ATX's tax season started out a little bumpy last year with a server failure. Because of a SQL Server problem, ATX users were forced to resend electronically field returns they had sent during an 18-hour period, However, this season, users should have no fear. ATX has ramped up its technical capabilities. "Although we immediately fixed the problem with the server and the back-ups, we have invested over a million dollars this year in new servers and staff," says Mavash Atoufi, director of tax products. "We've also added completely redundant systems in our Rockville and Caribou offices."
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To prevent tax season downtime, ATX has more than doubled its hardware capacity and transmission bandwidth, and reworked its efiling infrastructure. It has also implemented better monitoring software, and a complete tracking system. The tracking system lets the user know the state of each return, who the responsible agency is for the next step, and the expected amount of time that each step may take.
On the product side, ATX is offering the Total Manager Concept to give preparers quick access to five tax return management functions. "Assigning these features their own distinct manager status and screen space allows us to enhance the features as we hear from users without adding clutter to the view," says Atoufi.
The Return Manager will have a new interface, while the Rollover Manager and Preparer Manager will replace the menu selections that appeared in prior years. When the user clicks on the Rollover tab, a list of last year's returns appears immediately and the user can select the appropriate return to roll over. Because the user may frequently use Preparer Manager to complete preparer information on returns, upgrading the preparer's information menu to the Preparer Manager is a timesaving feature. Preparer information can include name, firm name, address, email, and phone number.
The E-Service Manager manages all aspects of electronic filing and information returns such as W-2s and 1099s, while the Bank Manager handles refund anticipation loans and other bank products.
"We believe the most obvious benefit of the Total Manager concept is that all of the managers are available to the user at all times, even when a return is open," says Atoufi.
Further enhancements include two new licensing options-a standard license for up to three users, and a multi-user license for more than three. An enhanced payroll module also allows preparers to transfer payroll data to the company's Max software for completion of payroll tax returns. The 1041 product line has calculations for all federal and state returns, including nonresident and part-year resident returns.
One advantage ATX feels it has over the competition is its product pricing. "Pricing is a big issue for our customers," says CEO Glynn Willett. "Our goal is to provide real value, software that is comparable to CCH and Lacerte, at less than one-third the price."
Rosanne Kranitz, sole proprietor of R. Kranitz Tax Services in Franklin, Wis., says the company achieves that goal.
"I originally switched to ATX two seasons ago, because I was extremely upset with the software I had used my first year," says Kranitz. "What I liked about ATX right off was, they didn't try to talk me into buying products I didn't need. They asked me the number and type of returns I prepared and suggested Saber to prepare my returns."
Kranitz, who prepared 29 client federal returns last season, purchased unlimited efiling and a priority service plan. "It was everything I needed for the year and it only cost me $500," she continues. "Others advertised their software was sold by only what you needed but each cost way more than ATX for the same services."
Saber 1040 and the Total Tax Office
HQ: Caribou, Maine
Phone: (877) 728-9776
Fax: (800) 285-5076
Software distribution: CD-ROM and Web updates.
Price: Saber, $220. Total Tax Office, $550
Multi-state processing: Unlimited.
Data entry: Input sheets and interview.
Support methods: Toll-free telephone and fax, Web.
Electronic storage: PDF storage of returns.
Electronic filing: 1040, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 990, 1099, W-2, through ATX.
New for next year: Total Manager, a complete return management system - calculations for all federal and state 1041 returns including nonresident and part-year resident; and the payroll module in TAO includes the transfer of payroll data to Max for completion of payroll tax returns.