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June 1994

FACT-SYS. (Fixed Asset Consolidation and Tracking System) (Software Review) (The CPA & the Computer) (Evaluation)

by Mitchell, Tim

    Abstract- FACT-SYS (Fixed Asset Consolidation and Tracking System) is a PC-based fixed asset and depreciation software package developed by Pioneer Automation Systems. It is a state-of-the-art fixed asset management system that can handle endless consolidations and asset transfers for an indefinite number of firms, and can cope with almost a trillion assets per location or client. The software program has an optional remote communications feature which enables users to upload and download data from off-site computers, hence facilitating speedy data collection, distribution and transfer from various locations. In addition, FACT-SYS is capable of handling ever-changing Federal tax requirements and is very easy to install. Another attractive feature is the limitless telephone support that Pioneer offers to users for 30 days. Support beyond this period is available for an annual fee of $300.

Fixed asset depreciation has often been the step child of accounting-- never a top priority, but in need of more attention than standard business accounting processes. Compliance requirements for fixed assets necessitate adherence to both external (Federal, state, Defense Department, GAAP, and SEC regulations) and internal company mandates and policies, necessitating multiple books for each asset.

Complicating the situation, fixed asset management incorporates additional responsibilities for tracking supplemental information such as construction in progress (CIP), transfer, warranty, vendor information, and history. This makes fixed asset management one of the more tedious and challenging aspects of maintaining accounting records.

Pioneer Automation Systems has developed FACT-SYS (Fixed Asset Consolidation and Tracking System), a PC-based fixed asset and depreciation software program to assist in the task. Originally introduced in 1988 and upgraded in version 6.10, FACT-SYS is comprised of numerous standard modules, as well as several options for specialized applications. A network version is available and supports several popular network systems, including Novell, Lantastic, Banyan, and 3- COM+.

Accountants will also appreciate the optional remote communications feature, which provides users with the capability to upload and download data from an off-site computer. This feature enables quick collection, distribution, and transfer of data from several locations.

Pioneer offers unlimited telephone support for 30 days. Additional support is available for $300 a year. The company also has an excellent track record for offering timely upgrades to its products as new features are developed and reporting requirements change.

FACT-SYS runs on PC-compatible 80286-based microcomputers and above with a minimum of 640K RAM and DOS 3.3 or higher. With the program's robust relational database, however, a 80386 or 80486 microprocessor with 4 megabytes of RAM is strongly recommended. The software program also requires 2.5 megabytes of hard drive space with approximately one additional megabyte needed for every 1000 assets entered into the system.

Despite its moderate price and PC orientation, FACT-SYS is a sophisticated fixed asset management system designed for multi-layer, multiple-location corporations. The program can perform unlimited consolidations and asset transfers for an unlimited number of companies, and can handle up to 999,999,999,999 assets per location or client. With its variety of specialized modules, the full-featured application can perform consolidation and tracking for companies in industries from defense contracting to retail.

While the program's user-friendly, menu-driven operation is ideal for applications where data entry clerks are the primary users, FACT-SYS is highly customizable; for example, using the program's G\L interface, accountants can customize general ledger file formats to accommodate most mainframe and PC-based accounting programs.

Companies can easily manage asset, location, and department for a particular item and date of service.


Installation is a straightforward, seven-step process. In network applications, users will need to enable the Share command for proper operation. Once installed, the system can be set up for use in a few hours, depending on the comprehensiveness of available information on corporate assets. The user's guide accompanying the software has an eight-step "quick start" section, which will allow a company to actually process fixed assets within a few hours.

The program prompts the user to provide subdirectory information on companies, subsidiaries, locations and departments, as well as general ledger codes, and asset information such as asset type, date placed in service, and original cost of the asset.

FACT-SYS incorporates user-friendly features such as context-sensitive, on-line help. The program also supports import/export functions to most major database programs. The import feature reduces redundant data entry processes that can be time consuming and lead to errors in manually entered information. The ability to export data allows users to incorporate asset data into a variety of charts and documents.

User Levels

To truly be considered a full-featured fixed asset management system, a software program must address the needs of three audiences:

* Data entry clerks for entry, transfers and generating reports;

* Accountants or managers for system set up, quarterly review, and preparing year-end 4562 forms;

* Financial executives for high-level, what-if calculations.

FACT-SYS implements a unique approach to fixed asset data entry, eliminating the need for tax decisions on each asset at the time it is entered into the system. Data entry personnel can quickly and easily enter information without concern about tax ramifications, because much of the depreciation data and other important information is automatically associated with the asset when the asset type is selected. An accountant's role would be to verify that asset types and tax assumptions, which are pre-loaded in FACT-SYS, are appropriate for their client company. Needed data structure modifications or customized depreciation rates can be made before data entry.

Pioneer included four different user-classification levels in FACT-SYS, called system levels, which can be assigned to individual operators depending on their responsibilities. For example, an accountant might be assigned level one status, with the ability to modify asset descriptions and depreciation methods, while data entry clerks have level three status, enabling them to enter information without altering existing data.

Flexible Tracking

Pioneer Automation Systems has preprogrammed existing tax codes--from pre-present--into FACT-SYS, enabling users to look into past and future months and quarters. On an asset by asset basis, both book and tax service dates may be entered and tracked. If corporate fiscal and Federal tax periods are not in sync, FACT-SYS can effectively handle the incongruity.

FACT-SYS incorporates an asset classification system that provides access to all the depreciation books, including MACRS, ACRS, ADS, and CLADRS, with a single keystroke. The system calculates and tracks depreciation, leases, AMT preference and adjustments, ACE, IRC Sec. 179 expense, amortization, and investment tax credit and recapture. Using the different books with any of 15 commonly used rates produces over 107 combinations matched to over 136 pre-defined assets in a given time period. The program contains all of the IRS asset classification codes for each major time period, including standard depreciation methods for each of the asset types. FACT-SYS also lets users define their own custom methods, as well as handling of productions for cash forecast methods.

Specialized Modules

The system is structured into multiple modules, each performing a specialized task. The location module enables a company to differentiate assets by state and location, which have their own unique code. Report information can thus be summarized into county and state appointments, making data entries for sales entries effortless. The department module allows each company in a corporation to classify assets by department.

One module that stands out for specialized applications is the project ID module, which links together individual assets under a common project number. This capability is useful for rolling up CIP assets into depreciable assets, as well as simplifying budget monitoring and tracking. With FACT-SYS' CIP capabilities, users can handle long-term projects, where individual components or materials can be maintained as non-depreciating assets until the roll-up occurs, allowing for a single project identification number. Yet each component will be depreciated using the prevailing basis for the year it was purchased.

Companies can check and reconfigure assumptions concerning asset depreciation using the FACT-SYS asset types module. This module tracks up to 36 different depreciation books for corporate financial, earnings & profits, federal tax, AMT, ACE and state tax tracking. The General Ledger Account Numbers module ties a company's G/L numbers to these asset types, enabling direct concurrence with the company's accounting program.

The STRAP module enables users to sell, transfer, retire, allocate, or purchase assets by location, department, group, or individually with just a few keystrokes.

Other standard FACT-SYS modules provide the ability to set up one-key pick up lists during data entry, to modify the data fields, depreciation rates, structures, and to specify custom depreciation rates for certain assets.

Reporting and Tax Forms

FACT-SYS features over 27 standard reports available on any of the depreciation books for depreciation, including tax preference, net basis and FASB No. 109. While these reports can be modified for different formats, power users will want the optional FACT-SYS report writer.

The report writer is designed to allow users to create customized reports from FACT-SYS information, and provides users with comprehensive financial and managerial information about a company's fixed assets. With the report writer, users can break a report down to its smallest components and mix and match these components in any manner desired. The report writer provides completely customized reporting capabilities, with field selection and sorting options. The report writer can be selected as a menu item without leaving the main program. Up to 24 criteria may be used with 9 simultaneous sort specifications. Data fields can be arranged in any order and grouped in columns or on pages for compiling subtotals. This is extremely helpful for preparing "what- if" reports, with possible future asset management tactics, without effecting the structure of the formal asset management system. Pioneer Automation has laser-printing of government tax forms. Using these forms on a standard laser printer, the four primary IRS forms related to fixed assets can be completed: Form 3468, Investment Tax Credit; Form 4255 Recapture of Investment Credit; Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization; and Form 4792, Gains or Losses from Business Property.

Modular Design

The most important capability of a fixed asset management software program is its ability to handle fluctuating Federal tax requirements. Pioneer's fixed asset management system is more than capable for this task. For simple fixed asset tasks, FACT-SYS' power may be an overkill. The scalable nature of its modular design however, allows the disabling of unnecessary features.

Because the program features simple data input/output to G/L accounts, it can also be utilized effectively by the tax professional managing fixed assets for multi-layer corporations. With more and more corporations downsizing both computer systems and the size of their workforces, this capability can be a very attractive advantage.

FACT-SYS was designed for large, multi-unit corporations. With its inexpensive PC-based platform, on-line contextual help, and menu-driven structure, however, the program should also merit consideration from companies outside the Fortune 500. Pioneer Automation Systems is also offering a limited time professional discount to CPAs in public practice, who can purchase FACT-SYS for only $99.95. To order FACTS-SYS please call (203) 698-1996.

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