Printer Friendly

Tax software buyers' guide.

This is the year the tax software industry committed itself to Windows. With few exceptions, vendors that have not already taken the Windows plunge are working overtime to prepare their first Windows products in time for this tax year. The nearly universal rush to Windows leads many diehard DOS users to question whether they, too, will have to move to Windows-- like it or not.

The answer is yes, they probably will have to move--although the timing is unclear. If the current trend continues, it's doubtful the DOS market for tax software will be big enough within two or three years to justify its continued support. While most vendors that either have Windows products or are about to introduce them say they are continuing to support their old DOS products, no one is sure--or will say--how long such support will continue.

SHRINKING DOS

The migration to Windows started on a small scale three years ago. By last year, many vendors acknowledged they were preparing Windows versions; this year, the majority are introducing the new products, some as late as January. From early sales returns, it appears that tax preparers are ready for the migration. Some vendors are reporting that customer renewals are running as much as 80% in favor of the Windows products. Clearly, the DOS market is shrinking fast, and the inevitable conclusion is that in a few years--and maybe even sooner--DOS users may not have a choice: It will be Windows or back to columnar pads.

But despite the clear preference for Windows software, all is not serene on that front. Many tax software programmers are frantically writing or revising code for their new Windows versions in an effort to meet the yearend deadline. In some instances, the development work will continue past the deadline, well into the spring, as they rush to fix the inevitable bugs experienced by nearly all new software products.

Some tax package buyers, while eager to upgrade to Windows, may still hold off at least one more year, heeding the cardinal rule that one should never use a 1.0 version of any software product because it takes at least one version to find and repair bugs.

Many vendors are offering their new Windows products as part of a package that includes their DOS versions at no extra charge. And customers are turning to the Windows version figuring that, if it proves unstable, they can always switch back to DOS as a backup option.

However, in some cases, such a switch is not as simple as that. Unless the DOS and Windows versions are engineered so they can share the same client database, the return to the DOS version may not be easy--especially under April 15 deadline pressure. If the databases are compatible with each other, the DOS and Windows versions can be loaded on a network or on a standalone computer and users can switch back and forth without worrying about data conversion. In fact, two users, one running a DOS version and the other a Windows version of the same program, can access the same data simultaneously--a great convenience at firms where some users are reluctant to make the shift.

95 VERSUS 3.x

Many of the newly introduced Windows versions are formatted for Windows 95; others are designed in the older Windows 3.x format. (The designation 3.x stands for any of the Windows versions before Windows 9S--including Windows 3.1, 3.11 and Windows for Workgroups.)

The difference between the two Windows version is significant. Windows 95 is inherently faster: Not only does the computer process the data quicker (because the information moves in 32-bit, rather than 16-bit, bundles) but also Windows 95 can do more than one job at a time (multitasking). For example, with multitasking, the computer can accept new data, perform a tax return calculation and print another return--all at the same time. For a busy tax office faced with an overload of tax returns a week before April 15, multitasking is a blessing. With Windows 3.x, the computer can perform only one operation at a time, pausing between each activity.

In addition, because of a technology called multithreading, a Windows 95 application is less likely to crash or freeze. If an application does freeze, it will rarely, if ever, bring down the entire computer or network. Only the troubled application will halt--often only after it saves the most recently entered data. Also, memory management is less of a problem in Windows 95 as long as sufficient random access memory (RAM) is installed. And with RAM prices now at bargain levels, there is little excuse for users to fail to upgrade office machines to at least 16 megabytes of RAM--the level where Windows 95 begins to operate most effectively

Caveat: Software designed specifically for Windows 95 (with 32-bit format) cannot run on computers that operate with any of the earlier versions of Windows. However, a computer with a Windows 95 operating system generally has no trouble handling any Windows 3.x or DOS application package.

THE MARKET SHIFTS

Overwhelmed by the huge investment required to reengineer their products for the new Windows market, some tax software vendors have decided to call it quits--either by selling their products to competitors or outright abandoning them and selling their customer lists. The consolidation trend, which began last year, accelerated this year, shrinking the market considerably. Generally, smaller vendors were the victims.

Don't expect the consolidation wave to end soon. In fact, it's possible that vendor pruning will accelerate in the next year or two. The reasons have as much to do with technology as economics. Now that Windows--and especially Windows 95--is becoming the dominant operating system, the financially stronger tax software vendors are investing heavily to exploit the new technology. Under Windows 95, with multitasking and with memory management less of a problem, the programmers are planning to make tax software much smarter and faster. Even more important, many plan to create suites of compatible business software--for example, linking tax software to accounting and other business software products. The idea is to create a seamless connection among various business products so data from, say, accounting, writeup and fixed assets modules will flow nearly automatically into the tax module.

Ditto with tax research. Linking sophisticated tax information--either via CD-ROM or even online--to tax software provides a big convenience for users. However, it takes a sizable development investment to make such links possible. This partly explains why major players such as Research Institute of America (RIA) have been very active in the acquisition market; RIA bought SCS/Compute and its several tax software products. Additionally, at least one vendor, CCH Inc., has already created seamless links to some popular time and billing software.

PRICE IMPACT

How will these developments affect prices? While some vendors maintain there are still too many products chasing too few customers--and in basic economic theory, that discrepancy should trigger price cuts--we've noticed that some quoted renewal prices were actually raised this year. In this industry, however, quoted prices are somewhat deceptive. Since most vendors offer a wide assortment of special deals, including sizable discounts or offers of free auxiliary software for early renewals, it's nearly impossible to determine with any accuracy which way prices are moving. We've even heard of a software vendor giving away CD-ROM drives as an inducement to get a low-tech customer to use its CD-ROM product.

However, considering the fact that most vendors have added significant new features to their products just to stay competitive, even a slight rise in listed price can hardly be interpreted as an inflation trend.

What does all this mean to the average tax preparer?

First the bad news: Each time a vendor goes out of business, its customers become orphans. Like it or not, they must select a new vendor, learn how to use a new product and worry about accurately converting their client data to the new software. For a small CPA firm with limited resources, such a switch can be traumatic and expensive.

Now the good news: As the competitive tension increases, vendors will be under considerable pressure to meet the challenges with sophisticated-but expensive--upgrades that make their software even more productive. Also, since the remaining vendors will probably be the strongest, the likelihood of further consolidations two or three years out will diminish. Gone will be the small, boutique vendors. The remaining packages will represent the survival of the biggest and best.

And now to the product reviews:

DOS

AM-Tax Pro

AM Software

Overview

AM-Tax Pro, designed for low-to-medium-volume tax preparers, is an example of how to model a user-friendly DOS interface. Unfortunately, the long-term future of the product is in doubt since the vendor says it has no plans to develop a Windows version.

Loading the program is straightforward. The product comes with an extensive online manual that's accessible by pressing the F1 key. The interface is well laid out and the fields in each screen automatically flow in a logical sequence. Some fields even anticipate answers and fill in data with only a hint of information. For instance, in the 1040 dependents field, typing an "s" automatically translates into "son"; likewise, typing a "d" generates "daughter." Such little conveniences go a long way to making data entry efficient.

New for 1996

* Improved printout of the tax organizer.

* A state information worksheet that attaches to the federal data file.

* A toll-free technical support fax line.

DOS

Window 3.x

A*Plus*Tax

Arthur Andersen LLP

Overview

A-Plus-Tax introduced its Windows version of the 1040 package this year, so now it has both a DOS and a Windows version. By January, the vendor plans to introduce the Windows version of the 1065 module, and some states will be available in that module.

Data entry generally is intuitive and the product supports both batch and interactive input. However, to achieve integration between the federal and multiple state modules, the DOS version requires that preparers enter codes for many items. In prior years, such code entries were a handicap to new users, who had to stop and look up the unique codes, but this year the vendor added easily accessible context-sensitive help to evoke the codes.

The Windows program makes good use of Windows capabilities. Maneuvering around the screens and menus is easy and efficient. Clearly, the developers did more than design a DOS program to work under Windows. The online help module also includes federal and state government form instructions.

The program includes review notes, married-filing-jointly vs. married-filing-separately (MFJ-MFS) comparisons and an autocalculation feature.

All states with an individual income tax are available on DOS and Windows. Business and fiduciary returns will not be available this year for all states.

New for 1996

* Tax Planner for Windows.

* Expanded online instructions.

* All states available in 1040 Windows program.

DOS Windows 3.x Windows 95

GoSystem

CLR

Overview

The GoSystem package is a comprehensive tax preparation system for both DOS and Windows that should handle the needs of virtually any practitioner. The Windows version is designed with the full 32-bit format for Windows 95. In addition to tax preparation, the system includes a well-designed practice management system that provides such information as status reports on returns and due-date monitoring.

The system uses identical file formats for both the DOS and Windows versions; thus users can prepare returns in either DOS or Windows and yet tap the same database. The program supports automatic recalculation of the return during entry. This option can be toggled on and off as needed. In the DOS version, automatic recalculation slows the operation appreciably; not so in the Windows version.

The interface for the DOS version is unusual: While the opening menu uses a standard pull-down menu interface, once the return itself is opened, the interface shifts to one driven by function keys and fails to provide many clues on which keys to use.

The Windows interface is more friendly. On the Windows screen, a forms-selection menu is on the left and the input screen or government forms are on the right. CLR suggests using a high-resolution graphics driver to make full use of the Windows version, and this advice is worth heeding. Even at 800 x 600 resolution, many of the input forms and virtually all government forms required horizontal scrolling to see the entire form in the right-side window.

The program supports only the Novell network, which may be a problem for some practitioners. The Windows version also indicates in the installation manual that users running Quarterdeck's QEMM memory management software are not to use the Stealth feature. Turning off that feature can reduce conventional memory available for DOS programs.

New for 1996

* Prints at 600 dots per inch.

* Integration with other Windows products in CLR's ACE division.

* Addition of California form 568 and other states requiring LLC returns.

DOS Windows 3.x Windows 95

Lacerte Tax Software

Lacerte Software

Overview

Lacerte remains committed to tax software as its only business. This year, in addition to the DOS version, it is adding both a Windows 3.x and a full 32-bit Windows 95 version. All three versions, which come on a CD-ROM, use the same database, and customers receive all three for the same basic price. The two Windows versions were not complete in time for this review, so we assessed only the DOS product.

For a new user, one of the biggest pluses of Lacerte is its fast learning curve. Credit that to good screen layouts and help screens and well-written manuals.

The program accepts data in either of two ways: via the conventional income-expense mode or on a virtual Internal Revenue Service form. All menus are accessible by a touch of the ALT key. Customer support is available either by telephone or by e-mail through a communications utility built into the software. The program supports unlimited multistate processing and links to the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) for tax planning.

Mindful of users' limited hard-disk storage space, Lacerte offers the option of installing parts of the software on a hard drive or running it on the CD-ROM.

New for 1996

* Six additional states for C and S corporations and partnerships.

* Two additional states for fiduciary tax returns.

* Client base can be filtered on various criteria for marketing purposes.

* Calculation in real time.

DOS Windows 3.x Windows 95

LMS/Tax

SCS/Compute

Overview

LMS/Tax now comes in three versions: DOS, Windows 3.x and full 32-bit Windows 95. The Windows versions were still under development when we conducted our reviews and thus weren't available for inspection.

The DOS product provides good national coverage for both 1040 software and business packages. It supports both batch and interactive input. Input entry can be made either on a virtual IRS form or by income-expense categories.

The program includes a tax planner and can perform what-if analyses. It also offers more than 50 optional worksheets and extensive diagnostics. In addition, it integrates with Datawrite, Accountants Trial Balance (ATB) and the add-on Taxi bridge.

The program has strong practice management features, including statistical reports, client tracking and the ability to export to word processors and spreadsheets. Screen layout, documentation and help screens all create a user-friendly product.

One of the software's annoying traits involves the difficulty in moving back to a previous screen. The so-called index function key (F5), designed to move the user to various forms, works only on a major screen form.

New for 1996

* A field-sensitive workpad accessible from any amount entry field.

* Estate tax modules (form 706) now available.

* Fiduciary modules for Alabama, Arizona, Minnesota and Oregon. * Delaware business module.

* Electronic filing for Georgia, Oregon and South Carolina.

DOS Windows 95

Pencil Pushers Tax Software

Damirus Corp.

Overview

Pencil Pushers is releasing its 32-bit Windows 95 version for corporations (including the forms 5500 and 990, but not the 1120s) and states for 1996. The vendor plans a complete Windows version for the 1997 tax year. The Windows version was not complete in time for this review, so our assessment is based on the DOS version, which is essentially unchanged from last year.

The Windows and DOS versions do not share the same database, so the two programs cannot be used interchangeably. Pencil Pushers' character-based software handles complex returns, supports multistate processing, automatically generates MFJ-MFS comparisons and supports tax planning (with an add-on module) and what-if analyses. It handles both batch and interactive processing. Input is by a combination of income-expense category and Ilks form. Use of function keys and commands is unique to the product, making learning difficult. The complete instruction manual is accessible online.

The program contains some oddities. For example, client file names must be seven characters--no more, no less. New for 1996

* Massachusetts and New York form 706.

DOS Windows 95

Professional Tax System

Tax and Accounting Software Corp. (TaascFORCE)

Overview

Professional Tax System, a comprehensive program with national coverage for both 1040 and business products, has added a full 32-bit Windows 95 version to its DOS product line. Both share the same database; thus preparers on a network using different versions can access the same data. The Windows version was not ready in time for this review, so only the DOS product is assessed here.

The DOS program is easy to use and requires only a short learning curve. Most forms are supported by the software; unsupported forms are provided by the Laser Forms library. The package is designed for interactive input, using conventional IRS form input. Calculation is simultaneous, and users may view a tax summary at any time during data entry to check accuracy.

The program automatically brings forward all pertinent prior-year data to save reentering that data. Corrections can be made directly in the preview mode before printing without reentering the input mode, as most other tax packages require. Diagnostics not only point out missing data but also describe assumptions made by the software for potential gray areas and as an error-detection safeguard.

The package includes, at an extra cost, an integrated tax planning and what-if analysis module. In addition, the package can handle not-for-profit organizations and benefit plans. It also supports unlimited multistate processing and provides seamless integration with TaascFORCE's accounting and depreciation software. Extensive help is available for every data entry field either on screen or in the accompanying manuals. New for 1996

* Simultaneous data entry, calculation and printing due to 32-bit design.

DOS Windows 3.x

ProSystem fx

CCH

Overview

ProSystem fx is a comprehensive program that was one of the early entries into Windows. The current Windows package is a 16-bit version that runs under Windows 3.x and Windows 95. A true 32-bit version is planned for a later date. The vendor also maintains a DOS version, which is sold separately and accesses a different database. The Windows program is very similar to the DOS product.

The program can handle complex returns and all states with income taxes. To support the complexities required for the most difficult returns, the system uses special coding options for allocation between schedules, for state and city purposes and for passive, at-risk and expatriate calculations. In many instances, although the program defaults to normal treatment if special codes are not entered, the software requires some training to become proficient in using the codes. The online tutorial and help modules are helpful in this respect.

Besides being able to handle individual, fiduciary and business returns, ProSystem fx provides a client database manager and an engagement monitor. The program also can link with several time and billing programs: Timeslips, Unilink TimeLink and PACS. In addition, the program connects to CCH's electronic tax research and BNA's tax planner.

New for 1996

* Five new electronic filing states.

* Ability to transfer K-1 information from partnership, S corporation and fiduciary returns to individual returns.

* Context-sensitive link to CCH's US Master Tax Guide (Windows version).

DOS UNIX

Tax Machine

SCS/Compute

Overview

Ownership changes can be unsettling for tax program customers. Sometimes the new owners already have their own tax preparation products and are just buying a customer base or a mailing list. Not so with the Tax Machine. RIA purchased SCS/Compute, which publishes Tax Machine and LMS/Tax, to fill out its product line. There are no substantial immediate changes in either corporate operations or the program itself. In all likelihood, Tax Machine customers can look forward to an integrated environment with RIA's tax research products, making it more competitive with CCH.

Operationally, Tax Machine continues to be a feature-rich package well suited to both medium-size and large tax preparers. The program is especially good for complicated returns. Extensive setup options allow customization of the software based on each firm's practice. Interactive and input sheet modes are both strongly' supported in this program. Data input in the interactive mode is forms-based, with linking directly between forms. For instance, when entering 1040 information, the W-2 line takes you to the W-2 input screen; the interest income line takes you to the schedule B input screen.

An interesting new feature is an automatic conversion support to change an MFJ return into two MFS returns without data reentry.

The CD-ROM that is shipped includes all individual and business programs. If a user decides to add a business module after making the initial purchase of the CD-ROM, the module can be activated with a phone call and a payment.

Help screens abound. Technical support is available from the standard sources: voice phone, fax and bulletin board. SCS provides a toll-free number for its bulletin board for program updates, pay-per-return authorizations and technical support e-mail.

New for 1996

* A field-sensitive notepad to incorporate memos in a return.

* A field-sensitive workpad accessible through any amount field.

* An estate tax (form 706) module, enhancing state fiduciary filings.

* Schedules C and F and form 2106 incorporating per diem expense calculations.

* Modules for gift tax and tax-exempt clients (forms 709 and 990).

DOS Windows 3.x

Tax Relief

Micro Vision

Overview

Tax Relief, which comes in both DOS and Windows versions, is designed for low-to-medium-volume tax preparers. Although the Windows version supports only a handful of states, all states available in the DOS version are fully compatible with the Windows federal programs.

Data can be entered in two ways: Directly on a virtual IRS schedule or by using the software's so-called Input Engine, which works like a "shoe box." The input Engine automatically organizes the data, places it in the appropriate forms and computes the returns. Although excellent for simple tax returns, the automated feature can become burdensome when the user tries to bypass it.

Business returns allow electronic linkage of a client's general ledger trial balance to the corresponding tax line and schedules. These links are carried forward when updating. Business returns also support direct-book entry by entering information into a trial balance input screen from which data flow- to the appropriate forms and schedules.

Windows and DOS versions share common files so users can switch between the two versions. Reporting and viewing options are extensive and include automatically generated MFJ-MFS comparisons, which can be modified on screen before printing. The tax planner module allows the preparer to evaluate up to three scenarios at a time for the current and succeeding year.

Last-minute software corrections and e-mail queries can be transmitted via the vendor's bulletin board, which is accessible via an icon in the tools menu. Double clicking on any line evokes any supplemental forms related to that data.

New for 1996

* Conversion programs from most tax software products available for 1040, 1120, 1120S and 1065.

* Double clicking on a diagnostic message takes the user to the pertinent tax form and line item for easy adjustment.

* Supports electronic filing for six states.

* Handling of five nonresident tax returns.

* Support for short-year depreciation.

* Ability to import K-1 information from any S corporation or partnership return into a 1040 tax return.

* Link of a line item to an Excel spreadsheet.

DOS

TAXSIMPLE

TAXSIMPLE, Inc.

Overview

TAXSIMPLE, designed for low-to-medium-volume users, employs an integrated system of IlKS forms look-a-like screens in a DOS environment. Data can be entered directly on the forms or entered through work screens. With both online assistance and the ability to link to CD-ROM tax research, help is only a few keystrokes away. The program ships on both a CD-ROM and disks.

The program includes a what-if tax planning module. The preparer can modify individual entries or whole forms to create a tax projection. Since the planner works with the current-year tax code, it cannot project future tax years. In addition to the what-if planner, a separate MFJ-MFS analysis can be presented to a client. There is no provision to convert a favorable MFS analysis into separate tax returns.

A transmittal letter can be customized to each client's needs while retaining standard paragraphs for date and amount due. The software can generate invoices using standard rates per form and value billing or with a new timer function. The practice management module generates 21 standard reports. There is no provision for custom queries. Most reports simply list all clients that meet the criteria (for example, took a deduction for an individual retirement account) but can't set upper or lower limits on the range.

Tax returns can be printed on daisy-wheel, dot-matrix and laser printers. The company has obtained IRS substitute forms approval for those printers. The optional laser form software uses industry-standard Nelco forms. Plastic overlays also are available for low-volume users.

TAXSIMPLE is testing a Windows beta version scheduled for launch next year. The vendor is expanding its product line beyond tax preparation, adding general ledger, accounts receivable and payable, payroll and W-2/1099 systems. A fixed-asset Windows module is planned, too.

New for 1996

* MU-MFS analysis for conversion to separate forms.

* State's federal form attachment requirements updated.

* Sold assets transferred from depreciation worksheets to form 4797.

* W-2 employer data transferred on annual conversion of data files.

* Use of internal electronic filing software.

DOS

Tax/Pack Professional

Alpine Data

Overview

Tax/Pack Professional, a DOS package, is the least expensive tax software product reviewed here. It's designed for those with primarily a 1040 tax practice and a tight budget. The software is easy to use.

The program handles 41 of the 45 states with individual income taxes. Its business returns (forms 1065, 1120 and 1120s) are limited to Colorado and California. The software provides multistate processing for up to four states and MFJ-MFS comparisons. Tax planning is available at extra cost.

Help is available on screen on a limited basis and from the operating manual.

New for 1996

* Client management module up-graded.

* Network print feature.

* Additional states for state electronic filing.

* Federal estate tax return (form 1041).

DOS Windows 95

TaxWorks

Laser Systems

Overview

TaxWorks, which had to delay' the introduction of its Windows version last year, plans to ship a Windows 95 product this year. However, our review covers only the DOS version; the Windows product was still in its beta stage and not ready for review.

The DOS version has many of the bells and whistles needed for any size office and the Windows version will contain the same modules. Both will work off the same database, so users running different versions can work at the same time.

The DOS program loads and operates well under either Windows or DOS. All support needed for network operation, laser printing and electronic filing are included in the base price (with a small fee for electronic transmission). The vendor is still working on bridges to accounting packages for its business returns.

Data is entered either through an interview process or input sheets. Navigation for the interactive mode is through a central forms access screen. For those users migrating from another program, which has its forms interconnected, this change can take some getting used to.

The program handles multistate processing for all states automatically, what-if analyses and tax planning. It's possible to attach supporting schedules to any line within the tax return directly from the input screen. Totals carry forward to the screen in red to indicate the presence of the underlying schedule. A complete Ilks help system is line-sensitive and includes reference to federal regulations.

For practices that have many clients working for the same company (or for in-house preparation), TaxWorks offers a plus--the Employer Library, which maintains all employer information in a separate, easily accessed file. The feature saves lots of data entry.

Viewing and printing continue to be strong points of this program. Multiple print copies and individual pages are produced easily. General notes can be maintained for printing with the return.

Laser Systems support now includes Internet access. Phone support is on a call-back system. New for 1996

* Mouse support for the DOS version.

* More forms and forms support.

DOS Windows 3.x

TurboTax ProSeries

Intuit

Overview

TurboTax ProSeries is designed for low-to-medium-volume tax preparers and can prepare returns for all 45 states that have income taxes. Its Windows product is still a 16-bit version and it plans to update to Windows 95 in the 1997 tax year. The DOS and Windows versions use identical database formats, so a user can move back and forth between them without the need to convert data.

The help module is especially useful. Not only is it comprehensive but also a user can hot-button directly from the help menu to the appropriate form or page. The product has several review- functions that scan a finished return for errors and omissions, audit flags, alerts for additional deductions and overrides. The software also provides a tax summary, tax history and two-year comparisons for each client.

A user has only to click on an appropriate icon to move between a federal and a state return. In addition, a user can move directly to a specific line on the form 1040 by line number, schedule number or topic.

Other features of TurboTax include a tax planning worksheet to explore what-if scenarios and full Internet access. The software contains a client billing module and a variety of client letters into which the appropriate 1040 information is entered automatically. When entering data in the 1040, an alert is displayed on the screen if another form can or should be used instead. Clicking on an icon will bring up those forms.

The program's File Cabinet command allows preparers to organize all information for easy access: by filing it alphabetically, by address, by form or by business function. TurboTax also can convert client data into graphical presentations and summarizations. For example, the program can graph the client's income sources, deductions and expenses.

As good as the product is, it does contain some minor drawbacks. For example, after entering dependents' information, the software doesn't automatically calculate the number of dependents for exemptions. Also, it cannot directly enter IRA adjustments to income and Keogh plan amounts into form 1040. And the program lacks an icon for easy access to the 1040 or a return to a previously used form.

New for 1996

* Open returns automatically saved at timed intervals.

* Access to RIA's electronic tax research tool with the click of an icon.

* Printing of custom client mailing labels.

* Attachment of a preparer's note to a specific line on a tax form.

* Information common to all returns placed automatically in all returns.

* Easy search for a description or an amount in the tax return--no need to page down in search of data.

DOS Windows 95

Ultra Tax

Creative Solutions

Overview

Ultra Tax is a solid and complete DOS package that continues to expand its coverage of forms and entities. Although the vendor plans to introduce a Windows 95 version by yearend, the product wasn't available in time for this review. Creative Solutions says the Windows interface will support some of the DOS program's keystrokes, making learning easier.

DOS users can chose to input either with onscreen input forms or virtual representations of IRS forms. The onscreen representations use graphics mode to provide a relatively faithful representation of IRS forms. The program also allows the user to split the screen while inputing, enabling realtime viewing of completed IRS forms. It offers unlimited multistate processing and automatically calculates MFJ-MFS. It also supports both whatif analyses and integrated tax planning.

The DOS product installed relatively easily from a CD-ROM; it's also available on disks.

The program integrates very tightly with Creative Solutions' other products, including Write Up Solution 2 and Depreciation Solution 2, with which it shares a common interface. Conventions used within the program, while consistent with the vendor's other products, do not follow standard practices, leading to a longer-than-average learning curve. On the positive side, the function keys necessary to perform operations are conveniently displayed onscreen and the functions are consistent across the program.

A frustrating aspect of the program is the need to return to the main menu to perform simple operations such as printing. Somewhat offsetting this problem is the fact that the program can create a full review copy of the return, including supporting schedules, before printing.

New for 1996

* All states in the 1040 package supported.

* Forms 2555 and 1040NR.

[TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

The following CPAs prepared the reviews of the products in this article: Kent-Morgan Arnold, Steven Bentley, Sam Hicks, Joe Maida, Stanley Person, Marshall Romney, Susan J. Rosenberg, Thomas J. Van Hazebroeck and Edward K. Zollars. Journal senior editor Stanley Zarowin edited the article and wrote the commentary.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Zarowin, Stanley
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Sep 1, 1996
Words:5558
Previous Article:The Reform Act: what CPAs should know.
Next Article:Planning for college education.
Topics:


Related Articles
Tax software buyers' guide.
Plastics Technology's PC software buyer's guide.
PC software buyer's guide.
Buyers' guide to low-end accounting software.
A buyers' guide: high-end accounting software.
Tax software buyers' guide.
Clarifications and corrections.
Featuring software solutions buyers guide.
Buyers guide.
Buyers guide.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters