Ask most people about the developments in the software markets for fixed asset management, and the responses will fall into two areas - the move toward a Web-based application service provider model in fixed assets, and the opportunities for compliance in the areas of FIN 48 and Sarbanes-Oxley.But more interesting in the long run may be the impact of convergence. For too long, fixed asset management systems have focused on the accounting side, leaving to chance or to manual spreadsheets the tasks of locating, identifying, marking and recording the assets themselves. With advances in new hardware and asset inventory technologies over the past two decades, the race for dominance in this class of software may depend less on the mad dash to go online than on a race to see which software can best merge the elements of asset inventory, construction-in-process accounting and asset accounting into a cohesive and coherent application.

In 2007, this is still just a goal.

Of the packages reviewed here, many do an excellent job of one but not the other. Sage Software may be the single exception today in its support for all three. And while the best of the asset inventory packages are stunning in their support for emerging technologies, they still won't cut it for tax and compliance purposes.

Nonetheless, the progress that fixed asset management software has made in the past few years is pretty respectable, and the best of the products continue to get better as they look to convergence and the future.

BASSETS FIXED ASSET SYSTEM

Bassets Fixed Asset System is a simple but effective system to manage and report out fixed assets for virtually any size organization.

Over 22 user-defined data fields allow each company to edit the field name, length, data type and drop-down selections to match their unique requirements. There is a very flexible data conversion module to import asset detail and total accumulated depreciation from fixed asset spreadsheets and other commercial fixed asset management software.

Other key features of the Bassets system include intelligent fixed asset data entry with automatic validation of fixed asset depreciation schedule information; the ability to dynamically calculate fixed asset depreciation "on the fly" for historical, present and future periods; more than 20 standard fixed asset reports, and a custom fixed asset report writer. A depreciation export feature enables the system to easily interface fixed asset data with other general ledger accounting software.

It is offered in three versions. Bassets Lite is an entry-level fixed asset system for companies with up to 1,000 asset records that do not need optional modules. More robust organizations would benefit from the full-featured Bassets Fixed Asset system (with or without custom report writer), with unlimited asset records and full module support. Bassets SQL is a true client/server version of the system, with Microsoft SQL server as the database. This can provide significant performance improvements and an additional layer of security available within SQL server.

Bassets employs intelligent data entry with a business rules table and automatic validation of fixed asset schedule information to ensure correct depreciation methods, first-year convention and asset recovery life. After an asset is placed in service, Bassets provides all the tools to manage asset activity through their complete useful life, including transfers, disposals and adjustments.

Though not as widely known in the accounting industry, Bassets does offer a referral program and support geared to accounting practices. More important, it offers exceptional scalability, an easy interface with spreadsheets and general ledger programs, and the ability to use a single program with an unlimited number of clients - key features for accounting use.

BNA FIXED ASSETS

BNA Software brings its considerable expertise to an array of fixed asset solutions that include stand-alone, server-based and Web-based versions. All are notable for their scalability, extensive use of wizards and templates, and the ability to print five file-ready tax forms and worksheets.

BNA Fixed Assets DesktopPro, which is primarily geared as a stand-alone system, allows tracking and asset depreciation management for up to 10,000 assets per company for any number of companies, subsidiaries or divisions, and across multiple accounting periods. BNA Fixed Assets Enterprise features an unlimited number and complexity of assets, companies, divisions, locations or users, with simplified consolidation for the corporation and built-in expertise and validation. BNA Fixed Assets Web includes all the major features, ease of use, and functionality of DesktopPro in a more powerful and portable Web format.

New in the 2007 version is a construction-in-progress feature that allows tracking of multi-component equipment, machinery upgrades, building construction or the accumulation of invoices prior to placing a fixed asset into service. Other updates include custom depreciation methods; depreciation methods keyed to production; and updated Sec. 179 amounts from the Small Business and Work Opportunity Act of 2007.

BNA Fixed Assets offers asset-type templates that build in the rules and tax expertise so that users do not need to be experts in the depreciation of fixed assets. It calculates GAAP, federal tax, AMT, ACE, E&P and up to 99 user-defined books. And its exclusive Open Timeline provides full access to every asset's past depreciation amounts and transfer history, enabling asset tracking from the placed-in-service date to the current period and forecast to the end of the asset's life.

With its moderate pricing, extensive support and ability to store documents and images as attachments to the asset, BNA offers a powerful means to track assets and maintain compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley depreciation rules.

FIXED ASSETS CS

A part of Thomson's CS Professional Suite, Fixed Assets CS is a fast and flexible management system that seamlessly integrates with Write-Up CS and Ultra-Tax CS.

In use by accountants for more than 26 years, Fixed Assets CS offers custom sorting of asset data and flexible report writing in a package that can calculate depreciation in a variety of

ways, including MACRS, ACRS, straight-line, 200/150/125 percent declining balance, sum-of-the-years' digits, units of production, amortization, and up to 99 user-defined methods. An optional inventory module is available for conducting physical asset inventories. To further simplify data entry, the program offers several wizards, including the Method/Life Wizard to quickly set up new assets and the Disposal Wizard to quickly get rid of them.

Fixed Assets CS provides more than 90 predefined asset classes to help assign methods and lives. This and other limitations, such as the limit of 7,000 clients and 32,000 assets per client, and lack of barcode support, are of significance only to the largest of accounting firms and clients. For most accounting firms, features such as the ability to attach digital photos of the asset and automatically transmit data from the client site to the accountant for use in tax calculations are of far greater import.

Recent enhancements include the ability to print Fixed Assets CS reports through UltraTax CS; streamlined import from Microsoft Excel; an option to display gain/loss calculations; enhanced vehicle information data entry; and the ability to print the summary report sorted by a variety of criteria.

With its logical and easy-to-follow file-folder format, intuitive graphical interface, and flexible, customizable asset sorting options, Fixed Assets CS simplifies the process of adding, changing and disposing assets. For users of the CS Professional Suite, it offers a scalable and powerful tool.

INTELLITRACK FIXED ASSETS

Because accountants tend to focus on the issues of depreciation, tax reporting and SOX compliance, it's easy to overlook the critical processes used to uniquely identify and physically inventory assets in an organization. That's where programs like IntelliTrack are invaluable.

IntelliTrack is a noted designer of software for warehouse management, fixed asset tracking and stockroom management. Operating on the MS Access and SQL databases, the software has a strong affinity for barcoding systems, PDAs, RFID devices and other advanced asset-tracking and communication tools.

Using a handheld portable data assistant or portable data terminal with barcode scanner, IntelliTrack Fixed Assets allows the user to label each asset with a unique barcode, and track over 30 descriptors, including serial number, cost, purchase date and date received. IntelliTrack Fixed Assets software can also track the maintenance status of capital assets.

IntelliTrack maintains asset inventories in either MS Access or SQL Server format, handy for export into more sophisticated accounting applications. It offers integrated asset tagging with barcode and RFID support, and will save pictures of the asset in the database. For enterprises with multiple sites, IntelliTrack DMS-SQL with NetSync provides remote database synchronization over a wide area network. Each site can process transactions, which are then stored in a centralized database.

Though different from accounting-oriented fixed asset systems, IntelliTrack offers five methods of depreciation and 17 pre-formatted reports. It is written in Microsoft Access XP, and the source code is available for customization. It also can handle an unlimited number of assets and locations.

IntelliTrack Fixed Assets will appeal to accountants for its flexibility, power, scalability and support of the technologies of asset identification and tracking. Whatever it may lack in accounting flexibility can easily be overcome by using it as the database for accounting-centric applications.

PROSYSTEM FX FIXED ASSETS

The fixed assets solution for the ProSystem fx Office suite of products, ProSystem fx Fixed Assets handles an unlimited number of assets and complex depreciation tasks with powerful features and extensive customization options.

Comprehensive import and conversion capabilities automatically convert data from major asset management programs, and import data from spreadsheets and other common file types. Fixed Assets handles up to eight different books, including financial, federal tax, AMT, ACE, state tax and three user-defined books, viewable side-by-side on one screen. The program can calculate negative depreciation and project all depreciation types for the depreciable life of an asset.

The application allows firms to modify financial and tax reports, filter and sort data, set reporting periods, and define common report groups. Additionally, user preferences can be set to configure the display style and simplify data input, and global settings can be used to create customized default settings for assets, books, columns, reports and report sets. User-defined asset detail can be added to standard asset information entries.

The 2007 version of Fixed Assets, to be released toward the end of this year, will offer GAAP-like recognition of gain/loss on dispositions, and will offer additional features for report customization. It will also offer Microsoft Vista and Office 12 compatibility running on a 64-bit operating system.

Integration with other applications in the ProSystem fx Office suite includes the linking of asset and depreciation detail directly with ProSystem fx Tax and Global fx. In addition, the fixed asset files can be stored in the ProSystem fx Engagement binders, streamlining document management.

ProSystem fx Fixed Assets is a very capable and flexible part of the Office suite from CCH, and represents a comprehensive approach to information gathering, use and storage that

CCH users will find particularly appealing.

PROSERIES PROFESSIONAL FIXED ASSET MANAGER

The ProSeries Fixed Asset Manager is an optional module for Intuit's popular ProSeries Professional tax software lines (formerly Lacerte) that seamlessly transfers data in and out of the tax applications for fast and accurate data utilization.

It is a module designed to automate depreciation calculations, as well as provide separate values for book and tax depreciation; record asset purchases and sales throughout the year; offer a variety of MACRS depreciation methods; provide reports for property tax filings; and provide clients with an easy-to-understand depreciation schedule including categories.

Depreciation may be calculated on up to six different asset bases: book, federal, state,

AMT, ACE and custom, projecting depreciation through the life of the asset and automatically calculating tax preference amounts, prior-year depreciation, and gains and losses on asset sales. It offers the ability to use over 35 predefined reports, including GL reconciliation, personal property projection and several depreciation reports - or to create custom reports with its Report Wizard.

Because it is a module - and thus less useful as a stand-alone product - ProSeries Fixed Assets will be of interest primarily to users of the ProSeries tax software. For those accountants, however, it provides a fast and flexible alternative to more expensive asset managers, and offers direct interaction with the tax software that will reduce data entry errors and time consumed.

SAGE FAS FIXED ASSETS

The 2007 version of Sage FAS Fixed Assets features Microsoft Vista support and substantially updated information for the latest tax regulations, forms and rates, including increased Section 179 limits; the extension for Section 179D property; the new Section 179E deduction for advanced mine safety equipment; the extension of the 168(k) allowance for GO Zone property; and the new 168(k) allowance for cellulosic biomass ethanol plant property.

Sage FAS Fixed Asset solutions scale easily, with products aimed at a range of business sizes. FAS 50 Asset Accounting is for small businesses with 1,000 or fewer assets, but offers more than 20 pre-defined reports. The more robust FAS 100 solution includes not only Asset Accounting but Asset Inventory, CIP Accounting and a separate Report Writer. These modules are also available in the FAS 500 SQL Server edition.

Sage's solutions integrate with general ledger solutions, including Sage Software ERP and accounting products, and provide fixed asset depreciation calculations for financial and tax reporting. Sage FAS covers the entire fixed asset life cycle, from acquisition to disposal.

It is also available in government and nonprofit versions, specifically developed for the unique needs of school, government and nonprofit organizations. FAS CIP Accounting is also available for construction-in-progress projects, and FAS Compliance Advisor helps Sage FAS customers produce 16 of the most commonly requested auditing reports to assist them in demonstrating compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley security requirements.

Unlike many fixed asset management systems, which do either a decent job of accounting or asset inventory, but not both, Sage FAS Fixed Assets solutions do a very capable job of both - handling with agility the chores of identifying, tracking and reporting out the assets of the organization. And it is notable that they have not deserted the small to midsized marketplace, which is increasingly looking to fixed asset management services for tax and compliance purposes.

VISUAL ASSET MANAGER

NetSimplicity's Visual Asset Manager is a unique product for its use of a visual reference system that lets an organization inventory, track and value their fixed, mobile and IT assets to achieve full visibility into what they own, where it's deployed, and what it's worth.

Fully customizable, Visual Asset Manager tracks a wealth of information for all types of fixed, mobile and IT assets, including basic identification; manufacturer, model and configuration detail; purchase, lease and warranty information; and depreciation or other valuation information. The assets are then presented visually on a floor plan (in JPG format) of the organization.

Designed for enterprise-level applications, Visual Asset Manager provides a graphically oriented framework for tracking and mapping all of the organization's tangibles in a single system that is easily customized. It is scalable to tens of thousands of assets at no additional cost, and accessible from any browser. Multi-server database synchronization capabilities make it possible to manage and track assets across the enterprise.

While its straight-line depreciation capabilities are likely not sufficient for accounting and tax purposes, the system is worth consideration in that it can shore up such tasks as warranty information tracking, lease renewals and scheduling maintenance. It also facilities movement of and sharing of assets by allowing a quick and easy transfer of any asset for a stated period of time.

With strong PDA/barcode/RFID tag support, Visual Asset Manager is an application that can dovetail nicely with a more robust accounting system for unparalleled asset management. Its price, sophistication and capabilities mark it as an excellent investment for large and diversified organizations.

Dave McClure is the president of Kent Associates, in Alexandria, Va., an independent testing laboratory and evaluation service.

Vendor Information

Bassets Fixed Assets

Decision Support

Technology Inc.

Ramsey, N.J.

(201) 995-9500

www.bassets.net

Pricing: Bassets - starts at $2,495; annual maintenance - starts at $595. Client/Server Version - starts at $6,695.

BNA Fixed Assets

BNA Software

Arlington, Va.

(703) 341-3600

www.bnasoftware.com

Pricing: Desktop - starts at $1,675. Contact vendor for Web-based pricing.

Fixed Assets CS

Thomson Tax & Accounting

Dexter, Mich.

(800) 968-8900

http://cs.thomson.com

Pricing: Renewable version - $1,100; perpetual license - $1,500. Modules - $200 to $300 each.

IntelliTrack Fixed Assets

IntelliTrack Inc.

Hunt Valley, Md.

(410) 771-3060

www.intellitrack.net

Pricing: One workstation - $1,795; three workstations, SQL version - $3,995.

ProSystem fx Fixed Assets

CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business

Torrance, Calif.

(800) PFX-9998

http://cchgroup.com

Pricing: First user - $1,660; each additional - $145 each.

ProSeries Professional Fixed Asset Manager

Intuit Inc.

Plano, Texas

(214) 387-2000

www.proseries.com

Pricing: New license - $549; renewal - $219.

Sage FAS Fixed Assets

Sage Software

Herndon, Va.

(800) 368-2405

www.sagefas.com

Pricing: Single-user - FAS 50 Asset Accounting, $995; FAS 100 Asset Accounting, starts at $2,295, depending on number of seats.

Visual Asset Manager

NetSimplicity

Austin, Texas

(866) 248-0480

www.netsimplicity.com

Pricing: Visual Asset Manager Enterprise - $2,999, plus $99 per user.

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