Creative Solutions is keeping it in the family as it extends the integration between its UltraTax tax preparation software and products for the tax and accounting office from sister companies. "There will be a wider array of integration between CSI products and RIA and PPC products," says Jack LaRue, CSI's marketing vice president.
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It all starts with RIA's research system, Checkpoint. For the upcoming season, integration with UltraTax and Checkpoint Line Finder will be available. Last season, users were able to open Checkpoint within UltraTax, but navigation was more difficult. LaRue explains: "Line Finder will recognize where the user is in a tax return and then direct them to the right place within Checkpoint."
Meanwhile, CSI is tightening integration between FileCabinet Solution, CSI's document storage application, and the company's other applications. For example, when a preparer works in UltraTax, FCS recognizes the specific client that the preparer is working on, so that stored documents pertaining to the client are available from within UltraTax. It will also have the ability to "associate" related clients together into a "family"- for example, different 1120 clients that are part of a consolidated company, or 1040 clients filing separately as two different UltraTax clients. Users will also be able to add annotations to documents stored in FCS. Kurt Rickhoff, supervisor with the O'Fallon, Ohio-based Rickhoff and Associates, believes the client product will be a hit. He estimates that 60 to 70 percent of his clients will be interested in the new product.
"We will discuss it with our clients when they come in to do their returns, and I will send a letter explaining its benefits with our clients' organizers. It will help clients, like FCS helps us. It will reduce paper, make the tax return process quicker, and it will print to the proper location," says Rickhoff.
The firm, which completed 1,600 returns last year, attributes its smooth tax season to the integration between UltraTax and CSI's Write-Up Solution. "When we have a corporate client with an 1120 return, the integration allows us to complete the return within 10 minutes. The financial statement imports from write-up and is reviewed, printed, and is out the door," adds Rickhoff.
CSI is also adding an optional condensed version of the 1040 individual client organizer that can print as few as five pages. Also, the Web-based client organizer functionality will be included with the standard Client Organizer product at no additional cost, compared to a 2003 price of $300.
Other new features include an enhanced client status system, which has an improved scheduling system with an increase of custom events from 10 to 50, the addition of 1065 VA and composite return, and electronic filing for Forms 5500 and 990PF.
In an effort to make life even easier for preparers, UltraTax data appears in a different color, depending on how the information is keyed in. For example, if the information appears in black it has been keyed in, blue is for imported, and pink is for information entered by clients. "This allows preparers to look at returns and entries and know exactly how everything was created," says LaRue.
As far as the online environment goes, CSI's NetConnection, which allows the preparer and the clients to exchange information and share document drafts in a secure online environment, is gaining momentum.
"We now have hundreds of clients using it with thousands of customers," says LaRue. "We've found it's most popular with our preparers who have an ongoing relationship with their clients, and are not just completing their 1040 returns once a year."
HQ: Dexter, Mich.
Phone: (800) 968-8900
Fax: (734) 426-3750
Software distribution: CD-ROM; Web download using CSI Connect for updates.
Multi-state processing: Unlimited.
Data entry: Batch/input sheet and interview/interactive.
Support methods: Toll-free, telephone, fax, Web, email, UltraTax Help Menu, Creative Solution Knowledge base, and ARNE 2 bulletin board.
Electronic storage: FileCabinet Solution.
Electronic filing: 1040 (federal and all applicable states), 1065 (federal), 1120, 1120S, 990, and 5500, through CSI.
New for next year: Direct Line Finder research integration with RIA's Checkpoint; enhanced client status system; and efiling for Forms 5500 and 990PF.