When it comes to financial software, a definite juggernaut is Intuit. In addition to QuickBooks, it also has TurboTax, Proconnect, and Mint to cover a variety of financial situations. QuickBooks focuses on small business accounting.
Intuit has its origins back to their founding decades ago in 1983, and went public in 1993. It currently has approximately 9,000 employees, across 19 locations in 6 countries, with over $6.0 billion in revenue.
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QuickBooks offers a choice of three online plans, and a choice of a downloadable version of its software, to cover the full variety of bookkeeping needs for the small business. All the online tiers have a free 30-day trial, and the option to save more by purchasing a 3 month subscription in advance for half price. There is no contract, or commitment required for the online plan.
The bottom tier is the Simple Start subscription that costs $20 per month as an online subscription. It has all the basics covered, including tracking income and expenses, organizing receipts, invoicing payments, and sending estimates. It can also synthesize this information to provide basic reports, maximize tax deductions, and track sales and sales tax. A limitation of this plan is it supports only a single user, making this more suitable to those that are self-employed.
Moving up a tier takes us to the Essentials plan, an online subscription that costs $35 for each month. It includes all the features of the lower tier, and adds the useful features to manage bills, enter timesheets, and supports multiple users (up to three).
Next tier up is the Plus plan, that runs $60 per month for the online subscription, and reportedly their most popular tier. This tier includes the functions of the two lower tiers, and also adds up to five multiple users, support for entering timesheets, tracking project profitability, tracking inventory, and managing 1099 contractors.
A notable omission is payroll, and this can be added separately to any of the plans. Self-service Payroll, which has the ability to pay employees and e-file taxes, is an additional $35 per month plus $4 for each employee per month. There is also Full Service Payroll that adds expert payroll help for setup, tax filing support, and guaranteed accuracy (and they put their money where their mouth as they’ll pay any penalty fees if its a software issue), for $80 per month, with an additional $4 for each employee. Finally, Automatic Time Tracking is available, to track employee’s time at $6 per employee per month.
For those that prefer a downloadable, one time purchase, solution, there is also QuickBooks Pro, that installs on one computer for $299.95 for a single user and $150 for each additional user, up to a maximum of three. This can be used to track income and expenses, track inventory, invoice and accept payments, and to create and send estimates. There are additional fees to sync bank transactions, for phone support, to access product updates, and for cloud access, also making this version less attractive. QuickBooks Desktop Pro has a 60 day money back guarantee.
QuickBooks also offers even more affordable plans for those that are Self-Employed starting at $5 per month.
The QuickBooks Online subscription plans have an advantage that they will work on any platform via the browser, and also have integration with the iOS and Android apps for use on a smartphone or tablet. For those that prefer the downloadable software, it works for both the Windows and Macintosh OS’, but unfortunately there is no mobile app support.
The QuickBooks Online plans also enjoys other advantages as well over the downloaded version. This includes capturing receipts via the camera on the smartphone, which can then be easily linked to capturing expenses. It also integrates easily with other apps, including PayPal.
Support is another differentiating point between the online and downloadable versions of QuickBooks. Once again, the downloaded software is the ‘Red headed step child,’ as it has no included support, and costs a hefty $89 for 90 days of phone support. The online version pulls way ahead here as the phone support is included for both the free 30-day trial, and thereafter with the paid subscription.
Therefore, for multiple reasons as enumerated above, the online software ends up having the more robust feature set, as compared to its downloadable brethren. It also makes little sense that the downloadable version for the annual upgrade has the same $299 cost than the initial purchase of the program, which kind of turns this into an annual subscription anyway.
For a small business without a dedicated accounting department, or even a sole accountant, QuickBooks offers an attractive solution to managing the finances. The fundamental bookkeeping ingredients are all here, covering invoices, payroll, estimates, employee time tracking, sales tax, inventory tracking, and is able to sync bank transactions. The online versions clearly have a better set of features than the downloadable version.
Our concern is that this full feature set comes at a higher price than some competitors. Compounding this issue is that as the additional services such as payroll and time tracking are added on to the base package, the costs go up even higher. While a seriously cash strapped business may be better off looking elsewhere for more of a value bookkeeping solution, for the small business that can make use of the wide range of available bookkeeping features, QuickBooks via the online subscription remains an attractive choice.
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