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QuickBooks Tips | How to Fix Duplicated List Items

Posted by Lauri A. Lisanti, CPA, MAcc, CPS, Certified QB ProAdvisor on Sep 18, 2017 4:19:00 PM
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Using QuickBooks requires the creation and maintenance of lists such as customer, vendor, chart of accounts lists. Frequently, clients come across a scenario where they find duplications within these lists. For instance, they find two slightly different versions of the same customer or vendor.

Unfortunately, this can become a data management nightmare. Applying payments to a customer's account, pulling a report to determine if a vendor should receive a 1099, or posting a transaction to a general ledger account, etc. when there are active duplications in the necessary lists will result in potentially major errors.

This issue seems to be more prevalent when more than one person has access to the QuickBooks® data. One person may not see the name already created in the list by another individual and will proceed to create another. QuickBooks has a built-in feature to prevent this. A warning message should appear indicating the name is already in use and asks would you like to merge them. However, even the slightest variable in how the names are entered will bypass this feature. It only takes one small difference in the name to create a new one. An example is putting a middle initial in a name of an individual or a comma in the name of a business.

How to get rid of duplicates in QuickBooks Lists:

There are two ways to correct duplicated items within lists. The first is to merge the two item accounts. The second is to make one of the accounts inactive. Scenarios involving duplicate accounts are not always best solved by the same solution. For instance, perhaps there is a duplicated customer. One of their accounts is using their old name before they experience a company merger. In this case, it's likely better to deem the old name inactive as its information is probably more dated. However, there may be a duplicated vendor where both accounts have up-to-date information that's missing from the other account. In this scenario, it's better to merge the accounts. 

Merging accounts in QuickBooks:

Merging two accounts ensures that one of the duplicates is taken out of the file permanently.

  1. Select the “incorrect” name and edit it in the prospective list (customer, vendor, or chart of accounts).
  2. Once you have it selected, you need to type in the name EXACTLY as it's duplicate account appears.
  3. If it is done exactly, then the warning message should appear indicating the name is already in use and asks would you like to merge them.
    • Please note: once you say yes, you cannot reverse the merge.
      All transactions associated with the “incorrect” name will be transferred to the correct one.

A Word of Caution – With some of the newer versions of QuickBooks®, you will also see a warning that merging accounts may affect transactions in closed periods. If you receive this message, especially when merging accounts from your chart of accounts, please consult your accountant.

Making an account inactive in QuickBooks:

  1. Highlight and right click on the account you want.
  2. From the list that appears select "make vendor (customer, or account) inactive" (depending on which list you are in).
  3. Making the account inactive is a way to “hide” the name from your list without deleting it from your file permanently. You can always go and see the inactive names at any time by electing to show all vendors, customers, or accounts.

A Word of Caution – no customer or vendor should ever be made inactive that has a balance. Any outstanding balances should be written off prior to making the name inactive.


Clients often ask why the name just can’t be deleted from the file. The answer is that the name can be deleted as long as no transactions have occurred that use the name. If an attempt is made to delete an account that has been used in a transaction, a warning will occur indicating the name can only be made inactive.

Before beginning the cleanup of the names lists, we encourage you to discuss it with your accountant and to make a backup before starting in case any problems occur.

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Topics: Certified QuickBooks Proadvisor, Quickbooks Tips, Bookkeeping

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