by Wayne Schulz
Using the right fixed asset software offers your company a significant ability to streamline asset accounting and record keeping.
Fixed Assets Relief
Fixed Asset Pro
WorthIT Fixed Assets
While it is true that you might be able to design a complete fixed asset tracking program in a spreadsheet or database program - the features available in today’s software should make anyone question whether there is a reason to design their own solution.Using a self-designed spreadsheet or database may actually be hazardous to your mental health. As major tax legislation (e.g., the Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002) is introduced, which changes depreciation rules, you could find yourself spending significantly more to manually change client spreadsheets.
The cost of changing one large client’s depreciation spreadsheet could easily exceed the total price for any of the packages reviewed here. Fixed asset software is no longer a luxury for CPAs.
Proper depreciation computation is only a starting point for the powerhouse fixed asset systems of today.
In addition to good math skills, virtually all of the systems compute gains and losses on the sale of assets and can allow for more advanced features, such as disposing for a group of assets at the same time. The tax laws are constantly changing - both at the federal and state levels - so access to a constantly upgraded package is essential. Without the latest tax rules, your fixed asset program could hurt you more than it helps.
Where the initial focus of most fixed asset programs was tax computation - there is a significant move by virtually all of these systems to allow for more asset tracking. This means that you can use the software to track your assets for property tax purposes or to identify specific assets with associated warranty purchase information.
Want to leverage the data that is within your fixed asset package? Completely narrow your focus so that you are only examining the best of the industry leading brands. The reason: The industry leaders (those that have the largest numbers of users) are updated the most frequently, rarely bought out and discontinued and almost always have a world class technical support department that stands behind the products.
Some required features
• Market leader. With the technology industry is a slump, any software package that doesn’t dominate its market is ripe for acquisition by a competitor looking for a quick boost in market share. The smaller the acquired company the more certain you can be that within three years their software product will be merged or discontinued.
• Fully Windows compatible. Does this need to be evaluation criteria? Unfortunately, there are some software programs that never have made it past the DOS days. Be sure to disregard any software program that is DOS based or has the awkward look of a program that was quickly moved from DOS to a Windows environment.
• Excellent support. Guaranteed support times of one to three hours aren’t crucial - until you need them. Ask vendors if they have an online knowledge base that you can browse in order to research simple problems on your own.
• Regular updates for tax and IRS rules. The ever-changing tax laws make regular tax updates a must. The most convenient way to gain access to these updates is via a software download through the Internet - ultra convenient for those late-night and last-minute preparation sessions where you suddenly find that you need some updated tax calculations for an important client presentation.
• Computation of gains and losses. Given a selling price, your fixed asset software should automatically create a gain or loss including any rules pertaining to like-kind exchanges and the rules of Notice 2000-4.
• Printing of tax schedules. Even if your tax software automatically prepares tax schedules, you can benefit from the automatic creation of such common forms as 4562 and 4797. These forms can serve as a double check on your Income tax software and are also useful for inclusion in your firm’s audit workpapers during field work.
• Report writer to create your own reports. There are always times that you want to create your own customized reports - no matter how many hundreds of standard reports are included in your fixed asset software. The use of an industry standard report writer like Crystal Reports or another graphical report writer can significantly increase your ability to pull out critical reporting information.
• Ability to import and export information. Reading data from common file formats like Excel, Lotus and Comma Separated Value files is highly desirable. The more assets you are tracking the less you will want to want to be individually updating this information via keypunching the data.
• Uncluttered user interface. Most of the top packages allow virtually all data entry to occur on one screen. If your company needs to track several different fixed asset computation methods, double check and make sure that you don’t need to constantly switch between several screens just to work on one asset.
• State, federal and property tax reporting. Federal and state tax reporting is an important portion of asset record keeping. Don’t overlook the ability to use fixed asset software to keep track of assets for property tax purposes. Using locations and groups are important for property tax purposes. Be certain that your fixed asset program of choice allows for
Convenient but not required
The previous features are essential to successfully using a fixed asset program. Here are a few nice features that are not exactly critical but which you may find helpful to consider.
• One-step addition of fixed assets from accounting software. When an invoice is entered into accounts payable you may desire the ability to automatically update your fixed asset accounting at the same time. One caveat to this procedure: Your accounts payable clerk may not possess the skills to completely setup a new asset with all proper classifications in your fixed asset system.
• Automatic transfer of information to tax software. Saving a few steps by having your fixed asset software automatically transfer tax information is a nice feature. In reality, you may find that it is as easy to manually transfer fixed asset amounts off a schedule and the time savings is less evident.
• Attaching pictures and other paperwork to an asset record. Except for the largest companies, it may be overkill to think that you’ll make use of features that allow you to take pictures of your assets and attach them to their individual records within the software. It is somehow difficult to imagine the ROI involved with taking pictures of copy machines and desks and attaching them within your software.
FAS FirstStep is the entry-level solution offered by Best Software. The package is aimed at companies with less than 1,000 assets to manage. An upgrade path is provided to FAS Asset Accounting, which is designed to manage up to 10,000 assets. Once your company moves beyond 10,000 assets, FAS Asset Accounting for SQL is the company’s recommended solution.
The documentation for FAS FirstStep is clear and provides many screen shots and helpful setup tips. Online documentation is also plentiful and the ability to lookup IRS Tables as an aid in determining an asset’s MACRS GDS or ADR Class Life per Revenue Proc. 87-56 will be most welcome. This is an especially helpful feature for every accountant who is preparing fixed asset records while outside of the office and out of reach of their tax guidelines.
Simple data entry timesavers, such as templates and groups greatly speed the time that you’ll need to invest in creating new records. The templates can be configured so that default information is automatically pulled into the individual asset records.
You can also enter a single asset and then replicate it up to 99 times. Once the replication is complete you can go in and individually maintain each asset with more specific information, such as location or department categories.
Assets that are disposed of may be inactivated instead of completely deleted. Marking an asset as inactive within FAS FirstStep ensures that all of the history of the asset is retained - useful for preservation of records for follow-up tax or internal audit purposes.
Lacking within FAS FirstStep is the ability to create custom reports. In order to do that you’ll need to move up to the next level of FAS accounting software, which includes not only custom reporting but significantly greater capacity for asset tracking.
Best Software is a significant player in the fixed asset software marketplace. Their FAS FirstStep is an excellent package for any company that requires solid fixed asset accounting without all the bells and whistles of the larger and more expensive packages.
BNA Desktop Pro
BNA Desktop Pro is a full-featured fixed asset accounting program from a company with a strong presence in the field of forecasting software for taxes and fixed assets. The company also produces a web version of the program, which allows your company to access the program from within any Web browser.
If your company needs to keep a large variety of depreciation books for any asset, you should seriously examine Desktop Pro. The program allows for the standard generally accepted accounting principles, tax, AMT and ACE books, as well as up to 99 user-defined books, which can hold any method of asset tracking that you require.
The Web version of BNA Desktop Pro is especially appealing to firms that don’t want to store their data locally, or those that desire seamless remote access to their fixed-asset data. The strongest use for the Web version is likely to connect a CPA to his client for constant supervision of fixed asset setup.
The Web version contains a strong online help feature, as well as a powerful number of features that mirror the desktop version of the software.
Custom reporting is accomplished either through the built in custom report writer or via use of the industry standard Crystal Report Writer. Setup of new assets is especially efficient due to the use of wizards, which guide the user through the necessary steps to add an asset. Six fileable tax forms (3468, 4255, 4562, 4626, 4797, 8824) are automatically generated from within the reporting menu.
Data can be automatically converted from FAS and CLR fixed asset programs. Import from common data formats, such as CSV and spreadsheets, is also supported. Data export files can be created to feed to Solomon IV accounting software and the ACE write-up package.
BNA has a solid reputation in the tax computation software market. Their fixed asset software is a wizard-driven program that works well with the full scale of companies, from the very small to the large. Their Web-based package is especially attractive for any CPA who is looking to remotely administer their client’s fixed asset records.
Creative Solutions Inc.
Creative Solutions has been servicing the CPA marketplace since 1979. They offer a complete line of software for this market, including tax preparation, write-up, trial balance and practice management.
The Depreciation Solution has been fine tuned, thanks to the suggestions of CPAs, to include virtually any feature that you might require a fixed asset program to perform. The program will automatically print IRS fileable tax forms. Special reports can be prepared via the included report writer, which is useful for extracting any extra data that is not represented on the standard reports.
Data entry is streamlined with many options, including the automatic copying of cost information across all of your different depreciation books. You can also create up to 10 different associations for assets (similar to groups), which makes reporting and categorizing similar assets easy. The Revenue Procs for MACRS assets are all contained online so you can have easy reference when entering asset information.
If your firm is looking for a remote solution, you may wish to use the Virtual Office feature offered by Creative Solutions. Subscribers to this service may remotely access their firm’s data for editing and processing. This is an ideal solution for CPA firms with multiple locations and no desire to establish high-speed links to connect their databases.
All of the data from the Depreciation Solution will transfer seamlessly to other Creative Solutions products, including UltraTax and Writeup Solution, which can save some data entry time. There is also a useful online forum called ARNE where diehard users of Creative Solutions products meet and exchange information on useful ways to use the product.
Firms of all sizes will find Creative Solutions’ Depreciation Solution to be an intuitive product for data entry of fixed assets, as well as the computation of depreciation. The tight integration with the company’s other products makes it a product that should be strongly considered by all CPA firms.
Fixed Assets Relief
Microvision Software Inc.
Since 1983, Microvision Software has been offering a comprehensive line of software for the CPA firm marketplace. Their product line includes software for tax, write-up, practice management and fixed asset.
When entering data into the system you may use any number of shortcuts to speed the process. Fixed asset data can be entered into templates that are created to supply the data common to assets that are all of similar types. You can also copy information from one of the depreciation books and make it the default for the remainder books. From there you can edit the other books and supply specific information on depreciation methods and basis.
There is a snapshot screen that will display depreciation computations for any asset without having to do any fancy report setup or drawn out selection of parameters in advance of creating a report. Asset history is maintained automatically by the program so you can review the scope of any changes that have been made to a particular asset.
Asset images can be scanned into the software. As an aid in data entry, you can print out paper asset collection forms - which completely mirror the look of the depreciation data entry screens - a pure timesaver that will surely please the staff in charge of data collection.
Special reports may be created by using the included report writer. There is also a Query Manager that you can use to extract data from within the Fixed Asset Relief system. This might be especially helpful for viewing all assets that are placed in service during a specific data range, which could then be used to check for proper method of depreciation.
Fixed Asset Relief is a good fixed asset solution for CPA firms of any size. It is especially useful for those firms that are already standardized on the other Micro Vision applications and that want to make use of the integration between the different programs.
Fixed Asset Pro
If you are looking for an inexpensive fixed asset program, and integration to programs like tax preparation and write up are not crucial, then Fixed Asset Pro is a nifty program that you should explore.
The screens are laid out very smoothly and make ample use of a tabbed user interface so that data for all books of depreciation can readily be entered onto one screen with a minimum of back and forth maneuvering.
An unlimited number of fixed asset records may be maintained for an unlimited number of companies. Categories may be used to group assets for reporting and data entry. During data entry, there is a notepad feature that can be used to keep track of all manners of ancillary information that you might want to attach to the asset record. Reports are ample and there is a custom report writer that is included with the package at no additional cost.
MACRS and ACRS depreciation methods are supported as are six different pre-1981 depreciation methods. Up to six different sets of depreciation books may be maintained for each different asset. Full tracking of personal property tax information is also retained for every asset so that accurate reporting may be made to the local authorities.
For such a low-price system, MoneySoft’s Fixed Asset Pro has an impressive array of features that will appeal to users of any size. This is a program that would be ideally suited to a company whose fixed asset needs aren’t so large that functions such as direct transfer of information to a related tax package are a must.
WorthIT Fixed Assets
M.R.S. Co. Ltd.
The WorthIT Fixed Asset program incorporates three different programs into one. These programs are fixed asset management, fixed asset depreciation and fixed asset budgeting. The company has over 3,000 corporate users of their software. They also offer additional modules that handle custom reporting and imaging for fixed assets.
Information from within WorthIt may be interfaced to either the Accpac or Solomon accounting software products. These interfaces are more than just a passing of a mere journal entry. The interface exchanges vendor information, as well as information on the purchase price and purchase date.
WorthIT’s approach is more that of the business client than a CPA. Their data-entry screens capture more management information, such as the source of the purchase. The fields that are required to enter in the financial aspects of each depreciation book are accessed via separate buttons, which open up screens to manage the different data entry that is required for the various depreciation books.
Self-constructed assets and capital projects are all easily tracked within the software. Service histories of existing assets can all be traced to different expenditures. Disposals of assets can either be completed in their entirety or you can set up a simulation to see what the gain or loss would be on a particular asset or group of assets that you are considering disposing of.
WorthIT’s software is a good choice for companies where the flexibility of depreciation reporting is important - as are other management areas, such as capital budgeting and service tracking of any repairs or improvements made to a specific asset. You can easily integrate the software with either the
ACCPAC or Solomon brand of accounting software - or even create your own export files for reading into your own brand of software.
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