Thursday, January 28, 2010

No form 8158 on Forms Tree - Was:Who is not green?

Part of going green is to use electronic documents rather than paper documents when possible.  While there are all the requirements of interview sheets and Quality Review Checklists that are printed up and checked off, at our site we choose to fill in the electronic version of those forms and keep them with the return.

In the last 2 years, we routinely filled in Form 8158 after selecting it from the form tree in taxwise, and used it as a checklist that was carried with the return for future reference.  Imagine my consternation when I found that this year that was not the case.  A call to our friendly TaxWise Customer Support and a one hour wait on the phone established that indeed the form was not on the form tree.  The suggested solution was to go to the IRS website and download the form and print it out to be used.

When a form is already in the form tree, I would expect it is easier to just leave it there, rather than make a conscious effort to take it out.  If this was a conscious effort, it does appear that someone has too much time on their hands and needs to be doing something to appear busy.

In these days of ecology consciousness and going green it is a sad state of affairs that we are now going back to yet more paper printed and shredded.

Whatever will be next?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rude customer service interaction

When a person is dealing with a telephone and trying to get through to a person for customer support, it is disrespect for the machine thelpo abruptly on the person.  Nevertheless, that is how the customer support line behaved towards this person needing service.

The customer service help line number was obtained by logging into the TaxWise customer support website with the Client ID and the super secure password that was required.  On calling the number given there and entering the client ID, I was told that the client ID did not entitle me to help on that line, and the line went dead.

If the website portal of TaxWise cannot provide the correct customer support number for a given client ID, it reflects on the care taken in presenting the site.  It is sloppy programming of the portal, and to compound the insult, no other alternative phone number is given.  I suggest it reflects the poor attitude of the vendor to the customer, and perhaps is an indication of the quality of the customer and technical support staff.

Bah!  Computers and automation are supposed to help people, not be used as an excuse to deny service or be rude to customers.

Evaluate If TaxWise Online will work for you (updated)

Evaluate if TaxWise Online will work for you posted on July 1, 2009 was suggested as a way of evaluating if TaxWise Online would work for you.  In objectively trying it out, and also the practice lab version of TaxWise Online, it was found that performance was slow.  It could be that the internet connection to the computer was slow, since it did not meet the minimum recommended connection speed of 800 Kilobytes/sec or 800 Kilobites/sec.

Discussion with users of TaxWise Online during the last season indicated that the production version of TaxWise Online (TWO) is actually faster than the practice version.  However, since it is not possible to try it out in a production environment before "buying" as it were, it might lead to remorse later on to be told that the poor performance is due to not having a fast enough internet connection.  Recall that the amount of data transferred is relatively small, so possible reasons for poor performance could be insufficient server capacity or insufficient internet connection speed at the server.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Speed Test Results

The stated requirement for TaxWise Online to work effectively is a speed requirement of 800 kilobytes/second.
The following are results of speed tests at the India Community Center and the Milpitas Public Library on July 15, 2009.

India Community Center Speed Test 149 Kilobytes/sec

Milpitas Public Library Speed Test 1.1 Megabits/sec = 137.5 Kilobytes/Sec

As can be seen the speed tests showed the speeds to be way short of the required minimum speed of 800 kilobytes/sec = 6.4 Megabits/sec.  Furthermore, the average high speed internet speed for California is 1.41 Megabits/sec which is less than 25% of the required minimum speed.

What does this mean?  It means that most places with regular high speed internet access will not meet the minimum speed requirements.  To do so will require getting premium or "elite" service levels.  It also means that if you are getting sluggish response, you may be told that your speed connection is inadequate.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Evaluate if TaxWise Online will work for you

If you are thinking of switching from TaxWise Desktop to TaxWise Online, you can try TaxWise Online Training through December 1, 2009 to see if this product is right for you.

You can gain access to this if you have a valid login and password for the the Taxwise support site. This training is for site coordinators and current volunteers who are familiar with the program and would like to practice over the summer. It could also be used to train current or prospective volunteers and conducing classroom training sessions.

Remember that the stated required internet speed is 800 kilobytes (kilobites) / sec

Further details should be available from your local VITA Relationship Manager. Login procedures cannot be provided on a public forum.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

locked fields on tax form defaults cannot be unlocked in a return

Because volunteer tax preparers were poking around in fields they had no business poking around in, I locked the defaults on some fields on the default tax forms.

It worked well, until I found there was a situation that required changing the field which required unlocking it. Well, evan as Administrator the field could not be unlocked, and that was frustrating. It appears that the locking carried over from the default tax return to the return itself, and no matter what I tried, it was not possible to salvage the return. The only way out was to copy the whole return on a different workstation starting with a different default tax form on the new return which had the field unlocked.

In my view, the ability to unlock a locked field should be allowed by a user with the appropriate privilege, rather than permanently locking it because the starting Tax defaults form was set that way. What do others think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Returns being accepted before they are created?

As a user of TaxWise Desktop version who sometimes receives strange acknowledgement reports, I carefully save and later look at the Ack reports.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed last week that some of the returns created on Sat Feb 7 (that was the first day of business at my site) were accepted on Feb 6!

I checked the reports for this week, and sure enough for a number of returns created on Sat Feb 14, the acknowledgements said they were received on Feb 13.

I don't know if it happened in the past, but it is only this year I noticed this phenomena. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, maybe it is a phenomena that occurred only at my site, or maybe I was just lucky in getting strange experiences? This happens not only from my reports, but from reports generated directly from the reports list in TaxWise, and even in the IRS Ack reports coming back from the EFC.

Anybody else have this happen at their site?