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REVIEW: Engagement and Trial Balance Software 2011

Trial Balance and Engagement software solutions represent the first two building blocks in a successful client engagement.The trial balance is at the core of double-entry bookkeeping, providing an assessment of whether the general ledger is in balance by making a tally of the debits and credits. Engagement workpaper and process software has come more recently, combining workflow processing, document management, reporting, collaboration and other underpinnings of the engagement process into a more streamlined package. The two are often used in tandem, and are sometimes even provided in the same software.

For accounting professional, the market is dominated by three companies -- CaseWare International, CCH and Thomson-Reuters. But increasingly, these standards are being challenged by the new generation of online, web-based accounting services.  This review presents an overview of three market leaders, as well as a look at the engagement and trial balance capabilities of the one of more mature online services, AccountantsWorld.


CaseWare Workingpapers

CaseWare International
Berkley, Calif.
(800) 267-1317
www.caseware.com
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: $499 (single user); $1,399 (up to five users). Additional users, $260 each. SmartSync, $100 per user. Licenses renewal annually for 50 percent of license value.

Working Papers
Working Papers is designed to fully automate the processes for an accounting compilation, review, audit or financial statement engagement. The degree of automation is determined by how an organization wants to implement Working Papers, but the software itself is scalable, capable and full-featured.

It provides the full range of engagement tools, including trial balance, imports, exports, bookkeeping, consolidation, work paper analysis and financial statement generation. It is scalable to any size of organization, and also manages engagements for government and not-for-profit entities.

Working Papers provides automated annotations, document storage and management features, and includes built-in support for trial balance, including the ability to input from the general ledger for detailed analysis. Additionally, trial balance data can be imported from most engagement and trial balance products, including ProSystem fx Engagement and Engagement CS. Firms can import trial balance and/or detailed general ledger transactions from most major accounting packages including QuickBooks and Sage. Trial balance data can also exported to most major tax solutions.

Add-ons for Working Papers include the CaseWare Connector, which provides a quick and easy way to link Working Papers information in documents generated by Word or Excel; and SmartSync, an unparalleled collaboration tool that keeps engagement data in sync, no matter where team members are. When working offline, changes are seamlessly updated on reconnect.


Engagement CS

Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
http://cs.thomsonreuters.com
Price: starts at $1,800 for four users.

Engagement CS
Engagement CS is a powerful, paperless engagement system that provides trial balance, seamless integration with leading applications, reporting tools, and workflow management to increase a firm's efficiency and productivity. A part of the CS Professional Suite, it also works well as a stand-alone application.

Engagement CS gives multiple users simultaneous access to documents and the trial balance, with an improved MultiStaff collaboration feature that lets the accounting team share both workpapers and the trial balance concurrently. The trial balance system includes tools for tax reconciliation, cash flow reporting, accounting reports, leadsheet, schedules, tax exports and more. Engagement CS provides multi-user capabilities to allow the team to make adjustments to the same trial balance simultaneously. Also of note is the customizable financial statement formatter, with built-in templates to save time when preparing client reports.

Engagement CS offers seamless integration with PPC's Smart Practice Aids and PPC's Checkpoint Tools (including Practice Aids and Workpapers). The Checkpoint Tools Suite includes Practice Aids and Workpapers, Interactive Disclosure Library and Engagement Letter Generator in Microsoft Word and Excel format. Engagement CS and Checkpoint Tools offer strong diagnostic capabilities, including an Unsigned Program Step Report for timely notifications. The PPC aids offer a top-down, risk-based, audit approach and dynamically generates custom audit programs based upon assessment of risk and internal controls.


Trial Balance CS

Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
http://cs.thomsonreuters.com
Price: Start at $900 for non-networked version.

Trial Balance CS
Integration counts in trial balance software, and this is one area in which Trial Balance CS does a very credible job, both as a module within Engagement CS and as a stand-alone product.

Trial Balance CS allows users to import trial balance information from virtually any accounting system, formatted as a spreadsheet. In addition, there is a QuickBooks import utility that allows for preferences in the data transfer and for security of data. Trial Balance CS also integrates with tax preparation products, including Ultra Tax CS, GoSystem Tax, ProSystem fx Tax, ProSeries Tax and Lacerte, in addition to Write-Up CS and FileCabinet CS.

The product's workflow features are also very strong, including the ability to custom-design columns in the Trial Balance grid; the ability to add customer workpaper references and tickmarks to indicate the review status of accounts; customizable basis definitions with multiple bases for cash, accrual, tax, book and budget; and the ability to group accounts by codes and sub-codes for faster analysis and reporting. Of particular note for workflow is the ability to split the screen to view both journals and trial balance, a feature that works well and is highly efficient.

The flexible Financial Statement Editor sports a spreadsheet-style interface, and provides statements that are highly customizable and flexible. More than 40 built-in templates are provided, and statement designs can be copied from client to client to provide faster workflow and a consistent look to the firm's output. The financial reports can also contain conditional statements, drill down to the detail of line items, and an array of 39 system-provided analytical ratios in addition to custom-created ratios.

The standard reports provided with Trial Balance CS include an account changes report; tax reconciliation report; chart of accounts, trial balance report; trail balance variance report, grouping schedule report; trial balance grid report; adjusting journal entries; financial statement worksheet; trial balance worksheet; financial statement setup listing; tax code report and client information report.

Fast, flexible and efficient, Trial Balance CS is an example of excellent performance in a system that can be used either as an integrated part of the CS suite or a stand-along application. Its economical pricing and strong feature set make is one of the most popular trial balance systems in the marketplace.


ProSystem fx Engagement and Trial Balance

CCH
Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) PFX-9998  
www.cch.com
Price: Initial purchase of Engagement and Trial Balance, $1,520 (one license). Additional licenses, $640 each

ProSystem fx Engagement
ProSystem fx Engagement acts as the engagement team's main hub, used to import raw client data, prepare adjustments, create financial statements and export completed data to tax returns.

Part of the ProSystem fx suite, Engagement is a powerful management tool on its own, and when combined with other CCH and 3rd party products it becomes an integrated end-to-end solution for all engagements. It also functions as the central location for tracking, reporting, review sign-off and archiving.

Workpapers created in Word and Excel, and financial statements, can be stored in electronic binders that automatically link to client, engagement and trial balance data. Trial balance data can be imported from virtually any accounting system, including QuickBooks, via a simple Excel import process. Then Dynalink and Quiklink functionality integrate the trial balance data with Corporation, S Corp, Partnership and Exempt Organization tax returns.

ProSystem fx Engagement, with its integrated Trial Balance functionality, is the hub of CCH's Accounting & Audit Solutions. ProSystem fx Knowledge Coach adds powerful interactivity that helps auditors move quickly through the planning process, automatically linking risks to program steps, flowing information through the workpapers on the fly, advising when more documentation is needed, flagging when something has been missed, and managing reviews and sign-offs.

Also included in the suite are ProSystem fx Knowledge Tools and CCH Accounting Research Manager, with the content, guidance and expertise required for audits.

ProSystem fx Trial Balance
ProSystem fx Trial Balance is designed to create accurate financial statements and a solid set of workpapers in a format that can easily link to the ProSystem fx Tax and Engagement products.

Integration with Professional Suite programs is critical to the effectiveness of a trial balance system, which has a more narrow focus and functionality than the more robust engagement and workflow systems. Here, ProSystem fx delivers strong capabilities - data can be imported directly from QuickBooks2011 using an import utility, or from any accounting package that can export data to a spreadsheet. Data from ACE, ATB, Fast, Fast Advantage and GoSystem Audit can also be imported to ProSystem fx Trial Balance.

Two special applications - Dynalink to integrate with ProSystem fx Tax Corporation, S Corporation, Partnership, and Exempt Organization returns, and Quicklink to enable the tax return data in ProSystem fx Tax to mirror any changes made in ProSystem fx Trial Balance - provide additional functionality and efficiency.

Customized financial statements can be created using the Trial Balance Wizard, and include more than 70 standard reports and workpapers, such as lead schedules, trial balance, material variance, and more. Trial Balance documents can also be converted to PDF and merged into a single PDF file with the Append feature.


Accounting Relief Engagement and Trial Balance

AccountantsWorld
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.accountantsWorld.com
Price: $99 per month, or $990 per year. New customer first-year special: Accounting Relief Pro and the Collaborative Bookkeeping module for an unlimited number of clients for $149 per month.

Accounting Relief Engagement and Trial Balance
Accountants World is in the process of a major evolution to what it calls the PowerPractice -- revising, streamlining and enhancing its tools for accountants. The engagement and trial balance capabilities are found within Accounting Relief, one of the modules of the PowerPractice suite that is also available as a stand-alone product.

Within Accounting Relief are found applications for collaboration, both within and external to the firm; document management through its paperless CyberCabinet; and trail balance and write-up, with an ability to drill down from the trial balance to any component transaction, an extensive series of financial ratios, and an ability to create custom templates for recurring journal entries.

Accounting Relief provides drill-down functions for auditing, starting from the account balance to all component transactions, to the details of the originating transactions. It features a complete set of financials including balance sheet, income statement, cash flows statement, and retained earnings or partners' capital statement; along with title page, table of contents, accountant's letter, and notes. Custom transaction templates enable quick posting of recurring journal entries. And it offers thirty essential financial ratios break down a company's financial activity into simple mathematical computations, for tracking of any unusual activity that may require your intervention.

Accountants World and its suite of services, including Accounting Relief, have made remarkable progress since their introduction of the first truly full-featured SaaS service. The engagement and trial balance capabilities of Accounting Relief are a strong example of this progress, offering an economical and scalable solution built around the needs of accountants.

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

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