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TaxWise — TaxWise

From the April/May 2006 Review of
Tax Prep Suites

TaxWise has continued to add to its suite of professional accounting and tax
preparation applications, and now offers tax compliance support for all entities,
as well as trial balance, fixed assets and write-up. The company now also offers
integration with third-party research and tax planning programs. TaxWise was
recently selected for the eleventh year by the IRS as the software used by its
staff and volunteers. The tax programs are offered in various bundles, with
packages available for 1040-centric firms and business tax professionals, as
well as a pay-per-return option. The vendor’s most comprehensive suite
is the TaxWise Power Package, which includes forms support for federal 1040,
1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 706, 709, 990, 5500 reporting, and includes all states
as well as municipal entities. Also planned as part of the Power Package for
the 2006 tax year product is the addition of 20 hours of CPE credits through
online training courses. The program also includes a separate module for Puerto
Rico requirements, and the 1040 module and client forms are available in Spanish,
as is customer and technical support. The Power Package costs $2,295 for a site
license that allows any number of users in the same office, and meets all of
the other needs of our prototype firm (see

The package includes unlimited e-filing and all entities, and TaxWise includes
a basic web page and site builder program, enabling any firm using the program
to create a free website. TaxWise also offers its Power Accounting Package,
which includes all of the tax modules plus the company’s Fixed Assets
Manager and Trial Balance programs in addition to the online version of CCH’s
Master Tax Guide. All system modules are also available individually.

Learning Curve — 4.5 Stars
The interface for the TaxWise system is essentially a browser window, with work
screens appearing below an icon bar that allows movement back and forth within
the program, as well as offering links to various features. The browser window
also includes customizable tabs for moving between the TaxWise program and user-selected
websites that default to websites for TaxWise, the IRS, customer support and
the tax firm’s home page. After logging in, the user is presented with
a subwindow that allows selecting the form type (1040, 1065, 1120, etc.), after
which the window provides a list of “Tasks You Do Most Often,” such
as starting a new return, opening an existing one or other options. An additional
menu allows jumping to communication tools, a list of incomplete tasks, the
program’s Appointment Scheduler and other functions. A spreadsheet-style
list of client returns in the module is displayed in a subwindow when the Open
option is selected.

Client name and contact information is performed on interview sheets while
forms replicas are used for data entry. A full interview-based option is also
available using InterviewPLUS. Forms can be added to returns by selecting the
needed one from the system’s Forms list, or the program automatically
adds necessary forms based on the taxpayer’s information. Once forms have
been attached to a return, they are available from a menu tree on the left of
the screen. An instruction panel at the bottom of the screen provides step-by-step
guidance and line instructions. This panel and a variety of tutorials aid in
the usability of TaxWise, which is generally user friendly and intuitive, although
it does have a few areas that could be improved through additional user prompting.
Still, the system should require minimal time for new users to grow accustomed
and proficient.

Use/Workflow & Productivity Tools — 4 Stars
The primary client list in TaxWise displays only those clients on which the
current user is authorized to work and includes several sortable fields, including
name, SSN, and return preparation status. It is also searchable and includes
e-file status, which is updated automatically. Within a client return, or when
creating a new return, the system opens to the Main Information Sheet for the
client, with associated forms, schedules and worksheets accessible in a menu
to the left, which also includes the Refund Monitor, which shows a running Refund
total and the client’s AGI. All data flows to and from associated forms
as necessary, but the system allows overriding of calculated and transferred
amounts, with overridden fields highlighted for review purposes. The system
also provides direct links from the primary form back to supporting documents
and enables users to create links from any data-entry field or line to other

Data entry is eased through the use of history lists, which store common entries
such as EIN and allow users to select from a pull-down list, as well as by the
inclusion of a ZIP Code database that automatically completes city and state
information. Every program should have this simple feature. As noted earlier,
more than 75 of the system’s 1040 forms and instructions (and the program
interface) are also available in Spanish. Client organizers are available in
paper format only, but an online organizer is planned for the 2006 tax
year product.

The program includes diagnostics and reporting tools, as well as management
utilities, such as a clock that monitors the time spent within a client return.
While the clock does not link to a time-based billing system, it does offer
a report that shows average time per return, thus providing users and management
with a basic tool to evaluate performance. TaxWise also includes a basic appointment
scheduling feature that can link from the firm’s web site (if using a
TaxWise web site), with the ability for clients to self-schedule appointments
and send e-mail reminders. As noted earlier, TaxWise provides all users with
a basic firm web site that is designed using a user-friendly web publishing
tool. Many of TaxWise’s features are geared toward tax practices offering
RALs and IRALs, but the company also offers non-lending tools such as the CashWise
card. The Maestro debit card is loaded with the client’s return proceeds
(minus preparation fees) when funds have been disbursed. It can be used with
or without a bank product, enabling unbanked clients to avoid hefty check cashing
fees and giving them an alternative to walking around with an unsafe amount
of cash. The company has pre-designed marketing tools for this and its other
1040-enhancing programs.

Integration/Import & Export — 4 Stars
TaxWise transfers client data as needed and has finally implemented the ability
to import K-1 data from business returns into 1040 returns, a much needed feature
for 1065 and corporate clients who also have their professional prepare their
individual returns. The company provides free conversions of data from most
major tax preparation systems and can import from many write-up and GL applications,
as well. The TaxWise Write-Up and Asset Management programs also integrate with
the tax preparation system. The available CCH research and BNA tax planning
programs that can be bundled with TaxWise software are valuable additions, but
only the BNA Tax Planner is integrated with the system.

Support/Training & Help System — 4.5 Stars
TaxWise excels at customer service, providing an extensive array of services
from traditional phone-based technical support that has the best (shortest)
wait times in the industry, several tutorial, training and seminar options,
an online support center, an e-file practice center, FAQs, marketing assistance
and TaxWise University, which allows firm management to assign online courses
and tests on tax preparation to staff members. The most notable support feature,
however, is TaxWise TV, an online broadcast “aired” live twice per
week throughout the year, and an additional online show called Good Morning
TaxWise, which airs every morning during busy season. The shows give users program
tips and alert them to the availability of updates, as well as offering additional
program information.

Product Evolution & Vendor Vision — 5 Stars
TaxWise has continued to strengthen its product, aggressively adding bank products,
the CashWise Card, online merchant account services, mortgage services, and
supporting its user base through its TaxWise TV offerings, free firm web sites
and strong customer support department. The program has also seen additional
strengthening in its capabilities, with the improved handling of K-1 data and
the addition of write-up and asset management modules.

Relative Value — 5 Stars
TaxWise is a good all-in-one package with a low price that includes unlimited
e-filing. While improvements in data integration make the program generally
capable of handling some moderately complex returns, it generally has average
capabilities that are geared for less complex clients. The program’s most
valuable assets are in its support and associated product offerings, such as
bilingual forms and support and bank products, which makes this program most
aptly suited to firms processing mostly simple 1040s. Additionally, the program
should require little formal training to gain proficiency, which makes it a
good option for seasonal shops that ramp up with temp staff.

2006 Overall Rating — 4.5 Stars