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2009 Review of Fixed Asset Management Programs

Effective Asset Management Requires More Than Spreadsheets

From the Dec. 2009 Issue

Professionals who manage corporate accounting and tax compliance know the
intricacies of depreciation. And while individual filers may have need for asset
depreciation and business expense calculations for their Schedule C businesses,
their asset bases are generally very small and change infrequently, making easy
work of managing them. But more formal businesses, especially as they grow,
increasingly find themselves in more difficult territory as they acquire more
business assets and encounter different disposal needs multiple times throughout
the year.

While there are, no doubt, many professionals out there who have become experts
at managing asset depreciation using Excel spreadsheets, you may want to ask
yourself, “Is this really what you got into the profession to do?”
Once upon a time, asset management wasn’t very complex: Simple straight-line
depreciation was easy to handle. But over the past 20 or so years, depreciation
methods have grown increasingly challenging, with the need to maintain multiple
books per asset, sometimes as many as six or more, when you consider available
methods for federal tax, GAAP, AMT, ACE, E&P and individual states.

While these additional methods can prove beneficial to companies, for spreadsheet
users, they result in increasingly complex spreadsheets that require more and
more time. Combined with ever-changing laws and annual changes to bonus depreciation
and Sec. 179 rules, trying to use Excel to manage client assets can snowball
into hours spent tweaking calculations and macros; time that probably won’t
be billed at full value or, at the least, could be better spent on the golf

Fixed assets are often the most substantial investments that businesses make,
and their valuation and the tax benefits that come with prudent depreciation
strategies is critical to developing sound financials, business planning, income
taxation, and state and local property taxes. This is why effective asset management
for companies with more than even 20 to 30 assets requires a system that includes
all of the most recent legal changes, and that automatically makes computations
as different treatments are applied. This enables users to quickly see which
available methods are the most beneficial to the business in the short and long
term, with the ability to see the effects of those elections and make projections
over multiple years. The asset management programs in this review all offer
variations on these features, with some essentially working as extensions of
spreadsheet systems, while others offer much more powerful database structures.

But in addition to easing the processes of depreciation calculations, many
of today’s asset management systems also offer a wide range of other tools
that can be valuable to either a public accountant offering services to multiple
clients or to businesses that manage their asset accounting in-house. While
most people may instinctively think of financials and taxes when they think
of the word accounting, the heart of the word also encompasses the important
concept of accountability. This means not just determining what an asset’s
book value is, but also having answers to the following questions: Where is
it? What shape is it in? And who has it?

For companies with growing asset bases, especially across multiple departments
or geographical locations, these questions can be nearly impossible for an internal
bookkeeper or staff accountant to answer. Fortunately, many asset management
programs now extend their capabilities to the related tasks of tracking assets,
including some that offer barcode scanning or RFID functions that greatly speed
asset inventories. These tools can also help unify often differing asset knowledge
from across an organization, bringing together all factors that can affect the
utility of an asset, from maintenance and lifespan, to removing the property
tax liabilities of ghost assets.

While asset valuation and depreciation strategies are significant factors
when it comes to taxation and company financials, the more knowledge management
has about all aspects of their assets, especially business-critical infrastructure,
the better they can utilize those assets for production. Likewise, business
leaders can more effectively perform their budgetary and capital management

The systems in this review vary greatly, and one system certainly does not
fit all. However, even small businesses and accounting firms who represent them
can find benefit from an asset management system through saved time, improved
accuracy, realized tax benefits and greater accountability

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AccountantsWorld – Fixed Assets
Designed for practitioners managing the assets of
multiple clients, Fixed Assets Relief is an affordable depreciation solution
that offers support for all standard and historical depreciation methods,
conventions and asset classes, with the ability to perform depreciation
BNA Software – BNA Fixed Assets
BNA Software offers a family of software geared
toward individual and corporate income tax planning, estate planning,
sales and use tax compliance, and several fixed asset management programs
and utilities, including options for professional accounting practices,
small and large businesses, and an asset inventory system designed for
tracking mobile assets.
CCH Small Firm Services – Fixed
Asset Manager
CCH Small Firm Services has been expanding the ATX
and TaxWise product lines over the past few years, extending the once
tax-focused brands into fuller accounting and practice management suites
for small firms. In addition to income tax compliance for all entities,
users of ATX and TaxWise now also have options for trial balance, payroll,
write-up, W-2/1099, document management, research and website building
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
– ProSystem fx Fixed Assets

CCH’s ProSystem fx Fixed Assets is
a part of the vendor’s comprehensive professional suite of accounting
client service and management programs, providing full asset tracking,
depreciation and reporting for all types of assets and built-in calculations
for standard and advanced depreciation treatments.
CMI Software, Inc. – CMI Fixed
CMI Fixed assets is a flexible and highly customizable
asset de-preciation and management system that offers full support for
all standard depreciation and averaging treatments, with the ability to
maintain up to 25 books per asset, and tools for managing all asset life
events through individual and mass acquisitions and disposal methods.
Intuit – ProLine ProSeries Professional
Fixed Asset Manager

Intuit’s been busy over the past few years,
introducing a new web-based professional tax compliance system (ProLine
Tax Online), tax research and website development services, plus strengthening
many of the available add-ons to the ProLine ProSeries Professional Edition
tax system, including its document management, eSort, workflow management
and client organizers. The company also offers the ProSeries Fixed Asset

MoneySoft – Fixed Asset Pro
The Fixed Asset Pro system from MoneySoft is a stand-alone
asset depreciation and management program that can handle any number of
assets for any number of businesses, with support for all traditional
depreciation standards, including several variations of MACRS, ACRS and
straight-line, with up to six schedules/books per asset.
Pro-Ware – Asset Keeper
Asset Keeper is one of only a very few fixed asset
management systems specifically designed for use by public accountants
serving multiple business and individual clients. Designed by CPAs, the
program can be used to manage any number of clients and assets, with the
ability to manage asset groups for subsidiary business units.
Red Moon Solutions – Fixed Assets
The Fixed Assets Manager (FAM) system from Red Moon
Solutions is a comprehensive asset depreciation and management application
that offers broad financial and tax reporting capabilities, extensive
tracking options and strong reporting in a flexible and scalable package
that is available both as a traditionally installed program or as a hosted
Sage – FAS 100 Asset Accounting

Sage’s FAS Asset Accounting system is the
most widely used asset management program on the market, offering automated
asset depreciation management capabilities for businesses with any number
of assets, providing full support for IRS, GAAP and IFRS accounting standards,
and giving users advanced asset life cycle tools.
Thomson Reuters – Fixed Assets

The Fixed Assets CS system from Thomson Reuters
follows in the tradition of all of the professional tax, accounting and
practice management systems in the CS suite, providing tight integration
with the vendor’s trial balance, tax and write-up programs, and
providing a comprehensive and flexible depreciation and asset tracking
WorthIT Software – WorthIT Fixed

WorthIT Fixed Assets offers one of the more comprehensive
systems on the market, providing asset management, depreciation accounting
and capital budgeting functions for managing assets over multiple locations,
tracking costs by project or company subdivisions, following assets during
manufacturing, and making projections across multiple years.

— Related Article —
Tracking Systems Aid in Asset &
Inventory Management
When tax and accounting professionals think of fixed
asset management, most instinctively think about taxes and depreciation
methods. When business owners and managers think about their own assets,
however, they are more likely to think of more tangible aspects, such
as the usefulness of the investments, when they need to be replaced, and
whether any disposed of or missing assets may still be on the books.
2009 Review of Fixed Asset Management Programs — Comparison

See inside December 2009 issue

2009 Review of Tax & Accounting Research Systems

Interpretation is Key to Tax Research


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