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Review of Service Bureau Style Payroll — 2006

The Payroll Pool: Come On In, The Water's Fine!

Well, 6/6/2006 passed, and I didn’t notice much go awry. That wasn’t
the case for me a few days earlier on June 3. Waking that morning, I went to
my computer to check my e-mail. Well, something went wrong in the middle of
the night — we lost power or whatever, and my machine had rebooted at
some point during the night. My computer (heaven forbid anyone should touch
it, save Dad) is the server within our family’s three-computer DSL-enabled
network. Shaking my head, knowing I had to deal with this now before that first
cup, I proceeded to enter my password, hit and waited for files,
desktop icons, etc., to reload so that I could resume using my computer.

As soon as things loaded, I could see what had happened. During the night,
my Internet security software had downloaded a system update and attempted to
install it. During the install process something went bump, and Windows/XP took
it on the lam, shutting down.

So at this point, my screen was full of messages.

Windows/XP was telling me that critical system updates needed to be downloaded
and installed, some type of Java update needed to be downloaded and, since my
system had rebooted after a crash, I had a desktop message from Microsoft asking
whether I wanted to report “my problem” to Microsoft. Sheesh! I
just woke up. Leave me alone!

Okay, enough of this. You all have computers at home, too! My point is that
my responsibility for upkeep of our home computer network was an interruption
that I could have done without this particular morning. My time could have been
better spent elsewhere, certainly towards a more productive end.

How nice it would be if someone else could handle this problem for me? In
fact, how nice it would be if this could be entirely avoided in the future.
Why should maintenance of home computers be any different than mowing the lawn?
The solution should only be a matter of finding a service that would fit our
pocketbooks, right? Then, I began to think about how much better it would be
if we could just simply get a remote high-speed hookup to a hosted computer
desktop. Yeah, now we’re cooking. Nothing would ever be written to MY
hard drive, I wouldn’t ever worry about viruses, and no one could ever
scan the back-end of my home computer with a bent for breaking in and sending
malicious e-mails. Even better, all operating system and system utility updates
would be loaded by somebody else! Not my problem! Subscribe to the service,
set it up for auto-pay with a credit card, and now it’s NO LONGER MY JOB!

I’m a CPA in public practice, and payroll processing doesn’t present
a problem or major hurdle for me. Yet, I recognize that for many it is a boring,
repetitive process — one that could be performed by someone else. I have
this theory about payroll processing. I believe that payroll processing in any
form, whether it’s the delivery of payroll services to 800 businesses
by a payroll service bureau or a local accounting firm serving 10 to 15 small
business clients, is just like mowing lawns. We all know that payroll is not
going to go away. In fact, many accountants have discovered that the provision
of payroll services aids in recession-proofing their accounting practices.

We also know that everyone is not suited to the task. Many of us, clients
and accountants alike, would be better suited if someone else assumed responsibility
for some or all payroll tasks — writing payroll checks; making tax deposits;
and taking care of monthly, quarterly and annual tax reports. The solution:
turnkey enhanced payroll applications, hosted applications, and outsourcing
of payroll tasks. The enhanced solution: Allow customization of outsourcing
to assume payroll tasks in support of individual client needs. Many accountants
in public practice hear the words service bureau and immediately think that
someone has uttered a four-letter word — somehow the subject has changed
to a discussion of SIZE. It ain’t so.

While I agree that a quality service bureau application should be scalable,
the words service bureau should really stand for much more. Service bureau applications
should stand for the following: the ability to deliver enhanced payroll routines
such as direct deposit (or loading take-home-pay to debit cards for non-banked
employees); multiple company support; creation of ACH files for payroll deposits;
impounding of client funds and YOUR accounting fees; online portals that support
remote data entry by clients and/or accounting staff; customized reporting;
support of unlimited number of employees, locations, payroll codes-earnings-deductions;
enabling client employees to access their historical payroll through secure
online portals; real-time on-demand processing and so much more.

Many accountants who provide payroll services have discovered that the provision
of payroll services leads to increased client work and greatly assists in attracting
new business.
This review includes a strong cast of service bureau payroll applications from
companies desiring to form successful, working partnerships with you, the practicing
accountant. These products are geared to accountants with a large payroll client
base (50 or more).

I almost forgot to mention that I went to the lawn and garden store yesterday.
They had the most wonderful, high-tech Tanaka walk-behind edger. It was to die
for! Now, let’s go mow
some lawns! 

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

AccountantsWorld — Payroll
Relief AC
Payroll Relief AC is a web-based, online product
available through AccountantsWorld Online, allowing for practitioner and
client access. Client access is determined and controlled by the practitioner,
allowing the accountant to determine the level of access and what role
the client will play in data entry.
AdaptaSoft, Inc. — CyberPay
CyberPay provides service bureau-style payroll
directed to accountants and other providers of payroll services. CyberPay
provides industrial-strength payroll and supports an unlimited number
of client companies, departments and employees.
ADP — EasyPayNet
ADP is a longtime, well-known provider of outsourced
payroll services. EasyPayNet was conceived as an online service to serve
small businesses. It is available to accountants as a wholesale service
or can be purchased by small businesses directly.
CompuPay, Inc. (formerly PayMaxx)
— PowerPayroll
PowerPayroll is a comprehensive, scalable online
payroll system from CompuPay that supports payroll and tax compliance
across all 50 states. PowerPayroll is designed for use by small and midsize
businesses. Specifically, it is directed to companies with fewer than
150 employees or the large company with multiple small work sites.
Execupay — Execupay Payroll
The Execupay Payroll Suite (EPS) can trace itself
to the operation of a service bureau — a service that is still operating
today. EPS is a comprehensive suite of modules that supports the outsourced
payroll model we have come to know as the “21st Century Service
Intuit — Complete Payroll
Complete Payroll by Intuit is a flexible outsourced
payroll application that supports the client’s payroll entry method
of choice. Payroll data may be entered into Complete Payroll via direct
input on the web, via the user’s in-house computer (Internet access
required), or via a telephone call to Intuit.
Mangrove Software — Mangrove
Founded in 1994, Mangrove Software is a leader
in delivering web-based payroll, human resource (HR) and employee self-service
solutions. Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, Mangrove supports payroll
service bureaus, administrative service organizations (ASOs), hotels,
manufacturers, healthcare organizations and retailers.

PenSoft — PenSoft Payroll
PenSoft Payroll Plus is a comprehensive PC-based
payroll application available in several editions: Accounting (Service
Bureau), Platinum, Enterprise, Professional, Standard and Lite. The Accounting
Edition is reviewed here.PenSoft’s Payroll Plus Accounting Edition
supports multiple client companies with fast operation in support of payroll
data entry, payroll calculation, payroll checkwriting, invoicing, enhanced
reporting, and human resources information.
Sage Software — Sage Payroll
Sage Software introduced Sage Payroll Services to
the payroll marketplace in April 2004, but Sage Software has been in the
payroll business for more than 20 years. Sage Payroll Services is an outsourced
payroll offering for small to midsize businesses and organizations. Accountants
can opt to partner with Sage either through the Sage Software Accountants
Network and/or through the Sage Certified Business Partner Program.
Sage Software/Sage Compliance
Services — Sage EDP Payroll Taxt
Sage Software’s Sage Compliance Services
(formerly known as FLS tax compliance services) offers Sage EDP Payroll
Tax, a comprehensive and easy-to-use payroll tax compliance solution.
Sage Compliance Services is a recognized leader in delivery of payroll
tax compliance services.
Stellar Software — Payroll
Payroll Café from Stellar Software is a
comprehensive, full-featured payroll system that has been developed to
serve payroll professionals acting as payroll service bureaus. The product
offers payroll processing for an unlimited number of client companies,
including support for processing in all 50 states. Examples of the enhanced
payroll abilities of Payroll Café include MICR encoding, magnetic
media support, creation of ICESA formatted files (for use with the Quickfile
Unemployment Tax Reporting Program), and direct deposit.
SurePayroll — SureChoice
For Accountants
SurePayroll is a comprehensive, full-featured,
100 percent online outsourced service bureau payroll product. SurePayroll
automates the payroll process, eliminating many traditional processing
steps that conventional payroll services require. Using SurePayroll, small
businesses and their employees can access information and process payrolls
from anywhere, on-demand.
Thomson Creative Solutions —
Payroll CS
Payroll CS, previously known to many as Payroll
Solution, is a comprehensive, full-featured in-house payroll application.
Thomson Creative Solutions (CS) produces a wide range of software and
online applications directed to use by accountants. CS offerings include
write-up, tax planning and compliance, asset management, practice management
and website building for accounting firms. Payroll CS integrates with
other CS applications.

Review of Service Bureau Style
Payroll Systems 2006 — Executive Summary
“Make my day!” Actually, that statement
is incomplete. What I meant to say was, “Make my day EASIER!”
Service bureau payroll accounting applications truly offer unparalleled
processing abilities for the payroll professional. Service bureau payroll
applications are in the midst of a rapidly evolving and developing software
environment — one that offers increased efficiencies and related productivity,
as well as new tools that deliver improved client services.