Although Intuit did a great job of giving QuickBooks’ home page a fresher, more “open” look in its 2013 versions, maybe some of your screens have become unnecessarily cluttered. Perhaps your QuickBooks company file needs some attention as well. By taking a few minutes to do some “spring cleaning” you’ll have a tidier workspace, and you’ll save time and frustration. The following suggestions will help you to do just that.

Make a Clean Start

One simple way to take care of cluttered screens is to do the following:

  • Minimize icons. That pretty graphical process map on the home page is great for quick access to frequently-used actions. Some of them must remain there if they’re related to activities you do (i.e., Invoices has to stay if you use Estimates), but you can remove some of the ones you don’t use. Go to Preferences | Desktop View | Company Preferences. You’ll see this:


Figure 1: You can turn off some of the feature icons on your home page.

Some of the options have been grayed out because they support other processes. To remove an active feature icon like Inventory, click on it. In the window that opens, uncheck the box next to Inventory and purchase orders are active (you can also modify options here).


Figure 2: Clicking the checkbox next to Inventory and purchase orders are active grays out the other options and removed related feature icons from the home page.

To reduce the number of feature icons even more, go to the Finance Charge, Jobs & Estimates, Payroll & Employees, Sales & Customers, Sales Tax and Time & Expenses. QuickBooks removes the related icons and reroutes the process map on the home page.

More Time-Saving Tweaks

  • Don’t allow multiple windows to open in your work area. Tired of seeing all of those overlapping open windows on your desktop? Open the View menu and select One Window. All of your open windows remain active in the background. To return to one of them, open the Window menu and select the one you want to move to the front (Window | Close All returns you to a blank work area).


Figure 3: Your Icon bar can be your fastest route to often needed screens–if you modify it to only contain the functions you use, in order of importance. You can also change the labels to make them more meaningful to you.

    • Trim down your icon bar. Seems like a minimal change, but it’s one of those things that can add unnecessary moments of frustration throughout the day (“Where’s the Calendar!”). Click View | Customize Icon Bar.

 

  • Customize columns in Lists. You probably work in QuickBooks’ Lists often, but are you spending too much time tracking down the right information? Customize their columns so your registers contain only what you usually need (and add additional ones if it’s helpful). Open a list, right-click anywhere within it and select Customize Columns to modify the display (re-size column widths by placing your cursor on the vertical set of dots between labels and dragging).


Figure 4: When you customize your columns in Lists, you’ll find what you’re looking for faster. 

  • Hide inactive items. Highlight an item, right-click and select Make Item Inactive. Open the Item menu in the lower left and click Hide Inactive Items (this action won’t delete them).

Internal Cleaning

These may all seem like cosmetic changes, but you will save time and frustration over the long run.

The most critical spring cleaning task is company file analysis and maintenance. We can handle this for you. QuickBooks can slow down and start generating error messages when the data file becomes unwieldy and sloppy. Preventing file corruption before it crashes your system is a lot faster and less expensive than a reconstruction project.

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One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face in running your own business is staying on top of your numerous obligations to federal, state, and local tax agencies. Tax codes seem to be in a constant state of flux making the Internal Revenue Code barely understandable to most people.

The old legal saying that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is perhaps most often applied in tax settings and it is safe to assume that a tax auditor presenting an assessment of additional taxes, penalties, and interest will not look kindly on an “I didn’t know I was required to do that” claim. On the flip side, it is surprising how many small businesses actually overpay their taxes, neglecting to take deductions they’re legally entitled to that can help them lower their tax bill.

Preparing your taxes and strategizing as to how to keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket becomes increasingly difficult with each passing year. Your best course of action to save time, frustration, money, and an auditor knocking on your door, is to have a professional accountant handle your taxes.

Tax professionals have years of experience with tax preparation, religiously attend tax seminars, read scores of journals, magazines, and monthly tax tips, among other things, to correctly interpret the changing tax code.

When it comes to tax planning for small businesses, the complexity of tax law generates a lot of folklore and misinformation that also leads to costly mistakes. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the more common small business tax misperceptions.

1. All Start-Up Costs Are Immediately Deductible

Business start-up costs refer to expenses incurred before you actually begin operating your business. Business start-up costs include both start up and organizational costs and vary depending on the type of business. Examples of these types of costs include advertising, travel, surveys, and training. These start up and organizational costs are generally called capital expenditures.

Costs for a particular asset (such as machinery or office equipment) are recovered through depreciation or Section 179 expensing. When you start a business, you can elect to deduct or amortize certain business start-up costs.

For tax years beginning in 2010, you can elect to deduct up to $10,000 of business start-up costs paid or incurred after 2009. The $10,000 deduction is reduced (but not below zero) by the amount such start-up costs exceed $60,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized.

2. Overpaying The IRS Makes You “Audit Proof”

The IRS doesn’t care if you pay the right amount of taxes or overpay your taxes. They do care if you pay less than you owe and you can’t substantiate your deductions. Even if you overpay in one area, the IRS will still hit you with interest and penalties if you underpay in another. It is never a good idea to knowingly or unknowingly overpay the IRS. The best way to “Audit Proof” yourself is to properly document your expenses and make sure you are getting good advice from your tax accountant.

3. Being incorporated enables you to take more deductions.

Self-employed individuals (sole proprietors and S Corps) qualify for many of the same deductions that incorporated businesses do, and for many small businesses, being incorporated is an unnecessary expense and burden. Start-ups can spend thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees to set up a corporation, only to discover soon thereafter that they need to change their name or move the company in a different direction. In addition, plenty of small business owners who incorporate don’t make money for the first few years and find themselves saddled with minimum corporate tax payments and no income.

4. The home office deduction is a red flag for an audit.

While it used to be a red flag, this is no longer true–as long as you keep excellent records that satisfy IRS requirements. Because of the proliferation of home offices, tax officials cannot possibly audit all tax returns containing the home office deduction. In other words, there is no need to fear an audit just because you take the home office deduction. A high deduction-to-income ratio however, may raise a red flag and lead to an audit.

5. If you don’t take the home office deduction, business expenses are not deductible.

You are still eligible to take deductions for business supplies, business-related phone bills, travel expenses, printing, wages paid to employees or contract workers, depreciation of equipment used for your business, and other expenses related to running a home-based business, whether or not you take the home office deduction.

6. Requesting an extension on your taxes is an extension to pay taxes.

Extensions enable you to extend your filing date only. Penalties and interest begin accruing from the date your taxes are due.

7. Part-time business owners cannot set up self-employed pensions.

If you start up a company while you have a salaried position complete with a 401K plan, you can still set up a SEP-IRA for your business and take the deduction.

A tax headache is only one mistake away, be it a missed payment or filing deadline, an improperly claimed deduction, or incomplete records and understanding how the tax system works is beneficial to any business owner, whether you run a small to medium sized business or are a sole proprietor.

And, even if you delegate the tax preparation to someone else, you are still liable for the accuracy of your tax returns. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call today. We’re here to assist you.

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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: 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 it up and running. Together, we can take a fresh look at your workflow to see if you and QuickBooks can build a better accounting experience.

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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.

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Most of us have heard of QuickBooks, and probably even use it for our day-to-day tasks in our businesses.  But believe it or not, and Intuit would never you tell you this, but there are some areas in which it lacks.

That’s where 3rd-party Apps come in.  We all know “Apps”, a popular buzz word made famous by the iPhone and mobile technology.  But Apps have crossed over from just being mobile, to being part of our everyday lives.  With the right combination of software, using Apps with QuickBooks can make your business processes a breeze!

Check out this article for more and tell us what you think!

http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/5-apps-that-make-quickbooks-better.html

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