Tax Preview: How Suite It Is!

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If Tax Year 2003 required an anthem, it could go retro with Canned Heat’s “Let’s Work Together,” although the Beatles’ “Come Together” from a year earlier might prove a more popular choice. Either song, however, would underscore the accelerating trend toward application suites, wherein the tax preparation package enjoys tight-if not always seamless-integration with accounting, payroll, financial planning, document management, and sundry other software offerings.

The trend is unmistakable, as the following developments all indicate.

• This coming season, GoSystem Tax Remote Server users can launch both the affiliated RIA Checkpoint tax research and e-Form RS solutions from within a return. There will also be complete integration between the GoSystem product suite and sister company Creative Solutions’ Depreciation package.

Partner Insights

What’s more, RIA is bringing out a Web-based 1040 organizer, which will contain taxpayer data from last year for comparison purposes, as well as source document “look-alike” forms such as the W-2 and 1099. CPA firms will have seamless integration from the organizer to GoSystem Tax RS.

As far as GoSystem users are concerned, the more integration the better. “In a Windows-based environment, we’re always opening two or three things at a time,” says David Orenstein, a partner at Minneapolis-based Simma Flottemesch & Orenstein.

Mira Fine, a partner at Denver-based Hein & Associates, welcomes the linkage between tax research and tax prep. “For a supervisor, manager, or partner, that’s awesome,” since they are routinely researching tax issues while preparing or reviewing returns. Integration appears to be achieving for RIA the kind of product “stickiness” it was hoping for. Although Hein continues to use competitive research products from CCH and BNA, “We find we use Checkpoint more and more,” observes Fine.

IRS Ramps Up for 1120, 1120S E-filing

If all goes as scheduled, the Internal Revenue Service this coming January will be adding the 1120 and 1120S to its expanding collection of forms that can be electronically filed.
The first phase of the 1120/1120S program will encompass 53 forms and schedules, while the second phase in July will include the remaining 43. Upon completion, the program will have both online filing and payment capabilities, and returns will be processed on a transaction basis rather than in batch mode.
Form 1120 is used to report the income, gains, losses, deductions and credits, and income tax liability of a corporation. By filing a Form 2553, a small business with fewer than 75 shareholders can elect to become an S Corporation, which can result in limited personal liability as well as pass-through of profits and losses to shareholders.
A list of approved providers for the 1120/1120S e-file program will be available on the IRS Web site prior to implementation. Currently, the program covers the federal 1040 (individual), 1041 (estates and trusts), 1065 (partnerships), and 940/941 (employment taxes).

• CCH continues to tighten the integration within its ProSystem fx Office. For example, a major initiative is the linkage between fx Tax and GL Direct. “This provides users the ability to pull trial balance data from virtually any accounting system [or third-party trial balance system] into their client’s tax return, saving valuable time and reducing input errors,” explains Jerry Connor, marketing manager at Torrance, Calif.-based CCH Tax Compliance.

Strengthened integration between fx Tax and Practice means enhanced project tracking with built-in due-date monitoring. Also, the practitioner can launch Client Inquiry from fx Tax and access extensive client data such as invoice amounts, WIP balance, or contact information. Also, the user can transfer client invoice amounts from Tax to Practice.

There is also enhanced integration between fx Tax and fx Engagement (facilitating the transfer of updated trial balance data), between Tax and CCH ClientRelate (for tax research), and between Tax and CCH’s new GainsKeeper Pro (for online portfolio management). The last allows the seamless import of Schedule D data directly into fx Tax.

Schaefer & Co., a tax and accounting practice in Claremont, Calif., is a ProSystem fx Office suite stronghold. “Integration is the key to efficiency,” comments founder Jim Schaefer. The firm is currently adding both fx Engagement and GainsKeeper Pro to its arsenal because “integration [among fx Tax, Tax Notebook, fx Practice, and these two new additions] is absolutely essential not only to profitability, but perhaps ultimately to survival.”

• Following its purchase last year by UCG, Caribou, Maine-based ATX combined its comprehensive Max tax prep package with a product from a sister company, the Kleinrock TaxExpert research service, to offer the Total Tax Office. “ATXers liked the one-click integration,” notes ATX co-founder Glynn Willett.

“This year we are taking the idea even further with the Total Integrated Office,” which combines Total Tax Office Plus with the new Total Accounting Office and Total Engagement Office. For a package price of $2,500, “You will be able to manage tax, accounting, and engagement services from within one platform. In addition, the suite includes practice management tools like time and billing and CRM,” notes Willett.

Powered by AccTrak21, Total Accounting Office works like a simple check-writing program, yet includes both firm accounting and client write-up. Total Engagement Office features trial balance, workpapers, write-up, document manager, financial statements and footnotes, and review and compilation content.

• Lacerte has a brand new electronic Document Management System, which integrates with the vendor’s tax programs and Tax Planner. “From interviews with customers who have implemented this type of solution, we have found that it’s being used as part of the tax prep process versus an after-the-fact storage solution,” comments Karl Grass, vice president and general manager of Intuit Professional Tax. “In these cases, customers are scanning the source documents prior to preparing the return. They then use the scanned images to prepare the return.”

Lacerte also will be offering a new 1040 Tax Analyzer to help preparers identify any tax returns that are impacted by new laws, to flag items that may benefit clients, and to highlight values within a return that are outside the typical range for comparable returns. Fully integrated with Lacerte’s 1040 module, the analysis tool will be available within the Forms tab of a client’s return.

• Creative Solutions is enhancing its FileCabinet Solution capabilities, enabling users to display information (e.g., the prior-year return) from directly within UltraTax, and to link related clients (such as consolidated corporations and 1040 MFS clients). Dexter, Mich.-based CSI also is upgrading its Web-based Client Organizer to allow the attachment of files from programs such as Word, Excel, Money, and Quicken that can be transferred directly into UltraTax.

Prepping for Hosted Tax Prep

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