Managing Clients' Books with QuickBooks Online Accounting

By Christopher M. Chudyk, CPA, and Christina M. White, CPA, Traphagen Financial Group  – November 17, 2017
Managing Clients

Many CPA firms work with clients who keep their books using one of the numer­ous versions of QuickBooks Desktop. Performing accounting services for these clients, based on the client engagement, generally requires CPAs to use either an accountant’s copy or backup copy. The program offers a variety of editions with a new version released each year. There are even industry-specific upgrades which provide more tailored reporting and accounting functions for contracting, wholesale, professional services, nonprofit and retail. 

Over the years, many clients have made the switch over to QuickBooks Online. With the increasing popularity of com­puter programs shifting into the cloud, it’s no surprise that QuickBooks has jumped on board with new technology as well. This makes it more important than ever for CPAs to keep up to date with the latest accounting technology. 

To get set up with access to clients’ QuickBooks Online files, the client needs to grant the firm’s administrator with access to their account as the external accountant. The administrator will receive an email invitation to link the account. Once accept­ed, the administrator can control which staff have access.


  • One of the many benefits of Quick­Books Online for accountant users is that all of the client files are in one central location. CPAs no longer have to worry about managing different file types located in the various editions, versions and years of QuickBooks Desktop. Once external accountant access is granted, the full client list is available on the dashboard along with specific information regarding their accounts, such as the closing date or date last modified.
  • The file can be accessed by multiple users simultaneously and is accessible on multiple devices, including iPads, iPhones and Androids. This can be very useful, for example, during a conference call. Both the CPA and the client can view the same financial reports simultaneously.
  • Updates are posted to the client’s file in real-time. When posting adjusting journal entries, the CPA can be sure that their adjustments or changes have been added to the client’s file for immediate viewing. This means no more sending accountant’s copies and changing files back and forth, or trying to remember to adjust a client’s file at a later date.
  • The QuickBooks Online version finally allows CPAs to post to multiple ac­counts receivable and accounts payable accounts in the same journal entry — a feature that the desktop version still does not allow. This makes adjusting journal entries, such as writing off bad debt, a much simpler and more easily traceable process.


  • The main disadvantage to QuickBooks Online is that the interface can be difficult to navigate. Switching to the online version can take some getting used to for the majority of clients who are already acclimated to using QuickBooks Desktop. For the most part, the capabilities of the program are there, but finding them may be a challenge.
  • Some of the more advanced features of QuickBooks Desktop version, for example the use of inventory tracking or job costing features, may either not be available in QuickBooks Online or become more difficult to use. This also includes the industry-specific features that can be added to the desktop ver­sion. The program is primarily geared for more simple accounting and report­ing functions. 
  • There may be fewer report types avail­able in the client’s account depending on the level of their subscription. However, when accessing the file as an accountant user, many of the reports that are generally used are still available. Also, the report customization features are limited. 

Christina M. White

Christina M. White, CPA, is a senior tax accountant with Traphagen Financial Group, where she manages and coordinates accounting functions for general ledger accounting, payroll tax and sales tax, and Nexus issues and filings. She is a member of the NJCPA State Taxation Interest Group and can be reached at
Christopher M. Chudyk

Christopher M. Chudyk

Christopher M. Chudyk, CPA, CITP, is a partner at Traphagen Financial Group. He is a member of the NJCPA Student Programs & Scholarships Committee, the Volunteer Relations Committee and was a past president of the Bergen Chapter. He can be reached at

Read more by Christopher M. Chudyk:

This article appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.