How to Set Up Accounting Preferences in QuickBooks 2010

You can specify how QuickBooks 2010 works for you by setting preferences. These preferences have a lot of effect on how QuickBooks works and on how a particular user works with QuickBooks. You can manually change the accounting preferences by choosing Edit→Preferences. QuickBooks displays the Preferences dialog box, from which you can access all the preference settings.

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The Company Preferences tab provides the following general accounting options, as well as closing date settings:

  • Use Account Numbers: Enables you to enter an account number for a transaction. The associated check box, Show Lowest Subaccount Only, tells QuickBooks to display only the name and account number of a subaccount (if you’re using one) rather than the full heritage of the account.

    If you use a lot of levels of subaccounts, this option can really clean up views, making it easier to tell what account you’re looking at.

  • Require Accounts: Tells QuickBooks that you must specify an account for a transaction. It probably never makes sense to deselect the Require Accounts check box.

  • Use Class Tracking: Lets you tell QuickBooks that you want to use not only accounts to track your financial information, but also classes. Classes simply let you split account-level information in another way.

  • Automatically Assign General Journal Entry Number: Tells QuickBooks to assign numbers to the general journal entries that you enter by using the Make Journal Entry command.

  • Warn When Posting a Transaction to Retained Earnings: Tells QuickBooks to display a warning message whenever you or someone else attempts to directly debit or credit the retained earnings account.

    Normally, you don’t want to directly debit or credit the retained earnings account. And only skilled accountants would enter transactions directly into retained earnings, in any case.

  • Date Warnings: Tell QuickBooks to warn you when you or someone else enters a transaction with a date too far in the past or too far into the future. If you mark either of the Date Warning boxes, you also want to specify how many days is too far into the past or too far into the future.

  • Closing Date: Lets you identify a date before which your QuickBooks data file can’t be changed. In other words, if you set the closing date to December 31, 2009, you’re telling QuickBooks that you don’t want any changes made to the QuickBooks data file before this date. You can also click the Set Password button to display a dialog box that lets you create a password, which is required if someone wants to add an old transaction or modify an old transaction.

Past versions of QuickBooks let you turn on and off an audit trail feature by using the Company Preferences tab of the Accounting Preferences. However, since 2007, QuickBooks provides an always-on audit trail, so you don’t see an Audit Trail check box any more. An audit trail, by the way, simply keeps a list of who makes which changes to transactions.

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