It's hard to miss the biggest change in Drake's tax preparation software-a 30 percent price reduction at a time when all other vendors have held the line on pricing or have implemented modest price increases. The reason for the decrease? "We are more devoted to our customer, to provide them with what they need to run their practice, than anybody," says Tim Hubbs, executive vice president. "It's not that everybody [else in the industry] is not doing that, but I think that we take it seriously from the top all the way down."
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In fact, nobody else in the industry is cutting prices. The cut affects the complete Drake software bundle-1040s, 1120s, 1065s, 990s-and that includes shipping. The cut reflects an adjustment to pricing the software at the former renewal rate, even for new purchasers.
Drake customers like Neville C. Comrie of Neville C. Comrie's Accounting Services, St. Albans, N.Y., appreciate the value. Comrie, who efiled almost 400 of the 540 or so returns he prepared last year, also likes the fact that efiling is included. "They are the only [vendor] that doesn't charge you to efile," says Comrie. "Everyone else charges you a dollar or more."
Besides the good value represented, "First of all, it works. Second, they have excellent support," says Moose Huffman, owner of Pioneer Tax, in Jacksonville, Fla., a Drake user since 1990.
Hubbs says the emphasis on support means that support lines are usually answered in less than 10 seconds during tax season. But rather than worry about the telephone, Ruth Perry, owner of Perry Tax Service, in Burlington, Wis., opts for email. "If I have a problem or question, I can email them and they are back, even this time of the year, within two hours with your answer. You don't have to sit on the phone and punch all these different buttons."
Drake also helps its preparers build their Web sites through the use of Site Builder, a tool available for Drake subscribers on Drake's 1040.Com Web site. After a preparer builds a Web site, taxpayers who sign onto 1040.com to prepare online returns are actually redirected to a Drake customer. Clients are assigned to preparers based on an individual's zip code.
For the next season, a new knowledge base will be accessible by both the in-house support staff and Drake subscribers, while the company will also boost its in-house technical support team to a staff of 240 from last year's 209.
The free features includes federal and state electronic filing. The company also has no bank set-up fees for the included bank software. Drake enables preparers to transmit via the modem or the Internet and provides a virtual network for those without Internet access.
In the education area, Drake continues to offer update schools to enable new users to become familiar with its program. The one-day sessions can qualify attendees for as many as eight hours of CPE credits. The company is also offering a newer program of computer-based training that enables preparers to learn the basics of the software through audio-visual tutorials that is available from within the Drake tax package.
Product changes planned for the onrushing tax season include enhancing the format of reports, bills, letters, and other output; and improving the ease of online software updating and enhancing the entity efiling capabilities to ensure that a high percentage are accepted by the IRS the first time they are transmitted. Drake is also adding the ability to email clients meeting certain criteria, including Schedule C, dependent care, and EIC clients. To help preparers research tax questions, Drake will provide the CCH Master Tax Guide Plus free online to subscribers.
Drake Tax Solution
HQ: Franklin, N.C.
Phone: (800) 890-9500
Fax: (828) 524-9549
Software distribution: CD-ROM.
Price: $995 to $1,395.
Renewal: $995 to $1,395.
Pay-per-return: $500 includes federal and all-states packages with 50 returns.
Multi-state processing: Nine or more states can be processed simultaneously.