Tax returns are the bane of my existence and they are also my bread and butter. Just like many of you, I need the onscreen review process to be as easy as possible. CCH Axcess is changing the way I do returns – for the better. I want to take you through my process, because remember, adopting new technology includes growing pains. I hope by sharing my experiences with you, I’ll save you a little pain in the process.
This will be our fourth season using CCH Axcess Tax. Our firm had previously used UltraTax for 20 years (even before I came on board), and I have used different brands of tax software during my time spent in other firms. So it’s safe to say, I’ve been around.
But I want to tell you what I’m learning using this CCH product. We’re going to start at the very beginning.
First, I look at my CCH Axcess Workstream. What do you know, a tax return is sitting on my board to review. Sometimes I see it there and get right to it, but I must admit, a lot of times it takes a nudge by my operations partner to say, “Hey…Did you see what’s waiting for you?”
So, I open the return and I review the notes. First, I see what questions have been asked and already resolved and see if there are any open items or points that I need to look at further.
Next, I acknowledge that I read and cleared the points that I could.
I open the 1040s and view them on one screen. I tie it out to my Excel workpaper recap and see if it appears reasonable on my second screen. These documents are saved in CCH Axcess Document.
Then, I page through our PDF markup copy of workpapers to see if there are any strange or unusual notes, and I make sure that every page has been accounted for. Unusual notes should have been brought to my attention in the notes items, but sometimes one sneaks through.
I do a two-year comparison worksheet. If it’s a new client, I make sure all the carryforwards and other typical software carryforwards have been addressed or entered.
The basics are then complete.
Onscreen review beyond the basics
My firm has experienced preparers, so we don’t do input level reviews. If your preparers are junior you might need to, but frankly, my time is better spent doing more strategic activities than reviewing data entry.
I look closely at the more complex tax issues that have come up and see how we need to address them: AMT, Real Estate Professionals, Multi-State Issues, Passive vs. Active (This one still trips up our preparers sometimes because you have to mark the right box, and it seems that it’s an easy box to miss).
Some reviewers are huge fans of online tick marks, but I don’t use them in my onscreen review.
I review diagnostics and make sure the e-file is clear. Nothing drives me more crazy than when the e-file is not clear. Who’s with me?
If I still have outstanding issues, I note them and send it back to the preparer. Usually, at this point, I pick up the phone and talk with our remote preparer because I want to resolve things and move forward. Back and forth drives me crazy, and a lot of times we just need to work through the issue verbally for better understanding on both sides. As much as many of us would rather create points and push it back, I think conversations work better in this instance.
Last, I sign off on the review in Workstream and off it goes to assembly. It’s fairly straightforward and it’s getting better each year.
My favorite things
So, to review, what are my favorite things about Axcess?
- Notes, Notes, Notes. I love being able to note everything, assign it, and have folks sign off on it.
- Excel uploads. For depreciation or trades, I love working in Excel and have the option to just upload it into a tax return. Brilliant.
- A M3. The M3 works painlessly. In UltraTax, I used to curse it. That’s all I’ll say.
- Support. I love being able to call and if it’s not an easy resolution on some crazy state issue, someone can remote in or call me back with a solution.
- Letters are better. Letters and the ability to change them on the fly! This was the most painful experience in UltraTax.
- A right-click research product. We pay extra for this but I love that it’s right in my tax return.
So, what does Axcess still need to perfect?
- Specific state inputs. There are four different places to enter something and you are never quite sure if you put it in the correct spot.
All in all, I’m pleased. CCH has been ahead of the game in moving to the cloud and our tax preparation process has benefited because of it. Aside from the learning curve, I can easily say we have cut our time in half from our regular process and we are looking forward to the continued improvements and tax fun … Just wait ‘til next year!
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