2009 Review of Professional Write-Up Programs

From the Nov. 2009 Issue

Small businesses turn to their public accountant for many different reasons. Some want their taxes done; others want business consulting, payroll services or countless other functions that your firm may provide. But almost never will a client ask for “write-up” because it’s a word used by professionals. It’s a term of art that you know really means, “cleaning up client mistakes and ensuring that their books are really in order.”

Write-up may seem like a thankless task at times, but without this core service, most of the other functions you provide to clients would be without a foundation. Without having confidence in a company’s financials, most accountants would be leery to complete tax engagements or provide advice on business management strategies. It would be similar to a physician advising surgery or attesting to a patient’s health without first performing a physical and perhaps advanced tests.

While the term doctoring the books is obviously worth avoiding, the medical analogy is appropriate, especially for small businesses without an experienced bookkeeper in-house, because the data is prone to error. And so, without periodic examination of a business’ financial health, it can be futile to even try to give clients the services they think they want and need. The results of write-up can also give accountants a better ability to perform more advanced analysis and identify potential sales, cashflow, inventory and other trends that the client should take steps to either take advantage of or avoid.

At the heart of write-up, however, is the occasionally grueling work of going through transactions, ensuring there are appropriate corresponding account postings and journal entries, and making corrections as necessary. Equally important to making sure the books are squared away is performing bank reconciliation to verify that disbursements and receipts match up with bank records. Fortunately, both of these processes have become much simpler over the years through better data import functions from client accounting systems and electronic bank statements.

Likewise, the leading client-side accounting systems have become more controllable, providing audit trails, advanced security features, and other ways to help minimize errors and intentional misuse by business users. Mistakes still happen, of course, but that is what leads to the need for write-up services.

At their most basic level, write-up packages are essentially just professional accountant versions of bookkeeping programs, providing GL, AP, AR, check writing, payroll and other traditional business accounting needs. But true write-up packages add to these core elements with modules specifically designed for analyzing transactions more quickly, streamlining reconciliation, and producing professional GAAP and IFRS compliant financial statements, with accompanying compilation or review letters.

The more advanced write-up programs provide greater flexibility in reporting and customization of user interfaces to allow for individual preferences, while also offering streamlined integration or import of client data, and corresponding export of corrected data back into the client’s bookkeeping system. Many also offer after-the-fact payroll, since the end product of payroll results in transactions that need to be appropriately managed in the clients’ books, and the professional accountant can use the data for wage reporting and compliance purposes.

All of the programs reviewed in this section offer professional-level capabilities for managing virtually any number of client businesses. But just as a small business accounting system can play a significant role in the operations of a client, the selection of a professional write-up system that will assume an integral position in the practice is a major decision. Firm management should find a solution that meets the needs of the firm as it relates to integration with their client’s bookkeeping systems, as well as one that can provide the workflow tools and processes the professional practice needs for other client services.

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AccountantsWorld - Accounting Relief
overall rating
The Accounting Relief system from AccountantsWorld is a totally web-based professional accounting solution, providing full functionality for write-up services, including reconciliation, reporting, check writing and full GL, along with trial balance capabilities and options for after-the-fact payroll, live payroll and other programs.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business - ProSystem fx Write-Up
overall rating
CCH is one of the most well-known technology providers to the tax and accounting profession, offering it’s ProSystem fx Suite of integrated programs that cover virtually every aspect of client engagements and practice management, including tax compliance, trial balance, engagement management, document management, asset depreciation and workflow tools, along with many others.
CCH Small Firm Services - ATX Client Write-Up & TaxWise Client Write-Up
overall rating
CCH Small Firm Services, which includes the ATX and TaxWise professional tax compliance suites, also offers professional accounting systems geared toward practices who offer additional services to their clients.
CYMA Systems, Inc. - CYMA After-the-Fact Module
overall rating
CYMA offers a range of mid-market accounting systems for businesses and nonprofits, including the CYMA Financial Management System, which includes the company’s professional write-up system through its After-the-Fact module. While this module offers after-the-fact payroll processing and compliance, as its name implies, it also offers features designed for other write-up processes.
Intuit - QuickBooks Premier Accountant Edition 2010
overall rating
QuickBooks is to small business accounting as Microsoft is to operating systems or the iPod is to portable music. By far the dominant vendor in the space, Intuit offers several general versions of QuickBooks, starting with Simple Start and moving up into the more comprehensive Pro, Premier and Enterprise Solutions.
Micronetics, International - Accounting Xpert Enterprise Edition
overall rating
Micronetics recently released Accounting Xpert Enterprise Edition – Client Write-up, a completely new program from the vendor, which has been developing accounting software since 1978. The new Enterprise Edition of Xpert continues in the tradition of the company’s Xpert Write-Up system.
PC Software Accounting, Inc.- Client Write-Up for Windows
overall rating
On the market for nearly 15 years, the Client Write-Up for Windows system has continued to evolve over this time, providing core write-up features that include GL, bank reconciliation, and after-the-fact payroll with compliance reporting. It also has an optional Job Costing feature.
Thomson Reuters - Write-Up CS
overall rating
The Thomson Reuters CS Professional Suite is one of the most comprehensive collections of accounting, client service and practice management applications for professional accounting firms. It covers everything from tax and payroll, to planning, analysis, trial balance and document management.
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BlackLine Systems - Financial Close Software Suite
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2009 Review of Client Write-Up Systems— Comparison Chart