CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business — ProSystem fx Tax

From the April 2009 Review of Professional Tax Compliance Systems & Tax Specialty Products

Designed for accounting and tax practices of all sizes, ProSystem fx Tax provides a comprehensive compliance system for professionals, with support for all entities at the federal, state and local levels. The tax package can be run as a stand-alone or as part of the ProSystem fx Office suite of professional accounting and practice management applications. Through tight integration with the research, write-up, trial balance, planning, document management and engagement applications in the Office suite, ProSystem fx Tax provides a thoroughly comprehensive client management solution.

Remote access to the entire Office suite, including the tax system, is available via the Global fx solution. The tax compliance system is priced modularly, with firms able to select and pay for the precise entity types and jurisdictions they need. The cost for all entity types and all states is about $10,000, although most firms find pricing considerably lower based on their client’s compliance requirements. CCH also offers the TaxWise and ATX brands through its Small Firm Services division.

General Operations/Ease-of-Use – 4.5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax sports a customizable interface that can be tailored to user needs, as well as to assigned roles, enabling administrators to restrict user access to only specific returns. The primary navigation screens within ProSystem fx Tax offer a traditional work environment, with pull-down task selection menus across the top, along with icons for specific functions. The icon bar varies depending on the module and activity being performed by the user. Additionally, the interface provides a forms navigation panel on the left when within a client return. The system’s master client selection screen provides a search option, as well as filtering and sorting by entity type or by columnar client data.

ProSystem fx Tax offers form-based entry and an interview mode for data entry, with the latter providing categorized information entry for general, income/deductions, taxes, payments/penalties, credits and other. Users can move between the sections via text links above the work area, which provides a worksheet interface. When working within either the interview mode or the forms view, ProSystem fx Tax automatically performs all calculations and offers drilldown navigation to source documents and related forms.

Data can also be imported from several file types, speeding the entry process. The Worksheet Import Wizard, for instance, simplifies the task of finding a specific file, allowing users to choose from template mapping options, and select specific cells and rows to be imported. The tax program also employs several “smart entry” features, which automatically build lists of commonly entered items like city, employer, EIN and ZIP codes. For e-filed returns, the system provides an Electronic Filing Status System, a home base of sorts for tracking and managing the e-file process, including checking status and acknowledgements.

Workflow & Productivity Tools – 5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax is a high-end system geared toward practices with potentially complex client taxation issues. As such, the system is oriented around a multi-person preparation and review environment, providing extensive diagnostic tools test for omissions and inconsistencies, then giving narrative commentary on the findings in a report that enables the user to quickly jump back to that line in the client return. The system’s review functions include color-coded tick marks, lists, field and global notes, and notice of overrides and estimates. As one of the leading tax research providers, CCH also offers integration between its content and the tax compliance system, including advance automatic notification regarding clients who may be affected by new legislation. The system also maintains a full-time audit trail.

Other advanced productivity tools include integration with ProSystem fx Scan, a utility that lets professionals scan in client source documents, then provides an organized electronic client binder as a bookmarked PDF. CCH also recently debuted its AutoFlow Technology, which can extract client data from scanned in forms, guide users through a verification process, and then import the information directly into the client return. As noted in most reviews of ProSystem fx Tax, one of the key productivity-enhancing features of the system is its integration with the other programs in the ProSystem fx Office suite, helping save considerable time during data-entry processes, as well as providing more efficient management and retention. Additionally, the customization options available within the program allow users to shape the system to their needs. This allows the creation of personalized to-do lists for each user, as well as preparer-specific due-date monitoring.

Integration/Import & Export – 5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax integrates thoroughly with the other systems in the ProSystem fx Office family, reducing manual data entry and speeding preparation. Integration with CCH research materials also provides greater accuracy and enhanced review functions. Within the tax program, data is shared as needed, such as between parent/child returns and pass-through K-1s, while calculations are automatic and transferred to related forms. The system can import data from various formats, including Excel and other spreadsheets, and allows return generation into PDF format.

Support/Training& Help System – 4.5 Stars
Help and assistive functions are available throughout ProSystem fx Tax, including right-click menus and instructions. Technical support is included with pricing, along with access to CCH’s online support center. The vendor also offers live and web-based training, and hosts an annual user conference, which this year will be held in Washington, D.C.

Relative Value – 5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax is a powerful professional tax compliance system, providing comprehensive processing capabilities and extensive diagnostic tools. Its integration with tax research and other professional accounting and practice systems offered by CCH make it exceptionally adept at handling complex client bases. The system is suited for small, mid-sized and larger practices with defined workflow processes.

2009 OVERALL RATING: overall rating