Product analysis: UltraTax CS

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The aptly named UltraTax program ($2,200) is part of the CS Professional Suite offered by Thomson Reuters. The UltraTax user interface groups related forms and input screens into sets of tabs, so you can quickly navigate through event the most complex returns. Scott Fleszar, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing, notes that UltraTax offers "multiple, flexible data entry options," as well as "complete, comprehensive data sharing across applications, which means you never rekey data." New features for the 2008 tax year include:

  • Dual monitor users can simultaneously see and scroll through this year's and last's input screens and forms. For instance, when you enter this year's Form W-2, you'll see last year's W-2 at the same time.
  • Longstanding limitations within the Data Sharing feature have been removed. For instance, the software now accepts multiple 1099s from a single issuer, and allows multiple addresses for a single taxpayer.
  • The Client Note feature is now integrated across all application, so the person doing write-up work for a client will have immediate access to notes made by the tax return preparer.
  • The Client Status System has been improved to track milestones versus last year. For instance, when you send this year's organizer, you'll be able to see when it was sent last year, so that you can determine if you're staying on track to meet your clients' expectations.
  • Client documents, such as instructions and organizers, can be generated in Spanish.

UltraTax also offers an innovative Data Mining feature that allows you to print letters for clients that meet criteria that you specify. This makes it easy to identify and capitalize on potential cross-selling opportunities with your existing clients. Of course, all of the standard capabilities that you'd expect are included, such as the Proforma feature that allows you to carry forward client information from prior year's tax return, even if it was prepared in another application. Further, UltraTax lets you prepare a return your way, giving you the ability to override any calculated amount on a tax form. However, there's also a bit of whimsy: you use toolbar buttons with musical symbols to add a note to a client or field record. You can also enable a “Tickle me when UltraTax CS is first opened” option to enable reminders of upcoming deadlines or events.

UltraTax offers dozens of keystroke commands enable you to quickly navigate through returns, and a built-in word processor, so you can customize filing instructions, elections, slipsheets, and other documents to meet your specific needs. Further, you can completely customize input screens to only display certain fields when data is present.

Of course, it's critical to have research at your fingertips during tax season, so you'll find that several subscription-based research options can be integrated within the software:

  • Checkpoint
  • RIA research, such as Form/Line Finder, Reference Guides, and Tax Alerts
  • PPC Deskbooks

As you're probably aware, UltraTax CS is part of a comprehensive practice management suite designed to help you manage all aspects of your practice, some of which include:

  • CS Accounting provides write-up, trial balance, engagement, and payroll modules.
  • Practice CS enables you to manage your practice without rekeying data. For instance, UltraTax transfers your tax return invoices into Practice CS.
  • Financial Analysis CS allows you to analyze and benchmark your clients' data against similar businesses or industry standards.
  • Fixed Assets CS integrates with Write-Up CS and UltraTax CS, so you'll never need to rekey a depreciable asset again.
  • FileCabinet CS makes the paperless office a true reality while keeping every document within your firm just a few clicks away.
  • UltraTax 1040 Portals allows you to offer an online portal to your clients, from which they can clients can access all of their tax documents at any time.
  • Web Builder CS enables you to create a professional web site, full of bells and whistles such as calculators and newsletters, without any prior knowledge of web site development.

CS Professional Suite includes several other applications, including virtual office capability that enables you to access all of your practice's software from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. In short, UltraTax is an ideal fit for anyone seeking a firm foundation for their growing practice. Check out the free online trial version.

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