The Return of Payroll

As accountants re-enter the business, the Web becomes more important.

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Over the past five years, the reality television show American Idol has soared in popularity, gaining more viewers with each episode. For millions of households, incorporating this show in their weekly viewing has become a must. Similarly, the trend over the past several years is for accountants to incorporate client payroll processing in their cache of services, rather than referring payroll business to traditional payroll providers. According to a 2005 Genesis Research Study, 74 percent of accountants are doing some form of payroll work now, and more than 50 percent want to take on as much payroll as possible. What makes this possible is the successful leveraging of technology, which automates the tedious, time-consuming tasks of payroll processing at a low monthly cost, enabling accountants to offer payroll easily and profitably to clients.

Given that payroll is a lucrative business, there are many options on the market for professional accountants, including traditional office-based solutions, service bureau, and online service providers. The challenge is to find the solution that best meets the needs of the client and the workflow needs of the accounting firm.

Online applications in general continue to grow in popularity, somewhat fueled by the more recent successes of solutions in the financial and customer relationship management arenas. "Software as a service" is a trendy name for solutions that do not require a hardware or software infrastructure to be in place at the office. This trend is clearly evident with the rise in usage of online payroll processing, one of the first accounting applications to even offer and find success in a Web-based environment. This year might prove to be pivotal, where online payroll gets equal, if not preferred, consideration when compared to desktop and service bureau applications.

Partner Insights

Competing against the more traditional applications, online processing presents a formidable solution. Originally not as robust in features or reporting, online solutions over the past few years have improved functionality and now offer significant and attractive benefits. Key among these are the access, input, and management of payroll at any time from any location. There is no software to install, no hardware to buy and no ongoing maintenance, upgrade, or support costs. And, like traditional outsourced services, online providers automate the payroll and compliance processes, minimizing the risk of errors.

One relatively new development touted by many of the online payroll providers is the concept of accountant branding, which "hides" the online provider vendor label so that clients of the accounting firm see the accountants' logo on every screen. This attractive feature protects the accountant's client relationship by promoting the accountant's brand rather than the vendors.

Any of the online solutions reviewed below provides the accountant immediate and intuitive access to enter, edit, review, and retrieve requested information. Online payroll processing truly creates a partnership where the accountant and their clients can work together towards a mutually beneficial outcome-expedient, affordable, and effective payroll processing.

ADP EasyPayNet

EasyPayNet combines the experience of ADP with a flexible and economical payroll service designed specifically for the changing needs of small business.

ADP offers its EasyPayNet as a wholesale service to accountants, allowing professionals to sell their payroll service as a part of their overall client service, but with ADP performing the actual payroll processing, deposits, and compliance.

EasyPayNet promotes three key attributes: accessibility, security, and control. Accessibility provides immediate access to your payroll information from any location. Security ensures that only you or your designates can view sensitive payroll data. Control lets you decide the how and the when of submitting payroll.

EasyPayNet features an updated, simplified design for easy navigation. The primary interface allows users to enter and manage client and employee payroll data, manually print checks, and access reporting functions, human resources, and benefits options. The payroll section features five primary functions: modifying employee information, confirming pay period, entering payroll, reviewing the current payroll, and submitting the payroll.

The employee data-entry displays all active payroll recipients. Information includes basic employee information, tax information, deductions, direct deposit, benefits, and year-to-date summary information. Personalized checklists determine the tasks you need to complete in the order you prefer. The New Hire Wizard easily simplifies employee entry and allows you to quickly find and modify employee data. Required field indicators provide minimum requirements at a glance.

Initiating a new payroll guides you through a custom workflow with windows appropriate for all subsequent tasks. The ezEntry page is a very efficient screen that you can customize to match your payroll worksheet for faster data entry. Payroll data can be entered per employee or all at once. Totals can be viewed as you enter pay data for validation. Employee's regular pay is applied to the payroll using the prefill option with no additional keying. On-screen audit reports provide faster review of payroll data before processing. You can sort a list or view by any column and when entering date fields a pop-up calendar is available. You can preview paycheck data and review deductions and gross pay prior to processing. The ezEntry page also displays a "Whats New" section to advise you of upcoming changes that affect EasyPayNet and related applications. ADP handles tax compliance and filing.

ADP's EasyPayNet features more than 20 standard payroll and quarterly reports, with an additional 50 available per payroll, quarterly, or annually. Online reports can be locally saved or printed or exported into Microsoft Excel or Office. The InfoLink GL interface transforms gross-to-net payroll and employer tax information into preformatted journal entries for importing into QuickBooks.

Special features include EZreports, a custom report tool for creating reports for quick-and-easy access and on-site check printing. The EasyPay Client Center allows viewing of ADP payroll reports online or downloading payroll data into an Excel spreadsheet. Direct deposit and MICR encoded check printing are also available

ADP EASYPAYNET
ADP Small Business Services
Florham Park, N.J.
(866) 4ASK-ADP
www.accountant.adp.com
Pricing: Contact vendor.

Paychex.com

Paychex offers fast, easy, and secure online processing services. When you access any of the services via the Paychex Online portal, the authentication process and secure environment ensure safe and easy interaction. You can limit access to one person or authorize multiple passwords and assign different levels of authority so that you and selected employees can use the service.

The main windows features three main functions: payroll, employee, and company which, when expanded, display many related functions. These include gathering your payroll data, adding or changing employee information, entering payroll dates, selecting employees, paying the employees, and verifying and submitting your payroll. You can view, approve, submit, or work on timesheets anytime or anyplace you have Internet access. Totals display to ensure accuracy. When you are satisfied with your entries you click on the

Submit button to send the information to Paychex for processing. A special display then summarizes all the information entered, with recent modifications highlighted for quick review.

Many special features simplify complex payrolls. These include applying multiple rates of pay to employees, viewing employee records individually or in a spreadsheet format, and expedited entry of new employees and changes to existing employee information. You can utilize pre-set information to eliminate re-keying of recurring data. An employee's net pay can be calculated in order to write a manual check. Up to four years of payroll history can be accessed. Views can be customized to suit your specific needs. All payroll activities automatically update the Paychex payroll system when you save.

Paychex Online Reports include payroll journals, department summaries, federal and state tax returns, and employee W-2s. When employees utilize direct deposit, pay goes directly to their banks. Pay stubs are then available online for printing, eliminating check signing and distribution on payday.

For an additional fee, the Paychex general ledger reporting service posts payroll information directly to popular accounting software or provides a report that lets you manually post payroll transactions to your general ledger.

PAYCHEX.COM
Paychex
Rochester, N.Y.
(800) 322-7292
www.paychex.com
Pricing: $45.03, average cost for weekly payroll, 10 employees.

SurePayroll

Sure Payroll claims it is the country's largest online payroll provider, as well as the simplest and most convenient. It focuses exclusively on the needs of small businesses, and the company's online solution provides a simple and convenient way to process payroll and file taxes. Clients can be set up so that either a member of the accounting firm or the client can enter data and access reporting tools. All data transactions are authenticated by VeriSign for maximum security.

The online interface is easy to use, with intuitive screens that help guide the user through the data-entry process. Initial company set-up is assisted by SurePayroll's SureStart system. The main window allows users access to the account center, payroll functions, reports, employees, and company information areas. The account center provides a basic overview of outstanding tasks for a specific company and allows access to reports, running payroll and adding or editing employee data. The system automatically tracks and calculates vacation and sick time, as well as other benefit information. Payroll can also be distributed to multiple departments by percentage.

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