by Roger Russell

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

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

The just-passed Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, with its new rules, accelerated benefits, and maze of retroactive, temporary and phased-in effective dates, promises to drive more taxpayers to professional preparers, according to industry observers. It also means more sales for tax preparation vendors, as more preparers enter the field to service the increase in taxpayers who are seeking 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. "Whenever there's a tax cut, people want to make sure they don't miss out on anything." Vora already senses an increased interest in tax preparation. "At the New Jersey CPA show, we ran out of demos in half a day," he said. "It's never happened before - typically, we have to push people to try it."

This year's list has one fewer vendor, with the acquisition by Drake of Alpine Data's Tax/Pack. Alpine Data continues to maintain its other products, including asset management, W2-1099 after-the-fact payroll and petroleum distribution. The following are manufacturers with special deals, demos and discounts.

Caribou, Maine
(800) 944-8883
Max, Saber, Zillion Forms
An Info Pack is available, consisting of a CD with a demonstration of Form 1040. A two-for-one offer gives practitioners the opportunity to try this year's product free of charge until Sept. 1. If they keep it beyond then, they will be billed for next year's product.

Hauppauge, N.Y.
(800) 829-7354
Tax Relief
Free Accountant's Office CD, with last year's programs, offered on a trial basis. Includes all tax software, write-up, trial balance and financial planning software. Early-bird discounts available, depending on time of purchase.

Best Software, CPA Software Division
Pensacola, Fla.
(800) 272-7123
Visual 1040, Visual Business Tax Suite
Last year's products available for free evaluation. Online demos also available. Discounts are offered to new users and early renewals. The amount of the discount varies according to the number of products purchased. Offering free data conversion if a purchase is made before the end of July.

CCH Inc.
Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) 739-9998
ProSystem fx Office
Evaluation software is available for free on CD for a 60-day tryout for all six ProSystem fx office products, including ProSystem fx Tax, Engagement, Practice, Fixed Assets, Trial Balance and Planning. It may be ordered by visiting the Web site or calling the toll-free number. Renewal discounts are 20 percent, or 25 percent for additional tax software purchases.

Creative Solutions
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
Creative Solutions offers its complete 2002 software package at no charge for evaluation purposes. Early renewals are offered at a discount, and specially priced new user packages are available.

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

Dunphy Systems
Columbus, Ohio
(614) 431-0846
Dunphy Systems 1040 Program
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.

Anaheim, Calif.
(800) 583-3536
Package Ex
Free demos for federal Forms 1040, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 990 and 706 are available by phone or on the Web.

La Jolla, Calif.
(858) 454-0121
Tax Preparer
Working program CD available for 30-day free trial.

San Diego, Calif.
(800) 934-1040
Intuit offers free ProSeries evaluation software, including 2002 editions of federal 1040, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 1041, 990, 706, 709 and client organizer, as well as individual and business state products. The evaluation CD includes a $200 credit in a pay-per-return account that can be applied toward printing or electronically filing any tax return. Intuit offers free tele-seminars about the time-saving features offered through ProSeries.

Lacerte Software
Plano, Texas
(800) 765-7777
Lacerte Tax Software
A free evaluation kit containing the live version of its 2002 individual and business programs and states is available on a single CD.

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

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

Orrtax Software
Bellevue, Wash.
(800) 377-3337
This year's product, with limited functionality, is available on CD for demonstration purposes for free. It becomes fully functional when an authorization code is activated upon payment. All packages are priced at a significant discount.

Petz Enterprises
Tracey, Calif.
(800) 345-4337
Fly for Free and Free EF demos available on CD or by download from Web site. Early renewal discounts available.

RIA Group
New York, N.Y.
(800) 950-1216
GoSystem Tax (CD) and GoSystem Tax RS (Web-based)
A free 30-day Test Drive is available on CD or the Web. The GoSystem Tax RS Test Drive includes all 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.

2nd Story Software
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
(800) 573-4287
A free 2002 evaluation edition is available on CD by calling the toll-free number or placing an order on the Web site; the evaluation edition includes 1040 product, all 1040 states, 1065 product, and 1065 states. Fully functional 2002 program. Also offers 1120S and price on each of federal products is $99.

TaxSimple Inc.
Randolph, N.J.
(866) 729-7798
TaxSimple offers a free full working version of the 2002 CD, including state and federal 1040s with over 2,000 forms, schedules and worksheets. The CD also includes programs for Forms 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 706, 709 and 990. The full program may also be downloaded for free from the Web site.
A variety of special pricing and discounts for first-time users, early renewals and conversion discounts are available.

Universal Tax Systems
Rome, Ga.
(800) 755-9473
TaxWise Professional
Software Suite, FormsCompleteWeb
Free evaluation kit has 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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