigational Ribbon is designed to accelerate workflow.


A Pleasure to Use

No area of QuickBooks remained untouched in this massive overhaul. Every screen has been modified to enhance readability and speed. Fonts look larger and clearer, and the overall design is more aesthetically pleasing.

So besides making your accounting chores zip along faster, the new look and navigation have a positive psychological effect: It's simply more enjoyable and less frustrating to interact with QuickBooks 2013. Its more modern, attractive look has a lot of appeal.

There are a few new things under the hood in this new version – it's not just an interface update. For example, customer and vendor records are more flexible and thorough. You can attach to-do's to them, assign multiple contacts and store more contact options, like Facebook addresses and Twitter handles.



Figure 4: Contact records in QuickBooks 2013 are more readable and thorough.


Starting Fresh

There are other changes that will make your work life easier, like one-click access to both the Intuit App Center (where you'll find hundreds of integrated QuickBooks add-ons) and your most often-accessed reports.

The last few versions of QuickBooks have been rather ho-hum in terms of new usability and functionality. But we encourage you to seriously consider upgrading to QuickBooks 2013. We'd be happy to help you get up and running with it. Together, we can take a fresh look at your workflow to see if you and QuickBooks can build a better accounting experience.


QuickBooks Can Do Much More Than You Think

No, you'll never max out all of its features, but here are some tips on tools that extend QuickBooks' usefulness – and save you time.

Zero In On Key Report Figures
You've undoubtedly created reports that were so lengthy that you got tired of scrolling up and down to find totals for each individual section. QuickBooks lets you collapse and expand reports to see primary totals only, but this command affects the entire report.

If you want to just collapse a section or two, here's how you do it. As an example, go to Reports | Company & Financial | Balance Sheet Standard. In QuickBooks 2012, you'd click the Excel button (your version may say Export). Indicate that you want to create a new worksheet and click Advanced. This window opens:



Figure 1: The Advanced Excel Options window displays the formatting tools you can carry over from QuickBooks and the features in Excel that you want to be active.

Make sure that Auto Outline (allows collapsing/expanding) is checked, then click OK and start the export. When your report opens as an Excel spreadsheet, you'll notice that there is a series of vertical lines to the left of your data, and a group of numbers that corresponds to them running above horizontally.



Figure 2: Excel's Auto Outline feature adds tools to the left of your data that let you collapse and expand subsections.

To collapse a section so that only the totals show, click on the minus (-) sign next to the line that should remain (in this example, it's Total Checking/Savings). Do the same for Total Accounts Receivable and Total Other Current Assets. Then scroll down and do the same thing for the other asset subtotals. Here's what you'll see:



Figure 3: As you can see, the minus (-) signs have turned into plus (+) signs, which allows you to expand the rows back to their original states.

Auto Outline is a very useful feature, but there's more than one way to implement it. And its availability and operation can vary in different versions of both Excel and QuickBooks. We can help you master this, as well as other QuickBooks-to-Excel tools.

Hidden Gems
Here are some other less-commonly-used QuickBooks features that you may want to try:
  • Getting ready to send an invoice but want to check a related transaction from the same job a few months ago? You could use the Find tool, which is a seriously underused feature that can often answer a question quickly. But that takes a few clicks. Instead, just hit Ctrl + L, and that Customer/Job screen pops open in the Customer Center. Click Ctrl + E from that screen to see the Edit Job dialog box.

  • CTRL+Y on transaction screens opens the Transaction Journal, which shows you the behind-the-scenes debits and credits. If the Account column is truncated, click and drag the little diamond symbol to the right.

  • QuickBooks offers numerous helpful payroll reports, but it also transfers your data into Excel for more comprehensive views of your employee compensation information over customizable date ranges. Go to Reports | Employees & Payroll | Summarize Payroll Data in Excel and More Payroll Reports in Excel. 

Figure 4: Summarize Payroll Data in Excel is actually a series of reports, available by clicking this navigational bar at the bottom of the screen.

  • Allowing multiple windows in QuickBooks and tired of clicking the little x repeatedly to start with a clean slate? Click Window | Close All. This drop-down menu also displays the list of open windows; click on one to go there.

  • There may be no more frustrating task than reconciling your bank accounts. If you're using online banking, consider doing this more than once monthly. Also, don't let QuickBooks do an automatic adjustment for a considerable discrepancy unless it was a mistake made by a financial institution: Click the Undo Last Reconciliation button and try to find the error. And don't forget about the Leave button. You may do better attacking it later.

  • If you occasionally need to enter a transaction for an entity that isn't a customer, vendor or employee, go to Banking | Other Names List. You can add, edit and delete these, as well as converting them to customers, vendors or employees.

There's more than one way to do a lot of things in QuickBooks. We can tell you about more, and evaluate your workflow to see how else we can improve your accounting experience.


QuickBooks Reports Help You Maintain Balanced Inventory Levels

Running out of products too frequently? Having to sell cheap because inventory is overloaded? Use QuickBooks' reports.

It seems so simple in theory. Don't overstock goods because you'll tie up too much money and perhaps need a clearance sale to get rid of the excess. On the other hand, don't let yourself run out of anything and lose orders.

In practice – especially if you stocks dozens or hundreds of items – it's impossible to ensure this if you're managing your inventory manually. Guesswork can be costly.

It's a complex element of accounting, but QuickBooks comes equipped with a handful of reports that can keep you on track. They don't teach you how to balance your inventory to improve profitability, but we can help with that.



Figure 1: Be sure to enter a figure in the Reorder Point field so QuickBooks can remind you to reorder.

Building Precise Records
There's a critical number in your item records that must be completed: Reorder Point. You'll see it at the bottom of the Edit Item window (click Lists | Item Lists and double-click on the correct entry or click New in the Item drop-down list). Without it, QuickBooks can't alert you when you're running low.

QuickBooks also tells you how many items are currently on hand. If you had reached the reorder point and created a purchase order, you'd see a number under On P.O.

Ideally, you would do this when you're first adding item records, but you can go back at any time and add it.

Rigorous Reporting
Running reports regularly will keep you apprised of your inventory status. To see what QuickBooks offers, click Reports | Inventory or go to the Report Center. Select Inventory Valuation Summary. You can also see this report in detail, but if you carry a lot of inventory, it's difficult to get a birds' eye view. Do run it, though, if you want to see the transactions that affected your inventory's value.



Figure 2: The Inventory Valuation Summary does just what the name says

In addition to what's pictured here, this report displays columns for Sales Price, Retail Value and % of Total Retail. As always, you can click Customize Report to change the date range.



Figure 3: This report provides a real-time update of the status of every inventory item.

Precise Tracking
The Inventory Stock Status by Item report should be consulted frequently. It tells you exactly where all of your items are in the pipeline.

Watch for checkmarks in the Order column; they appear when you've hit or exceeded your specified reorder point. Three other important figures populate columns in this report: the number on purchase order, the date the next shipment should arrive and average sales per week.

Reminders can come in quite handy here. To set them up, go to Edit | Preferences | Reminders | Company Preferences. And you'll find the most comprehensive view of your items in the Inventory Center. Go to Vendors | Inventory Activities | Inventory Center. This screen also provides quick access to commonly-used reports.



Figure 4: The Inventory Center tells you everything you want to know about your items.

Automate Your Inventory Reporting
Here's a quicker way to grab your reports:
  • Go to Reports | Memorized Reports | Memorized Report List.

  • Click the down arrow next to Memorized Report at the bottom and select New Group. Type in Inventory and click OK.

  • Open an inventory report and click Memorize. The Memorize Report window opens. Check Save in Memorized Report Group and select Inventory from the drop-down list. Click OK. Repeat for others you want in this cluster.

  • Click Reports | Process Multiple Reports. Select Inventory from the drop-down list and make sure that there's a check mark next to the reports you want. You can click on the dates in the From and To column to change them.

  • Click Display or Print.


If you operate a product-based business, the success of your company depends in large part on your ability to find the sweet spot: neither too much nor too little inventory. It's an ongoing, daily challenge. Let us know if we can provide guidance on this critical balancing act.


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