CPAs Want More from Payroll Vendors

Ease-of-use, customer service top wish lists. What do CPAs want in a payroll solution? Join the study. Get the answers.

by Rick Telberg
At Large

Whether they are offering payroll as a client service or running that process in-house for their firms, CPAs expect more and better from their payroll software and services vendors.

More ease-of-use and better customer service, including updates with tax rate and regulation changes, lead the list of payroll issues most important to professionals in public practice, followed not far behind by cost, of course. Also near the top of the list are security, flexible reporting and integration of payroll with human resources programs and with other payroll-related business operations, according to data streaming into the current survey.
Integration is a particularly critical factor in payroll systems used for a firm’s own operations. “Like most businesses, we have to be more productive to be successful,” says Fred Dillon, a partner with Simpson & Osborne CPAs in Charleston, W. Va. “It is critically important that we integrate all payroll, HR, benefits and timekeeping solutions into a single suite.”

Henry Leonard, a partner with CBiz Beatty Satchell in Easton, Md., says that he’d like payroll reporting to integrate with budgeting software.

Public practitioners, who offer—or are considering offering—payroll as a client service are calling on the vendors to outreach to them with assistance and innovation. CPAs want software that’s easy to use and flexible enough to let them use it the way that suits them best.

“I need more sources of revenue; adding payroll in combination with flex plans, retirement plans and financial advisory services is a must,” says Edward Greenlee, a sole practitioner in Rowlett, Texas. He’s looking a for a payroll software vendor that can also provide him access to related financial product and a payroll system that integrates with human resources, flexible benefits and administration software systems.

Chris Johnson, a sole practitioner financial planner in Newton, Iowa, would like the ability to prepare past years’ payroll tax returns.

A small firm practitioner, who asked not to be unidentified, wishes that her payroll vendor would come up with “one system that will adapt to all clients.” Denny Denham, a Houston sole practitioner, adds that, rather than maintaining payroll on a separate database, it should be made part of the company's main database.

In terms of cost, Douglas Cohen, a sole practitioner in Boca Raton, Fla., would like to see his vendor reduce costs enough to enable him to provide his customers with direct payroll deposits free of charge. Likewise, James Farrell, a sole practitioner in Springfield, Mass., would like his vendor to make it easier to handle direct deposits.

Among the practitioners calling for better customer support, one senior partner suggests that payroll vendors produce client newsletters with information about changing payroll and tax regulations. Separately, Cathy Craig, an enrolled agent in San Clemente, Calif., notes that “the benefits—other retirement system issues that Congress keeps passing—need to be constantly explained to laypeople as well as accounting professionals.”

Aneta Turner, managing partner of S. William Rushay CPA & Associates in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, wants some help in “having the client understand the importance of having their CPA firm prepare their payroll.”

Meanwhile, payroll companies’ existing service shortfalls are hitting public firm staffers hardest. Sue Bennett, a staffer at Shealy Group in Mansfield, Ohio, echoes a common refrain about calling payroll customer support: “I usually get voice mail and have to wait to call back.”

The vendors who answer the phone and listen to these concerns are earning CPAs’ support.

[First published by the AICPA]

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