From the April/May 2011Review of Tax Compliance Systems (Advanced Workflow)
ProSystem fx Tax remains a popular choice among firms for tax compliance work. Currently, CCH offers ProSystem fx Tax as a traditional, locally installed product (ProSystem fx Tax) and an Internet-hosted product (Global fx). Although both are similar in functionality, this review focuses on the traditional, DVD-based product. CCH prides itself on the annual enhancements made to ProSystem fx Tax, and for 2010, CCH has enhanced integration with new and existing ProSystem fx Suite products as well as introduced new features. The significant additions include enhancements to the electronic filing system, the ability to mask social security numbers and bank account information on printed copies of returns, and the ability to prepare consolidated partnership returns.
CORE PRODUCT FUNCTIONS/FEATURES:
ProSystem fx Tax defaults to a client list screen upon opening the program. From this screen, users can view a list of recently accessed files as well as returns routed to the user. A number of filters are also available to aid in locating client files. Once inside a client file, navigation is accomplished by using a series of drop-down menus broken down by categories (Income, Deductions, Payments, etc.). Each screen is then divided into expandable tabs for data entry. Information can be entered through summary screens or by using traditional form-fill style input, which may prove more useful when entering detailed information such as from brokerage 1099s. It is also important to note the alternate interview input method is still available and can be activated through the View menu options on the main menu bar. This input method showcases an organizer and direct form-fill process for data entry as opposed to worksheet-style data entry.
ProSystem fx Tax has a wide breadth of federal, state and local tax compliance options. Federal return compliance is fully supported for individuals, businesses, nonprofits and other major categories. State and local jurisdiction support is also available in most instances.
Many changes have been made to the electronic filing system for 2010. Now available, is the ability to view more state history within the return, such as electronic filing date history and a listing of any refunds or balance due. ProSystem fx Tax also added 13 partnership and 25 corporation electronic filing modules. Users can now mark state returns as paper file returns once the federal return has been accepted by the IRS. Also, users are allowed to convert a return to a paper filed return after an electronic file has been created but not yet transmitted to the Service.
ProSystem fx Tax tightly integrates with many products within the ProSystem fx Suite and CCH Research solutions. This allows users to fully integrate the tax preparation function with tax planning, practice management, engagement and document storage solutions under the ProSystem fx brand. Both of CCH’s tax research solutions, IntelliConnect and CCH Tax Prep Partner Series, can be accessed through a right-click shortcut menu on almost any field or form within ProSystem fx Tax. This allows direct access to topical research based on where users are located in the program.
ProSystem fx Tax also integrates with several third-party software offerings. Microsoft Word and Excel are supported, including the most recent 2007 and 2010 versions. The system also has built-in support for BNA for tax planning purposes, GainsKeeper and BasisPro for investment reporting, and the newly acquired Global Integrator software for large and global organizations.
ProSystem fx Tax has several native workflow solutions. Screens that allow or require significant data input can be exported to a spreadsheet as a template. That template can be populated through Excel or other spreadsheet solutions and imported back into ProSystem fx Tax. Through G/L Direct, trial balance data can be imported from a number of accounting packages, including some legacy products. This data can then be routed to the appropriate lines and forms for Schedule C and business returns. ProSystem fx Tax can also import ASCII files (basic text files) from nearly all software products and service providers that can export data into this format, including many brokerage firms.
ProSystem fx Tax has tight integration with ProSystem fx Scan, CCH’s software solution that quickly and reliably takes the proverbial “shoebox” of unsorted client information, determines what each item is, and outputs the documents to a single, organized and bookmarked PDF file. Coupled with AutoFlow Technology — the process that extracts data from 1040 client source documents to be imported into the return — ProSystem fx Scan, ProSystem fx Tax and PDFlyer provides firms with a complete digital 1040 preparation solution. Bookmarked PDF files can be generated with ProSystem fx Tax. The indexing of these files is static and can only be modified or rearranged through PDF editing software such as Adobe Acrobat Standard.
The system offers some functions to aid on-screen review, and many diagnostics that are generated are tied to underlying input forms. An arrow appears next to these interactive diagnostics and, when clicked, takes users directly to the appropriate screens for possible adjustments. Review tick marks may also be used and colors (red, blue, green) can be assigned to users or for specific review tasks.
CCH offers two hosted versions of its tax preparation software. In October 2009, CCH launched its next generation of ProSystem fx Tax, known as ProSystem fx Tax SaaS. The underlying application has been written from the ground up to take advantage of modern operating system and database technologies. The second offering, Global fx is an Internet-hosted version of the locally installed “foundation” product and allows for anywhere, anytime access from a Windows PC using Internet Explorer 7 or later. The functionality of both products largely mirrors that of the disc-based ProSystem fx Tax software. It is recommended that firms with more than 10 users have a business grade Internet connection in place. It is also important to note that other than the initial client installation file, all updates for the current tax year are automatic and do not require any user intervention.
CCH is currently in the process of expanding the Next Generation SaaS product lineup. In addition to Global fx, users now have the option to add Internet-hosted portal, practice management and document management solutions. Also available is Tax Notebook, which allows clients to fill out web-based organizers that can be downloaded and imported directly into ProSystem fx Tax.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY & PRICING
With traditional and Internet-based solutions available, ProSystem fx Tax fits a wide market range from single users to large multi-user organizations. Pricing for the traditional DVD-based software is $3,585 for the individual tax preparation module and $2,235 for business modules (minus any applicable discounts). State returns are grouped and priced by complexity and start at $435 per state module. Per-return pricing is also available for all modules. Global fx pricing starts at $25 per user, per month with an annual $100 setup fee.
2011 OVERALL RATING: