The VITA MILPITAS COMMUNITY LIBRARY
Site in Milpitas introduced a Networked TaxWise installation in 2005. In the absence of a permanent network
infrastructure, we assembled and dismantled a temporary private Local Area Network (VITA LAN) each session.
Let us define a few terms for the following discussion:
Note that a
laptop could be part of a Networked TaxWise as well as host a Standalone
or Desktop refers to a specific computer
is a program that provides services to Clients
is a program that requests services from Servers.
- Each Laptop or
Desktop has a Name and can host zero or more Servers and zero or more
- TaxWise Server is the part of
TaxWise that manages the login,
database, and taxpayer return information, and includes the TaxWise database
which holds all the information of the returns that are prepared.
- TaxWise Client
is the part of TaxWise that interacts with most volunteers and the TaxWise
- Standalone TaxWise An installation where taxes can be
prepared without connecting to a network. It includes both the TaxWise Server
and TaxWise Client on the same Laptop or Desktop.
TaxWise An installation where a TaxWise Server
can communicate with TaxWise Clients on several different laptops at the same
The VITA LAN consists of a combination Wireless Access Point and Broadband DSL Router connected to two
network switches. Laptops for preparing tax returns connect to this
One laptop, the Primary TaxWise Server
laptop, hosts the primary TaxWise Server and the TaxWise
Database. Other Laptops, also known as TaxWise Workstations
host TaxWise Clients and connect to the network. When returns are being prepared, the Clients connect to the
TaxWise Server and save individual return data on the TaxWise Server instead of
the local drive. Each volunteer has a unique password protected user account to
allow only that user and the TaxWise Admin user and no one else to view the
returns prepared by that volunteer.
A Microsoft Windows Server 2003 desktop
computer named Milpitas-WS2003 runs a Print Server and a Web Server.
Print Server controls printers connected to this desktop.
Clients send print jobs to the Print Server.
Multiple printers of the same make and model on this server form a
printer pool, and a printing job sent to the printer pool is sent to the next available
printer in the pool.
The Web Server hosts a SharePoint
Web which is a team collaboration platform included with Microsoft Windows
Server 2003. Volunteers fill in their time sheets on the SharePoint Web.
Totals are calculated automatically and downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet for
transmission to VITA. Since March 9, 2005 volunteers started adding
contact information, thoughts and comments to the collaborative web site.
Useful and frequently referenced documents such as Pub 17, Pub 660 and 2005
refund cycle charts are also available on the
SharePoint Web site. This collaboration platform supports data entry,
discussion forums, a voting feature, and ability for users to add additional
A Sony Laptop, the Secondary TaxWise Server
Laptop is configured to support both TaxWise Client and a
Standalone TaxWise. It has Microsoft Office 2003 Professional
Edition, Front Page 2003 and other applications for creating and editing
documents to be saved on the SharePoint Web. These applications do not
exist on the VITA issued laptops. Data on the Primary TaxWise Server
is fully backed up on the Secondary TaxWise Server between sessions, so that the
Secondary TaxWise Server Laptop also acts as a backup server.
Workstation Laptops install the printer drivers directly from
the Print Server instead of from CDs.
How does a Networked TaxWise help Tax Volunteers?
How does a Networked
TaxWise help the Site Coordinator?
- Fewer printers to manage.
Typically, 8 to
10 tax preparers are on site, each using an IRS or a
personal laptop. This site currently has 3 printers assigned to it, one for
generating documents such as 9325s and other off-site documents, and the other
two on the network for on-site printing needs. Without a network,
typically one printer is shared between two laptops by switching the printer
cable to the laptop needing to print returns, so 5 printers are required to
support 8 to 10 laptops.
- Multiple identical printers to a single printer pool. A print job sent to the printer pool on the
Print Server is queued for the next available printer. If a pool printer is
busy or unavailable (for example, because it is out of paper), the Print Server
sends jobs to one of the other printer(s) in the pool.
- (Please note: this is how it was supposed to work. For the 2005 tax season, we found that network printing was slow due to slow
LAN network, and the print server did not always work as expected)
- (These problems were investigated, and for the 2006 tax season we
plan to use networked printers with their own servers, so a laptop or workstation is not tied up with the printer)
- Avoid transferring returns using a floppy or flash drive.
Using a floppy or flash drive is particularly inconvenient because a person using the
destination laptop must interrupt the current task, causing delays for the taxpayer
currently being helped.
Spend less time and make fewer errors during installation.
Installing TaxWise from a network is more convenient,
less time consuming, and less error prone than from a CD.
- CD installation
generally takes 40 – 60 minutes per workstation to load, install, configure and
register TaxWise and Federal and State form updates. Each install requires
information to be typed in manually and correctly, something that is
error-prone under time pressure.
installation of the TaxWise Client requires assigning a unique
Workstation number to each client, and loading and installing the
TaxWise Client software, which takes less than 10 minutes per
workstation, and requires no configuration or registration of the software.
- Install updates only on server
- Updates to TaxWise
are issued almost weekly. In a Standalone installation, the
updates must be copied and installed via floppy
diskette, USB flash drive, or CD on each workstation.
This inconvenience generally means that
the workstations are
- In a
Networked TaxWise installation, only the server is updated. Networked
TaxWise clients automatically get the updates when they connect to the Server.
- Standardize Tax Form Defaults. When the PTIN and site
information are entered manually, it is difficult to keep them identical
across all the Standalone Workstations at the site. As tax form
defaults change over the course of the season, each workstation must to be configured with those defaults.
TaxWise, the default form
is configured for the Admin user, and copied into each user directory at the
- Standardize Print Package defaults. When configured on the Networked TaxWise Server they are readily available to all the Networked
system reliability is simplified because only the Primary TaxWise Server data is backed up
onto Secondary TaxWise Server; the Standalone TaxWise Laptops do not need to
be backed up.
- Simplify DCN (Declaration Control Number) tracking and
assignment. The TaxWise Server assigns sequence numbers when TaxWise clients generate
E-files. A good practice is to let volunteers run the E-file
diagnostics, fix obvious errors and assign the DCN before printing
the taxpayer copy. This simplifies the situation where the E-file transmitter
needs to refer back to the volunteer tax preparer when TaxWise diagnostics give an error, provides the taxpayer with the DCN number right away, and avoids hand entering on the signed copies of the 8453 forms. It is also easier to track signed 8453s by DCN number than by last name.
- Simplify locating previously partially or fully completed tax return.
Since tax returns are stored by user, the volunteer can access them from any Networked
TaxWise Client. If the volunteer is not present, the taxpayer can be helped by another volunteer
on a different workstation since the Admin user can
track down and transfer the return to the user directory of the second
- Simplify protection of taxpayer information.
Since taxpayer personal information resides only on the Primary and Secondary
TaxWise Servers, securing the TaxWise Client laptops becomes less of an issue.