Our Ongoing Love/Hate Relationship with Intuit
If you are in this industry you have had to deal with Intuit at least once. For the one person who has no idea what Inuit is, I will explain. Intuit is the company that makes QuickBooks Desktop (QBD), QuickBooks Online (QBO), Lacerte, ProConnect, Pro Series, and other tax and accounting programs.
Just to give you my perspective on the ease of doing things, I like to use devices such as Apple that integrate with other devices. I don’t have a Mac computer because, for what I do for a living, they are garbage. However, Microsoft has released its entire Office Suite for iOS. My iPad and iPhone talk to each other, my contacts are all Exchange contacts, and I can go between my clunky laptop and my iPad for pretty much anything.
Nothing is worse for an accountant than learning a new program, be it for tax or write up. I have used QBD for as long as I can remember. About three or four years ago, I started referring my clients to QBO. The functionality of the cloud and the funneling in of bank account, credit card and other financial transactions reduce the time a staff accountant has to spend on an account. (Read my previous take on QBO here: An Open Letter About QuickBooks Online.)
When we went on our own five years ago, I didn’t want to do live payroll. I was perfectly happy referring my clients to Paychex or ADP. Honestly, payroll is too much work to be paid in nickels and dimes. However, my wife and partner Belsis came to me one day and asked me to start a payroll company. I told her that I wanted nothing to do with it. So she took on this project by herself, despite not being an accountant. But she did have a big human resources background.
There are still things that I have to do for this company, like get state numbers for SUTA, and state withholding taxes, if applicable. We use a company where the payroll is web based and where my wife spends countless hours walking clients through the payroll process, learning all the nuances of particular state laws and all that fun stuff.
The downside is that when payroll is completed, on the write-up side, the staff accountant only gets the net checks. They have to put those checks into a holding account and then get the payroll information from the provider and reconcile payroll. That is a little time consuming.
Somehow, I am a Certified QuickBooks Professional Advisor, and one day a salesperson from Intuit called me. My rule is that I don’t talk to salespeople if I don’t have to, so my wife took the call. When a solicitor is at my door, I know that they are selling something, and before they can get a word out, I simply tell them that I am not interested and shut the door. My wife says this is rude, and she will hear the person out. Forget the fact that solicitation isn’t allowed in our neighborhood. The point is that if I spend my days talking to all of the salespeople who contact me, I would get nothing done. However, being in this business since 1994, I have learned that salespeople are a necessary evil.
Let me give you an idea.
I have been using Lacerte since 1999. I am comfortable with Lacerte and really don’t want to use another tax program. However, I was tired of paying Intuit over $15,000 a year for Lacerte. Last tax season, I had heard about a cloud-based tax software program called ProConnect. The beauty of this program was that it was designed off the Lacerte platform, which meant that I didn’t have to learn a new software and the cost was several thousands of dollars less. Ultimately, I decided to use Pro Connect for all of the extensions that I filed for 2016 before I fully committed to it.
At the same time, my wife was being courted by Intuit to use wholesale accounts for our clients, and we were given a deep discount, which we could use to either mark up our fees or pass along our savings to the client.
Now with that, we could offer our clients full-service payroll through QBO for a cheaper price. How my wife sells me on this — because I know we are just going to pass on the savings to our clients — is that QBO integrates with Pro Connect.
That’s not to mention that I am so sick of accountant copies for QBD. We have a lot of clients, and when a client sends their work to us, they have to set a dividing date and can’t return to prior the dividing date while the accountant’s copy is out. This sets up a horrible scenario in which the client is rushing us to do the work. However, with this wholesale thing, I think I can sell the clients on moving to QBO. To sweeten the pot further, Inuit promises us free payroll.
I begin the process of basically forcing our clients to convert to QBO. My wife makes the decision to start new clients’ payroll on QBO, but for now we leave old clients on the old system. As you will see, she is much smarter than I am.
The one payroll that I have to do is our payroll because I have to move money around. We keep most monies in a sort of escrow account, and we move that amount to the operating account when we have expenses.
My wife was forced into having to do payroll about six times last year after I suffered some personal setbacks. Here is the best that I can explain how my 2017 was to you. I lost my uncle, who was like my dad, my dad, and my best friend who was like my brother — all within a span of six months. We had a major hurricane that devastated Orlando, and we were down at the office for over a month. We traveled everywhere for speaking engagements and seeing clients. And to finish the year I had my third back surgery in five years. So, I was out of things when those deaths, the hurricane and my surgery happened.
Going back to payroll, my wife has a concept that monies need to be moved, but I keep her out of that part of the business as much as I can. There were three times when payroll bounced. Each time the payroll bounced, it caused three or four clients’ payroll to go down with us. The third time this happened we lost a client.
Here is where all of these years of experience come in. I tell my wife to make these issues our payroll salesperson’s problem. My thoughts are, as they are with every salesperson, that if they want their commission, they will fix the issue.
Instead of reaching out to the salesperson, she goes directly to chat support for the three times that payroll goes down. (My wife and I are Gen Xers, which is not to mention that she thinks she knows more than I do.) For the first two times, she has no problems getting it cleared up, but for the last time, chat support cannot do anything.
So, I finally convince my wife to call the salesperson and make it her problem. She does, and our salesperson works with us only for so long, and then transfers us. During this whole time, I am getting frantic texts from the client who is trying to run payroll but ends up leaving anyway.
Before I rant, I would like to say I see Intuit’s point here. However, when you add up the reasons, and if you would have seen the state I was in at the time, Intuit should have given us a Mulligan.
Intuit fixes the issue, but we are cut off from payroll, and the clients, who have no issues, cannot be added to the system anymore. My wife tells me that was the reason as to why she was slow about moving the other clients. That is always fun to hear that.
So then we get this message from the payroll salesperson on our answering service at the office.
That means it’s time for me to step in. In our house, as our grown kids will tell you, I am only brought in when they have seriously messed up. I tend to be assertive/aggressive. That’s particularly so in this case, when I went through all of this nonsense to get our clients to use QBO.
To add insult to injury, the tax program integrates with QBO. However, for those clients who have a return in ProConnect, QBO ignores that and wants to create a new return. So, that doesn’t even work either. Here was where Intuit screwed up.
With desktop, QuickBooks was the only game in town. Now that we have moved to the cloud, there are several competitors. After tax season, I, not my wife, will take on this mission to see what the alternatives are.
The point is, in this realm, be careful of what you tie yourself to, because you might get a bunch of nonsense instead.
Editor's Note: Please note that the words and opinions expressed by Mr. Smalley are his own and do not reflect those of AccountingWEB or its parent company Sift Media.
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Craig W. Smalley, MST, EA, has been in practice since 1994. He has been admitted to practice before the IRS as an enrolled agent and has a master's in taxation. He is well-versed in US tax law and US Tax Court cases. He specializes in taxation, entity structuring and restructuring, corporations, partnerships, and individual taxation, as well as...