Tax preparation companies that have multiple offices need to be on watch. Petz Enterprises says the dashboard in the 2005 version of its V-Tax tax software helps them be vigilant. "The dashboard shows information on all offices and all preparers," says Charles Petz Jr., vice president of the professional services division of the Tracy, Calif.-based company.
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The system maintains an audit trail of all changes to returns. For instance, one way that employees can skim money from a chain is to delete a return and then take money for preparing it. The V-Tax dashboard now tracks all deleted returns and shows which employee deleted them.
Administration features are important to this market, which Petz considers its specialty.
"Our goal is to service the small number of customers who do high volumes of tax returns and need customized services,'' says Charles Petz. The company has 100,000 customers, but they are in only 1,000 accounts.
CrossLink, Petz's desktop package, also has a dashboard. But even though it has the same roots, it has a different purpose. CrossLink's Work in Progress Screen is a workflow management tool that organizes all returns by the phases of the preparation and filing process.
Meanwhile, the company has also increased the integration of CrossLink with Microsoft Office and Outlook. The Outlook integration will enable users to track Estimated Tax Payments by adding the payment deadline to the Reminders in the Outlook Calendar.
With its link to Microsoft Word, Petz is also offering its users Spanish client letters as part of its Client Letter Enhancement feature to address the rapidly growing Latino population. CrossLink users will also have the ability to create, store, and produce multiple letters, while rewritten reports can also be exported to Excel.
HQ Tracy, Calif.
Phone (800) 345-4337
Fax (209) 835-2759
Software distribution CD-ROM and Web downloads.
Price Federal, $695.
Renewal 30 percent discount.
Pay-per-return Not available.
Multi-state processing Up to nine states per federal return.
Data entry Interview/interactive.
Support method Telephone, fax, and Web.
Electronic storage Not available.
Electronic filing 1040 through Petz Enterprises.
Integrates with the following Versicom Communications' ABC Voice; Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, and Outlook
New for next year Integration with Outlook, Client Letter Enhancement, Reporting Rewrite.
A change to the Print City Forms means that after preparers complete returns, they will no longer have to print the entire tax return in order to print city tax forms.
Meanwhile, the company is continuing to develop V-Tax, the online system that hit the market in time for the last tax season.
"The V-Tax is selling like hot cakes,'' Charles Petz says.
V-Tax was designed for electronic refund originators that operate multiple offices, or a network of tax service bureaus where tax returns and refund checks could be printed for the clients' review and approval. The use of the system enables the organization to access customers' returns from any connected computer.
The inherent security has prompted interest from longtime CrossLink user George Brinkmann.
"I am thinking of shifting all or most of my work to V-Tax because it is all online," says Brinkmann. "I like the security of having my critical records off site."
He says that should the law firm that bears his name burn to the ground, he wouldn't miss a beat preparing returns. The Monmouth, Ill.-based firm specializes in real estate, estate planning, and income tax return preparation, handling about 500 returns annually.
For the past year, Brinkmann has tested V-Tax, but is still hesitant to switch after a decade using CrossLink. Brinkmann says he wants to make sure V-Tax can handle his most complicated returns.
"What's going to slow me down is what slows any preparer down, and that is the carry-over and input issues that would have to be addressed," he says.