The Big Switch: Migration from TaxWise Desktop to TaxWise Online
When the Atlanta Prosperity Campaign (APC) became the metro Atlanta coalition lead in 2007, twenty-four of the forty existing VITA sites were using TaxWise Desktop. Being familiar with the usage of both the Desktop and On-line versions, the APC staff wanted to transition all our sites to TWO. In 2008, we began the cumbersome task of convincing the Desktop sites to migrate to TWO.
During our first year of the migration, all new sites were required to use TWO and we offered existing sites the chance to migrate to TWO. We presented them a list of benefits of TWO, such as:
- The opportunity for real-time technical support from the APC and IRS, since TWO allows remote access. Thus, if a site had technical questions, we could troubleshoot from a remote location.
- Higher level of security for taxpayer information. With TWO, tax return data is saved on the internet, not on the local computer.
- Automatic software program updates. With Desktop, any software updates have to be manually loaded.
- Quality Reviewers are able to review and print all returns from one central computer, rather than going to each volunteer computer to review. As an added benefit, this also reduced the number of printers required at each site.
- The opportunity to utilize the IRS and APC on-line training modules for practice purposes.
- As part of our Relational EFIN, APC develops a master template and can remotely set up the VITA site defaults, alleviating the burden on Site Coordinators.
That first year, we were met with lots of skepticism, but we did have a few voluntary converts. Some Site Coordinators were not comfortable using the internet. Some had been using Desktop for years, and were afraid of change. Some sites did not have internet accessibility or their internal firewall would not allow access to the TaxWise website. We continued to tout the benefits of TWO throughout that tax season. Whenever a site had an issue with Desktop, we would make a big deal of it, indicating that, with TWO, this would not be an issue.
In 2009, we took a stronger stance on the migration to TWO. All training courses were taught utilizing TWO only. As part of our MOU with each site, TWO was a requirement for all sites that had internet capabilities. Additionally, APC agreed to cover the cost of internet service or provide routers at any site that did not have internet capabilities, or had a firewall that prevented access to the TaxWise website.
Currently all but three of our forty VITA sites utilize TWO (security measures at these three locations prevent us from accessing the internet). Those Site Coordinators that were initially apprehensive of migrating to TWO are now big fans of TWO. TWO is not without fault, especially with the connection issues that periodically occur during the tax season. However, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
By Carter Elliott, Atlanta Prosperity Campaign