Best Firm Fit:
Small and mid-sized full-service accounting firms with generally less complex clients, yet with broader entity needs, including payroll and wage compliance.
- Support for all entities at federal & state level
- W-2/1099 & wage reporting
- Form & interview-style input
- Excellent training options
- Scan & populate feature for W-2s & 1099s
- Options for research, trial balance, payroll, fixed assets & document management
- Integrated AR management system & support for client fee payments by credit card
- No client portals
- Limited tools for in-firm review & collaboration on complex returns
The ATX tax preparation system offers a comprehensive suite of compliance for all entities, with accounting and payroll programs, integrated practice management tools, and workflow features that are best-suited to small and mid-sized professional tax and accounting practices with a broad range of clients. The program includes e-filing, support for bank products, electronic payment of preparation fees and a built-in AR management console, along with access to a broad range of training and assistance features. New for TY 2010, the system allows acceptance of credit cards for payment, can import data from Peachtree and QuickBooks, and firms can offer debit cards for deposit of refunds or bank proceeds.
Core Product Functions/Features
There are several versions of the ATX system, with the most advanced tax versions offering support for 1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 706, 709, 990 and 5500 returns, along with all states, amended returns and extensions. The system also offers local tax support for most jurisdictions, and an optional Ohio Cities Allocation package is available for income reporting among that state’s many taxing jurisdictions. Unlimited e-filing is included with the program for all entities and forms that are accepted. Additional packages offer integrated accounting products, including a client accounting suite, payroll, fixed asset management and trial balance. The tax package offers compliance tools for processing kiddie tax returns, as well as managing self-employment tax and AMT issues. CPE-eligible training is offered for these and other special taxation situations.
ATX’s primary interface opens to the Return Manager, which offers a master client selection list that can be searched, sorted and filtered based on entity type, status of returns, and client summary and return data. The list also offers tabs for moving to the AR functions of the program, which include aging status and billing information and the Tax Warehouse tab, which shows return details across all clients, including AGI, taxable income, tax, refund, amount owed, bracket, exemptions and other information for individuals. It also shows net sales, gross income, capital gains and other items for business entities. In addition to the Return Manager, there are central work areas for managing e-filing activities, bank products, data rollover and managing preparers.
Within client returns, data can be entered on form replicas or through an interview mode that guides less skilled preparers through tasks and provides guidance. Users can easily jump between the form and interview sheets. Likewise, an MFJ/MFS toggle allows preparers to quickly see the affect of filing status. For some fields, such as employers and partners, the system remembers previously entered information and allows users to select the entity from a list, which then automatically populates EIN, address and other basic information. All forms, schedules and worksheets associated with a return can be presented as tabs across the top of the work area or aligned as a list on the side of the screen, allowing users to move between them easily, while additional forms can be selected from the master list, which includes search and filtering options. Many forms are also available in Spanish. Overall, data entry is fluid and very intuitive. 5
Scan&Fill is an add-on source document automation feature that allows users to scan client documents such as W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, K-1s and form 8879, with the system using OCR to recognize the form, create a PDF copy and present it to the user on screen for corrections. The preparer can then import extracted W-2 and 1099 data directly into the client return.
Although data automation is limited to these federal form types and not brokerage statements, when coupled with the document management system, these features offer a good core paperless solution for small practices, promoting a “scan-first” approach and offering PDF generation and storage of individual documents. In the program’s most recent release, Scan&Fill now creates bookmarked, organized singular PDFs and includes basic annotation of client folders and files with notes and review questions. The document management system also offers the ability to email encrypted documents from within the system and includes an audit trail that tracks changes to documents. Client communications and invoices can be generated in the program, but cannot be directly emailed. ATX also offers electronic signature acceptance through integration with a signature pad.
The security features in the program allow for firm management to password protect individual client returns, and it automatically locks returns when a user is within the client files. This lock can be released, however, when users need to offer simultaneous access to the return by another preparer in the firm. Additional privacy features include suppressing of SSNs/TINs, and the ability to mask sensitive information when printing client copies.
ATX now offers import of W-2 and 1099 data created in Peachtree and QuickBooks, as well as Schedule D transactions from CSV format. It does not offer direct online download of tax data from client financial institutions, nor does the system offer client portals or electronic web organizers. Print tax organizers are available, but data must be manually entered into the tax package. Trial balance worksheets are available within the program, and a full trial balance system is also available for purchase. Firms changing from most other professional tax preparation systems can have prior year client data converted into the system at no cost. 4
Data flows throughout the returns to necessary forms and schedules as needed, as well as between returns with the ability to import K-1 data, as well as to quickly enter common employer information. In addition to the trial balance worksheets in the tax package and the add-on system, ATX can import data from QuickBooks, Peachtree and Excel. The system does not have a true multi-year tax planning function, but does offer some scenario-based testing for current year returns.
Basic depreciation functions are built into the tax package, and more advanced features are available through an optional fixed asset management system, which allows for multiple books per asset and helps track acquisition and disposal events, including like-kind exchanges. As previously noted, the system also integrates with the vendor’s add-on document management utility for paperless storage of PDF formatted client documents.
The system offers in-program linking to the IntelliConnect research platform, giving users access to a large library of primary resource materials and guidance, including all code, regulations, rulings and legislation, plus news and highlights, journals and practice tools. The web-based research system offers user-friendly searching and filter capabilities, the ability to save research tasks into folders and also create custom research folders. Additional research options include the CCH Master Tax Guide, several of CCH’s Tax Handbooks, Federal Tax Day, TaxTalk, State materials and other sources. Right-click menu options allow users to access instructions and guidance from any line on the form.
ATX offers integrated banking products from Santa Barbara, Republic and River City, including RALs and electronic refund checks. The FeeCollect system gives firms the ability to have their fees deducted from a client’s refund, without a bank product. The vendor also offers the MoneyWise Card, a Western Union-branded MasterCard debit card that allows banked or unbanked clients to have their refund or bank product funds deposited onto the card account. The tax package includes an AR module and can accept credit card payments through a partnership with iTransact. 4.5
ATX includes numerous in-program features for helping users, including right-click linking to research and instructions, a guided interview data-entry mode, and a Help utility that offers searching through resources such as the program user guide, government instructions, form Help, FAQs and QuickTutors. Users can also access ATX’s online support center, which includes program documentation, additional FAQs and user tips, an online user community and downloadable program updates. The program can be configured to automatically download and install updates as they are available. Many CPE-eligible training and educational resources are available through the ATX University and Learning Center. Custom training is available upon request.
All support staff are U.S.-based, and live technical support is included with the program. Phone support is initially guided by an automated system and requires the user to have the firm’s EFIN or customer number, and is available during tax season on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (ET), and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CCH Small Firm Services does not offer ATX as a hosted, web-based system, but third-party application service providers (ASP) may be able to accommodate firms desiring this benefit. 4.75
Executive Summary & Pricing
ATX is an easy-to-use, yet comprehensive compliance package best suited to small and mid-sized full-service professional practices with a need for accounting and payroll compliance applications for servicing their small business clients. It offers impressive research integration and excellent Help and training options, and although it lacks client portals and direct financial institution downloads, the system offers small-firm friendly document management and basic automation features. Pricing for ATX packages with unlimited e-filing starts at $1,154 for a three-user program that includes all federal and all state entities. The Total Tax Office system, which also includes document management and expanded research options, is $1,699. Per-return pricing is also available, with a $150 annual fee for software licensing and prepayment of 15 individual returns at $20 each (with e-filing and one state included). The per-return system also allows use of other entity modules, as well as preparation of sales and use forms, W-2s, 1099s, 940s and 941s.
2011 Overall Rating: 4.5
Product Delivery Methods: