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Product & Service Guide

2011 Review of Tax Compliance Systems (Advanced Workflow)

How Collaboration & Integration Meet Advanced Workflow Needs


From the April/May 2011 Issue

As in our 2010 review of professional tax systems, we have separated the products
into two categories: Advanced Workflow and Traditional Workflow (reviewed at
The advanced workflow systems represent the top-tier product offerings by their
respective vendors and are both more capable and more expensive than most of
the products classified as traditional workflow applications. And even though
these products are categorized as advanced workflow, they are not intended for
only large firms. Many specialized small firms and boutique practices run by
sole practitioners can benefit from the variety of integrations and feature
offerings of these products.

All of the advanced workflow tax systems include full federal support for individual,
business, nonprofit and other major category tax compliance. Most state and
local filings are also supported, as well as full support for federal electronic
filing for all applicable compliance modules. Several of these systems also
added multiple state partnership and corporation electronic filing modules for
tax year 2010. This level of tax compliance support can greatly decrease the
amount of time and frustration associated with locating, filling in and supporting
forms not natively included in many lower-tiered products.

The look and feel as well as the way data is entered into the return is a key
differentiator in this product review lineup. Although the basic navigation
structure is similar in many of these products, the user interfaces differ greatly,
giving practitioners another item to consider when choosing tax software. Since
the user experience impacts the firm’s productivity based on its processes,
people and culture, this is an area where multiple individuals at your firm
should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of competing products before making
a final decision.

For tax year 2010, the advanced workflow products have continued work on integrating
their tax solutions with other product offerings. Each of these systems tightly
integrates with product offerings through their respective vendors and has the
ability to transfer data between applications. Third-party integration is another
key differentiator. Some only offer support for their respective suite of products,
while others are more open and allow data access to and from other software
vendors. Many vendors supplement the capabilities of their flagship tax applications
with optional add-on tools, which assist with issues such as cross-border transactions,
basis tracking for large investment holdings, tax provision calculation and
complex apportionments.

With the widespread adoption of the Microsoft Office system, most of these
tax systems integrate with Word and Excel, but the 2007 and 2010 versions of
Microsoft Office are still experiencing limited support in the current version
of some applications. Most products also allow for direct importing of trial
balance data through available engagement or write-up modules. Other available
integrations include direct import of web organizers, and many products offer
scan-and-populate capabilities.

One area that all vendors have enhanced over the last 10 years is the support
provided for remote access applications, with many offering products that are
wholly Internet-based or have portions of their respective software suite hosted.
These software as a service (SaaS) and hosted offerings can save firms significant
upfront costs in both hardware and software. Nearly all of the vendors offer
month-to-month per-user pricing without long-term contracts. This allows firms
to gradually migrate to SaaS solutions with full scalability as firms add employees.
These SaaS solutions are also ideal for firms with multiple locations, as they
reduce the amount of IT knowledge necessary to deploy and support the applications.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 or later is often required to access such products,
which could create issues for firms that have users on operating systems other
than Windows.

Editor’s note: With the publication’s new name
and format, we will be providing short summaries of our reviews in the magazine’s
print edition, highlighting key components that you’ve asked us to provide.
Although the more detailed reviews you have come to expect from our magazine
are not being printed in their entirety, they are still being created with each
product review cycle. We will continue to include an archive of the information
in each printed issue, along with the more detailed individual analyses and
evaluations of each product reviewed here on our website. By moving the detail
on each review to the website, we hope to be able to provide content beyond
what could be included economically in a “print only” publication,
as well as include timely links to other materials which could be useful to
readers. Feedback on the new format is welcome; please send any comments or
suggestions to

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CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
– ProSystem fx Tax
ProSystem fx Tax remains a popular choice
among firms for tax compliance work. Currently, CCH offers ProSystem fx
Tax as a traditional, locally installed product (ProSystem fx
Tax) and an Internet-hosted product (Global fx). Although both
are similar in functionality, this review focuses on the traditional,
DVD-based product. CCH prides itself on the annual enhancements made to
ProSystem fx Tax, and for 2010, CCH has enhanced integration
with new and existing ProSystem fx Suite products as well as introduced
new features. The significant additions include enhancements to the electronic
filing system, the ability to mask social security numbers and bank account
information on printed copies of returns, and the ability to prepare consolidated
partnership returns.
Lacerte Tax, an Intuit ProLine
Lacerte Tax is the top-tier tax compliance offering
in the Intuit ProLine product lineup. Lacerte Tax showcases a flat workflow
environment. This allows for intuitive and quick data input and simple
workflow navigation. New for tax year 2010, is an organizer for trust
returns. This organizer can aid clients in assembling necessary data to
complete trust returns as well as allow staff to utilize the organizer
as a workpaper. Other new offerings include a new mechanism for tracking
extension payments and the addition of partnership and corporation electronic
filing for several state jurisdictions. Improvements have also been made
to the Internet-based peer-to-peer training video options available through
Intuit’s website.

Thomson Reuters – GoSystem Tax
GoSystem Tax RS was introduced in 1999 as the first
web-based tax preparation system available to the profession. Since this
introduction, GoSystem Tax RS has continued to be a leader in the evolution
of web-based tax compliance systems. Designed for more complex and multi-tiered
consolidation returns, the system offers a rich feature set to efficiently
service the needs of clients in these situations. New features for tax
year 2010 include enhancements to print preview modes, a new print system
for trust returns, improvements to batch PDF printing for partnership
and corporate returns, as well as the ability to directly link capital
gain activity to Form 8453. Also new for this year is a Product Assistant
Display, which, when activated, filters product notifications and updates
to show only those items that are applicable to that particular return.
Thomson Reuters – UltraTax CS
UltraTax CS fills the roll of tax preparation software
within the popular Thomson Reuters CS Professional Suite. For tax year
2010, the UltraTax CS team has continued its focus on streamlining the
data-entry process and helping reduce the amount of duplicate data entered.
New for this year, is full integration with Accounting CS (an accounting
product launched in mid-2010), enhanced data sharing for non-resident
K-1 data for individual returns, and an expanded use of a text annotation
library that stores frequently used text, such as draft copy. Also new
this year, is the system’s ability to automatically assign a complexity
ranking to returns and create a graphical five-year analysis consisting
of the prior three tax periods, the current tax period and a projected

— Related Articles —
2011 Review of Traditional Workflow
Tax Compliance Systems
For reviews of additional professional tax compliance
systems, please see the this review category, which includes many programs
designed for traditional small and mid-sized professional tax and accounting



Steven M. Phelan is a tax manager for North Bay Associates, a family group
office, and manages a tax and technology consulting practice in Oklahoma City.
He has served on the Board and has recently served as chairperson for the Oklahoma
Society of CPAs’ (OSCPA) Technology Committee. Steven has given numerous presentations
and training sessions on various technology topics for the OSCPA and other organizations
throughout Oklahoma.

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