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CCH Tax & Accounting — ZIPsales Returns

This program is an ASP hybrid, offering the benefits of a web-based application as well as offering some features more commonly associated with outsourcing.

ZIPsales Returns is a sales tax
preparation system that supports
all taxing jurisdictions in the
United States.

The program is an
ASP hybrid, offering the benefits
of a web-based application as well
as offering some features more commonly
associated with outsourcing. Although
remotely hosted, the program is
mapped to a company’s financial
applications, automatically completing
necessary forms. That said, the
program is not specifically designed
for use by a financial services
professional, but rather for in-house
use by a client company. Pricing
for the system varies, but starts
around $4,000, which includes automated
return preparation, year-round updates
and e-filing to supporting states.

Because the program is web-based,
the primary user interface is a
standard web browser. After initial
setup of the system, which includes
working with a technical representative
of CCH to map where system files
are located so that they feed into
the correct forms, the program manages
the rest of the process. For most
reporting, no data entry is required
of users, although some forms can
be completed manually if necessary.

The web-based interface provides
user-level security that determines
what access rights individual users
have, providing optional access
to accessing the administrative
functions such as company profile,
user administration, bank account
data and locations information (for
companies with multiple offices
or storefronts), as well as the
return filing process. These primary
functions are accessed via text-based
links that provide a brief description
of the function, aiding infrequent
users in navigation. The system
also provides links to Help and
customer service/support. Although
the system operates online, all
information is stored on secure
servers that protect such data as
bank routing and transit numbers
as well as proprietary company information.

ZIPsales Returns automatically compiles
returns, schedules and worksheets
from data uploaded from the company’s
sales and accounting programs, providing
review-ready returns that are ready
for either paper or electronic submission
to taxing jurisdictions. Depending
on security access rights, users
can review, edit, print and audit
returns from the Returns section,
which also provides access to archived
returns, audit trails and reports.
Users are presented with current
and historical returns in a format
that is sortable by return date,
jurisdiction and other data, with
returns appearing as forms in *.PDF
format that can be directly edited
or approved. The system allows overriding
of return data and logs activities
to the audit trail. The system’s
Return Manager provides management
oversight of the return process,
offering a spreadsheet list of returns
with the amount of tax paid, filing/e-filing
status, as well as GL reference
codes and the ability to import
data from ZIPsales Returns into
the AP system using an Excel format.

CCH also develops compliance software
specifically for telecoms and utilities,
with modules that enable integration
of telecom and utilities tax tables
into any billing system, as well
as tax rate lookup utilities for
those industries.

PAYMENT – 5 Stars

ZIPsales Returns offers options
for electronic filing to jurisdictions
that support it and has electronic
funds transfer capabilities for
remitting tax collections. The system
provides confirmation of both functions,
aiding in the review of return status.
Electronic filing and EFT options
are set up in the taxpayer’s
profile section.

ZIPsales Returns is a web-based
program, so all rate and program
updates are performed by CCH staff
automatically, with no software
or downloads required by users.


Within the web-based interfaces
for ZIPsales are links to program
Help and return filing instructions,
as well as to CCH’s support
center, which includes a FAQ section,
but it is not program specific.
Instead, the section is more geared
toward questions a person might
have prior to purchasing the product.
Phone- and web/e-mail-based support
are included in the cost of the
program. CCH also offers a wide
range of training options, including
web-based and live seminars, hands-on
sessions, computerized tutorials,
and demonstration versions of the

The greatest advantages offered
by ZIPsales are in its web-based
nature and its mapping. The mapping
of financial data to the program
almost completely removes data entry
from the return preparation process,
which can save a great deal of time,
especially for large, multi-jurisdictional
companies. By being web-based, users
have no software to maintain or
updates to keep track of, and users
can easily access the entire system
while away from the office with
just an Internet connection and
their passwords. While the program
can be scaled down to smaller firms,
it is more suited to larger businesses
with multiple geographic locations
with the need to file returns for
numerous jurisdictions. The time
saved from automated return preparation
and not having to maintain the system
will be more significant with these
larger entities.


For this review of sales
and use tax preparation programs,
we rated products on a scale of
one to five stars based on the following:

Navigation & Data Entry – This section looks at an application’s ease-of-use, its navigation tools and how new or infrequent users could perform within the program, as well as how client sales and tax data is delivered to the program: whether by manual entry, import/export, or direct integration with a company?s financial software.

Filing, Electronic Compliance & Payment – As electronic filing has grown in popularity in 1040 and other entity taxes,
it has started to reach into other
applications, including sales and
use tax. This section looks at the
support for electronic filing and
payment of sales and use taxes,
as well as paper return print and
filing functions.

Rate Updates – For very small concerns, keeping up with rate changes may not pose a great challenge, but for those conducting business in several markets, this volatile tax compliance field can be demanding and a drain on staff time. This section addresses how the software vendors provide such updates, whether periodically by CD, downloadable from their web sites, scheduled system downloads or, in the case of web-based programs, automatically. Much of the value in a sales tax compliance package is the relief they provide by not having to keep up with these changes.

Help/Training – This component looks at how the program provides assistance to users
through built-in help utilities,
tutorials, online support centers
and general functionality, in addition
to training options.

Relative Value – This is akin to the proverbial scale of justice, wherein the reviewer offers a subjective opinion of what the value of the software is compared to its price. There is wide disparity in pricing in this review section, so this section looks at whether the added features and functions in the pricier options justify the price. Of course, the final decision on value will be made by the prospective user after determining which features and how much jurisdictional coverage is required for his or her client.

2004 Overall Rating – This final rating provides an overview of how a product scored
in the above categories, and is
the average of those scores rounded
to the nearest half-star.