Drake Software is offered as an all-inclusive system, combining federal and
state individual compliance modules with those for 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041,
990, 706 and 709, as well as all states and taxing municipalities. The 1040
module alone houses more than 300 forms, schedules and worksheets. Unlimited
electronic filing is included in the base price of the program, along with research
via a collection of materials available through RIA’s Checkpoint, and
a free website for the tax firm. The full price of Drake Software is $1,395
per site license, which allows all computers in a single office to use the same
networked system at no additional cost. Pricing discounts of up to $400 are
available when purchased or renewed earlier in the calendar year. A pay-per-return
package is also available.
Lisa Fort, CPA, uses Drake Software in her small firm in Detroit, Michigan.
She especially appreciates the vendor’s customer service. “I have
found Drake to be incredibly responsive to customer needs,” she said.
“They are also quick to incorporate suggestions made by users.”
Fort selected Drake Software based on the excellent feedback she received from
other users of the product. “I visited a seminar for those interested
in reviewing the software, and I was impressed.” She decided to give the
software a try, and that was about 10 years ago. “I have never regretted
my decision,” she said.
Learning Curve — 4 Stars
All of Drake’s modules share the same general interface, opening to a
clean master window that provides access to primary system functions such as
the e-filing menu, reports, prior-year data, the system’s built-in appointment
scheduler and print functions. The client selection screen, accessed via either
the File pull-down menu or the Open icon, appears in a subwindow that allows
searching by name or SSN, with filtering by client entity type. While this window
shows only entity name and TIN, with no return data or return status notification,
a new Client Status Manager provides a detailed client spreadsheet list that
offers more information, with customizable filtering, sorting and display options
and the ability to view return status and tracking information for each client.
In addition, this information can be exported to Excel, or uploaded to the customer’s
secure online database for more extensive reporting options. New client returns
are also created via the client selection screen.
The modern look and feel of the system continues to newly designed data-entry
screens that provide full Windows functionality. The data-entry screens include
line-specific assistance and even an SSN validation function. Similarly, the
main client information menu, called the “Data Entry Selection Menu,”
is primarily a character-based screen, meaning it relies mostly on a plain text
menu, but is supplemented with a handful of icons (for calculating, viewing
the form, printing, or splitting a return) and tabs for accessing key information
sections, including General, Income, Adjustments, Credits, Taxes and Other.
Data entry is performed on interview-based sheets that generally resemble the
actual form in terms of layout, with employee name and address information automatically
populated from general information entries. One aspect of data entry is that
the screens have no “save” button. Rather, the user must click “Esc”
or the close screen “X” to save and exit. Several hot-key shortcuts
provide alternative navigation throughout the system. The system does not provide
forms-based data entry but does provide a general view-only function.
Use/Workflow & Productivity Tools — 4 Stars
Drake’s simplified interface actually may be a productivity enhancer,
providing an easy-to-understand menu system and data-entry sheets that ease
moving between various entry tasks. The system’s new client management
screens offer a smart, central “client information” center from
which a user can view summary information on multiple clients at the same time.
The system also offers a few nice features that aid the preparer, such as a
ZIP Code database that automatically populates city/state on input sheets, as
well as an SSN validator. The program automatically computes withholding amounts
as income is entered, but all calculated entries can be overridden by the user.
The system notes overridden fields with either field label indicators or colored
text, depending upon user preferences. Drake also offers a general diagnostics
tool that highlights most errors.
Included with the Drake system is an intuitive built-in client appointment
scheduler with the ability to calendar multiple professionals and offers alerts,
much like the meeting reminders in Outlook. As noted earlier, unlimited e-filing
is included with the Drake system, which also includes asset management and
tax research through RIA’s Checkpoint, a free firm website through 1040.com,
client billing and other functions.
Integration/Import & Export — 4 Stars
All of Drake’s modules generally share information as needed, and its
new K-1 transfer utility allows data to flow from pass-through entities to 1040s.
Drake has recently added a separate client write-up program that integrates
with the Drake Tax program. The system integrates with the user’s mail
program to allow simplified client communication via e-mail from within the
program. New for 2005, Drake has added a document management system that enables
paperless management of client files, including support for scanned documents.
The company offers free data conversions from many competing systems and can
print directly to *.PDF format, aiding in paper reduction.
Support/Training & Help System — 4.5 Stars
The Drake system is exceptionally easy to learn, so formal training will likely
not be necessary for most users. The company includes both a printed manual
as well as online support, in addition to a reasonably strong built-in Help
utility that includes line and content-sensitive guidance. Drake also provides
several free online tutorials, and offers CPE-eligible live training sessions
across the country. The online support center includes a variety of training
tools and a knowledgebase, as well as user forums and marketing tools. The free
firm website included with the tax package includes templates to assist novice
users. Telephone-based support is included with the package price.
Relative Value — 4.5 Stars
Drake’s straightforward pricing that includes every module, all states
and cities, and unlimited e-filing is very attractive at $1,395 or less, depending
upon how early in the year a professional purchases the system. The program
is simple to use because it provides the essentials and is generally strong
for simple individual and business returns, and provides free research, scheduling
and billing functions. That said, smaller firms with mostly non-complex return
needs in search of a low cost, all-inclusive package will find the Drake system
as a fairly strong option.
2006 Overall Rating: 4 Stars