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2007 Review of Client Write-Up Systems

Write-Up And Sanity Are Not Mutually ExclusiveService Makes a Comeback as Technologies Improve Productivity

From the November 2007 Issue

Write-up services have long been one of the core offerings of year-round accounting
firms. Whether performed monthly, quarterly or periodically, client write-up
is not an exact process, per se, but often includes entering transactions like
bills, invoices, periodic expenses, bank reconciliation and asset treatments,
with the end-goal of producing financial statements that explain the fiscal
health of the entity. Write-up is often joined by other periodic but technically
independent tasks such as after-the-fact payroll, sales tax compliance and other
issues. As such, it is an excellent way to keep in contact with clients, which
can lead to additional services and revenues.

But write-up has fluctuated in popularity among accountants over the past
few years, especially since the boom of self-service accounting software in
the later 1990s. The reason why is pretty easy to figure out, too: Many SMB
products made it easy for clients to royally mess up their books, so write-up
turned into a form of forensic accounting. Gone are the days when the work was
basically after-the-fact accounting and clients would just bring in their boxes
of receipts, their check ledgers, bills and bank statements. With clients entering
transactions themselves, and sometimes editing them without an audit trail,
or posting incorrectly and making other errors, the software would give them
incorrect feedback on the financial condition of their business.

when accountants started dreading write-up. The time required to perform the
service increased dramatically as professionals had to diagnose more complex
account discrepancies and make countless adjusting entries. The growth of online
banking helped with reconciliation as statements could be imported, but client
errors and creative bookkeeping practices made the process more cumbersome than
what it could be appropriately billed for.

Write-up has been returning to sanity, however, and is, for most firms, returning
to a rightful place as a core service. This is greatly due to improvements in
client-side bookkeeping programs that now follow more stringent accounting principles,
have much better security-level access to sensitive functions, maintain audit
trails and, overall, make it more difficult for a client to screw up their books.
“More difficult,” but not impossible. Some clients love the challenge,
I guess.

Other significant changes have included improved online capabilities such
as data transfer, which allows clients to send their books to their accountant.
It also includes online access tools that have allowed accountants to log into
their clients’ accounting programs remotely and either work within it
or grab the data and work within their system. But the most dramatic technological
shift has the potential of getting rid of data transfers completely. No more
synching or “bridges” either.

Unified Professional/Client Accounting
The whole client write-up model exists in its current form because of the need
to have the professional access and fix client data, and then provide reporting.
This necessarily requires somehow moving data from a client’s software
to their accountant’s software. Meanwhile, the time in-between is somewhat
of a limbo period, but most systems have managed this period. But what if there
was no need to transfer client data?

Improvements in online accounting systems, Internet speeds, security and other
factors have affected many areas of the professional/client relationship. Notable
among these have been secure client portals that allow greater collaboration
and sharing of documents and data files. But these same technological advances
have allowed developers to bring a new breed of accounting system to bear. These
programs are built for accountants and either integrate or have various modules
to accommodate all of the other services that a firm provides. But most dramatically,
they also have a client-side component. That is, the system is controlled by
the accounting firm, but day-to-day transactions, vendor and customer records,
invoicing and billing, even payroll, can be performed by the client who logs
into an online extension of the system designed for their use. The specific
access and options available to the client are determined by the firm.

Executive Summary

Key Write-Up Functions

  • GL/Journal Adjusting Entries
  • Periodic Expenses
  • Bank Reconciliation
  • Asset Management
  • Financial Statement Generation

Services Related to Write-Up

  • After-the-Fact Payroll
  • Payroll Compliance Issues (W-2/1099)
  • Sales Tax Compliance
  • Inventory Adjustments

The two most prominent such systems on the market are Thomson Tax & Accounting’s
CS suite of professional accounting products with the addition of Client Bookkeeping
Solution, and the Accounting Relief AC system from AccountantsWorld. Thomson
Tax & Accounting’s offering, formerly branded Creative Solutions,
is most commonly utilized as a server-installed program on the firm’s
side, with the optional online component for clients and with data synching
into the professional program. Accounting Relief AC, on the other hand, is a
totally web-based system that automatically includes the web-based client accounting

Intuit’s QuickBooks doesn’t quite fit this definition, even with
the online version, since the client and professional each have separate installations
of the core program. NetSuite, although totally web-based, also doesn’t
quite fit this definition, since it is primarily an in-house product that, while
a company can grant their accountant full access to, is not primarily geared
toward in-firm use by public accountants serving multiple business clients.

Unified accounting systems are a whole new breed that will likely redefine
write-up, since the systems will enable public accountants to have total control
and supervision of client books at all times. Client errors won’t go away
entirely, but the process will be more efficient and take much less time, while
also strengthening the client relationship.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AccountantsWorld — Accounting
Relief AC
Accounting Relief is a web-based unified write-up/trial
balance system. It is accessed via Accountant’s Office Online, which
is the hub for all AccountantsWorld services. In addition to Accounting
Relief, modules are available for web-based live and ATF payroll, sales
tax preparation, document management…
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
— ProSystem fx Write-Up
ProSystem fx Write-Up is one of CCH’s
newest additions to the fx product line of tax and workflow management
systems for professional accounting practices, providing powerful financial
statement preparation, bank reconciliation features, trial balance, options
for integrated or online client payroll processing…
CCH Small Firm Services —
TaxWise Client Write-Up & ATX Client Write-Up
After CCH’s acquisition last year of the
TaxWise and ATX tax systems, the parent company moved the two professional
preparation packages into a new division, CCH Small Firm Services.
CYMA Systems, Inc. — CYMA
Accounting for Windows Client Write-Up
CYMA Accounting for Windows is an accounting platform
for mid-market companies, offering modules for management of GL, AP, AR,
reconciliation, inventory, payroll, POs, job costing and other functions.

Intuit — QuickBooks: Premier
Accountants Edition
Intuit offers two professional write-up systems
for accountants: QuickBooks Premier Accountant Edition (QBAE) and EasyAcct,
with the QuickBooks system being the most widely used, and offering full
integration with client-side versions of the small business accounting
Micronetics — Xpert Write-Up for Windows
Micronetics offers two core products in its Xpert family of software: The Xpert Financials system, which provides business bookkeeping for small and mid-sized businesses, and the Xpert Write-Up system.
PC Software Accounting, Inc.
— Client Write-Up for Windows
The Client Write-Up system from PC Software Accounting,
Inc. is geared toward providing professional accountants with the ability
to produce customizable client financials, GL and journal management,
integrated bank reconciliation and after-the-fact payroll functions, along
with W-2 and 1099 reporting capabilities.
Thomson Tax & Accounting
— Write-Up CS
Thomson Tax & Accounting is one of only a few
software vendors that offers fully integrated applications across the
spectrum, from an in-house client bookkeeping solution, through write-up
and trial balance, and even continuing through tax planning and compliance.
The company’s Write-Up CS is one of the leaders in the genre, sharing
data with the other programs in the Thomson Tax & Accounting CS suite
(formerly Creative Solutions).