CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published July 9, 2001

Intuit slow in delivering tax changes

Effective July 1, approximately 35 million taxpayers should begin to see some benefits from President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut that was recently signed into law. This will be reflected in rebate checks distributed to taxpayers and also in their paychecks, beginning this month. The actual increase in earnings is estimated to be $2 - $3 per $300 of payroll, provided employers have the latest tax table updates installed.

Users of Quickbooks accounting software were disappointed to learn that that the current tax tables wouldn't be available until "the second half of July", according to information first posted on the Intuit website. Within the last few days, the updated version 20105 has been posted online, however customers relying on diskette versions will still have to wait until late July for their updates.

You may recall from earlier articles, two years ago Intuit began charging their customers annually for their Basic Payroll service. A year later they doubled the price of these updates and also modified their software upgrades in order to force customers into paying annually for the current tax tables. Users griped and were outraged by business tactics that seemed to hold them hostage. But most succumbed to the new regime, for lack of alternatives, and resigned themselves to the increased cost of doing business.

Intuit's has always reasoned that it's only with the customer in mind that they instituted the $129 annual fee. "The Basic Payroll service continues to be the easiest way to help keep your payroll in compliance with changing payroll regulations. With your subscription, you will continue to receive federal and state tax table updates and federal forms."

How about receiving the tax table updates on time? It's not like these changes were either obscure or unexpected. Everyone knew this was coming. Even the federal government managed to get printed circulars mailed to all businesses and post the current tax tables online well before July 1. Both M.Y.O.B. and PeachTree customers have received their tax updates as well.

As recently as June, Intuit's Corporate Communications Manager e-mailed me the following: "Because small businesses employ more than 90 percent of the private workforce, they are going to carry the burden of implementing the new tax rates over the next several weeks and months. Of course, those using a payroll service from QuickBooks won't be affected, as the service will ensure that they perform accurate and current calculations. Not a single hour of work time will be lost trying to figure out the new calculations." My recent requests for comment have gone unanswered.

Reasons why? One can only speculate beyond the arrogance of a company that has no viable competition, but perhaps there's a reduced workforce during the summer months. News from the Silicon Valley cites Intuit as one of the tech firms considering mandatory time-off plans as a cost-cutting plan in lieu of layoffs. Intuit made such a plan optional, however, rather than mandatory after realizing state labor laws may be violated.

Or perhaps they are busy working on the beta of Quickbooks 2002 which promises to be the "easiest, fastest and most powerful version yet." I suggest customer service deserves a great deal more attention. Practically speaking, many small businesses that have anted up for the payroll service won't be able to implement the new tax changes until sometime in August.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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