Albert Haab, CPA, EA, Users of TaxWorks are flaying the company over its new tax preparation software. But whether problems are widespread or just a reaction by an installed base faced with a dramatically changed product remains to be seen. In comments on a blog on the TaxWorks website, several preparers complained they cannot print organizers, while some had trouble installing the software. The gripes are coming from new users and from practitioners who have bought the program for decades.

"I paid for a Lexus and they delivered a Yugo," says Albert Haab, CPA, EA, who operates a tax and accounting service in Sarasota Florida. "They are certainly not delivering what we paid for."

Another user, who recently switched from Lacerte, saw no problems serious enough to cause despair. "They have been responsive to me," says CPA Bart Morrill of Roosevelt, Utah. Morrill said that every package has its problems, particular when they've been rewritten. He said that customers should be more patient and that when it comes to TaxWorks' solving problems, "They will get there." Morrill, who said except for the price that he loves Lacerte, reported the Lacerte had bad year last year, but he survived that.

Haab has used TaxWorks since 1993 and said he expected the new program would carry over settings like customer letters. But it has not. "It looks like they just scrapped the whole thing and started over," he said. Haab is already looking at other packages, including TaxWise, which he said looks most like the old TaxWorks of any program he has seen.

Morrill tried and then quickly ditched Drake Software after leaving Lacerte for this tax season, primarily because of the increasing cost of the Intuit product. But when it comes to TaxWorks, he says even if users cannot print organizers, that is rarely a serious problem for any preparer. "I send out 1,200 organizers. There are 50 people who really use them," Morrill said

Alan Haacke, who generally handles responses to press inquiries, has been one of the primary TaxWorks staffers who has been replying to issues on the website. On December 28, Haacke wrote that "We're just struggling to get the new technology to work. And it will" urging customers be patient and "We'll have everyone up and running soon!"  While Haacke could not be reached directly, John Wall, VP of sales for the Kaysville, Utah-based company, said on January 3, someone from TaxWorks would provide comments about the issues. However, the company has not provided any more information and it apparently changed its website so that user comments on the blog can no longer be seen b y the public.

Serious or not, blog comments reflect a high volume to calls to tech support. On December 28, one poster reported the tech support system informed him there were 75 callers ahead of him in the queue. That day, Haacke noted the level of calls and referred customers to chat for support. And posts on threads on the blog were made by at least 60 different individuals. Most comment were nowhere nearly as charitable as those from Morrill. Others besides Haab reported they are already looking at other products.

One poster indicated that the problems were no surprise. EA Deborah St. Martin of Beaumont, Calif.-based Oak Valley Tax, a member of the company's user group said when she paid to send three staffers to training late in 2012, TaxWorks did not have working software. St. Martin continued that with the current problems, "The disappointing thing is we are not hearing from senior people at TaxWorks". Martin, who switched from Lacerte in 2006, said she would buy Drake Software as a backup. Martin has what she described as a midrange practice with 500 clients and about 40 percent of them go on extension each year. If she knew when features would be working, she could plan to have more on extension. St. Martin should she was add Drake because of its ease of use and particularly because Drake performs conversions.

In a comment on January 3, one user complained he had to reboot his system four or times to get it to work and was able to print one organizer. When he reported an error code that had been recurring for two days, he said TaxWorks support responded that the fix for that did not pass the company's quality control. On January 2, a preparer who has used TaxWorks for more than 30 years said he had endured more than 20 hours with tech support and had not been able to install the program. Another spent an extra $1,500 to get Drake Software as insurance but hopes TaxWorks will fix issues because he believes it is the most accurate package on the market. One customer had switched from Thomson Reuters' UltraTax. While he anticipated there would be problems in conversion, after spending 80 to 100 hours correcting converted returns, "I still cannot print cover letters and questionnaires." He referred to receiving "error messages out the Wazoo."

There were also complaints about being unable to download updates for several days. On December 27, one user, who was identified only as John, said he had been using TaxWorks since the 1970s. "This is the worst version of the program that I have ever seen. I feel like I am a beta tester. The software is not ready and should never have been released in such deplorable condition," he said.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
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