Tax Insights

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

Quickbooks Online

I have a client that has been using the desktop version of QuickBooks since 2000 and is thinking about making a switch to QuickBooks Online.  They asked me how the online version compares to the desktop version.  The truth was that I had used both versions for what I needed from a tax reporting perspective, but had limited knowledge of each versions capability from the business owner’s perspective.  I found a great chart on qbalance.com that gives a quick hit list of important features and how the two versions compare to each other.  Intuit, the provider of QuickBooks, also has a lot of information on their website as well.  I provided this information to my client and they were very thankful for more data in which to help make an informed decision.   Below is a brief summary of some of the benefits and challenges of using the QuickBooks online version.

Most current users like the convenience and features of an online application, but some users do complain that the online version seems to operate slower.  The online version offers many, but not all of the features of the desktop version.  For example, the online version may not be the right choice for clients that need to track their inventory perpetually.  QuickBooks online users pay a monthly subscription fee, so some clients might like the option of spreading out the cost for accounting software.  Another cost savings benefit is that Intuit hosts all of the user’s data, provides patches, and regularly upgrades the software automatically.  The desktop version has to be repurchased to be upgraded and the client is responsible for scheduling regular backups that should be housed on an external drive.  Clients also appreciate that they get support included in the monthly fee, but it is only free email support.

A benefit that both clients and accountants appreciate is how easy it is to share data when using QuickBooks Online.  For example, if the client has their accountant help them close or balance their books the client does not have to worry about making backup or accountant copies. The client’s accountant can log in and work online within the access privileges that the client sets up for them and the accountant and client can even log on simultaneously for training purposes.  Security is always a concern and the online version uses the same encryption technology used by the world’s top banking institutions.  It also has an always on audit trail and activity log that cannot be turned off.  The desktop version’s password protection is optional and there is no always on activity log, but there is an always on audit trail.  Just as there are benefits and challenges with QuickBooks online and the desktop versions, there are these same concerns across different brands of accounting software.  As a result, clients should research all accounting software companies before making a decision and find out which software appropriately meets their business needs.

Ronda Priborsky, MBA