Today I cancelled my subscription to QuickBooks. There are several big brand accountancy products being aimed at the self-employed and small business. They all seem to have condescending advertisements* claiming to offer a simple solution for saving time. This post shares my experience should you be contemplating QuickBooks but I suspect some of my issues are worth considering for any web based accountancy product.
First I should make it clear what I was using QuickBooks for. I have about 50 sales transactions a month. These occur direct through my website and from other selling platforms such as Ebay and Etsy. I need to account for the gross sales from these platforms as well as the fees charged and other overheads mostly relating to stock purchase, mileage, packaging and shipping costs. I was not using QuickBooks for invoicing**, VAT and staff payroll. I was using the most basic/cheapest QuickBooks accountancy product offered called Self-Employed and started doing so from November 2020.
The customer service, via Twitter, was free and mostly prompt. The operatives were knowledgeable but could only provide solutions within the perimeter of the product’s functionality.
There is no long-term subscription. You pay monthly and can cancel when you like.
One of the reasons I subscribed is because once linked with a PayPal account it almost instantly accounts your transactions from this payment provider. This automation is a luxury.
At a glance you can see how much income tax including national insurance contributions you will owe.
QuickBooks cannot automate with all payment providers. The most frustrating example being Stripe. Stripe is what I use to offer my customers an alternative payment method to PayPal as it let’s them pay with all major credit cards. Stripe has to be one of the world’s biggest payment providers so it is astonishing there is no automation available with a brand like QuickBooks. It also does not automate with Virgin Credit Cards. I only discovered this after repeating the authorisation procedure several times as prompted by QuickBooks. It was Virgin Credit Cards who finally confirmed they do not link with third parties so then I had to change credit card company.
Importing CSV files
QuickBooks are always quick to advise that if you cannot automate transactions then you can import this data using a CSV file. I carefully followed the QuickBooks instructions ensuring that I only imported four data columns “date, description, money in and money out”. This is not “quick” but I would not mind if it worked. I experimented with different data sources. The trouble was that only one of the “money in” or “money out” sets of data appeared in my QuickBooks account. With Stripe it only showed “money in”. With Etsy it only shows “money out”. I explained this problem to Quickbooks on the 29th December 2020 but this was the only occasion I did not get a reply.
Renewing linked payment providers
Every few months you have to renew permission for QuickBooks to link to your payment providers. Apparently this is a legal requirement which I appreciate. Be careful because this process is confusing! I am not referring to the instructions set by the payment providers but the way QuickBooks lays out the renewal options.
A few days later to my horror I discovered that I had inadvertently duplicated two of my payment provider connections rather than renewing (credit card and bank current account). This meant that all transactions were duplicated. I only realised this after I had approved a large number of these duplicated transactions. Although you can remove linked payment providers all associated data will be lost. As I was unsure which account was the duplicate I did not want to take the risk so had to spend an hour carefully reviewing all transactions for the last month.
Using on Android
I repeatedly tried to log into the QuickBooks App on my android phone, carefully checking my log-in details but it did not recognise my account. I only wanted this for the mileage tracking function. I did not ask QuickBooks for help as there always seemed to be bigger issues I needed to address.
What I am doing instead
This experience has reminded me that CSV files are easy to generate for calculating income and outgoings within a specified period. If I was going to continue using QuickBooks I would still have to generate several of these once a month. Given I already pay for Microsoft I have decided to get my money’s worth with Excel. Once a month I simply copy totals from each CSV file pasting into Excel with simple formulas to calculate grand totals by month and tax year.
The cells in yellow I will copy when calculating each month’s total. Cash can be a nuisance to account for but since Covid-19 I am using less of it so I don’t anticipate there will be many of these transactions. I have to keep a separate tab of my mileage and enter the total once a month but I had been doing this for years anyway.
QuickBooks takes credit for the luxury of informing how much tax you owe but all you need do is paste the following formulas into Excel if you are a UK basic rate tax payer in 2020/21:
Income tax formula
National Insurance Class 2
You don’t need a formula. As long as your annual profit is above £6,475 you will be paying £158.60
National Insurance Class 4
QuickBooks also offers to store your receipts. Remember credit card statements are a record of receipts and my Microsoft package comes with 1TB of cloud storage.
This product is not suited to small businesses which operate exclusively in online product sales. Perhaps it works better for self employed people who are selling services. No doubt there are workarounds to all of the above issues but I doubt many will be “quick”. I think more testing should have been done before this product was launched as a generic solution to small business. As a self employed person my experimentation with QuickBooks has taught me to consider the capability of existing resources before making another investment.
*here is the condescending UK advert from Sage Accounting. I know I am the boss and I simply need my expenses accounted, not “smashed”.
** When a small business sent me an invoice using QuickBooks I noticed it was simply an email referencing the bank account details of the sender. There was no option to pay by credit card or PayPal. I don’t know if it’s possible to do that but as I already have an ecommerce platform, WooCommerce, I simply invoice customers by sending a link to a hidden webpage like this which offers my standard payment options. I will know when I have been paid as WooCommerce will instantly send me an email and the data will in turn show in my PayPal or Stripe CSV file.