by Roger Russell

With tax season over, tax preparation vendors hope to get a head start on next season’s sales by offering special summer season discounts and tryouts. At the same time, preparers have time on their hands to tinker with different software to find a better fit.

Meanwhile, there is good reason for preparers to be open to new software solutions for their practice.

The Jobs and Growth Tax Reconciliation Act of 2003 contains a number of changes to 2004 taxes, and Congress is considering yet more legislation later in the year. This tends to drive more taxpayers to professional preparers, according to industry observers. It also means more sales for vendors, to the extent that more preparers enter the field to service the additional taxpayers who seek professional advice.

“More people will go to preparers as a result of the complexity of the law,” said John Vora, president of Randolph, N.J.-based TaxSimple Inc. “And if there’s a tax cut involved, they want to make sure they don’t miss out on anything.”

This year’s list has three fewer vendors. Dexter, Mich.-based Creative Solutions, a Thomson business, purchased Tax Relief from AccountantsWorld last summer, and has recently completed a purchase of Package EX from Anaheim, Calif.-based ExacTax. ExactTax will continue to do business in its various service bureau locations, using CSI’s UltraTax software, according to vice president for marketing Jack LaRue.

Best Software has discontinued CPASoftware’s CPATax Manager (formerly Visual Tax). Best has forged an alliance with CCH Tax and Accounting to provide an alternative by integrating the ProSystem fx tax products with Best’s CPAPractice Manager (formerly Visual Practice Management).

The following are manufacturers with special deals, demos and discounts.

Caribou, Maine.
(800) 944-8883
Products: Max, Saber, Zillion Forms, Total Tax Office, Total Tax Office Plus.
An Info Pack is available, consisting of the complete MAX package. A two-for-one offer lets practitioners try this year’s product free for 60 days.

CCH Tax and Accounting
Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) 739-9998
Product: ProSystem fx Office Suite.
Evaluation software available for free on CD for a 60-day trial for all ProSystem fx office products, including Tax, Engagement, Practice, Fixed Assets, Trial Balance, Planning, Profit Driver, Practice Driver and Global fx. Order on the Web site or call the toll-free number.

Creative Solutions
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
Product: UltraTax.
Offers the complete 2003 Ultra Tax software package at no charge for evaluation purposes. Early renewals are offered a discount, and specially priced new user packages are available. Trial includes a free desk reference to state e-filing.

Drake Software
Franklin, N.C.
(800) 890-9500
Product: Drake Tax Solution.
Demos of the entire suite are available at no cost. Early new sale and early renewal discounts are available. All states are included in Drake Tax Solution at no additional charge. Demo disk includes client write-up. Free shipping included.

Dunphy Systems
Columbus, Ohio
(614) 431-0846
Product: Dunphy Systems 1040 Program.
A working version of last year’s individual software is available for free on CD or can be downloaded for free from the Web site. Business equity programs 1120, 1120S and 1065 are available for $50 each.

La Jolla, Calif.
(858) 454-0121
Product: Tax Preparer.
A working program CD is available for 30-day free trial.

San Diego
(800) 934-1040
Product: ProSeries.
Intuit offers free ProSeries Evaluation software, including the actual 2003 editions of the federal Forms 1040, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 1041, 990, 706 and 709, the Client Organizer, and individual and business state products. The evaluation CD includes $200 worth of pay-per-return funds that apply toward printing or electronically filing tax returns. Intuit offers free tele-seminars about ProSeries’ time-saving features.

Lacerte Software
Plano, Texas
(800) 765-7777
Product: Lacerte Tax Software.
Free evaluation kits containing the live version of its 2003 individual and business programs and states are available on a single CD.

Laser Systems
Kaysville, Utah
(800) 230-2322
Product: TaxWorks.
Free demos on CD for federal and state Forms 1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 706, 709, 990 and 5500 are offered. Discounts for early renewals and for new users on selected packages.

Green Bay, Wis.
(800) 266-4669
Product: Great Tax.
Free demo CDs are available at Web site or toll-free number.

Orrtax Software
Bellevue, Wash.
(800) 377-3337
Product: IntelliTax.
This year’s product, with limited functionality, is available on CD for trial purposes for free. It becomes fully functional  upon payment. All packages are priced at significant discounts (40 percent off through July 31).

Petz Enterprises
Tracy, Calif.
(800) 345-4337
Product: CrossLink.
Fly for Free and Free demos are available on CD or by downloading from Web site. Early renewal discounts are available.

2nd Storey Software
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
(800) 573-4287
Product: TaxAct.
Customers can call or go on line for free, fully functional 2003 evaluation edition. Includes the 1040 product, all 1040 states, 1065 product, 1065 states, 1120S and 1120S states. Price on each of federal products is $99.

TaxSimple Inc.
Randolph, N.J.
(866) 729-7798
Product: TaxSimple.
TaxSimple offers a free, full working version of the 2003 CD, including state and federal 1040s with over 2,000 forms, schedules and worksheets. Also included are programs for Forms 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 706, 709 and 990. It may also be downloaded for free from the company Web site. A variety of discounts are available.

Carrollton, Texas
(800) 865-5257
Products: GoSystem Tax (CD) and GoSystem Tax RS (Web).
A free 30-day test drive is available on CD or the Web. The GoSystem Tax RS Test Drive includes all the features of the Web-based tax compliance software. It includes 30-day access for 100 users, including 25 returns for all tax types and all states.

Universal Tax Systems
Rome, Ga.
(800) 755-9473
Product: TaxWise.
A free evaluation kit supplies a fully functional system based on last year’s product. TaxWise also offers promotional pricing for new users, early renewal discounts, and multiple location discounts for multiple offices.

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