Setting Up Sales Taxes in QuickBooks, Part 1

If your business is required to collect and pay sales taxes, you can use QuickBooks’ tools to help you meet those obligations.

Next to payroll, state sales taxes represent probably the most complex element of your accounting tasks. QuickBooks can help with the mechanics, but there’s a lot you need to learn before you can start charging and paying them. For example:

  • Is your company located in a destination-based or origin-based state where taxes are concerned (do you charge sales tax based on where your customers are or where you are)?
  • Certain types of items and services are exempt from sales tax. Are yours?
  • What local taxes (city, county, etc.) must you collect, if any?
  • How often must you submit what you owe, and to what agency?

If you don’t know your state’s rules, search for your Department of Revenue (sometimes called the Department of Taxation) on Google. Or talk to us about this whole complicated process. You can’t begin to work with sales taxes in QuickBooks until you know the answers to many questions.

First Steps

Once you know what your state’s rules are, you can start setting up the sales taxes you’re required to collect and pay. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click on Sales Tax, then Company Preferences. Make sure the Yes button is highlighted next to Do you charge sales tax?, then click on Add sales tax item. You’ll see this window:

In states where it’s required, you may have to at least set up a state sales tax item in QuickBooks. You may also be responsible for local (city, county, etc.) taxes.

TYPE should already be set to Sales Tax Item. Enter a name for your tax in the Sales Tax Name field; the Description should automatically appear as Sales Tax. Type in the Tax Rate (%) and the name of the Tax Agency that will collect it (select <Add New> if it’s not there already). Click OK to return to Company Preferences and continue to define additional tax rates. If there is a sales tax item you use frequently, you can select it from the Your most common sales tax item field.

Tip: Each sales tax rate is considered an Item in QuickBooks. When you have to edit or delete one, open the Lists menu and select Item List. Type sales tax in the Look for box, then Search. Right-click on your target and select your desired action from the local menu that appears.

Sales Tax Groups

When you want to combine multiple sales taxes as one item (state, county, etc.), click Add sales tax item again in Company Preferences and choose Sales Tax Group. Enter a Group Name/Number and Description. In the table below, click the down arrow in the field in the TAX ITEM column. Keep selecting individual tax rates until you’re finished, then click OK. When you use one of these groups in a transaction, the customer will only see the total tax, but reports will break them down into their individual parts.

Completing Your Preferences

The bottom half of the Company Preferences screen needs more information.

It’s important that all the entries at the bottom of the Company Preferences screen are correct before you start working with sales taxes in QuickBooks.

The first two items here are simply field labels that will appear in transactions to indicate whether or not a line item should be taxed. You should leave them as is; they’re automatically created by QuickBooks. If you want to Identify taxable amounts as “T” for Taxable when printing, click in that box to make a checkmark.

Is your QuickBooks company file set up on a cash or accrual basis? Click on the button in front of the correct choice. WHEN DO YOU PAY SALES TAX is a question that will be answered as you’re learning about your state’s sales tax requirements. When you’ve completed this section, click OK.

Assigning Tax Codes

As you create item and service records in QuickBooks, you’ll be asked to indicate whether or not they’re taxable. The Tax Code field appears at the bottom of the window, like in the image below.

You’ll need to designate every item or service you sell as taxable or non-taxable.

There’s much more you need to know about collecting and submitting sales taxes, like how to work with transactions and reports. We’ll cover those topics next month. In the meantime, let us know if we can help you set up your QuickBooks company file for this complex task.

5 Things You Should Know About the Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online doesn’t require deep knowledge of accounting principles. Still, there are concepts you should understand.

You probably didn’t expect you’d have to become an accounting expert when you started your business. You knew you’d have to deal with recording income and expenses – maybe track your inventory and process a payroll. But you may not have understood just how complex financial bookkeeping could be.

That’s why you decided to use QuickBooks Online, or are at least considering it. The service is an expert on accounting, and it simplifies the process. It knows exactly how you have to document transactions to stay compliant with the rules that accountants and other businesses follow. This is good practice, and it’s absolutely necessary if, for example, you ever have to apply for financing.

One of the features of accounting systems you should understand is the Chart of Accounts. You won’t have to alter it in any way—in fact, we strongly advise against it—but you’ll encounter it when you work with transactions. Here are five things you should know about it.

What is it?

These three columns from QuickBooks Online’s Chart of Accounts display account Names, Types, and Detail Types.

QuickBooks Online’s Chart of Accounts is a list of financial categories that are used to classify your company’s transactions when you record them. If you were doing your accounting manually, you would have to create your own Chart of Accounts. But QuickBooks Online builds one for you based on the company type and industry you choose when you’re setting up the site.

Why is the Chart of Accounts important?

Some people refer to the Chart of Accounts as the “backbone” of your company file. All transactions flow to it. Its primary importance can be summed up in one word: reports. Your reports will not be accurate if your Chart of Accounts is poorly constructed or if you categorize transactions incorrectly. This becomes as issue when you want to:

  • Prepare taxes. Your income tax return will not reflect your reportable income and deductible expenses if transactions are not assigned to the right classifications.
  • Apply for financing, take on an investor, sell your company, etc.
  • Monitor your finances. You won’t get a true picture of your income and expenses, which makes it difficult to analyze your company’s fiscal health and plan for the future.

What’s in the Chart of Accounts?

There are two types of accounts. One contains information that’s used in the Balance Sheet report. These accounts will have a number in the QuickBooks Balance column that’s based on all transactions up to the current date. They include Assets (bank accounts, accounts receivable, inventory, etc.), Liabilities (unpaid bills, credit cards, payroll and sales taxes, loans, etc.), and Equity.

The remainder of the accounts are used in the Profit and Loss report, otherwise known as the Income Statement. They’re divided into Income (sales, discounts given, etc.), Cost of Goods Sold (labor, shipping, materials and supplies, etc.), Expenses (advertising, insurance, payroll, etc.), Other Income, and Other Expense. You won’t see a number in the QuickBooks Balance column for these accounts because the Profit and Loss report changes based on the date range selected.

Should I ever make any modifications to my Chart of Accounts?

You can set up bank and credit card accounts in QuickBooks Online’s Chart of Accounts.

As we stated earlier, we strongly recommend that you never modify your Chart of Accounts without consulting us. However, there are two exceptions to this. You’ll want to create entries for your bank and credit card accounts. To do this, first open the Chart of Accounts by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and selecting Chart of Accounts under Your Company. When it opens, click New in the upper right corner. Choose Bank or Credit Card and fill in the blanks.

Do I need to use account numbers in the Chart of Accounts?

Generally, the smaller the business, the less need there is for this. If your business is big enough that you have dedicated A/P and A/R individuals, you may want to post transactions to account numbers.

Understanding Reports

QuickBooks Online makes it possible for you to view the Chart of Accounts and those two critical reports, Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss. Customizing and analyzing them, though, is something you should do under professional supervision. We’re happy to help here and in other advanced areas of the site. Contact us for a consultation.