Going green with QuickBooks

By Joe Woodard, AccountingWEB QuickBooks columnist

Tip 1: Send and Process Documents Electronically

 

Most editions of QuickBooks include numerous tools that allow you to share and file your company’s reports and sales forms electronically.

 

Emailing Forms to Your Vendors and Customers
 
The following sales and purchase forms allow you to send the printed form as an Adobe Acrobat document – attached to an email.
 
·                     Estimates
·                     Sales Orders
·                     Invoices
·                     Credit Memos
·                     Statements
·                     Purchase Orders
 
You do not need to purchase Adobe Acrobat to create these documents, but you and your customers/vendors must have Adobe Acrobat reader to open the Acrobat documents that QuickBooks creates. Perform the following steps to send copies of forms to vendors and customers.
 
You can also send Paystubs and Reports using the Send Forms options within QuickBooks. See the applicable sections below for more information.
 
 
Setting User and Company Preferences for Sending Forms
 
Step 1: Select the Edit drop down menu, select Preferences and then select Send Forms.
Step 2: On the My Preferences tab, choose if you want to send the form using Microsoft Outlook or using the QuickBooks Email service. 
a.       If you choose to send the forms using Microsoft Outlook you have better control over the formatting, you can attach additional documents to the email before you send and you can maintain a record of the email in your Sent Items folder within Outlook. However, if you send numerous forms electronically on a regular basis you will need to regularly archive your sent items folder to keep the size of your Outlook file manageable. Alternatively you can setup company preferences to blind copy a designated email address (e.g. a special billing email address) and use that email account to store the forms you sent and the people to whom you sent them.
b.      If you choose to send the forms using the QuickBooks email service you will not store a copy on your computer (e.g. in the Outlook sent items folder). However, you can still setup Company email preferences to automatically blind copy an administrative email address and store the sent forms using that email address – as stated above. This option also allows you to send forms without Outlook installed or configured on the local computer - with only an Internet connection. There is no fee for this service.
 
 
Step 3:             Click the Company Preferences tab to set the default email message the customer/vendor will receive when you send the form. Notice below that you use these preferences to set the default email message for emailed reports and pay stubs as well. See the sections below for more information about emailing these documents. When you are done, click OK to save your changes and to close the preferences window.
 
 
Setting the Preferred Send Method for Customers
 
To set the preferred send method for a customer, open the Edit Customer window and select E-mail in the “Preferred Send Method” field as shown below. When you select E-mail as the preferred send method, QuickBooks will automatically check the “To be e-mailed” box when you use this customer’s name on Estimates, Sales Orders or Invoices.
 
 
Sending a Single Form to a Single Customer or Vendor
 
Step 1:             Open the sales or purchase form you wish to send electronically and complete the form normally. When the form is ready for your customer/vendor, proceed to step 2. For this example we will use an invoice form, but you can perform these steps using any of the forms in the bulleted list above.
 
Step 2:             At the top of the form, click Send. QuickBooks will automatically open Microsoft Outlook (or will launch the QuickBooks email service, depending on the preferences you selected above).
 
 


 

Step 3:             You may see the window shown below about using Microsoft Outlook to send QuickBooks forms. If so, read the content and then click Close to proceed.
 
 
Step 4:             QuickBooks opens Microsoft Outlook and creates the email shown below. You can modify any of the fields in the email and you can attach additional files if you wish to do so.
 
 
Sending Forms to Numerous Customers or Vendors as a Batch
 
Step 1:             To send numerous forms as a single batch, complete the input on the form and when it is ready for your customer/vendor click “To be e-mailed.” Then, save the form. This example uses an Invoice form.
 
 
Step 2:             To send the batch of forms you have two options. You can select the Send button drop down menu and then select Send Batch. 
 
 
QuickBooks will open the “Select Forms to Send” window shown below. Alternatively you can select the File drop down menu and select Send Forms. QuickBooks will display the same window – shown below.
 
 
Step 3:             Select the forms you wish to send as a batch and then click “Send Now.”
 
Using QuickBooks Online Billing Service to Send Sales Forms to Customers and Receive Payments Electronically
 
This option is available to QuickBooks users who have a QuickBooks Merchant Account only. Additional fees may apply. You can email invoices through Microsoft Outlook if you use online billing, but you need QuickBooks 2008 or later to do so.
 
You can be paid online via credit card from any emailed invoice when you sign up for a QuickBooks Merchant Service account. E-mailed customers click on a link in the e-mail to go online and pay you. Your customers can also pay using a customer portal – an email address that is unique to your company. Online payment can be funded faster and with a much smaller environmental footprint because there is no mailing or check float time. Consider that the electronic payment method reduces the use of paper and mail transit for not only your invoice to the customer but also the customer’s payment to you. You can then download the payment into QuickBooks and match it to the appropriate invoice. You can give customers access to their own personalized and password-protected Web page (i.e. customer portal) where they can pay invoices, view billing history, submit inquiries, etc. Your customers can save a credit card number to make recurring payments or payments on future invoices faster and easier.
 
To enroll in Online Billing Solutions (and QuickBooks Merchant Services) open the Create Invoice window, select the Send button drop down menu and then select Billing Solutions Options. Then, follow the prompts on the windows to open a QuickBooks Merchant Services account and to enroll in Online Billing Solutions.
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Using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to Send and Receive Electronic Documents with Customers and Vendors
 
Intuit partnered with TrueCommerce EDI. Additional fees to use EDI are always involved. Various pricing packages are available depending on how many documents you send each month. If you use QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 9.0 there is no cost for the TrueCommerce Transaction Manager. If you use any other version or edition of QuickBooks the Transaction Manager costs $795. Contact TrueCommerce EDI for more information about using EDI with QuickBooks.
 
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a set of standards that collectively provide a common protocol or syntax for transacting business documents electronically. In essence, EDI is to electronic commerce as grammar is to verbal communication. It is a set of rules and guidelines that are applied when developing and implementing software and services designed to transmit business documents electronically. Just as a group of individuals with diverse backgrounds can use a common language (such as English) to converse with each other, EDI provides a common "language" that enables businesses with dissimilar computer-based business systems to communicate with each other.
 
Companies that are EDI enabled can send and receive business documents, such as purchase orders and invoices electronically with their trading partners (customers or vendors). In simple terms, EDI enables the computer system of one company to "talk" to the computer system of another company and digitally exchange data. Because this digital exchange of data is facilitated using computers, most if not all of the associated business processes (such as data population and verification) can be automated so that they occur with little or no manual intervention.
 
EDI is not the same as a Website or used to transfer funds. Although EDI can be considered a form of electronic commerce, it shouldn’t be confused with a web-based storefront, nor is it an electronic funds transfer (EFT) solution. However, a company that has an online store can use EDI to exchange orders and invoices with their suppliers, and financial institutions will sometimes use EDI to exchange documents that request or confirm fund transfers with their clients.
 
Although deploying EDI can be very advantageous, the impetus for most companies to implement EDI typically comes from a large trading partner who mandates the use of EDI as a requirement of doing business with them. That's because EDI can only be applied to business relationships where both the seller and the buyer are EDI enabled. Most small to mid-tier companies are not able to mandate the use of EDI among their trading partners, but often their larger customers or suppliers are already using EDI. However, as long as you have a trading partner who is EDI enabled, you can reap the advantages that EDI provides.
 
Downloading Bank Statements into QuickBooks
 
Most financial institutions allow you to download statement information for import into QuickBooks. You can then match the downloaded information to any direct input you have entered. This process is similar to statement reconciliation, but unlike the traditional reconciliation you do not receive a mailed, paper statement. With this service you log onto your financial institution’s online banking site, access your account information, download a file to your hard drive and then import the file into QuickBooks. This option – called Web Connect – is usually free and allows you to import information into QuickBooks but not send QuickBooks information to your financial institution.
 
Many banking institutions also allow you to use “Direct Connect.” This option allows you to both send and receive data. Also the process of importing statement information into QuickBooks is much easier to manage and does not require you to login to your online account each time. You can use this service with many financial institutions to transfer funds between accounts, send payment inquiries/cancellations to process bill payments and more. However, many banking institutions charge fees for this method. If you want to use this option contact your financial institution directly to see what fees, if any, may apply.
 
To setup either of the two connections above, access your company file in QuickBooks and select the Banking drop down menu, select Online Banking and select Set Up Account for Online Services. Follow the prompts in the setup wizard shown a below.
 
 
General Tip: Even if you do not download statement information into QuickBooks, almost every financial institution allows you to view statement information online and to pay bills online. With online banking access you can often choose to stop receiving paper statements and can reduce the amount of paper checks you print.
 
Paying Vendors Using Online Bill Pay
 
The easiest way to pay bills electronically is through Intuit’s QuickBooks Bill Pay Service. This service allows you to:
 
·                     Make payments to any company or individual in the U.S.
·                     Establish internal business controls for creating, reviewing and sending payments
·                     Include invoice and credit memo details with payments to obtain proper credit from vendors
·                     Aggregate multiple outstanding invoices or bills from a vendor into a single bill payment
 
To use this feature, you write checks as you normally would do in QuickBooks. Then, instead of selecting “To be Printed,” select “Online Bank Payment” and choose the date on which you would like the payment delivered. (You need to allow up to four days for processing.) The feature works with bill payments in much the same way. Then, you send the payments from the Online Banking Center within QuickBooks and the service will pay the bills by the delivery date.
 
There are fees associated with using this feature. The service currently costs $15.95 per month for up to 20 payments and $6.95 for each additional set of 10 payments. Online Bill Pay will probably save you money when you consider the cost of check stock, toner/ink, stamps and administrative processing time. The benefit to the environment is simply one factor for you when considering this service.
 
For more information and for a 30 day free trial (currently available), open your company file in QuickBooks. Then, select the Banking drop down menu, select Online Banking and select Learn About Online Bill Payment.
 
Tip 2: Use a Paperless Filing System
 
Every business needs to file accounting reports and copies of sales and purchase forms. Keeping accurate, thorough files is essential to running your business effectively. A few examples include:
 
·                     Filing monthly accounting reports like the Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss and General Ledger
·                     Filing copies of customer invoices with associated payment information
·                     Filing copies of vendor bills with associated payment information
·                     Copies of sales tax returns, payroll tax returns/forms and income tax returns
About the Paperless Office Concept
 
To save paper (and office space) it is best to shift to an electronic storage method for as much of your filing as possible. There are numerous paperless filing guides you can find online. You can start your search for online material with the article on the “Paperless Office” at www.wikipedia.org. The article defines the paperless office concept as a “philosophy to work with minimal paper and convert all forms of documentation to a digital form. The ideal is driven by a number of motivators including productivity gains, cost savings, the need to quickly share information and the positive impact on the environment.” All of these benefits are powerful motivators, but within the context of this article, the paperless office has a tremendously powerful benefit on the environment – especially as more and more businesses adopt the philosophy.
 
Consider the environmental impact of not only the paper you use and the paper that your customers and vendors/suppliers use but also the carbon-emitting resources and fossil fuel consumption involved in moving business documents from one party to another – or between multiple locations owned by your company.
 
General Paper-Saving Tip – Electronic Faxing: The business word is growing more and more independent of faxing technology. However, there are times when faxing is advantageous or even essential when transferring copies of documents and reports. Use To reduce paper use for both the sender and receiver, use an electronic faxing service. An electronic faxing service routes incoming faxes to one or more email addresses so there is no use of paper or ink/toner on your part. You can also use electronic faxing services to send faxes directly from your desktop (e.g. a printed QuickBooks invoice or a Microsoft Word letter to a customer or vendor).
 
There are several tools that allow you to easily adapt QuickBooks information to a paperless environment.
 
File Reports as Excel Files
 
With the report displayed, click the Export button and export the report to a Microsoft Excel workbook. Then, you can save the workbook to any hard drive on your local network. If you prefer, you can even export reports to existing Excel workbooks. For example, you can have a single Excel workbook called Profit & Loss and then create new sheets each time you export a monthly Profit & Loss report to Excel.
 
 
Save the Report as an Adobe Acrobat File
 
With the report displayed select the File drop down menu and then select Save as PDF. You can then browse to a folder where you want to store the Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file for future reference.
 
 
General Paperless Tip: When you work with electronically stored documents and reports, it is best to use two monitors at your workstation. On one monitor show QuickBooks (or whatever application you would normally display on the screen) and on the second monitor display the electronically stored document (source document).
 
Tip: Enhance Document Storage with a Third Party Application: There are several applications designed to work with QuickBooks that enhance your ability to efficiently store paperless source documents and reports. Go to www.marketplace.intuit.com for more information.
Tip 3: Go Paperless with Payroll
 
Payroll processing, filing and form preparation can cause extremely high paper use and can cause other environmental footprints like using mail delivery for paychecks, employee W2s and for payroll forms. QuickBooks has several in product tools that can reduce the entire payroll process to a paperless filing and electronic delivery system.
 
Using Electronic Timecards and Timesheets
 
The beginning of the payroll process is the submission of an employee’s time – for hourly employees. If you need to track specific hours to specific jobs or to provide the accountability of a timecard system you have two options:
 
TimeTracker
 
TimeTracker is an online timesheet application – designed by Intuit – that allows your employees to enter the time worked for each day of the week, to enter a note about what time they worked, to select the service item associated with the work performed and to allocate each time entry to a customer or job. This tool is especially helpful for a professional service company or contracted labor service that needs to bill the time worked to specific clients/customers. However, even if you do not need to bill a customer for the specific hours worked, you can still download the time into QuickBooks to create paychecks for each employee. For more information select the Employees menu, select Time Activities and then select Let Your Employees Enter Time.  Additional fees apply, but a 30 day free trial is currently available.
 
Corrigo TimeCard for Intuit Payroll
 
This product is designed by Corrigo in partnership with Intuit. This tool has all of the same time tracking abilities as TimeTracker, but adds the accountability of a traditional timecard machine. This is a perfect paperless option if you need employees to log start and stop times using employee ID cards. Go to www.corrigo.com for more information about this product.
 
Paying Employees with Direct Deposit
 
 You can setup direct deposit for selected employees using any edition of QuickBooks (SimpleStart and above) with any payroll service (Basic Payroll and above). Open the Edit Employee window, select “Payroll and Compensation Info” and then click Direct Deposit. Enter information for up to two bank accounts on the window shown below. Per transaction fees apply (currently .99 per paycheck). For more information go to www.quickbooks.com/payroll or call 866-820-6382.
 
 
When you submit paychecks using Direct Deposit you will still need to provide check stub information to each employee – for each paycheck. You can send paystubs to each employee electronically as Adobe Acrobat files and you can do so directly within QuickBooks. Select the File drop down menu, select Send Forms and then choose Paystubs on the Send Forms window. To increase security, you send electronic paystubs using Intuit’s secure email service. As a result, there is no Acrobat copy of the paystubs stored in the user’s Outlook data file or on any hard drive on your network.
 
Broader Environmental Perspective:  Using direct deposit reduces the check stock you purchase (less paper), the shipping process to deliver the check stock to you (less carbon emissions), the need for your employees to travel to their banks to deposit the checks (less carbon emissions) and the need for the bank to provide printed receipts for each deposit made (less paper).
 
Filing and Submitting Payroll Forms Electronically
 
QuickBooks allows you to electronically file payroll forms like the quarterly Form 941 and the annual Form 940. You can file almost all state payroll forms directly from QuickBooks as well. To use this feature you must have QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll or Enhanced Payroll for Accountants. You can also save copies of these forms in Adobe Acrobat or display the forms at any time for future reference. This feature reduces the paper you use to print the government and to file copies of each form. You also reduce the negative environmental footprint involved in mailing the forms to each government agency.
 
Paying Payroll Liabilities Electronically
 
QuickBooks allows you to submit payments to the IRS and almost all state revenue agencies electronically – directly from QuickBooks. To use this feature you must have QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll or Enhanced Payroll for Accountants. As with direct deposit, the reduction in the use of printed checks has a multi-faced positive impact on the environment. See the note above for all possible environmental footprints involved in the use of printed check stock.
 
Note: All of the paperless options above are also available using Assisted Payroll. With Assisted Payroll you process payroll using QuickBooks, with the complete ability to edit paycheck detail as you would normally do using Basic or Enhanced Payroll Services. However, after you prepare the paychecks, you click a single button to send the payroll data to Intuit, and Intuit manages the direct deposits, payroll tax payments, and quarterly/annual payroll forms – Federal and all 50 states.
 
Tip 4: Use QuickBooks Remote Access
 
QuickBooks Remote Access – powered by WebEx – allows you (or anyone with the proper login information) to connect to your QuickBooks data from any web-enabled PC. You can use this technology to reduce travel time for time you, your employees and your business consultants. For example, you can:
 
·         Access key management reports that you need in order to work from home in the evenings, weekends and holidays when you wouldn’t normally travel to the office.
·         Allow your accounting professional (e.g. CPA, ProAdvisor, bookkeeper, etc.) to access your QuickBooks data to analyze the condition of your accounting information, to process key reports, to perform bookkeeping responsibilities like bank reconciliations or even to prepare the company’s payroll forms electronically. Note: the performance of QuickBooks Remote Access is comparable to other notable remote desktop applications. However, due to the slightly longer response time of these types of utilities it may not be the best option for processing numerous transactions in QuickBooks (e.g. entering detailed Invoices or Bills). Tip: When you need to enter large amounts of data from a remote location, consider using Windows Remote Desktop or Windows Terminal Services. Contact your IT professional for more information about these options.
·         Transfer large files (e.g. QuickBooks Backups or Portable Company Files) to and from remote locations. Since very large files are difficult to email, you can use this electronic transfer option as an alternative to shipping a flash drive or other removable media storage device.
 
For more information about QuickBooks Remote Access go to www.QuickBooks.com and search for “Other Products & Services.”
 
Tip 5: Store Documents Electronically (New for QuickBooks 2010)
 
QuickBooks 2010 Pro and above allow you to electronically attach your documents to QuickBooks transactions. The tool is designed to streamline filing and enhance organization, but any form of electronic storage also has a tremendous environmental benefit. This feature allows you to store documents like receipts, contracts, statements (e.g. from vendors) and attach (i.e. create links) to the documents in QuickBooks transactions. You can also add links to customer, vendor and employee list records. QuickBooks stores all documents online - allowing you to maximize your internal server resources and providing greater protection over document loss for you due to computer errors, weather damage or theft.
 
 

About the author
Joe Woodard is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and Intuit Solution Provider who has taught over 20,000 QuickBooks consultants across the country. Joe works with Intuit, state CPA societies, and Atlanta-area CPA firms to present advanced QuickBooks instruction to accounting professionals and software consultants. Joe has earned a unique relationship with Intuit as a trainer, consultant and author. Joe has built two successful accounting software consulting practices: the first in New Orleans, Louisiana and the second in Atlanta, Georgia - Creative Financial Software (CFS). In addition to consulting with small businesses, CFS provides advisory services to CPA firms and other QuickBooks ProAdvisors/Intuit Solution Providers across the country -- helping them to better service their clients who use Intuit products. Joe recently hosted the first annual "Scaling New Heights" QuickBooks conference in Atlanta.

See all articles by Joe Woodard.

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