Intuit Pushes QuickBooks Online Subscriptions

End of Desktop Ownership and Subscription Shuffle

By Lisa Sullivan
Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP

Intuit is shaking things up with its flagship product, QuickBooks. The company is making significant changes to its accounting software, pushing users towards the cloud-based QuickBooks Online and phasing out ownership options for the Desktop version. This shift has left many small and mid-sized business owners wondering what the future holds for their finances and if there are viable alternatives.

The End of Desktop Ownership

The most significant change is the discontinuation of new sales for QuickBooks Desktop Pro Plus and Premier Plus subscriptions after July 31, 2024.  Existing users with these plans can continue using them, but they won’t have access to upgrades or new features.  Additionally, as of May 31, 2024, support for Desktop versions 2021 and earlier will be discontinued and critical security patches as well as updates will not be issued.  QuickBooks Enterprise is not affected by this change and will be available to purchase for new customers. This signals a clear push by Intuit towards its cloud-based solution, QuickBooks Online. 

Subscription for All?

Adding another layer of complexity, Intuit is also transitioning existing Desktop users to a subscription model. Previously, users could purchase a perpetual license for the Desktop software, meaning a one-time upfront cost for lifetime ownership (excluding upgrades). Now, all users, including those on Desktop, will need to subscribe to access the software. While subscription plans offer ongoing updates and security features, it removes the benefit of owning the software outright. Desktop users who do not move to a subscription by July 31 will not be able to purchase a Desktop subscription in the future. 

Intuit’s motivations are clear: cloud-based software offers recurring revenue through subscriptions. Additionally, cloud solutions are easier to maintain and update centrally, allowing for a more consistent user experience across devices. However, this shift comes at a cost for some users.

If you have a perpetual license for an older version of QuickBooks Desktop (prior to Pro Plus and Premier Plus), you can continue using it as long as your system meets the compatibility requirements. However, you won’t have access to new features or security updates. For this reason, we caution against this option, as there is a risk of something happening to your file and not being able to repair the data. 

Key Benefits of QuickBooks Online

Although it may seem like a big change, there are many user benefits of moving to QuickBooks Online such as:

  • Easier to share data with your accountant, no more sending files back and forth.
  • You will be able to access your files from anywhere, making it easier to work remotely or on the go.
  • Bank and Credit Card transactions feed into QuickBooks Online, reducing data entry time and making reconciliations more efficient.
  • QuickBooks Online syncs to many partner apps such as, QuickBooks Time, and several payroll apps.
  • Since QuickBooks Online is Intuit’s primary focus, you can expect regular enhancements and improvements to this product over time.
  • QuickBooks Online now also offers a desktop app that has a similar look and feel to QuickBooks Desktop Pro. This can help alleviate apprehension around the change.

QuickBooks Online offers five different subscription levels, with current prices ranging from $10 to $200 per month. This is good news for users, as it should not require you to pay additional for features that you may not need at this time. In some cases, a QuickBooks Online subscription can be less expensive than a Desktop subscription, depending on the number of users and/or companies using the subscription. Contact your accountant if you want to learn more about this option.

Are there Drawbacks for Users?

The subscription model can be a burden for small businesses with tight budgets. Previously, a one-time purchase of Desktop allowed for long-term use without additional costs. Now, users face ongoing expenses for access. Additionally, some users, particularly those in privacy-sensitive fields, may be hesitant to move their financial data to the cloud. 

What is the Best Choice for Your Business?

The best option for your business depends on individual needs and budget. If you are used to working with QuickBooks and are reluctant to move to another software platform, QuickBooks Online is likely to be the best fit. However, if you prefer a one-time purchase, alternative software might be a better choice. One thing we would not recommend is trusting that your existing desktop version of QuickBooks will be able to support your business into the future.

Time to Scale Up?

If your organization has experienced a period of growth (or hopes to), you may be better served by moving away from a basic program like QuickBooks to a more robust alternative, such as Sage Intacct. The initial cost of ramping up may be well worth it, as you’ll gain significant capacity and capabilities to help you better manage your finances. 

If you take the opportunity to upgrade your financial software, it is important to research your choices thoroughly. Some enterprise software platforms, including Sage Intacct, offer industry-specific versions that can provide an enormous amount of data and analytics that you can use to better manage your finances, while accessing information that will give you the ability to make more informed decisions about your business and its future.

The Takeaway

Intuit’s changes to QuickBooks represent a significant shift towards cloud-based solutions. While this move offers advantages for Intuit and some users, it removes the option of one-time purchase for Desktop software. Your first step should be to reach out to an accounting professional for help in evaluating your needs and exploring alternatives. They can help you determine the best accounting software solution for your small business.

Lisa Sullivan is a Manager with Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP, a business advisory and accounting firm based in Canton, MA. She can be reached at 781.407.0300.

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