To make it easier for tax preparers to improve customer service while speeding up processing of returns, Intuit has beefed up ProSeries with features that flag missing data and provide enhanced support for preparing multi-state returns. Preparing tax returns is often slowed because clients fail to provide complete information, such as a second W-2 form or documentation on charitable contributions that a client usually includes in documentation. Now preparers can instantly flag a section of a return with missing information and produce a message template for alerting a client that additional documentation is needed. "Preparers always have a difficult time managing client information, but we're helping them continue their work uninterrupted," says Ryan Farley, senior product manager for ProSeries.
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Preparers can use their computer mouse to right-click on a section of a return in ProSeries for which there is missing documentation, producing an electronic sticky note to flag it as a reminder of missing data. But the sticky note may not be needed for long, because the right-click action also produces a client message template, which preparers may choose to customize, that can be instantly e-mailed or printed out and mailed to a client to request the necessary documentation.
The 2004 software will also offer a streamlined method of preparing multi-state returns. Instead of entering client data separately into different state forms, a preparer can now enter the data once into a worksheet that forwards information to resident and non-resident state forms. "Now you can prepare calculations in a special worksheet and not have to toggle back and forth between multiple returns," says product manager Leslie Skelly.
Richard F. Smith Jr., president of Quality Tax and Financial Services in Spring Valley, Calif., says the flexibility offered by ProSeries has made it easier for him to absorb the operations of another tax preparation firm. "We now have five licensed preparers, and two like to use data sheets to do inputs, but three of us like to go directly to returns to do inputs. ProSeries software allows us that flexibility," he says. Smith says that the only weakness in ProSeries for his practice is that it doesn't offer forms for California tax-exempt organizations.
Other improvements include faster downloads of updated information over the Internet, improved local networking capabilities, and additional state forms.
"As more people want the newest version of the 1040 form as soon as possible, we're making it as easy as possible to download the form from the Web," Farley says. New state forms available in ProSeries include partnership forms for Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Utah, bringing the total number of state partnership forms to 41. ProSeries also provides the 706 return for California. In addition, Intuit will notify preparers via email as soon as new tax forms are available.
ProSeries offers increased support for efiling this year, covering small-business tax forms for Michigan and the 1065, 1041, 1120S Forms for Massachusetts.
Preparers can also configure automated scheduling of tasks, such as setting a particular time of day to get a report on the acceptance or rejection of returns filed electronically.
ProSeries also provides bi-directional data integration with Intuit's QuickBooks software, so that data entered into ProSeries can automatically update related data fields in QuickBooks and vice-versa.
Smith adds that ProSeries offers exceptional support services. Last year, for instance, his firm lost several client electronic filings on the night of April 15 because of a computer problem. "The ProSeries staff was on the phone with us for two hours to re-install the files," Smith says, adding that the returns were filed minutes before midnight.
HQ: Plano, Texas
Phone: (800) 934-1040.
Fax: (800) 685-7036.
Software distribution: CD-ROM and downloads.
Price: $949 one user; add $399 for network license Renewal: $949.
Pay-per-return: 1040, $15; state package, $11.
Multi-state processing: Efiling of all states simultaneously; printing of the federal return and all associated state returns for filing, client, and preparer copies in the same batch.
Data entry: Forms-based input sheets and quick-entry worksheets.
Support methods: Toll-free telephone, fax, and Web.
Electronic storage: N/A.
Electronic filing: 1040 and all 42 e-filing states through Intuit.
New for next year: Identify and track missing client information; data flow from resident and part-year resident data to multiple forms; improved military tax handling; additional state partnership forms; e-filing of Massachusetts business returns and Michigan SBT returns.