Write-up Software Review

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For over 40 years I have been an active bowler, participating in at least one organized league per season. There is something comforting about the “sameness” of this “sport” in that the basic tools have not really changed much over time. Bowling alleys have made structural and cosmetic changes on where people sit and how they interact, but the basic mechanics of the lanes, pinsetters and ball returns remain much the same as when I first started. Write-up software provides a similar level of comfort to users, offering a timeless reliability that is quite reassuring. Its basic functionality has remained the same over the past several years and really just incrementally evolves to incorporate interface updates for modernizing its ease of use.

As a billable service, write-up has long been the core offering for many professional accounting firms, providing a sure and stable source of annuity income. Often including transaction entry, bank reconciliations, payroll and financial statement preparation, write-up services benefit clients who do not possess the desire or financial wherewithal to take on these tasks themselves.

And even though it is a staple service for accounting firms, write-up is not necessarily a desired one, for nowadays it tends to also involve cleanup of messes created by clients’ misuse of entry-level accounting software products. Nonetheless, write-up does provide a predictable revenue stream and is work often delegated to lower-level staff, providing them a good foundation for learning the basics of accounting before taking on more complex tax and compliance-type engagements.

Partner Insights

Some of the most recent and significant changes in write-up software include the ability to both receive and transmit client financial information online, vastly improving the efficiency of making adjustments to the data by eliminating the need to rekey it. Import options accept data in just about any form and from any accounting product. Since the primary function of write-up software is to review, adjust and then report on clients’ data, the ability to do this online eliminates the need for redundant data transfers. Secure client portals assist in managing the acceptance and distribution of sensitive client information.

Many write-up software systems also offer much more than basic transaction processing and reporting. These include bank reconciliation, payables and receivables entry, fixed asset schedules and direct or after-the-fact payroll processing.

Several attributes are important to consider when evaluating write-up software. Typically firms have clients in a variety of industries, each with their own unique transaction and reporting requirements. Therefore, write-up software needs to support multiple general account number formats and financial statement scenarios. It must also facilitate efficient data entry, to accommodate the fixed-fee nature of its billing.

Ease of new client setup is an important characteristic to consider when evaluating applications. Industry-standard account and report templates can be copied and import capabilities provide instant creation of accounts for immediate processing. Transaction entry is often quicker when data entry screens resemble the layout of source documents.

And more often than not, the key selection criterion is how easily the write-up software integrates with other financial and tax solutions already in use. Almost every product reviewed is a member of a suite of applications, which provide a common interface and sharing of key client information. And import and export capabilities allow for exchanging information with products outside of the vendor suite.

The basic premise of write-up software is still to provide clients periodic financial information for evaluation and decision making. Although easy receipt and transfer of client information makes this happen more efficiently then ever before, the fundamental nature and features of write-up software remains the same. Every one of the products below will meet your basic demands. And while no one solution may be perfect, it is certain that one or more of them is write-up your alley.

ATX AND TAXWISE CLIENT WRITE-UP

The ATX and TaxWise write-up applications, part of the CCH Small Firm Services division, are the same, they just interface with two different tax software solutions.

Standard write-up features include general ledger, journal entries, bank reconciliation, accounts receivable and payable, after the fact payroll and financial statement reporting. Live payroll processing is available as an additional option.

Providing an intuitive interface, they provide consistent navigation to any of the following components: write-up, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and payroll. The primary data-entry windows are the welcome and open client dialog boxes. When creating or accessing client information the program provides links to frequently performed tasks.

Several methods are available to create the initial chart of accounts. You can roll in a chart of accounts from a client you have already set up or copy a standard chart of accounts from the industry sample list.

You can create budgets for multiple years either manually or by using existing budget or actual amounts from a previous year. Transactions can be entered in batch mode or real-time processing. Memorized transactions capture and renter recurring transactions each month.

Reporting includes many report formats, such as the detailed general ledger report, the trial balance report and the working trial balance report. Financial statements are customizable and available from templates for copying to new clients. Imports from QuickBooks and Peachtree are supported as are remote client checkbooks that let the clients enter data for synchronization into the main program. Year-end adjusted balances export to the ATX or TaxWise tax software.

DRAKE CLIENT WRITE-UP

Drake’s Client Write-Up manages basic client financial records and also provides live and after-the-fact payroll processing. You can customize the chart of accounts or create one from one of the provided templates.

Account information can also be imported from external products and copied between clients. Account levels (postable or nested) determine how accounts are used for financial statement reporting purposes, somewhat of a throwback to systems of years ago. Beginning balance, budget and tax-line information is also captured when entering data for new accounts.

Client Write-Up provides up-to-date financial information by automating payroll and accounts payable posting to the general ledger. Transactions can be manually entered or brought over via the payroll components. Data entry journals include general, cash disbursements, cash, payroll, prior year and budget. Unposted activity is displayed for previously entered information. Shortcut function keys display lookups of available data choices for accounts and vendors. Bank reconciliation and closing functions complete the transaction entry options.

The many report types include interim for month and period reports, year-to-date for general ledger and journal transactions and chart of accounts, transaction listings and financial reports for posted account activity.

New features for 2008 include rearranged menus for more efficient screen navigation, support for Microsoft Vista, a built-in calculator, the ability to rename accounts and editing of saved transaction descriptions and the exporting of financial statements to Microsoft Excel.

Drake does not offer much in the way of extras, choosing to focus primarily on its write-up functions. It does provide full-blown payroll and payables features, which help to make it sufficient for many companies not looking beyond the basics in their write-up solution.

PROSYSTEM FX WRITE-UP

ProSystem fx Write-Up integrates with other products in the ProSystem fx suite and offers financial statement and workpaper preparation, importing of information from external accounting software products and exporting data to tax and document management applications. Specific write-up features include general ledger entries, trial balance adjustments and bank reconciliation capabilities.

Setup allows extensive customization to charts of accounts, journals, financial statements and other reports. Ease of use is evident from the moment you log in; the intuitive interface expedites screen navigation and data entry while shortcut menus and single click options provide immediate access to the more common system features. Menus and data entry grids are customizable for efficient data processing. Information entered is accessible by other applications in the suite. Other setup decisions include posting and account period preferences.

The Import wizard converts client data directly from several external products or you can copy an existing chart from another client. Manual entry of account and budget information is available, and account segments include departments and locations.

The Activities menu facilitates transaction entry and the more common routines are single or recurring journal entries, posting, printing checks and bank reconciliations. Transactions can be imported from other accounting and tax software and adjusted before posting.

The reporting wizard oversees financial statement preparation and provides filtering and sorting options for building customized reports, client letters and financial statements. Report templates allow for quick report generation. Comparative, consolidated and subsidiary reporting is available and reports can be output to Excel or the ProSystem fx Engagement or Trial Balance software.

Several significant enhancements are included in the December 2007 version release. Accounting period locking safeguards against unintended changes to a prior period while still allowing prior period transactions to be viewed and included in financial reports. Audit trail features log activity in a client file when changes to an existing transaction are made. Users can also now change account, vendor and customer IDs and transfer and combine history between accounts.

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