Summary of QuickBooks 2021 Desktop ‘Core’ Features

Intuit has just released QuickBooks 2021 Desktop, over the next few days and weeks, QuickBooks ProAdvisors (for Desktop), Enterprise Users, and QuickBooks Pro/Premier ‘Plus’ subscribers will be notified about the availability of the initial release of the software. Soon thereafter, QuickBooks Desktop 2021 versions will start appearing on retailers’ shelves but as noted in our article of August 5 (2020), all those retail products will be subscription this year, in other words ‘Plus’ versions of the software. 

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Insightful Accountant has been evaluating various pre-release versions of these products for months and has spent hours communicating with Intuit personnel, including product managers and developers, so we can help you learn about the new products. This article is intended to provide you with a synopsis of the QuickBooks Desktop 2021 product line-up with a focus on the ‘core features.’

I have chosen to break out the QuickBooks Enterprise (only) features into their own article running as a companion article this year. You will find our Summary of the 2021 QuickBooks Enterprise features here.

We will be publishing a series of articles on the individual product features and many will be longer than the ‘minute reads’ of past years. I will also be writing ‘My Favorite Newbies’ article to give you my personal impression of the specific product features I like best.

Tomorrow, we will publish a Summary of the 2021 QuickBooks for Mac features. You will also want to tune in for our September QB Talks webinar scheduled for 2 PM Eastern on September 19, 2020, to hear about QuickBooks 2021. There will be more information about that webinar in an article tomorrow along with the opportunity to register.

2021 QuickBooks Feature Summary

As we did for the first time last year, we are again publishing a reference chart of the new feature availability. The chart below, courtesy of Intuit, reflects which new features are available in which QuickBooks products, and also which countries. So, for all of you who have been waiting for the product release of QuickBooks Desktop 2021 here’s what’s new.Expand

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QuickBooks Desktop Core Features

The following QuickBooks Desktop features are available within all of the product lines for 2021 including Pro, ProPlus, Premier, PremierPlus, Accountant, and Enterprise (all subscription levels), unless otherwise noted within the individual feature descriptions below. All of these features are being released in the U.S. product lines at the time of initial release unless otherwise noted. Canadian and UK country product-related features are noted in the individual feature descriptions below. 

Improved Bank Feeds

Bank Feeds is the online banking feature in QuickBooks Desktop that lets you connect to your financial institution so you can download transactions and use other online services. Through Bank Feeds, you can process bank and credit card transactions efficiently giving you extra time for your other business needs.

But despite the sophistication of Bank Feeds, there have still been issues with it. Users have had to manually categorize bank feed transactions not present in their books into accounts in part because of limited bank rule-based automation. This meant users had to spend a lot of time manually adding details such as payee, memo, class, and other information to their imported transactions. Another time- consuming chore associated with bank feeds was a lack of batch action processing, as a result, users had to manually update their new downloaded transactions one-by-one.Expand

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Substantial enhancements have been made to Bank Feeds within QuickBooks Desktop 2021 to overcome prior limitations and achieve improved efficiency. However, this new ‘Advanced Mode’ of Bank Feeds is optional because Intuit Developers knew that many QuickBooks users liked the current Bank Feed options. To select the new Bank Feeds enhancement, you must be logged in as the QuickBooks Administrator, then choose Edit from the QuickBooks Menu bar, then select Preferences, then choose Checking, then click on the Company Preferences tab, and now choose Advanced Mode under Bank Feeds (as shown above).

This new Advanced Mode of Bank Feeds will automatically categorize more of your banking transactions using rules enhanced via artificial intelligence. To access Improved Bank Feeds, select Banking from the QuickBooks Menu bar, then choose Bank Feeds, then select Bank Feeds Center.Expand

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QuickBooks’ improved Bank Feeds will now automatically categorize a majority of downloaded transactions into the proper accounts and ask users to review them if they can not be automatically matched.Expand

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Utilizing artificial intelligence QuickBooks will also automatically develop enhanced bank rule used to automatically categorize transactions.Expand

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Users can further refine, or create their own rules, to automatically match and add details to transactions to streamline the matching of the remaining transactions that QuickBooks does not ‘auto-match’.Expand

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To facilitate the posting of multiple transactions from downloaded Bank Feed data, a new batch action capability permits users to quickly select multiple transactions, edit them together, and then add them to their books with minimal clicks.Expand

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Feature Availability: At the time of the initial release of QuickBooks Desktop 2021, Improved Bank Feeds is scheduled for release only within the United States, and will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).

Automated Statements

QuickBooks Users frequently forget to send out Statements, or they forget to send them out promptly to notify their customers of payments due. Users frequently use a different Statement template for each of the two different Statement purposes, one as a reminder for overdue invoices, and a different template for recurring statement charges. As such, Statements need to be sent out in two different batches so the templates can be segregated.

The new Automated Statements feature found in QuickBooks Desktop 2021 overcomes these issues.Expand

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QuickBooks will automatically create statement emails to review and send to your customers.Expand

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You can schedule statements to be sent out to groups of customers based on when they need to receive them.Expand

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You can do a one-time customization for different email and statement layouts based on various customer requirements.  And you can set up as many different Statement schedules and statement related customer groups as you need.

Feature Availability: At the time of initial release Automated Statements will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).  The Automated Statements feature is scheduled for release within the United States, Canadian, and United Kingdom country versions of QuickBooks Desktop, release times may vary between countries.

Create Customer Groups

Create customer groups goes hand-in-hand with Automated Statements we just talked about, but so much more as well. You see this feature works across multiple QuickBooks features. It’s designed to reduce the amount of time users spend in manually sending any form of communications to their customers using systems outside QuickBooks by allowing them to create multiple customer lists in the form of groups that can be reused for differing purposes. It’s also designed to eliminate the need to manually update customer lists each time a new customer is added to QuickBooks and needs to be included in a previously established list or group.Expand

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QuickBooks Desktop 2021 allows you to use Customer Groups to send promotional emails to your customers meeting certain criteria from a single place. And because you can use these Customer Group mailing lists for multiple purposes within QuickBooks, the list you make for one feature can be used for another feature when needed.Expand

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Since you also create and use Customer Groups based on the predefined criteria you set, you have the option of letting QuickBooks automatically add or remove members to the group based on the criteria you set rather than you having to manually update the list every time.

Feature Availability: At the time of initial release Customer Groups will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).  This feature enhancement is scheduled for release within the United States, Canadian, and United Kingdom country versions of QuickBooks Desktop, release times may vary between countries.

Customize Payment Receipts

When it comes to standardized custom forms within QuickBooks Desktop ‘Payment Receipts’ have always been the ‘oddball’, you simply couldn’t make your payment receipts look like the rest of your QuickBooks forms (invoices, purchase orders, etc.). QuickBooks users were unable to edit payment receipts to add their Company log or include appropriate additional fields.

The standard payment receipts were really limited in the data they provided, with not much information that either customers or business owners needed, and no way to elaborate on customer payments. And because there was just a single format for payment receipts, the was no way to configure templates for different payment receipt purposes or set a default template for the most common day-to-day uses.

But for 2021, QuickBooks Desktop offers Customized Payment Receipts that allow business owners to have a consistent, professional look for all of their business communication to customers including payment receipts that conform to their other standardized QuickBooks forms.Expand

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With Customized Payment Receipts QuickBooks Desktop users can:

  • Send detailed, customizable, and professional-looking payment receipts with all the relevant information and data fields they need.

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  • Easily customize payment receipts in essentially the same way you customize other QuickBooks standard forms (like invoices and purchase orders) reducing the time to learn form-customization.

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  • Configure multiple payment receipt templates for different purposes but set a default payment receipt template for most day-to-day uses. The default template can be easily overridden to select an alternate template in the customer payments screen when needed.

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This is a great new feature that users have been asking for, a lot of users will be very happy by this addition in QuickBooks 2021.

Feature Availability: At the time of initial release Customize Payment Receipts will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).  The Customize Payment Receipts feature is scheduled for release within the United States, Canadian, and United Kingdom country versions of QuickBooks Desktop, release times may vary between countries.

QuickBooks Desktop Manager

QuickBooks Desktop Manager is designed to simplify and streamline the process of installing and setting up QuickBooks for users who aren’t confident in selecting the correct product for product upgrades or in performing the actual product conversion.Expand

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QuickBooks Desktop Manager addresses the most common user concerns associated with product upgrades. Many users have reported that they simply don’t know what product they should select for installation when it comes time to upgrade as a result of the large number of product SKUs being released every year. Other users fear losing their company data if they attempt self-installation of a new version, and still, others have indicated that they don’t know where to find the correct license and product version numbers when asked for this information during installation.Expand

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QuickBooks Desktop Manager overcomes these concerns with a simplified installation process that lets users view all of their eligible QuickBooks version and select the one most appropriate to their current product for installation. It also provides them with easy one-click installation in which they don’t even need to look for license or product numbers or worry about any other installation configuration concerns.

Feature Availability: At the time of initial release QuickBooks Desktop Manager will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).  The feature is scheduled only for release within the United States.

Rather than search for different tools to fix common QuickBooks problems and errors, now there is a single help resource for troubleshooting. QuickBooks Tool Hub can help with problems like Networking errors, Installation issues or errors, Company file issues, H202 and 6123 errors, PDF and printing errors, and even some cases where QuickBooks crashes.Expand

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With Tool Hub QuickBooks users can find all the available tools they most commonly need to resolve QuickBooks Desktop problems in one place, they can fix many of the most common QuickBooks errors, and they can resolve those errors in some cases with just one-click, saving them considerable time and effort. The tool also provides them with easier and faster access to support if it fails to resolve their problem.

Feature Availability: At the time of initial release QuickBooks Tool Hub will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).  The feature is scheduled only for release within the United States.

QuickBooks Capital

QuickBooks Capital streamlines the process of securing flexible business funding using data from your QuickBooks Desktop. Because QuickBooks Capital can link to your business history and growth, you don’t have to submit tons of paperwork like traditional bank loan applications. Another benefit of this connective process is that decisions can typically be made much faster than with most lending institutions, with QuickBooks Capital you can normally get a determination and funding (if approved) within a week.Expand

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With QuickBooks Capital all of the loan information is upfront, there are no hidden fees, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.Expand

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Now that you can integrate QuickBooks Capital with QuickBooks Desktop the process of getting the business funding you need can be summarized in a single word… “streamlined.”

Feature Availability: At the time of initial release QuickBooks Capital (Desktop integration) will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).  The feature is scheduled only for release within the United States.

Receipt Management

It takes hours to collect and categorize all of your business receipts if you manage to keep track of them. Why spend time manually entering expense receipts when you can efficiently import receipts into QuickBooks Desktop with this new feature for 2021?  Simply access this feature from the QuickBooks menu by selecting Vendors, and then choosing Receipt Management.Expand

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QuickBooks Receipt Management for Desktop (only available to Plus and Enterprise subscribers) allows you to import receipt images through a mobile (Apple or Android) App. QuickBooks extracts the data from the image of the receipts using artificial intelligence and machine language algorithms to create transactions for your to review.Expand

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Then you will review the receipt data and match-up any unmatched information before posting it to your accounting. And, because the image is stored with your QuickBooks data, the digital copies of the receipts are available for audit in the future.

Feature Availability: At the time of initial release QuickBooks Receipt Management (for Desktop) will be available only in QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, QuickBooks Accountant, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels).  The feature is scheduled only for release within the United States.

PDF Preview

An additional slipstream feature, released to QuickBooks 2020 last December in the R5 Update that will be included for the first time in a new product for 2021 is PDF Preview. This feature automatically previews your invoice with attachments before emailing them to your customers. You access this feature from any open Invoice in QuickBooks, then click on the Email drop-down arrow on the Main ribbon tab, select Invoice and Attached Files (as shown below).

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This feature means no longer having to manually open each attachment outside of QuickBooks giving you increased confidence and assuring accuracy while also saving you time by allowing you to see attachments without taking extra steps.Expand

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Feature Availability: At the time of the initial release of the US products for 2021, PDF Preview will be available in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels). Note: This feature is also available to all 2020 product users as of the R5 product update. Other country version release times may vary by country.

QuickBooks Merchant Services – Automatic Reconciliation (AKA: Enhanced Deposits – Auto Match & Record)

Some features found for the first time as part of the 2021 ‘new release’ were slipstream released as part of an update to QuickBooks 2020. One such feature was Enhanced Deposits which is also known as Auto Match & Record, or ‘Auto Reconciliation’ as it is now being called for 2021.

QuickBooks Payments can now automatically match and record most of the merchant deposits and fees for you. To use this enhanced deposit method, you must first set your Deposit Settings to ‘Auto match and record’. To do this select Banking from the QuickBooks menu, then choose Record Merchant Service Deposits, now select Change your deposit settings, and then turn-on the Auto match & record setting, be sure to Save your change.

After setting up ‘Auto match and record’ you can access the feature from the QuickBooks menu bar by selecting Customer, then choosing Credit Card Processing Activities, and then selecting Record Merchant Service Deposits. You will then see the following transaction categories.Expand

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The majority of the payment transactions will be automatically reconciled by QuickBooks. The convenient multiple tab design provides a clear workflow with tool-tips and improved in-product help to make reconciliation streamlined and avoiding unnecessary manual reconciliation categorization.Expand

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Your Merchant Service credit card payments are deposited the next day into your account with no extra fees or requirements.

Feature Availability: At the time of the initial 2021 release Automatic Reconciliation (AKA: Enhanced Deposits – Auto Match & Record) will be available to Payments Subscribers using QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels). The feature is presently only available within the United States.

QuickBooks Payroll Subscribers – Simplified Payroll Setup

QuickBooks 2020 began the roll-out of Simplified Payroll Setup (AKA: Easy Payroll Set-up with Employee Self Setup) for ‘new payroll subscribers’ that provided a simplified guided set-up experience for both QuickBooks Payroll users and their employees. One aspect of that feature was the ability to invite employees to fill out their personal payroll-related information.Expand

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QuickBooks 2021 expands upon that functionality for Payroll Subscribers by providing an enhanced payroll setup experience that helps get them quickly ready to run their first payroll. This enhanced payroll experience is accessed by choosing Employees from the QuickBooks menu bar and then selecting Payroll Setup.

As part of this enhanced setup, any errors in payroll data are accurately identified with sufficient guidance so that they can be fixed before the end of the setup process during Review & Finalize (as shown below).Expand

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The new setup experience also provides a more complete self-enrollment allowing employees to access and enter additional information supporting the payroll process like personal tax withholding details, banking information for direct deposit, etc. (examples shown below).Expand

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The expansion of this feature means that QuickBooks Payroll users can reduce payroll set-up time by not only having a guided experience that assures accuracy but also by having their employees self-complete much of their personal information needed to run payroll. It also means that employees can complete forms from a convenient location (as long as they have internet access) where they not only have information readily available to use in completing the forms but where they can discuss appropriate decisions with appropriate family members in privacy.

Feature Availability: At the time of the initial 2021 release Simplified Payroll Setup will be available to QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll Subscribers using QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels). The feature is presently only available within the United States.  Note: This feature is also available to all 2020 product users with Enhanced Payroll Subscriptions.

Payroll Liability Reminders

Another slipstream update to QuickBooks 2020 that is being released for the first time in QuickBooks 2021 is the Payroll Liability Reminder feature. By the way, I wrote an article about this feature in 2020 QuickBooks not long ago. Before this feature, you had to rely on QuickBooks Desktop to exclusively tell you when your Payroll Liabilities were due unless you manually kept a 3rd-party calendar system and entered the dates yourself.Expand

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This feature allows QuickBooks Desktop users with Payroll to set up reminders/alerts for Payroll Liability due dates in 3rd-party applications like Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, iCalendar, and Windows Calendar. You can even export these events so they can be imported into essentially any calendar application.Expand

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This feature lets you track payroll liability deadlines and get reminders in a timely way using the calendars you typically rely on for your business including those on your phone or tablet. As a result, you may find that you can more accurately time your liability payments and thereby improve your overall cash-flow by not necessarily paying those payments any earlier than required.

Feature Availability: At the time of the initial 2021 release Payroll Liability Reminders will be available to QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll Subscribers using QuickBooks Pro and Premier, QuickBooks Accountant, QuickBooks ProPlus, QuickBooks PremierPlus, and QuickBooks Enterprise (all subscription levels). The feature is presently only available within the United States.  Note: This feature is also available to all 2020 product users with Enhanced Payroll Subscriptions.

Remember, you can check our Summary of QuickBooks Enterprise v21 (2021) here.

Editor’s Acknowledgements

Special thanks go out to my good friend Laura Madeira who allowed me to cross-check my articles with advance copies of her features to make certain that we were consistent in providing accurate information regarding the 2021 release. Laura, and her co-author Karen Siewert, have written three separate articles this year covering different aspects of the QuickBooks 2021 release, please be certain to check them out at Intuit’s Firm of the Future blog:

I also want to thank the following Intuit personnel for their dedication in providing information, numerous briefings, and responding to my questions, as well as in guiding the actual product developments within QuickBooks Desktop and this release: Rachna Arya, Nipun Bhatia, Aditya Dixit, Sowmya Murthy, Madhumita Tayade, Muthuraj Thangavel, Tulasi Vijay Kumar Thulluru, and Raman Verma. I also want to say thanks to Michelle Berg, Mindy King, and Shawn Sturgeon from Intuit for additional product briefings and information along with the various members of Intuit’s Alpha & Beta Product Testing Teams for QuickBooks 2021.

Of course, there are entire teams, composed of hundreds of Intuit personnel behind all of these people that make the magic happen and we so often forget to say, thank you, to them, so to all involved, “Thank You for Another Great Product”!

Original Article Source:

William Murphy Senior Editor, Insightful Accountant Blog

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