Payroll software has gone through three major evolutions in the past 20 years, and is about to enter a fourth.
The first revolution was the rise of the service bureaus, providing companies with alternatives to payroll done by hand in the back office by the accounting department - which, in turn, gave rise to major corporations such as ADP and CompuPay. The second was the advent of the PC, leading companies to seek desktop solutions for greater flexibility. The third was the move to online services, when companies like AccountantsWorld moved these services to the Web.
The fourth revolution builds on all of these, taking payroll mobile. A substantial number of companies are creating mobile phone and iPad applications for payroll services, suggesting that anytime, anywhere computing is about to move to a smaller screen.
Don't believe it? Look at the number of companies offering mobile payroll in our roundup of payroll systems for 2011.
Accounting CS Payroll
It's been almost a year since Thomson Reuters unveiled its Accounting CS platform, which unified core accounting functions into a single online platform. Since that time, the company has continued to enhance the platform and its products, including payroll.
Accounting CS Payroll is designed to enhance collaboration with staff and clients; streamline data entry; implement both traditional and paperless payment systems; and expand reporting and billing features.
Recent enhancements include a payroll form and filing information portlet within the home dashboard that provides instant information on payroll status, including due dates and tax information. A new Edit Multiple Employees wizard makes it possible to update multiple records simultaneously. Variable commission rates, pay schedules and tipping structures are supported. For the more mobile accountant, there is also access to the portal via an iPad or other mobile device.
Perhaps most critical to accountants is the batch processing capability for both the payroll itself and for the myriad of state and federal forms, including the W-2, W-2C, 940, 941, 941-X, 943, 943-X, 944, 944-X, 945, 945-X, 1099, state payroll tax forms, and certain local payroll tax forms using a streamlined process, with either paper or electronic filing.
Accounting CS payroll has undergone substantial change, but remains a strong and flexible payroll solution with an up-to-date feature set and the scalability to handle the needs of virtually any size of client.
CMS Professional 2011 Payroll
Cougar Mountain Software
CMS Professional 2011 Payroll is a respected payroll system from Cougar Mountain Software. Designed for multiple pay methods, CMS Payroll automatically calculates taxes, benefits and deductions. It functions well as either a module integrated with the Cougar Mountain point-of-sale or accounting package, or as a stand-alone application. The stand-alone application is priced slightly higher because it includes Report Writer.Among its key features are the ability to support up to 99 pay rates per employee and multiple user-defined benefits and deductions per employee; support for overtime, holiday pay, advances, draws, base pay, and miscellaneous charges; support for electronic payroll; and support for federal and state forms.
The CMS Professional 2011 Payroll package is full-featured and flexible, but the real news with this software is the head-to-toe redesign of the company. The goal is to focus more on customer service and support under the tagline "Personal Service by Accounting and Business Experts." In coming months, look for new CMS colors, a new logo and an improved branding effort that will impact the software design and features as well.
CompuPay Xpress Payroll
CompuPay Xpress Payroll is a fast and intuitive system geared to the needs of small businesses, typically those with 10 or fewer employees. It is designed to produce payroll documents and reports with a minimum of work. For accountants whose clients fall in the mid-range, it offers an easy migration path to PowerPayroll from CompuPay, with similar screens but an expanded feature set.
CompuPay released significant enhancements to Xpress Payroll last May, including a new look and feel, the ability to track accruals on a monthly basis, additional security features for multi-user and accountant access to payroll reports, the ability to pay and print 1099s, the ability to produce a 401(k) file, and the ability to record hours for salaried employees. XpressPayroll also now supports a workers' compensation insurance program to calculate premiums and make payments.
Co-branding for accounting professionals is available, as well as the use of a partner portal to manage multiple accounts. The options are extensive for accountants, including a referral relationship, hosting or back-office solutions, or payroll acquisitions.
CompuPay Xpress Payroll reflects the company's quarter-century of experience as a back office/service bureau for payroll, and provides substantial benefits - particularly for small-business clients.
CYMA Payroll, currently in Version 12, is a solution scalable to an unlimited number of clients and employees, geared to the needs of midsized organizations and payroll services. It may be used as a stand-alone service or integrated with the CYMA Financial Management System.
It offers the ability to process payroll for all states, with unlimited earnings, pay times, pay frequencies, benefits and deductions. In addition, accountants may attach unlimited documents and create an unlimited number of custom fields. The current version, released in November of 2010, added Web-based employee self-service, EEOC reporting, benefits management, enhanced employee demographics (including I-9 information), and HR functions such as education, military service and drug test tracking.
The Quick Entry Grid, import capabilities and employee self-service provide for faster data entry, including import from timeclock and timekeeping software. And there are multiple options for manual data entry.
CYMA Payroll integrates well with a number of accounting and finance solutions, including CYMA's own. It presents a strong blend of accounting and HR capabilities in addition to payroll, making it a more flexible tool for mid-range and larger clients of accounting firms.
Intuit Online Payroll for Accounting Professionals
Intuit Online Payroll for Accounting Professionals (formerly PayCycle) is a flexible payroll service designed to allow accountants to process payroll for multiple clients with a single subscription. It offers federal and state tax payments and filings, unlimited payroll runs, free direct deposit, and the ability to download both payroll and tax information to QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks for Mac, Quicken , Peachtree, the ATX accounting suite, or CCH ProSystem fx Write-Up.
Because it is an online service, Intuit Online Payroll requires no desktop software, but does offer accountants the choice of either running payroll under their own banner and providing a client portal with the accounting firm's brand, or setting up clients to handle their own payroll, with the accounting firm retaining remote access to the client data.
An enhanced reporting capability includes details of payroll expense items for a given pay period, providing a by-employee view of earnings, employee-paid taxes, and any additions/deductions (401(k), insurance and company-paid taxes and contributions). Online time-tracking, e-filing 1099-MISCs and workers' comp payments are available as extra services.
Intuit's online payroll product for accountants is part of a family of client and professional payroll products that combine effective management of client information and payroll. In addition, Intuit's QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll for Accountants handles either live or after-the-fact payroll for up to 50 clients. Intuit products are economical solutions designed to help enhance both services and profitability, particularly for the mid-range accounting firm.
Patersons Logon2 integrates the capabilities of payroll engines, payroll provider partners, workflow and managed services in a secure and compliant service that is delivered with an on-demand, Software-as-a-Service business model.
Patersons services payroll needs with an integrated and comprehensive solution that is accessible 24/7 from anywhere. Logon2 uses workflow and standardized processes to provide efficient and effective global payroll management. Logon2 International Payroll Workflow solves the challenges of managing international payroll by allowing the validation and authorization of payroll data globally. With complete treasury integration capabilities and a full workflow audit trail, it helps ensure SAS 70 Type II and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
Self-service lets employees view monthly pay slips, submit absence/vacation requests and review remaining vacation entitlements, and update bank details, addresses and other personal information. Managers are assigned to employees through Logon2 Employee Self Service, and full manager notification and sign-off procedures are presented within workflow processes.
Global payroll management poses unique challenges to accounting firms that serve international or multinational clients, and in this arena Patersons is a global leader with the experience necessary for accounting firms to manage a diversified and geographically separated client base.
Paychex Online Payroll
Paychex Online Payroll is an outsourced payroll system in which the accountant may serve either as the preparer or as an advisor to clients managing their own payroll online.
It features multiple rates of pay, complex deductions, integrated 401(k) benefits support and workers' compensation. It integrates well with a number of other accounting applications, including an interface to post payroll data into nearly all of the popular general ledger programs.
Recent enhancements include an expanded array of reports, including on-demand reports for a specific point in time, and a "favorites" list of the most frequently used reports for fast access. The Paychex Online Reports Service is free to accounting professionals and offers numerous customizable reports with real-time data available about two hours after payroll processing. Reporting options include earnings statement, gross-to-net, summary overviews on a variety of periods, cash requirements, time sheets, new hires, and employee earnings records.
Client employees may access their information online to make adjustments to high-level personal and demographic information. And the system now offers the ability to import payroll data from a time clock or other third-party application. It allows for both gross-to-net and net-to-gross calculations, the ability to immediately calculate payroll cash-flow requirements, and the automatic calculation of the payroll with just two mouse clicks.
The preferred payroll provider for the American Institute of CPAs' business partner program, Paychex Online Payroll offers a simple and secure payroll system that allows accountants to keep pace with the needs of clients without having to physically perform the payroll functions.
AccountantsWorld pioneered the concept of an accountant-centric cloud application more than a dozen years ago, and has been at the forefront of Web-based accounting services since. Its most ambitious update was the introduction of the Power Practice platform last year, pulling together eight core accounting functions into a single, integrated system.
Within that system or as a stand-alone solution, a redesigned Payroll Relief program provides fast and economical services that are scalable for each client, from a single employee to more than a thousand, at a cost as fractional as $.50 per paycheck. Payroll Relief combines a highly intuitive interface with user-friendly screens to guide the payroll process, with a comprehensive set of tools to review every aspect of the payroll practice. Each client is provided with permissions for functions they may access to perform selected tasks based on their needs and abilities.
Payroll Relief offers several data entry methods, as well as e-filing for all federal and state compliance forms. There is an extensive library of reports, plus an archive of tax forms, reports and paychecks via the CyberCabinet document management system. And the payroll module integrates seamlessly with Accounting Relief, QuickBooks, Peachtree and other accounting programs.
Payroll Relief is the first Web-based payroll system designed exclusively for accountants, and combines speed, flexibility and economy into an attractive practice package designed to enhance firm profitability.
RUN Powered by ADP Payroll for Accountants
ADP Small Business Services
Run Powered by ADP was introduced in 2008 but not actually rolled out nationally until a year ago. The intent was to capture a larger share of the small-business market for ADP, using a straightforward Web-based payroll system with some HR management included. At that time, ADP also moved to encompass the accountants that serve this market.
Run Powered by ADP for Accountants allows segmentation of the client by their payroll needs, the industry they serve or by accountant within a firm. It offers standard payroll check processing and ADP-printed checks, as well as electronic payments such as direct deposit and debit cards. And the application interfaces with the client's general ledger applications, directly to QuickBooks and to others via Microsoft Excel or via the ADP InfoLink Web interface.
Payroll data can be accessed by the accountant or the client via a branded home page. The site then offers a payroll dashboard, payroll gross-to-net, preview prior to processing, and online access to payroll information and direct deposit for client employees.
The next step in the evolution of this product will be migration to mobile platforms. The company has already released a mobile app for the iPhone/iPod/iPad, with a promise of future versions for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile 7 and Android devices.
Run Powered by ADP for Accountants is designed to be a low-cost, basic and straightforward payroll portal aimed at small businesses and their payroll partners.
Sage Abra HRMS Workforce
Sage North America
Sage Abra HRMS Workforce is a new package from Sage North America that improves decision-making, reduces costs, and ensures accurate benefits, attendance, payroll, training, and human resources information by connecting employees, supervisors, managers and administrators across the company through a Web portal and employee self-service capabilities.
Substantially more than just a payroll package, it is clearly aimed at large and enterprise-scale organizations. It is the extension of two other products, Sage HR and Sage HRMS. The payroll module is an option to all three. Payroll includes U.S. and Canadian tax management and compliance, comprehensive reporting, check printing, direct deposit, payroll ESS, and more
Accountants and their clients can use the Workforce Web portal and dynamic information-sharing capabilities of the package to maximize employee processes and manager processes. The package also offers Sage Employee Analytics to cover data such as time off and pay history. This data can also be transferred to mobile devices through secure URLs for executives on the move.
SurePayroll for Accountants
SurePayroll for Accountants is a branded extension of SurePayroll's online payroll service that allows an accountant partner to manage, build and scale a payroll business with a simple online partner hub.
Now a unit of Paychex, SurePayroll for Accountants offers the option of having an accountant refer clients to SurePayroll, retaining access to the client data online. Or accountants can resell SurePayroll using SurePayroll's Web-based payroll service that is branded and sold under the accountant's name. In both cases, the service includes direct deposit, all tax filing and tax payments (federal, state and local), unlimited customer service, and employee self-service functionality.
Recent enhancements to SurePayroll's service include a mobile payroll application for the iPhone and the iPad for the client and employees, as well as integration with time clock systems.
SurePayroll for Accountants is an economical, full-featured system for payroll, benefits, HR compliance and payroll support that provides exceptional service to accountants serving the small to midsized markets.
Dave McClure is the president of Kent Associates, in Alexandria, Va., an independent testing laboratory and evaluation service.
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