Payroll, tax top choices for outsourcing in finance

Payroll and tax remain the most often outsourced functions for accounting and finance departments in the US and Canada, according to a new survey.

Outsourcing of payroll occurs at nearly half of US and Canadian companies participating in the fifth annual benchmarking survey released jointly Tuesday by staffing services firm Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation, the research affiliate of Financial Executives International.

Forty-seven per cent of US companies and 47% of Canadian companies reported outsourcing payroll. The largest companies are more likely to outsource payroll, as 73% of US companies in the survey with revenues of $5 billion or more outsourced this function.

Nearly 1,600 companies – 79% from the US and 21% from Canada – participated in the survey.

The payroll outsourcing percentage was slightly higher in the US than in 2013 (46%). The percentage of Canadian companies outsourcing payroll dropped from 54% in 2013.

Outsourcing of tax rose in 2014 among respondents in the US (42%, up from 30% in 2013) and Canada (37%, up from 31%).

Other findings from the 2014 survey included:

  • Fifty-nine per cent of US respondents and 66% of Canadian respondents reported that they still reconcile their accounts manually.
  • A majority of respondents in the US (74%) and Canada (67%) anticipate that their compliance burden will increase over time.
  • Among US respondents, accounting and finance managers average 47 hours of work per week, while non-management staff averages 42 hours per week. Canadian respondents said managers average 46 hours and non-management staff averages 40 hours.

“What’s striking is the continuing high percentage of companies that rely on manual reconciliation of accounts – some with thousands of general ledger accounts,” Paul McDonald, a Robert Half senior executive director, said in a news release. “There is a significant opportunity for these firms to streamline the close and use their resources more efficiently.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.