While BNA is the only vendor in this review of tax planning systems that doesn’t also produce a tax preparation program, its Income Tax Planner is one of the most powerful and comprehensive planning systems available, providing extensive features that are designed for handling simple to very complex tax scenarios and giving professionals a wide array of planning and projection tools. The system includes data bridges to allow integration with ProSystem fx Tax, Lacerte Tax, UltraTax CS and GoSystem Tax.
Basic System Functions
Initial setup of BNA’s Income Tax Planner is guided and simple, with the ability to set the program to automatically check for program updates. The system’s primary interface opens to provide the Main Worksheet, which displays the cases/scenarios being planned for a client, along with projection years. The spreadsheet view offers income tax categories for the rows, such as ordinary income, net short- and long-term gains or losses, deductions, minor child tax, alternative capital gains, AMT and other information, with the ability to drill down to supporting worksheets. The drill down for ordinary income, for instance, presents another spreadsheet view that allows entry of wages, interest, adjustments and other financial data, with additional drill down to income-specific data entry. Calculations for AGI, taxable income, net tax and other aggregate sums are automatically performed as data is entered.
Client selection screens are based on the Explorer menu structure and offer no search or filter options. A collapsible menu appears at the left of the screen, with options for accessing specific worksheets, client letters, batch input screens and summary reports. Icon and pull-down menus across the top offer access to assumptions, notes, percentage and fixed amount increase tools, and resident and non-resident state worksheets. Customization options allow users to set link options, create default state specifications and determine worksheet layouts. The program can be accessed by multiple users at the same time. 4.75
Core Tax Planning Features
Income Tax Planner allows users to create and view multiple scenarios for clients that are viewable side-by-side with calculations automatically reflected across plans as data is entered. Drilldown analysis functions further aid in performing comparisons. The system offers up to 20 years of projection capabilities with all current and past tax code, including estate and kiddie tax calculations, estimated tax payments for self-employed and investment income, farm income averaging, stock option, and investment planning. It easily handles MFJ/MFS comparisons, as well.
It is the only system in this review to include retirement planning and filing back taxes, and includes a Security Transaction Analyzer feature for calculating estimated tax payments on projected stock dispositions, calculating AMT when exercise of stock options triggers this tax.
The program can handle all filing statuses, including estates and trusts, and offers the ability to optimize the amount of capital gain needed to fully allow any unused investment expense deduction. Features include limitations and phase-outs, carryovers, foreign housing deductions and calculations for expenses, and users can set inflation projections to better anticipate changes to factors that are pegged to inflation. BNA Income Tax Planner offers built-in tax code for federal and all 50 states, along with non-resident tax for AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MS, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, UT, VA, VT and WV. 5
Income Tax Planner offers a large library of reports, including summary reports, main worksheets and client letters that can be customized using the built-in report writer, with the ability to add graphical elements and links. Reports can be generated into Word, Excel and PDF format and can be e-mailed from within the program. The system does not directly integrate with portals or document storage systems, but its PDF output capabilities enable it to easily be used with such programs. 5
BNA Income Tax Planner includes a Dynamic Data Exchange feature that allows two-way data exchange between the planning system and Excel and Word. The program can also retrieve data from professional tax packages, including ProSystem fx Tax, Lacerte Tax, CrossLink, UltraTax CS and GoSystem Tax. While direct integration with research platforms is not available, the program does offer significant guidance features and is developed by one of the leading developers of professional tax and accounting research materials. 5
The system offers extensive built-in assistance features, including a comprehensive Help utility, activity-specific Help, tutorials and numerous guidance messages for each tax item, including many references to the IRC. The support website provides FAQs, user guides, a tax reference guide, program updates and contact information. Live technical support is included in system pricing and is staffed by CPAs, lawyers and additional tax professionals. The program supports all modern versions of Windows operating systems. 5
Summary & Pricing
With built-in code for all states, support for very complex tax scenarios, retirement planning, stock option and investment planning, and many other capabilities not found in other planning systems, BNA’s Income Tax Planner is a powerfully comprehensive tool for professionals helping clients develop the most effective liability limiting tax strategies.
2010 Overall Rating 5