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CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business — ProSystem fx Tax

From the April/May 2006 Review of
Tax Prep Suites

CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business, offers a full suite of accounting and tax applications
through its ProSystem fx Office line, including ProSystem fx
Tax, which provides professionals with a comprehensive preparation and research
system that supports all compliance needs for all federal entities, as well
as all states and local government entities with filing requirements. Each of
the program’s modules can be purchased individually, or in bundled packages,
and can be enhanced with the addition of the vendor’s associated products,
which include practice management, research, trial balance, engagement and fixed
asset management. A four-user license of ProSystem fx Tax with modules
capable of meeting the needs of the prototype firm outlined in the introduction
would cost about $11,000, although non-advertised discounts, promotional offers
and bundling can reduce this investment. CCH also offers pay-per-return licensing
of its products.

Jim Sharvin, CPA, of Columbus, Ohio-based Sharvin & Associates, CPAs (
uses CCH’s Global fx suite due to the diversity of his practice,
which keeps him on the road quite a bit, both domestically and internationally.
“Using Global fx does not constrict me to a single office location,
and I can access both source documents and tax returns via the Internet wherever
I can access the Web,” he notes.

Since the Global fx product is virtually the same as ProSystem fx,
there was no learning curve involved, and Sharvin has great peace of mind using
the company’s secure servers. He recommends that new and potential users
take time during a slower time of the year to install and upload a few test
returns, and then be ready to jump into Global fx feet first when tax
season rolls around. Sharvin has migrated his entire tax practice to Global
fx and has had no software or performance issues through three tax seasons.
“Technology is a key element to the success of any growing tax and accounting
firm in the 21st Century,” he said.

“Clients have the option of e-faxing me data, dropping off data at my
office to be scanned and stored online, or using Tax Notebook to get started,”
he explains. “Sitting behind a desk in my old office does not make me
an innovative CPA,” Sharvin says. “I need to be out in the world
interacting and digging up new business opportunities, and Global fx
gives me the tools to accomplish my goals each year.”

Learning Curve — 4 Stars
Since last year’s redesign of the interface, ProSystem fx Tax
is a much more user-friendly application, offering crisp and well-engineered
screens that help guide users through system functions with intuitive icons,
menus and selection lists. Most ProSystem fx Office applications share
the same general interface and integrate with each other, helping reduce redundant
data entry and ensuring consistency of client data.

The tax preparation system opens by default to a client selection screen that
shows the user the returns available in their Office Group for which they have
authorization to work. The open return screen has a number of other options,
as well, including most recently used return (default), results list created
by the most recent client/return search or returns in user inbox. The selection
list includes sortable columnar data, as well as extensive search and filtering
criteria available in a menu on the left side of the screen. Within client returns,
the program allows data entry via both interview and forms-based methods, as
well as a worksheet view, all of which are accompanied by a Navigation panel
on the left that allows users to move quickly between forms using an expandable
menu tree.

Data entry is aided by “smart list” selection screens for several
common entry fields, letting users select a previously entered item such as
city, state, employer or ZIP Code from a pull-down list. Although the system
automatically performs the tasks and maintains them in the appropriate databases,
calculated, overridden and transferred amounts do not update on-screen automatically.
Instead, this requires the user to refresh the screen using the Calc Return
button. Overall, the system is generally intuitive, but since the system offers
such a vast array of features it may take users a little time to gain true proficiency
with it. Training, as part of an in-house routine or through the vendor, would
be greatly beneficial to new users.

Use/Workflow & Productivity Tools — 5 Stars
One of the key advantages to the ProSystem fx suite of products is
the thorough integration between all of its various components, including the
external accounting-focused applications, as well as internally within the tax
program. Within returns, either in interview or forms mode, users can drill
down to the source forms, schedules and worksheets for calculated or transferred
data, and can access explanations and instructions for any field by simply double-clicking
on the entry field. Double-clicking on date entry fields prompts an on-screen

The program eases K-1 data transfer between individual and partnership/corp
returns, and includes a dynamic K-1 import/export utility that integrates with
Excel. The system uses field shading to note overridden and estimate entries,
with overrides only accessible by authorized users. Additionally, an audit trail
of all changes within a client return is available, along with additional management
tools, productivity analysis functions and reporting options. Preparation and
management staff can utilize tick marks and attach notes to fields, aiding in
the review process. The strong return diagnostic function helps locate missing
data and identify errors, while also offering options for potentially increasing
credits or deductions. The company added specialized support for dual monitors
for TY2005.

Additional tools for the user include a time clock that can integrate with
ProSystem fx Practice, the Client Manager, and a To Do List function
that eases task management and due-date monitoring. Through integration with
CCH’s tax research offerings, the program’s DataScan Plus can alert
users to specific clients that may be affected by tax code changes. An optional
electronic client organizer function is also available, which can directly feed
client data input into their return pending approval and review by the firm.

Integration/Import & Export — 5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax’s thorough integration with other CCH products
aids in the overall value of the system, enabling automated K-1 data transfer,
as well as allowing data import between the asset management, engagement and
trial balance programs. CCH’s Tax Research NetWork can also be accessed
from within the system and can be used to attach research materials directly
to client returns. In addition to its integration with GainsKeeper Pro, the
program offers integration with some Sage Software products and with BNA. With
GL Direct, the program can also import from write-up products that can produce
reports in ASCII format. ProSystem fx Tax can export and import files
in spreadsheet format and offers extensive import/export capabilities with Excel
and Word. The system can save returns in *.PDF format. Conversions are free
for users of most major tax preparation systems.

Support/Training & Help System — 5 Stars
The built-in Help utility within ProSystem fx Tax is fully developed,
providing multiple right-click assistance features, including access to line-by-line
instructions and guidance, as well as links to the CCH support web site and
other online resources. A variety of training options is available, including
live and online seminars, web-conferences and on-site programs, with additional
options available at the company’s annual user conference.

Product Evolution & Vendor Vision – 5 Stars
CCH has continued aggressive expansion and development of the ProSystem fx
line of products, both through in-house program design and through acquisition.
As the system has matured, it has grown increasingly comprehensive, and integration
between disparate modules has increased, which in turn helps the productivity
of the program’s users. The tax system has seen recent improvements to
its interface, online options, streamlined input methods and increased printing
flexibility. All of these factors demonstrate that the company recognizes that
continued evolution of the program is necessary to meet the continually evolving
needs of tax professionals.

Relative Value — 4.5 Stars
ProSystem fx Tax is not intended to be an off-the-shelf system, which
is evidenced by its price-point and its exceptional capabilities. The program
is geared for midsize and larger tax practices, or those of any size that routinely
handle complex returns that require a strong preparation and rigid review process.
However, the company noted that a significant percentage of its customers are
firms with five or fewer staff. Because of the suite’s integration capabilities,
ProSystem fx Tax is optimized when used in
conjunction with other ProSystem fx programs, including the write-up,
trial balance, engagement, practice management, research and fixed asset management

2006 Overall Rating — 5 Stars