CPAPracticeAdvisor.com Online Exclusive

Review of TaxWise - 2011

800-755-9473

www.taxwise.com

Best Firm Fit:

High-volume, time-sensitive focused practices employing non-professional data-entry staff. Also a fit for those looking to grow their business through office expansion and additional customer offerings such as full-year accounting services like write-up and payroll.

Strengths

  • Support for all entities at federal & state level
  • Form & interview-style input with instant calculations
  • Excellent training options for novice staff
  • Scan & populate feature for W-2s and 1099s
  • Options for research, trial balance, payroll, fixed assets and document management

Potential Limitations

  • No client portals
  • Limited tools for in-firm collaboration on complex returns

 

TaxWise is one of the professional tax compliance systems offered by CCH’s Small Firm Services, providing small and mid-sized practices with a system designed for high-volume firms looking to expand their business. The system supports all taxing entities and all states and offers a “scan and fill” source document automation system, document management, tax research, and tools and resources for practice management, invoicing and staff training. New for TY 2010, TaxWise introduced the Central Office Manager, a web-based portal that provides additional support for multi-location practices. Other professional accounting products available under the TaxWise brand include trial balance, fixed asset management, live and after-the-fact payroll, and W-2/1099 compliance.

Core Product Functions/Features

TaxWise is available in several bundled packages based on entity filing needs and accounting products, with the most comprehensive systems supporting all entities with annual income reporting requirements (1040, 1041, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 990, 706, 709 and 5500), plus all state forms (and Washington D.C.) for entities required to file. Unlimited e-filing is integrated into the program for federal and state returns. The TaxWise system also supports filing to all cities with income taxes, including New York City and municipalities in Michigan and Ohio. Many forms and schedules are also available in Spanish, and the company offers bilingual customer support, training webinars and marketing materials.

The program opens into a screen that is not web-based itself, but provides a browser-like feel complete with tabbed links for quickly accessing various websites, including TaxWise support and training options, the TaxWise University learning center, the company’s blog and IRS.gov. The main work area defaults to a “tasks you do most often” panel that includes text-based links to starting or opening returns, changing users or opening different entity compliance systems. Other links include communication tools, a monitor that alerts users to incomplete tasks and an appointment scheduler feature.

The system’s client selection list offers search functions and the ability to filter by several factors, including entity type, while displaying summary return and client contact information in a spreadsheet view. Within client returns, data entry can be performed on form replicas or on interview worksheets, with line instructions shown in a panel beneath the work area and right-click menu options giving the ability to override calculated fields, mark entries as estimates or insert review notes. A menu tree on the left provides quick access to forms, schedules and worksheets already associated with the return. A full forms list is available from a tab, with the ability to search or set up custom form sets. For 1040 clients, the system displays a Refund Monitor at the top of the screen that shows in-progress AGI, federal refund or amount owed and state refund or amount owed. Users can easily jump between form and interview modes, check diagnostics or perform MFJ/MFS comparisons. The program also supports extensions and amended returns, the AMT and kiddie tax returns associated with a parental return. 4.75

Paperless Workflow

As an option for TaxWise users, the Scan&Fill tax document automation system identifies scanned-in client W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, K-1s and form 8879, and automatically creates a basic PDF version of each document and stores it in the Document Manager. It also pulls the client’s tax data from the W-2 and 1099 forms and presents it for review and import into the client’s return. While the system data export is limited to these two form types, the program’s most recent release now creates bookmarked, organized singular PDFs. Scan&Fill also offers the ability to annotate folders and files with review notes and comments, in addition to providing the benefits of reduced data entry and paperless storage. The vendor also offers digital signing functions and compatibility with an electronic signature pad.

The Document Manager, which is also offered as an add-on, offers additional PDF output and management functions and the aforementioned annotation features. Plus, it offers an audit trail of document events and allows secure encrypted emailing of returns and other documents from within the program. Both the Document Manager and the TaxWise tax preparation program offer multiple levels of security, including the ability to set user-level access rights, create work groups with access to different clients and restrict sensitive areas of client returns to only specific staff.

The program does not offer direct import of client data from financial institutions or payroll vendors, but does offer limited import from external accounting applications. Conversion of prior year client return data is offered free to new firms and is available for users of most professional tax programs. Print-based client organizers are available, but no web-based or digital versions are available, which means data must be manually entered from the organizers. The system does not have client portals or other web-based client collaboration tools. 4

Integration

TaxWise shares data as needed between the entity modules, including importing of K-1s into individual returns and transfer of data for kiddie tax returns. The system includes an end-of-year trial balance worksheet for 1120 returns, allowing either manual entry or import of GL data from common business accounting applications, and then carrying forward final entries onto the return.

The tax system includes basic depreciation functions, while an optional fixed asset management system offers more functions, including import of client data, support for unlimited assets and clients, and automatic calculation of common methods, recovery periods, conventions and current and next year depreciation. It includes nearly 20 pre-calculated methods and handles trade-ins, exchanges and various sales and disposal options. Some of the TaxWise bundles include the IntelliConnect research platform, which offers extensive primary resource materials and guidance, including all code, regulations, rulings and legislation, with user-friendly searching and filter capabilities. Additional research options include CCH Tax Handbooks, the U.S. Master Tax Guide, CCH Essentials and the Tax Prep Partner series. Using the right-click menu, users can also link a line or field to notes or research findings.

The optional document management system offers PDF output and customizable data storage, with the ability to email documents from within the program. TaxWise does not offer a full tax planning option. However, a “What-If” function is available for testing basic hypothetical tax situations for the current year, and diagnostics and alerts notify users of potential data errors or other return issues. For firms with multiple locations, the new TaxWise Central Office Manager (COM) provides good linking between offices, allowing management to monitor multiple remote sites, including e-filing returns, offering bank products, assigning different pricing structures and program settings at each office, and performing system administration functions. In addition to the COM, the InterviewPLUS Online utility allows firms to set up simple kiosk-style retail locations where data-entry staff can help clients with simple returns, with the ability to print paper checks, process direct deposits or offer bank products.

TaxWise includes a built-in invoicing system, allowing users to create custom output from templates. For bank products, the system offers options from several financial institutions, with the ability to provide RALs, direct deposit RALs and electronic refund checks, as well as non-loan products such as the FeeCollect system that enables the firm to deduct preparation fees from client refunds. New for 2010, TaxWise has the Western Union MoneyWise MasterCard debit card, enabling clients to have their refunds deposited onto the card with or without a loan product. Firms can also use the iTransact system to accept credit card payments for services.

CCH Small Firm Services also offers several accounting products under the TaxWise brand, including payroll, client checkbook, W-2/1099 and the Client Accounting Suite, which provides full GL, AP, AR and financial statement reporting to support client write-up and other accounting services. 4.5 

Help/Support

TaxWise is simple to use and learn and provides good in-program assistance tools, including a strong Help utility, right-click menu options, line-by-line instructions and a user guide. The vendor offers excellent online support and training options, many through its TaxWise University, providing free and fee-based video, text, audio and interactive lessons for teaching program use and tax preparation. The TaxWise system also offers tools for managing staff education courses, as well as quick login for students to access test returns and other course materials. Many of the courses qualify for CPE credits. The TaxWise support website offers additional program documentation, FAQs, an online user community and downloadable program updates, which can also be set to automatically download.

Live technical support is included with the program and is U.S.-based. The support number is initially routed by an automated system, and users need to have their EFIN or customer number to be directed to live staff. Tax season support hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (ET) weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturdays. The program is not offered as a hosted system, although a third-party application service provider (ASP) might offer such services. 4.75

Executive Summary & Pricing

TaxWise offers bundles that can include virtually every aspect of tax preparation and public accounting, with all forms, states and cities. While the core tax system can manage moderately complex returns for most entities, the program is best geared toward time-sensitive, high-volume practices. It provides ease of use and features for integrated billing, strong bank products, multi-office management and support for remote retail locations, allowing these tax firms to quickly ramp up and add data entry staff to reach more customers. While there are no portals and its source document automation features are limited, the system offers good paperless workflow tools for small and mid-sized practices, with pricing flexible based on the selected bundle. The Power Package costs $2,515 for all entities, all states, all local, unlimited e-filing and tax research products, and can be used by any number of preparers in the same office. For firms with limited filing requirements, the Executive Package is $1,400, and includes many of the same features. TaxWise is also available on a pay-per-return basis, with a $150 annual fee, and a minimum of $300 of returns, priced at $20 each for single state 1040s and $35 each for single state business returns.

2011 Overall Rating 4.5

Product Delivery Methods:

On-Premises

SaaS (limited to 1040 module)

Loading