SAGE'S DECISION to leave behind its TAS Payroll software by refusing to update it for real-time PAYE requirements has been labelled "disappointing" by senior accounting IT experts.
Sage, which has several payroll products, acquired TAS software in 2001 for an estimated £9.7m. But as the country moves to Real-Time Information (RTI), where all PAYE data must be held electronically and updated monthly, Sage said it will not make TAS RTI-compliant, effectively making the product redundant from next year.
ICAEW IT Faculty head Richard Anning said he thought the news was disappointing, but understood the reasoning behind Sage's decision.
"Although this is disappointing news for TAS software users, bearing in mind the requirements for RTI, from Sage's point of view they have a number of products and they are looking to consolidate. This gives them the perfect opportunity," he said.
He did warn Sage that it must support its customers at this pivotal time.
"System implication of RTI is quite large, especially for small organisations and they are going to need the support of their software suppliers."
Ex-TAS user, and IT Faculty deputy chairman of the technical sub-committee, Kevin Salter said the situation had compelled him to switch supplier.
"I am obviously disappointed by the news. It also didn't inspire me with a lot of confidence when I called support, after they had sent the email informing us of the change, and someone said that they [Sage] would be writing the conversion routine to migrate it. That obviously means that they hadn't done it already. They said they would announce and contact me before the end of the year, but we are in November already," said Salter.
He added: "The thought of moving to [another Sage product] didn't inspire me with much confidence. They said that the price would be frozen for two years but didn't commit to anything after that. However, to buy now would be very expensive."
Salter, also a partner at Glover Stanbury & Co, said the firm was now in the process of migrating to another payroll provider.
A statement from Sage said it had made the decision to "retire" TAS Payroll earlier this year.
"It is really important that we provide the right payroll solution for our customers to support them to manage this significant change. TAS Payroll has been part of the Sage family for many years now, but we recognised that we have several payroll products and services in the market that provide better readiness for these changes," it said in a statement.
"With this in mind, we took the decision to retire TAS Payroll, and have been working closely with TAS customers to continue to support them and find the Sage Payroll solution that is right for them.
"We want to make the transition to RTI as seamless as possible for our customers and have focused development efforts in realising that goal and delivering far more than compliance alone.
"Sage 50 Payroll RTI edition has an unrivalled level of product support and we've also been actively supporting our customers with a range of RTI seminars and webinars that help them understand and prepare for the impact of RTI on their businesses."
On the back of the Sage announcement, rival IRIS is offering Sage customers free migration to its payroll products – including its free payroll basics, as well as its paid for products.
CEO of IRIS Accounting Solutions Phill Robinson said: "This is another example of Sage not taking compliance seriously, same as it did before with the iXBRL deadline. It's a lot like groundhog day.
"This is an unacceptable burden on customers."
Robinson said the migration plan was being offered by IRIS up to and including the RTI deadline of 1 April 2013.
TAS payroll had 2% of the payroll market in 2011, according to the most recent report into IT across the profession.
This compares to Sage 50 Payroll accounting for 39% of the market, and IRIS Payroll Professional and IRIS PAYE-Master making up 16% – as reported in the the most recent ICAEW IT in accountancy practices survey published in December 2011.
HMRC has recently launched the next stage of the RTI pilot with up to 250,000 employers set to join between now and March 2013.
When RTI is introduced in April, there should be about six million individuals reporting under the scheme. So far there are about 1.9 million individuals submitting PAYE information under the RTI pilot.
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