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Thomson Tax & Accounting — GoSystem Tax ES


From the April/May 2008 Review
of Tax Compliance Suites

GoSystem Tax ES is widely viewed as the premier tax compliance system and
is used by all of the Big 4 firms and most of the top 10. Although it originated
as a CD-based product two decades ago, it evolved as an online program, which
gives the benefit of automated updates and no maintenance. The program is geared
toward larger practices and offers extensive formal review and multi-preparer
functions, essential features for firms that provide compliance services to
corporate clients and high net worth individuals with very complex tax situations.
One of the core features that sets the system apart from many of the others
is its tight integration with RIA’s Checkpoint research platform and the
other content available from Thomson.

All federal and state entity types are available as modules within GoSystem
Tax ES, including 1040, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 706, 709, 990 and 5500, along
with most municipal, country and special jurisdiction reporting requirements.
Pricing varies depending on the specific entities, states and users. First year
federal 1040 price starts at $2,500 and includes 706, 709, 1040, 1041, 1065,
1120/1120S, 5500, and 990). States are priced separately. Most firms are able
to utilize GoSystem Tax ES for an affordable rate when selecting only the modules
needed. In addition to GoSystem Tax ES, Thomson offers UltraTax CS, which is
reviewed on page 24 of this issue.

General Operations/ Ease-of-Use — 4.5 Stars
The program can be used from any location where the professional has access
to a high-speed connection, and opens through the web browser. The default interface
provides a simplified search-and-filter function for finding client returns,
with options for limiting by type of entity, completed returns and tax year.
Also available is the ability to sort lists by name, client code and locator,
as well as by the first few characters of a column. When the selected search
is displayed, users only see and have access to those clients for whom they
have access rights. Menus across the top and left side of the window also offer
text-based links for starting a new return, performing setup tasks, reviewing
case studies and weekly Hot Topics, or accessing the Help utility.

When viewing the return search results, the left-hand menu changes to provide
additional options, including assignment of preparers, milestone creation and
monitoring, time logs, document management information, and access to utilities
and support. When a return is selected and opened, the program launches a subwindow
that appears very much like a traditional Windows-based program, providing icons
and pull-down menus across the top, while a two-tabbed menu on the left gives
access to a Client Organizer or a full list of Tax Forms available for that
type of entity.

GoSystem Tax ES offers both interview and form-based modes of data entry. Calculations
can be set to automatically process as data is entered, with information automatically
transferred between forms and schedules as necessary, including between associated
forms and entities such as K-1 pass-throughs and parent/child returns. All fields
with calculated or transferred data provide drilldown access to supporting worksheets
or schedules. Users can access a return summary or view a replica of the form
(in addition to the form-based data-entry mode). They can also attach documents
to client returns or add edit and review marks to any field. Access to various
management functions is restricted to authorized users. GoSystem Tax ES is powerful
but maintains an efficient and generally user-friendly atmosphere that is best
utilized with some form of training.

Workflow & Productivity Tools — 5 Stars
As previously mentioned, GoSystem Tax ES offers an extensive feature set that
is focused on firms with very complex client returns that require multiple professionals
to work on each. It provides exhaustive review-focused tools, including excellent
collaboration tools that allow multiple preparers/reviewers to access the return
simultaneously, along with due-diligence checklists and the ability to set notes,
tickmarks and other comments to any line, or to lock out specific lines from
allowing future changes (subject to administrative override, of course). Individual
users can also be engaged with multiple returns at the same time.

Smart entry functions during data entry speed the process, and all data flows
throughout the various modules of the system as necessary, with all transferred
data in the program providing drilldown capabilities for easy access to source
documents and related schedules/worksheets. The web-based program also has powerful
diagnostics and security features, including a full-time audit trail and return
history function that monitors all return activity. Since the program is hosted
by Thomson, the company is also able to provide professional users with advanced
datamining capabilities that enable detailed searches and filtering across all
returns and datasets. Additionally, GoSystem Tax ES’s web-based nature
gives professionals the ability to hold virtual meetings with clients, who can
access online data organizers, which then feed data directly into the compliance

The system’s integration with Checkpoint and TaxAlerts for research functions
is very valuable for managing complex clients and for keeping abreast of tax
legislation and code that may affect them. In addition to not having to perform
program updates or maintain large IT infrastructure for the program, which lessens
the burden on the IT department, the online system’s anywhere/anytime
accessibility can also help ensure business continuance in the case of a disaster
or other interruption.

Integration/ Import & Export — 5 Stars
Through integration with Thomson’s CS Professional Suite of accounting
products (asset management, trial balance and engagement), GoFileRoom for document
management, and Checkpoint for research, GoSystem Tax ES fits well within a
high-end workflow environment. The program can export returns and other documents
directly to bookmarked PDFs, and users can attach Word and Excel files to client
returns. It can also import from various third-party programs, including trial
balance and asset management systems.

Support/Training & Help System — 5 Stars
Although users can familiarize themselves with the basics of the program in
a short time, formal training is a must in order to take full advantage of the
true collaboration and workflow features GoSystem Tax ES offers. Both live and
web-based training options are offered, along with classes at Thomson’s
annual user conference. The system includes good right-click menu options and
a fairly traditional Help utility, and the company offers a good online support
center with tutorials, user guides and other options. Phone support is included
in pricing.

Relative Value — 4.5 Stars
As client returns grow more complex and require more eyes on them both during
preparation and review processes, advanced review and collaboration tools become
a must, and those offered within the web-based GoSystem Tax ES are the most
powerful available, providing strong security, due-diligence checklists, a myriad
of review marks and notes, and final approval processes prior to filing. The
system is exquisite in design and function, and is a brute when it comes to
capabilities. And it is priced as such, making it best-suited to larger practices
or others who process very complex client returns.

2008 Overall Rating: 5 Stars