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American Riviera Software Corporation — Magtax For 2005

the Oct. 2006 Review of Practice Management Systems

Riviera Software was founded in 2000, but Magtax has actually been around since
the 1980s, first written two years after magnetic media filing began. Initial
versions ran on mini computers. Magtax for DOS was created and subsequently
migrated to Windows.In 1997 or 1998, American Riviera Software was contacted
by a company that ran summer camps. The company had 3,000 employees and used
QuickBooks for payroll. Responding to the client’s need, American Riviera
Software created its first QuickBooks import utility.

The plan for 2006 is to bring a QuickBooks DIRECT import utility to market.
In fact, a version of the 2006 Magtax software (Magtax Pro version, see below,
which was not available for review at the time this was written) will feature
an import utility that can be distributed to individual clients for creation
of W-2/1099 import files for re-submission to the (licensing) accountant.Magtax
for 2006 will be sold in three versions: QuickBooks (Single Company with Direct
QB Import capability) for users who do not need diverse import abilities, Magtax
Standard (with unlimited companies/records, imports from QuickBooks and others),
and Magtax Professional (Standard version plus distributable import module –
unlimited). New licenses are $99, $149, and $249 respectively. Annual updates
are 50 percent of the new user price. Magtax is designed to run on most every
Windows-based system currently in use today, including Windows 98/ME/NT4/2000/XP/2003
with a minimum of 256MB of RAM, 35MB of disk space, a laser printer and an Internet
connection for live updates.

Gary Weiss works in the tax department of White Zuckerman Warsavsky Luna Wolf
& Hunt, LLP, a medium-sized accounting firm in Sherman Oaks, California,
with approximately 60 professionals that specialize in forensic, commercial
and tax accounting issues. “We service the needs of high net worth individuals,
do estate tax planning and work closely with our business entrepreneurs to enhance
all aspects of their businesses,” Weiss noted.

“Initially, we had one client with 1,000 1099s,” he said. “Accordingly,
these 1099s must be transmitted to the IRS electronically.” After much
searching, Weiss decided to use the Magtax program. “This was based on
both the product and the personal support I received from the owner,”
he said. “Once in place, and after the rest of the firm discovered that
filing electronically extended the filing deadline until March 31, we quickly
added the balance of our clients to transmit all 1099s electronically.”
Weiss especially appreciates the program’s ease of use and its ability
to deal with small and large databases.

Usability/Navigation — 3.5 Stars
The system is easy to understand, but is time-consuming to use in practice.
Separate client records are created in the program database (called a “dataset,”
which is unique to each client). Likewise, a single employee/W-2 screen is used
for W-2 entry while a separate payee “maintenance” screen is used
to set up each 1099 vendor. After payee setup is completed, 1098 or 1099 payment
records are completed. The terminology is confusing and needs to be updated.
Users need to be given the ability to quickly add payee records on-screen —
input that makes sense because it looks like something that the user knows (i.e.,
a facsimile of a Form W-2 or 1099) — onscreen data input — quick,
down and dirty.

My testing was done on the 2005 system and, unfortunately, I found the system
was less than fault tolerant. I was able to lock up screens by using them in
other than the intended manner or by clicking a field I was not supposed to
click. It’s great to have a system that can import records from popular
software systems, but it’s equally important to practitioners to have
an easy, foolproof method to enter that occasional Form W-2 or 1099 that is
not being imported. Manual data entry needs to be more than just functional.

Reporting & Import/Export Capabilities — 3.5 Stars
Magtax supports import of data from comma-delimited (notably from Excel), QuickBooks
W-2 and QuickBooks 1099 (via the included import utility), TIB4, and DOS *.TXT
files that conform to the specified field definitions. Magtax prepares Form(s)
W-2, W-3, 1098, 1099-MISC, 1099-INT, 1099-B, 1099-S and 1099-C.

Support for Paperless Transmission — 4 Stars
Magtax supports creation of electronic files required for paperless transmission
to the IRS and SSA. For 2005, Magtax did not support multiple clients spanning
a single electronic file. This limitation works well for individual reporting
companies — those who buy Magtax for their own separate reporting use.
However, for accountants who process W-2s and 1099s for many clients, each client
must be uploaded separately to the IRS and SSA. I was told that the 2006 version
will incorporate this needed ability.

Help/Training — 4 Stars
Magtax includes a Help file, which is built into the product. Unfortunately,
Help is not available for every data-entry field. A new 166-page manual in *.PDF
form is available for download or printing. Magtax has online FAQs and a knowledgebase.
However, a more in-depth knowledgebase is presently being developed in tandem
with redevelopment of the support system. Technical support is provided via

2006 Overall Rating: 4 Stars