Dodging the Quickbooks tax

30 August 2014 by Steve Blum
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Temple of doom.

The death sentence for Quickbooks came with the release of the Mavericks version of Mac OS X. Intuit wasn’t supporting the last version I bought – Quickbooks Pro 2010 – and online account downloads stopped working. I could spend a couple hundred bucks for the 2014 version, or find a better way to manage my business. I’d already done that with my personal finances. When Intuit torpedoed Quicken for Mac, I switched to iBank, which does the job at least as well.

Intuit’s antipathy toward the Mac platform is longstanding. Windows users had online access years before the rest of the world did (I run both Mac and Linux systems for business and pleasure, and never embraced Windows or MS-DOS, although there was that brief fling with DR-DOS…). But Intuit also developed a disdain for its original business – writing and selling useful shrink wrapped software – and, in effect, turned it into a subscription business by releasing paid upgrades on an annual basis and rapidly dropping support for older versions.

The coup de grace was Intuit’s relentless campaign to keep tax filings complex and block government simplification. As Gregory Ferenstein wrote in a TechCrunch article

Former California Senator, Tom Campbell, who felt Intuit’s power during his proposal for an easy-file system in California, wrote that he “never saw as clear a case of lobbying power putting private interests first over public benefit”.

So I was done with Intuit products and Quickbooks in particular. But what are the options? Not another shrink wrapped business bookkeeping package. The alternatives might be as good as Quickbooks – don’t mistake me, it does its job well, when Intuit allows – but not better. If I’m going to the trouble of transferring my bookkeeping to new software, I want more than just the momentary pleasure of telling an evil company to get stuffed.

Which led me to online small business accounting platforms. The leading candidates all involved annual subscriptions in the $250 range, which wasn’t a negative, given that Intuit wanted to charge me nearly as much for the privilege of managing it myself. But that’s a story for tomorrow.