[IMGCAP(1)]Is there anything people take more seriously than getting paid accurately and on time? Probably not. That’s why your firm’s approach to payroll is of such great importance. 

Whether you’re looking for a provider to administer your firm’s payroll, working with a referral partner to meet your clients’ payroll needs, or considering offering a hosted payroll solution for clients, a top notch provider can do any or all three of these in partnership with a firm based upon their needs.

The relationship you have with your payroll partner is about much more than simply processing payroll. It’s about seamlessly managing the intricacies involved in the complex payroll process and providing a level of technology and service that helps accountants offer better strategic counsel to their clients.
When evaluating the role of payroll in your firm, there are four key considerations that should be top of mind: technology, the regulatory environment, complimentary benefit offerings such as health insurance and 401(k), and data security.

Here are some thoughts on each:

1. Technology: Over the years, the business of providing payroll services has evolved into a technology-based service offering. When accounting firms evaluate the role of payroll, they need to be sure the payroll solution they’re considering has the speed and agility to implement new technology capabilities as they become available. Data storage and access should also be top of mind. As part of your assessment, cloud-based data storage and complementary mobile offerings should be considered a must because you, and your clients, need access to business data whenever and wherever necessary. Be sure the solution you select gives you the flexibility to do business on your schedule.

2. Regulatory Environment: As accountants know, the regulatory environment in which we do business is changing at a more rapid pace than ever before. From staying up-to-date on the latest payroll tax obligations to the sweeping reporting changes ushered in as a result of the Affordable Care Act, accountants play a critical role in educating their clients on how government regulation impacts their business. When selecting a payroll solution for your firm, be sure you’re considering a partner who has the resources to help you stay on top of it all. Not every payroll provider is equipped to do this. You should be looking for a partner whose technology system can implement tax code changes quickly and effectively, and who offers the educational resources and product solutions necessary to help your clients stay current with whatever changes come from Washington. 

3. Complementary Benefit Offerings: Another important part of the payroll equation is employee benefits, and the individual needs of your clients. If your clients want to offer their employees the best benefits possible, the tedious recordkeeping involved with managing benefit offerings such as 401(k) plans and insurance should factor into a decision to manage this in-house or not. To provide the best service and solution, it may make the most sense to align your firm with a partner who can offer a complete range of employee benefits options, including health insurance, 401(k) or FSA. In addition to the administrative benefits, your clients will also gain a competitive edge in attracting, hiring and retaining talented staff.

4. Data Security: It’s common for business owners to have questions about the security of the software they use, but their concern often boils down to one question: is confidential accounting and payroll data safe from prying eyes and dangerous activity? When evaluating payroll, data security is a critically important consideration. There is nothing more sensitive to your clients—and their employees—than the personal data collected as part of the payroll process.  Social Security numbers, birth dates, bank accounts. You should be looking for a partner who employs the highest measures of data security possible to protect this confidential information, and is investing the resources necessary to defend against the cyber threats of the future.

When it comes to choosing a payroll solution for your firm, the stakes are high. After all, it’s a decision that will have a significant impact on your firms’ most precious assets—its employees and clients. Making the right decision could not only lead to enhanced revenue opportunities in the future, it can create another solid bond in the accountant-client relationship, helping to cement your role as your clients’ most trusted advisor.

Andy Childs is vice president of marketing at Paychex, Inc.

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