cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Highlighted
Intuit
60 helpful votes

Record a retainer or deposit

Learn how to record a retainer or deposit in QuickBooks Online.

Some businesses receive retainers or deposits from customers before performing any services. When they invoice customers for services, those invoices are paid using the money from the deposits.

You can set up a deposit or retainer process for your company in QuickBooks Online. The retainer or deposit is treated as a liability to show that, although your business is holding the money from a deposit or retainer, it doesn't belong to you until it's used to pay for services. When you invoice the customer and receive payment against it, you'll turn that liability into income.

Step 1. Create a liability account

First, you need  to create a liability account to track the amount of the retainers you receive from your customers.

  1. Go to Settings ⚙ and select Chart of Accounts.
  2. Select New.
  3. From the Account Type ▼ drop-down menu, select Other Current Liabilities.
  4. From the Detail Type ▼ drop-down menu,  Trust Accounts - Liabilities.
  5. Enter a name for the account (ex.  Trust Liabilities) or accept the suggested name.
  6. Select Save and send.

Step 2. Create a retainer item

  1. Go to Settings ⚙ and select Products and Services.
  2. Select New.
  3. From the Product/Service information panel, select Service.
  4. Enter a name for the new product or service item (ex. Retainer).
  5. From the Income account ▼ drop-down menu, select Trust Liability Account.
  6. Select Save and send.

The retainer item can now be selected when creating an invoice or sales receipt for a deposit or retainer payment.

(Not always needed) Step 3. Create a trust liability bank account

Not everyone will need to complete Step 3. Follow this step if you keep the money from customer retainers and deposit in a separate trust account.

If you keep the money in your operating account, this procedure is unnecessary. When in doubt, try to reflect your real-world situation as much as possible.

  1. Go to Settings ⚙ and select Chart of Accounts.
  2. Select New.
  3. From the Account Type ▼ drop-down menu, select Bank.
  4. From the Detail Type ▼ drop-down menu, select  Trust Account.
  5. Enter a Name for the account (ex. Trust Liability Bank Account) or accept the suggested name.
  6. Select Save and send.

Step 4. Create Sales Receipt or Invoice for deposits or retainers

Once you have set up the accounts and the retainer or deposit item, you can begin to create Sales Receipts for the deposits or retainers you receive.

If you prefer to invoice customers for deposits or retainers instead of receiving them directly, skip to Option 2.

Option 1. Create a Sales Receipt

  1. Go to the Create ⨁ icon and select Sales Receipt.
  2. Select the Customer name from the drop-down.
  3. From the Deposit to ▼ drop-down menu, select the separate trust liability bank account you created, your main operating account, or the account this money will be kept in.
  4. In the Product/Service column, select the Retainer or Deposit item you set up.
  5. Enter the amount received for the retainer or deposit in the Rate or Amount column.
  6. Select Save.

In addition to adding the retainer or deposit amount to the specified bank account, this increases the amount in your liability account to show that the money isn't truly yours yet, and to avoid treating it as income until later.

Option 2. Invoice customers for deposits or retainers

Instead of creating Sales Receipts (Option 1), you can invoice customers. Here’s how.

The steps are similar to creating a Sales Receipt except that you won't select a Deposit To account until you receive payment against the invoice.

Note: Cash basis reports will not reflect deposit/retainer as received until the invoice is paid in full. Speak with your accountant regarding a workaround that includes a journal entry.
  1. Go to the Create ⨁ icon and select Invoice.
  2. Select the Customer name from the drop-down list.
  3. In the Product/Service column, select the Retainer or Deposit item you set up.
  4. Enter the amount received for the retainer or deposit in the Rate or Amount column.
  5. Select Save.

Step 5. Turn retainers into credits on invoices

When you charge a customer for the services you perform for them, you can turn the retainer or deposit you previously received into credit on an invoice and receive it like a payment.

  1. Create an invoice for your customer that lists the services or goods you provided.
  2. On the last line of the invoice, in the Product/Service field, select the Retainer or Deposit item.
  3. Enter the retainer Amount as a negative to subtract it from the invoice.You cannot enter a retainer amount greater than the invoice total. An invoice can have a zero total, but not a negative one.
  4. Select Save and Close.

This decreases the amount in your liability account and applies the credit to your customer's invoice, turning it into income. The money is now yours.

Step 6. Transfer funds from your trust liability account to your operating account

If you created a separate trust liability bank account to hold retainers or deposits, once you have turned the retainer into income, you can transfer that money to your operating bank account.

  1. Go to the Create ⨁ icon and select Transfer.
  2. From the Transfer Funds From ▼ drop-down menu, select your trust liability bank account.
  3. From the Transfer Funds To ▼ drop-down menu, select your operating bank account from the drop-down list.
  4. Enter the amount that you just received as payment for the invoice.
  5. Select Save and send.

The money is recorded as having moved from the special trust account to your business' operating account.

 

Track deposits or retainers by customer

You can track how much of a retainer or deposit you are holding for each customer from the Balance Sheet report.

To review retainers or deposits by customer on the Balance Sheet report:

  1. Go to the Reports menu and select Balance Sheet.
  2. From the Report period ▼ drop-down menu, select All Dates. Then Run report.
  3. In the Liabilities section, locate your trust liability account.
  4. Select the amount shown for the account to open the Transaction Report for that account.
  5. Select Customize.
  6. Once on the Customize report panel, select Rows/Columns.
  7. From the Group by ▼ drop-down menu, select Customer.
  8. Select Run report.

You can now see each customer's retainer or deposit balance, as well as a record of transactions that have affected this balance.

To reduce the number of results to view, you can change the report period to display a narrower date range, or select the small triangle next to a customer's name to collapse their details.

Tip: Select the Save customization button to save the customized report and access it in the future from the Custom Reports tab.

Pay customer expenses with money held in the liability account

If your business pays for customer expenses using the money held in the liability account, you must create a special item to track these expenses, as they should not appear on your Profit and Loss report.

For example, if you are a law firm that received a settlement from a court on a client's behalf, and you pay for the client's medical expenses out of it, with the intention of passing the remainder to the client, you must hold the settlement and pay the expenses from a dedicated account to keep them separate from your business accounts.

To set up the necessary item, first verify that you have Track Expenses and Items by Customer enabled:

  1. Go to Settings ⚙ and select Account and Settings.
  2. From the left menu, select Expenses.
  3. In the Bills and Expenses section, select Edit ✎.
  4. Select the Track expenses and items by customer checkbox.
  5. Select Save.
  6. Select Done.

Expenses and items are now tracked by customer, enabling you to view transactions and their effect on the customer's retainer.

The next step is to create the item to track these expenses.

  1. Go to Settings ⚙ and select Products and Services.
  2. Select New.
  3. In the Product/Service information panel, select Non-inventory or Service.
  4. Enter a Name that describes what the retainer is used for (ex. Medical expenses or Net settlement).
  5. Clear the I sell this product/service to my customers checkbox.
  6. From the Expense Account ▼ drop-down menu, select your trust liability account.
  7. Select Save and send.

The item for the retainer is created. The next step is to pay the customer's expenses.

  1. Go to the Create ⨁ icon and select Expense.
  2. Choose your Payee  ▼ from the drop-down menu. The Payee can be a vendor, such as another company or business, or, if you are creating the expense to give all or part of the retainer to the customer (for example, to pass a net settlement to a client), select the customer as the Payee.
  3. Select the bank Account to pay the expense from. If you have a separate trust bank account, select it. Otherwise, select your main operating account.
  4. In the Item details section, enter details about the expense.
  5. Select Save.

The expense reduces your liability account and your chosen bank account without affecting any of your business expense accounts.

Was this helpful?

You must sign in to vote, reply, or post