If you find that you have QuickBooks Online Essentials or Plus, and that you could get by with a lower and less expensive subscription level, i.e. Simple Start, it is possible to downgrade. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as you hope it will be.

To make sure that a lower subscription level will meet your needs, check out Intuit’s comparison chart here.

You cannot downgrade your subscription in your Account Preferences – you can only upgrade. While I understand that there are database structure issues inherent in downgrading, Intuit could certainly make the process much easier than they do if they wanted to. However, until they decide to change things, here is what you will need to do:

  1. Obtain a trial copy of QuickBooks Pro for Windows. QuickBooks Online Support can provide one to you.
  2. In Internet Explorer (other browsers are not currently supported for this function), export a .QBB file from QBO to your computer.  Gear Icon > Export Data.
  3. Restore that .QBB file into QuickBooks Pro. File > Open or Restore Company > Restore a Backup Copy.
  4. Create a brand new trial subscription of your new chosen subscription level of QuickBooks Online.
  5. Follow the instructions to import your QuickBooks desktop data into your new QuickBooks Online company. Make SURE that you upload the desktop data into your NEW (empty) company, and not your original one – if you are logged into your original company and upload the desktop data into it, you will overwrite ALL of your original company data. Not good!
  6. Compare the following reports from your original QBO file, and your new QBO file, on today’s date, to make sure that your data has retained its integrity throughout the process:
  • Profit & Loss (Accrual Basis )
  • Balance Sheet (Accrual Basis)
  • A/R Aging Summary
  • Accounts Payable – you will lose your Bills (A/P) if you downgrade from QBO Plus to either of the lower levels, so you may have to make journal entries to restore your A/P balance to the correct original balance.

Once you are comfortable with your new QBO company, you can cancel your old one.  Check with Intuit first to make sure they will refund the unused portion of your paid subscription. To summarize the process, you must export a backup file from QBO to your computer, restore that backup file into QuickBooks Pro, and then upload that QuickBooks Pro to a brand new subscription of QuickBooks Online.

Be aware that you will probably lose some “stuff” in the process.  For example, memorized reports and custom forms are not compatible between QB desktop & online versions and will not transfer back and forth. You will lose them and will need to recreate them in your new company.  If you used classes, departments or locations in QBO Plus, you will lose them by downgrading to Simple Start or Essentials. There will probably be other surprises in your customer, vendor, and item lists, and your chart of accounts as well. For example, you may have to recreate the parent account/subaccount structure of your chart of accounts to match your original structure.