Estimated reading time: 11 minutes, 17 seconds

REVIEW: Online Payroll Systems

It is a great time of year! Tax season is over. The weather is getting warm and sunny. Another wonderful thing about tax season being over is that is a great time to take a few moments to really analyze your practice. What processes worked and what processed need change? What services worked and what services need to be eliminated or added? I just downloaded a copy of the E-Myth Accountant to my Ipad. If I may, I would suggest that if you are serious about improving your practice that you read this book.

One points the book makes is that you have to pick which services and which clients you want to focus on if you are to really grow your practice. Services like bookkeeping and payroll are not "sexy" and certainly don't show off how smart we are, but what staff member can perform those services? If you have good software and good processes, you can hire a more affordable employee part-time to do the work. That will equal very large profits for you.

Think about it. If this sounds like a service you want to add or one that you are doing currently but are looking for better ways to accomplish this service, take a look at some of the products in this review. The companies listed below all will allow you to streamline any current processes you have on payroll. Or if payroll is a new service, they will help you build a successful payroll service. Once you read this review, you just might change your mind and find payroll processing is "sexy" after all! Oops did I just reveal that I am a geeky Accountant.. :)

Here are the products in this review:

Payroll Relief, AccountantsWorld
Accounting CS Payroll, Thomson Reuters
Intuit, Online Payroll
CompuPay Xpress

The first step you need to take is to decide whether you want to provide the payroll service yourself, assist your client in payroll and refer your client to a processing company or a combination of the above.

The second step is to determine your comfort with working with a company that may compete with your services. The reality is that as an Accountant you have a different relationship with your clients than a payroll processor. Nevertheless, it is something you might want to consider in making selection.

Each of the programs in this review is an excellent choice. Each is easy to use and utilizes the latest technology for the online environment. We will point out the highlights that are strong reasons to use them. We will also point out some weaknesses. It will give you a good starting point to determine what programs you want to review in making your decision.


Payroll Relief
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
Price: $997.

Payroll Relief
AccountantsWorld has really stepped up to the plate to provide accountants with quality tools to grow their practices. The company continues to add features that makes the product easier and better to use. When you open the program, you see a dashboard that shows you all your clients. In an instant you can see which payrolls are due and the tasks associated with those clients. It is designed to allow accountants to run a full-fledged payroll service bureau.

There are  some very good payroll reports for as well as for your clients. One report I enjoyed in particular is one that you can view before processing payroll that enables you to view a summary of this pay period to the last pay period. Once the payroll is processed, the client can receive an easy-to-read complete report that shows total payroll cost including tax liabilities. CompuPay also has a built-in resource center. This is awesome for a small-to-medium size firm. There are templates for new hire checklists, employer setup forms, engagement letters and much more.

There is a complete client permissions section in the program that allows you to either offer different levels of service per client.  A very flexible system, it gives you control over your clients while providing an easy way to collaborate with them. You can collaborate right online with a special portal you create for clients. Not to mention this part of a complete suite of products that AccountantsWorld offers. If you see the value in offering payroll services, you really need to take a good look at this product.

AccountantsWorld is committed to helping Accountants with providing this service. It offers many marketing tools and ways to help you grow your practice. Overall, it is priced very well for the value it will provide your firm. It deserves a very strong test drive to see if it meets your needs.

Accounting CS Payroll
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900.
Price: Accounting CS Payroll standalone, $1,800. Also requires purchase of ACS Payroll Compliance, $600. Includes with Accounting CS.

Accounting CS Payroll
Like AccountantsWorld, this product is a great choice for accountants who want to provide payroll services. One of the keys to having a successful payroll practice is to have solid processes in place so that you do not have to spend a lot of time on the actual task. That will allow you to increase your capacity so you can take on more clients in less time and increase your profitability.

Accounting CS Payroll can handle multiple clients' payroll simultaneously. You don't actually have to go into a client to handle many tasks. The application comes with standard reports but you can customize all to meet client needs. So, if you gain a new client that is accustomed to another program with specific reports, you can either deliver the same report or  personalize it to make it even better. In addition, there are many levels of payroll functionality that allow you to handle payroll for any client that comes your way. You will able to allocate different deductions to different departments.

Another key item I didn't see in many of the other programs was the ability for you to give clients' employees a secure place to see their paychecks, W-4s and W-2s. These can be seen in the employee's individual payroll portals. Employees can update their own changes in addresses, names and W-4s and these can be pulled into the program. It is an excellent program. The only downside I saw was with all the flexibility comes some complexity that requires thought and more time for setup.

However, after that you can handle any client that you want. If you really want to have a successful payroll service to provide added value to your clients, you should take a look at this product. And if you decide you don't want to service one or some of your clients, you can send them to Thomson's Reuters myPay Solutions service.


Intuit Online Payroll
Mountain View, Calif.
(866) 820-6382
Price: Intuit Online Basic, $25 per month; Intuit Online Plus, $39 per month.

Intuit Online Payroll
Intuit once again proves it is committed to accountants. I know you are saying don't they compete with us? It really does go back to the way that you run your practice. Are you managing your clients and services or are they managing you? If you are providing your clients with knowledge and guidance, you will be able to look what Intuit is offering you to help your clients in a different light. Intuit's online payroll product for accountants is a wonderful product.

Whether you want to do everything for your client or work in conjunction with your client or share the task, you can do it in the product. It is a very easy-to-use program that provides the tools to get processes set up in minimal amount of time and allows you to look professional. You can set it up in a portal that is for your firm so clients don't see what software you are using and you get true, real-time processing. Intuit offers full product support for accountants. They also have a separate place for employees to go in and see their checks.

Furthermore, the system can email employees so that they can know they have been paid and can view their paystubs. . Like AccountantsWorld,  this application handles the tax processing for you if you desire. Intuit does a very good job in partnering with accountants to help provide them with marketing tools to gain more clients. And... drum roll please, coming out in the next few weeks is the ability to process payroll on your mobile phone! More details will be announced from Intuit shortly. In addition, other features they are currently working on are easier set up, job-costing and more electronic services for states that they are currently not processing.

So, go to Intuit's website and review the product for yourself. Make sure it has all the features you need for your current and future clients.


Skokie, Ill.
(877) 954-7873
Price: Weekly, $18.95 plus $1.50 per employee; Biweekly/semimonthly, $30.95 plus $1.85 per employee.

If you still aren't convinced that processing payroll for clients is right for you, SurePayroll might be the answer for you. SurePayroll is primarily designed for businesses, its main niche. However, that is very good for accountants for several reasons. First of all, SurePayroll's program is very solid and proven with many customers using their solutions.

This is a high-quality company that you can be confident in. Second, it adds all kinds of tools to provide you with knowledge about all the different payroll laws and compliance issues. The tools and resources are right there while you are processing and there are how-to guides. SurePayroll also serves specific markets like nannies and clergy so if you were interested in targeting those markets for other services as well this product could help you.

Furthermore, if you have clients for whom you don't want to process payroll,  you can pass these on to SurePayroll with the confidence that they will have a good partner. The payroll software is very easy to use. It integrates with several accounting programs. The company also offers several programs for accountants. If you aren't fully committed to a payroll service offering it is definitely worth a strong look at this program.


Xpress Payroll
Miramar, Fla.
(877) 729-6299
Price: For one to five employees, $79 per month (weekly); $50 per month (bi-weekly, semi-monthly); $32 per month (monthly).

CompuPay is very good for firms that want to offer payroll but don't want to worry about processing taxes. CompuPay will take on the tax liability for you. It is a high-end payroll system and it would be hard to find a client that you could not easily process payroll with this product. It does almost all the work for you.

You can send the company the information to set up a new client and CompuPay will do the work. And not only will CompuPay train you but it will train every member of your staff that processes payroll for you. So, if your payroll person quits and you don't have well-documented processes, you can let CompuPay know and they will train them for you and this will be covered in your regular fees.

Payroll information can be exported to several accounting programs. You can import time clocks and if you are using a different software system to handle employee hours, they will provide you with the format they need to pull into CompuPay. Furthermore, they offer accountants referral relationship, hosting or back-office solutions or payroll acquisitions.

I thought the payroll acquisitions service is unique and interesting. If you had been processing payroll for your clients but for whatever reason decided you didn't want to do it anymore, CompuPay would explore the option of possibly acquiring your clients from you. The hosting option is also a little different in that they will help you manage the client payroll in house. It is a very good company that has some unique solutions for Accountants that appeals to a broad range of needs.


Automatic Data Processing
Roseland N.J.
(800) xxxx
Price: From $45 to $60 per month.

ADP provides a powerful solution and has a great deal of credibility with accountants. While, like the other companies that specialize in payroll for businesses, the company provides several options for accountants who want to work with them. Also like CompuPay, they will consider purchasing your payroll service.

Run Powered by ADP Payroll for Accountants, allows accountants to tap into a solid, stable payroll program and the company provides a lot of payroll tools and resources. These tools and resources provide you with the most current issues related to payroll processing. They will keep you posted on New Tax Laws related to payroll and you can be confident the program will be updated immediately when changes occur.

The Run client dashboard shows all your clients on one screen and also displays the contact name, status, your next check date, messages and tasks and whether it is tax filing or non tax filing client. It is an excellent option depending on your needs. It definitely deserves a strong look whether you are considering starting a payroll service or referring your clients to a service bureau.


Julie Lepper, EA

Julie S. Lepper, EA, MBA is the Principal of Julie S. Lepper, Accounting & Tax Service, LLC, a small local accounting firm in Pinckney, MI. She earned her Master's of Business from Eastern Michigan University and her Bachelor's of Accountancy from Walsh College in Michigan. Julie has over 16 years in consulting with client not only accounting and tax issues , but also on software and sales engagements. She specializes in focusing on start-up businesses and small to medium client needs.

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