Creating Reports in QuickBooks, Part 2

Last month, we discussed QuickBooks’ report Preferences and The Report Center. We’ll look at report customization this month.

QuickBooks makes your bookkeeping faster, safer, and more accurate than what you could do using a manual system. Still, you may occasionally tire of your daily tasks. You want to know what all of these forms and records mean in terms of your overall financial health. You want to see reports.

The actual mechanics of creating reports in QuickBooks are fairly straightforward. You can go to the Report Center, make a selection, maybe change the date range, and voila! Your company’s related data appears in neat rows and columns.

You may be able to get some of the information you need by simply changing the date range on a QuickBooks report.

But perhaps you to see different columns than what QuickBooks’ report templates include. Further, you might like to filter your output for more meaningful, targeted analysis. And frankly, some of QuickBooks’ reports—particularly those included in the categories Company & Financial and Accountant & Taxes—can be a little advanced for the average small businessperson with little bookkeeping experience. They’re easy to run, but difficult to understand.

So we strongly encourage you to let us run these more complex reports, like the Balance Sheet, for you on a regular (monthly or quarterly) basis. They can provide valuable insight as you continue to make critical business decisions.

But we don’t want to discourage you from working with QuickBooks’ reports on your own. You could run A/R Aging Detail, for example, to keep an eye on past-due payments, or Unpaid Bills Detail to see where you stand with your own financial obligations.

Make Reports Yours

Sometimes, QuickBooks’ own report output is a bit too broad for your needs. So the program provides sophisticated customization options. You can work with these to narrow down and shape the data that appears in your reports.

First, columns. Building reports from scratch would be too time-consuming and frustrating for you to do all of the time. And it’s unnecessary, since QuickBooks provides templates for its reports, sets of columns and data filters that would serve some businesses well, but which can be modified by each user.

Try this. Open the Profit & Loss Detail report and click on the Customize Report button in the upper left corner. The Modify Report window opens.

QuickBooks lets you modify the columns that appear in reports.

The Display tab should be highlighted. Change the Report Date Range if necessary by clicking on the down arrow to the right of the Dates field. You can also create your own custom date range by deleting the dates in the From and To fields and entering new ones, or by clicking on the small calendar icons and clicking on the desired dates.

Warning: Do you understand the difference between running reports as either Accrual or Cash? This is important. If you don’t, let’s get together to go over some basic report concepts.

It’s easy to change the default columns that appear in reports. You can either enter a column label in the Search Columns box or scroll down the list of all possible labels. Click in the space in front of the ones you want to include, and click on existing checkmarks if you want to remove those labels. You can also designate a sort order, either Ascending or Descending.

If you want to work with the Advanced options, or if you come across a Display screen that puzzles you (depending on the report, you may have some complex choices), let us know.

QuickBooks report Filters screen

When you’re done here, click on the Filters tab. This is a powerful element of QuickBooks report customization. You can limit your report output to data that meet certain criteria. In the image above, for example, you can tell QuickBooks which subset of Accounts should be included. Click on the Billing Status filter, and you can limit the results to Any, Not Billable, Unbilled, or Billed. You get the idea.

You can apply multiple filters to a report. Every one you select will appear in the list under Current Filter Choices.

We’ll skip the Header/Footer and Fonts & Numbers tabs, since these are primarily cosmetic options you can explore on your own. But you can see from this brief overview how you can use many QuickBooks reports as is or customize them extensively. And we do recommend that you work with reports regularly, both on your own and with us. The insight they provide can help your company grow and flourish instead of just getting by.

 

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Creating Reports in QuickBooks, Part 1

QuickBooks comes with dozens of report templates that can be run as is. This month and next, we’ll show you ways to make them “fit” your company.

Reports are your reward for all that hard work you put in entering records and transactions in QuickBooks. Sure, you can always find individual invoices, sales receipts, and customers by using the software’s search tools, but in order to make smart business decisions, you need to be able to see related subsets of the information you so carefully entered in neat rows and columns.

You’ve probably created at least some basic reports in QuickBooks. You may have, for example, wanted to see who’s late paying you, or whether you have unpaid bills. You might need to know your stock levels, or which purchase orders are still unfilled. You certainly want to keep a close eye on whether you’re making or losing money.

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The QuickBooks Report Center displays examples of reports you can create using your company’s own data.

QuickBooks makes it easy to get those answers in only a few seconds. But to get really meaningful, targeted views of your accounting information, you’ll  want to shape your reports so that they reveal precisely what you need to know. You can do some of this on your own, but you might want to enlist our help to drill down even further – and to create and analyze the more complex output that some reports can provide.

Configure Preliminary Settings

As we often do when we’re starting a tutorial on a specific QuickBooks feature, we’re going to send you to the Preferences window first thing. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Reports & Graphs. With the My Preferences section open, you can instruct QuickBooks on some of the ways reports should be handled. You can choose to:

  • Have the Modify Report window open every time you create a report (to remind you to make any necessary changes first).
  • Set your Refresh If you always want to have the most current data displayed when you generate a report, you can tell QuickBooks to Prompt me to refresh or Refresh automatically by clicking on the button in front of the appropriate response. Choose Don’t refresh—the fastest method—if you don’t want to be interrupted when you’re working with a report. You can refresh when you’re done.
  • Draw graphs in 2D to make them run faster, and Use [black and white] patterns instead of colors to better differentiate between segments.

Each person who has access to QuickBooks can set these Preferences any way he or she wishes.

Setting Up Company Preferences

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You must be the QuickBooks Administrator to set Company Preferences.

You can decide on your own whether Aging Reports should start the aging process from the due date or the transaction date. Decide how you want Items and Accounts to appear in reports. And if you click the Format button located directly below Default formatting for reports, you can alter their appearance, for example, by changing fonts and indicating what information should appear in the header and footer.

For other preferences, you may need our help. Do you understand the difference between running Summary Reports as Accrual or Cash? And have you worked with a Statement of Cash Flows before so you can assign accounts to various sections? This is a report we should be generating and analyzing periodically for you, so don’t worry about dealing with it on your own.

Note: QuickBooks was designed for small businesspeople, not accountants. But if you really want to get the most out of it to make the best business decisions possible, let us help you with those concepts you don’t understand.

Navigating the Report Center

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The QuickBooks Reports menu

Unless you’re working with a very old version of QuickBooks, you have two options for accessing the software’s reporting functions. You can simply click on Reports in the left vertical pane to open the Report Center. Or you can get there by opening the Reports menu (which includes links to other areas, like the Transaction Journal, in addition to lists of QuickBooks’ reports divided by category).

Next month, we’ll look at some reports and their customization options in QuickBooks. In the meantime, as always, we’re available to work with you on enhancing your knowledge of QuickBooks reports and their setup.

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What Are Payroll Items in QuickBooks?

If you plan to process your own payroll using QuickBooks, you need to understand how payroll items work.

Considering processing your own payroll in QuickBooks? Whether you’re moving from a payroll service or getting ready to pay your first employee, you’re taking on a complex set of tasks that requires a great deal of setup and absolute precision. But the reward is complete control over your compensation records and transactions, and constant access to your payroll data.

If you have no experience dealing with paychecks, deductions, and payroll taxes, we strongly recommend that you let us help you get started. QuickBooks simplifies the actual mechanics of setting up and running payroll, but there’s still a lot you need to know.

It goes without saying that accuracy is critical here. You’re responsible for your employees’ livelihoods and for maintaining any benefits they’ll receive. Federal, state, and local taxing agencies will count on you to submit the proper payroll taxes and filings on time; failure to do so can result in stiff penalties and worse.

A Look Around Payroll Items

That said, we’ll give you a brief preview of how QuickBooks Payroll Items work. You must first make sure that payroll is turned on. Open the Edit menu and click Preferences, then click Payroll & Employees | Company Preferences.

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The Company Preferences screen in Payroll & Employees Preferences

Under QUICKBOOKS PAYROLL FEATURES, make sure the button in front of Full Payroll is filled in by clicking on it. If you’re interested in exploring Intuit’s online payroll service, we can tell you about that, as well as advise you on the other options displayed here.

This element of your accounting is complicated enough that QuickBooks has a separate setup tool to guide you through the myriad details you’ll need to provide. You find this tool by going to Employees | Payroll Setup. This is a multi-screen, wizard-like tool that walks you through the process of providing information about employees, compensation, benefits and other additions/deductions, and taxes. Each page poses questions, and you provide answers by entering data and selecting options from drop-down lists. In doing so, you’re creating Payroll Items.

This is a time- and labor-intensive process, one that will send you scrambling for all of the minutiae that make up your payroll system. Once you have your payroll framework established, though, as we said earlier, everything will be in one place and easily accessible.

A Useful List

The information you entered in Payroll Setup is likely to change and need modification. Maybe you forgot to account for something while you were working in the wizard, or perhaps you just want to look up a bit of payroll data. To do any of these, open the Lists menu and click on Payroll Item List.

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You can access this menu from the bottom of the Payroll Item List screen.

The window that opens contains a list of the Payroll Items you created. It looks like a checkbook register, with one line devoted to each item. You’ll be able to view, for example, its Type, any Limit imposed, the Payable To name, and Tax Tracking designations. At the bottom of this list, you’ll see three drop-down menus: Payroll Item, Activities, and Reports. When you click on the down arrow next to Payroll Item, you’ll see the menu displayed in the above image.

Warning: There are many options in this menu for altering Payroll Item definitions. QuickBooks allows you to do this, but we would caution you here. If it involves an action that we have not gone over with you, please ask us about it.

This is fairly self-explanatory. To Edit or Delete a Payroll Item or make it Inactive, highlight it in the list and click on the correct option. You can also Customize Columns in the table and perform other related tasks. When you click on New Item and select EZ Setup on the next page, this window opens:

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You can add Payroll Items by working your way through this wizard-like progression of screens.

QuickBooks will help you here by asking questions and building a Payroll Item based on your responses.

There’s much more to know about working with Payroll Items and assigning them to employees. We’re ready to help introduce you to payroll processing in QuickBooks – once you’re ready to take it on.

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Setting Up User Access in QuickBooks

Will multiple employees be working with your QuickBooks company file? You’ll need to define their permission levels.

 

If you ever did your bookkeeping manually, you probably didn’t allow every employee to see every sales form and account register and payroll stub. Most likely, you established a system that allowed staff to work only with information that related to their jobs. Even so, there may have been times when, for example, someone pulled the wrong file folder or was sent a report that he or she shouldn’t have seen.

QuickBooks helps prevent this by setting virtual boundaries. You can specify which features of the software can be accessed by employees who work with your accounting data. Each employee receives a unique user name and password that unlocks only the areas he or she should be visiting.

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To help minimize errors, maintain data integrity, and preserve confidentiality, QuickBooks lets you restrict users to designated areas in the software.

Here’s how you as the Administrator can define these roles. Open the Company menu and select Set Up Users and Passwords | Set Up Users. The User List window opens. You should see yourself signed up as the Admin. Click Add User and enter a User Name and Password for the employee you’re adding. Confirm the Password and check the box in front of Add this user to my QuickBooks license. Click Next.

Note: You can have as many as five people working in your QuickBooks company file at the same time, depending on how many user licenses you’ve purchased. Not sure? Press F2 and look in the upper left corner. If you need more than five user licenses, talk to us about upgrading to QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.

In the next window that opens (see above screen), you’ll be given three options. Probably you’ll most often select the second option, which lets you specify the screens this user can see and what he or she can do there. The first—All areas of QuickBooks—would seldom be granted. And the third allows us to come in and do whatever tasks have been outlined in our work relationship (troubleshooting, monitoring, creating and analyzing reports, etc.).

Click the button in front of Selected areas of QuickBooks and then Next. You’ll see the first in a series of screens that deal with the software’s functional areas: Sales and Accounts Receivable, Purchases and Accounts Payable, Checking and Credit Cards, Inventory, Time Tracking, Payroll and Employees, Sensitive Accounting Activities (funds transfers, online banking, etc.), Sensitive Financial Reporting, and Changing or Deleting Transactions.

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When you give employees Selective Access in a particular area, you can further define their roles there.

The Sales and Accounts Receivable screen is a good example. You can see the options offered in the above image. By clicking on the buttons pictured, you’re giving this employee permission to both create and print transactions. Below these options, you’ll be able to keep him or her from seeing customers’ credit card numbers in their entirety by clicking in the small box. When you’re finished, click Next.

Keep clicking Next and proceed through the rest of the screens. Your choices will be similar on each. But be sure to read all of the descriptive text very carefully. Keep in mind the importance of confidentiality issues and security as you go along.

The ninth screen, Changing or Deleting Transactions, deserves special attention. First, should this employee be able to change or delete transactions in his or her assigned area(s)? Even though you trusted these employees to work with finances when you hired them, consider this question carefully. Depending on the volume of transactions processed every day, you may want to reserve this ability for yourself.

We may or may not have established and password-protected a Closing Date for your company file. This is the date when the books for a specific time frame have been “closed,” meaning that transactions should not be entered, added, or deleted prior to it. We can talk with you about the pros and cons of such an action.

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A summary of user access rights

Here and on every other screen in this multi-step wizard, you can always click the Back button if you want to return to a previous window. When you’re finished, you’ll see a screen like the one in the above image that summarizes the choices you have just made.

If you’re feeling any uncertainty or confusion about the whole issue of access rights, we’ll be happy to go over your options with you. These are important decisions. You’ll want to stress to your employees that restricting their permissions does not signal a lack of your trust in them. Rather, QuickBooks provides these tools to protect everyone who uses the software as well as any external individuals and companies that might be affected.

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Make QuickBooks Your Own: Specify Your Preferences

Make QuickBooks Your Own: Specify Your Preferences

Your business is unique. Make sure that QuickBooks knows how you operate.

QuickBooks was designed to be used by millions of businesses. In fact, it’s possible to install it, answer a few questions about your company, and start working right away.

However, we strongly suggest you take the time to specify your Preferences. QuickBooks devotes a whole screen to this customization process. You can find it by opening the Edit menu and selecting Preferences.

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This is the screen you’ll see when you go to Edit | Preferences in QuickBooks. You can turn features off and on, and customize the software in numerous other ways.

Let’s look at some examples of what you can do on this page. In the image above, Accounting is highlighted. You can see that QuickBooks makes it easy for you to specify your preferences. You simply click in boxes to check or uncheck them. Sometimes, you’ll click on the desired button in front of a list item. Other times, you’ll be asked to enter numbers and text.

Tip: When you click on a tab in the left navigation pane of the Preferences window, you’ll notice that there are two tabs in the larger pane on the right. If My Preferences is highlighted and there are no options on that screen, click on Company Preferences.

Some of the screens here, like Accounting, contain complex concepts. Do you know, for example, why you would or wouldn’t want to Use account numbers? What Retained Earnings are?

Warning: While the mechanics of this process are simple, there may be times when you don’t understand what’s being asked because you’re either not familiar with the terms  or you don’t know which option you should choose. Rather than guessing, please connect with us to set up a to go over all of the content in the Preferences window.

Some preferences are easier to define. Let’s look at one of these.

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The Time & Expenses window in QuickBooks’ Preferences

The image above is a partial snapshot of the screen that opens when you select Time & Expenses from the left vertical tab in the Preferences window.

Tip: If you start making changes and decide you’d like to return to the options selected before you started, click the Default tab in the upper right.

Your options here are very simple:

  • Do you want to use the time-tracking features in QuickBooks?
  • On what day does your work week start?
  • Does all of the employee time worked and recorded get billed back to the appropriate customer? (You can change this manually on each time entry by checking or unchecking the box in front of )
  • When you create an invoice for a customer who has outstanding time charges, do you want to be able to select those from a list?

If you check the box in front of Create invoices from a list of time and expenses, this box will appear when you open the Create Invoices window and select a customer who needs to be billed for time:

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If you are creating an invoice for a customer who has received services but who has not been billed for them yet, you can opt to have those charges added to the invoice.

You’ll notice that there’s a box in the lower left corner labeled Save this as a preference. While QuickBooks allows you to specify preferences in countless areas in the Preferences window, you will often have the opportunity to make an exception for a particular action as you’re working on transactions. Also, as shown here, you can sometimes turn on specific preferences once you’ve already started a task.

You’re not required to go through all of the entries in the Preferences window before you start working. You can always go there to see if there’s a setting you can change if an element of QuickBooks isn’t performing the way you expected.

But we think it’s a good idea to learn about all of your options in the software before you get started. If you let us go through this process with you, you’ll learn not only about the customization allowed, but you’ll also get a good introduction to all of the things that QuickBooks can do. You’ll also discover where your knowledge of accounting may be lacking. And we’ll learn more about your business and its needs. Contact us and we’ll help you get going.

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Using Sales Receipts: When? How?

Using Sales Receipts: When? How?

Some types of businesses always use sales receipts. Some use them occasionally. Here’s what you need to know about them.

How do you let your customers know how much they owe you, and for what products or services? In these days of ecommerce and merchant accounts, your customers may provide a credit card number over the phone or on a website. Or perhaps you send invoices after a sale and receive checks or account numbers in the mail. QuickBooks can help you both create the invoices and record the payments.

There’s another type of sales document that you can use in certain situations: the sales receipt. You’d probably be most likely to use one of these when customers pay you in full for products or services at the same time they receive them.

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If you receive full payment for a product or service at the same time the customer receives it, you should use a sales receipt.

Completing a sales receipt is similar to filling out an invoice or purchase order. Click Create Sales Receipts on QuickBooks’ home page or open the Customers menu and select Enter Sales Receipts. A screen like the one above will open.

Choose a Customer from the drop-down list and a Class (if applicable). If you have created more than one Template (more on that later), make sure that the correct one appears in the field. Verify that the appropriate Date and Sale No. read as they should. Click on the type of payment you’re receiving, and enter the check or credit card number where necessary (a small window will open for the latter).

Note: If you are working with a type of payment that does not appear in the four icons, click on the arrow below More to add it.

Now you’re ready to select the products or services you sold by clicking on the arrow in the field under Item to open the available list (if you have not created a record for what you’re selling, select <Add New> and complete the fields in the New Item window that opens). Enter the quantity (Qty.). The Rate, Amount, and Tax fields should fill in automatically, based on the information you entered when you create the item’s record.

When you’ve entered all of the items that the customer is paying you for, you can choose which Customer Message will appear on the sales receipt (you can see your options in the drop-down list found in the lower left corner of the screen). Anything you enter in the Memo field will be for your internal use only; it will not appear on the printed or emailed sales receipt.

Click Save & Close or Save & New.

Customizing Sales Receipts

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QuickBooks provides tools for customizing forms, including sales receipts.

QuickBooks’ forms contain the fields most often used by small businesses. But you can alter them in numerous ways to meet your company’s needs. To customize a sales receipt, open the Sales Receipt window and click on the Formatting menu. Select Manage Templates.

You’ll want to make a copy of the original sales receipt so that the original will always be available. Click the Copy button in the lower left. “Copy of Custom Sales Receipt” appears in the list of templates. In the Preview pane on the right, click in the field next to Template Name and replace the existing name with a new, more descriptive one if you’d like. Click OK.

The Basic Customization window opens. Click on Additional Customization at the bottom of the screen. You’ll see a window like the one in the image above. Click the Columns tab.  The list on the left displays all of the columns that can be included in the body of your sales receipt.

Click in the boxes below Screen and Print to indicate which columns should display on your QuickBooks screen and which should appear on the customer’s copy. The numbers in the Order column can be changed to reflect which column will come first, second, etc.

Numerous Options

There’s a lot more you can do to customize your QuickBooks forms. And there are other situations where you might want to issue a sales receipt. We’ve only been able to touch on both topics here, but would be happy to schedule time with you to explore these elements of QuickBooks.

 

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Are You Applying Finance Charges? Should You Be?

Are You Applying Finance Charges? Should You Be?

Assessing finance charges is a complicated process. But if you have a lot of late payments coming in, you may want to consider it.

There are many reasons why your customers send in payments past their due dates. Maybe they missed or misplaced your invoice, or they’re disputing the charges. They might not be very conscientious about bill-paying. Or they simply don’t have the money.

Sometimes they contact you about their oversight, but more often, you just see the overdue days pile up in your reports.

You could use stronger language in your customer messages. Send statements. Make phone calls if the delinquency goes on too long. Or you could start assessing finance charges to invoices that go unpaid past the due date. QuickBooks provides tools to accommodate this, but you’ll want to make absolutely sure you’re using them correctly – or you’ll risk angering customers and creating problems with your accounts receivable.

Setting the Rules

Before you can start, you’ll need to tell QuickBooks how you’d like your finance charges to work. It’s at this stage that we recommend you let us work with you. There’s nothing overly difficult about understanding finance charges in theory: you apply a percentage of the dollar amount that’s overdue to come up with a new total balance. But setting up your QuickBooks file with the finance charge rules you want to incorporate may require some assistance. If it’s done incorrectly, you will hear from your customers.

Here’s how it works. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Finance Charge | Company Preferences.

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Figure 1: Before you can start adding finance charges to overdue invoices, you’ll need to establish your company preferences.

What Annual Interest Rate percentage do you want to tack onto late payments? This is an issue we can discuss with you. Too low, and it’s not worth your extra time and trouble. To, high, and your customers may stop patronizing your business. And do you want to set a Minimum Finance Charge? Will you allow a Grace Period? If so, how many days?

You’ll need to assign an account to the funds that come in from interest charges. This needs to be an income account. In our example, it’s Other Income.

The next decision, whether to Assess finance charges on overdue finance charges, needs consideration – and some research. This may not be an option depending on the lending laws in the jurisdiction where your business is located. So again, if you want to charge interest on unpaid and tardy finance charges themselves, let’s talk.

When do you want the finance charge “countdown” to begin? When QuickBooks identifies a transaction that has not been paid within the stated terms, do you want the added charge to be applied based on the due date or the invoice/billed date?

Note: If your business sends statements rather than invoices, leave the Mark finance charge invoices “To be printed” box at the bottom of this window unchecked.

Applying the Rules

QuickBooks does not automatically add finance charges to your customers’ invoices. You’ll need to administer these additions yourself, though QuickBooks will handle the actual calculations. Open the Customers menu and select Assess Finance Charges to open this window:

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Figure 2: You’ll determine who should have finance charge invoices created in the Assess Finance Charges window.

Make very sure that the Assessment Date is correct, as it has impact on QuickBooks’ calculations. Being even a day off makes a difference. Select the customers who should have finance charges applied by clicking next to their names in the Assess column. QuickBooks will display the Overdue Balance from the original invoice, as well as the Finance Charge it has calculated.

  • If you choose not to apply finances charges to a customer because he or she has provided a good reason for the late payment, be sure the box in the Assess column is unchecked.
  • If you want to change the finance charge due for a valid reason, you can type over the amount in the last column. This would be a rare occurrence and should be exercised only after consulting with us.

Important: If there is an asterisk next to a customer’s name, there are payments or credit memos that have not yet been applied to any invoice.

When everything is correct, click the Assess Charges button at the bottom. QuickBooks will create separate invoices for finance charges for each customer who owes them.

We can’t stress enough the importance of consulting with us before you start to work with finance charges enough. Keep your company file accurate and your customers happy by getting this complex accounting element right from the start.

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Use QuickBooks Custom Fields to Improve Insight

Use QuickBooks Custom Fields to Improve Insight

QuickBooks’ structure is universal enough to appeal to millions of small businesses. Custom fields help you shape it to meet your company’s unique needs.

If you’re using QuickBooks, you probably know that you’re complying with the rules of double-entry accounting. The software is designed such that you can be compliant with these requirements without even being aware of it. You’re dealing with invoices and purchase orders, bank account reconciliation and bill-paying and payroll, not debits and credits and journal entries. QuickBooks does the double-entry part in the background.

While every business that uses QuickBooks is following those same rules, each has its own unique structure and its own need to modify some elements of the program to do certain tasks, for example:

  • Store more specific information about customers, vendors, and employees in their records,
  • Differentiate between variations of similar inventory items, and,
  • Create more targeted reports.

This is where custom fields come in.

Defining Custom Fields

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Figure 1: QuickBooks comes with pre-designed form and record templates.

One of the ways that QuickBooks simplifies your life as your company’s accounting manager is by providing pre-designed record and form templates. Need to create an invoice? There’s a form that already contains the most commonly-used data fields; you just fill in the blanks or select from drop-down lists. Want to store information about your customers and about the items you sell? Ditto.

But if you need more fields than QuickBooks offers on a record or form, you can easily add your own. The software lets you add 15 fields total to customers and jobs, vendors, and employees, and you’re limited to seven for any one record type. (If you want to use the same field in two of these, it will only count as one.) And you’re allowed to define up to five fields for your item records.

This type of modification is easy to do, but it’s critical that you think carefully about what fields you should add. You don’t want to learn three or six months down the road that one isn’t really necessary and two more are needed, for example. This is especially important when you’re creating records for inventory items.

You may want to schedule some time with us to go over this (and to explore QuickBooks’ item-tracking features if you’re new to managing inventory). You can change custom field names, but you need to understand how this will affect your data if you do this.

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Figure 2: It’s easy to add custom fields to records, but be sure you give a lot of thought to what will be needed.

Let’s say you want to add some custom fields to your customer records. Open the Customer Center by clicking the tab in the left vertical pane or opening the Customers menu and clicking on Customer Center. Double-click on a customer or click on the small pencil icon in the upper right. The Edit Customer window opens.

Click on the Additional Info tab on the left and then on the Define Fields button in the lower right. The Set up Custom Fields for Names window opens, as pictured above.

Click in the first column, under Label. Enter the name of the field as you would like it to appear in records and reports. Then click in the box or boxes below Cust, Vend, or Empl. If you want to use the same field in more than one record type, enter a check mark in both. Continue to enter field names until you’re done, then click OK.

Now when you create a customer record, you can fill in the blanks. And your new fields will appear as filters in some reports.

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Figure 3: Custom fields can sometimes be used in reports.

You’ll follow a similar set of steps when you create custom fields for items in QuickBooks. Open the Lists menu and select Item List. Double-click on any item to open the Edit Item window. Click the Custom Fields bar on the right, then Custom Fields and Define Fields. If your company sells a lot of products with multiple variations, talk to us before you attempt this.

Personalizing your copy of QuickBooks by adding custom fields has a lot of benefits. But this major structural change requires a lot of thought and planning up front to make sure that this feature is a plus for your business.

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Why You Should Use QuickBooks’ Snapshots

QuickBooks provides multiple ways to get information about your customers, their payments, and your company itself. The software’s Snapshots provide quick, thorough overviews.
 
What do you do when you need to get information in QuickBooks about customers or about payments they’ve made in QuickBooks? You have several options. You could, for example:
  • Create a report
  • Go to their Customer pages
  • Click on Receive Payments on the Home Page and use the Find arrows (not very elegant or fast, but would be an easy way to find recent payments).
One of QuickBooks’ strengths is its flexibility. It helps you find the exact information you’re looking for in a variety of ways.  Which one you choose at any given time depends on what screen you’re working on at the moment and precisely what slice of data you need.
 
A Home Base
 
The desktop version of QuickBooks doesn’t have a “dashboard,” like web-based financial applications do. Dashboards are like home pages on steroids. Rather than just providing navigational tools and menus, Snapshots display charts and grids and lists representing the data that you’d most likely want to see when you first log on, like account balances, summaries of income and expenses, and high-priority tasks, with links to related activity screens. You can usually customize these.
 
QuickBooks’ Reminders tell you what needs to be done either today or very soon. But they don’t reveal anything about your financial status. Snapshots do. There are three versions: Company, Payments, and Customer

 

Figure 1: The QuickBooks Customer Snapshot sums up each customer’s activity and history in a one-page view.
 
Many Sections
 
Let’s look at the Customer Snapshot to see how these work. To find it, click on Snapshots in the left vertical navigation pane. When the window opens, make sure that the Customer tab is active; if not, click on it. Click on the arrow next to the CUSTOMER field in the center of the very top to select a customer.
 
You’ll see three columns of information here. The left pane displays some commonly sought numbers (like Total Sales) and some numbers that you might have trouble finding any other way (Average days to pay, etc.). In the middle, you’ll see Recent Invoices and Recent Payments. And the right section (not shown in the screen shot) includes two customizable graphs, Sales History and Best Selling Items.
 
This is the default layout, the information boxes you’ll see when you first open the Company Snapshot. To remove any of them, click on the X in the upper right corner. You can restore them at any time by clicking the arrow next to Add Content in the upper left and then clicking the +Add button next to the one you want.
 
You can also move the blocks into different positions on the page. Grab one by clicking on its header and holding it, dragging it to the preferred position, and releasing it.
 
Personalized Pages

 

Figure 2: You can add, delete, and move blocks of data around in the Customer Snapshot.
 
Users who have been assigned access to the data that each Snapshot contains can customize their own views by adding or deleting sections and rearranging them. So each employee can have his or her own unique-looking Snapshots, though the real-time data in all of them will be the same.
 
Note: If you’ve given employees besides yourself access to QuickBooks, it’s important that you assign permission levels to them. You probably don’t want everyone to be able to see and modify everything in your file. We can help you set these up.
 
Other Snapshots
 
The other two Snapshots are more complex, containing more data options. They can, however, be customized in the same ways that you personalized the Customer screen. The Payments Snapshot can give you a quick update on things like Recent Transactions and A/R by Aging Period.
 
The Company Snapshot lets you display up to 12 lists and charts, including:
  • Account Balances
  • Customers Who Owe Money,
  • Expense Breakdown, and,
  • Vendors to Pay
This would be a good page to use as your dashboard (home page), especially since it can also show you your Reminders. With the Company Snapshot open, go to Edit | Preferences | Desktop View | My Preferences and click on the button in front of Save current desktop. Remove the checkmark in front of Show Home page when opening company file if one is there.
 
QuickBooks’ Snapshots can get you up to speed quickly on critical elements of your accounting file.  If you need further help setting these up, please contact our team today!
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What QuickBooks’ Calendar Can Do for You

Yet another calendar? Yes. It’s a good idea to use QuickBooks’ calendar to stay on top of your financial transactions.
 
These days, some of us find ourselves updating multiple calendars. There’s the Outlook calendar or other web-based solution for scheduling and task management. Maybe a smartphone app to track to-do’s on the road, and a paper calendar as backup.
 
But where do you keep track of your everyday financial tasks? Including these in your scheduling calendars and/or task lists will make for very crowded screens, not to mention how inconvenient it can be to keep switching between applications.
 
So consider adding one more tracking tool: the QuickBooks calendar. This graphical screen isn’t designed for data entry (except for to-do’s). Rather, it’s designed to give you a quick overview of your financial activity, both historically and in the future. 

 

Figure 1: The QuickBooks calendar consists of two parts. The graphical calendar itself displays one of three types of entries: EnteredDue, or To DoThe number in parentheses refers to the number of each type that occurred or will occur that day. Details of each entry appear below; double-clicking on one opens the original form. 
 
Calendar Setup
 
Before you start using the QuickBooks calendar, you should designate your display and content options. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences | Calendar. Make sure that the My Preferences tab is active.
 
Click on the arrows to the right of every field to open the menu that displays your choices. The first of these are:
  • Calendar view. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Or do you want QuickBooks to remember the last view that was open?
  • Weekly view. Should the calendar only display the primary workdays or all seven?
  • Show. What items would you like to have displayed on the calendar? It defaults to All Transactions, but you can filter it by transaction type.
You can also specify whether you want past due and upcoming entries to be included, and for how many days. 
 
Tracking To-Do’s

 

Figure 2: You can create to-do items and have them appear on the QuickBooks calendar.
 
The QuickBooks calendar also offers tools for creating to-do’s of several types (call, fax, email, meeting, appointment, or task).  These will appear on the calendar unless you filter them out. 
 
Tip: The link that opens the to-do window is rather hard to find. It’s in the lower right corner of the graphical calendar.
 
Click on Add To Do to get started. The window pictured above opens. Click the arrow to the right of the field under TYPE and select the type of to-do that you want to define. You can also select a PRIORITY level if you’d like.
 
Below those two fields is a small box to the left of WITH. If you want to connect that activity to a customer, vendor, or employee, click in the box and select the type. Then click the arrow next to the field below it and choose the correct individual or company.  
 
You aren’t required to create this link; you can simply designate your to-do type and enter a DATE, TIME, and DETAILS. The activity will still appear on your QuickBooks calendar. But if you do associate it with a specific entity, like a customer, it will appear in that customer’s record when you click on the To Do’s tab.
 
A Word About Reminders

 

Figure 3: You can get advance notice of scheduled financial activities by setting up Reminders. Go to Edit | Preferences | Reminders | Company Preferences.

 

The QuickBooks calendar is not really a reminder tool. You’ll need to use QuickBooks’ Reminders to get help with advance notice of due dates.
 
But the calendar will display the actual due dates for transactions. If you’ve entered a bill that’s due on February 28, for example, the word Due will appear on that date in the graphical calendar; the number of transactions due will appear in parentheses after it. All entries for that day appear in a list below. To see the original form, you’d double-click on the one you want to see.
 
Using Reminders in conjunction with the QuickBooks calendar can help you stay current with sales and purchases — if you have you due dates established in a way that will be good for your cash flow. Let us know if you want some help scheduling incoming and outgoing payments in a way that will work to your advantage.

 

 

 

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