• Colin Doyle CFO

The real deal with Intuit’s Live Bookkeeping offering

By Ranica Arrowsmith

In early February, Intuit started testing interest for a new bookkeeping service where business owners could “contract” out bookkeepers for small, short-term jobs through Intuit.

The company debuted this test by adding an option for “Live Bookkeeping” services on its web page for QuickBooks price tiers; visitors who clicked on that option saw a message thanking them for their interest, and advising that the service would be available in the future.

“Without sharing a number, we were encouraged by the number of people who said yes and clicked,” said Rich Preece, QuickBooks U.S. country leader at Intuit.

Accounting technology pundits had much to say about the new offering in blog posts and social media. Some held the view that this service would put potential Intuit bookkeepers in direct competition with Intuit’s QuickBooks ProAdvisors, who are certified experts in QuickBooks products, and who are listed in a lead-generating directory hosted by Intuit.

But Intuit sees it differently. According to Preece, when this service goes live, the first people Intuit will be reaching out to serve as contract bookkeepers will be their ProAdvisors.

“We’re not competing with accountants. This [will] expand opportunities for ProAdvisors to work with small businesses,” Preece said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have very deep relationships with hundreds of accountants in the U.S. It would make no sense to start anywhere else.”

He went on to explain that while the ProAdvisor directory is essentially a lead generation platform, Intuit Live Bookkeeping will allow accountants who are looking for other work options, or some flexibility, to find paid bookkeeping work — for instance, stay-at-home parents who want to work just a few hours a week; or a firm that wants to delegate two accounting staff to do live bookkeeping full-time via Intuit’s platform.

Small businesses are usually best served by a bookkeeper or accountant who works consistently with the organization and knows the business well. For this reason, some may not see much value in on-demand contract bookkeeping where a business gets paired with whoever’s available to do a certain isolated job. However, Intuit hopes that a Live Bookkeeping offering will be an entryway for small businesses that can’t afford an accountant to get a little bit of help as they need it — and possibly see enough value in a bookkeeper to hire full-time accounting help.

It is true that a significant number of small businesses do without an accountant because they see it as an unnecessary expense, especially when just starting out. However, a common pitfall for such businesses is that they end up spending a lot of time figuring out their books — or not managing their books well — taking time away from running the actual business they love. This is the problem Intuit is seeking to crack with Live Bookkeeping.

This is not the first and only foray into contract work for Intuit. Its tax prep software, TurboTax, has offered the option to reach out to a real tax preparer from within the program if a taxpayer gets stuck at some point during the process.

On March 27, Intuit renewed the test on its QuickBooks website with new information: The (test) price is now around $400 a month, as opposed to the approximate $200 a month advertised in the February test. The test is only visible to some web visitors.

There is currently no definite start date for when Live Bookkeeping will launch, as Intuit is still testing the waters. But when it does, it will be new ground for the accounting software giant, which may pave the way for others to follow.

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