Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed is a simple small business accounting tool that offers an exceptional user experience. Designed for freelancers, independent contractors, and home-based entrepreneurs, Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed connects to your financial accounts and imports transactions, tracks mileage, creates and sends invoices, and estimates quarterly taxes. Otherwise, however, Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t do as much as accounting websites aimed at similar markets, though it’s good at what it does do. Our top Editors’ Choice pick for small scale accounting is FreshBooks, which costs the same for a more robust set of features.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed costs $5 more per month than it did when I last reviewed it (now $15 per month), which is a big jump for an inexpensive solution. The current promotion prices it at $7 per month for three months (plus the free trial), but $15 per month is what FreshBooks charges for its first-tier service, and it does a lot more (though it lacks Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed’s tax estimating and automatic mileage tracking). Wave and Sunrise are free, and GoDaddy Bookkeeping starts at $4.99 per month. That makes Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed one of the most expensive services in this group.
Intuit is also the developer and publisher of TurboTax, so it offers two bundled deals with that service. For $25 per month ($12 per month for the first three months), you get the Self-Employed Tax Bundle. Because Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed and TurboTax Self-Employed are integrated, you can transfer your income and expense data directly into TurboTax Self-Employed and pay your estimated taxes online. The package includes one free federal and one free state return filing. Self-Employed Live Tax Bundle ($35 per month; $17 per month for the first three months) adds unlimited help and advice from a CPA year-round and a final review of your return from that professional.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t offer true double-entry accounting like Wave and FreshBooks do, but that’s not as important to many workers in the gig economy as it is to larger companies who might share their bookkeeping tasks with an accountant. In addition, the site’s excellent companion apps could serve many of today’s mobile entrepreneurs—who tend to live on their phones—well. Like other Intuit financial applications, Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed uses an easily understandable navigation system and offers an exceptional user experience. It’s almost fun to use.
Supporting Android, Mac, iOS, and Windows, the simple interface lends itself to an easy transition between using it on a desktop or on a mobile device, so it’s an attractive choice if you want this kind of interoperability.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed has shelved what used to be a lengthy setup process in favor of getting you started on the most critical setup task: connecting the service to your online financial accounts and beginning the process of categorizing your downloaded transactions. You click a button to mark each as business or personal (or split between the two), and Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed guesses at the correct category for either type (which you can of course change) and asks if you want all similar transactions categorized the same way.
This first step can take some time if your finances are very active, but it’s time well-spent. Once you go through the process with data from the previous 90 days (or more), you’ll not only be caught up, but you’ll get meaningful feedback when you head to the homepage (dashboard) and look at the charts produced there.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed’s dashboard is just right, considering the information that the site tracks. Without any scrolling, you can see six graphs that provide an overview of your most important numbers: Profit and Loss, Expenses, Accounts, Invoices, Mileage, and Estimated Tax. Click on any active area of the graph to drill down to original recordkeeping. Outstanding tasks, most often transactions to review, appear above these charts. A vertical toolbar to the left contains navigation links to Home, Transactions, Miles, Taxes, Reports, and Invoices. Clicking the gear icon in the upper right opens the site’s settings, and a help link sits to the right of it.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed is simple and intuitive enough that you’re unlikely to need assistance. In the event that you do, you can search for topics using the site’s QB Assistant (the generic Help link contained no content). If no answer is found for your query, then you can get help via chat, email, a callback, or Intuit’s online community of users.
The Transactions page is the heart of the Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed experience. There’s a 12-month chart at the top of this screen that displays your business income, spending, and profit. Below that are filtering tools that allow you to see only a subset of your transactions (like business, personal, or unreviewed). You can also view them by account. To the right of those filters is a search tool. The rest of the page consists of a register-type display of the transactions you’ve downloaded and entered manually.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say one of your downloaded transactions is a monthly subscription fee for a web service. The name of the vendor appears first, after the date. The amount appears in the next column. To the right of that are three boxes marked Business, Personal, and Split. Since it’s a business expense charged by one vendor, you’d click Business. The Category column would then display the one guessed at by Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed. If that was incorrect, you’d click it, and a box would open containing your most often used categories. If it’s not there, you’d click Show All Categories and select the correct one from that list.
A small link marked Add Rule appears once you select a category. Click it, and a small window opens, helping you to easily teach the site how to categorize matching transactions whenever they appear. You can even have the rule apply to past transactions, which is unusual in this class of applications.
You can also attach a receipt from a file on your computer, add a note, or exclude transactions. Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed uses OCR technology to extract the data from photos of receipts you’ve snapped on your smartphone; it then enters the relevant details in the correct fields on the site. Intuit has implemented this technology well, but it’s not always 100 percent successful.
Mobile Miles, Mobile Apps
If you drive for work and can deduct the mileage, you can enter that specific expense by clicking the Miles link in the left vertical toolbar. You’ll first have to provide a few details about your vehicle(s), then decide between five options for entering trip information. Each entry, of course, will need a date and purpose for the trip. You can enter start and end addresses and let Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed calculate the miles or simply enter the miles driven yourself. If you’ve logged trips in either MileIQ or Google trips, the site can import that data. Finally, you can use the site’s own automatic mileage tracker on the mobile version that uses Location Services for its operations. No other accounting service I’ve reviewed offers this, and it’s a great tool for rideshare drivers and those who deliver meals picked up from restaurants, as well as others.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed’s mobile app lacks little—if anything—found on the browser-based version. It’s the best companion app we found in this group of accounting websites designed for freelancers. From invoices to mileage tracking to estimated taxes to reports to interactive help, it’s all there. Like other Intuit applications, the user experience is exceptional. There’s a Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed Android app and iOS app, so no matter which platform you’re on, you can do your books on the go.
Both work similarly, though there are some minor differences in their navigation tools. The iOS version displays five icons along the bottom of the screen that open the Dashboard, Transactions, Mileage, Invoices, and Taxes. You access the app’s settings and other housekeeping tasks from an icon in the upper left corner. The Android version opens a menu with the same functions when you click a link in the lower left corner of the screen. There are also some minor user interface and navigation differences once you get into the working screens themselves. Both apps, though, are quite attractive and intuitive.
Calculating Estimated Taxes
If you didn’t already do this when you were visiting Settings, click the gear icon, then Tax profile. You’ll need to provide some important personal details (marital status, dependents, and so on) so the service calculates your estimated taxes correctly.
Once you’ve been working withIntuit QuickBooks Self-Employed for a while, your categorization and data entry work will begin to pay off, as the site uses the income and expenses you’ve entered to estimate the quarterly taxes you’re required to pay as a self-employed individual. Click the Taxes navigation button to the left, then on Annual. Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed displays your taxable business profit for the current tax year to date, breaking it down into income and Schedule C deductions. Below that is a more detailed breakdown of your Schedule C deductions. Click the Email tax details link, and you can download Excel spreadsheets containing both summary and detail views of your taxes.
When you click on Quarterly, you’ll see your quarterly tax schedule for the current year, with figures for both what’s owed and what’s been paid. If you’ve been using Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed since its inception, then you can view your historical data on this same page
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed provides three reports in addition to the comprehensive summary and detailed versions.. One is an accounting of all the receipts you’ve entered. You can’t simply view this report; you must download it. The other two are a mileage log and a profit and loss statement. These five seem sufficient considering the scope of the site, though GoDaddy Bookkeeping offers more reports beyond taxes, as well as its Schedule C Worksheet.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t offer much invoicing functionality, but you can send very simple invoices to customers and receive their payments online. There are no customization options for the lone invoice format except for the addition of a logo. Invoice forms contain fields for the name, address, phone number, and email address of both your business and the customer; you can select the client from a drop-down list if you’ve already entered it on another invoice. GoDaddy Bookkeeping offers more robust templates and automation. There’s no way to build product or service records, but the site remembers descriptions you’ve typed in on earlier invoices and displays them in a drop-down list.
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed also doesn’t handle sales taxes. You can’t pre-specify a variety of tax rates, and there’s no integration with a sales tax service such as Avalara. You have to manually calculate any sales taxes due and, worse, include them as line items.
I reviewed Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed just as they were rolling out several new features and didn’t have access to all of them. By the time you read this, you may see some basic time-tracking tools (you’ll be able to convert time records into invoices), more customizable invoices, product and service records (with images), and the ability to save favorite places as you record mileage from business trips.
A Simple Service
Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed lacks many of the features that competitors offer, like project management and time tracking, item and contact records, sales data exchanges with sites like eBay, and recurring transactions. Still, the service has carved out a niche for itself as an inexpensive, easy-to-use set of tools for a growing market: freelancers or independent contractors who work for themselves full-time or have side hustles. Those individuals need to watch their finances carefully and get assistance preparing for estimated taxes four times a year.
The service provides a user experience rivaled only by that of FreshBooks, and its automatic mileage tracking may appeal to frequent travelers. Beyond that and the income tax help, though, there’s really no compelling reason to go with Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed. Many sole proprietors could get by with FreshBooks’ $15-per-month level, which is Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed’s regular price. And FreshBooks does so much more in every possible area, including invoicing, time tracking, and income/expense management. It earns its Editor’s Choice this year.
One advantage to using an Intuit solution, though, is that you can upgrade to an application that’s more sophisticated while staying in the same product family. The next step up from Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed is Intuit QuickBooks Online, which is our Editor’s Choice for small business accounting again this year. It offers much more in every possible way, while maintaining the same exceptional user experience found in its more junior version.