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by HowardSoft® "Professional software at personal prices." Summer 2000

Tax Preparer 2001 …
Order now for fastest delivery!

There are a lot of exciting changes in Tax Preparer this year, as you'll see in this newsletter. However, because we ship so many products at the start of the tax season, you must place an order NOW to be assured of receiving your update as soon as it's released. Use the Advance Order Form at the end of this newsletter to order by fax, mail, or phone, or order on-line at

Note that we have eliminated several separate options and instead have defined 3 levels of updates: Economy, Standard, and Premium. Although we explain this on the back of the order form, feel free to call if you have any questions about what to order. We can guide you to the product that most closely meets your needs.

Windows 95/98/2000 version to become our baseline product

We’re taking the final step in converting Tax Preparer to 32-bit Windows technology for the next tax season. This means that you will need to have Windows 95 or later installed on your computer in order to use this new baseline product. You’ll benefit from a number of features available only with our Windows 95/98/2000 version including:

  • Windows look-and-feel with pull-down menus, web-style frames, and full mouse support.
  • Custom on-screen appearance based on your own desktop settings.
  • Printing with Windows-only printers (in addition to traditional printers) with no special setup.
  • Graphic Printing for all Windows-compatible printers (in Standard and Premium Updates only). This is a good alternative to transparent overlays, which are no longer commercially available.
  • Tax Forms Guide in PDF format, which you can view and search on-screen while using Tax Preparer or print with the look, paging, and indexing of our preprinted manual.
  • Supplemental IRS files in PDF format (in CD-ROM versions of Standard and Premium Updates only), including the official forms and instructions for selected forms plus selected publications that relate to those forms.
  • User’s Guide in PDF format (in CD-ROM versions of all updates) plus a free copy of Adobe® Acrobat® Reader for your convenience (for on-screen viewing and searching of the manuals and easy printing in the same format as our printed manuals).
  • Mid-season revisions via the internet so that you can take advantage of the minor revisions we make throughout the tax season without waiting for a notice or disk in the mail (and the price of our Premium Updates is now lower because of this free accessibility for all users).

There’s no bait-and-switch here

Because of the way some companies have handled their switch to Windows, there may be some misunderstanding about what a switch means for Tax Preparer. So let’s make a few things clear:

  • Nothing new to learn. Even though we’re adding a Windows look-and-feel, we’re not eliminating any prior functionality. We’ve approached our conversion to 32-bit Windows as an opportunity to add new features, not an opportunity to get rid of old ones. That means you can still operate the software the way you have in the past if you prefer, using the same keypresses and maintaining the same general appearance.
  • Compatible with your DOS data. We are taking great care to make our new Windows version fully compatible with data created with past or current DOS versions of our software. As a result, our new Windows version will fully translate data from the prior-year DOS or Windows version. Moreover, the data for the new DOS version can be read by the new Windows version, and vice versa.
  • Or stick with DOS or Apple II. Even though we strongly recommend a switch to Windows, we still support the older technologies. See the box below...

DOS and Apple II? We're still with you!

Because we remain independently owned, you are dealing with the same people you did when you first joined HowardSoft, even if that was two decades ago! As a result, we remember your past support and respect your current needs. For most of you, your current needs are satisfied by our new baseline Windows product. But for the rest of you we're still supporting the older technologies as long as you still need us to. We're one of the few companies still pro-ducing tax software for DOS and the only one still producing it for the Apple II. It's our way of repaying those of you who put us firmly on our feet two dec-ades ago!

Nevertheless, you have a lot to gain by purchasing a newer machine. You may be surprised to learn that your Tax Preparer software can operate up to 1,000 times faster on the newer computers. And high-capacity hard disks are now standard. That makes it possible for us to offer tax form graphics for Win-dows-compatible printers and on-screen manuals with an easy search-and-find capability. Also note that when we add features or forms to our baseline Win-dows version, the DOS and Apple II versions can rarely include them. The clear conclusion? There's little excuse for not switching to our new Windows 95/98/2000 version.

Our approach is clearly different because we remain independent. You’ve probably noticed that many of the old names in tax software are gone. Like other industries, the software industry has fallen prey to merger mania, and the giants have gobbled up most of their competition. The typical behavior of the buying companies is to eliminate the products of the acquired companies and force customers to use their own software instead, usually available only for Windows 95+ and only on CD-ROM. But at HowardSoft we value our long-term relationship with you, our customer, and our respect for your wishes far outweighs any desire for short-term profit.

Professional e-file: now makes sense for most tax practices

IRS publicity makes e-file essential. Because the IRS now publicizes e-file at every opportunity, most tax professionals now feel that it is a necessity. The benefits to their clients include

  • Refunds in half the time. Because e-file eliminates the need for IRS personnel to manually key information from your return into a computer, the return is processed much faster.
  • Improved accuracy. Because the IRS checks the return electronically before accepting it, and most of those same checks are performed by our e-file software before you transmit the return, the return is assured of much less chance of error notices from the IRS.
  • IRS acknowledgment. Unlike mailed returns, you know for sure whether the IRS has received and accepted the return. The IRS sends an acknowledgment of receipt within 48 hours!
  • Automatic payment. Taxpayers can have any tax due withdrawn from their accounts automatically on a specified date rather than writing a check.

What you need to do before next tax season. Before you can participate in the IRS e-file program as a tax professional, you must do two things:

  • Order Professional e-file in addition to your Tax Preparer update. Our Standard Professional e-file (now only $225) lets you file an unlimited number of returns at $5 per return. However, if you expect to file more than 90 returns next tax season, our High-volume Professional e-file (now only $675) makes sense because it lets you transmit direct to the IRS (or through a 3rd party at your option) with no per-return fee!
  • Apply to the IRS via Form 8633. Whether you will act as an ERO or both a paid preparer and an ERO, you must apply for participation in the IRS e-file program. See the sidebar on this page.

Form 8633 required for new professional e-file participants

If you aren't already approved for participation in the IRS e-file program, and you want to e-file returns pro-fessionally for others, you must apply to the IRS through Form 8633. The IRS will verify your suitabil-ity for the program (usually meaning that you have not violated any serious laws or IRS rules in the past), and issue you an identification number (EFIN) which you must use on Form 8453 for all returns you file electronically. The form is available at the IRS web site, or ask us for one when you order your update. CAUTION: The IRS revised this form this year, and you must use the new version with a revision date of 7-2000 or later.

How it works. HowardSoft’s Professional e-file seamlessly adds electronic filing to your Tax Preparer software. There are only a few extra steps:

  • Prepare the return. First you prepare the return with Tax Preparer the way you normally do.
  • Complete Form 8453. Next you complete a Form 8453 for each return you want to file electronically. (This form is added to our Forms Menu when you install professional e-file on your computer.). On this form you must identify yourself as both a Paid Preparer and an Electronic Return Originator (ERO) or an ERO alone. You must also enter all information on the taxpayer(s) W-2 forms so that it matches the information sent by the employer to the IRS. Other than that the form is virtually automatic in Tax Preparer, and it is easily printed when you need it.
  • Generate electronic file. Next you choose "ELECTRONIC filing output" from our Print Menu (as if you were going to print out the return). The file that will later be transmitted to the IRS is then stored on your disk.
  • Transmit electronic files. Once you have generated files for all the returns you want to transmit at one time, you start the transmission software we supply. That software performs additional error-checking and then all returns that pass the tests are transmitted. It also includes extensive organizing of the files you have prepared to easily keep track of the transmission, acceptance, and rejection of returns.
  • Print and file a paper Form 8453. Once the IRS accepts the return you must enter in our Form 8453 the DCN number assigned the return when you transmitted it. Then you print the form, have the taxpayer(s) sign it, and mail it to the IRS.