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REVIEW: Online Payroll Systems 2013

Payroll services for accountants, once considered a low-margin client service that accountants could take or leave, is once again gaining attention among accounting firms of all sizes. To a degree, this renaissance is based on the economy. With small businesses struggling under the burden of new taxes and uncertainties, accounting firms are working overtime to shore up their client relationships and their firms' revenue streams.

But there are other factors at play as well - including some trends that bode well for payroll services to remain strong once the economic pressure subsides. These include the following:

• The rise of client accounting services. As a practice area, accounting firms that provided mechanical services such as bookkeeping and payroll were seen as somehow less professional that higher-end consulting services. But firms are increasingly pulling these services together under a new business model in which the accounting firm literally functions as the finance department of the client's firm. Payroll is an integral part of this practice area.

• The integration of payroll and human resources management. Payroll has become integrated both up and down the services chain. It integrates downward by working more closely with time clocks and other time and billing services. And it integrates upward by becoming a critical part of human resources management. As such, it is no longer seen as a stand-alone service but as a cog in the larger machine of HR.

• The Affordable Care Act. We don't yet know what the full ramifications of the "Obama Care" regulations will be, but we do know that they will re-write the rules for both payroll and tax services. The distinction between part-time and full-time employees, for example, has never been more critical.

As a result, virtually all of the payroll software vendors are reporting their best sales year ever. Here are profiles of the seven online payroll systems at the top of this wave of new sales.

Payroll Relief
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
Price: Unlimited payrolls for one year, $997. Pay per payroll and pay per paycheck options available.

Payroll Relief
Payroll Relief, a web-based payroll system from AccountantsWorld, offers an accountant-centric model for payroll processing with features that include a client portal and data-entry access, support for any number of clients and employees, direct deposit, electronic payment, and reporting.

As part of the AccountantsWorld Power Practice system, or as a stand-alone application, the Payroll Relief program provides fast and economical services that are scalable for each client, from a single employee to more than a thousand. The program is available in per-payroll and per-paycheck options, as well as an all-inclusive unlimited model.

The application offers several data-entry methods, including client data entry from any location; a spreadsheet format for multiple employees, payroll data worksheets; and import from time and attendance programs. Electronic filing is available for all federal and state compliance forms. There is an extensive library of reports, plus and archive of tax forms, reports and paychecks via the CyberCabinet document management system. And the payroll module integrates seamlessly with Accounting Relief, QuickBooks, Peachtree and other accounting programs.

Payroll Relief combines a highly intuitive interface with user-friendly screens to guide the payroll process, with a comprehensive set of tools to review every aspect of the payroll practice. Each client is provided with permissions for functions they may access, and the system assigns clients to perform selected tasks based on their needs and abilities.

Accounting CS Payroll
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
: Starts at $1,800.

Accounting CS Payroll
Accounting CS Payroll is part of the three-year-old Accounting CS platform, which unifies core accounting functions into a single online platform. It provides an online payroll module designed to enhance collaboration with staff and clients; streamline data entry; enable advanced features such as time clock and employee data input; implement both traditional and paperless payment systems; and expand the reporting and billing features.

Recent enhancements include new batch data-entry options, with the ability to customize the batch payroll entry screen for each individual; new features to better manage impound payments; and the ability to exclude selected wage and accruable benefit hours and amounts from the calculation of other deductions and employer contributions in support of union calculations.

Perhaps most critical to accountants is the batch processing capability for both the payroll itself and for the myriad of state and federal forms, including the W-2, W-2C 940, 941, 941-X, 943, 943-X, 944, 944-X, 945, 945-X, 1099, 1099 Corrected, state payroll tax forms, and certain local payroll tax forms (AL, CA, CO , KY, MI, MO, NJ, NY,OH, PA) using a streamlined process, with either paper or electronic filing. In addition, Thomson Reuters has added a variety of new forms and files for 1099 form types, including 1098, 1099-A, 1099-B, 1099-DIV, 1099-G, 1099-INT, 1099-MISC, 1099-OID.

Intuit Online Payroll for Accounting Professionals
Mountain View, Calif.
(866) 820-6382
Price: Wholesale pricing starts at $19.99 / month. Current special program offers one year of free service.

Intuit Online Payroll
Intuit's Online Payroll for Accounting Professionals offers the choice of either running payroll under the accounting firm's own banner and providing a client portal; or an option to set up clients to handle their own payroll with the accounting firm retaining remote access to the client data.

The Intuit software handles federal and state tax payments and filings; unlimited payroll runs; free direct deposit; and the ability to download both payroll and tax information to QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks for Mac, Quicken, Sage 50 U.S. (formerly called Peachtree), the ATX accounting suite or CCH ProSystem fx Write-Up.

An enhanced reporting capability includes details of payroll expense items for a given pay period, providing a by-employee view of earnings, employee-paid taxes, and any additions/deductions (401-K, insurance and company-paid taxes and contributions). Other services that are available for an additional fee include Intuit Online Time Tracking, the ability to file 1099-Misc. forms electronically, and to pay Worker's Comp insurance payments with each payroll.

Intuit's online payroll product for accountants is part of a family of client and professional payroll products that combine effective management of client information and payroll. It is an economical solution designed to help enhance both services and profitability, particularly for the mid-range accounting firm.

SurePayroll for Accountants
Glenview, Ill.
(877) 954-7873
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: Based on payroll frequency plus fee per check/direct deposit. Accountants who resell receive discounts ranging from 15 percent to 30 percent. Standard pricing weekly payroll, $12.95 per payroll plus $1.99 per check/direct deposit.

SurePayroll for Accountants
SurePayroll for Accountants is an economical, full-featured system for payroll, benefits, HR compliance and payroll support. Oriented toward accountants serving the small businesses with 1-100 employees, SurePayroll for Accountants offers accountants an online dashboard tool providing (with client permission) view access to their clients' payroll reports.

Accountants can also refer clients to SurePayroll, retaining access to the client data online. Or accountants can resell a comprehensive online payroll program with a simple to use online hub built specifically for accountants who provide and want to grow their payroll service offering. The Reseller program allows accountant partners to fully brand the online product and market it under the accountant's name. Whether the accountant refers or resells, the payroll service includes direct deposit, all tax filing and tax payments (federal, state and local), unlimited customer service and employee self-service functionality.

Recent enhancements to SurePayroll's service include the addition of integration for Xero accounting software and enhanced features to better serve restaurants and other small business owners -- including multiple pay rates and earning types. It also calculates and tracks FICA tip credits and tracks employee shortfalls, adjusting for future payrolls. This summer, SurePayroll will launch a new co-marketing portal to help Reseller partners to better market their business.

CompuPay Xpress Payroll
Miramar, Fla.
(800) 362-9519
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: $40 per month for monthly payroll; $60 per month, bi-weekly or semi-monthly; $90 per month , weekly. Year-end charges include $5.50 per W-2 produced and $45 year-end reconciliation fee.

CompuPay Xpress Payroll
CompuPay, A BenefitMall Company, is among the largest payroll providers in the US, with more than 30 years of experience serving small- and medium-sized businesses across the nation.  Xpress Payroll is a fast and intuitive online system geared to the needs of small businesses, typically those with 10 or fewer employees. Co-branding for accounting professionals is available, as well as the use of a partner portal to manage multiple accounts.

In May 2012, CompuPay announced its merger with BenefitMall, the nation's largest employee benefits general agency. Together, BenefitMall and CompuPay work with a network of 20,000 brokers and CPAs to deliver employee benefits and payroll services to more than 200,000 small- and medium-sized businesses. The company processes more than 1 million payroll transactions each month and writes more than one billion in annual healthcare premiums.

From payroll solutions including online payroll, phone/fax payroll and specialty payroll for construction and restaurant businesses, to After Payroll Solutions that reach beyond payroll, CompuPay offers an array of services for accountants that include a referral relationship, hosting or back-office solutions and payroll acquisitions.

Run Powered by ADP Payroll for Partners
Florham Park, N.J.
(855) 408-3751
Price: $22 to $100 per month/

Run ADP Payroll
Run Powered by ADP Payroll for Partners is a cloud-based solution designed specifically for accounting professionals. Anchored in ADP's Run Powered by ADP small business payroll and human resource management platform, it offers a simple and proven small business payroll solution.

The payroll platform offers partners various levels of service. Firms can choose from various tax service filing options, including do-it-yourself, do-it-yourself with eFile and ePay, full-tax filing and complete payroll and HR tools to meet their clients' individual needs. Run is also integrated with other ADP small business services, including HR features, workers' compensation premium payment plans, retirement services plans and a time and attendance solution-a particularly useful tool in light of the new employee tracking requirements of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, a GL export function allows data to be easily transferred to popular accounting software solutions, including Xero and QuickBooks.

ADP's Run is a secure platform that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, offering transparency into vital client information through payroll previews and online reports. Simple tools provide access to major payroll functions like printing checks and allow partners to easily customize invoices and paychecks with their firm's logos. ADP's tailored portal provides an array of resources and tools at the fingertips of accountants to help them keep apprised of ever-changing regulations and tables.

Paychex Online Payroll
Rochester, N.Y.
(800) 322-7292
Price: For around $100 a month, payroll processing services packages include Paychex Online Payroll, Taxpay, Employee Pay Options, New Hire Reporting, 401(k) Report, General Ledger Report, Report Center, Check Logo, an Online HR Library, Labor Compliance Poster Kit, and Employee Access Online for desktop, tablet or smartphone.

Paychex Online Payroll
The Paychex Online Payroll platform offers a simple and secure payroll system that allows accountants to keep pace with the needs of clients without having to physically perform the payroll functions. It's accessible from any desktop browser, as well as from full-featured free apps for iPad and Android- powered tablets.

The product features multiple rates of pay, complex deductions, integrated 401(k) benefits support and workers' compensation. It integrates with a number of other accounting applications, and can now automatically transmit payroll data into a client's Intacct account via web services.

Re-engineered from the ground up, recent enhancements to the service include single sign-on for all Paychex services including payroll, retirement, health and benefits, FSA, and more. The new Report Center offers a one-stop shop for standard, on-demand, and ad-hoc reporting; data extract templates; as well as an Oracle-based Report Writer that gives users the ability to create custom reports from scratch based on their needs. Paychex Online Payroll users can now assign customized security levels to any employee and their accounting partner.

Paychex is the preferred payroll and retirement plan services provider of the AICPA Trusted Business Advisor Program, as well as the chosen provider of the AICPA Firm-Based Member Retirement Program.

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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