We update our review of Intuit's high-end, but affordable cloud accounting system.
It's fair to say that in the desktop accounting era, if a small business wasn't using MYOB it was probably using QuickBooks. The current version of that software has been renamed Reckon Accounts (not to be confused with Reckon One, which we have also reviewed in our series), and Intuit is using the QuickBooks brand for its cloud accounting system.
We picked the Plus version of the QuickBooks Online range to cover here because it includes inventory, unlike the cheaper versions. To see if it’s right for you, here’s our original 2017 review of QuickBooks Online Plus – part of our series on small business cloud accounting systems – followed by an update on the new features added over the past year.
Setup was generally straightforward, though not without issues. In particular, it doesn't ask whether or not you're GST registered, and if you don't spot that and adjust the settings appropriately, your invoices will lack the magic words "tax invoice" (apart from any other considerations).
Very conveniently for some types of business, QuickBooks supports bundles of two or more products and/or services that are sold as a single item. Examples include package deals that include installation or training.
Instead of posting or emailing an invoice, you can send the customer a link to a web page where they can view the invoice and (if you've enabled payments) settle their account.
Purchase orders can be generated, should any of your suppliers require them.
A free data import service is included with the Essentials and Plus versions.
QuickBooks' mobile app for Android and iOS (which we didn't test) includes invoicing, receipt capture, and a dashboard. It also allows photographs of documents (such as invoices) to be attached to the corresponding transaction.
The first few times we logged in, we were required to enter a code that was emailed to the registered address for the account, but after that the service presumably recognised the device we were using.
Room for improvement
QuickBooks makes it easy to create quotes, but it isn't obvious where to find them afterwards (Sales>All Sales). And if you want to automatically generate invoices when customers accept quotes, you'll need to enable that setting.
New customers or items can be created on the fly. But you can't create products or services at the same time as creating a bundle that includes them - they must be set up first.
Also, when entering a new customer in the process of raising an invoice the default behaviour is to treat the name entered as personal name, not a business name. That's fine if you mostly serve consumers, but for the rest of us there doesn't seem to be a setting that makes the system assume you've typed a business name.
It doesn't seem possible to complete a cash sale – creating an invoice and receiving payment – in one step. The "Receive payment" button doesn't appear until the invoice has been saved. This is a relatively minor issue, but it just didn't seem to be a comfortable way of working for us.
Payroll and reporting
The subscription includes payroll for up to 10 employees using the KeyPay service. We found this feature would not work if you've told your browser to block third-party cookies, so you may have to unblock those set by QuickBooks' Employees page, especially those for yourpayroll.com.au and its subdomains.
After getting past that hurdle, payroll setup was easy. KeyPay creates the accounts needed within QuickBooks, and imports the list of employees from QuickBooks. And seemed easier to do a pay run than with several of the other systems reviewed here (but maybe it was just a better fit to your reviewer's mental model, which was formed in vacation jobs as a pay clerk back in the days when payroll was a manual process for SMEs).
A self-service portal allows employees to enter their own timesheets, and the system supports the concept of activities, with the option of making an activity billable.
A good selection of reports is provided, including BAS worksheet, stock check, and stock alerts. The reports were generated relatively quickly, though we don't know if that remains the case after a large number of transactions have been processed. The report layouts are acceptable rather than ideal.
One surprise was that stock alerts are not shown on the dashboard, so you'd need to manually run the report at appropriate intervals. At least QuickBooks automates the creation of orders from the stock alert report.
QuickBooks supports the Australian Taxation Office's "simpler BAS" option, but we couldn't try it as we were using a fictitious business and this feature requires sharing information with the ATO.
Intuit lists more than 180 integrations for QuickBooks, although there is some duplication. For example, Cloud Cart Connector and OneSaas both provide WooCommerce (ecommerce) integration, and while Unleashed (inventory management) provides its own integration, so does OneSaas.
Other significant add-ons include Bigcommerce (ecommerce; either directly or via Cloud Cart Connector or OneSaas), Constant Contact (bulk email), Debtor Daddy (invoice chasing), eBay (ecommerce; via OneSaas), Eventbrite (event ticketing), GovReports (SBR lodgement), Kounta (POS), PayPal (payments; provided by Intuit), Receipt Bank (receipt and invoice capture, OCR and storage), Salesforce (CRM; via OneSaas), ServiceM8 (job management), Squirrel Street (formerly Shoeboxed; document capture, OCR and storage), Shopify (ecommerce; multiple connectors), Square (payments; provided by Intuit), and TSheets (time tracking).
Usability and conclusion
QuickBooks' user interface has a few quirks, none of which we would expect to be a deal-breaker.
Given its feature set, QuickBooks Plus is competitively priced at $35 a month. At the time of writing this was reduced to $24.50 a month for the first year if you sign up without taking advantage of the free trial period. The Essentials version lacks inventory and costs $25 a month (currently $17.50, while Simple Start with no inventory, no data import service, and single currency support) is $15 (currently $10.50).
QuickBooks' pricing remains the same, but has gain several new features over the past year. The biggest change is the addition of the Projects feature. This allows invoices, expenses, timesheets, bills, payments and other items to be tagged to particular projects. Once that's done, the software can generate a profitability report for a project, show any outstanding billable expenses and time by project, and reveal how much non-billable time went into a project.
This makes it easy to see whether you made money from a project or if you would have been better off had you not taken it on.
Also new is Google G Suite integration, which allows QuickBooks to access Google Calendar to retrieve events and other activities from the calendar when preparing invoices. Once the relevant items are selected, QuickBooks automatically adds their date, description and hours to the invoice, eliminating the need to rekey the data.
Changes to QuickBooks' tax-handling capabilities are said to reduce the time needed to prepare and lodge a BAS or IAS from 25 minutes to less than five minutes. It is said to provide “compliant and accurate reporting for both monthly and quarterly obligations.”
On the subject of reporting to the ATO, the KeyPay payroll service included with QuickBooks Plus is now STP compliant.
The main change on the horizon for QuickBooks Plus is the addition of progress invoicing. Progress payments are a common occurrence in certain industries, especially for projects that take a long time to complete. This new feature will allow QuickBooks users to prepare an estimate for the whole project, and then issue invoices as milestones are reached or stages are completed. It will keep track of the estimate total, the amount invoiced to date, and the remaining amount. When the job is complete, QuickBooks closes the estimate and notifies the client that the final invoice has been sent.
Progress invoicing is expected to arrive in early 2019.
See our accounting feature for more advice on choosing a cloud accounting system and details on how we tested, or select another review below.