Thomson Reuters — Client Bookkeeping Solution

From the June/July Review of Small Business Accounting Systems

Client Bookkeeping Solution (CBS) is a small business bookkeeping and management system from Tax & Accounting, a business of Thomson Reuters (formerly Thomson Tax & Accounting). The program is not offered directly to small businesses, but rather through professional firms using the CS Professional Suite. Installed as a desktop program on the client’s computers, CBS includes traditional, double-entry accounting with a chart of accounts set up by the accountant, allowing clients the ability to enter daily transactions, process payroll, manage payables and receivables, print checks, and generate reports in-house.

The system prepares data for use by the professional programs in the CS line, making the import of the data very simple. CBS can also be used as a remote program through an optional hosted version of the system called CBS ASP by using the vendor’s NetClient CS portals. The complete bundled desktop package for Client Bookkeeping Solution starts at $600, and CBS ASP costs $35 (per client per month). CBS packages are billed to the professional accounting firm, which can then bill the client. The program can also be used by clients to support multiple businesses, if desired.

Ease of Use/Basic Functionality -- 4.5 Stars
CBS is geared for use by small businesses whose professional accountant uses the CS suite of professional accounting programs. The system opens into an interface that is similar to most of the CS programs, but very much tailored to the much simpler needs of a small business client. The interface provides a large work area, with a primary vertical menu on the left that gives access to each of the core modules, including system administrative tasks, the Payables and Receivables modules, the PayCheck system and the CheckWriter. Selection of one of these function areas brings up a menu specific to that module, with icons making it easy to jump directly to transactions, payments, check writing or individual contact lists for vendors, customers and employees. While this menu type is perhaps not as immediately instinctive as a workflow design, it is fairly intuitive. Additionally, the easy-to-use functions for exporting data to or importing files from their accountant make this process as painless as possible. The program’s contact lists (vendors, customers and employees) provide numerous sorting, find and filter options.

Data-entry screens are consistent throughout, with many of the timesaving convenience features that are present in other CS programs, including tabs for quick movement between data groups and smart selection lists for many items. The accountant plays a key role in initially setting up the system, which allows customization to the needs of each client without cluttering up the interface with features they don’t need. The program can also be set to automatically notify the accountant by e-mail when a client user performs specific tasks.

Core Accounting/ Security Functions -- 3.5 Stars
CBS provides strong basic accounting functions that are generally presented in client-friendly formats, allowing them to easily access core tasks like transactions, checkwriting and paying vendors, without getting into more difficult accounting processes. The charts of accounts can be easily set up by the professional accountant to maintain proper GL, while the AP and AR modules work fluidly with the accounts to post appropriate transactions and journal entries. Clients can also e-mail invoices and statements to their customers. The included CheckWriter function supports online banking, including bill payments and fund transfers, while allowing customization of check layouts and printing of deposit slips. The program’s payroll functions, if enabled, allow clients to process their own payroll in-house. CBS maintains a full-time complete audit trail, and security levels can be set to restrict certain users to specific areas. The e-mail alerts to the accountant also provide a safety mechanism by keeping the professional aware of certain activities.

Reporting & Management Functions -- 3.5 Stars
Each of the modules contains reporting options specific to that area, including AP and AR aging, customer activity reports, cash flow snapshots, and budgeting functions. The Financial Statements module provides interim financials. If using the hosted version of the system, CBS ASP, clients access the program by logging into the accounting firm’s secure portal using their web browser. This ensures that the client is always using the most current version, and it gives the accounting firm total direct access to the client’s bookkeeping system and all data.

Import/Export/ Integration -- 4 Stars
Since it is part of the CS suite of accounting products, CBS uses the same file formats and includes features for quickly and easily submitting data to the client’s accountant and for receiving files back after write-up, correcting entries and reconciliation tasks. The CS Professional Suite can import from major SMB accounting packages, including QuickBooks and Peachtree. CBS offers export options via a preview of pre-defined reports for PDF, Word or Excel. CBS also offers direct export to Outlook and Access, as well as other programs.

Help & Support Options -- 4 Stars
CBS includes a traditional Help index and assistive features like right-click menus and screen-specific guidance, while a library of PDF guides is included, covering topics ranging from direct deposit, payroll tasks and credit card processing. The program is easy to use and should require little training. The vendor does not offer direct support for small business clients using the program, unless authorized by the professional accountant.

Relative Value -- 4.5 Stars
CBS is a great option for small businesses whose accountants use Tax & Accounting’s line of professional programs. Since the system works the same way as the professional suite, data is much more usable. Plus, the system is easier to learn for small business owners/managers than full accounting programs because the features can be limited to only those that they will need.

2008 Overall Rating: 4 Stars