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.

Creating Statement Charges in QuickBooks®

There’s more than one way to bill customers for your products and services. A statement charge is one of them.

Depending on what kind of business you have, you probably have a preferred way of billing customers. If they walk into your shop and present a credit card or cash, you create sales receipts. If they order off your website, they might receive an electronic receipt. Or your arrangement may be such that you send invoices.

There’s another way that’s especially useful if your customers are responsible for paying recurring charges, like an ongoing service contract that’s billed monthly. You can enter those financial obligations directly as statement charges.

As you know, QuickBooks can create statements, summaries of a customer’s activity. These are generated automatically from the invoices, receipts, payments, and other transactions you’ve recorded over a given period of time. But did you know you can manually add charges to statements? Here’s how it works.

Creating a Statement Charge

Click the Statement Charges icon on the home page or open the Customers menu and select Enter Statement Charges. Your Accounts Receivable register appears. Open the list in the field next to Customer:Job by clicking on the down arrow and select the correct Customer:Job.

Warning: If the item will be attached to a specific job, not just a customer, be sure you choose the correct job. QuickBooks maintains a separate register for each.

Consider creating a statement charge instead of an invoice for recurring transactions that will not be billed immediately.

Change the date if necessary and open the Item list (or click <Add New> if you haven’t created an item record yet). Select the one you want and enter a quantity (Qty). QuickBooks should fill in the rate and description. The TYPE column will automatically contain STMTCH (statement charge). Click Record when you’re done. The next time you create a statement for that Customer:Job, you’ll see the transaction you just entered.

Statement Charge Limitations

Before you decide to use statement charges, keep in mind that:

  • You can’t include some information that would appear on an invoice, like sales tax and discounts.
  • Even if your charge relates to hours you worked for the customer, QuickBooks will not open a reminder window containing that information the next time you create an invoice for the customer. You’d have to Enter Time by creating a single activity or entering the hours on a timesheet.
  • You still have to bill the customers.

Billing the Customer

There are two ways to bill customers for statement charges. You can, of course, just generate statements that include the date(s) of the charge(s). The next time you create a statement for customers who have manually-entered statement charges, it will contain them, along with any other activity like invoices and payments.

We’ve covered statements before, but we’d be happy to go over this QuickBooks feature with you. This means you’ll have to enter a statement charge every month if it’s to be a recurring one. Instead, you can treat them as memorized transactions, so they’re automatically entered in the register. If you’re billing multiple customers for the same service every month, for example, this would work well.

First, you’ll need to create a Group that contains all of those customers. Open the Lists menu and select Memorized Transaction List. Right-click anywhere on that screen and click on New Group. This box will open.

If you regularly bill customers for the same service, like a monthly subscription, you can create a Group and memorize the transactions.

Give your Group a Name and click the button in front of Automate Transaction Entry. Open the list in the field next to How Often and select the billing interval. Choose the Next Date to indicate when this group billing should begin. If the charges should be entered on a limited basis, enter the Number Remaining. And be sure to fill in the Days In Advance To Enter if that’s applicable. Click OK.

Next, you’ll assign the customers who should be billed monthly to your Group. Click Statement Charges on the home page again to open your A/R register. Select each customer one at a time and right-click on the statement charge that you want to recur monthly, then select Memorize Stmt Charge. In the window that opens, give the transaction a new Name if you’d like (this will not affect the transaction, only how it’s listed). Click on the button in front of Add to Group and select the Group name from the drop-down list. Repeat for each customer you want to include.

Keeping Track

If periodic statements are your primary customer billing method, this system should work fine. But if you also send invoices and/or collect payment at the time of the sale, you’ll need to remember that your statement charges must be billed on a regular basis, too. We can go over your customer billing procedures with you to determine whether you’re using QuickBooks’ tools wisely – or whether some changes could improve your collection of payments.