Intuit keeps the books for small contractors

Intuit (888/2-intuit, www.QuickBooks.com) recently introduced QuickBooks 99 and QuickBooks Pro 99 for Windows, the latest upgrades of the highly successful small business accounting software. Both are year 2000-compliant accounting programs specifically designed for small business owners with little or no accounting experience. QuickBooks Pro also includes estimating, job costing, and time-and-material

Intuit (888/2-intuit, www.QuickBooks.com) recently introduced QuickBooks 99 and QuickBooks Pro 99 for Windows, the latest upgrades of the highly successful small business accounting software.

Both are year 2000-compliant accounting programs specifically designed for small business owners with little or no accounting experience. QuickBooks Pro also includes estimating, job costing, and time-and-material billing features.

For a relatively low sticker price, either package could be a good match for small hvac and plumbing contractors who want to do their bookkeeping on a pc but don’t want to get bogged down in accountant’s jargon.

Both programs are aimed at single-user businesses with one to 20 employees, with the Pro version offering multi-user capabilities. The Pro package integrates with Microsoft Word 97 and Microsoft Excel 97. QuickBooks Pro users can export customer data directly from QuickBooks Pro 99 into Microsoft Word to create custom letters, mail merges and other mass mailings.

Word and Excel documents are automatically formatted with the desired customer information and financial data. QuickBooks Pro 99 comes with a library of 25 prewritten, preformatted business letters, which can be customized using Microsoft Word. This could be handy for boilerplate thank you letters, collection letters and business announcements because it automatically takes names, addresses or other data from an existing QuickBooks Pro database.

The QuickBooks Pro 99 integration with Microsoft Excel allows users to automatically send any QuickBooks report to their spreadsheet. Once a QuickBooks Pro report has been exported to Microsoft Excel, with formulas and formatting, users can create quick what-if scenarios, generate additional reports in Excel or manipulate the data for business analysis.

Intuit’s accounting programs have long been known to bypass technical accounting terminology and double-entry accounting procedures, making them a lot easier to learn than many other accounting software packages.

Some of the new features in both QuickBooks and QuickBooks Pro 99 enable users to generate a cash flow report; print laser deposit slips and track cash back on deposits; sort, filter and print mailing labels by zip code for direct mailings; generate open purchase orders by customer job reports; and include job tracking on purchase orders.

Internet-enabled users of either version can link directly to Intuit’s small business Web (free or fee-based) services, more than a dozen of which are specifically designed for QuickBooks users, including QuickBooks online payroll tax service, direct-deposit service, and complete online banking and bill payment. (For contractors not yet connected, the disk comes with Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0.)

The programs can also download credit card transactions and balance statements from more than 25 major financial institutions, so if you have a company credit card you can maintain an accurate accounting of your credit card activities and charge purchases against specific jobs.

QuickBooks Online Payroll Tax integrates with user-generated data in QuickBooks. The service handles federal and state payroll tax filings, tax deposits, W-2s, 940 and 941 processing. It also sends users the latest federal and state payroll tax regulations along with up-to-date tax tables.

Both features offer full integration with QuickBooks so you can still view all payroll data on your computer without data re-entry.

Both versions offer direct employee payroll deposit through Chase Manhattan Bank, which acts as the clearinghouse for QuickBooks Online Payroll Service. Regardless of where your employees bank, you can, with the program, make direct payroll deposits. Employees can even select a split deposit between two bank accounts.

You can pay anyone online by using the Online Banking and Bill Payment features. In some cases, the payments are made electronically but in most cases the service sends out checks on the date you designate. You can even order a payment breakdown and indicate you have taken your discount.

Forms are customizable. If you have a scanner or a digital camera you can even add a job progress photo to your invoice. A new progress photo with each invoice might help justify your percentages. For that matter you can also calculate invoices by percentage complete and by milestone.

The estimated street price for QuickBooks 99 is $119.95 and QuickBooks Pro 99 is $219.95 (with rebates for users upgrading from earlier versions). Intuit also offers QuickBooks Pro 99 Five-User Value Pack. The estimated street price is $599.95. Each user in a multi-user environment will need his own copy of the same version of QuickBooks Pro to share data. Up to five users can have simultaneous access to the same QuickBooks Pro data file.

QuickBooks Pro 99 is optimized for Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT (peer-to-peer networks), Windows NT Server or Novell NetWare networks.

Both programs require relatively little computer power: an ibm-compatible 486 (or higher) pc with a minimum of 16 mb of ram and a hard drive with 55 mb free disk space. Accessing the Internet with Internet Explorer requires an additional 40 mb of disk space. The program comes on cd-rom disk or, for an extra charge, floppies.