Intuit has slowly and strategically added solutions to its ProLine family of solutions for tax and accounting practitioners, including the addition in 2009 of Intuit ProLine Tax Research as an integrated, context-sensitive option into its Lacerte and ProSeries income tax preparation applications. This is a solid, easy-to-use offering for practices focused on compliance matters, and its integration into the tax preparation software means that users can toggle between entering information into a return and determining how to report a particular transaction from within a familiar interface.
Basic System Functions
Unlike the other products included in this review, Intuit has focused almost exclusively on providing context-sensitive guidance from within its tax preparation applications. As such, the product is aimed at practicing accountants who want to obtain topical guidance at the time they are preparing client tax returns. Although Intuit is expected to launch a stand-alone version of ProLine Tax Research in the near future, this offering is aimed at general use by practitioners, and is not designed to offer the depth and breadth of specialized content needed for practices in obscure areas such as low-income housing tax credits. 4
Rather than create their own content, Intuit has licensed code, regulations, publications, rulings, and expert summaries of key Federal and State income tax topics from BNA to create ProLine Tax Research (CCH and RIA also license BNA content for their IntelliConnect and Checkpoint research services). Intuit claims that the organization of the research and linkage to input fields in its tax preparation offerings results in quicker, more efficient retrieval of on-point answers to issues. Once the results are retrieved, they can be saved in an online document storage service and associated with the return. Content is updated continuously, and a newsletter highlighting current developments is published every two weeks.
The product is focused on individual income tax preparation for both federal and all states, businesses (corp, s corp, partnership), special situations including Foreign taxation, trusts, gift, estate, exempt organizations and private foundations, compensation planning and accounting and recently added both federal and state court cases, as well. As such, the breadth and depth of content available in this offering is substantially less than what is available in the other products. However, the resources available are more than adequate to help the average preparer resolve common issues, and the lack of extraneous content makes it less likely that junior staff will be distracted by irrelevant content in special industry publications. The offering includes over 1.5 million sections, articles, charts, letters and documents, as well as state tax summaries, and guidance for federal taxation of corporations, estates and trusts. So its resources should be adequate for the general federal income tax research needs of most practitioners.
Intuit has focused its efforts on efficiency associated with the average preparer’s research inquiries so the content will probably not be deep enough to support the technical resource needs of a multinational corporation or a technical research specialist at a large accounting or law firm. 4
Because of this product’s focus on providing general guidance within the context of the tax preparation application, user interface customization is not as essential in this offering as it would be if using one of the larger, more expensive offerings. The web version of ProLine Tax Research was unable for review at the time this article was written, so options and customizations included in this new version of the product have not been considered. 4
Although the integration within the tax preparation applications is a strength of this offering, its limited scope (no accounting & auditing content, and negligible payroll and benefits content) means that this solution may not meet all of the research needs of practitioners. Due to this smaller scope, practitioners may need additional research subscriptions to meet all of their needs for professional research and guidance. 5
Because much of the complexity associated with the use of competing services is not present due to the narrow focus of this research library, there is not as much of a need for specialized training to get the most out of this tool. Intuit’s phone support for this product is U.S.-based, and is integrated with the support for the other ProLine products for practitioners. 5
Summary & Pricing
Because of its integration and focused content, ProLine Tax Research offers the quickest way to search for guidance from within Lacerte and ProSeries. A stand-alone version was launched late in October and can be found at taxresearch.intuit.com. This not only gives existing users anytime anywhere access from any device including iPhones, iPads, Droids or Blackberry phones, but it also gives access to accounting professionals not using Intuit ProLine Lacerte Tax or ProSeries. The limited scope of this offering also means that technical research specialists, as well as those who need guidance on topics such as payroll, employee benefits, and specialized industries will need to supplement this offering with additional research services so they can meet all of their needs.
While some of its competitors in this space have attempted to position their products as complete research platforms for every type of practice, Intuit has chosen to differentiate itself by offering a value-priced income tax research product (unlimited annual usage is $849 for a 12-month subscription for an entire firm) with a pay-per-use option for occasional use ($19.95 for each document). The offering is limited, but is a fast and easy-to-use value-oriented income tax research product for practitioners serving small businesses. The application is embedded into the 2009 and 2010 tax year versions of Lacerte and ProSeries, and a web version of this product will be available in the near future.
2010 Overall Rating 4