Feedback to Accounting software review (July PC World)

I would like to comment on your review of QuickBooks and QuickBooks Pro in your July edition in which you made comments which are unfair and misleading.

With respect to recording transactions you mentioned "you can date transactions anything from 1992 to 2002 without QuickBooks giving so much as a bleat".

Prudent QuickBooks user's switch on the Transactions Password. This ensures no "out of date" transactions can be recorded prior to a nominated date.

Users would also notice any incorrectly forward dated transactions, as there is a distinctive blue line in the Account Register when transactions are dated in the future (ie, tomorrow onwards). These dates of these transactions can be simply edited.

With respect to year end procedures, the way QuickBooks deals with this issue is a strength of the software. Unlike other accounting software alternatives, Income and Expense Accounts are not reset at the end of the financial year.

This makes it easy to go back and edit transactions or enter additional transactions after year-end, unlike other programs, when a "Roll-over" locks things in.

Reports can also be generated for any necessary time period, without being limited to reviewing your finances in terms of the financial year. For example, you may wish to review the Profit and Loss Statement for the past 2 years, or from last May to this April, etc.

QuickBooks automatically transfers the Net Profit to Retained Earnings in the Equity section of the Balance Sheet at the end of each financial year. This function automatically ensures the correct accounting treatment of Net Profit at year end.

Your article also stated "Another weak area of QuickBooks is in Inventory and sales tax". These areas work well if set up properly and the user knows how to record transactions correctly.

If users don't take the time to set the software up in the first place -- or make an incorrect assumptions about the workings of the software -- this can certainly lead to a mess.

People wishing to use the program seriously should seek out the accountants specialising in the set-up and training of the software. This will ensure the program works for you and you can take control.

Currently QuickPos is being developed which will make Point of Sale (POS) systems affordable for the small retailer. This will significantly enhance the Inventory feature of QuickBooks.

Finally, your thought "pity the accountant trying to untangle the mess months later" is an insult to accountants. For an accountant, reviewing QuickBooks files is simple when the time has been taken to understand the way the software operates. Accountants can also directly download QuickBooks data into their general ledger packages if they want to ignore QuickBooks.

QuickBooks is only limited by the perception of the user. It is certainly the most user-friendly general ledger package in the world and can be adapted to any small to medium sized business.

It has risen to become the worlds most popular accounting software and most certainly will be enhanced with future versions. It's the one to watch.

Additional comments from Mark Liner

After re-reading your review of QuickBooks in the July edition last night it was bugging me all day that I failed to counter two other criticisms you had of QuickBooks. First, that "it's unnervingly easy to 'fix' bank reconciliations".

Any user with some basic knowledge of the software would know that you should not click Done in the Bank Reconciliation window unless the Difference field is zero (ie $0.00).

If the difference is not zero when the user clicks Done, a Reconcile Adjustment window pops up which then allows you to make an adjustment.

At this point the user has the choice of OK or Cancel. Any logical person would cancel to go back to the Reconciliation window, unless they really wanted to "fix" the reconciliation.

If a Reconciliation Adjustment transaction is recorded this error can be adjusted later simply by deleting the adjustment transaction in the automatically created Opening Balance Equity Register. Any necessary adjustments to the bank account will then have to be made, with a tick placed in the "clear" column of the register.

The other critisism I failed to address is "the chart of accounts can quickly become unmanageable".

This is true of any accounting software where the user does not take a logical approach to the set up of the Chart of Accounts. It only becomes unmanageable when the user has no idea what they are doing.

I hope this information is of use and your readers can be informed of alternative interpretations as to how the software performs.

Veechi Curtis responds...

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your feedback regarding the recent accounting review in Australian PC World. I'd like to respond to the points you raised one by one:

Lack of date checking

You state that ‘prudent' users will not hit problems with wrongly dated transactions. Fair enough, but I know from experience that the vast proportion of QuickBooks users do not display prudence as one of their salient qualities.

Sales tax

I categorically stand by my statements that QuickBooks is weak in the area of Inventory and sales tax. Any accounting system that links sales tax rates to customers, and not to items, is clearly a system not designed with Australian sales tax in mind.

Messy setups

You recommend that to ensure that QuickBooks works properly, users should seek out the accountants specialising in the set-up and training of the software". Fantastic advice, I'm sure.

At present, there are over 110,000 accountants in Australia, but only 100 practices or so are registered as accredited QuickBooks trainers (amongst which your practice is one, of course). Given that people usually prefer to go to their own accountant for advice, that's an enormous number of accountants who are likely to perform a messy setup.

Bank reconciliations

You state that "any user with some basic knowledge of the software" would know not to fudge a bank reconciliation. True. The problem is that most new users performing their first ever bank reconciliation lack this basic knowledge. And I state this from experience.

Chart of accounts

You state lastly that "the chart of accounts only becomes unmanageable when the user has no idea what they are doing". Precisely my point. This is retail software sold out of a box to business people, not to trained bookkeepers.

In conclusion

In my opinion, one of the worst failings of any product developer is to refuse to acknowledge their product's shortcomings. This defensiveness prevents them learning from their mistakes, and does not serve customers well.

Despite these comments, I must agree with you that QuickBooks is a fantastic product, and indeed, this was the reason why I gave what was largely a very favourable review.

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