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Parson's Personal Tax Edge
Preparer's Edition Deluxe 
Software Review by Joseph V. Barth

This review is in two parts - the first covers the Personal Tax Edge used by and for individual tax preparation; the second will cover the use of this program for professional tax preparers.

 This program is a "Beta" pending approval by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the forms, tables and information presented by Parsons. It should be available by the time this is printed and can be ordered by telephone (888-883-0791), by fax (319-395-7449) or through Parsons' web page at www.parsonstech.com. The list price of the reviewed edition is $249. PLEASE NOTE: The program for an individual is only $19 - this is the full-blown program designed for the professional tax preparer. 

 This program comes on a CD-ROM and contains all the forms normally needed to file an individual tax return, including those that are highly complex due to the need to report income from businesses, a childs income, business gains/losses, sale of a house, etc. It also contains numerous tax tips, suggestions to help reduce taxes in the following years and many, many other items that cover unusual situations. 

 The program is easily installed in less than five minutes. It did ask for the customer number and gave me an 800 number to call. The number was answered in less than two minutes and the lady from Parsons was most gracious - gave me the customer number for the program and thanked me for buying it. 

After that, the program gives you several options including the choice of installing Microsoft Internet Explorer. Since this would take 20 MEG, I chose to not install it. It also installs a video player if you don't already have one. The full installation will install all the program and help files - cost 20.7 MEG. The recommended (typical) installation requires 12.8 MEGS and loads the program files onto your hard drive while the help files are accessed from the CD-ROM. The minimum disk space required is 9 MEG and you access the program files and the help files from the CD-ROM. 

 Normal computer requirements for this program include either DOS, Win 3.x or Win95. A minimum of 4 MEG RAM, CD-ROM, sound card and you're ready to go. 

 The program will import financial files/data that various programs save in .TFX format and also imports data from prior years if they were prepared using one of the Parsons programs. This can save even more time in taking care of the general information parts of the form and also compare last year to this year to insure that no income is missed or deductions overlooked. 

 Please note that I am not a professional tax preparer, nor do I play one on TV. I have had several tax courses courtesy of the military when I served as a tax counselor for units and bases, and I have helped friends prepare their taxes for several years. None have gone to jail (yet) but I do not claim to have great expertise in the tax field. I do feel that I have had more exposure to the tax rules than the average taxpayer but almost anyone can fill out their taxes using this program and feel sure that it is accurate. 

 The program starts with a video/sound introduction and an offer to conduct the interview to fill in the program. This is the way to go! It took less than one hour to complete the interview, double check the information and print out the forms (including a special 1040PC which I'll talk about later). My taxes included wages, retirement income, dividend income, capital gains/losses, and the itemized deductions and would have cost about $75 for a professional to prepare the forms/schedules. 

The first choice I had to make was to select "line by line" entry. I could have chosen to just go to the form and navigate it as I chose, but I wanted to see how effective the line by line was. A voice prompted you to make the appropriate entries on each line. Help on each line was a click of the mouse away and seemed to be very accurate. I could turn the feature on and off as required - for example, if I had only a few entries on a form, I could turn it off after completing those entries and it would jump to the next form needed. 

The interview led me, first, to the general information page and gathered personal data on the primary taxpayer and the family members. Once you type an item in, the program will store it and place it in any other place on all the forms with the exception of the Social Security Account Number. The SSAN on the reports of earnings (W-2) is entered to insure that it matches the number from the initial entry in order to double check that no typographical error took place. 

 After the initial steps were completed, we started inputting the wage and salary data and the taxes withheld on that money. We then went down the 1040 to check each line to be sure that you did not miss anything since under reporting income really rings the IRS bell. 

We went next to deductions and it did not hesitate to challenge those that seemed high for the income reported. The move to the schedules to cover the capital gains/losses and the dividends from stocks and mutual funds followed. 

After all the data were entered, a quick scan summary was done and an audit was started. It pointed out questionable areas - example, we own the house and don't pay mortgage interest but do claim property taxes. This triggered a query to be sure we had not missed the interest since it was deductible. 

Once all figures were checked, the program gave me three filing options. I could file using a 1040PC - this is a printed format generated to enable the IRS to enter the data quickly. It contains the pertinent information but does not use the forms we're used to seeing. If you don't file electronically, I recommend this format. Next, I could use the normal method of filing and the program printed out the normal 1040 and other forms. Both of these methods came with printed checklists to insure that all documents were included with the filed reports. 

 I also had the option of filing electronically - two ways. I could establish an account with Parsons and either mail a floppy with the various reports or I could modem the information to them. My cost would be $10 per customer. Most preparers charge about $25 for this. 

The advantage of electronic filing is speed - you get your refund in about three weeks or less compared to about 6 weeks otherwise. You might want to consider this option if you really need to get the money back right away but - unless it is more than $2,000 (don't I wish!) it really won't pay from a financial standpoint. 

 If you are a resident of a state that has an income tax, you can obtain - as a small charge - the module that will calculate and print out your state income tax forms using the data provided. 

The program was very, very easy to use, printed out excellent copies on my HP DeskJet, and the advise for future planning seemed to be accurate. The interview technique was very smooth and professional. I strongly recommend Parsons Tax Advantage for purchase and use. 

 Please check last months magazine for details on special order prices and procedures - they are a bargain. 
 

PART TWO

This portion of the review of "Parsons Personal Tax Edge Preparer's Edition, Deluxe" describes the special features of interest to the professional tax preparer. It is based on the information contained in the Beta version of the program provided by Parsons and from information on their web site. 

 Please keep in mind that I am not a professional tax preparer and I hope I have not missed a feature that could influence your purchase decision. If you have some questions, please e-mail me at jbarth@connecti.com and I'll get in touch with you and answer the questions with the program up and running. I am impressed with this program and would not want you to think it does not have the feature you want and need just because I did not realize how important it was. 

 In addition to the ease of use contained in the individual program, this preparers edition has several features designed to ease the preparation of tax reports and to help grow the business. 

You can have up to nine different preparers maintaining their records at one time. 

The client manager option allows you to: 

  • Monitor returns prepared by up to nine preparers 
  • Have the entire process at one central location 
  • Monitor the status of each return plus allow for access to whatever information you need immediately. 
  • Various sort options allow you to track returns by dates, SSAN's, name, preparer number, etc.

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  • You can generate custom status reports, including a history report from the start to the finish of the filing process.

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  • You can prepare a "Master Billing Invoice" to contain standard billing information, per form, and it can be automatically defaulted to all returns.

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  • There is an Electronic Filing Manager that maintains the status of all returns and automatically updates the transmission of the returns. 
  • You can set up a New Client Reports to contain a wealth of data to help you manage them and to provide them with tax strategies.
This program will allow the professional to increase their staff by adding people familiar with taxes and with computers. These people can interview clients and then do the preliminary reports and furnish them to the more highly trained (and paid) professional for review. If there are any questions, the client can be contacted, otherwise the report is ready to be electronically filed. 

 The professional that is also a member of Alamo PC Organization can easily recover their cost of membership by buying this program from Parsons and getting the discount available for the members - not bad financial planning for an amateur! 

 This program is an excellent investment. I recommend it highly. 

 Joe Barth currently works for the US Army at Fort Sam Houston as a mobilization planner. He served 23 years in the Air Force in many command positions and has more than 25 years in law enforcement. He is the proud father of two daughters and believes in spoiling his two granddaughters.