2011 Review of Thomson Reuters — Planner CS

Thomson Reuters — Planner CS
800-968-8900

www.cs.thomsonreuters.com 

From the November 2011 Review of Professional Tax Planning programs.

Best Fit:

With tight integration among the tax preparation, research, document management, portals and other solutions from Thomson Reuters, Planner CS is best suited to users of the vendor’s CS Professional Suite, but can also be valuable as a stand-alone system.

Strengths:

  • Includes tax code for federal & all income taxing states
  • Special Watch Window & Results Finder Tools
  • Seamless integration with tax, document management, portals
  • Comprehensive calculations & analysis features
  • Unlimited years of projections
  • Excellent customizable reporting

Potential Limitations:

  • Limited data output formats

 

Planner CS is a comprehensive individual income tax planning system designed to be used as either a stand-alone program or as an integrated component of the CS Professional Suite from Thomson Reuters. The program includes tools and features for optimizing tax strategies and avoiding penalties, and offers analysis tools and customizable client-ready reporting. When used with the CS Professional Suite, users also benefit from integration with tax preparation, practice management, portal and document management utilities.

Basic System Functions - 5 Stars

Planner CS opens into a home page that includes a list of recently used client plans, links to related guides and research, and system-wide defaults, such as setting up individual users and passwords, using the auto-calculation function, reporting templates and graphics options. When setting up clients, users determine the number of years and alternatives, assign resident and non-resident states and enter other general client information on a simple tabbed entry screen.

The main work screens for Planner CS open into an exceptionally well-designed spreadsheet view with columns displaying years for each of the alternatives/cases, and rows showing calculated or input data for top-level return information, such as filing status, exemptions, income, adjustments, AGI, deductions, AMT, credits, resulting federal and state taxes, and many other items. The screen also provides broad category tabs that let users jump to more detailed data entry for those top-level items, such as income. It also offers the option to move directly to the most detailed screens, which are form worksheets, such as for short-term capital gains and losses, business/farm income, retirement distributions, interest and dividends, and other items. Buttons at the top of the screen also allow movement between federal and state data. From the main planner tab, users can quickly access tax projections, analyses, carry forwards and AMT.

Users can choose to have calculations automatically performed across all plans as data is entered, and the system notes all overrides of fields, and offers a quick list of these items. Other features include Watch Windows, which lets users keep key tax areas in view, such as AMT or Tax. Planner CS can be used to manage any number of client tax plans and supports any number of staff users, with file locking while in use, and the ability to password protect client files.

Core Tax Planning Features - 5 Stars

Planner CS is a planning powerhouse, offering a comprehensive and flexible collection of projection tools and analyses, based on current tax law, enacted future changes, income limit phase-outs, and inflation indexed factors. It can be used to produce plans extending out an indefinite number of years, with up to 50 scenarios each.

The system’s interface and Watch Windows make it easy to quickly see the effects of variables on key tax concerns, and offers tools for filing status comparisons, making incremental percentage or fixed-amount changes to income, and determining estimate tax payments and withholding. The Results Finder feature helps identify ways to reach a desired goal by calculating necessary tax thresholds. Other built-in calculations also help to evaluate taxes resulting from Roth conversions with multi-year distribution, AMT and ACG.

Planner CS supports resident tax planning for all 45 states with an individual income tax, including the ability to attach any number of non-resident states, with built-in tax code for each. This allows users to view the effects of different alternatives at the state and federal levels.

Reporting - 4.75 Stars

For customizable reporting, Planner CS also receives high marks, offering options for output that include batch, year, alternative/case, and single tab printing. A built-in report writer and designer provides further customization capabilities, giving professionals full control over report output, creation of accompanying client letters, and the addition of graphical elements such as charts, making the tax plans more reader-friendly for clients.

Reports can be saved to Word, RTF or PDF, and the program includes direct linking to the FileCabinet CS document management system, which offers more extensive digital archiving and client collaboration tools. Additionally, files can be shared with clients via the vendor’s NetClient CS Portals offering.

Import/Export/Integration - 4.5 Stars

Planner CS seamlessly integrates with the UltraTax CS and GoSystem Tax RS preparation systems, as well as with the previously mentioned document management and portal solutions. The system does not offer direct import of data from outside formats, but does allow generation of reports and letters to Word, RTF and PDF. The program includes direct links to the Checkpoint research system and the IRS website.

Help/Support - 5 Stars

Extensive right-click options include access to online research, task-specific Help, column copying functions, the Watch Windows, the Results Finder feature and many other functions. The Help utility provides traditional index-based assistance and FAQs. Online support offerings include a knowledgebase, program documentation, tax news, demos, videos and access to the ARNE online user community. Live support is included with system pricing, and Planner CS supports all modern versions of Windows.

Summary & Pricing

Planner CS is an exceptional scenario-based tax planning solution, with features and tools that are capable of handling the most complex high income clients. The system is built upon a solid base of federal tax law, as well as code for all income-taxing states. With tight integration among the tax preparation, research, document management, portals and other solutions from Thomson Reuters, Planner CS is best suited to those users, but can also be a valuable addition as a stand-alone planning program. Pricing starts at $655 for the federal-only system, with states addable as needed.

2011 Overall Rating: 4.75 Stars

 

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