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Universal Tax Systems, a CCH company — TaxWise

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

TaxWise, as well as ATX/Kleinrock, was acquired late last year by CCH Incorporated,
the maker of the ProSystem fx brand of tax and accounting applications.
The company has noted that TaxWise and ATX will continue as tax preparation
software lines for the small and mid-market, with these two “power brands” being
operated from a new business unit. These acquisitions provide CCH with broad
market coverage that essentially increased its user base threefold. A variety
of bundled versions of the TaxWise system are available, including packages
focused on 1040, business entities, full compliance and pay-per-return pricing,
with support available for all taxing states and Puerto Rico. Trial balance,
fixed asset management, write-up and other associated programs are also available,
as is integration with CCH tax research platforms. The $2,295 TaxWise Power
Package is reviewed here, offering preparation and filing capabilities for 1040,
1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 706, 709, 990 and 5500, with all states and unlimited
e-filing included. All client organizers and interview forms are included in
both English and Spanish.

Learning Curve — 4.5 Stars
TaxWise has retained its primary workspace, with the system opening to the master
work window, which initially provides a login panel. A subwindow also appears,
slowing the user to select the tax module (1040, 1041, 1120, etc.) in which
he or she wishes to work. The primary workspace prominently houses an automatically
created linked list of “Tasks You Do Most Often” that is customized to the user,
along with a menu for accessing incomplete tasks, communication tools, an appointment
manager and other features. The screen includes several buttons for tasks such
as starting, opening or printing returns, utilizing the program’s diagnostics,
or visiting TaxWise University, one of the support functions for users.

The screen also has tabs that can be customized by the user to access websites
from within the program, such as the IRS, customer support, the firm’s website
or preferred research sources. The Existing Tax Returns subwindow also provides
a spreadsheet client selection list that displays summary client data and offers
a variety of search, sort and filter options. When working within returns, users
have the option of forms-based or interview-based data entry, with line-specific
instructions and guidance appearing in a panel below the form or worksheet and
a folder tree menu on the left, which allows users to quickly see what forms,
schedules and worksheets are included with the return, with one-click access
to them. This folder tree also uses checkmarks and other tags to display complete
and incomplete forms.

A Refund Monitor keeps the client’s AGI and Refund/Due amount on-screen at
all times. New forms can easily be added by selecting the option from a tab
or from a comprehensive forms list available from one of the system’s pull-down
menus, or the user can opt to use the program’s numerous hot key shortcuts for
functions. The system offers generally intuitive navigation and very useful
assistance features that should ease both new and seasoned preparers. Numerous
forms and the client organizers are available in English and Spanish, as is
the preparer interface.

Use/Workflow & Productivity Tools — 4 Stars
TaxWise includes user-level security features that restrict access to client
returns and allow practices to group clients, resulting in client selection
lists that only display and allow access to clients with whom a preparer has
rights to work. Within client returns, data automatically flows as needed between
forms and associated documents, including K-1 pass-throughs and parent-child
returns. It uses color coding to show which data has been calculated, transferred
or overridden. The preparer can also jump to associated worksheets and schedules
from fields on the primary form. Users can also create custom links from any
field or attach notes or comments as needed. TaxWise also includes many “smart
list” selection fields that allow the user to select common information from
automatically built lists, such as EIN, city and state, as well as a ZIP Code
database that fills in all city and state information after entering a postal

If using a TaxWise-based website, which is free to all its users, the built-in
appointment scheduler can allow clients to schedule their own appointments.
Diagnostic tools help check for errors and omissions, providing the reviewer
with a comprehensive list of items that should be checked. The program also
includes a time clock that can show aggregated average time per return per preparer
and other data that is useful for management purposes. The system’s new Document
Manager function allows printing directly to PDF, which can aid in paperless
productivity, and enables scanning to PDF of W-2s, 1099s and 1098s. However,
the program does not have automatic document recognition or population of scanned

TaxWise includes many workflow tools geared toward commercial preparers, including
extensive bank options and also the CashWise card, which is an alternative to
RALs and IRALs, offering unbanked clients a way to receive their refund on a
debit card. This function can be used whether or not the client uses a loan
product. TaxWise users also have access to marketing tools such as posters and
advertisements that can be customized for their local market and practice. The
TaxWise system can also be opened more than once on a computer at the same time,
allowing a preparer who is working within a return to easily open another client
without closing the first. This feature can also be useful when preparing treatments
or parent-child returns and, if utilizing dual monitors, the returns can be
viewed side-by-side.

Integration/Import & Export — 4 Stars
Calculations are performed in real-time as data is entered and flows as needed
within a return and between associated returns. The program supports printing
to PDF and can house scanned-in documents, while integration with the TaxWise
Trial Balance and Asset Management systems is also available. As part of the
new CCH division, TaxWise developers have greatly expanded resources, and the
company has announced plans to offer a variety of accounting programs starting
this spring, including Client Write-Up, Payroll and a new scanning program.
The new TaxWise line of accounting programs are being built specifically for
the small and mid-sized market, and the company states that pricing will be
consistent with this customer base, as well. TaxWise also imports from many
third-party accounting applications, and free data conversion is available.
The program does not integrate tax research into the system, but CCH and BNA
research options are available as a standalone.

Support/Training & Help System — 5 Stars
TaxWise TV and TaxWise University provide outstanding user support tools, with
online training, tests, tutorials and other options. The company actually owns
its own television production studio from which TaxWise TV is broadcast over
the Internet, providing live, online broadcasts throughout the year and daily
during tax season. Programs focus on how-tos, new program features, productivity
tips, training, and notification to users of system updates. The program’s built-in
Help utility, online support center and additional tools also provide good support.
Support is free, and live training and seminars are available.

Relative Value — 4 Stars
TaxWise is ideally suited to high-volume and multi-location tax preparation
operations that need an easy-to-use system with streamlined workflow processes
that help them serve clients as efficiently as possible. While the program incorporates
functions such as data pass-through and other features that may be attractive
to any firm, its best fit is with tax practices whose clients generally have
less-complex returns. Further benefits for these firms can be found in its variety
of bank programs, bilingual options, and its simplicity for new and temp staff.

2007 Overall Rating — 4.5 Stars