By David Ringstrom, CPA
The 2014 version of Sage 50, formerly known as Peachtree Accounting, is available for purchase now. As a result, certain users who rely on the payroll subscription are going to experience sticker shock in the near future. Historically, you could purchase a Sage 50/Peachtree Accounting product and pay an additional fee for the annual payroll service that makes it easy to calculate withholding taxes. As long as your accounting software was one of the three most recent versions, the annual payroll service typically cost around $300/year. Such users are about to see their annual costs increase by a factor of two, three, or even more.
For several years, Sage has offered an optional Business Care program that entitled users to priority support and automatic program upgrades. This program is now mandatory if you want to process payroll in the software. The Sage Business Care program is being offered at three levels:
The Silver plan offers unlimited support, annual product upgrades, and the Business Intelligence feature that allows you to analyze your accounting data in Microsoft Excel. However, if you wish to process payroll within Sage 50, you must sign up for the Gold or Platinum programs. The Gold program allows you to process payroll for up to fifty users, while the Platinum program offers unlimited payroll as well as priority access to a dedicated support team that offers appointment scheduling.
Business Care is an annual subscription, which means that rather than buying the software and sitting out a couple of upgrade cycles, you must continue your Business Care subscription year after year in order to process payroll in Sage 50.
Sage doesn't disclose pricing for the Gold or Platinum programs on its website, because the pricing varies based on which version of Peachtree/Sage 50 you're currently using and the number of simultaneous users you require. In general, the first year of business care will be at a higher price, with savings each year for annual consecutive renewals. As a point of reference, a Silver Business Care subscription for a three-user license for Peachtree Complete Accounting is $669/year. This doesn't include payroll, so it means your ongoing annual expense will likely be at least $800/year, year-in, year-out, as opposed to the $300 or so that you could formerly pay to add a payroll subscription.
Keep in mind that at present a Business Care subscription isn't required if you process payroll through a third-party provider or by other means. However, the days of paying once for software that you then use for years are slowly fading into history. This is evidenced by Sage's behavior as well as Microsoft's recent Office365 subscription program that offers the Office 2013 suite for $99/year
Accountants who have at least one fee-paying client can subscribe to the Sage Accountant's Network
to get discounted access to Sage software and the annual payroll service. For everyone else, Sage is offering substantial discounts on the first year of Business Care through April 29, 2013.
About the author:
David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link