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2007 Review of Fixed Asset Systems

Asset Management Services are Important for Clients

From the December 2007 Issue

Every business, large and small, has assets that help them perform their work
or deliver the services they provide their clients. Whether a company is retail
oriented, a restaurant, manufacturing or service-based, things like computers,
machinery, vehicles and even real estate are crucial to operations and are entitled
to special treatment under tax law depending upon the type of item, the industry
and other factors.

Understanding how and why things depreciate in their value to a company is
important, especially when determining the best available depreciation strategy
for a particular asset. After all, fixed asset management is as much an art
as it is a science because businesses and their accounting professionals often
have options on how to treat an item. Once upon a time, about 15 years ago,
the process was perhaps simpler in concept (there were fewer special treatments
and conventions), but since the work was done manually on spreadsheets (or on
paper) it was much more difficult to manage even smaller numbers of business

several programs are available now, generally database-driven systems with strong
calculation capabilities that greatly ease the entire asset management process,
from acquisition through disposal. For asset life events, the systems make it
easy to split, unsplit or combine assets, while also allowing revaluation, partial
and mass dispositions, and like-kind exchanges. Assets can also be grouped into
a business’ subsidiary units or by geographic location or cost center.
To comply with federal and state regulations, and to assist in accurate business
valuation, asset management systems also help maintain clear and accurate documentation
and audit trails, showing how assets have been depreciated and what methods
were used. But these are mostly organizational functions.

Determining the depreciation treatment that provides the best overall financial
benefit to the business, and that follows GAAP and FASB conventions, is the
“meat and potatoes” of asset management programs. And it’s
a complex process, especially considering that every taxing entity and other
parties allow and require different treatment of assets. To manage them differently,
asset management systems allow users to maintain multiple books for assets,
always including federal, book, AMT, ACE and state, and often also allowing
multiple customized books.

Programs also help the user select the appropriate classification for an asset,
including whether it is an asset of a farm, Indian Reservation, Indian Farm
or governmental entity, which have different allowances than regular assets.
After determining the class, these programs help with application of depreciation
methods, including MACRS and ACRS rules, Sum-of-the-Years’ Digits, Listed
Auto, Amortization, Straight-Line, Units of Production, Declining Balance and
eligibility of bonus depreciation under Section 179. For this review of asset
management programs, the following criteria were addressed:

  • Navigation/Ease-of-Use. This is critical to any software
    program, but especially for those dealing with functions as complex as asset
  • Management Features. Here we address the books and depreciation
    methods supported by each of the programs, examine how the system performs
    general functions and discuss additional productivity-enhancing features within
    each system.
  • Integration. Fixed asset depreciation management may not
    be only a tax function, but it can be an important part of the reporting process
    for many entities. Many advanced systems offer integration with professional
    tax preparation packages, as well as with GL and write-up programs, allowing
    users to easily transfer data between these various systems without manual
    re-entry or complex processes.
  • Reporting. Government entities want forms and worksheets,
    accountants need journal summaries, and clients benefit from knowing what
    their business’ assets are worth to them … and when/how they can
    plan for disposition and replacement. Therefore, asset management programs
    provide various output options like PDF and export to Excel, while some of
    the programs in this review even offer fileable versions of federal and state
  • Help/Support. The Help and assistance features within a
    program are crucial. And additional resources such as online support centers
    can greatly ease new users as they transition into a new program, as well
    as benefit other users looking for guidance on specific functions. This section
    also identifies whether tech support is included with a system’s pricing
    or requires additional charges.
  • Summary. This final section gives an overview of each of
    the programs’ primary features and strongest functionality areas, and
    it identifies the types of users most likely to benefit from the system.

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BNA Software – BNA Fixed Assets
Desktop Pro
BNA Fixed Assets is a comprehensive asset depreciation
management system designed to give professional accountants or in-house
controllers the ability to organize and track large asset bases across
any number of client companies and their subsidiaries. It combines multiple
book capabilities, powerful calculation features and integrated expert
guidance into a system that can be used by single professionals or in
larger, networked offices.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
– ProSystem fx Fixed Assets
ProSystem fx Fixed Assets provides professional
accounting firms with a comprehensive fixed assets management system capable
of handling any number of clients with large asset bases and subsidiary
CCH Small Firm Services – Fixed
Asset Manager for TaxWise & ATX
Since CCH acquired TaxWise and ATX last year and
started its Small Firm Services division, both of the primarily tax-oriented
systems have benefitted from the addition of several general accounting
programs and now include write-up, trial balance, payroll, document management
and the new fixed asset management modules.
CMI Software, Inc. – CMI Fixed
CMI Fixed Assets, formerly branded as THE SYSTEM,
provides a highly scalable and comprehensive fixed asset management and
depreciation program that can be used by professional accounting practices
with multiple clients or implemented by companies in-house. CMI Fixed Assets supports any number of companies and subdivisions or cost
centers, with as many as 250,000 assets assigned to each, making it more than
capable for most entities.
Intuit – ProSeries Professional
Fixed Asset Manager
The ProSeries Professional Fixed Asset Manager
provides an automated asset depreciation system that is an add-on module
to the ProSeries professional tax compliance program. Fixed Asset Manager can support any number of clients and assets per client and
provides multiple books per asset, supports all traditional averaging
conventions and depreciation methods, and provides for multiple asset life event

MoneySoft — Fixed Asset Pro
MoneySoft’s Fixed Asset Pro provides an easy-to-use asset management system that can be used either in-house by businesses with subsidiary entities or by public accounting professionals who provide depreciation services for multiple clients.
Pro-Ware – Asset Keeper
Pro-Ware’s Asset Keeper provides a simple
program for managing assets and calculating depreciation, and it can be
used either by professional accountants serving multiple clients or in-house
by small and midsize businesses.
Real Asset Management International,
Inc. – Asset Station
In addition to offering asset management solutions
for enterprise-level organizations with hundreds of thousands of assets,
Real Asset Management International offers the Asset Station system, a
lower-cost depreciation management program geared for small and midsize
concerns with up to 1,000 assets.
Red Moon Solutions – Fixed Assets
The Fixed Assets Manager (FAM) system from Red
Moon Solutions (initially developed, used and offered by Arthur Andersen)
is a high-end asset depreciation and management system designed for use
by professional accountants.
Sage Software – FAS 100 Asset Accounting
FAS 100 Asset Accounting is a professional fixed asset management system offered by Sage Software.
The program provides advanced depreciation calculations that take into account more than 300,000 GAAP and IRS tax rules related to fixed asset valuation,
treatments and depreciation.
Thomson Tax & Accounting – Fixed
Assets CS
As a part of the Thomson CS Professional Suite
of accounting and practice management applications, Fixed Assets CS is
designed for use by accounting professionals who manage depreciable assets
for multiple clients, with the ability to track subsidiary units, cost
centers, geographic locations and other asset groupings.