Paperless Workflow - 4.75 Stars
Drake has taken a couple of impressive steps in this review category, most notably with the addition of integration with GruntWorx (www.GruntWorx.com) and the new SecureFilePro (www.SecureFilePro.com) online client portals. Both are optional add-on features for firms using Drake. The GruntWorx system provides three different optional services that firms can use to streamline and automate their tax return preparation processes. (Our 2011 review of the GruntWorx tax document automation tool is available at www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com/10281750.)
First, users scan in a client’s source documents, securely upload them to the GruntWorx engine, and in return they get a fully bookmarked and properly organized set of client workpapers in PDF format. Since the system can recognize virtually all documents and know what they are and what order they go in, users also have the option to have the system automatically extract key client data from forms and populate them into the client return where they are ready for review. This can result in no data entry for many clients. Documents come in digital format, so there’s no re-entry required. Finally, with GruntWorx Trades, tax preparers can transform consolidated brokerage statements into an Excel spreadsheet, eliminating the manual entry of keying in individual trade details. The core Drake tax system also continues to offer barcode scanning of W-2s and K-1s and spreadsheet import of Schedule D data.
The paperless capabilities of Drake continue with its new SecureFilePro file sharing system, which allows secure and compliant sending of documents between the preparer and the client. This can include source documents from them, or sending finalized returns or planning documents to them, or virtually any other kind of file. Firms can even custom brand their portals so the client always sees their firm’s name.
Drake includes document management system with their tax package and client returns prepared in the program can be saved to PDF format. Documents can be linked to each other, and the system offers direct emailing, although the SecureFilePro system is recommended as an alternative to emailing client documents. Many of the instructions, cover letters and communication templates can be produced in English or Spanish and automatic copies of returns are maintained.
The document management system’s security features includes the encryption of client files, password protection and assigning of client groups, and a full-time audit trail manages all user actions. A Multi-Office Manager feature is available for tax offices with multiple locations or remote preparers, and synchronizes data with the home office.
Integration - 4.5 Stars
Drake’s modules share data throughout, including import of K-1 data across returns and connection of parent and child tax returns. The system includes a trial balance import tool that can import from Excel, and data can also be imported from QuickBooks. Free conversions are offered to new users of Drake.
Additional included features in the Drake system are a tax planning utility with multi-year scenario testing which has built-in rules for AMT and limitations, and a basic fixed asset management tool with multiple books, depreciation schedules and support for Sec. 179 and various disposals. For tax research, Drake recently added TheTaxLibrary, an online research system option from the publishers of TheTaxBook Series (www.TheTaxBook.com), which includes the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury Regulations, revenue procedures and rulings, and notices and announcements.
Through partnerships with multiple financial institutions, Drake users can offer various bank products such as direct deposit check and debit cards, and firms can have preparation fees deducted from refund proceeds. No credit card acceptance capability is built into the Drake invoicing system, but it does offer customizable fee management options, including application of sales tax where necessary.
Help/Support - 5 Stars