For the 2007 tax season, Drake Software is setting its sights on helping firms to properly train their tax preparers for the season, as well as streamline client workflow and data collection. "I do think staffing is a key issue," says James Stork, senior vice president of Drake. "There are a lot of challenges in recruiting help and getting them prepared for the season, not only [in terms] of software but tax law changes."
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To help firms overcome such hurdles, Drake introduced last year an online, interactive electronic training center called Drake ETC. Since its launch in summer 2006, the ETC has provided training to more than 11,000 preparers. This year, Drake expects that number to double. For the upcoming tax season, Drake is adding an Intermediate 1040 tax course and courses for corporations and partnerships.
Recognizing that time is money, Drake also is taking steps to enhance workflow and automate data entry.
The company is currently working on a schedule D import function, and is reviewing electronic source document collection options through ADP and W-2 eXpress. For some business models, the ability to import source documents directly into the client record will prove to be a great time saver, according to Drake. It also has the potential to reduce the risk of data input errors that exist with keying in data manually and scanning technologies.
Drake is adding for the upcoming season field-level data verification in the client record, a feature that will allow preparers to flag any field in data entry for verification (the field will change color when they flag it via the right-click menu or a hotkey), and the software will remind preparers to collect or verify the data before filing the return.
The company also will expand the rollout of its Remote Data Entry product (RDE), which is designed for those firms with multiple offices. Drake hosts the application but the CPA firm's home office controls the data. RDE was rolled out last year on a limited basis.
Meanwhile, Drake is working to add Web portals where the tax preparer can post information to be accessed by the client and the client can, in return, post information for the tax preparer. However, Stork says it will likely be the summer or fall of 2008 before the Web portals are fully up and running.
Drake also stresses its continued commitment to including more e-file products as states implement business e-file, and helping customers transition to a paperless environment with the Document Manager. In fact, many year-round firms are calling Drake during the summer months seeking guidance on how to implement best practices using the Document Manager.
Drake user Karen Stiwinter finds the Document Manager especially helpful. "The Document Manager creates the folder for you and it is right there," says Stiwinter of Franklin, N.C.-based accounting and tax preparation firm K.M. Stiwinter & Co. "On my end, it is pretty much paperless."
Stiwinter, who serves about 100 clients and began using Drake in about 1994, says one suggestion she has for the program is to implement larger data entry spaces.
Stephen McFadden of the Ventura, Calif.-based firm Stephen F. McFadden, CPA, switched from Lacerte to Drake Software three years ago due in part to price.
"I don't have a high-end practice and I have a lot of specialty [returns]," says McFadden, who serves about 600 clients. "For what I pay [for Drake] it is an incredible value and their tech help is very good."
Among the current features McFadden finds especially helpful is the Document Manager, as he is working toward transforming his office into a paperless workspace.
HQ Franklin, N.C.
Phone (800) 890-9500
Web site www.drakesoftware.com
Federal 1040 price (first year) $995 to $1,395.
Renewal $995 to $1,395.
Online preparation Available.
Multistate processing Available.
Support methods Telephone, email or knowledge base at www.support.drakesoftware.com.
Tax season support hours M-F: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. early December to April 15; Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET early December to April 15.
Document management/storage Drake Document Manager.
Client Portals N/A
Online organizer N/A
New for next year Enhanced integration and functionality of Appointment Scheduling program; Enhanced Result Letter functionality; field-level data verification in client record; and additional courses on the Drake ETC.