How to set up the QuickBooks customer list for parents and children

If you work with children and use QuickBooks, at some point you’ve probably wondered what’s the best way to set up the QuickBooks customer list. Should you set it up by parent or by child? Parents pay the invoices, but children receive the services provided. It’s helpful to have the parent name on the account for billing purposes, but it can be difficult for staff to remember parent names when they need to look up a child’s account.

As a tutor, occupational therapist, or any service provider who works with children, your customer is the whole family. You need to be able to keep track of a parent or two, plus one or more children. The problem is that QuickBooks only gives you room for one first and last name per customer. Luckily, you don’t have to choose. You can use sub-customers to create linked accounts for each member of the family. It takes a bit more work, but there are a few  benefits that make the extra effort pay off:

  • Makes reconciling calendar appointments with client charges easier.
  • Allows creation of statements that show charges broken down by child.
  • Reduces confusion when you have an assistant do billing for you. You may know all parents and children by name, but your assistant or bookkeeper probably doesn’t. Even if you do all your own billing now, consider setting up sub-customers in case you decide to hand off billing to someone else down the road.

How to set up sub-customers in QuickBooks Online

  1. Select the “Customers” menu option and click the button marked “New Customer”. (“Customers” may have been renamed “Clients” or “Patients” if you customized this field when setting up QuickBooks Online.)
  2. In the Customer Information box that appears, enter the child’s first and last name.
  3. Check the box next to “This customer is a sub-customer”.
  4. Select the appropriate parent name from the drop-down list.
  5. Make sure that “Bill with parent” is selected. This setting ensures that charges to the child’s name are billed on invoices using the parent’s name. Additionally, this box must be checked to ensure that payments received from a parent applies to a child’s account.

What if I still don’t want to use sub-customers?

Even if you don’t want to use sub-customers, you can still keep track of both children and parents. Just set up the parent as your customer as usual. Place the child name(s) in the “Company” field. When you do a name search, QuickBooks searches the customer name and Company fields. This means that you can still find the customer account even if you only know the child’s name. If you aren’t sure about whether or not you’ll want to use sub-customers down the road, setting up your customer list this way makes it easier to switch later.


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6 Comments on “How to set up the QuickBooks customer list for parents and children

  1. I’m using quickbooks online plus – None of my parents are in the drop down list yet. Do I have to add them as customers then go back and create the “student” customers?

    • Hi Trina – Yes, you’ll need to create the parents as customers, then create the students under those top-level customers.

  2. Qbooks 2013 has added functionality of multiple contacts for each customer – works very well for our montessori. The child is the customer. His/her address includes the relevant parent’s name for billing purposes (the parent who normally does the payment). The contacts are the parents who may or not have the same addresses or same last names.

    I am the owner and also a professional accountant.

  3. FYI, with the new mandatory upgrade of Quickbooks Online, the ability to show on invoices to clients (parent) which sub client (child) had the original charges has been completely lost. This has caused untold trouble and billing/tracking paralysis for many, but a fix has not been forthcoming, despite knowledge of the lapse for several months. Is there an alternative program that can handle this?

    • Hi Ben – What a pain–thanks for letting me know. Unfortunately Xero does not have the concept of subcustomers or jobs. Freshbooks is my best recommendation for invoicing software that can create invoices with this detailed information. You could set up the parent as the customer, and then each child as a “project”. Then when you bill the time for each child, you can specify that you would like to show the project name on each time entry, or group them. Freshbooks is actually much more flexible in this regard than QuickBooks ever was. The downside is that Freshbooks is not a full accounting program, so you’d still need to use QuickBooks. Or you could switch to Xero and sync with Freshbooks.

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