Petz CrossLink

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Training may be important for seasonal staff at accounting firms. But it's even more important for the store-front processors who need to train a large number of people in a short period of time. That's the view of Petz Enterprise as it deployed Web-based video training for both its desktop CrossLink and online V-Tax products, says VP Charles Petz Jr. "As tax laws become more complex, the training requirement seems to be going up exponentially."

Perhaps even more important in a business where the size of the refund (or lack of one), affects where a taxpayer gets a refund is the ability to give those shopping around some information.

"People call them [preparers] and want an estimate on the fees," says Petz. Now, the preparer can run a preliminary estimate on the size of refund or balance due, information that will help sell the services.

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"This product allows the preparer to go in without running confidential info," says Petz.

New to the tax software itself is the ability to accept credit card payments for extensions. The extension can be electronically filed with the payment made at the time of e-filing.

But while the tax-only businesses don't have the same array of services as the full-service firms, they have equal, if not greater, security concerns. That's why Petz has expanded its levels involving the assignment of responsibilities, which each require log-ins and authentication. That's important in the high-volume retail businesses that Petz serves. They have a need for speed, but also a great need for security.

"That way, the reception doesn't get to see all the neat stuff the preparer is working on in the back room," he says. That is particularly important in firms in which the client may pick up the return from the receptionist. Petz continues, "The office manager can designate who can see what."

V-Tax is used by 24 service bureaus, and deployed at 1,600 locations, according to the company. Charles Petz says that one area in which V-Tax shines is its reporting.

"We have consolidated Web reporting for individual offices that are running desktop-desktop installed software," he says. "The main office can log in to get multioffice reporting."

The system can verify returns online and enables printing of refund checks from any office. It can also generate reports about any office's performance.

Among other features: CrossLink will have a wizard for the depreciation system to make it easier to navigate. The company is also adding more customizable client letters and pre-defined reports.

The company continues to bill its support as being strong, offering free support 24 hours a day, every day. "I don't know why other companies don't offer 24-hour support," says Petz.

Once a purely 1040 product, CrossLink has had business modules in its lineup since 2005. The company now offers two bundles. These are the business basic bundle, which includes the 1041, 1065, 1120 and 1120S returns. The Business Plus bundle adds forms 706, 709, 990 and 5500.

Petz also offers TaxBrain, which provides Web-based preparation and e-filing for consumers. The application offers a TaxCalculator, which provides estimates of taxpayer refunds. Federal 1040 processing starts at $19.95 with state returns starting at the same price.

TaxBrain users can also download state and federal extension forms from the online Extension Center.

Refund loans are available through the QuickAccess system for customers who do not have bank accounts. Taxpayers can have payments made through a qualified QuickAccess Service Center, which can print RAL checks.

CrossLink, V-Tax

HQ Tracy, Calif.

Phone (800) 345-4337

Web site www.petzent.com

Email sales@petzent.com

Federal 1040 price (first year) $549, 20 percent decrease from 2006.

Renewal price $549

Pay-per-return N/A.

Multistate processing Up to nine states simultaneously.

Online preparation Consumer only.

Support methods Phone and e-mail

Tax-season support hours 24/7

Document management/storage N/A

Client portals N/A

Online organizer N/A

Integration Outlook, Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat

New for next season Additional customizable client letters; additional pre-defined reports; increased security by individual logins; less commonly used federal and state forms; and online video training.

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