Using Custom Fields and Classes in QuickBooks Online

QBO’s tools are generic enough that myriad businesses can use it. But custom fields and classes help you shape it to meet your specific needs.

Small business accounting is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Your company is unique in that sense; you have your own customers and products, vendors and services. Your requirements for your accounting application—what it must do and how it does that—is unlike anyone else’s.

QuickBooks Online contains a standard set of features that can accommodate a broad cross-section of the millions of small businesses in the U.S. It also offers customization options that you can use to make it your own. Two of these are custom fields and classes.

Start from the Beginning with Custom Fields

You can start working with custom fields and classes at any time. They’re most effective, though, when you build them in as you’re just starting to use QuickBooks Online.

Let’s look at custom fields first. When we refer to “fields,” we simply mean the rectangular boxes in records and forms that either already contain data or that can be filled in by you, either by entering the correct word or phrase, or by selecting from drop-down lists. Most of these are already named. On an invoice, for example, there are fields for information like Invoice date and Due date.

But you can add up to three additional fields to sales forms. To do so, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen and select Account and Settings, then click Sales in the vertical navigation bar on the left. The second block here contains Sales form content. Click Custom fields, and you’ll see something like this:

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You can define up to three custom fields on sales forms and make them visible internally and/or to your customers.

Click the word Off if it appears, and it will change to On and display three blank fields. Think carefully about what you would like to appear here, as this isn’t something you’ll want to change. If you haven’t yet met with us about how to set up QuickBooks Online, let’s schedule some sessions to go over all your setup procedures, including custom fields.

Enter the words or phrases you want displayed on sales forms in the three fields. Then decide whether you want them to be visible only to you and your accounting staff or to your customers, too. Click within the Internal and Public to create checkmarks. When you’re done, click Save.

Additional Categorization with Classes

QuickBooks Online’s classes provide another way to categorize transactions. You can use them to differentiate between, for example, departments or divisions. If you’re a construction company, you might have different classes for New Construction and Remodel. Unlike custom fields, you’re not limited to three classes.

You can filter many reports by class. QuickBooks Online contains report templates designed specifically for reporting by class, like Sales by Class Detail, Purchases by Class Detail, and Profit and Loss by Class.

Here’s how you create your own list. Click the gear icon in the upper right of the screen and select Account and Settings. Then click Advanced in the left vertical navigation toolbar. Under the fourth heading, Categories, you’ll see Track classes. If the word “Off” appears to the right, click in the box to turn this feature on. A box like this will appear:

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Class-tracking in QuickBooks Online helps you create more targeted reports.

Even if you’ve defined a number of classes, they’re not required on transactions. If you want to be reminded should you forget to classify one, click in the box in front of Warn me when a transaction isn’t assigned a class. You can also choose to assign one class to an entire transaction or to each individual row. Click the arrow to the right of One to entire transaction to drop the option box down and make your choice. When you’re done, click Save.

You can create classes as you’re entering transactions by clicking the arrow next to Class over to the right of the screen and selecting +Add new. We recommend, though, that you think this through ahead of time and make at least an initial list by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and choosing All Lists, then Classes, then New.

Great Flexibility

These are two of the customization tools that are built into QuickBooks Online. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been using the site for a while, we can introduce you to all the ways that you can make QuickBooks Online your own.

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Are Your Social Security Payments Taxable?

They may be. The IRS’s rules for taxing Social Security benefits could require some studying on your part.

If you’ve received Social Security benefits for more than a year, you probably already know the answer to this question. But if you started receiving those government-issued checks or direct deposits in 2016, now’s the time to find out.

As you know, many IRS rules are absolutely cut-and-dried. But there are many others with exceptions, and this is one of them. Numerous factors are involved in determining whether your Social Security benefits are taxable.

Here’s some of what the IRS considers. (To get the whole picture and find out how these regulations apply to you, contact us.)

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This worksheet displays the formula you can use to determine whether your Social Security Benefits may be taxable. It doesn’t tell the whole story, though. You may owe tax on only part of your payments.

By now, you should have received a Form SSA-1099, the Social Security Benefit Statement. Using the information reported there, you can use the IRS formula that helps determine whether your benefits may be taxable (it’s possible that they won’t be). The worksheet above illustrates this.

If it looks like your benefits are taxable, you’ll have to determine how much of your distributions are affected. The IRS looks at the combination of your Social Security benefits and your other income. The higher that number is, the more likely it is that you’ll have to pay taxes on a larger percentage of your benefits.

Complex Calculations

In most cases, the maximum taxable portion of your Social Security benefit distributions is 50 percent. You could, though, be taxed on up to 85 percent in one of two scenarios:

  • You add one half of your benefits to the total of all your other income and come up with more than $34,000 ($44,000 if married filing jointly).
  • Your return will report that your status will be married filing separately and you lived with your spouse for any length of time during the year.

Now comes the tricky part: calculating exactly what percentage of your Social Security benefits is taxable. Your 1040 or 1040A instructions should contain a very complex worksheet that can help you. But this, like any other element of your income tax return, must be absolutely correct, or you’ll be receiving post-filing correspondence from the IRS.

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It’s no small task to do the calculations and reporting required to find out what—if any—percentage of your Social Security benefits are taxable.

There are many exceptions to the rules and formulas we’ve discussed here. And you must fully understand them to come up with the right answer. This will involve poring over IRS instructions that may be difficult for you to decipher.

Start Now

If you know that you’ll start receiving Social Security benefits in 2017, it would be a good idea to start thinking soon about how this will affect your overall income tax obligation. We always advise year-round tax planning. Such an approach not only helps you avoid unpleasant surprises at filing time – it may also help you take action before the end of the year to minimize what you owe. We’d be happy to meet with you and get you started on better, smarter preparation for taxes.

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Financial scams take more than your money

The consequences of being taken in by a scammer include three types of costs, according to a survey by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation. In addition to the money lost in the fraud, victims generally incur legal and other fees to clean up financial records in the aftermath. The third cost is the emotional wear and tear. If you’ve suffered a loss from fraud that’s left you feeling vulnerable, seek assistance from community service groups that offer support and counseling specifically designed to address your needs.

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Do you need to think about the alternative minimum tax?

You may not have thought much about the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, since Congress passed a law that permanently fixed the exemption. But the tax, which you calculate separately from your regular tax liability, is still around. Here’s how the AMT might apply to your 2016 tax return.

Certain income and deductions, known as preference items, are added to or subtracted from the income shown on your federal income tax return to arrive at your AMT taxable income. For example, certain bond interest that you exclude from your regular taxable income must be included when computing income for the AMT. This is a “preference item” because tax-exempt interest gets preferential treatment under ordinary federal income tax rules.

AMT “adjustments” also affect whether you’ll owe the tax. These include personal exemptions and your standard deduction. In the AMT calculation, these taxable-income reducers are not deductible. Instead, they’re replaced with one flat exemption, which is generally the amount of income you can exclude from the AMT. For your 2016 return, the AMT exemption is $83,800 when you’re married filing a joint return or are a surviving spouse, $53,900 when you file as single, and $41,900 if you’re married and file separately. The exemption decreases once your income reaches a certain level.

Finally, only some itemized deductions, such as charitable contributions, are allowed in the AMT calculation. Others, including medical expenses and mortgage interest, are computed using less favorable rules.

Need help determining whether the AMT will apply to your 2016 return? Give us a call.

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Contractor or Employee? The Rules for Classifying Workers

The difference matters – a lot. Be sure you’re using the correct classifications for your staff.

TaxPLan 0117 image 1_zpsjns6lgh6.jpgEmployees. Contractors. They both create and support products or provide services for your customers. They’re your company’s most valuable assets.

But the IRS looks at each very differently. And when you hire people and start dealing with their compensation, you, too, need to be very sure that you classify them correctly for income tax purposes.

You probably already know the primary difference between them. You only pay contractors or freelancers a fee for their contributions. With employees, you’re also responsible for employment taxes and often other benefits.

Control and Independence

The IRS itself states that “…there is no ‘magic’ or set number of factors that ‘makes’ the worker an employee or an independent contractor.” And you can’t use just one factor to make the determination. For example, you can’t call an individual an independent contractor simply because he or she works out of a home office instead of yours.

Rather, you have to look closely at the whole relationship between your company and them. You need facts. You need to consider the “…degree of control and independence” involved, in three different categories.

Behavioral

Do you as the employer have the right to control how the individual works? There are four ways to measure here:

  • Type of instructions given. Do you tell the individual how, when, and where to work? What equipment to use? Where to buy supplies and services? What sequence to follow?
  • Degree of instruction. How detailed are the instructions?
  • Evaluation system. Is the employee evaluated on how the work is done or just the end result?
  • Training. Do you offer initial and periodic training, or is the individual responsible for his or her own?

Financial

There are several questions to consider here. Does the individual:

  • Pay for a significant percentage of the equipment used?
  • Have a lot of unreimbursed expenses?
  • Have the opportunity to make a profit or loss?
  • Feel free to work for other businesses?
  • Generally receive consistent wages for each pay period?

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How would you and the individual characterize your relationship with each other? Is there a written contract? Employee benefits? Did you hire him or her expecting that the relationship would go on indefinitely? Are the individual’s contributions to the company a “key activity” of the business?

As you can see, it’s more complicated than you might think. The IRS takes this issue very seriously, and has been known to follow up with companies where at least some of the classifications were suspected to be in error.

The Form SS-8

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One section of the IRS Form SS-8, which can help you with the classification of your workers

If you still can’t determine whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor after going through all the above questions, you—or someone who works for you—can complete and file an IRS Form SS-8. This is a rather lengthy document designed to help determine a worker’s employment status.

We’re always available to consult with you on various issues of tax law, and this is an important one. Though a situation may seem cut-and-dried to you, don’t be afraid to ask.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Use Recurring Transactions in QuickBooks Online

Save time and ensure that repeating transactions are processed as scheduled.

You know how much time QuickBooks Online already saves you. Customer, vendor, and item records need never be entered again once they’re created for the first time. Pre-built forms use your record data to complete transactions quickly and accurately. Customizable report templates provide real-time overviews of your financial status in every area.

There’s another way QuickBooks Online can reduce the time you spend on accounting chores: recurring transactions. If you have invoices, bills, and other transactions that occur on a regular basis, you can save all or part of their data to use again. You can even choose to have them dispatched automatically.

Here’s how it works. You need to create a template, a type of model, for each recurring transaction. To do this, simply create the transaction you want to repeat. Say it’s an invoice for a service you provide monthly to a company or individual. You’d fill in all the required fields, then click Make recurring in the horizontal toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This window will open:

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When you click Make recurring at the bottom of a transaction, this window of options will display.

Select the Customer first by clicking the arrows to the right of the blank field. QuickBooks Online will fill in contact information and automatically display name that as the Template name. You can leave it there, or you can try to think of a phrase that describes the transaction, so you’ll remember it. Next, you need to decide how QuickBooks Online will handle the transaction. There are three options:

  • Scheduled. Be very careful with this one, since QuickBooks Online will automatically create and dispatch it. This only works if the information in the transaction—minus the date—is always exactly the same.
  • Reminder. This is safer. QuickBooks Online will display a reminder in time for you to complete and process the transaction.
  • Unscheduled. QuickBooks Online will do neither of the above, but the template will be available to use as you need it. This is good for infrequent transactions that share some common information.

Next, taking into account variables like delivery methods and due dates, enter a number in the field in front of days in advance. Then skip down to Options and click the box in front of all the statements that apply to that transaction. The bottom line in this window contains the fields that will let you specify the transaction’s Interval. Click the arrows next to each field to open its menu.

In the example above, we’ve indicated that the invoice occurs monthly on the first day of the month, starting on January 1, 2017. You don’t know how long this will recur, so we’ve left End set to None. When you’re satisfied with everything in the window, click Save template in the lower right corner.

To see a list of the repeating transactions you’ve defined, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen and select Recurring Transactions. A table displaying them will open and display columns including Type, Interval, and Previous Date. Look toward the end of one of these lines. To modify the template, click Edit.

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The Recurring Transactions screen gives you an overview of the templates you’ve created and provides links to action options.

There are other options here that vary depending on the type of transaction. In the screen shot above, the template is a bill. You can:

  • Use it to create a new transaction,
  • Duplicate it and modify it, to make a new template,
  • Pause it, to temporarily suspend its recurrence,
  • Skip next date and resume after the next interval, or
  • Delete it.

QuickBooks Online also includes a report that will display all the templates you’ve created. Click Reports in the left vertical pane, then All Reports (unless this list is already active), then Accountant Reports. You’ll find the Recurring Template List in the lower right corner.

Recurring transaction templates can save you a lot of time and increase accuracy. Conversely, they can result in unbilled revenue and past-due bills—or even duplicate transactions—if they’re not created with precision. We’d be happy to step in and guide you through the process for the first time.

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Anatomy of a QuickBooks Inventory Item

If you have an item-heavy business, you need tools to track your inventory. QuickBooks provides them.

When you started your business, maybe you were able to keep track of your inventory by peering in the closet or your garage. As you grew, that simply took too long. But you grew tired of running out of stock because you didn’t have time to constantly check its levels, and you forgot about items that didn’t sell and were tucked away in a corner.

You need inventory-tracking. QuickBooks can help you create thorough records for each product you sell. It keeps track of how much you have on hand and warns you when your stock is running low. And its reports tell you what’s selling and what’s not, so you can make better, smarter purchasing decisions.

Activating Inventory-Tracking

Before you get started creating item records and including them in transactions, you need to make sure that QuickBooks is set up to start tracking. Open the Edit menu and click Preferences. Click Items & Inventory in the left vertical pane and then select the Company Preferences tab. This window will open:

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QuickBooks needs to know what your intentions are when it comes to inventory-tracking.

First, of course, click in the box to the left of Inventory and purchase orders are active if it isn’t already checked. Click the next box down if applicable. The rest of this window deals with two concepts you need to understand. Quantity on Hand refers to the number of items that you actually have. Quantity Available subtracts items currently on Sales Orders. QuickBooks will warn you if you don’t have enough of a specific item to commit to a customer. You just have to decide which definition of Quantity you want to use.

When you’re done here, click OK.

Accuracy Matters

Now you can start entering records for the products you sell. Accuracy is absolutely essential here. You’ll see why as you explore QuickBooks’ tracking capabilities.

There are a few ways to open an item record window. You can click Items & Services in the upper right corner of the Home Page, or open the Lists menu and select Item List. Both will open a window displaying any item records that have been entered in a register-type view. Right-click anywhere and select New, or click the arrow next to Item in the lower left corner and select New.

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Double- and triple-check your work as you enter information in the QuickBooks item record window.

QuickBooks lets you create records for numerous types of items, including Service, Discount, and Inventory Assembly. To see how inventory-tracking works, select Inventory Part from the drop-down menu under TYPE. Next, enter an Item Name/Number in that field.

If you’ve already named a main category (like Hardware, in the example above) and want to place your product in a subcategory of it, click the Subitem of box and choose from the drop-down list. Manufacturer’s Part Number is optional. You can ignore UNIT OF MEASURE, if this isn’t an option in your version of QuickBooks.

Purchase Information

If you buy this item from a vendor, fill in this side of the window. Write the description that should appear on purchase transactions when you place an order. Enter the cost you pay for it, and select the COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) account if the default isn’t correct. Do you buy this product exclusively from one supplier? Select the name in the drop-down menu under Preferred Vendor.

Sales Information

Enter the description you’d like customers to see on invoices and the price you’ll charge. If you’re at all unsure of what to select for Tax Code or Income Account, we can go over your Chart of Accounts with you and explain how its accounts are used in records and transactions.

Inventory Information

Here’s where the software’s tracking capabilities come in. QuickBooks will probably default to your Inventory Asset account, which is fine. Enter the minimum number of items that should be in stock when you get a reminder to reorder, and the maximum you want to have at any one time. Fill in the On Hand field with the number you currently have. QuickBooks will automatically calculate the Total Value.

In the screen shot above, you see an example of what that last line looks like once you start using that item in transactions. You’ll see its Average Cost and the number that are currently on purchase orders and sales orders.

Creating records for every product you sell can be tedious, time-consuming work. But the payoff comes in the real-time knowledge you’ll have of your inventory that will lead to better, smarter purchasing decisions. As always, we stand ready to help.

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