Several years ago, a couple of young men left Intuit to start their own business. They struggled with the organization of their new company’s financial data because it was spread out all over in places like online bank accounts, spreadsheets and PayPal. Outright Plus ($9.95 per month) grew out of that frustration. Kevin Reeth and Ben Curren didn’t set out to create an application that would compete with QuickBooks. Rather than trying to build a financial solution that would provide A-Z accounting tools, they wanted to address one very challenging situation: taxes. Specifically, quarterly and annual income taxes and sales taxes for sole proprietors, freelancers and other small businesses.
Today, the collection of tools that used to be called Outright is instead Outright Plus, and it now costs $9.95 per month to subscribe—a reasonable charge considering its scope (you can still use the site’s income- and expense-tracking tools for free). The company has done a great job of selecting integrated partner sites that their audience might be likely to frequent and use for related financial functions, solutions like PayPal and FreshBooks, eBay, and Etsy.
A Smart Shell
Outright Plus itself is really just a framework that manages your core financial functions. It imports, categorizes, stores and reports on transactions from other sources so that your sales- and income tax-tracking require exponentially less data entry and time. It also maximizes accuracy, since you never have to re-key the same transaction twice.
Setup is simple. The first thing you’ll do is add the accounts that contain financial transactions that you’ll want to import and keep updated. This process works similarly in all of the sites reviewed here. You click, “Add an Account,” and then either type in the name of the institution or select it from the list provided. Enter the user ID and password you use to sign in to its website, and Outright Plus establishes a connection, then downloads your first group of transactions (you can update these whenever you want to). Clicking on the Income and Expenses tabs opens the checkbook-like registers that contain your activity.
If Outright Plus recognizes the name of the company that you exchanged funds with, it assigns it to a category. If not, you can select one yourself from the list provided, and indicate whether you want Outright Plus to always assign that category to that particular source. You can also enter income and expenses manually.
Getting Ready for Taxes
There are four types of categories: income, expense, non-business expense and non-business income. The first two are the most important, as they’re linked to specific areas on the IRS Schedule C. For example, “Sales” links to “Gross Receipts or Sales.” The Non-Business Income and Expense categories are used for personal transactions, credit card payments, estimated and income tax payments, etc.
You can add and edit categories, but you shouldn’t alter any category related to taxes. The founders were reticent at first to even allow this capability because it can affect the accuracy of your Schedule C.
There are two special categories that are not true income or expenses, because you’re simply passing along money you collect that belongs to the state: Sales Tax Collected and Sales Tax Submitted. Some imported deposits, like those coming from eBay, will have already separated sales tax from the other money collected from sales and categorized it correctly. You can also enter sales taxes collected manually and run a report that displays sales by state.
Fulfilling Your Obligations
Lest you worry about all of these financial transactions flying into Outright Plus, there are a couple of things you should know. First, Outright Plus uses bank-level security. There are actually security professionals standing guard in the facilities that house the remote servers. And second, no one can compromise your accounts and transfer funds elsewhere. You can’t even do that. Outright Plus simply houses and categorizes your transactions.
All of this account updating and careful categorization pays off when taxes are due to states or the federal government. Click the Taxes tab, and a page opens with four subtabs. The first, Annual taxes, displays the happy number that is your current net profit, as well as your total income and expenses. Under each of the latter two, Outright Plus supplies the dollar figures that will appear on specific lines of the Schedule C. Click on a line, and you can view or edit the individual transactions that contributed to the total.
If you’re self-employed, you know how difficult it is to determine how much to submit each quarter in estimated taxes. Outright Plus does that for you, providing a number that should be reasonably accurate, assuming that you’ve imported and recorded every related transaction. So when it’s time to pony up. click the Quarterly Taxes tab. Outright Plus displays the amount you should pay and lets you record the payment on that same page (unfortunately, you’ll have to submit the payment yourself – Outright Plus doesn’t do that). Sales taxes are handled similarly. Outright Plus tells you how much you’ve collected and should pay, and provides a field to record your payment.
If you’ve received a 1099-K form, you’ll get help understanding this new IRS requirement and finding related data within Outright Plus.
Pulling It All Together
Outright Plus’ dashboard (“Overview”) does a nice job of consolidating your most critical financial information on one page. The left vertical pane displays links to new sales and uncategorized transactions; account totals for money you have and owe; and current calculated tax obligation totals. Two big charts on the right show you your profit and loss totals (with a link to a detailed table) and your expense category breakdown.
Outright Plus is representative of the future of small business accounting. We’re very slowly moving toward cloud-based procedures, a la carte financial management. Today’s smartest people in the field tell us that years from now, companies will be able to select individual solutions from different vendors that meet their needs in areas like bill-paying, invoicing, payroll, inventory management, reports, etc. They’ll be built to easily integrate with each other.
Small business accounting vendors have long been partnering with companies that make complementary solutions, applications that add more sophisticated features to traditional software. The QuickBooks desktop family is the best example of this; there are hundreds of add-ons in its App Center. But financial management has begun a long, slow evolution away from the desktop and into the cloud.
Today, Outright Plus has a fairly small group of solid add-on partners. But its founders had the right idea. It’d be a good choice for you if you’re a sole proprietor or very small business that simply wants a way to track income and expenses by importing financial transactions, invoice customers (by integrating with FreshBooks), track and record sales tax obligations, and have your quarterly taxes estimated and your Schedule C business data automatically calculated and categorized. If you want a more comprehensive, traditional solution online, QuickBooks Online is your best choice today.
More Accounting and Tax Software Reviews:
|Tech Support||Online and email support, community forum.|
|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS, Windows 7|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc