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by Barry Knaster
This past summer, the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas hosted the 2003 AICPA Technology conference. In between the jam-packed agenda of keynote speakers and breakout sessions, I managed (quite reluctantly) a few spare moments to wander around the casino floor and marvel at the sheer quantity of slot machines in place and in play.
Rather than join the tide of hopeful (or hopeless) winners, I chose to focus on the practical issues involved in accounting for such a massive investment in assets. Certainly, the casino had in place an automated solution for tracking the acquisition cost and useful lives of these machines and their book and tax deprecation. This system would also provide management the information it needed to evaluate yearly asset additions and projected depreciation expenses. Most importantly, all calculations would follow the applicable regulatory requirements.
Casinos are a unique operation, but all businesses, regardless of size and industry, must contend and comply with the complexity of fixed asset accounting requirements. The initial recording, periodic depreciation, and ultimate disposition of assets must all occur in accordance with federal and state government regulations. The tasks of classifying assets properly, picking the correct useful life, and choosing correctly among the dozens of depreciation methods and averaging conventions can be quite intimidating. Companies also must forecast the expense affect of current asset acquisitions on future profitability. Each year, keeping pace with the frequent changes in the regulatory requirements is a formidable task. In all, tracking fixed assets can be quite a cumbersome process.
Fortunately, this process and its many issues are easily resolved by implementing any one of the numerous fixed asset software products designed specifically for this purpose (as opposed to a generic spreadsheet or database program.) These desktop and Web-based applications successfully automate tedious depreciation computations while also providing meaningful management information. In addition, they provide integration with both write-up and tax packages. Fixed asset software assists in navigating the quagmire of new regulations governing fixed assets, while simultaneously maximizing your tax advantage. These programs control every aspect of fixed asset management, from acquisition to depreciation through disposal, while ensuring that mistakes are avoided and asset value maximized.
Like the slot machines on the casino floor, fixed asset software solutions come in all varieties. Some are inexpensive, simple products requiring minimal setup and training time. Others are more complex products, offering Web-based reporting and numerous customization options for personalizing screens, fields, depreciation books, and reports.
Both categories of products offer many similarities. They all comply with current IRS regulations and provide future depreciation projections. Organizationally, each allows the grouping of assets by location or departments for efficient depreciation and reporting. Multiple depreciation books and methods provide alternative choices of asset expensing. Import and export to other software products promotes efficient data manipulation.
Choosing which slot machine to play is a decision of chance; selecting the right fixed asset solution should be more methodical. Carefully consider your requirements as you evaluate the various offerings. Novices might be wise to purchase one of the less-complex offerings. Veteran users with powerful needs should probably choose a product featuring custom screens, report writers, and image capture capabilities. Eliminating data redundancy by integrating with your other office software solutions may be critical; if so, consider a product that provides this ability.
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to identify major differences between the various fixed asset software products, as they all provide the basic necessities for effectively tracking asset additions and expenses. But by prioritizing your current and future requirements, evaluating demonstration copies of the software, and speaking to other users with similar fixed asset requirements, your choices should narrow. Regardless of which solution you choose, implementing fixed asset accounting software will ultimately provide your organization a jackpot of benefits!
Simple to install and easy to use, Depreciation Solution requires no mandatory advance setup tasks, and after installation you can immediately create companies and add assets.
| Depreciation Solution|
The Asset Listing window displays a series of folders from which the appropriate asset activity (add, modify, or delete) is then selected. Previously entered assets are displayed for necessary editing. The Asset Detail window contains several tabs for entering specific asset information, including depreciation cost, method, asset life, current and prior-year depreciation, net book value, disposal information, asset memos, and asset images. Pre-defined asset classes and groupings track related assets for depreciation and reporting purposes.
Six depreciation books are available, including a custom book for user-defined depreciation methods. You can depreciate assets either individually or by groups, and display on-screen calculations for any of the books. The tax book depreciation calculation can auto default to the corporate and state book amounts.
Depreciation Solution provides an extensive library of standard reports, including various depreciation summaries, comparative reports, AMT and ACE basis adjustments, and current-year asset deletions and disposals. The custom reports feature allows the quick and easy design of additional reports.
The package integrates with other Creative Solutions products, and an ASP version provides remote data entry and access.
Intuitive, comprehensive, and easy to use, Depreciation Solution provides simplified asset management and reporting. The client templates and custom report writer are powerful features, providing an excellent choice for fixed asset management.
ProSystem fx Fixed Assets
Setup is smooth, asset management simple, and reporting productive with the ProSystem fixed asset solution, which integrates with the full ProSystem suite of tax, practice management, and accounting applications.
| ProSystem fx Fixed Assets|
The Asset List tab displays assets for a specific client. You can sort this list by service date, category, location, and tax schedule. Selecting an asset opens the detail asset tab for entering general asset and book information. Keyboard shortcuts quickly add, copy, or delete assets. The Auto-fill feature populates the asset life, property type, and depreciation method fields. Additional asset tabs provide projection and disposition information.
ProSystem fx automatically computes depreciation for several pre-defined books, including Federal, State, AMT, ACE, and Other. Three user-defined books are also available. All books can be displayed side by side on the Asset Detail screen. Depreciation methods include MACRS, ACRS, sum-of-the-years digits, straight-line, declining balance, units of production, and amortization. You can dispose of assets either individually or as part of a group, and automatically calculate like-kind exchanges.
Common report groups filter, sort, and set reporting periods for the numerous pre-defined financial and tax reports. These include asset annual activity and expense, depreciation expense comparisons, projection information, and ready-to-file IRS forms.
Without question, ProSystem excels in allowing you to customize asset information and depreciation books. Combined with its powerful import capabilities, initial asset setup and ongoing maintenance are a breeze. The many depreciation books and methods will handle the most demanding fixed asset situations.
FAS Asset Accounting
Best’s fixed asset software continues to offer a combination of features and functionality that optimizes its effectiveness, from a company that has been a consistent leader in this field. With its companion products, including FAS Gov Solutions, Best has among the broadest product lines in the fixed asset field.
| FAS Asset Accounting|
New assets are entered in a variety of ways. You can manually enter assets individually or import them from another fixed asset source. You can apply an existing asset template to a new asset. Or you can replicate an asset that closely matches the new asset being added. These last two methods greatly reduce asset setup time.