CFS Tax Software, Inc. — CA and NY Sales Tax Preparer
From the August 2011 Review of Sales & Use Tax Systems
Best Fit: Small and mid-sized businesses with multiple locations and reporting requirements in CA or NY, or firms managing multiple businesses with such requirements.
CFS Tax Software offers several tools for tax, financial planning, live and after-the-fact payroll, tax research, Schedule D basis tracking and small businesses, most designed specifically for tax and accounting professionals managing various processes for their clients. For sales and use tax compliance, the vendor offers programs for California and New York, with support for all entities with sales and use tax reporting for those states, and additional built-in tools for client communications and invoicing. CFS also offers compliance for personal and business property statements for California and Maryland.
Basic System Functions:
The two state sales and use tax systems offered by CFS are independent of each other but share many of the same general feature sets and data-entry routines. This review focuses on the CA Sales Tax Preparer system, which is an installed program that can be on a workstation or networked environment with access for any number of users who can be set up as paid preparers. The program is designed for management of multiple business entities, with the main interface offering a Quick Access client selection list, as well as views of the selected client’s folder and a forms library menu for quickly starting new forms, schedules or other documents.
When selecting a client return, the system first prompts for a filing period, whether the business files monthly, quarterly or annually, then opens into a form replica screen that provides automatic calculation of fields as data is entered. While entering data, line instructions appear at the bottom of the screen. The data-entry sheet also includes links to associated schedules A, B, C and G, and allows for entry of detailed deductions, exemptions and other mitigating data. Although an installed program, it can be downloaded in full from the CFS website and offers built-in automatic update features that download system and rate changes.
CA Sales Tax Preparer offers support for all jurisdictions in the state (as does the NY Sales Tax Preparer system), including those with multiple locations throughout the respective states. The systems do not offer compliance for any other states or jurisdictions. The CA program supports preparation of forms 401, 401-EZ, Schedules A, B, C, G, 1150 prepayment, and also BOE 65, 91, 91-A, 91-B, 101, 135-A, 230, 245-OYE, 345, 392, 400-SPA, 401-DS, 401-E, 468, 531-G, 735, 501-ER Electronic Waste Fee, 501-TF Tire Fee, 501-TK Storage Tank Fee. The NY program offers forms ST-100, 101, 810, 809, 943, 945/1045, and Schedules A, FR H, N/N-ATT, P and W, plus Connecticut form OS-114.
Forms preparation and data entry takes place on replicas of the actual state forms, with built-in tools for distributing sales across jurisdictions within the state. Within forms, the system automatically populates entity EIN, preparer and other static information based on the company files.
CFS uses the Direct Transmit method (XML-based) for filing to the California BOE, and offers ACH electronic payment. Users have the option to instead file electronically and draft a printed check to the BOE. Because of changes to New York law, particularly its stronger e-filing mandates, users of the CFS NY Preparer system are not able to electronically file using the program, but can still use the system to prepare their compliance and then enter the data into the state’s reporting website. This issue arose because of the state not providing a method for software companies to integrate into the system, and so no other programs are currently able to offer NY e-filing, either.
Both the CA and NY systems are locally installed, with tax table updates periodically provided for free download on the CFS website, or they can be set to automatically download and install when available. CD copies of the updates are available on a quarterly basis.
The sales tax systems share a common database structure with other programs available from CFS Software, including TaxTools, Tax Corresponder, W-4 Calculator, Small Business Tools, MD Personal Property, CA 571 Preparer and Financial Planning Tools. This allows for integration of client data between the program and these other applications. The system does not offer import of sales, tax or client data from QuickBooks or other accounting systems.
The programs offer gross sales summary reports, as well as client communication tools such as cover letters, memos, label makers and client letters, as well as invoice generation. Although no output is offered into Word, XML or spreadsheet formats, forms and reports can be saved to PDF using the included PDF printer files, and can be emailed from within the system, although not in an encrypted format.
Both the CA and NY Sales Tax Preparer systems offer traditional Help utilities with index and search functions, as well as line-by-line instructions and module overviews. The company’s website offers instructional videos, FAQs and discussion forums, as well as links to tax-related websites, remote and chat-based support options, phone numbers for contacting free live support and email links.
Executive Summary & Pricing
CA Sales Tax Preparer costs $119, with annual renewal priced at $99 and multi-user network version available for $169 ($149 renewal). NY Sales Tax Preparer costs $169, with annual renewal priced at $149 and multi-user network version available for $219 ($199 renewal). For CA, this pricing includes unlimited preparation, e-filing and electronic payment of returns for any number of business entities. For the NY version, however, changes to New York law have complicated the e-filing procedure, so users are more likely to use the system for preparation only. The systems are simple to use, whether managing one business or several, have great forms libraries and can handle entities with multiple locations within either state.
2011 Overall Rating: