Recently I wrote a “rant” about problems that I have been seeing with how QuickBooks Online Accountant deals with accounts, expressing my frustration with confusing listings when I sign in and when I connect to add-on apps, as well as confusion over where to find my “free” QuickBooks Online company file. As you might expect, Intuit responded, so here is an explanation of how these problems were created, and more importantly, how they can be cleaned up.
Why Was I Ranting?
I won’t go into all the details – you can find those in my rant article. I was talking about issues relating to what I see when I enter my Intuit ID in different places in relation to QuickBooks Online Accountant, as well as inconsistencies with how company names are displayed in various places. The problems I saw in my account fell into three broad categories (with variations):
- Confusion over the Your Books menu option and My Company. Which is “my” QuickBooks Online company account?
- Confusion over company names, where I would see different names listed in different places in the program.
- A “parent” account that shows up on lists of login names.
I had a lot of questions. I don’t like inconsistency, I expect to see the same information in the various places where I am going to be asked to select an account to work with, and in my account things are very confusing. And I’m not alone, other QuickBooks ProAdvisors are seeing some of these same issues.
Finding a Pacifier for Charlie
After my rant article was published, several people at Intuit contacted me to provide some answers. The good news is that we can fix many of these problems. Some fixes I could do by myself, some will be resolved over time. In addition, understanding how things work “under the hood” leads to less confusion.
Note that many ProAdvisors won’t see some of the problems I ran into, because the problems relate to how long I’ve been using (and abusing) my account.
Let’s take a look, and along the way we’ll learn a bit more about how QuickBooks Online Accountant works.
QuickBooks Online Accountant, Old and New
We’ve had three major versions of QuickBooks Online Accountant over the years. The first release was back in 2011. I call that the “classic” version (my terminology, not Intuit’s). In early 2014 there was a change to the new updated user interface, which I have called the “harmony” version. Collectively we can call those the “old” versions. The current major version we have was released in December 2014, and I’ll call that the “new” version. Intuit doesn’t show any version number in their online products, so you can’t always tell what revision you are using. I find that annoying.
When the “new” version was first released it took Intuit some time to convert people from the older versions to the new version. This is at least partly due to there being some significant changes in the underlying database that had to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. That conversion was completed in November 2015. At this time, all QuickBooks Online Accountant users in the US, UK, Canada and Australia are on the new version. India users still have an older version, and QuickBooks Online Accountant hasn’t been released in France yet.
My Company vs. Your Books
When you sign up for QuickBooks Online Accountant you also get a free QuickBooks Online account for your own use. In older versions of QuickBooks Online Accountant this was listed as “My Company,” while in the new version you find it in the Your Books link in the left navigation menu.
One of the points of confusion in my Rant was that I could see “My Company” in the client list and client dropdown at the top, but that was a different QuickBooks Online account than what I found in the “Your Books” option in the left navigation bar. Shouldn’t these be the same company? Don’t I just get one free account? I was confused!
Well, yes, you are supposed to get just one free company, but “Your Books” is different than “My Company.” This is one of those issues that new users to QuickBooks Online Accountant won’t see.
In older versions your “free” account was accessed through the “My Company” link. It was a separate file, only loosely connected to QuickBooks Online Accountant. We were told that we could use it for our own books, or use it as a “test” company to play around with QuickBooks Online to become familiar with the product. Some ProAdvisors went a bit further and actually provided access to that account to their clients, either for free or for a fee, which they shouldn’t have done. That created a problem for Intuit.
The “Your Books” company in the new QuickBooks Online Accountant is different. It is a special QuickBooks Online Plus company file that is tightly integrated with QuickBooks Online Accountant. One good example of this integration is that if you add a customer to the customer list in the “Your Books” company file, that customer also shows in your QuickBooks Online client list. Interesting, I hadn’t noticed that!
The older “My Company” company isn’t “Your Books,” it is a different account. So why didn’t Intuit convert “My Company” over to “Your Books” and just drop it from the client list? Consider these issues:
- Lots of ProAdvisors (like me) used “My Company” for testing, rather than to run my own company. If Intuit had converted “My Company” into “Your Books” for me, I would have a lot of bogus “clients” showing up in QuickBooks Online Accountant, since the “Your Books” customer list is duplicated in your client list. Not good!
- As I mentioned, some ProAdvisors gave their free “My Company” account to a client. Converting that to “Your Books” would mean that your client’s information would start showing up in the ProAdvisor’s client list (and there would be other account problems). Not good!
So, Intuit couldn’t automatically convert “My Company” to “Your Books.” They left “My Company” in place. Guess what – if you have that old “My Company” file in your client list, you are getting TWO free QuickBooks Online accounts. Lucky us! I still wouldn’t give that “My Company” file to a client to use, as there are no guarantees that it will continue to be available in the future.
What if I don’t have a “My Company” file because I signed up recently, but I want to do some testing with QuickBooks Online?
- You can always create a new QuickBooks Online trial account. You have 30 days before that expires. I’ll do that sometimes, if I want to start a company from scratch to try a particular setup, or test the import from QuickBooks desktop. I create test accounts using different email addresses that I can create, and “invite” myself to be the accountant user. This takes a bit of work to set up, and later I will get these annoying messages from Intuit about my trial running out and so forth.
- You can use the QuickBooks Online Test Drive, which gives you access to a pre-populated QuickBooks Online company file. This is very useful because it is easy to set up and you already have some test data there to try. However, by using this approach you don’t get the “Accountants Tools” to work with, so there are some limitations.
- Here’s another option that I overlooked until the folks at Intuit pointed it out to me – in the “gear” icon menu you will find a Sample Company link. This is similar to the Test Drive, with some pre-populated data, but you have access to the Accountant Tools in this company. This is usually the best option to work with for training and testing.
One last point in this discussion: I clicked on “My Company” in the client list and edited the client name to be something different, like “Test Company,” so that I wasn’t as confused by the name. That helps!