At this time of year, your taxes are hopefully done, and you are probably not thinking of taxes at all. That’s all well and good, but have you begun planning for next year? Because whether your business is brand new, has never had a “regular bookkeeper”, or has been doing bookkeeping the same old ways for numerous years, it never hurts to consider if this year is the time to update your bookkeeping programs or stick with what you’ve always done.
For me, I always like the most updated version of anything… like the iPad 2… I totally want one!
Anyway… I bring this up now – after tax time – because if you are thinking of doing your taxes the same old way, or updating to something new, now is as good a time to start as any. With taxes out of the way, it is the perfect time for any business owner or bookkeeper to take a little bit of time to invest in updating their bookkeeping programs and “catch up” on anything that is still unprocessed.
The reason now is the best time is because… most banks will let you download ONLY the last few month’s worth of bookkeeping transactions instantly.
What do I mean by that, you may wonder.
Simple. Almost (and I do stress on the word “almost”) all banks have updated their online banking programs to create “downloadable bank transactions” for a specific period of time (meaning a specific number of months). The benefit here is that any business can instantly download hundreds and thousands of transactions instantly, and with the right bookkeeping program, have those transactions posted to the correct bookkeeping accounts instantly.
In other words, NOW is the perfect time to upload those transactions into your bookkeeping program and get those books up to date FAST whether or not you have the time to “work on the books”. If you wait, you may find that you have to manually key in those hundreds and thousands of bookkeeping entries, which will take a whole lot more time.
There is one catch, however. The banks do not create these downloadable transactions for ALL bookkeeping programs. Yet, because QuickBooks and Quicken are the most popular bookkeeping programs on the market today, most banks do setup the transactions into these downloadable files in such a way that QuickBooks and Quicken can process them. In fact, many banks (especially smaller banks) ONLY create these files for QuickBooks and Quicken, but for no other bookkeeping programs.
So in case you were ever in doubt as to which bookkeeping programs I prefer (especially for saving time and money), I recommend QuickBooks and Quicken all the way.
The Difference Between QuickBooks and Quicken
I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I will give you my quick thoughts on Quicken and QuickBooks right now.
As far as business transactions go, I believe QuickBooks is the best program out there for any type of business. It’s easy to use, to input transactions, to correct mistakes, and to create all the financial reports you need. It also allows for a lot of “automatic data entry”, meaning the program does the work for you and thus allows you to save time.
As for personal bookkeeping, and especially stocks, I like Quicken. Quicken has this strange sort of programming that often cuts the user out. What you do is link it to various bank accounts (and stock accounts) and then Quicken can automatically update transactions from those accounts instantly. If you aren’t very familiar with the program, it can be difficult to find and maneuver through those transactions in case you need to change anything. (Now, I know a lot of users familiar with Quicken will disagree with me, but I have always found myself a bit frustrated with Quicken. Even though the program is cheaper, I find QuickBooks much easier to use.)
Having said that, I tend to use BOTH programs, however, especially when it comes to doing my personal and business taxes at the end of the year.
Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax
Quick Disclaimer: I always recommend businesses use accountants to do their business taxes, if they can afford it. It just makes dealing with the IRS simpler.
Having said that, I fully recognize that not everyone will want to use an accountant at the end of the year. Many will wish to save money and do their taxes themselves. (I am one of them.) Or, if they do not go to an accountant, they may go to a tax preparation company like H&R Block. Now, while I’m not knocking H&R Block, I do happen to know that the tax preparers at H&R Block are not always very familiar with taxes. The consultants receive 80 hours (two weeks) of training before they are put to work. Their bookkeeping programs often do the same financial prompting that programs like TurboTax and TaxCut do.
Now, when it comes to doing my own taxes, I prefer to use TurboTax as opposed to TaxCut. Yes, TurboTax costs a little bit more, but it is thus far, the only tax program I’ve seen that is compatible with Quicken AND QuickBooks. It can instantly download the files from Quicken and QuickBooks and then post the account balances to the accurate forms and lines in your tax return. This saves tons of time on data entry, and all you have to do is go through the questionnaire. With TaxCut, you have to manually enter everything yourself, and thus FIND every number from your bookkeeping reports / program.
The reason I use BOTH QuickBooks and Quicken is because I have a rather large taxable portfolio. I have rental properties that I maintain, as well as my Office Administration business, and then my writing business. On top of that, I dabble in the stocks. Ironically, it was this last bit of my portfolio that brought the IRS to my door several years ago.
When I first began dabbling in stocks, I incorrectly thought I only had to report the money I withdrew from my stock account as income to the IRS. Since I only took $10,000 out of my stock account that year, I reported $10,000 in stock income to the IRS. My stockbroker, however, told them that I had made $750,000 – and the IRS wanted a chunk. You can imagine my shock when I got the IRS bill.
After contacting the IRS and realizing where I went wrong, the IRS agent told me that I had to report EVERY PURCHASE AND SALE in order to determine the taxable income, whether or not I had withdrawn the money. Since I liked to dabble a LOT (a LOT a LOT), I knew immediately that I wanted to shoot myself. Fortunately, I had Quicken for one of my clients, and that version of Quicken could handle stocks. When I logged in and “Updated” the program to my stock account, then linked it to that year’s TurboTax file, it immediately reported the new correct amounts for the year. I was then able to do an Amended Tax Return that took my tax bill from having to pay $250,000 to only owing $4,000 for the $40,000 in stock profit I made that year. You can see how profitable that can be.
Therefore, if you do have a stock account and do not wish to use an accountant, I highly recommend Quicken for your stocks and QuickBooks for your business accounts. It will help to take the guesswork out of preparing your return and still save you more than you would spend on an accountant. Once linked with TurboTax, you can finish all your taxes very quickly and efficiently, and even transmit your return online instantly.
To save even more money, remember that Quicken often has a free trial that will allow you to “try out” their program. Use the free trial during tax time with TurboTax, and you may just be able to avoid the fee for Quicken.