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Universal Tax Systems, a CCH company — ATX MAX

From the April/May 2007 Review
of Professional Tax Preparation Systems

ATX/Kleinrock was acquired last year by CCH, the developer of the high-end
ProSystem line of tax, accounting and engagement products. The company also
acquired TaxWise, and has pledged to continue to develop these two tax systems,
placing them into a new small practice-focused business unit that essentially
gives CCH offerings across the spectrum of accounting and tax practice sizes.
One of the reasons CCH was attracted to the ATX line was its rapid success at
building a very large user base devoted to the program’s exceptional ease-of-use,
comprehensive capabilities and low sticker price. ATX/Kleinrock offerings include
compliance software for all major entities, which are available individually
or in bundles. The system reviewed here is the ATX MAX bundle, which allows
unlimited preparation of federal and state compliance for all entities, with
included e-filing for all supported forms, along with sales and use tax compliance,
W-2/1099 preparation and reporting, and support for up to three users. The MAX
bundle costs $1,065. MAX also incorporates Kleinrock’s 1040 as context-sensitive
Help and includes a copy of the CCH 1040 Express Answers. Other bundles are
available that integrate additional Kleinrock tax research materials.

Learning Curve — 5 Stars
The ATX MAX system opens to a client return list called the Return Manager,
which provides a searchable and sortable spreadsheet with various client data
in columns and includes tabs for viewing AR or the Tax Warehouse, which lets
the preparer or manager access return summaries without wading through client
forms. Additional tabs across the top of the screen also provide access to the
other primary features of the program, including Rollover Manager, Preparer
Manager, E-Service Manager and Bank Manager. After either creating a new client
return or opening one from the Return Manager, the preparer has the option of
working within a form replica or through an Interview system, which guides the
user through data entry with explanations of each field and then populates the
form, which is shown in a panel on the screen. Forms-based entry provides right-click
access to form instructions and other guidance, as well as options for adding
notes, links or other items to entry fields.

Using either entry mode, data is automatically calculated and transferred
between supporting forms, schedules and worksheets as necessary, but the system
allows overriding of fields. It also allows users to mark as estimates, add
other notes, highlight overrides and edits for easy review, and identify them
during the system’s Error Check process. Subsidiary forms and schedules (W-2,
1099, K-1, etc.) can be accessed using tabs across the top of the window while
working within a client return, and other features, including a checklist, summary
and shortcuts to jump directly to return sections contribute to the system’s
exceptional ease-of-use. MAX’s business-oriented features also provide friendly
features, which makes the basic AR and RAL functions simple to use, while providing
decent functions such as client aging reports, multiple billing rates and client
correspondence templates.

Use/Workflow & Productivity Tools — 4 Stars
The general workflow process of the MAX system is straightforward, with the
central hub being the Return Manager and its client list, providing access to
all client returns along with summary client information that can be viewed
using the Easy View feature. This allows users working within a client return
to retrieve basic data from another return without closing out of the current

The program includes diagnostics and error-checking functions in addition
to a checklist to help guide practitioners through traditional return preparation,
but it does not include a formal review process. MAX allows preparers or managers
to drill down to associated forms, schedules and worksheets, and users can also
create links between fields and documents or add comments as needed, including
noting of field entries as estimates. Miscellaneous text statements can also
be added to returns without them linking to specific forms or fields. Whether
using the Interview or Form data-entry method, the system offers excellent support
throughout the return preparation process, including receivables management,
client letter and invoice templates, and various tutorials. Online client organizers
are available, allowing for the automatic transfer of client data into the tax
preparation system.

The system includes a sales and use tax compliance program and W-2/1099 preparation,
as well as basic AR (which includes invoicing functions), and a depreciation
schedule and quick calculator function. The MAX Office and Total Tax Office
bundles in the ATX line also include Kleinrock tax research products that integrate
into the MAX preparation system, providing additional line-by-line assistance
and insight into tax treatments. For client identity security, the system includes
a preference option that will prevent the printing of SSNs. For paperless processes,
MAX allows generation of returns and other documents into PDF format.

Integration/Import & Export — 3.5 Stars
MAX shares data throughout the system as needed for various entity types, including
K-1 data and parent/child returns. The system enables users to import data from
QuickBooks and Peachtree into both individual and business returns, and supports
import of Excel-formatted spreadsheets. Integrated tax research is available
in some of the ATX tax preparation packages.

Support/Training & Help System — 4.5 Stars
MAX includes line-by-line instructions accessible either through the Interview
or Form-based data-entry mode, as well as content-specific Help, tutorials,
FAQs, an online support center, web-based training options, and the ATXers web-based
community of tax professionals where users interact and assist each other with
tax treatments. The program is exceptionally easy to use, but toll-free tech
support is available if needed.

Relative Value — 5 Stars
As with other tax preparation systems geared toward smaller practices, pricing
for ATX has decreased significantly over the past few years, while the quality
of the program has increased. The MAX system is an outstanding bargain for a
smaller tax practice with clients whose compliance needs are generally not too
complex. The program includes support for up to three preparers included in
the base price, and provides a strong feature set that includes compliance for
all primary entities with federal and state e-filing included, as well as W-2/1099
and sales and use tax compliance. With form and interview data-entry methods,
the system should require little training or time for users to become proficient.

2007 Overall Rating — 4.5 Stars