The Problem with Duplicate Transactions in QuickBooks
Do you sometimes discover transactions entered into your nonprofit organization’s QuickBooks more than once? Twins are cute, but not in your books! Duplicate transactions cause your financial reports to be inaccurate and can be time consuming to fix.
Clues that you have duplicate transactions can be found in your monthly bank reconciliation. Look closely at the list of outstanding items (those transactions that had not cleared the bank as of the bank statement date). If you see transactions with a date older than the prior month or that do not look right, it’s possible they are valid outstanding items (and if so someone needs to get on the phone to ask people to cash their checks) or you could have errors such as duplicated transactions. The first instance of the transaction would have cleared on a prior bank reconciliation. The duplicate entry will, of course, never clear the bank and will simply sit there forever until someone cleans it up.
Matching Transactions in QBO
One way duplicates can arise is by not properly matching downloaded transactions in QuickBooks Online (QBO) to transactions that are already created in the software. This error can happen several ways. We will outline two common scenarios below.
Failure to Match Downloaded Transactions
If you create a check in QBO so you can print and mail it to the vendor, then that check is already posted to the bank account as well as to the expense or other account affected. You obviously don’t need to post it again from the downloaded bank transactions. QBO knows this, too, and in the Banking Feeds Center QBO will propose matching the downloaded check to the one that was already created.
Matching downloaded transactions with those already created will help enormously with the bank reconciliation process. QBO will mark them as cleared so when you do the bank reconciliation in QBO you won’t need to do the tedious work of checking off each cleared item against the items that cleared per the bank statement. QBO does it for you!
If you do NOT match downloaded checks in the Banking Feeds Center to checks already entered, then you can still reconcile your bank account in QBO by manually checking off the items that cleared the bank. The downloaded transactions, however, instead of being cleared out as you click to match them, will remain in the Banking Feeds Center. Once you complete and finalize the bank reconciliation, QBO will no longer be able to match these transactions to already entered transactions. The danger here is that the transactions will change from suggesting “Match” to suggesting that you “Add” them. It is all too easy to click to add these transactions which will create duplicate entries in your books.
Adding Transfers Twice
Transfers are transactions that affect two balance sheet accounts such as two bank accounts or a bank and a credit card account. QBO will download the transaction in the Banking Feeds Center for each linked account. You only need to add the transaction one time to affect BOTH accounts. So the idea is to add the transaction in one account and then match the transaction in the other account.
If you completely reconcile one bank account for the month then move on to reconcile the next bank or credit card account, you run the risk of adding the same transaction twice. For example, you finalize the bank reconciliation for the checking account then proceed to the credit card account. You click to refresh the credit card feed (sometimes the feed does not automatically update) and all the latest transactions download. Because you already finalized the checking account bank reconciliation, a transfer of cash from checking to the credit card does not show up as matched on the credit card feed. Instead the feed indicates you should add it. So you add it, creating a duplicate transaction.
A Solution to Stop Adding Transactions Twice
The way around this problem is to complete the monthly reconciliations for each bank and credit card account, but do not finalize them until you have them all figured out. Once you have all the monthly reconciliations completed but not finalized, go back into each one and finalize it. You‘d be surprised at the errors you’ll catch if you do it this way.
Undo Bank Reconciliation
Unfortunately if you want to fix matched transactions from prior reconciled periods in QBO, the “undo last reconciliation” command is only available to accountant users. If you create an accountant user for yourself to work around this problem, be aware that Intuit periodically searches for accountant users with no clients and removes them. So hopefully you have a QuickBooks ProAdvisor as an accountant user whom you can contact to undo your bank reconciliation if needed. Otherwise, your next best bet to remove unneeded downloaded transactions is to check off the unmatched transactions in the Banking Feeds Center, click the down arrow next to Batch Actions and select Exclude Selected. This action will remove the orphaned or otherwise unneeded transactions from your bank feed, keeping it nice and clean.
More Tips on Bank Reconciliations
Properly using the Banking Feeds Center in QBO offers tremendous time savings and improved accuracy for your bookkeeping. Even if you are already using this feature, we recommend taking a look at these short online tutorials provided by Intuit:
How to connect your bank and credit card accounts in QBO (1:28 minutes): https://quickbooks.intuit.com/tutorials/lessons/connect-and-download-transactions/
Once you connect, here’s how to categorize and match transactions (3:57 minutes): https://quickbooks.intuit.com/tutorials/lessons/categorize-transactions/. This tutorial does an excellent job of stepping you through the process and the capabilities of QBO.
Properly adding transactions into QBO is the first line of defense against duplicate transactions and other bookkeeping errors. Doing monthly bank and credit card reconciliations is a detective control to find errors if they do creep in.