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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

Content is the opinion of the author and does not represent the position of any other person or entity. Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed.

The author is paid for product endorsements and has an ownership or other financial interest in the businesses related to the topics covered.

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Accounting Questions Index

Accountant's copy of Quickbooks

posted on:  10/06/2006          revised: 12/08/2009

Q: How do I send a copy of our QuickBooks accounting data to the accountant for review?

A: Please follow these simple steps to send the file:

  1. Start QuickBooks from your desktop by clicking the QuickBooks icon.
  2. Click "File" and then "Accountant's Review" and then "Create Accountant's Copy". Click "OK" when prompted.
  3. Note the file name and location of the file being created. (The file name is usually QDATA.QBX ; You may want to save it to the desktop by clicking the "desktop" box at the left). Click "Save" to create the file where it is easy to locate.
  4. Close QuickBooks and send an e-mail message to the acountant and attach the QDATA.QBX file that was created above.

The specific wording on the program instructions may change slightly depending on the version of QuickBooks that you are using, but the basic simple procedure remains the same.

Other Resources:

Accounting for rental properties

posted on:  9/30/2006        revised: 12/08/2009

Q:  I want to be able to keep a running total of all rental income and receipts for tax purposes but also want to be able to track each property seperately.  Is there a way to do this without setting up a separate set of books for each property?

A: Yes, one easy way is to make each property a "Category" in your accounting system. That way you can view income and expense items in total or by category, depending on the need. This also helps with the Schedule E year-end tax accounting report.

Other Resources:

Accounting for a Web-based retailer

posted on:  8/24/06        revised: 12/08/2009

Q:  I need a better accounting system for my retail business.  Do you recommend QuickBooks and if so what version would be best for me?

A: QuickBooks has about 85% market share in the small business retail area, so this seem like the obvious choice. Based on what you said the regular "Pro" version will work fine. The retail price is $199 but there is a $40 discount if purchased through OnlineAdviser in conjunction with any professional service.

Keep in mind that if you need a point-of-sale inventory manager, that will be a seperate add-on to your financial accounting program.

Other Resources:

QuickBooks ProAdvisor Service

Certified payroll report

posted on:  12/6/06      revised:

Q:  What is a "Certified Payroll Report"?

A: Businesses that perform government contracts are required to prepare a payroll report that shows that all workers are receiving at least the prevailing wage. If you are using QuickBooks or one of the payroll options, you can prepare this report by modifying a standard payroll report. Instructions are included in the help files for QuickBooks but it is a fairly detailed procedure so you may want to hire help from a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor who can provide this report separately or as part of a complete payroll service.

Other Resources:


Eliminate duplicate vendors

posted on:  10/17/06       revised:

Q:  I have a QuickBooks question.  When I enter checks, sometimes vendors are entered with a slightly different spelling of the names and create separate vendor accounts like "K-Mart" and "Kmart".  How do I correct this?

A: Just go to "Lists" or "Vendor center and select one of the names to edit. Change the name to be exactly the same as the other. A pop-up box asks if you want to merge the two records. Just confirm and the two now become one vendor record.

Other Resources:

Financial statement for bank

posted on:  4/18/2006      revised: 12/08/2009

Q: Our bank is reviewing our commercial loan and wants financial statements for our business prepared by our an accountant. You prepared our tax returns and helped us set up Quickbooks but have not done any other accounting for us. Do these statements need to be audited and how much would this cost?

A: Yes, financial statements are commonly prepared for this purpose and generally can be compiled by extracting data from your existing accounting system and making some adjusting entries. These statements do not need to be audited but rather are accompanies by a review or compilation letter. Depending on the complexity of the bank's requirements, this would typically take a few hours of accounting time.

Other Resources:

Financial statement for business loan

posted on:  7/21/06      revised: 12/08/2009

Q: Do you have a template for preparing personal financial statements for a small business loan?

A: Yes, templates are available from OnlineAdviser and other sources online but if you are using (or plan to use) a computerized accounting system, then it makes more sense over the long term to the built-in financial statement generators. It would be smart to start off right and develop these statements now. If you are using Quicken or Quickbooks accounting systems, I can help you set up that system using the accountant's remote tools.

Other Resources:

Payroll for small business

posted on:  12/1/05      revised:

Q: I am starting a company with 3 employees. What is the best was to handle payroll?

A: There are four options:

  1. Handle the payroll entirely yourself. Software like Quickbooks can help you set up payroll accounts, issue paychecks and prepare wage tax filings.
  2. Process paychecks yourself and outsource filing. This makes it easy to get checks out anytime and gives the assurance that required filings are done properly to avoid penalties.
  3. Outsource to a bank or payroll company. Intuit and several other excellent companies will handle the entire process. Now some larger banks offer this service at surprisingly low fees.
  4. Have your accountant handle it. This usually results in the highest level of personal service but is the most expensive.

OnlineAdviser service supports Quickbooks payroll, but the process is similar for any other accounting software.

Other Resources:

Payroll tax setup

posted on:  9/01/2006      revised:

Q:  I am setting up our QuickBooks payroll system for retirement plan contributions.  Are these subject to state and local wage taxes?

A: The general rule is that employer contributions to a retirement plan are not "wages" and are therefore not subject to wage taxes. Voluntary employee contributions really are wages that the employee has elected to direct to the retirement plan so these are subject to wage taxes except for federal income tax withholding. (Retirement plan contributions are subject to income tax at the time of withdrawal rather than time that the money is earned or accrued). These rules vary from state to state so check with your local taxing authorities or use QuickBooks ProAdviser to do a quick review of your payroll tax system.

Other Resources:

Payroll tax setup for employee benefits

posted on:  8/11/2006      revised:

Q:  How are health benefits shown on a W2 form or can they be ignored altogether?

A: It depends on the type of health plan. Uninsured consumer-driven and voluntary health plans, especially those provided through a cafeteria benefit plan, can involve a bit more accounting than health insurance. A summary help chart is posted at in an article titled "Setting Up Payroll Tax for Employee Benefits" that provides more detail and a breakdown of the tax treatment for different types of health plans.

Other Resources:

article: Setting Up Payroll Tax for Employee Benefits

Quickbooks for Contractors

posted on:  9/05/2006      revised: 9/11/2006

Q:  I have a small landscape contracting business and I read our article about how a better accounting system can help boost profits.  Which version of the software would be better the regular version of the version for contractors?

A: You are asking about QuickBooks software published by Intuit, available in various versions, that reportedly makes up the backbone of over 85% of the accounting systems of small business contractors nationwide. For many small businesses it makes sense to start with the basic version and upgrade to another version when necessary. The transition is easy; there is no loss of time or data making an upgrade from the free version to another version. Intuit offers a free analysis of your business by an independent accountant through the ProAdvisor program is available that could address this issue in more details. Also, a new add-on product called "Easy Estimate" is worth your consideration. A short review is available at the link below.

Other Resources:

article: A Review of "Easy Estimate"

article: QuickBooks ProAdvisor free consultation program