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TaxWise is a Tax preparation software product used by tax professionals and accountants.  By contractual agreement between Universal Tax Systems (now CCH)  and the IRS, it is the supported and approved tax preparation software used at VITA (.. er, VRPP) sites. TaxWise differs from the tax software such as TurboTax or TaxCut used by individuals which are designed to be used by individuals and have detailed explanations based on a comprehensive questions.   TaxWise is designed to deal with and manage large numbers of returns, and since e speed of data entry is important, the emphasis is on minimizing number of keystrokes and instructions to read during tax preparation.

The major version number is 24 for 2010 (the 2009 tax year).  Minor revisions are of the form 24.xx where xx increments sequentially by 1 from 01 throughout the tax season.  On average, minor revisions are generated at the rate of one per week. The software for the 2009 Tax Year is expected to be released around the last week of November 2009 as Version 24.00

There are several items that TaxWise generates for each return prepared:

  • The "return" is a binary file stored in the directory of the user of that TaxWise installation, and includes the taxpayer return information
  • The E-file can be created only after TaxWise finds no more mistakes.  Each E-File is a binary file stored within TaxWise, and ready for transmission to the IRS and the State.  E-files are not created for paper returns
  • The actual data of the return, and the summary of transactions involving E-files with the TaxWise Electronic Service Center are stored within a database in TaxWise

There are two versions of TaxWise available:

  • In TaxWise Desktop version, the Client (Workstation) portion and the Server portion both run on a LAN, or even in a single machine, and does not require an internet connection for tax preparation.
  • In TaxWise Online (TWO), the Client is a Web Browser (such as Internet Explorer), and the server is located on the internet.  Data for a tax return can be entered into the online version only if there is a live functioning internet connection.  Since data is stored on a remote server managed by UTS on the internet, it is unlikely that the returns will be lost due to disk crash or hardware failure because the remote server is most likely backed up regularly.  Return information is stored on the TaxWise servers on the internet.

It is important to know which version of TaxWise is used at a site, so you can take the appropriate TaxWise training.  Entering the data in each version is different, and training for one version generally is not relevant for using the other version.

Many VITA sites use the Desktop version, with a full copy of TaxWise loaded on each desktop or  laptop.  Tax returns are prepared on individual machines, and files are transferred by floppy disks for printing, e-file transmission or backup.  These are standalone TaxWise installations in a non-networked environment.  Since the newer machines do not include  do not come with floppy drives, another possibility is to use USB thumb drives.

At some sites, the desktops or laptops are part of a Local Area Network (LAN), using shared printers over the LAN.   The full copy of TaxWise is loaded on each desktop or  laptop, and these are standalone TaxWise installations in a networked environment.

A few sites use Networked TaxWise, where all return information and the database for the site are maintained centrally on one machine (the TaxWise Server). on site.   Sharing printers is easier since files are transferred over the LAN.   TaxWise State and Federal updates are installed only once on the TaxWise Server rather than on individual TaxWise Workstations.  A one time installation of the user interface is required on each individual laptop connected to the server.   One such site is the VITA Milpitas Community Library site.  Networked TaxWise can be over a wired LAN, or over a wireless LAN (WLAN).

Additional information about current experiences with TaxWise is also available in the associated blog http://vita-volunteers-taxwise.blogspot.com

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Last modified: 10/28/09.