QuickBooks…Use It at Your Own Risk!

In a recent issue of an accounting publication I subscribe to was a poll about readers’ experiences with QuickBooks (QB). It was actually an ad for a software vendor, but it was set up as a poll, to get accounting professionals to go to their website. I thought the premise of the “poll” was interesting, and prompted me to write this article. The poll question was whether QB has been a boon or a bane to accounting professionals.

On the boon side are the people who have found QB to be a revenue stream for them, for the (billable) time it’s generated for cleaning up all the mistakes that clients have made while attempting to use QB. On the bane side are the people who have had the same experience, but aren’t billing for it (i.e. eating the time). By the end of this article, you’ll probably be able to tell how I’d answer the question.

In my 3/27/11 article “Can You Review My Tax Return?” I railed against TurboTax, which is made by Intuit, the same people who make QB and Quicken. If Intuit had their way, all people on this planet would be using QB, Quicken, and TurboTax. The problem with this is that a lot of non-accountants I’ve encountered over the years really don’t have a clue how to use these programs, and unfortunately this is a textbook case of ‘a little knowledge is dangerous’.

I’ve been using QB ever since it came out, which (if I recall correctly) was about fifteen years ago. In the years that I’ve used it, I’ve lost track of how many client created messes I’ve cleaned up. Intuit is great at convincing the public that all you need to do is install QB and you too can be a bookkeeper. The problem is, that ain’t true!

I don’t want to confuse my readers with a longwinded discussion about debits and credits, but the point is, if you don’t understand debits and credits, your QB can become FUBAR (I’ve used this reference before…Google it if you don’t know what it means) before you can say FUBAR. One of my classic QB stories has to do with a client I had back in NY. At the end of the year, she gave me a back up of her QB data. I restored it on my computer, and opened a Profit & Loss statement for the year end; it was blank. It turned out that when she set up her chart of accounts, she set up all of her income and expense accounts as assets and liabilities, so her entire P&L wound up on the balance sheet! O.K., if you don’t know a P&L from a balance sheet (or an asset from a liability), and don’t know what a chart of accounts is, then don’t use QB, or you’ll become FUBAR too!

So have you figured out whether my answer to the poll was boon or bane? It’s really been a little of both. I’ve been known to eat a little bit of time while trying to clean up a client’s FUBAR’ed QB, but if I’m racking up a lot of time with clean up, the client will pay.

The moral of this story is, if you are not comfortable with numbers, debits and credits, or accounting in general, stay away from QB and leave it up to the professionals (bookkeepers and CPAs) to take care of your accounting. It’ll cost you less in the long run to have it done correctly from the get go.

Do you have any good QB stories? Please share with my readers. And let me know if you have any particular subject you’d like to see me write about.

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