Not Known
1982
Business
English
ZX Spectrum 16K
Undetermined

118,119
Mike Wright
Chris Bourne

PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS TO TAXING PROBLEMS

Mike Wright recommends some of the payroll programs on the market but not without reservations.

THE APRIL Budget again made extra work for every business in the country, with changes to personal allowances and National Insurance contributions. So it seems appropriate to examine some of the payroll programs available. Programs were received from Byte One, Hilderbay, Transform and V & H Computer Services. The program marketed by Transform is Byte One. Comments regarding the Transform program should also be taken as applying to the Byte One program.

In the programs reviewed two different approaches are used. The Transform program is a once-and-for-all program in which the user sets the payroll variables such as National Insurance percentages, earnings levels and tax rates, while Hilderbay and V & H Computer Services include that data in the program. Consequently changes in tax or NI rates mean that updates must be obtained before the new rates can be implemented. V & H Computer Services offers an annual maintenance contract at £5.75 which provides free updates whenever necessary. Hilderbay offers updates at £3 each The V & H program, which is also available for the 16K ZX-81, supports all tax codes and even incorporates a system of error-trapping which tries to interpret incorrect codes. Only not contracted out NI contributions are supported. Employees can be paid on an hourly or weekly basis but not monthly and there is no provision for superannuation schemes.

The program is run from a main menu of six options. On first loading only one, Set up new payroll is operative. That leads to a question-and-answer session, with the user giving details of the company and then each employee in turn. Once the initial details are set up, the payroll can be run. That gives a menu of options which include specifying either the number of hours worked or the normal week.

Three options allow overtime to be entered at time-and-a-quarter - T+.25 - T+.5 or 2T. Other rates for overtime are not possible to enter directly but could be entered under the pre-tax adjustment facility. Post-tax changes can also be made. Pre-tax changes are taken to be additions and post-tax changes are deductions unless prefixed by a minus sign. Both the number of hours of sick pay and holiday pay can also be entered. Sick pay is calculated at the hourly rate and holiday pay at £1 per hour.

Once all employees' pay has been calculated the program leads the user automatically through printing a summary of all pay before saving the program and data for the next run.

The Hilderbay program operates in a different way. There is a fixed main program with a secondary data set which contains the tax and NI information. The review copy, received before the Budget, contained only the tax and NI changes to August 1, 1983. That did not affect the operation of the program, although it would not cope with pension contributions which attract NI but not tax. That has been incorporated in later versions. Hourly or monthly pay can be handled, although not at the same time. All types of class one NI contributions are handled but are referred to as 1-5 rather than A-E. In addition, a zero option is offered for those who pay no NI contributions. All tax codes including F, D, BR and NT are supported.

The program is controlled from a master menu which offers six options, three of which are concerned with loading, saving and installation details. A fourth option allows the week or month to be set at the start of a run. Program operation is reminiscent of a database, with each employee acting as a record with fields containing pay, tax and NI information as well as other options. Changes are made to the fields by a single keystroke to select the field before entering the new data.

Unlike the other programs, individual details of overtime, sick pay, holiday pay are not catered for, but a total figure for 'pre-tax changes' is entered instead. Post-tax changes can also be included. A coin analysis is provided as an option in the program to give a breakdown of the numbers and types of coins needed to pay employees.

Only one payslip is printed per employee and the summary totals for each employee and the whole company are printed under a separate option. An option is provided for printing text and although initially it was awkward to use, to print extra text on a payslip it is a useful aid.

The Transform program is menu driven and leads the user step by step through setting up the initial data to using the program. The response to be made to a prompt is often omitted, leaving the user to find it by trial and error. There are options allowing for employees to he paid weekly, hourly or monthly. Separate runs must be made for weekly, hourly or monthly-paid employees. Further entries can be made for overtime, holiday and sick pay and commission. Provision is also made for other additional pay and deductions either before or after tax.

National insurance contributions for contracted out and not contracted out are calculated by the program. Of the five NI contribution classes, A, B, C, D and E, only four - either A, B, C, D or A, B, D, F - can be handled at one time. All the not contracted out rates are covered but the program in setting up the NI data for contracted out cases prompts only for the earnings limits and one set of percentages.

Superannuation schemes are also coped with, allowing for deductions to be made as a fixed payment based on a percentage of gross pay at a fixed date or as a fixed percentage of gross pay. Alternatively, the employer-paid scheme is also allowed for.

The manual claims that all tax codes are supported when it means all four-figure tax codes are supported. Codes D and NT are not supported and in the extreme possibilities of a person's allowances falling below £1,000 or rising above £10,000, codes H and L would not be supported. Additionally the program was tested using the Latest Inland Revenue test data and found for week one an overpayment of 10 pence tax had been calculated.

Having a breakdown of some of the additional items, such as holiday and sick pay, is very useful, and although it assumes the overtime rate, or rates, is based directly on the hourly rate, it allows a multiplier to be specified. That permits the overtime rate which is not based on the hourly rate but which may be based on a national minimum rate to be expressed as a multiplier of the hourly rate used in the program.

Other attractive features were the printing of two copies of the employee's pay slip as well as weekly/monthly and year-to-date totals automatically, and the way in which the user is made to save and verify data at the end of each week/month run.

All three packages have features to commend them in their operation - the once-and-for-all nature of the Transform package and its independent entry of sick and holiday pay as well as allowing for superannuation schemes; the Hilderbay completeness in covering all tax codes and types of NI contributions; and the V & H Computer Services coverage of all tax codes and the layout of the payslip.

Of the three manuals, none was of the quality in presentation or explanation which could be expected. The Transform manual is four pages of thin dot matrix printed paper, of which two pages are used to introduce the program and tell the user how to load it. The most helpful manual was probably that of V & H but even that was printed on a dot matrix printer without true descenders.

Another pet hate occurred on both the Hilderbay and Transform pay slips. It is the failure to print trailing zeros after a decimal point and also to line up amounts on the decimal point in a column of figures.

Obviously accuracy plays a vital role in any financial package and while both the Hilderbay and V & H programs performed well, the Transform program made some errors in calculation. Although the occasional penny difference in NI contributions may be acceptable, the same kind of difference in an employee's basic pay - i.e., number of hours worked X hourly rate - is not, and the Transform program is prone to make such errors. The choice of program depends on the payroll system and preferences of the user. While there are reservations on the limitations on overtime rates in the V & H program and the entering of any other pay apart from regular or hourly pay as one item in the Hilderbay program, they can still be recommended for business use.

Byte One, 89 West End Park Street, Glasgow G63 6LJ.

Hilderbay, 8-10 Parkway, London NW1 7AA.

Transform, 41 Keats House, Porchester Mead, Beckenham, Kent.

V & H Computer Services, Mayfield House, Spencer Street, Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

SUMMARY TABLE OF PAYROLL PROGRAMS

Transform
Price: £19.95
Memory: 48K
No. of employees: 40
Full Tax Codes: No
NI contributions - Not Contracted Out: Yes
NI contributions - Contracted Out: One rate only
Length of company name: 14 chars
Length of employee name: 14 chars
Print user's text: No
Add or remove employees: Yes
Coin analysis: No

Hilderbay
Price: £25
Memory: 48K
No. of employees: 50
Full Tax Codes: Yes
NI contributions - Not Contracted Out: Yes
NI contributions - Contracted Out: Yes
Length of company name: n.a.
Length of employee name: 21 chars
Print user's text: Yes
Add or remove employees: Yes
Coin analysis: Yes

V & H Computing
Price: £14.50
Memory: 48K (16K ZX-81)
No. of employees: 200
Full Tax Codes: Yes
NI contributions - Not Contracted Out: Yes
NI contributions - Contracted Out: No
Length of company name: 32 chars
Length of employee name: 15 chars
Print user's text: No
Add or remove employees: Yes
Coin analysis: Yes - separate program

Not Rated

Screenshot Text

V & H Computer Services

Hilderbay

Transform / Byte One