Write-up Winners

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These products go for the gold in the CPA’s office.

By Barry Knaster

After viewing the countless hours of triumph and trauma at the recent summer Olympics, I pondered how interesting life would be if we applied those same Olympian competitive standards to evaluate the fit and function of the multitude of software products used by accounting professionals.

Partner Insights

Imagine, for example, a decathlon for write-up software, pitting each vendor against the very best in its class. Instead of a shot-put throw or high jump, key medal-winning criteria would be ease of set-up and flexibility of report design. I can just envision Creative Solutions battling it out with Best Software for the gold medal of write-up software. Let the games begin!

Write-up has been around for so many years that one might think its use actually predates the first Olympics. While not quite that old, write-up software is by far the most mature of the accounting and productivity products in use by accounting firms.

Embraced enthusiastically early on in its life cycle, write-up software provides the means for performing a client service that requires minimal effort but provides steady cash flow.

The overall objective of write-up products is simple—providing your clients an effortless way to obtain periodic financial information for evaluation and decision-making.

Write-up Winners

Client Accounting Version 4.0
Howell Software
Winter Springs, Fla.
(407) 327-3798
www.howellsoftware.com
Price: $295

EasyAcct Professional Series
Intuit Software
Plano, Texas
(800) 930-1040
www.intuit.com
Price: $1,590 , new user; $850, upgrade.

CPA Client Write-up
Best Software
Pensacola, Fla.
(800) CPAS-123
www.cpasoftware.com
Price: $995; $1,285, Write-up bundle including CPA Federal Reporting and CPA State Reporting.

Write-up Solution
Creative Solutions
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 965-8900
www.creativesolutions.com
Price: $1,800 (renewable); $2,700 (perpetual).

Accountant's Relief
AccountantsWorld
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(800) 999-1366
www.accountantsrelief.com
Price: $695 (single user); $75 (each additional license).

Drake Client Write-Up
Drake Software
Franklin, N.C.
(800) 890-9500
www.drake-software.com
Price. $595 for Drake tax software customers. Updates, $240/year.

Write-up software in its simplest form has one basic task—compile raw transaction data provided by clients in trial balance and financial statement form. The typical practitioner has clients in a variety of industries, each with unique reporting requirements. To accommodate this need, write-up software must be flexible enough to support multiple general account number formats and financial statement scenarios. Beyond this, write-up software must allow quick and easy data entry, since the accounting firm usually bills this service as a flat fee and not by the hour.

Besides this basic transaction compilation requirement, many packages  offer bank reconciliation, payables, receivables, fixed assets, and payroll processing functionality. One product reviewed provided workpaper functionality for extended service engagements like compilations and reviews.

Every write-up product reviewed was easy to set up and implement. All feature many different chart of accounts and financial statement templates. Most allow the copying of information between clients and provide division and department capability. Transaction entry of journal information is facilitated by well-designed screens, automatic transaction distributions, description fields, and recurring and reversing entries. Cover sheets, footnotes, and client letters round out the financial statement presentation. One of the products offers a Web-based processing alternative, while others offer remote processing and import/export capabilities with other productivity and financial software.

Evaluating the various alternatives is easier than ever. Each write-up application provides some kind of a demo or trial version for evaluation, along with on-line documentation, tutorials, and sample data. Choosing the best write-up package for your firm is influenced by several factors. The primary one may be how well write-up integrates with the other applications in use at your firm. Many write-up products export to or interface with tax software, eliminating the need to re-enter key client information. Other important criteria are the size and segmentation of the account number.

What does the future hold in store for write-up software? This is an interesting question, for this category of software has not changed much in form or function over the past several years, other than adding a Windows look and feel. Unlike tax and fixed asset software, for example, not much in the regulatory world affects the content of write-up software. But, the trend toward Web-based processing should continue, as will more extensive integration with other accounting products.

This tried-and-very-true software category will continue to represent a source of steady revenue for the accounting professional. The marketplace remains very crowded and competitive, with many worthwhile contenders. Do your research carefully and choose wisely—every one of the write-up products has gold-medal qualities.

Client Accounting Version 4.0
For many years, Howell Associates has provided solid write-up applications offering powerful reporting capabilities that accommodate the most demanding write-up situations. Incredibly, the vendor still supports its DOS version of its software, probably the only vendor to do so. The interface at times reflects the DOS roots of Client Accounting; some updated design would greatly improve its look and feel.

Client Accounting’s design features overlapping menus that provide organized navigation. Both mouse and keystroke combination entries facilitate movement between the various screens. Data-entry shortcuts include auto fill for account numbers and dates. Automatic set-up routines prompt the creation of the client general information and general ledger accounts. General client information includes a number of periods in the fiscal year, the fiscal year end, federal tax ID number, and organization type.

GL account numbers range from three to eight alphanumeric characters, including the sub-account, which provides for departments and divisions. The Extension field enables you to put headings or other descriptive text between two accounts with consecutive account numbers. Account fields include the formatting characteristics that dictate the layout of reports. The file maintenance menu provides a Duplicate Client Files option to copy existing charts of accounts to new clients.

The Transactions menu contains the majority of the options related to Client Accounting’s data entry operations. Up to 20 user-specific general journals track initial input of data. The transaction screen contains two major sections. The top section reflects the most recently entered transactions. The bottom screen, the data entry section, contains the names of the transaction fields and default values from the previous transaction. Reference and description fields capture specific transaction details. Transaction types include general and cash journal transactions, payroll transactions, recurring journal entries, and auto-reversing entries. Previously entered transactions may be edited or deleted. You can process both prior-period and prior-year adjustments, and view period and year-to-date balances for any range of general ledger accounts. Up to 20 templates provide a list of default accounts that will automatically appear at the account number prompt when entering transactions. These are useful for processing a series of similar documents for a particular client.

Report printing categories include financial, payroll, and bank reconciliation. Financial report categories include trial balances, balance sheets, income statements, and special accounts. Each type produces budget, comparative, and monthly trend reports. The Auto Reports option creates a list of reports for consecutive printing, eliminating the need to switch between report menus. The Merge Clients report combines up to 40 clients into a single chart of accounts. The text editor provides a word processor for creating various documents like cover letters and disclaimers.

A bit antiquated and old school in look and feel, but feature-rich and functional, Client Accounting provides the necessary write-up components to get to the finish line.

EasyAcct Professional Series
Intuit EasyAcct Professional Series is an easy-to-use, one-stop shop of accounting tools equipped with several powerful tools designed to maximize productivity. EasyAcct goes way beyond basic write-up needs by also providing payroll, integrated accounts payable, bank reconciliation, fixed assets, and W2 and 1099 tax form preparation.

CCH Outlines Write-up Features

CCH is entering the write-up market with its ProSystem fx Write-up this month.

The product, built on the MSDE and .Net Microsoft specifications, was not available in time for reviewing the actual software. However, CCH outlined some of the features, including its integration with ProSystem fx modules, including Tax, Engagement, and Trial Balance.

The software has customizable columns and provides primary sorts on a single column, along with secondary searches. Financial statement reports can be published in Excel. Reports include chart of accounts, customer list, general ledger, trial balance, and vendor list.

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