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?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reject with no details

So today I get a rejected return from the IRS through TaxWise. No reject code, no description, no nothing. So I go to the customer service center to find the return status. I bring up the screen, enter the SSN, and am faced with the following message:

Which says that

"The Return Status application has encountered an error.
Please try again soon. We apologize for any inconvenience.
If you continue to experience problems please contact Customer Service."

Three times I get the same message. Pleasant though it might be to spend the time talking to Cusotmer Service Reps, and much as I enjoy talking to them, I don't enjoy enough to repeat it too often.

My question to other coordinators: Are you also facing these strange problems this year as well, or am I just lucky in encountering them for everyone else?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Acknowledgements not visible in Desktop TaxWise

The first lot of e-files transmitted had several problems.

1) After getting accepted by the IRS, 20 returns were batched and transmitted to CA state. A little while later, 2 acknowledgements came back to say all had been accepted. Subsequently, when I created the reports on State return status, the reports showed no acknowledgements. What is more surprising is that when I looked for the acknowledgements, the two CA acknowledgements were missing. It was weird that this happened, and I thought I was imagining it, but fortunately, I had exported the report to pdf and found it on my system, and sure enough it was there.

When I called up TaxWise customer support, they told me that the returns had been accepted by the state, and that they needed to "re-hang" the acknowledgements. By that I presume they somehow send the acknowledgement back again manually and it is received and processed by the transmitting computer, and everything is OK.

2) 2 of my IRS returns were rejected by the IRS. I reworked and transmitted them again, and waited and waited for the acknowledgement. I subsequently transmitted another return, and received the acknowledgement of the last return, but not the previous 2. Again, TaxWise customer service had to "re-hang" those acknowledgements.

I find this disconcerting: I rely on the reports and updates to the database to keep track of which returns have been processed correctly and which are still outstanding.
When I have 30 returns in a batch, I find it difficult to keep track of which ones are still in process, especially if there are only a few mixed in with the incorrect status information.

I was told that due to the high volume of returns being processed this week, there were glitches; however, while I can understand acknowledgements not being sent out, I find it a bit difficult to understand how the state acknowledgement can be processed sufficiently far to generate a report but not to update the database, and then disappear without a trace from the transmitting computer.

I am sure I am not the only lucky transmitter to have this problem. While I can appreciate that the volume of returns are high, people with problems like I have just clutter up the customer service lines, and wait in frustration which the customer service reps apologize - one solution is to look into increasing the system reliability and provide the ability to transmitters to rehang bad acknowledgments themselves, and to make sure that running ah acknowledgement a second time does not mess up the system.

What are the experience of others?
Please add your comments and insights.

What is a TaxWise User?

It will save a lot of wasted discussion and misunderstanding if we realize that the term User in TaxWise refers to a computer account, and not to the individual using the account.

There are three predefined USERs in TaxWise: ADMIN, GUEST, and TRAINING. ADMIN can create additional other Users (Account Names).

There are three predefined GROUPs in TaxWise: Administrators, Training, and SuperUsers. A group defines the capabilities or privileges of its members. An account which is a member of multiple groups has the privileges of all the groups of which the account is a member. What is a capability of privilege? It is something that could be done - not necessarily must be done or should be done.

ADMIN belongs to the Administrators Group. Guest belongs to the SuperUser Group, and Training belongs to the Training Group.

What are the current requirements for a USER to use TaxWise. Each user needs to have a password assigned by ADMIN, something which has changed from the past. In addition, the password has to meet other requirements.

While it may appear silly to not allow ADMIN to create new returns, there is actually for a very good reason. That way it prevents an ADMIN who is doing administration accidentally starting returns, leaving the workstation, and accidentally allowing the next user to have those privileges without realizing it.

At many sites, a single user in the SuperUsers group is used to create and prepare returns even though different people may be prepare the returns. This works for a small number of preparers and returns prepared at the site, and is a very convenient way of doing things. However, when there are a larger number of volunteers, say more than 8, and the site prepares in excess of 20 returns in a session, this becomes cumbersome. (1) it is not possible to keep track of who prepared which return unless each preparer consciously indicates his or her identity on the return (2) it requires a large amount of scrolling to find a return of interest, particularly when trying to identify which returns to e-file when they are mixed among returns that are not ready to e-file. Keeping the returns of each preparer separate in individual user accounts makes it more manageable to find a return, and identifies quickly which preparer is familiar with a return should questions arise. An alternate arrangement used at some sites is to create a new user for each day's returns. This has the advantage of keeping the bulk of returns prepared within the same time period together, but still has the problem of not keeping track of the preparer of individual returns.

These comments come frome experience with the TaxWise Desktop product. They may not be applicable for the TaxWise Online product.

When we say that a Group can do something, it means that anyone logged in as a user belonging to that group can that that.

Members of the Administrators Group have all the privileges possible, except for starting new Tax Returns, or owning any tax returns. Two capabilities of the Administrators Group are the ability to create new User Accounts and Groups beyond what are already predefined in TaxWis, and the ability to create and modify Tax Form Defaults.

SuperUsers have all the privileges or capabilities of Administrators except for the two unique privileges. In addition, they can start new returns, and own returns they start unless the return is subsequently assigned to another account, or if the returns are assigned to them.

When all preparers use SuperUser accounts to prepare returns, there may be undesirable consequences. Some preparers may get a little adventurous, and accidentally connect to the Electronic filing center and get emails and acknowledgements downloaded to their machines, which is not desirable. One way then is to let preparers use accounts which are members of a group that does not allow interaction with the transmitting center.