Friday, November 14, 2008

Desktop TaxWise Training Webinar - Day 3 - Backup/Restore

The Backup/Restore capability is undergoing further changes. On the basic menu, you can start a new backup, or add to an existing backup. The first will ask to delete any backup files in the directory, and then create new backup files. The second will look for any existing backup in the directory, and will not proceed until there is one. This may be useful when one external drive is used to back up all entries to the transmitting workstation. In the past, backups from each workstation could be saved in different directories on the portable drive, and then restored individually.

When all is said and done, I have one other additional item on my wishlist - I would like the ability to create a new directory to put in backups; right now backup can only be to an existing directory.

The ability to back up to a floppy appears to be going away. However, it appears that some sites provide a backup of the client's return to the client for them to bring back the following year. When the ability to back up to a floppy goes away, it will be necessary to save the return onto a directory on a local drive, and then copy and paste to the floppy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Desktop TaxWise Training Webinar - Day 2 - Tax Form Defaults

In the past, users could change their Tax Form defaults. It appears that for 2008, only the Admin account could change Tax Form defaults. It is not clear how this would be done. If only the Admin account could change it, it would put the tax form template in the Admin user's account. We hear that changes made by the Admin account would be automatically available to all other users, except those which have their own Tax Form defaults.

It would appear that a copy of a Tax Form default in the directory for a user is used if one exists, otherwise the copy in the Admin account directory is used. It also suggests that to revert back to the current Tax Form defaults may require the file in the user directory to be deleted.

Desktop TaxWise Training Webinar - Day 2 - Taxwise Explorer

The TaxWise explorer lets you move and/or copy files from one user TaxWise account to another, and to other directories. We can think of it as a Windows Explorer with some enhancements and restrictions relevant to TaxWise.

In fact Windows Explorer offers a quick means of managing files. For example, which TaxWise Explorer will not let you copy returns from one user to another, you can do so with Windows Explorer. However, the TaxWise database may get corrupted if you move returns around using the Windows Explorer.

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Desktop TaxWise Training Webinar - Day 2 - users and accounts

Today we learnt about users and user groups.

The term user refers to a login name or account in TaxWise, and not to individuals. This is similar to how email accounts work - different people can use the same email account, but they all have the same password and login. For next year, it appears that the IRS requires that each user (login name) have a password.

In the past, user and login names had different functions, for example:
1) All returns were prepared in the one account Guest. If this is going to be done again, all it requires is that the account have a password. The problem here is that each time someone logs in and tries to check the returns, there may be a huge number of returns they have to go through.
2) All returns were prepared in the one account Guest, and after appropriate diagnostics had been run, they were transferred to a Pending user account. When the returns were accepted, the returns were moved to a Completed user account.
3) There was a different user name for each day so that by it was possible to track a return by the day it was started.
4) At one site, there were only two preparers, so the guest account was adequate for both, and the site coordinator did not see a need for multiple accounts.

The point here is that there are different solutions for the same problem, and here are several aspects to consider.
1) A different login for each user lets each preparer keep track of the number of returns prepared, and the site coordinator will slowly get a feel for each preparer's performance and consequently, which returns require more attention. It will be easier to identify the preparer and talk to them in the event of problems. The login name does not need to reflect the name of the user.
2) A single login for all users or multiple users is like having a single email account or a single telephone number for all users (like in a customer support center). It could work, but sometimes will get into the way of getting things done.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Desktop TaxWise Training Webinar - Day 1

The refresher online TaxWise Administrator class for the desktop version of TaxWise provided some information that though not new, may be helpful in running the sites.

1) The add Tabs function lets you add additional tabs to the main screen; currently there are the TaxWise Home, TaxWise Web, IRS and customer service. You may be able to add additional tabs that relate to other information, either on the web or on your own computer. For example, if you have a copy of the pub 17 in your computer, you can put the pathname to it there. Note that the full name of the file, including the extension, should be there. Of course, if you are looking at a file, the relevant add-in or application must be present in your computer. If you link to html files there should be no problem.

2) Context Sensitive Help; have you found the little window of help instructions at the bottom of the screen to be useful? If so, you are not alone. However, since it takes up space, especially on low resolution or small screens, it covers most of the form you are entering. This can be toggled on and off so that it is available only when you need it.

3) Have you had the occasion when you lost the form tree on the left hand side? Well, there is a toggle button that turns it off and on. It is useful to turn off when you need the space to look at a full form, and to turn on when you are navigating.

4) If the text is too large or too small, the font size can be changed to suit your preference.

Desktop TaxWise Webinar comments - Caveats

The following is based on webinar discussions on the 3 day webinar training session on Desktop TaxWise Webinar training. They represent the understanding and view of the author based on available information, and may not reflect the position of TaxWise or UTS.

It is provided as a continuation of some of the discussions during the session as a way of sharing best practices, and provided for information only. Please recheck and confirm any information used for making decisions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quality Site Requirements

The premise of Quality Site Reuqiemens is that performing certain actions will provide increased quality of tax returns. A discussion is provided on the website web page on Quality Site Requirements

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Taxwise Administrator Training being offered

Finally, Taxwise Administrator Training Webinars for Online and Desktop versions of Taxwise end-users are being offered through the IRS VITA program. The SPEC Area office is responsible for selecting participants and partners for this pilot program; your local IRS office should be able to answer where to get help.

Currently offered sessions for the TaxWise Desktop training include 3 2-hr sessions on consecutive days once each month in October 2008, November 2008, December 2008, and January 2009.

Currently offerred sessions of the TaxWise Online Training include 2 2-hr sessions on consecutive days 3 times in the last half of December 2008, and 2 times in January 2009.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Increased Security on IRS Laptops for VITA Use

As IRS laptops are being shipped out of the depot, it may be useful to keep in mind the security measures and precautions taken to ensure that data from our returns is kept confidential. To this end, there a login required at the BIOS level to allow access to the disk encryption, and another login is required to allow access to Windows. It is recommended that the TaxWise installation itself have password protection.

Over the past few years, the initial passwords have been made longer, stronger and requiring more brute force computation to break each year. However, this has resulted in passwords which require combinations of Shift key to change case within the password, and also the use of passwords which are not easily guessable. From passwords requiring simple phrases in upper case letters and numbers, to those requiring phrases with combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers, to those based on the first letters of phrases with mixed case, numbers and special characters, these passwords have become harder and harder to remember and type correctly.

At one site, each year it required a while to get the correct login - and too many incorrect logins could result in the PC locking up. To avoid this, volunteers were writing the passwords and the the logins on reference materials or on scraps of paper, and promptly forgot where they were put them, and the next week the same problem occurred.

I don't know if other coordinators have the problem, but it seems silly to have to remind volunteers one at a time what the password is, especially when it is impossible to state it verbally.

So if it is a problem, what can we do? Some ideas that come to mind are the following:

a) Have a training class on learning to remember logins and passwords and practice entering them correctly.
b) Provide instructions on how to change the default login and passwords.
c) Require logins and passwords to be changed every week, and use Windows to log changes of passwords, and transmit the logs to the IRS to check for compliance.

Any other thoughts, and or opinions?