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Laser printed smart forms.

The advantages of a laser form library were discussed in the January column (TTA, Jan. 1992, at 62), which closed with a wish for a series of "Smart Forms" that would contain spreadsheet logic. It now seems that ATX Forms has developed such a package, Package X Plus, using the graphics features contained within Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel. Package X Plus presently contains over 250 commonly used Federal forms including Form 709, U.S. Gift Tax Return; and income tax returns for individuals, fiduciaries, partnerships and corporations with various supporting schedules. All forms will work interchangeably with different returns, and a CPA can prepare any type of return with one program.

The schedules are linked to the main forms through a common spreadsheet interface, in a series of linked spreadsheets; anyone familiar with Lotus or Excel will find tax preparation simply an extension of other work they are doing with spreadsheets. The graphic interface displays the forms on the computer monitor screen and data can be inputted in the same way it is entered onto a blank tax form. Prior years' client information is updated through a carryforward worksheet, which also serves as a reminder of carryforward items.

Using a common spreadsheet interface allows for a host of new possibilities in tax practice management through integration with a relational database program. For example, the process of preparing applications for extension of time to file can be managed by using the resources of a CPA tickler database. The names, addresses, taxpayer identification numbers and relevant financial data for each client can be taken from the tickler and put into the appropriate extension request form. In a similar manner, data maintained in an accounting system, such as Quicken, can be moved to the appropriate input area on the spreadsheet.

Each form can be customized to accommodate a client's particular needs. One individual's tax form can be linked to his accounting system, while another individual's files can be built around the schedules contained within the spreadsheet. Best of all, CPAs can construct annotated worksheets reflecting their own detailed allocations and calculations, and link the resulting totals to the appropriate input cells on the return. Any changes to the underlying worksheet would automatically flow to the return. Furthermore, each form can be modified to allow additional space for lengthy descriptions (although IRS guidelines would have to be followed).


The April column (TTA, Apr. 92, at 254) discussed the proliferation of CD-ROM tax libraries and focused on Research Institute of America's On Point. Now, other publishers have jumped into the fray so that tax practitioners should be able to complement their printed service with CDROM technology. This technology would enable them to replace hundreds of feet of books with one or two CD-ROM discs; for example, a single CD-ROM currently can contain up to 300,000 typed pages of text, or the content of 1,500 floppy discs.

Subscribers to CCH's Standard Federal Tax Reporter are being offered a subscription to CCH ACCESS CD-ROM for the remainder of 1992 for about $200, thereby providing them with an introduction to the advantages of CD-ROM technology. CCH will update its service on a monthly basis, providing subscribers with the ability to search through the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury regulations, revenue rulings and CCH editors' explanation using hypertext-based software links. CCH also offers the ability to coordinate tax research with its online service. In a similar fashion, Matthew Bender is offering SEAR CH MASTER, consolidating its Federal, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas services-55 volumes in all--on one compact disc. Bender's tax CD-ROM also includes revenue rulings, select IRS publications and several of Matthew Bender's specialty tax publications, including the N.Y.U, Institute on Federal Taxation, U.S.C. Major Tax Planning Institute, Consolidated Returns, Federal Income Taxation of Inventories and Income Taxation of Foreign Related Transactions. Users can search across all those sources simultaneously or specify the information to search in order to answer a particular question.

It is reasonable to expect that practitioners will select a CD-ROM service that is closely linked to their preferred printed service. Important factors to consider in the selection process include completeness and timeliness of updates, completeness of published rulings, elimination of untold volumes of printed court decisions, availability of letter rulings on a current basis, the ability to search text through an editor's index or, better yet, key word search techniques. Some publishers offer official material such as letter rulings on floppy discs, but do not offer the sophisticated search techniques available through more expensive services.

It is important to remember that there is no uniform CD-ROM software standard; thus, e.g., practitioners with discs sold by West Publishing Company may not be able to read them via the search software distributed by another publisher. Fortunately, CD-ROM hardware has been standardized by the adoption of High Sierra standards and the price of several CD-ROM drives has fallen to about $600, making them both affordable and useful. Now, if they would only add some multimedia features, such as the voices of Bittker and Eustice explaining Sec. 338 ! For more information on the products discussed, contact the following companies.
 ATX Forms
 P.O. Box 630
 Washburn, Maine 04789
 (207) 455-4603 Ext. 102
Commerce Clearing House, Inc.
 4025 West Peterson Avenue
 Chicago, 111. 60646
 (312) 583-8500
 Matthew Bender & Co.
 11 Penn Plaza
 New York, N.Y. 10001
 (800) 223-1049

Questions and Answers

The editor welcomes suggestions, comments and questions. Correspondence should be addressed to:

William E. Wasserman, CPA

Hertz, Herson & Company

2 Park Avenue

New York, N.Y. 10016
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes evaluation of legal CD-ROMs and Package X Plus legal forms software
Author:Wasserman, William E.
Publication:The Tax Adviser
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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