CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business — ProSystem fx Tax

From the April/May 2008 Review of Tax Compliance Suites

ProSystem fx Tax is one of the premier professional compliance systems, providing support for all entities with income or annual reporting requirements for state, federal and municipal jurisdictions. It also provides the benefits of the ProSystem fx Office, a full suite of related tax, accounting and firm management programs. The comprehensive tax system offers advanced features and calculation capabilities, giving it the ability to process the most complex returns and interrelated returns, along with analysis and productivity tools. ProSystem fx Tax, with a four-user license with all states and all possible entities (1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 990, 706, 709, 5500), would cost about $10,000, although since each of the entities and states are available in modules and bundles, most firms can meet their needs for considerably less than that cost.

The system and individual modules can also be used on a pay-per-return basis. Other programs in the ProSystem fx Office family include options for write-up, trial balance, tax planning, practice management, engagement, sales and use tax, document management, research, asset management and portfolio management. Options are also available for remote access to the tax system and for outsourcing return preparation.

General Operations/ Ease-of-Use -- 4 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax provides an intuitive, centralized interface from which users can access all of the system’s modules. The interface can be customized to user preferences and access rights, with the primary work area opening by default to a client selection screen that displays only those returns for which the current user is authorized to work on or review. The selection list provides various filter and sort options in addition to search capabilities.

When within a client’s files, an additional navigation panel provides an expandable menu tree of forms and worksheets connected to the particular client return. This allows the user to easily move to these forms or to add forms and schedules as needed. Within a return, preparers have the option of using an interview or worksheet method of data entry, or to enter client data directly onto form replicas. In the interview mode, the program divides data entry into tabbed screens based on information categories, which include General, Income/Deductions, Taxes, Payments/Penalties, Credits and Other. Navigation through data-entry screens is intuitive and ProSystem fx Tax utilizes smart entry features and selection lists to speed entry of common items.

All data is automatically calculated when the user selects the Calc Return button, with calculations transferred as necessary between worksheets and forms and related returns. Users have easy, drilldown access to the source of calculated entries. New for TY2007, CCH has added streamlined input forms to speed entry from source documents. These include a consolidated 1099 form, a look-alike 1098 input form, and facsimiles of 1098-T and 1099-Q. A new Organizer checklist is also included, providing a simplified alternative to the traditional organizer and easing the process for clients.

Workflow & Productivity Tools -- 5 Stars
With CCH offering programs designed for virtually every aspect of a professional accounting and tax practice, one of the core productivity benefits in ProSystem fx Tax is its integration with all of these other programs. With data flowing automatically between most of the various applications, full-service practices will realize considerable time savings and help prevent data errors.

As part of its customization options, the program provides due-date monitoring and personalized To Do lists for each of the staff and, for management, enables restriction of access to client returns to specific users. An audit trail is also available, tracking all activity within client returns. Also available is a built-in client management center that maintains profiles of all clients, automatically updating all client documents. An optional Tax Notebook provides an electronic organizer that enables client-professional collaboration for entering tax data online.

ProSystem fx Tax includes strong review processes that include the ability to attach notes to fields or general areas, as well as color-coded tick marks, lists and estimates, and maintains an audit trail of all return activities including calculation overrides. The system’s comprehensive diagnostics system tests for errors and missing data, providing the preparer or reviewer with a highlighted and linked report that enables review staff to quickly jump to the form and data in question. The program also provides an outstanding Electronic Filing Status System that provides a centralized location for managing e-file issues, from checking status and acknowledgements, to return release and stop-processing functions.

Among ProSystem fx Tax’s other notable features is the ability to import Schedule D, K-1 and state apportionment data from Excel spreadsheets, as well as an enhanced import wizard that simplifies the task of mapping imported data to the appropriate fields on a worksheet grid. This wizard saves these settings for future use, saving considerable time spent locating and manually entering data into the tax program. For firms renewing ProSystem fx Tax, the system automatically moves proforma data into the latest tax year. ProSystem fx Scan is also worth noting here, since it lets a professional scan client W-2s, K-1s, 1099s and other documents and then automatically identifies the type of document and creates a bookmarked PDF of it. CCH has rolled out an auto scan and fill system for its small practice tax preparation brands (ATX and TaxWise), and will likely release a similar product for ProSystem fx Tax in the coming year.

Integration/ Import & Export -- 5 Stars
All information is transferred throughout the modules seamlessly, including between parent/child returns and pass-through K-1 data. The program also provides great integration between the other ProSystem fx Office products, and can import and export from/to Excel spreadsheets. As well, it can retrieve some data from investment management programs such as GainsKeeper Pro. Returns and reports can also be generated as PDF documents, which can be stored electronically or managed using ProSystem fx Document. Since CCH is an acclaimed producer of original tax research and analysis, having built-in access to this material is a valuable asset, providing subscribers with line-by-line insight and guidance through the Tax Research Network and CCH@Hand.

Support/Training & Help System -- 5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax provides extensive Help options throughout, from right-click menus to a traditional Help utility, as well as quick drill-down access to supporting forms and schedules. The program is fairly easy to use, although, due to its broad functionality, the program is best utilized after some measure of formal training, which is available online or at live training events, including at its annual user conference. CCH’s website provides strong support features, while live technical support is included in the pricing.

Relative Value -- 5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax provides extensive integration within the ProSystem fx Office suite of accounting and tax programs, and it has the ability to handle the most complex returns and taxation issues. The system’s in-form linked access to CCH research materials is a powerful benefit, as are its diagnostic and review processes, making it ideal for firms whose clients have more diverse tax situations.

2008 Overall Rating: 5 Stars