Creating Reports in QuickBooks, Part 2

Last month, we discussed QuickBooks’ report Preferences and The Report Center. We’ll look at report customization this month.

QuickBooks makes your bookkeeping faster, safer, and more accurate than what you could do using a manual system. Still, you may occasionally tire of your daily tasks. You want to know what all of these forms and records mean in terms of your overall financial health. You want to see reports.

The actual mechanics of creating reports in QuickBooks are fairly straightforward. You can go to the Report Center, make a selection, maybe change the date range, and voila! Your company’s related data appears in neat rows and columns.

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You may be able to get some of the information you need by simply changing the date range on a QuickBooks report.

But perhaps you to see different columns than what QuickBooks’ report templates include. Further, you might like to filter your output for more meaningful, targeted analysis. And frankly, some of QuickBooks’ reports—particularly those included in the categories Company & Financial and Accountant & Taxes—can be a little advanced for the average small businessperson with little bookkeeping experience. They’re easy to run, but difficult to understand.

So we strongly encourage you to let us run these more complex reports, like the Balance Sheet, for you on a regular (monthly or quarterly) basis. They can provide valuable insight as you continue to make critical business decisions.

But we don’t want to discourage you from working with QuickBooks’ reports on your own. You could run A/R Aging Detail, for example, to keep an eye on past-due payments, or Unpaid Bills Detail to see where you stand with your own financial obligations.

Make Reports Yours

Sometimes, QuickBooks’ own report output is a bit too broad for your needs. So the program provides sophisticated customization options. You can work with these to narrow down and shape the data that appears in your reports.

First, columns. Building reports from scratch would be too time-consuming and frustrating for you to do all of the time. And it’s unnecessary, since QuickBooks provides templates for its reports, sets of columns and data filters that would serve some businesses well, but which can be modified by each user.

Try this. Open the Profit & Loss Detail report and click on the Customize Report button in the upper left corner. The Modify Report window opens.

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QuickBooks lets you modify the columns that appear in reports.

The Display tab should be highlighted. Change the Report Date Range if necessary by clicking on the down arrow to the right of the Dates field. You can also create your own custom date range by deleting the dates in the From and To fields and entering new ones, or by clicking on the small calendar icons and clicking on the desired dates.

Warning: Do you understand the difference between running reports as either Accrual or Cash? This is important. If you don’t, let’s get together to go over some basic report concepts.

It’s easy to change the default columns that appear in reports. You can either enter a column label in the Search Columns box or scroll down the list of all possible labels. Click in the space in front of the ones you want to include, and click on existing checkmarks if you want to remove those labels. You can also designate a sort order, either Ascending or Descending.

If you want to work with the Advanced options, or if you come across a Display screen that puzzles you (depending on the report, you may have some complex choices), let us know.

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QuickBooks report Filters screen

When you’re done here, click on the Filters tab. This is a powerful element of QuickBooks report customization. You can limit your report output to data that meet certain criteria. In the image above, for example, you can tell QuickBooks which subset of Accounts should be included. Click on the Billing Status filter, and you can limit the results to Any, Not Billable, Unbilled, or Billed. You get the idea.

You can apply multiple filters to a report. Every one you select will appear in the list under Current Filter Choices.

We’ll skip the Header/Footer and Fonts & Numbers tabs, since these are primarily cosmetic options you can explore on your own. But you can see from this brief overview how you can use many QuickBooks reports as is or customize them extensively. And we do recommend that you work with reports regularly, both on your own and with us. The insight they provide can help your company grow and flourish instead of just getting by.

 

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Paying Bills in QuickBooks Online

In a previous column, we talked about setting up bills in QuickBooks Online. Now it’s time to pay them.

We recently laid out the benefits of using QuickBooks Online for bill entry and payment. It’s faster than manual methods. It leaves an electronic record of your accounts payable. And it helps ensure that bills are paid accurately and on time.

As we discussed, QuickBooks Online employs a two-step process for bill payment. Once you’ve completed the first (setup), the hard part is done, and you can move on to fulfilling your financial obligations. Let’s take a look.

Warning: Because you may be “handling” a lot of your bills twice in QuickBooks Online, this system can take some getting used to. We’ll be happy to walk you through the process until you’re comfortable.

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Before you can pay a bill, you must create a template and enter its details. You can even set up payments to recur, as shown here.

To review quickly, we created a bill by clicking on the plus (+) sign at the top of the screen and selecting Bill under Vendors. Once you’ve created a bill, you can click on Make recurring at the bottom of the screen to establish periodic payments (as pictured above). You can choose to have payments that are always the same sent automatically, or you can request a reminder so that you can change the amount before emailing or printing. Those reminders appear when you first log into QuickBooks Online. You can access them by clicking on the corresponding link under Tasks.

Making Payments

QuickBooks Online makes it very easy to pay bills. You can do so from a handful of different screens on the site – sometimes in multiple places on the same page.

  • Click on the Vendors tab in the vertical toolbar on the left side of the screen. The page that opens displays a horizontal chain of bars near the top, color-coded to indicate what they represent: Purchase Order, Open Bills, Overdue, and Paid Last 30 Days. Each segment tells you how many transactions share that status as well as their total dollar amount. When you click on a segment, the table below changes to include a list of the actual transactions. At the right end of each line is a Make Payment link that you can click to get a payment screen. If you want to see the actual bill that was sent, click on the Vendor name itself.
  • You can click on the plus (+) sign at the top of any screen where it appears and go to Vendors | Pay Bills.
  • Open the bill itself and click on the Make Payment link in the upper right corner.

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A partial view of the Bill Payment screen

When you’ve opened a bill that you want to pay, double-check the information in the upper part of the screen. The Vendor details should, of course, be correct, but make sure the date reads as it should. And look in the box to the right of the vendor’s name. If it’s not displaying the correct account for the transaction, click on the double arrows and select the right one.

QuickBooks Online will follow its own numbering system for bill payments. If you want to assign your own by entering a reference number of some kind, delete what’s showing in the Ref no. field and add your own. The Bill Payment # in the upper left will change to reflect that.

If there are multiple bills in the list below, click in the box in front of the one(s) you want to pay to create a checkmark. Look at the end of each line, too. QuickBooks Online defaults to a full payment for bills. If for some reason you’re planning to make a partial payment, replace the dollar amount in the Payment box with your own. In the bottom left portion of the screen, you can enter a Memo if you’d like and add an Attachment. When you’ve checked everything for accuracy, click Save and close or Save and new in the lower right corner.

Automation Helps

Paying bills manually can be painful. Beyond the fact that you’re watching money leave your accounts, the mechanics of writing checks and/or dispatching electronic payments on time—and keeping everything organized—can be a constant challenge. QuickBooks Online’s bill-paying tools can help with that.

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Teach your kids that credit cards are useful but not free

While credit cards can be very useful financial tools, the borrowed money is not “free.” Here are two opportunities to share that lesson with your kids.

When choosing a card. Show your kids the entire credit card lifecycle. Explain that when evaluating credit cards, a comparison of benefits is crucial. For example, although choosing a credit card that offers a large signing bonus may be tempting, an annual fee associated with the card can mean the benefit is not worth the cost.

When making payments. Have your kids review the monthly statement with you. Let them see the time lapse between the date a purchase is charged to when the bill is due, and mention how quickly the balance can add up over time if good spending habits are not followed. Explain the consequences of paying only the minimum required amount each month versus the entire amount due.

You don’t have to have all the answers when teaching your kids good credit card skills. Learning together gives you an opportunity to strengthen your understanding of card features and terms, as well as your child’s understanding. Let us know if you have questions. We’re happy to help.

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Use this annual exclusion by December 31

Under current federal tax law, in 2016, you can take advantage of an annual exclusion to give up to $14,000 to as many individuals as you want without paying gift tax. If you’re married and your spouse joins in the gift, you can, as a couple, elect to give $28,000 to each person with no gift tax liability. If you plan to make gifts this year, remember that your gifts must be completed by December 31.

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Are you prepared for this year’s ACA reporting?

A recent survey by a professional services firm indicates that 49% of employers plan to use the same approach to filing Affordable Care Act (ACA) forms as they used last year. If you’re required to file health care information returns for 2016, be sure to review your recordkeeping system. You’ll need to give the forms to your employees by January 31, 2017. Paper forms are due to the IRS by February 28, 2017. When you file electronically, the due date for ACA forms is March 31, 2017.

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Prepaid cards get a bit safer

Do you have a prepaid card in your wallet? They’re popular because they’re convenient. You, your employer, or someone you know loads money onto the card, and you use it in a manner similar to a credit or debit card. In the past, prepaid cards lacked some consumer protections. Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has finalized rules that limit your liability for unauthorized charges to $50, as long as you notify the card issuer promptly. The new rules also include requirements for clear explanations about fees, and free access to account information.

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Do you track your spending?

A 2016 Financial Literacy Survey conducted by Harris Poll concluded that 40% of Americans track spending with a budget. That number has been pretty much the same for the past decade. Are you one of those 40%? Or are you one of the majority – the 60% who do not have a budget? If you don’t currently have a budget, you may also be part of the 32% of Americans who say creating a budget is a top financial goal. Contact us if you need help with financial management questions.

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