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REVIEW: Engagement and Trial Balance Software 2012

Back in the days of green eye shades and manual accounting, the process known as Engagement and Trial Balance were essential to the practice of both audits and accounting. Trial balance showed a quick snapshot of the validity of the company's transactions during audits and other legations, while Engagement handled to processes of opening, tracking and successfully completing the client work.

Trial Balance is both disappearing and proving less useful for most companies and their accountants. Meanwhile, the package of enagement letters, reports and workflow managers that used to call Engagement has been absorbed into document management and workflow management systems. CaseWare Working Papers remains one of the few strong stand-alone packages for both functions, but the remaining three major packages on the market are all part of accounting suites.

Still and all, the major packages offered today do show considerable enhancements over their predecessors. Each offers a better level of workflow management and approval processes than in the past, tighter integration with tax software and ledgers, and a smoother integration with external ledger and accounting practices.

All things considered, this is a mature and value-laden class of accounting software that, until it is subsumed by CRM, ERP and other more generalized systems, provide some invaluable tools to accountants and their clients.

CaseWare Working Papers 2011
CaseWare International
Berkeley, Calif.
(800) 267-1317
(416) 867-1906 (Fax)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
$500 (single-user license); $1,500 (up to five users); ($290 (each additional user). Licenses renew annually for 50 percent of license value.

CaseWare Working Papers 2011
Working Papers, a flexible engagement software system, enables accountants to plan, perform and review an engagement entirely on screen, completely eliminating paper documentation. 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.

Version 2011, introduced in July, offers a myriad of updates and tweaks that enhance workflow, organization and engagement planning.

Add-ons include CaseWare Connector, which provides a quick and easy way to link Working Papers information in documents generated by Word or Excel; systems to produce GAAP, GASB and IFRS-compliant statements; and SmartSync, an unparalleled collaboration tool that keeps engagement data in sync, no matter where team members are. Add-ons are also available to streamline audit and review processes.

Engagement CS
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968.8900
(734) 426.3750 Fax

Price: Starts at $1,800 (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.

The application 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.

Thomson is also revving up a new product called AdvanceFlow, a web-based application, that will offer trial balance and engagement mangement features and is designed to work with the GoFileRoom document management and workflow system and the PPC Smart Practice Audits as part of an audit system. The product is anticipated to be released midyear. However, pricing has not been set and the product is not yet available for review.

ProSystem fx Engagement and Trial Balance

Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) 739-9998

Price: Initial purchase of Engagement and Trial Balance: $1,520 (one license); $640 (each additional license).

ProSystem fx Engagement
ProSystem fx Engagement acts as the center of engagement activities, used to import raw client data, prepare adjustments, create financial statements and export completed data to tax returns. It also functions as the central location for tracking, reporting, review, sign-off and archiving, all in a paperless document management environment.

Part of the ProSystem fx suite, this package is a powerful management tool on its own, and when combined with other CCH and third-party products it becomes an integrated end-to-end solution for all engagements.

Workpapers created in Microsoft Word and Excel, along with 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, integrates directly with 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.

For accounting firms in which tax is the primary client service, CCH also offers ProSystem fx Engagement for Tax-Only Firms. This specialized package is aimed at improvement of the tax engagement workflow, automated trial balances and integration with ProSystem fx Tax.

ProSystem fx Trial Balance
The trial balance system has a more narrow focus and functionality than engagement and workflow systems, but 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.

Accounting Relief
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
(800) 927-1283 (fax)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: Accounting Relief is $99 per month, or $990 per year.

Accounting Relief Engagement and Trial Balance
The engagement and trial balance capabilities of AccountantsWorld 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 applications for collaboration, both within and external to the firm; document management through its paperless CyberCabinet; and trial 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. The trial balance portion of Accounting Relief also supports multiple views (unadjusted, adjusted, federal, and other), as well as graphic presentation of details comprising each account type.

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.

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.

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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