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Track hourly labour costs and profitability by project in QuickBooks Online

Learn how to use projects to track your labour costs and profitability in QuickBooks Online.

Once you've set up your project, you can use payroll expenses to track your labour costs after you run payroll. Or, you can estimate your project's labour costs before you run payroll using estimated hourly costs. We'll show you how to set up and use payroll expenses and estimated hourly costs to track labour expenses for your project.

Step 1: Learn more about payroll expenses and hourly cost estimates

Payroll expenses are your total costs to run payroll. This includes employee wages and other direct costs like taxes and workers' comp insurance.

Estimated hourly costs multiplies the hours worked by a fixed per-employee rate, which is helpful if you don't have a payroll solution but still want to estimate your labour costs for each project. Estimated hourly costs can include direct payroll costs and your overhead costs that are not paid through payroll like electricity at the office or snacks at the jobsite. They're also a good estimate of how your project is doing between payroll runs, since payroll costs only post to your project after you run payroll.

Once you've set up your payroll expenses and your hourly costs, you can use either one to see your project's labour costs.

Step 2: Set up payroll expenses in the chart of accounts

You can set up your chart of accounts to track your payroll expenses. You'll have to enter the expenses manually each time you run payroll.

  1. Go to Settings ⚙ and select Chart of accounts.
  2. Select New.
  3. In the Account Type ▼ dropdown, select Expenses.
  4. In the Detail Type ▼ dropdown, select Payroll Expenses.
  5. Enter a name for the account in the Name field.
  6. In the Default Tax Code ▼ dropdown, select an applicable tax code.
  7. Select Save and Close.
  8. When you manually enter your payroll expenses, choose the new payroll expenses account you made. QuickBooks will use this data to calculate the payroll expenses for projects.

Tip: If you want to set up multiple accounts so that you can track wages and taxes separately, for example, you can do so by creating subaccounts. Just follow the instructions above, but check the Is sub-account box and choose the parent account you created above. Then, track each type of payroll expense to the correct subaccount.

Step 3: Enter hourly cost rates for each employee

Since you can use hourly costs or payroll expenses to track labour costs, you can decide if you want to set up hourly costs or not. If you want to estimate your labour costs between payroll runs or if you don’t have payroll, you can use estimated hourly costs.

To estimate your fully-burdened hourly cost for each employee, you can enter employee wages, and other costs like taxes and workers' comp insurance, as an hourly cost rate. Then you can use these rates to estimate your labour costs.

Here’s how to set up hourly costs:

Important: Set up your hourly cost rates before you start tracking time in QuickBooks Online. Hourly cost rates only apply to time that is tracked after the hourly cost rate is set.

  1. Go to Projects.
  2. Select Hourly cost rate. This opens the hourly cost rate window.
  3. Find the employee and select Add. Or, to edit an employee's rate, select the pencil ✎ icon.
  4. Select the calculator icon to open the hourly cost rate calculator.
  5. Add your employee's hourly wage and employer taxes. Note: If your employee is hourly, QuickBooks fills in their hourly wage and employer taxes for you. If your employee is salaried, enter an hourly rate by dividing their annual wage (including employer taxes) by the number of weeks in a year. Then divide by the average hours worked per week.
  6. Enter any overhead for even more accurate hourly costs.
  7. Select Add, then select Cancel to close the calculator.
  8. Select Save to save the hourly cost rate for the employee.
  9. Repeat for each employee. Then select Done to close the hourly cost rates window.

Step 4: Add project timesheets

With payroll expenses and/or hourly cost rates set up, you'll need to add your employees hours to your project.

If you're using the hourly cost rate to track your expenses, QuickBooks will calculate employees' labour costs using their timesheets that are tracked to your project. Keep in mind that hourly cost rates will only calculate costs on new timesheets going forward. Any timesheets that were made before the hourly cost rate was entered will not be calculated in the project overview or reports.

Learn how to add your employees' timesheets to the project.

Tip: If you plan to invoice your customer for project hours, make sure you turn on billable expenses so you can create invoices from the timesheets.

Step 5: View your labour costs

Now that your payroll expenses and/or hourly cost rates are set up and employee timesheets are added, you can view your labour costs with either method.

Switch between viewing payroll expenses or hourly costs:

  1. Go to Projects.
  2. Find and select the project you want to view.
  3. Select the Payroll Expenses or Hourly Costs dropdown ▼ and choose the one you want to view. Note: Changing this setting in one project will affect all projects.

If time charges aren't calculating like you expect in your project, check this switch to see if you're using your preferred type of labour cost (hourly costs or payroll expenses).

Note: While this switch will change which labour cost you see in your project's overview and the projects list, it won't affect your books.

Understanding project data and reports

The following views and reports will calculate labour costs based on either payroll expenses or hourly costs (whatever the switch is set to):

  • The income and cost bar graph on the list of all projects
  • The income and cost bar graph above each tab within a project
  • Overview tab
  • Project Profitability report (within the Projects tab) and any project-related report outside of the Projects tab. Note: After opening these reports, you can customise them to use either hourly costs or payroll expenses in the Customise menu.

The following views and reports will only use hourly costs to calculate labour costs (even if you select payroll expenses on the switch):

  • Time Activity tab
  • Time Cost by Employee or Supplier report

Step 6: Understanding project profitability

After your project is set up to track income, expenses, as well as timesheets and labour cost, you're ready to review your profits.

  • You'll see a snapshot of your income, costs, and profit margin in the header of every project page. This snapshot pulls data from whatever the switch is set to, hourly costs or payroll expenses.
  • You can get more details in the Overview tab. This is where you can see your labour costs separated from other project costs. These labour costs pull data from whatever the switch is set to, hourly costs or payroll expenses.
  • If you are tracking payroll expenses, you can run a Project profitability report from the Project reports tab to get an itemised view of your project accounts and transactions. This report only uses data from payroll expenses, so if you only track hourly time costs, this report won’t give you accurate information.

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