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Payroll software reviews.

Although a client's trust is not easily earned, once it is earned, this trust solidifies a long-term relationship. Completing and delivering timely payroll also serves as a bond-a bond between employer and employees. Perhaps more importantly, it is a legally enforced obligation.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Payroll is something most workers take for granted--until their check fails to arrive and/or automatically deposited, or is just plain wrong. After all, how hard can it be to generate a check? Anyone with responsibility for processing payroll can certainly tell you at least one or two war stories; payroll can be time-consuming and complicated, fraught with opportunities for error. However, these are also the reasons why our clients trust us to process their payrolls, to get them done correctly and on time. Mistakes break bonds and potentially impact all work associated with the affected clients.

In this new set of payroll reviews, we will share our experiences with various packages and offer factors to consider to select a package that works with your own business needs. Some packages are part of a full accounting suite, while others stand alone. While all of them process payroll and provide reporting functions, they accomplish these tasks differently.

A number of factors must be considered when selecting a package. First and foremost, determine the extent of your efforts. Will payroll be a strategic line of business to pursue, or conversely, is it an accommodation to just a few clients? When thinking about your clients' environments, how many employees do they have and how often are they paid? Clients with many employees, multiple pay frequencies or multiple payment methods (salary vs. hourly vs. piece work) require different solutions than the Mom & Pop shop with a just a few hourly employees. Some vendors charge separately for reporting modules, some include all states, while others charge by federal and state module.

Technology has changed the landscape of accounting and reporting. Many government entities require electronic forms rather than paper. Have the software vendors responded to this challenge? How do they package their software? Is electronic reporting supported? Are there additional costs or modules?

In addition to the variables already mentioned, consider other scenarios. Employees working in different or multiple states, different deductions, withholdings and additions, and irregular pay items such as bonuses are factors that can cause the time required to process payroll to multiply. And unlike tax work that is seasonal, payroll occurs regularly--and without extensions. Mistakes are not options. Pricing based on underestimated time will sink profitability, and potentially, the client relationship, if the cost of the service must be revisited. The following reviews give you a preview of various solutions to maximize your investment and minimize the time required to keep your payroll customers' trust.

--By Robert B. Yudkin, CMA

A-T-F Payroll Supports up to 1,999 Payers

Import data from spreadsheet packages, text files, Quicken, and others.

Advanced Micro Solutions (AMS) provides a payroll solution as a module in its family of products. Five optional modules/services accompany its base product: W-2/1099 Forms Filer including A-T-F Payroll, Laser Generation, Magnetic Media Filing, E-Filer and Forms-Etc. While A-T-F stands for "after the fact," the package also supports entry of employee compensation and the calculation of federal and state withholdings, as well as other deductions.

Installation and Getting Started

All accountants' PCs should be capable of running the software based on the installation instructions' technical requirements (although it says up to 30MB could be required depending on installed options). The cost of the software, with a list price for the base program and payroll option of only a few hundred dollars, is hard to beat. For that price, the software can be loaded either on a network or on multiple PCs at the primary office location.

The software was loaded on a PC running Microsoft XP Professional with a DSL connection. It automatically checked for an update upon entry after I completed the initial setup. The update process was technically clean and worked well, offering options to do a full download or a differential download.

A tutorial was available through the 1099-Etc Main menu. Rather than a self-playing video, it required mouse clicks to progress. I found it well done and useful, particularly when used in conjunction with the provided sample data.

Payers must be set up. The software supports up to 1,999 payers and 9,999 employees per payer. Payers can be created from scratch or by copying another payer's information. In addition to name and address, the software has factors for overtime, holiday, vacation and sick pay--although these labels can be modified. Various preferences are selected for each payer relating to required data elements and sequencing. Deductions and additions are then defined. The software supports all states, although states must be associated with payers. Rates for SUTA, SDI and Other are available for each state.

Employees are the next group to set up. Name, address and other information is entered on the first screen, including up to six hourly and two miscellaneous rates. Pay for salaried employees is created through a default check function at the employee level. Default checks are templates used each time for employees. Withholdings can be entered or set to calculate.

Check entry is straightforward. Employees are selected and information is keyed for each check. Once calculations are performed, save the data and move to the next employee, a potentially cumbersome exercise for clients with many employees. In an effort to assist with this effort, payroll data, including names, addresses and dollar amounts, can be imported from spreadsheet packages, text files, Quicken, QuickBooks, Peachtree and other programs. A conversion program also allows conversion of competitors' data from products, such as Unilink, Greatland and others.

While there are aspects of A-T-F that were not intuitively obvious, Help screens, accessed by pressing F1 or from the pull-down menu, were extremely informative and well done--a strength of the package. Descriptions and examples provided the assistance I needed to move forward.

Case Study

My test case involved setting up a new client with five employees who were paid with different pay methods (hourly and salaried). Processing included entering and printing checks; generating quarterly 941s; and printing the 940, W-3 and W-2s.

Summary

A-T-F offers much functionality and features for a low price. While not as aesthetically pleasing as some other payroll programs, A-T-F was technically clean and well done, making it easy to use. While there are other products available that better support clients with large payrolls (in terms of number of employees or multiple pay frequencies), given its price point and features, this product must be considered for processing small- to medium-size payrolls.

Advanced Micro Solutions, Inc.

www.1099-etc.com

800-536-1099

By Robert B. Yudkin, CMA
"We have been using 1099-Etc for roughly ten years. Back then I reviewed
4 or 5 different vendors and chose 1099-Etc because it offered
flexibility that the others didn't. By being receptive to our ideas and
programming needs, AMS has become our partner in payroll."
--Alan Goldberg, CPA
NannyTax, Inc.
New York, N.Y.


Abra Payroll Handles Simple and Complex Payroll Environments

The Sample Data option provides a laboratory to explore functionality.

The Abra product line of products was launched more than 20 years ago, and is positioned in Best Software's family as its "most comprehensive HR and Payroll Software." While this review focuses strictly on Abra Payroll, other members of its suite include Abra HR, Abra Attendance, Abra Recruiting Solution and Abra Training, as well as Web-enabled solutions, Abra Benefits Enrollment and Abra ESS.

Installation and Getting Started

The software arrived on a CD, along with a User's Guide for getting started. In addition, a soft-copy of the User's Guide was provided in PDF format, accessed from the help pull-down menu once the software was installed.

While I could not load the tutorial software without technical support, the live software installed without a hitch. The Abra suite sign-on page presented four options--Live Data, Sample Data, Tutorial (a Macromedia Flash presentation) and Help.

The Sample Data option provided a safe laboratory to explore the software's functionality. Initial entry into Live Data initiated an interview to set up required information, although the interview can be bypassed for direct entry. An Activity Center screen is the primary user interface and organized into seven categories--Actions, Processes, Analysis, Reports, Rules, Details and Query. Each category is further broken down into various tasks presented in logical sequences. While I liked and used the Activity Center presentation, the software also included pull-down menus at the top of the window, as well as quick launch icons to navigate through the tasks.

The software is flexible with up to five user-defined organization levels (defaults are division, department and location). Another useful feature is Abra's audit capability. At the enterprise level, audit trails can be established for files and fields, including user-defined tables.

Help text is available at the screen level and activated by pressing the F1 key. The help was extensive and used a small pitch. While I found it tough reading, screens were full of information with hyperlinks to related processes and screens.

Data entry screens were laid out well and not crowded. Fields, labels and blank space were well mixed. While screen labels are the same pitch as the help text, data entry screens were easy on the eyes and easy to process. Right clicking on fields resulted in various actions depending on the type of field. For date fields, a calendar appears. For employee selection fields, a list of employees appears. Some fields, such as employer name, had drop-down windows indicated by arrows on the right of the fields.

Case Study

My test case involved setting up a new client with five employees who were paid with different pay methods (hourly and salaried).

Employees are added from the Activity Center by selecting Payroll, Actions and Record New Hire. The New Hire process was divided under four tabs--New Employee (name, address and SSN); Job and Pay (hire and start dates, pay rate and frequency); Payroll Information; and Payroll Processing (pay group, earnings codes, work code and shift information). One neat feature is that there are separate fields for annual pay and pay period salary. While some packages force you to enter one or the other, Abra allows entry of either number and calculates the other based on pay frequency.

Processing payroll involves following the options under Processes from the Activity Center. It covers automatic time sheets, entering and updating time, running trial and final payrolls, printing and posting checks, and running quarterly and annual processes. Flags and date fields keep track of status. No problems were encountered during the test.

Summary

Abra Payroll has the power to handle simple and complex payroll environments. It has nice features that facilitate organizing and processing employee subsets. Unlike some packages, Abra includes federal and state reporting. Best Software indicates that the package is appropriate for small- to mid-sized companies, as well as small enterprises. It should definitely be on the short list of packages to consider.

Best Software

www.bestsoftware.com

800-424-9392

By Robert B. Yudkin, CMA
"The software is set-up very well for any type of allocations providing
quick export/import functions and offers more advantages than some in-
house platforms."
--Donna Martin, Payroll Manager
Houston Zoo
Houston, Texas


CPAPayroll Requires Six Steps to Complete Actions

It was clear as to what information was required versus that which was "optional."

CPASoftware, acquired by Best Software in 2002, offers CPAPayroll as part of its CPAAccounting Manager suite (formerly know as CPASoftware Visual Accounting). CPAPayroll provides comprehensive payroll processing services with multi-department and multi-state reporting capabilities.

Installation and Getting Started

Prior to installing the program, I downloaded and watched a worthwhile 15-minute self-running demo for CPAPayroll that prepared me for the package. Loading the software was straightforward and the various setup options were reviewed in a sample client. CPAPayroll is well organized with the most frequently used options right up front on the screen. Pull-down menus are used for setup options, inquiries, reporting, utilities and the company's paperless (or less paper) solution, CPADocument Manager, a separate product in the suite and not included in the cost of CPAPayroll.

Getting started is a six-step process through client setup, fiscal periods, payroll options, chart setup, checking account and payroll setup. Client information can be imported into the payroll module from other suite applications. Step six, payroll setup, provides seven options for defining payroll basic elements, including payroll states, payroll municipalities, other pays, other deductions, multi-company names, job titles and G/L accounts for payroll. An unlimited number of deductions and pay codes for clients are allowed. Step six also provides "Employee Express Setup," where employee information is entered and categorized based on whether the employee is hourly, salaried or tipped. Employee information, including pay rate, frequency, residency and exemptions, is entered here. One neat feature is the ability to check a box at the employee level to designate that attendance is automatically generated.

While there is no context-sensitive help over the fields, relevant and understandable help is available for all fields on a screen by pressing F1.

Screens were nicely presented and uncluttered. It was clear as to what information was required versus that which was "optional." Navigation across options was easy. The only frustration I encountered while writing this review was that a number of times I was forced to use my mouse to click on the CPAPayroll button at the bottom of my screen to restore the CPAPayroll screens, rather than use my usual "alt" + "tab" keystrokes to toggle from Microsoft Word back to the program.

As with most packages, data can be imported from many programs. Menu options include conversions from 10 packages.

Case Study

My test case involved setting up a new client with five employees who were paid with different pay methods (hourly and salaried).

As with client setup, navigation through the employee setup screens was straightforward. I found one challenge in setting up salaried employees: instead of being able to enter the annual salary, the program required me to enter the salary per pay period.

Once my employees were defined correctly, multiple payroll runs were processed consisting of entering employee time, calculating payroll, selecting checks to print and posting the payroll. The package includes a folder concept where activity for payroll runs is stored in separate folders. Each folder is processed independently. The software also has the flexibility to allow corrections to payroll runs through an "unpost folder" option. An abundance of reports are available to support payroll runs.

Federal and state reporting modules are available at additional cost. The federal module produced 941s and W-2s with minimal effort. While I did not attempt this function, the software also prepares direct deposit files needed by banks.

Summary

CPAPayroll provides an effective means to prepare payroll, as well as accompanying reports. While it incorporates a number of features to modify and fix payrolls when the information received from clients is faulty, the program works best for companies with single pay frequencies within the salaried and hourly categories. One additional perk is that the company has a reseller program that allows a limited version of the program to be placed in clients' offices so that clients can enter time and print checks. The payroll data can then be returned to the CPA for tax reporting.

CPASoftware

www.cpasoftware.com

800-424-9392

By Robert B. Yudkin, CMA

Payroll Solution Packs Useful Tools

The toll-free support staff are knowledgeable and friendly.

Creative Solutions, a Thomson company, offers two payroll modules within its Creative Solutions accounting family: Payroll Solution (PRS) calculates payroll, while Payroll Compliance Solution (PCS) enables after-the-fact payroll processing and the production of many federal employment tax forms.

Installation and Getting Started

Installing the program was simple and painless. While my package arrived with a 3.5 inch floppy license diskette, the vendor says that licenses will be distributed electronically rather than on diskette starting first quarter 2005. My package also included a small guide for getting started and a somewhat larger tutorial manual.

The company provides a number of useful tools to familiarize users with the software, including the electronic tutorial located under the help tab. It was a well done presentation, integrating slides with narration. A separate tutorial for payroll under the help tab (PRS Electronic Tutorial) goes into more detail. Something I found useful is that the software comes preloaded with sample clients illustrating various real-world client scenarios. These sample clients not only offered a laboratory, but acted as baseline templates to create new clients with similar attributes.

PRS is designed such that some items are client specific (such as chart of accounts) and others are global (pay items, deduction items and withholding items). It is important to understand each one's role and how it interacts with employee templates, payroll departments and employees.

Common deduction types are supplied. In addition, new deduction types can be defined. Multiple calculation methods are allowed, including none, gross income percentage, fixed amount, hourly amount and after-tax income percentage. As with most packages, data can be imported. Menu options include conversions from 16 packages.

Case Study

My test case involved setting up a new client with five employees who were paid with different pay methods (hourly and salaried).

Before setting up the client, I had to define my staff. The system allows groups to be defined and staff assigned to one or more groups. Privileges are defined to groups and Staff IDs are password protected.

Setting up the client was not difficult, but because of the software's flexibility, thought and planning is required up front. For example, two licensed modules were associated with the client, PRS and PCS, so users must decide which one to use. The program then asked for client information organized under three tabs: General Information, Payroll and Calculating Payroll. Screens were well organized and navigation was easy; the program uses standard Windows conventions for cursor movement. Help is available by right clicking on field labels.

Baseline information can be copied from other clients or templates. A setup checklist is available for manually creating files.

Employee information is organized under five tabs: General, Personal/W-2, Earnings, Tax withholdings and deductions, and other (contains hours, multipliers, FICA, FUTA and SUTA information).

Once my employees were defined correctly, entering and processing payroll checks, as well as producing 941 and 940 forms, went smoothly. From a data entry standpoint, one feature I would have liked was a default button for my hourly employees that loaded their standard hours, rather than my having to enter the specific number for each employee.

The toll-free support number was staffed by knowledgeable, friendly people who diagnosed what I did wrong and put me back on track each of the three times that I called.

Summary

PRS is a solid, well-thought-out package that gets the job done. Because of its flexibility and broad range of features, consider training to maximize its effectiveness and minimize the investment of upfront time. PRS did not only what I asked of the package, but also has the potential to handle more complicated payroll scenarios. Additional modules, such as direct deposit, employee web reporting, and electronic filing, are available for licensing.

Creative Solutions

www.CreativeSolutions.Thomson.com

800-968-8900

By Robert B. Yudkin, CMA
"This payroll program can produce any type of payroll check imaginable.
It totally integrates with our accounting software and thus eliminates
the need to reenter information."
--Ray Busch, Owner
Raymond J. Busch, Ltd., CPA
Tinley Park, Ill.


WinFiler Products Fill Need for Adequate Wage Reporting Tools

Built-in data-checking features reduce errors.

WinFiler 2004 and WinFiler Plus 2004 are two versions of wage reporting software offered by Greatland Corporation of Grand Rapids, Mich. Formed in 1974 as a local distributor of business forms, Greatland has grown to become a national provider of products and services for the financial, tax and accounting services markets.

WinFiler supports 24 federal forms (W-2, 1099, 1098, 5498) while the WinFiler Plus version adds nine more, including Forms 940, 941, 943 and 945. The Plus version supports 44 state wage forms, allows e-filing of 941 forms and includes downloadable quarterly updates. Both versions can be installed in a network or in a standalone configuration.

Features and Functions

The WinFiler interface is pure Microsoft Windows, with a menu bar at the top and toolbar immediately below. From the toolbar icons, the user selects from a variety of screens for payer and payee. Once payers are entered, they can be grouped together to speed up printing of returns and/or journals, even across tax years. Any number of states can be entered for each payer.

In the Plus version, the user can enter depositor information for 941, 943 and 945. For any selected payer, W-2 preferences can be established, and preferences can also be applied to all payers, if desired. Payee information is similarly entered. Default settings for any form allow for quick set-up and completion of entries. In addition to manual entry, the software supports several data import methods.

If desired, the user can import last year's WinFiler data along with ASCII or DOS third-party data files. An extensive Wizard helps set up parameters for ASCII data input. WinFiler imports data as Returns, while WinFiler Plus imports data as dated transactions that sum to a Return. Because they deal with unlimited payers and payees, commercial tax preparers will find these WinFiler products quite useful.

Several areas demonstrate the flexibility of the WinFiler products. I liked the notes button on payer and payee pages that allow quick entry of relevant information. Filters also provide selective display of payer or payee types. Available default options can speed later entries, and built-in data-checking features reduce errors. Customize payer, payee and pro forma journals for maximum efficiency.

WinFiler ships with a small, printed Quick Start Guide, and a PDF user manual installs with the program; it would be more useful with a hyperlinked table of contents. Fortunately, a thorough online manual is available from the program itself, both on the toolbar and from any input screen. A Quick Start Tutorial that's included in the online guide will be especially helpful for new users.

WinFiler provides printouts for W-2, 1099, transmittals and journals. Full printouts or summaries are options, and a print preview appears automatically to allow checking of the format and contents before printing. The primary purpose of WinFiler is to provide printed forms, so there is no export capability. Since Greatland also offers preprinted forms, a large number of compatible forms are available for the WinFiler products. The user can also print on blank stock as well. Both versions support federal and state magnetic media for W-2 and 1099 forms, with a separate module installed.

With both WinFiler and WinFiler Plus, users can opt to have W-2, 1099 and 941 (Plus only) forms e-filed to the federal government. Along with the e-filing service, there is an option to have the recipient/payee copies printed and mailed.

Case Study

Data entry is a quick and intuitive process. Add a payer along with the necessary information for the states involved, and follow by entering payee information. Select any return type for each payer and add the appropriate information. Printing is equally simple, with a pull down menu for W-2, 1099, transmittals and journals.

Summary

WinFiler and WinFiler Plus are easy to install and use for quick entry and printing of wage-related data, and they fill a niche where other applications have inadequate wage reporting tools.

Greatland Corporation

www.greatland.com

800-968-1099

By Glenn Gordon

Expanded Accountant Wholesale Service

Includes one-click electronic tax payments in 19 states.

If you're in the market for a payroll system that offers online self-service, right down to tax payments and filings, PayCycle's Accountant Wholesale Service may be just what you're looking for in a software package.

Installation and Getting Started

PayCycle charges a flat monthly fee of $14.99 per client for the first five clients, and $9.99 per client for each additional client. The fee includes all functions of the system, including any multiple payroll cycles. Recently, the company expanded its Accountant Wholesale Service to include paycheck printing on blank check stock, state tax payments and filings in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, one-click electronic tax payments in 19 states, and customized marketing materials.

Setup proved to be a breeze with the user-friendly templates provided. Users are able to set up new employees on payroll. Adding new clients proved just as easy. All information on clients' payroll, including deductions and tax information, are easily accessible and instantly calculated.

The main window is the Client Overview that lists current clients and contact information, as well as each one's service industry. All fields are hyperlinked, and one click allows access to client files. Also included on the Overview screen is access to one's own payroll setup that makes payroll and tax payments quick and effortless.

Clicking on one's own company payroll allows an accountant to create paychecks for each employee, and then approve payment with one click. Once the paycheck is approved, the accountant is able to view the employee's pay stub for that pay period, opting to print the paycheck or delete it.

The deeper one goes into the system, the fewer surprises there are. And that's good; this system maintains easy-to-use functionality throughout the program. Always available are the hyperlinks back to the Client Overview window and clickable tabs to various areas, including client To Do list, Pay Day, Taxes and Forms, Employees, Account, Reports and Help.

The only area of functionality that I initially questioned was customer support. While the company provided a large help index, setup information, troubleshooting and links to other resources, there was the possibility of lag-time should you decide to contact the customer support center through e-mail. The company promises the phone will be answered "within three rings," yet no mention is made of how quickly an e-mail is answered.

To test the response time, I sent out a "help" e-mail to the customer support staff. The e-mail was sent within the company's normal hours of operation, 6:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. PST. Monday through Friday. Within 20 minutes, I received a response from a customer-service rep who had apparently spent 19 minutes looking for my nonexistent file. I apologized sheepishly and declared customer support impressive.

Tax forms are in place, and all one has to do to get a report is to click a button. Payroll deductions are instantly available, and the system gives a year-to-date summary of all deductions and payments within seconds.

Case Study

In testing the system, there's no doubt it is easy to use by making the nasty task of payroll simple and almost enjoyable. The reminders of tax payments, payroll payments and even vacation pay for employees makes this system worth the price. Also, accountants are able to print tax liability reports. What's most impressive is the system's ready-to-file tax forms. W-2s, 940s, and 941s can be filed electronically, saving numerous hours.

The client To Do list is a one-stop cyber-memo for the busy accountant. Clicking on the client's file opens the To Do window, which includes such reminders as tax payments and their due dates, entering pay rate of employees, printing appropriate tax forms and payroll reminders.

Summary

PayCycle charges a flat fee per client per month, regardless of the number of times you do payroll in a month. It was refreshing to click through various functions in the program and not be stymied by an unexpected additional charge. Payday is truly streamlined with PayCycle. It's a worthwhile product and will certainly make payroll cycles more palatable.

PayCycle

www.paycycle.com

866-729-2925

By Lori D. Widmer
"PayCycle provides all services electronically so small firms can
compete with larger competitors on a level playing field."
--Patricia (Pat) Carson, Owner
Carson & Crew
San Jose, Calif.


Payroll Integrates Seamlessly with Other Red Wing Products

Export reports in Excel, HTML, MS-DOS Text and RTF formats.

In business since 1979, Red Wing Software, Inc. offers a number of accounting and financial management products for small- to medium-sized businesses. Payroll is a stand alone Microsoft Windows-based product designed for those businesses, as well as service providers and agricultural operations. Payroll integrates seamlessly with other Red Wing accounting products.

Features and Functions

The Main Menu appears at start-up in a window that first appears in a quarter of the screen before separating into quadrants. It is organized around two main functions, System Manager and Payroll. The System Manager allows access to company setup, security and general setup. A company setup wizard guides you quickly through the necessary steps. Select Payroll and a list of functions appear in the lower left quadrant with a choice of functions listed in the lower right quadrant.

Time can be entered for each employee or copied from a previous pay run for all employees or a selectable range. A time clock import function makes any ASCII file of time transactions importable.

A great deal of flexibility is built into the Payroll product. For example, to speed up repetitive processes, existing information--including employee data and time entries--can be copied. In addition, the user can select deductions from existing types or new ones defined in unlimited categories. Many other areas similarly allow definition of new categories that may be unique to a company. For payroll service providers, the number of companies is unlimited; however, the available system resources will impose a practical limit.

The Payroll product ships with a thorough set of paper documentation--certainly a desirable feature for an application of this size. A thick, spiral-bound Payroll User Guide and thinner Supplement accompany a Quick Start Guide and a Practice Guide.

Help from within the application is also extensive. Click a question mark atop the screen to access general help, and a Main Menu explanation appears. The Help feature also is accessed with a pull-down menu on the page. The Main Menu itself has a Cue Cards button that accesses Help by entering words, clicking existing index entries or displaying a hierarchical index of all contents. Context sensitive help is also available on most screens.

A number of predefined reports are available for payroll use, accessible from the Reports list. Reports can be printed or previewed in summary or detail. Interestingly, some of the reports one might expect to find here are missing, such as a vacation report. It is necessary to go to employee setup, where a number of employee-related items are listed in report form.

The most recent release of Payroll adds support for federal tax forms, including W-2, 1099 and 941, and allows the user to print the entire form. Reports can be exported in Excel, HTML, MS-DOS Text and RTF formats, or e-mailed in any selected format. Checks can be printed on forms available from Red Wing, and MICR blank-page printing is available through a third-party arrangement.

Case Study

With the extensive help available, setting up a company, adding employees and entering pay information was a simple task. The report preview available from many screens provided a quick way to see a summary of data already entered without having to go to the reports menu.

Summary

Red Wing Payroll is an easy-to-use, well-documented payroll package that can fit the needs of a number of small- and mid-sized businesses as well as service providers.

Red Wing Software, Inc.

www.redwingsoftware.com

800-732-9464

By Glenn Gordon
"Red Wing Payroll is the best payroll software I've used to date."
--Roxie Huber
Director of Finance
Girl Scouts of Minn-Ia-Kota
Sioux Falls, S.D.


The Next Generation from UBCC Features Speed

Compatibility with more than 600 platforms eliminates need for recompiling.

The Next Generation (TNG) is the latest release from Universal Business Computing Company (UBCC) of Taos, N.M. Since 1981, UBCC has offered a comprehensive set of accounting and payroll packages for enterprise that feature portability, productivity and flexibility.

The company ensures portability by designing software that requires no recompiling because the program is compatible with more than 600 platforms, including Unix, Linux, all Microsoft Windows' platforms, and a host of minicomputers and mainframes.

UBCC also built in speed--instantaneous response regardless of file size--by bypassing more common database approaches, such as Access, SQL or Oracle, in favor of a data file structure called ISAM (indexed sequential access method), originally developed for mainframe use.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Along with speed, the ISAM approach produces a more reliable file structure with flexibility and power that a database cannot match. UBCC TNG also allows true real-time operation with no batch processing, meaning all data is online instantly.

TNG provides three navigation modes that give users a choice based on their experience level and familiarity with the program. As shipped, the software is enabled in the Graphical Expert Mode, in which the user selects functions using the mouse or by entering a corresponding two- to five-letter mnemonic in the Enter your choice box at the bottom of each screen. Entering the proper code in this box switches the screen to provide Windows-style drop-down menus, the second mode.

The user selects the third mode to navigate in DOS and pure text mainframe style systems. That mode displays menus that allow item selection through up/down arrow keys, or by entering the first letter of a menu item.

Experienced users can move quickly from screen to screen using mnemonics, which they can enter instantly without having to move a cursor. When using screens involving data input, pressing Esc displays the entry box. Data also can be imported from virtually any .csv file.

UBCC has enhanced TNG to allow up to 9,999 concurrent users. New operator profile options now allow each user to customize the software to personal preferences. A welcome addition for many users is the ability to control screen font size. The Unified Payroll is integrated with all other modules in use. Up to nine ACH (Direct Deposit) distributions per paycheck with unlimited labor distributions can be designated, with full paper or electronic compatibility.

A host of other features simplify payroll use, such as a "gross up" form that allows instant creation of all deductions, and gross pay from entry of the net amount that eliminates headache when issuing bonus checks.

The product ships with a separate documentation CD containing various files. Unfortunately, the files are not organized in an easily usable manual form. However, a Help button on each screen leads to context-sensitive help tied to the particular field in question.

A number of master reports are available for payroll use, including vacation and sick accrual, overtime, and employee withholding status. A built-in report generator creates other reports as well.

Attaching and using system printers is simplified, with Windows spoolers access now available. The software also supports MICR blank check stock printing in batch or real-time mode. A truly paperless option also is available, providing automatic creation of PDF files for all reports and documents, with provision for quick e-mailing to clients. This is a feature likely to become more important in future years.

Case Study

Although some training is undoubtedly necessary, an uninitiated user can enter sufficient information to display some of the package's capabilities.

Summary

There is, undoubtedly, a steeper learning curve involved for new UBCC TNG users than for some other packages. However, the flexibility of the product and the long-term productivity it allows should place it in consideration for payroll service bureaus, as well as firms wanting a payroll package that integrates effectively with other accounting functions.

Universal Business Consulting Company

www.ubcc.com

800-827-8610

By Glenn Gordon
"The Next Generation can handle whatever special requests or needs my
clients may have."
--Shaun Ellis, CPA
Owner
Ellis S. & Company, P.C.
Camp Hill, Pa.

Payroll Software Comparison Chart

 Best Software, Inc Creative Solutions
 CPAPayroll Payroll CS
 www.cpa www.CreativeSolutions.
 software.com Thomson.com

General Information
Operating systems supported Windows Based Windows/Novell
Runs over the internet/ Internet Yes
 intranet
Will make custom No Yes
 modifications
Number of operators in the Unlimited 1
 same client at the same
 time
Years of summary totals All 2
Years of detail entries All 2
Import/export to/from ASCII Yes Yes
On-site training Yes Yes
User groups Yes Yes
Customize screens No Yes
Field-level security No No
Automatic compression of No Yes
 data files
Can consolidate clients No Yes
Customizable human resource Yes No
 fields
Memo deductions No Yes
Adjusting entries to prior Yes Through GL
 years
Electronic fund transfer Direct Deposit/ Yes
 Employee Checks
Process corrected W-2s (form Blank W-2s Yes
 W-2C) Available
Ideal number of employees Based on Processor Unlimited
 Speed

Data Entry
Real-time, batch or both Batch Yes
Can create new employees in Yes Yes
 entry screen
Can create new labor Yes Yes
 distribution codes in
 entry screen
Can look up other pay, Yes Yes
 deductions & labor codes
 in entry screen
Allows posting to prior year Yes No
Automatic recurring checks Yes Yes
Customizable data-entry No Yes
 field or names
Automatic upper and lower No No
 casing from upper case
 entry
Gross up of net amounts Yes Yes

Printing
Send print tasks to another No No
 workstation
Queue tasks for later No No
 printing
Repeating job streams for No Yes
 all clients
Repeating job streams for No Yes
 just one client
Change default options No Yes
 globally
Change default options Yes Yes
 client-by-client
On the fly selection of No No
 paper tray and orientation

Reports
Multi-year and cross-year Yes Yes
Laser print state U/C forms Yes Yes
User-defined report Yes Yes
 generator
Workers compensation Yes Yes
 calculation
Built-in report generator Yes Yes
Create custom ledgers for Yes Yes
 clients
Certified payroll No Coming this year
How many states per employee Limited to US Unlimited

Other Capabilities
Number of deductions No Limit Unlimited
Number of local taxes No Limit Unlimited
Auto self-balancing of FICA Yes Yes
User-definable entry screen No Yes
 options
Alternate key lookup & No Yes
 printing
Calculation of piecework Yes Coming this year
Tip to minimum wage Yes Yes
 calculator
Direct deposit Yes Yes
Direct deposit for an extra No Yes
 cost
Time clock import Yes Yes

Pricing--PC Based
Single user system $795 $1,500
Five user system $795 $200/5 client bundle

Service Bureau Options
E-file and E-pay federal, Federal and State Yes
 state and/or local tax
 returns and liabilities
E-file and E-pay federal, Federal and State Yes
 state and/or local tax
 returns and liabilities
 for an extra cost
Client remote data-entry Yes Yes
 mode
Automatic billing integrated No Yes
 with AR
Electronic EFTPS enrollment No Yes
Pull in money from client's No Yes
 account via ACH file
Tax impounding & payment Yes Yes
 control
Laser generated 6559 & 6559A Yes Yes
Laser generated 4802 Yes Yes
Automatically add logo on No No
 all reports
E-mail reminders No No
Payroll calendar No Yes
Pay groups for employees Yes Yes
Produce certified payrolls No Coming this year
Local MICR check printing to Yes Yes
 client's printer
Local MICR check printing No
 for an extra cost
Output reports in PDF Yes Yes
Output reports in Word Yes Yes
Output reports in Excel Yes Yes
Output reports in ASCII Yes Yes
Export GL transactions to Yes Yes
 ASCII file
Export GL transactions to No No
 ASCII file for an extra
 cost
Export GL transactions to Client Write Up Yes -- Write-Up CS
 specific accounting
 packages
Extra cost to Export GL No No
 transactions to specific
 accounting packages
Handle payments to tax and Yes Yes
 third-party agencies
Handle payments to tax and No No
 third-party agencies for
 an extra cost
Java required No No
ActiveX plug-in required No No
JavaScript required No No
Acrobat Reader required No Yes
Other plug-ins required No No
Annual cost with check No N/A
 delivery
Annual cost with web/ No N/A
 paperless service

 AMS, Inc. Best Software
 1099-Etc w/A-T-F Abra Payroll
 Payroll www.best
 www.1099-etc.com software.com

General Information
Operating systems supported Windows 98 & higher Windows 2000 & higher
Runs over the internet/ Yes No
 intranet
Will make custom No Yes
 modifications
Number of operators in the 1 Unlimited
 same client at the same
 time
Years of summary totals 1 Unlimited
Years of detail entries 1 Unlimited
Import/export to/from ASCII Yes Yes
On-site training No Yes
User groups No Yes
Customize screens Color only Yes
Field-level security No Yes
Automatic compression of No No
 data files
Can consolidate clients Yes Yes
Customizable human resource No Optional
 fields
Memo deductions Yes Yes/Abra
Adjusting entries to prior Yes Yes
 years
Electronic fund transfer Yes Yes
Process corrected W-2s (form Yes No
 W-2C)
Ideal number of employees 1-100, handles 2000 100-1,000

Data Entry
Real-time, batch or both Real-time Real-Time, multi-user
 or Import
Can create new employees in No Yes
 entry screen
Can create new labor No Yes
 distribution codes in
 entry screen
Can look up other pay, No Yes
 deductions & labor codes
 in entry screen
Allows posting to prior year In prior year's Yes
 program
Automatic recurring checks Yes Yes
Customizable data-entry Yes Yes
 field or names
Automatic upper and lower No No
 casing from upper case
 entry
Gross up of net amounts Yes Yes

Printing
Send print tasks to another No Yes
 workstation
Queue tasks for later No No
 printing
Repeating job streams for Yes No
 all clients
Repeating job streams for Yes No
 just one client
Change default options Yes Yes
 globally
Change default options Yes No
 client-by-client
On the fly selection of No No
 paper tray and orientation

Reports
Multi-year and cross-year Worker Comp Report Yes
Laser print state U/C forms Yes Yes
User-defined report Yes, via flexible Yes
 generator report option
Workers compensation Yes Yes
 calculation
Built-in report generator Yes, via flexible Yes
 report option
Create custom ledgers for No Yes
 clients
Certified payroll Yes
How many states per employee 4 Unlimited

Other Capabilities
Number of deductions 6 + up to 30 Fields Unlimited
Number of local taxes 2 + more via Fields Unlimited
Auto self-balancing of FICA Yes No -- reports
 required
User-definable entry screen Yes Yes
 options
Alternate key lookup & No Yes-Windows
 printing functionality
Calculation of piecework Yes, via User Yes
 Defined Fields
Tip to minimum wage Yes as a report No
 calculator
Direct deposit Yes
Direct deposit for an extra Yes, transactional Included
 cost cost
Time clock import Yes, via text Yes
 import feature

Pricing--PC Based
Single user system $405 $1,840+
Five user system Included $4,385+

Service Bureau Options
E-file and E-pay federal, N/A
 state and/or local tax
 returns and liabilities
E-file and E-pay federal, Yes, transactional N/A
 state and/or local tax cost
 returns and liabilities
 for an extra cost
Client remote data-entry Using Demo and N/A
 mode e-mail exchange
Automatic billing integrated No N/A
 with AR
Electronic EFTPS enrollment No N/A
Pull in money from client's No N/A
 account via ACH file
Tax impounding & payment No N/A
 control
Laser generated 6559 & 6559A Substitute N/A
Laser generated 4802 Substitute N/A
Automatically add logo on No N/A
 all reports
E-mail reminders No N/A
Payroll calendar No N/A
Pay groups for employees Yes N/A
Produce certified payrolls Yes N/A
Local MICR check printing to Yes (requires MICR N/A
 client's printer toner)
Local MICR check printing N/A
 for an extra cost
Output reports in PDF Yes N/A
Output reports in Word No N/A
Output reports in Excel Yes N/A
Output reports in ASCII No N/A
Export GL transactions to No N/A
 ASCII file
Export GL transactions to No N/A
 ASCII file for an extra
 cost
Export GL transactions to No N/A
 specific accounting
 packages
Extra cost to Export GL No N/A
 transactions to specific
 accounting packages
Handle payments to tax and Yes N/A
 third-party agencies
Handle payments to tax and N/A
 third-party agencies for
 an extra cost
Java required No N/A
ActiveX plug-in required No N/A
JavaScript required No N/A
Acrobat Reader required No, recommended N/A
Other plug-ins required none N/A
Annual cost with check N/A N/A
 delivery
Annual cost with web/ N/A N/A
 paperless service

 UBCC
 Payroll Service Bureau
 www.ubcc.com

General Information
Operating systems supported Microsoft, Linux, Unix, others
Runs over the internet/ Yes
 intranet
Will make custom Yes
 modifications
Number of operators in the 10,000
 same client at the same
 time
Years of summary totals 2
Years of detail entries Unlimited
Import/export to/from ASCII Yes and CSV
On-site training Yes
User groups Yes
Customize screens Yes
Field-level security No
Automatic compression of Yes
 data files
Can consolidate clients Yes
Customizable human resource Yes
 fields
Memo deductions Yes
Adjusting entries to prior Yes
 years
Electronic fund transfer Yes
Process corrected W-2s (form No
 W-2C)
Ideal number of employees Unlimited

Data Entry
Real-time, batch or both Real-Time
Can create new employees in Yes
 entry screen
Can create new labor Yes
 distribution codes in
 entry screen
Can look up other pay, Yes
 deductions & labor codes
 in entry screen
Allows posting to prior year Yes
Automatic recurring checks Yes
Customizable data-entry Yes
 field or names
Automatic upper and lower Yes
 casing from upper case
 entry
Gross up of net amounts Yes

Printing
Send print tasks to another Yes
 workstation
Queue tasks for later Yes
 printing
Repeating job streams for Yes
 all clients
Repeating job streams for Yes
 just one client
Change default options Yes
 globally
Change default options Yes
 client-by-client
On the fly selection of Yes
 paper tray and orientation

Reports
Multi-year and cross-year Yes
Laser print state U/C forms Yes
User-defined report Yes
 generator
Workers compensation Yes
 calculation
Built-in report generator Yes
Create custom ledgers for Yes
 clients
Certified payroll Yes
How many states per employee All

Other Capabilities
Number of deductions 99 per employee
Number of local taxes 102 per client
Auto self-balancing of FICA Yes
User-definable entry screen Yes
 options
Alternate key lookup & Yes
 printing
Calculation of piecework Yes
Tip to minimum wage Yes
 calculator
Direct deposit Yes
Direct deposit for an extra Included
 cost
Time clock import Yes

Pricing--PC Based
Single user system $3,095+
Five user system $14,095

Service Bureau Options
E-file and E-pay federal, Yes
 state and/or local tax
 returns and liabilities
E-file and E-pay federal, Yes
 state and/or local tax
 returns and liabilities
 for an extra cost
Client remote data-entry Yes
 mode
Automatic billing integrated Yes
 with AR
Electronic EFTPS enrollment Yes
Pull in money from client's Yes
 account via ACH file
Tax impounding & payment Yes
 control
Laser generated 6559 & 6559A Yes
Laser generated 4802 Yes
Automatically add logo on Yes
 all reports
E-mail reminders No
Payroll calendar Yes
Pay groups for employees Yes
Produce certified payrolls Yes
Local MICR check printing to Yes
 client's printer
Local MICR check printing No
 for an extra cost
Output reports in PDF Yes
Output reports in Word Yes
Output reports in Excel Yes
Output reports in ASCII Yes
Export GL transactions to Yes
 ASCII file
Export GL transactions to No
 ASCII file for an extra
 cost
Export GL transactions to Yes
 specific accounting
 packages
Extra cost to Export GL Yes
 transactions to specific
 accounting packages
Handle payments to tax and Yes
 third-party agencies
Handle payments to tax and No
 third-party agencies for
 an extra cost
Java required No
ActiveX plug-in required No
JavaScript required No
Acrobat Reader required No
Other plug-ins required No
Annual cost with check $765-Basic
 delivery
Annual cost with web/ Included
 paperless service
COPYRIGHT 2005 National Society of Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Yudkin, Robert B.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Words:7908
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