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8 Must-Have Payroll Software Features

Maria Tanski-Phillips
Posted by Maria Tanski-Phillips on Aug 19, 2021 12:20:33 PM

Do you already offer payroll services? Are you thinking about offering them? If you answer yes to either of these questions, then you need to make sure you have the tools you need.

Offering payroll services these days all but necessitates using payroll software. You can’t provide great payroll services (or take your current services up a notch) if you don’t team up with the right software and get access to the features you need.

So, what are the must-have payroll software features you should watch out for when you’re on the hunt for software? Keep reading to find out.

1. Easy setup

It’s no secret that payroll can be complex, especially when you throw a variety of taxes into the mix. And, the last thing you want to deal with when it comes to payroll software is a difficult setup when you’re bringing on multiple clients. So when you’re shopping for software, look for a provider that offers easy setup. 

To find out how complex the software setup is, ask questions. Speak with a representative and ask:

  • How long does payroll setup typically take?
  • What information do I need to set up my clients’ accounts?
  • Can someone set up the account(s) for me?

Along with asking questions, read online reviews to find out what others have to say about the setup process. If review after review mentions a struggle with setup, look elsewhere and explore other companies.

Also, do some digging to find out if the payroll provider has solutions for easy setup, like free payroll setup, a step-by-step setup wizard, or importing capabilities.

2. Integrations

Another must-have for features is the ability to integrate seamlessly with other platforms or software, such as:

Keep in mind that more integrations does not always equal better software. Every time you connect your payroll with another software, be sure the data is being handled correctly. Look for payroll software that has accounting, HR, and time and attendance all native to the platform. That way, your clients can have all of the data in one place with one source of truth.

To determine how well the payroll software integrates with other software or platforms, check to see if you can view a demo or start a free trial to test the waters.

3. Tax filings and deposits

As a tax professional, you have a lot on your plate. To streamline your payroll responsibilities for each client, consider opting for a full-service payroll software option that handles payroll tax filings and deposits for you and your clients.

If you’re interested in full-service payroll, look for software that handles:

  • Federal, state, and local payroll taxes (collecting, filing, and remitting)
  • Year-end W-2 and W-3 filings
  • Guaranteed accurate tax calculations, deposits, and filings
  • Automatic tax updates

Check with the payroll company to see what’s included in their full-service package. Some companies include everything from payroll taxes to year-end filings for no additional charge. However, some companies may charge an additional fee for end-of-year tasks.

Of course, tax filings/deposits is a nice-to-have feature that can save your firm time and money. But if you want to handle the taxes yourself for your clients and let the software do the tax calculations for you, you may decide to go the basic payroll software route instead.

4. Unlimited payrolls

You don’t want to be nickel and dimed for everything you do with your payroll software. That’s why you should look for software that allows you to run as many payrolls as you or your clients like.

Try to find software that allows you or your clients to run multiple payrolls for one low cost. Not only does this feature help you get more bang for your buck, but it also takes the worry out of running unexpected or additional payrolls.

5. Direct deposit

Direct deposit makes up a huge part of employee payments, with 94% of employees receiving their paychecks via direct deposit. So when searching for payroll software, make sure it has a solid direct deposit option.

Most cloud or online payroll software companies offer some form of direct deposit. While investigating your options, take a look at the following for direct deposit:

  • Timing options (e.g., 4-day direct deposit)
  • Extra Fees
  • Expedited direct deposit options
  • Direct deposit limits

Some payroll companies may even offer free direct deposit. Ask each provider what costs are associated with direct deposit, if any. And, look into timing options. If your client has a short payroll processing window (e.g., receives time cards three days before pay date), you may need to find a payroll company that can support a shorter direct deposit time frame (e.g., 2-day).

If your client prefers to have a mixture of employee payment methods (e.g., direct deposit and paper checks), be sure to check with the payroll company to see which options they support.

6. Employee self service

Another nice feature for your clients (and their employees) to have is an employee self service (ESS) portal.

Generally with an ESS option, employees can:

  • View pay stubs
  • Update bank account information
  • Access W-2s at year-end
  • Update personal information (e.g., address)
  • Print payroll information
  • View employee documents (e.g., employee handbook)

Depending on the ESS portal, your clients’ employees may even be able to track their time cards online.

When looking for a payroll company to partner with, ask if they have an ESS option. If they do, ask what kinds of capabilities the ESS portal has for employees and if there are any limitations.

7. Accessibility

You and your clients are busy. So, you need a way to be able to access and easily run payroll while on the go, in the office, etc. This is why having software that’s in the cloud or online is oh-so-important for accountants and their clients.

Having accessible software you or your clients can access anywhere, anytime is an absolute must in this day and age. So while shopping for payroll software, look for one that:

  • Is cloud-based or online
  • You can access on multiple devices
  • Doesn’t require an app for you to do tasks on the go

The more accessible the software is for you and your clients, the better. That way, you and your clients don’t have to worry about not being able to access the software when you need it most. And, you aren’t limited to only being able to access the software from one device (e.g., desktop computer).

8. Payroll reports

Last, but certainly not least for accountants, check to see what payroll reports are like in the software. What kinds of payroll reports can you access? Can you give clients access to the software and reports? How can you break down payroll information in reports? Ask yourself these questions and more before committing to a payroll software.

Robust reports are oh-so-important for both you and your client. Check to see if the provider offers the following reports (or variations of them):

  • Payroll details
  • Payroll register
  • Check payment detail
  • Payroll tax liabilities
  • Forms W-2 and W-3
  • Forms 941

If you use a full-service payroll that handles taxes and filings for your clients, make sure you can also access reports on:

  • Tax collections
  • Tax deposits
  • Tax filings

Again, you may be able to use a free trial or demo account to explore reporting. If you can, test out the reports to see what they look like, how they work, and their accessibility. And, be sure to explore how you can break them down (e.g., by pay date, employee, etc.).

Additional factors to look for in payroll software

Of course, the above list is not all inclusive. There are plenty of payroll software features you may have on your radar. Along with keeping your eyes peeled for key features, you may also want to look into software with the following:

  • Affordable pricing
  • No long-term contracts (e.g., month-to-month pricing)
  • No hidden fees
  • Free expert support (USA-based is a plus)
  • Top-notch security (especially with cloud-based software)
  • Quick payroll processing
  • Customizable payroll (e.g., pay rates, deductions, etc.)

As a tax professional, you should also look into partnering with a payroll company that can offer some extra perks for your firm, such as:

  • Special partner program pricing
  • Free co-branding
  • Free accounting and payroll options for your firm
  • No partner fees

To make finding the perfect payroll partner easier, put together a list of the must-have features for your firm. Then, do your research by reading customer reviews, asking questions, and checking out demos and trials to find the payroll software that checks all of the boxes for your firm and clients.

Topics: Payroll


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