Product analysis: Drake Tax Software

Several years ago, speaking at a Nevada Society of Enrolled Agents seminar, I was privileged to be present when IRS gave out awards for the top e-filing firms in Nevada. Three awards were given – small firms, medium firms and high-volume e-filers.

What really impressed me at the time was that each and every winner had been using Drake Software. Consider how impressive that must have been if I still remember it 3 or 4 years later.

Since then, I've stayed in touch with their sales manager and referred my EA Exam Review students and other tax professionals to the firm. Each person who worked with them came back to me with glowing reports.

This year, when I changed the format of the class to include doing sample returns, I gave my students a link to download the 2007 software and use it to create the sample returns. After tax season (April 15th), Drake makes the full version of each year's software available for free download – that includes all the business returns and all the states, too. Tax professionals can use all the features to create unlimited live returns (or just samples), including the free e-filing – without paying a dime. Do you know any other company who offers that?

You can enter client data of returns you've already prepared with your present software and compare them side by side. Or you can enter live data for returns you haven't prepared – and do all your extensions for free.

Naturally, my students were excited. Some of them also went to the sales presentations and tax updates offered by Drake. They were impressed with the presentation and the price - $1,395 for the complete software. (It's only $995 if you buy it early in the year.)

Another thing that blew them away was the free Web site that comes with your license. Not only can you customize the Web site to provide information about your firm – it also includes a link so visitors to your Web site can prepare their own tax returns. You get most of the fee. The visitor (or your client) can choose to just input some or all of the data and turn the return over to you to prepare – at your usual rates. You can get this benefit even if you just sign up for their pay per return license – which includes 15 returns for only $285.

They even send customers to your customized site.

What is included with the Drake Software – with no extra charge?

  • Tax planner
  • Bank software
  • Service bureau setup
  • Client write up
  • All e-filing and transmissions
  • Network version
  • Document manager and paperless office capabilities
  • Customer service within seconds
  • Online tax research
  • Free shipping

They don't tell you that they also send out excellent newsletters. I generally have one around the office for quick reference.

Other conveniences include:

  • Importing data from QuickBooks or Drake Client Write Up.
  • Multi-Office work flow management
  • Appointment scheduling tool

People who use it tell me they like the software. Mostly, it's intuitive and easy to follow. There are some clunky aspects, as with all software. You can call support and get help quickly. But, it does help to read the instructions. Need incentive? Read their manual, follow the instructions and take the test; you can pick up 8 hours of CPE credit.

There's an EIN database which automatically populates future forms once an EIN has been entered. You have a Stock Search lookup that gives you any stock's price at the close of market for the year. Enter a ZIP code and the software automatically fills in the city and state.

You can download any states, entities, or updates you need at any time. No waiting for your discs to arrive.

Along with the Web site you get, you also receive e-mail accounts, client address books, and other communications and marketing tools to make your practice easier to manage.

Drake Software will run on all Windows versions, including Vista.

One important thing for you to realize about Drake Software: It's not a mega-company. The company is small enough and stable enough that you reach the key people – like managers and developers. They will go out of their way to try to provide solutions for you.

For instance, in April of 2007, one of my students, complained that her software company wasn't performing certain Ohio city and state computations and analyses. Despite repeated efforts to get someone to help her – and all Ohio preparers, nothing was done.

However at the IRS Tax Forums that summer, I spoke to the chief programmer at Drake Software. He was eager to help her out. Unfortunately she believed her own provider would come through for her and never called Drake. She was left high and dry. She should have called Drake and made the switch.

Sure, it's costly to switch tax software. Even when they offer you free conversions. There are always errors in all conversions. Making sure all the data is there, and re-entering depreciation schedules and lists of interest sources or…takes time. You must do that to make sure everything is there.

Drake, like all smart marketers, offers to covert your client data from your present software for free – is your software on this list?

The price is terrific. The service is fast and smooth. And the marketing assistance and website are irresistible.

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