TaxSimple is working, not just to keep up appearances, but to improve them significantly, whether it involves the way its screens appear or the look of printed documents. That concern for appearance and navigation starts with simplified navigation, accomplished by putting all functions in two screens. That decision eliminates redundant menus.
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"You are in client management or you are in taxation," says president John Vora. "You don't have to jump around. Everything else has been eliminated."
EMF technology is also being implemented to display forms, which the company says will result in clearer and sharper looking on-screen forms, even at lower resolutions, while implementing 32-bit technology provides greater speed and flexibility to the programs.
When it comes to paper, the company is implementing the use of Microsoft Word for transmittal letters, invoices, and cover pages, along with adding a privacy letter.
Preparers will also be able to print personalized K-1 letters for each partner and will have additional formatting capabilities for printing tax information. The demographic screen will be also be simplified by separating federal and state information. Preparers are also getting the option to display prior-year client information in the current package for year-to-year transfer.
On the technology front, Vora also says that a version of TaxSimple is being developed for Microsoft .Net, which should be ready for release by March or April. Moving to the new platform "allows us to do the same thing on the Internet or on the desktop," he says.
The company also plans on changing its document storage options. While the company has had the ability to store returns in PDF format, it is planning on changing the way that is sold. Last year, preparers had to buy the storage capability.
This year, "It should become a utility within the program, not an option," says Vora. But he notes that the availability depends on TaxSimple's ability to include PDF storage inexpensively. "We have the technology," says Vora. "We have to make sure it is available at an affordable price."
Among new capabilities involving the Internet are the ability to access electronic filing results via the Web, and the plan to develop an Internet-based pay-per-return system. More electronic filing states are also being added. In addition, the software will produce a report to display tax returns that are pending for more than 48 hours, while the client management system is being modified to show clients based on criteria such as the time of the last update and completion of federal and state Forms 8453.
The software will also provide combined federal and state electronic filing reporting based on a single Social Security number.
The company charges $9.95 for efiling of federal individual returns and $7.95 each for all state individual returns.The company continues to offer online preparation of tax returns, but it has required that the user have Adobe Acrobat reader installed.
Vora, who has claimed for several years to be developing a line of office applications, says the company is now adding resources in India to produce fixed asset, W-2, and payroll titles. "Eventually we hope to have a seamless desktop," he says. He expects the payroll system to be released by the end of the year.
Philip Katz, a partner with Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Katz & Katz, says that the product is already easy to use, without any of the changes planned for the 2004 software.
"It's very easy to get around the program," says Katz, whose firm prepares more than 600 personal and 150 to 200 business returns each tax season. "I don't use all the capabilities they have," Katz admits, but continues that, "Each year, it gets a little bit better." He finds TaxSimple's support to be very good.
"When I call them, they are right on top of it, or they have already made the changes," he says.
HQ: Randolph, N.J.
Phone: (800) 989-8955
Fax: (973) 366-5877
Software distribution: CD-ROM and Web downloads.
Price: From $495 to $695.
Multi-state processing: Unlimited.
Data entry: Batch/input sheet and interview/ interactive.
Support methods: Toll-free telephone, fax, and Web.
Electronic storage: Files can be stored as PDFs.
Electronic filing: Through Tax Simple.
New for Next Year: Eliminate redundant menus. Enhance reporting capabilities in client management and tax practice management systems. Transmittal letters, invoice, and cover pages can be created in Microsoft Word. Access to efiling results on the Internet. Combined federal and state electronic filing report based on a single Social Security number.