Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TaxWise Online: good news and bad news

TaxWise is commercial tax software published by CCH, which refers to itself as "the leading provider of information services, software and workflow tools for tax, accounting, legal and business professionals."

TaxWise is used by many professional tax preparers and the IRS purchases TaxWise software licenses for use at all Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites nationwide. All over the country at this moment, volunteer tax preparers are studying for VITA certification exams. Unlike paid tax preparers, VITA preparers must pass annual certification tests on current tax law prior to preparing even a single tax return. (When testing for paid preparers finally goes into effect next year, they will test on past year tax law, rather than current year tax law. Moreover, once they pass the exam, they will not be required to take future recertification exams, though they will have to take continuing professional education.)

I already passed my 2010 VITA certification exams, which I take each and every year, without the aid of software, but my students will have the option to use TaxWise when they take their certificaton exams in early January, because I want to encourage them to get familiar with the software before they begin using it with real live taxpayers in mid-January.

Good news: The new on-line chat feature built into TaxWise On-line is a massive improvement over the hours I have spent waiting on hold for customer support in previous years.

Bad news: The TaxWise customer support person was unable to give me an answer to my question.

I asked: "When will the training version of TaxWise Online incorporate the new tax law changes signed into law last week?"

Here is the answer I got from Jennifer N at TaxWise:

Our developers are working on getting the changes implemented, but they cannot change anything until it is approved by the IRS. Once the changes go into effect, the IRS changes them on their side first, sends them to us, then our developers change on our end, then have to get the approval by the IRS before they can implement them. Unfortunately, I do not have a time frame as of today, but our developers are working on them.

As far as I can tell, TurboTax incorporated the tax law changes into their software the same day that the tax laws were changed last week, so if any IRS approval was needed for their changes, they got it very fast.

Given that TurboTax implemented the changes so quickly, I don't understand why TaxWise is unable even to predict when they will have last week's tax law changes incorporated into their software.

It also seems to me that, at the very least, the TaxWise On-line homepage "Message Center" ought to warn users that the version of the software they are using does NOT incorporate the changes enacted into law last week.

Score 1 for TurboTax, 0 for TaxWise so far.

To my students: feel free to continue to practice in TaxWise Online, but do not trust that the answers you get are accurate, especially if you are trying to practice by predicting your own tax situation or your family's tax situation.

In fact, that is good advice in general, no matter what tax software you use, professional or consumer, whether you do your taxes yourself or whether you use a paid preparer.

I always double-check the logic of my tax returns before signing--and so should you.


  1. Looking at the TaxWise blog at http://mytaxwise.blogspot.com/ reveals one possible reason that TaxWise is taking so much longer to incorporate the new tax law into their software than Intuit did with TurboTax.

    Judging by the TaxWise blog, a disproportionate share of their attention appears to focus on the Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) aspect of their business. Apparently, a significant part of the market share for TaxWise is the segment of the paid preparer community that relies on RALs.

    By contrast, TurboTax developers do not cater to the RAL market.

  2. TurboTax just works and has about ten years of my tax history. It uses last years data to start with.

  3. This is a nice post. Pretty informative and helpful i so many ways. I think many should know what and how TurboTax works.

  4. I should say that my past experience with both TurboTax and TaxWise shows them both to be reasonably accurate--if occasionally frustrating--software once tax filing season actually starts in mid-January.

    My chief complaint against TaxWise at the moment is that the company is unable to give me a prediction as to when the training version will conform to the new tax law and that TaxWise provides no warning on its home page that the product is giving incorrect estimates of 2010 tax liability.

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