In QuickBooks Online, you can create accounts, sub-accounts, sub-accounts of sub-accounts and even sub-accounts of sub-accounts of sub-accounts (personally, I’ve never met anyone who’s taken it to the 4th level). Sub-accounts are a great way to stay organized and keep your Chart of Accounts simple. Moreover, sub-accounts let you track related transactions (i.e. multiple types of "plant" income) in greater detail while keeping all your data in order.
In QuickBooks, sub-account figures appear alongside parent account data on most financial reports, but what if you want to run a report for only your sub-accounts?
Let’s say I own a landscaping business. If I want to know specifically about my Bonsai income, for example, I could pull a Profit and Loss Detail Report and parse out the information. But having more than a handful of sub-accounts makes the report busy. As my accounts grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to quickly zero in on the details I need.
Fortunately, QuickBooks allows you run reports for single sub-accounts and apply custom filters to standard reports so they only display data from specific sub-accounts. Like Custom Reports, breaking down reports by sub-account lets you narrow the scope of your analysis and provide stakeholders (such as clients or project managers) with only the details that matter.
Run a report for a single Sub-Account
Head over to your Chart of Accounts either by clicking the Accounting Tab or clicking the Gear Icon (), selecting “All Lists” and then selecting Chart of Accounts.
Scroll down until you find the sub-account. Click the expand arrow () on the account line and then "Run Report."
Alternatively, you can select "Run Report" for parent accounts and click select the Export Icon to get a detailed PDF of all the incoming and outgoing transactions for the related sub-account(s).
Run a report for multiple Sub-Accounts
Hop back into your Chart of Accounts, scroll to the top of the page and click .
This brings up an Account List summarizing everything in your Chart of Accounts. To filter for specific sub-accounts, click the "Customize" button at the top.
Once the menu pops up, expand the "Filter" section, check the "Account" box and scroll through the drop-down menu to toggle the accounts you want to include in your report.
If you have a long list, this is where good naming conventions come into play. Giving accounts meaningful yet relevant names, as our partners at Real World Training encourage us to do, will speed up your overall workflow, especially when you’re working with list data.
Now it’s your turn
How deep do your sub-sub accounts go? Does tracking more detail with multiple sub-accounts make a significant, positive difference for your bookkeeping process?
Great content! Subaccounts can be a great thing but can also get out of control very quickly, and when they do your company financials are the first thing impacted. One of the biggest benefits of subaccounts that many people are not familiar with is how they are used in the Management Reports. When sub accounts are used, you have the option to have QuickBooks Online auto create supporting footnotes within your financial reporting. This will add additional pages to your reporting with reference numbers to make it easier to read the financial document.
Here is an example of what you would see:
One of the things that Parkway has done was to use our classes like our subaccounts. This unique approach allows us to maintain a standard chart of accounts for most of our clients while also enabling us the ability to offer advanced reporting.
Either way, we always seem to run into the same situation, very few people take the time to review our generated reports, and if they do, they usually just look at the bottom number to see if they mad money or not. Currently, we are building out a Power BI dashboard to provide a visual representation of the same reporting but in a more attractive way.
I would be interested to know everyone, especially business owners, thoughts about this idea. How many people here take the time to review their financial reports each month, and how many would prefer to receive them as a graphical display?
Thank you for your insight into sub-account organization and reporting. I don't use management reports nearly as often as I should, so I am curious what your best practices are for how and how often to utilize them.
Footnotes are so powerful (that's why we [former] historians jam them into our writing as often as we can)! They make sure the important, granular details don't get lost in the information avalanche of financial statements.
We've had a few questions on the community lately (@anniecheng) about sub-accounts vs. classes. @ParkwayInc, besides keeping a "standard" CoA, can you think of any other huge advantages of the class approach? Annie and I are looking into workarounds since not all versions of QBO offer classes.
To your final point, now you're getting into the fundamentals of reporting - how do you use reports to tell the right story? These are critical questions that everyone who works with data should ask themselves [points to self].
How do you, as the report preparer, decide which details are most important to the recipient so they are able to make smart decisions from their perspective? How do you know when there's "too much" or "not enough" data and thus avoid either over or underwhelming your clients? Are graphs the most effective medium for conveying financial information, or does it oversimplify the true complexity of what the raw numbers tell us?
This might all depend on personal preference, but as an accounting firm, how do you scale this process? All very excellent questions @ParkwayInc
Well... Since you asked, yes, I can think of a couple great use cases for classes!
The most common, is to track commissions and/or advances for sales people. We all know that sales associates tend to be a position that has higher turnover especially if they are rather particular about their commissions.
Classes allow you to track sales on an invoice or even at the line level of an invoice to a specific person with a drop-down selection. (trying to accomplish this with a custom field leaves to much opportunity for typos and that just causes more work).
Custom Reporting illuminates and shares the knowledge:
Once you have the classes setup, you just customize a report by adding the class column to show you transactions (or items sold) by class. We did this for a precious metals company which allowed us to auto email the custom report to each sales associate to review their expected commissions.
Bundle items with Classes to create Commission Reporting:
These types of tricks really start to get fun when you start to use bundles at the same time. Using bundles with items that have classes set to them give you the opportunity to add items to anything you sell that are used for internal purposes only. Just choose the option to hide the parts of the bundle and you can create items like the example below
Created Bundle Items that had the details of the bundle hidden to the consumer. This allowed me to create two split items below the main item to break out the percentage that the house kept and the percentage the sales person kept from the fulfilment fee. In this scenario, we would select the class at the line item that had been created for the party that was involved with the sale.
After creating a custom report, I could quickly see the total revenue generated from the fulfilment fee that the company got to keep and the total amount that would be paid out to the sales person.
Software Development House:
Recently we were hired by a great software development house that needed a way to document their billable time (from their own time tracking software... Sorry T-Sheets) not only as a bill due to the developer, but also to generate the client invoicing AND to track the total hours worked against the recruiter’s payout for a maximum of 2,000 hours. Of course, there was one more catch, neither the developer nor the recruiter got paid until the customer paid their bill, so I had to be able to link them together.
Thanks to the new item lists function, you can now assign a class to your products and services on the income side of the transaction. Additionally, you can also assign a preferred vendor. While this may seem like a little side tangent away from our topic on classes, collectively it made my workflow possible.
If I circle back to Parkways concept of recreating the chart of accounts within the class structure, it becomes very simple to breakout your overhead expenses by adding on an additional parent class account. Now create a custom report based on your use of classes and you have an up to date report of all your overhead expenses. Take the total amount of combined expenses and divide it by the total hours worked for the same period and you have a very rough cost per hour to tack onto your break-even calculations for your billable wage!
I would love to hear what other people have done with classes, and what people think of our crazy ideas! Appreciating that accounting can be much easier to learn with visual examples, I would be happy to create additional content for people if there is interest in it!
Like I always say...together we all succeed!