The ugly side of business - long

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Due to a recent slow down in business as well as an unsatisfactory relationship with my bookkeeping/tax firm, I have decided to take over my own bookkeeping and bill paying chores for the business again.
I will still have my old firm take care of my taxes as there are some things that only a good tax guy can know these days and I have found a lot less problems occur with a professional preparer.
Anyway, I have set up my own books before a few times with my different small companies. So long ago in fact, that I started with a big green, General Ledger book. Over the years, I have kept my hand in, but haven't wanted to be a full charge bookkeeper and my time was best spent out in the field where my business and company worked.
About 15 years ago, I kept my own books and did them on Quicken. It worked like a champ. It is (and remains) a single entry system, so it it was easy to set up and use. I was literally able to set up the program, the proper accounts, and entered about 500 transactions (the year) in less than a week.
But now, the question seems to be between Quickbooks and Quicken Home and Business. My tax guy uses Peachtree as well as the professional package of Quickbooks, but would prefer my data in a Quickbooks or Quicken format since my data will easily convert or be directly read by her software.
I now write less than 25 checks month. so bookeeping and accts. rec/ pay are light. All equipment is fully depreciated. I don't necessarily have to generate my own 1099s as the subs I use I have had them on board so long the tax guys will kick out the 1009s and transfer paperwork for nothing.
I don't have any direct employees, and when I do, I use a service that charges per check and handles all accompanying paperwork for quarterly transfers, etc.
So, having read all I can stand about the differences between Quicken H&B and Quickbooks, I am still not sold on either. People really love Quickbooks as it is infinitely flexible. But as a dual entry system and a little clumsier interface, it is like killing an ant with a sledghammer (remember, down to +/- 25 transactions a month!). Quicken is easier to use, has a single entry setup (perfect for a less sophisticated needs company) but has less reporting capability and isn't as flexible in account setup.
I have visited online forums for each. I have visited online tech groups for each. I have read comparisons for each. Both have their staunch supporters and detractors. Me? Well, I'm just confused.
I am not a full charge bookkeeper, but keeping my own books is something I did for years, and I still monitor these days anyway. I just don't know which program to start with. I know I can get the demos for both online for free, but a couple of third party tax sites reported the demos from Intuit (maker of both packages) were buggy and in some cases incomplete (really... how stupid is that?) and that you can only apply the fixes to the full, registered version. Don't want to play/test with buggy software.
So... does anyone have any insight into these two, or experiences with just one? Something based on personal experience?
<< ANY >> thoughts would be appreciated.
Robert
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote: ...

That's significant potentially depending on how he's doing billing--is it for individual actions/entries or simply a flat fee? Do you provide detail transaction data or summary year end? Those kinds of issues could influence choice.

...
...
I went w/ QB Pro back in '99 when went out on own consulting and back to farm instead of consulting through a fronting firm.
About the same volume of transactions, payroll situation about the same, altho have various depreciation and royalty interests, etc., that add some complications.
I quit updating QB after 2000 and would _not_ put a new version on any machine I had owing to Intuit's business practice and similar issues w/ updates, security (phone home), and sunsetting functionality policies.
I provide summary tax information to the tax guy in either text files or even as printed informations rather than the full database that some seem to use. I asked back then and for small accounts such as these they really don't want more detail or the hassle of handling the full database simply to generate tax returns.
The tax tables issue and payroll are two of the biggest complaints always w/ Intuit so I think you're choice of outsourcing those is the way to go. I'm somewhat smaller in that regard than you even; I just write the checks manually and post them to the general ledger and those summary accounts are all the tax firm needs to generate the 1099's.
If I were starting now, I'd probably just use an Excel spreadsheet to mimic the old green ledger. I might consider Quicken if I didn't have the pre-existing bias against Intuit that came from using their products to date and what they've done since I got started.
HTH at least some...
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That depends on the job. Flat fee billing for most of my work, BUT... change orders require additional fractional billing that can be attributed as a job cost to an individual job.
For example - a repair of XXX will require a nominal fee as downpayment in order to satisfy the legal definition of a proper contract. Still, if it is a one day job or half day job from a repeat client, I don't get anything but the check at the end.
On the other hand, the kitchen remodel I am working on now has had 8 different change orders that need to be attributed to that project for job costing.

As with everyone else that has a business, I have to have access to individual transactions. My tax preparer wants to see the summary reports, but wants to review my transactions on a spot basis to make sure I get all the right pegs in the right holes. Both of the Intuit programs will do this from what I understand.

Reading their respective forums and third party sites for small businesses and accountants, you are not alone. They have mightily pissed off a lot of people no matter what program of their you use. Their sunsetting policy is so profoundly stupid it reeks of Microsoft style arrogance.
Think about it; for comparative analysis in tax preparation, we were all making money in '05, '06, and most of '07. This is the year things tapered off. So if you cannot import old data into your program, how will you know how the best way is to finalize a depreciation schedule, review an income averaging strategy, etc.?

Part of my strategy has been the incorporation of paying my vendors online. This not only lessens the paperwork generated but makes payment fast, easy, ontime and I have the knowledge that >> I << did it and not someone's assistant.
Even Home Depot which I use as my major hardware store, will provide detailed, online transactions with selectable invoice payment. All the vendors supply printable transaction confirmation page and reference number for your bookkeeping. Most keep your history online (as a printable page) for 18 months.
Both of these Intuit programs will allow you to pay online and record the overall payment to the vendor as a transaction simultaneously. You need to keep the transaction details separately, though.

You are not alone. From what I read, the only reason some of the folks are staying with either of those programs is because they are so heavily invested in time and effort into the software and its setup.
For me, it should make a difference. Apparently the importation of data capability stopped last year's version (2008) and it affected only the data from 2006 and earlier. And truthfully, while I am downsized, as long as I have the detailed reports as printables, that doesn't bother me too much.

Absolutely. You brought up some good points, and they are helping me refocus. I need to get this issue put to bed, and get out and promote my business, not worry over my bookkeeping chores.
Robert
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Butting in here , my biggest complaint with all the account software companies is the fact that they make it almost impossible to switch between packages , its about time that they were forced to write packages that other accounts software could read and interprate instead of handcuffing you
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steve robinson wrote: ...

But of course that doesn't fit their interests of trying to lock in customers. They, like MS have fallen prey to the problem there isn't a large enough volume of new customers to generate the require revenue level so their only way to make up revenue is by turning the product into a continuous revenue stream by sunsetting features, "upgrades" and online service charges.
If I were seriously looking other than for the aforementioned way of simply using Excel or another spreadsheet to mimic a ledger, I'd look at what there might be in the open source arena--I don't know that there is anything competitive in features or not, but I'd surely do most everything I could to avoid Intuit and their ilk.
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dpb wrote:

I've been using Moneydance <www.moneydance.com> for personal finances. Not opensource, but they can import and export Quicken files (most accounting packages are able to do this). Works great for personal finances and is portable to Linux, Window, and Mac systems. However, it won't do what the OP was asking as far as business application (at least I don't think so, it might be worth his while to take a quick look).
To check out open source software, take a look at: <http://www.icewalkers.com and <www.tucows.com>
Icewalkers is more oriented toward linux, but some of the java-based software may be multi-platform.
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dpb wrote:

There is GnuCash. I have no idea if it is any good or not.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

...
I was asking how your CPA/tax guy charges -- does he have a flat fee for preparation of your annual return or is it on an hourly rate including data entry, audit, preparation, etc., etc., ...
What he does and how he charges might influence how I tried to provide the data. My guy just does a flat fee from the summary info; if I wanted more detail analysis from him I'd have to provide more info and pay the piper.

That is so. QB is somewhat more powerful in that regard if you really do use those reports. I don't much but do have the facility by entering the detail.
That would be the strongest sell for living w/ the other aspects of Intuit but it is a bugger if you're more than a braindead computer user that likes to be able to control how stuff works and interacts w/ your computer and the outside world (as I have gathered you are from past).
...

That comparison from year-to-year is one of the things the CPA does automatically except only on the tax data.
It's also why I'd be sorta' tempted to use the Excel format because one can then do any comparison one chooses (at the cost of having to develop the categories and some coding effort, of course). It depends on how much detail you really feel you need.
...

That part I don't know about -- as noted, I'm still using QB 2000 and it has the ability to export to Excel and import iif files. The only thing I don't have that I would like (but not sufficiently to upgrade to get it) would be the API that has some additional hooks that allow for automated transaction editing that can't be done via iif files. And, while still consulting, there wasn't sufficient flexibility in the QB invoices to supply the data in the format my primary client requested nor for pricing for their proposals so had to use Excel for them anyway. But, since they provided Excel macro workbooks, of the proper form, that wasn't such a big deal for a single invoice/month. If had a lot of clients, it could have been a hassle.

That's so...it's a big hassle for sure. Wish I knew a really decent answer.
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Seems to me that Quicken can, at least, download the goodies to a disc in "dot delimited" format which your accountant can then upload to her system to produce your tax reports.
I know they do not like to do that, but, it can be done. I did it with "Mind your own business".
P D Q

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wrote:

Robert, I can honestly say I feel your pain. I likely wont have a tremendous amount to add as you seem pretty well versed in both programs. We too started with quicken a long time ago for our homebuilding and remodeling business as well as other small side businesses. It was fast and easy though in using just quicken home we had no ability to, within one program, generate estimates and invoices as well as to do detailed tracking incomes/expences for specific projects. This left us generating estimates and invoices in Word leaving lots of legwork, paperwork, and headache. Perhaps H&B solves this issue.
Perhaps 10 or 12 years ago our accountant nudged us towards quickbooks pro likely to make his job easier. We made the switch. At this point I have kept up with quickbooks but in our situation we are still barely scratching the surface of its capabilities.
We are running a good bit more with regards to transactions and checks than you state you will be dealing with. Our situation sounds similar to yours in that payroll is handled outside as well as 1099's by the accountant.
At times I miss the ease of use of quicken however the ability to drill down into individual complex jobs, or even individual trades (drywall, framing, etc) to see where you are making it and not is nice in quickbooks. One thing that has always daunted me with quickbooks is I have just never had a mind for accounting and getting it setup correctly was and is a challenge. I didnt find the template businesses in the setup to be of much help. Some other things that I find hard with QBP is that often times I would like to provide the customer with a single line estimate or invoice yet track all the details of the project from estimate through invoice in the back ground. There are likely ways to do this however the second job is not what I am looking for.
I think the subject line you chose couldnt possibly be better. For us, this is perhaps the single worst aspect of being in business. As if its not bad enough to have to work a lot of hours in your specific profession, you then have several hours, up to a second full time job with regards to paperwork. Especially if you want it right and easy at the end of the year. We are perpetually in the gray area where sub'ing out the book keeping is more money we dont want to spend, yet we rarely have enough time to keep up with it as it should be.
While it wouldnt help with book keeping, and our accountant wouldnt like to hear it, this is why I am in favor of a use or flat tax. Any reduction in paperwork and the burden of being in business would be a big help.
Mark
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Reading your post, it honestly sounds like you do.

When/if I really get busy again, I will outsource the bookkeeping/bill paying. As it is now, I am only saving $50 a month. When I am really busy, that $50 looks like nothing, even to my tightfisted self. Many services around here will do bookkeeping/checkwriting/vendor paying for up to 50 entries a month for $50 if you also have them do your taxes.
The problem with that is you have no way to review job costs, generate your own reports (the $50 only includes two summary reports at the end of each quarter - other reports are $$ more) and to immediately review your financial status.

Thankfully, for me it isn't hard. I realized about 1980 that I had quit being a repair/remodel/house builder and become a business man. When I was really cranking, I had spates of years where I never wore a set of nail bags or carried a saw in the truck except for special projects.
It is EASY to see that the reason most construction businesses fail is their lack of accounting/tax planning skills.
Since I started so far back, I can always tell at any time (no matter who keeps the books) how much money the company has in the bank. I keep a notebook with me on the job and hand record any payments (and keep the receipts) so that I can have a running total in my easy reach (brief case) of what I am doing dollars in to dollars out.

ME NEITHER! At this slower time, I need to be talking up my business, not locked away in my office trying to figure out why I can't summarize a report properly or why an entry didn't show up on a transaction summary.
And the way I have been keeping up with my billings and payables is so easy it is silly. In my head, I know who owes me, as well as how much I have been paid. I can find these numbers easily. But before we had all the cool accounting software, for my larger jobs I started keeping my contracts, invoices, change orders, contract addendums, etc., in a document folder with the job name on it. I use my word processor. Then at any time I can pull all that information. When I get paid for the invoice, I just save the file with "PAID" at the end. With descriptive titles, I could easily see what was going on by looking at the job folder.
With repairs, I do it like we did in the late 1800's. I print the invoice and put it in the accts. rec. tray. When it is paid, I put the paid invoice in the manila folder for the job. When it is overdue (rare - I have mostly repeat customers) I put it in the "overdue" tray. It is as simple as managing an "in" and "out" box. One of my old secretaries showed me that method.
But now that I will be doing all of it, I would rather do it all on the machine and be done with it. I want it all done at one shot if possible, and I can say good bye to the trays and the word processor (except for contracts, etc.).

I really think that really sums up most of us that are in the small business arena. My tax adviser specializes in small business and in particular, construction businesses. She agrees with me; most contractors feel like they are successful if there is money in the bank at the end of the month. That's all they want to know. When you start a business you should have to take a test or go to a preparatory class to let you know what you are in for with employees, quarterly reports, transmittal forms, etc., just to keep up with the tax end of things.

Amen, brother. I have had more friends of mine than I can count go broke, file bankruptcy, etc. just because they didn't know about all the reports, taxes, etc. that creep into your life when you decide to take the plunge. They always thought I was kidding when I told them to go get a job that had regular hours, health insurance and a retirement plan.
As a matter of fact, I have a contractor friend that will be filing bankruptcy here in town in the next few months. He hung his shingle on the wall and went to work against all my caution. He never appreciated how much ancillary paperwork there would be or how much he would have to learn.
Combine that with the "bar stool accountants" he chose to listen to, and he is now in a tax mess that will take about 7 years to pay off. He is a great guy, but just made a bad mistake and a couple of wrong decisions that he researched carefully. That's all it took. The only reason the IRS offered him a payout is because he burned up all of his retirement (30 years at AB Dick) to live his dream of "owning his own business" and doesn't have much left. **GRRRR**
OK.. commentary off. Back to the search for software...
Robert
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I have used various accounting programs over the years. Most of them are no longer in business.
I have found, both for myself and others, the best way to go is to find a CPA who supports an accounting program. Have him set up your accounts and have him on speed dial for any questions.
I personally like Peachtree. And it is well supported.
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Have/still have a number of business interests that fit your DIY style.
Mostly used QuickBooks until about two years ago. Intuit are opportunistic bastards as far as I'm concerned.
The last straw was when I was _forced_ to upgrade or lose online access to accounts ... we're talking about being forced to buy a new version at almost full retail price. The latest versions won't even run on two of my machines using Win2K ... IOW, if I want to run the latest version, I would also be forced to upgrade two office computers, which still do the intended job for everything else.
All the above notwithstanding, if I had to pick between QB and PT, it would be QB hands down, particularly if you don't need to access your accounts online and can live with just using QB as a ledger system and for reports.
IOW, I still use QB, for one company only, being familiar with it from years of use and data for that particular enterprise, but will never, ever give Intuit the satisfaction of buying an upgrade.
As for PT ... watched SWMBO struggle with it in her non-profit, which grosses in the six figures, and I gave up trying to help her with it years ago. Her accountant finally switched her over to QB a couple of years ago and she has not asked me for help since, so it must be agreeing with her.
IMNHO, QuickBooks is much easier, and most importantly, takes much less of your time than PT, and is the lesser of two evils, as much as I hate to say it.
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On Sat, 6 Dec 2008 10:11:37 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@aol.com"

Reading this reminds me why I went to work for someone else 8 years ago after having been self-employed for 30 years.
Best of luck !
Lenny
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I personally use Quicken Home and Office. In 1986 I used and loved Dollars and Sense, strictly a DOS program, bullet proof and simple to use. Quicken came along and was strictly a SNAFU piece of crap, free for a few years IIRC but how could you charge for software that did not require you to expense the purchase and if you did not expense the purchase the reports told you that you still had the money in the bank. Hummmm.. IMHO not until the last 5 or 6 years has Quicken been trustworthy. I tried QuickBooks 10 years ago and whew, way overly complicated for my needs, probably much better now however Quicken H&O does it for me. BTY I use a separate Quicken file for the business end of my accounting, I don't mix business accounts with personal accounts. I don't totally rely on Quicken H&O to handle all of my business accounting, I prefer to keep track of spending also on a spread sheet, I still don't trust totally Quicken's reports. YMMV
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What version are you using?

What a great memory!! I had forgotten all about that stooopid error on their part. Now I remember that it made them a laughing stock for at least a couple of years.

Can you do job costing by invoice with Quicken H&O? I want to keep the entries in the general ledger, but be able to tag them to be able to pull them out for a report on a larger job.
Also, I can't find out if it has any provision for home office entries. I know Quicken "Premier" does, and they make it a point to sell that. But even though they recommend the Q HO for small business, they don't advertise whether that account module is in there or not. Since moving from a corporation to a LLC, my accountant has advised me that part of my home (and all of my shop) can be expensed.
Do you bill from Q HO? Do you manage your accts. rec. and payable from there?
Inquiring minds need to know, Leon! After all, you are the only one that has hands on, front line experience with Q HO.

Any reason why? What reports does it generate that you don't care for?
Personally, I think it is a good idea to be cautious of these programs. I remember the Excel scandal when it couldn't add and move numbers accurate on large spreadsheets. I remember when QuickBooks had several accounting errors, including not only math, but the way they handled accounts. Almost all of them goof up now and then.
I would certainly appreciate your input, Leon.
Robert
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----- Original Message -----
Newsgroups: rec.woodworking Sent: Sunday, December 07, 2008 3:29 PM Subject: Re: The ugly side of business - long

2007, and a have used a couple of previous versions. The laterand some of the lesser versions allow you to scan documents or down load documents to attach to your transactions in the register. This is handy for a quick look and reprint of the document if you need to do so.

That "FLAW" was inexcusable IMHO.

"I think" you can keep track of expenses, remember I supliment with a spread sheet? I am not sure if you can actually pin any of them to an actual customer invoice. That said, you could put the customer invoice number in the memo section of the register when making an expense entry and probably generate a report that looks for that invoice number in the memo field.

It has always been my understanding that with each upgrade in Quickem that you move to, you carry along all the features of the lesser version. IIRC Premiere is a step down. If you are wanting to keep track of home office expenses you could create an account for that. I keep my vehicles value in seperate accounts for net worth reports.

I only invoice. When the customer pays in full or partially I receive the payment and attach to the outstanding balance on that invoice.

LOL,,, I hope my answers have not been too simple however I don't want to lead you to believe the the program will do something that it may not do. I think with some creative thinking you can probably get it to do what you want it to do.

Compared to the now 22 year old Dollars & Sence program that I used many years ago, reports tend to be way too complicated to generate. Dollars & Sence knew what you needed to know, Quicken is still a little lost in that catagory. That said, if you know exactly what you want you can create and save just about any report that you want to come up with. IMHO Quicken does not actually have standard accounting reports readily available, you have to think them up for yourself. If you are using Premiere and were happy with that, you should not have a problem with H&O. Bassicly I use the spread sheet reports for quick reference and to act as a way to verify the Quicken results.

:~) I am still using Lotus 123, 1997 version.

Gosh Robert, not a problem at all, I hope my answers are of some help.
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This could be most handy when managing receipts. From time to time I go places like HF, or even Big Lots to buy business related items such as nitrile gloves, cheapie throw away touch up brushes, etc., that require a check or cash. Having been through a couple of full office audits, the IRS really doesn't tolerate all that crap of having a box of receipts they can rummage through. The easier and the faster information retrieval is, the better. I like the scanned, attached receipt idea a lot.

AHA! The way I keep track of my invoices in my word processor would work there as well. To make sure I can find them easily, I always save the file (invoice) with the first five letters of the person's name, then add a numeric date (when it was generated) and a XXX of numbers in case I have to generated separate or multiple invoices on the same day. So a client's invoice has my company initials, INV for invoice and the info. Example: PRCINV Smith 120808 001 It looks cryptic, but it really isn't. And I could set Quicken to search for anything with "Smit" in it when setting up a report and still keep my naming sequence consistent with my current method.
> It has always been my understanding that with each upgrade in Quickem that

Premiere is a step down, or at least sideways. Q HO is supposed to have all Quicken offers in this line of programs.

Excellent. That sould make it easy enough to tie into an accounts receivable column to generate outstanding balances owed.

Will it wash my truck? Just kidding... I appreciate you not "selling" the program. It sounds like it will do what I need. And after reading the comment here, it looks like there is support from actual hands on users, which makes it unusual for a piece of software like this. Just in case it will help you, here it is:
http://www.quickencommunity.com

OK... now I wasn't expecting that! Give me a minute to clean the coffee off my monitor! And I thought >> I << was a creature of habit.
For years I used an office suite called First Choice. It was the most streamlined, elegant little DOS package (and piece of software) that I had ever used. I started with it in '89, and the only reason I quit using it was because it wouldn't import any kinds of graphics, and since it was DOS only, they quit supporting drivers for modems and printers. My reports looked too dated. But I used it until I upgraded a couple laser printers ago for word processing, data base work, data integration, spreadsheets, reporting, etc. It was just too simple.

I appreciate you taking the time to post a detailed response, Leon. And rest assured, your answers are a great help. I think I will download the Q HB online trial in the next week or two and dive in.
Robert
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wrote:

My printer will scan to PDF files so the file ends up being smaller and easy to e-mail or view quickly.
Snip

Actually, in the business center section and while looking at the customers invoices register you have a Report button at the top right side of the register that will show you all outstanding customers and invoices or a view register report.

I sell a few things. ;~) NOT QUICKEN. LOL

Thank you

I'd have'ta learn Excel although my son is quite proficient with the program and he still lives at home. ;~)

Glad to be of help Robert, with all the imformation that I have pumped out of you it was the very least I could do. If I can confuse you any further don't hesitate to ask. ;~)
Leon
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"Leon" wrote

What?? Festool doesn't sell Quicken?? :-)
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