Tax Planning Systems
Insight: Tax professionals know that proactive planning can have positive effects; in other words, it can decrease a client’s potential tax liabilities. While professional tax systems generally offer some functions in this area, true planning programs offer much more extensive scenario testing and include anticipated future and prior-year tax laws. Of the 35 percent of all of this year’s voters who had a preference in tax planning systems, the Thomson Reuters Planner CS system took the crown, with the planning systems from Intuit, BNA and CCH close behind.
Tax & Accounting Research Systems
Insight: For most professionals, tax research hasn’t involved “books” for many years now, but it’s progressed much further than simple CD or web-based reference guides. The advanced tax research tools on the market can now integrate with tax and accounting programs, offer customizable alerts for key subject areas, and even automatically notify a professional when new taxation issues may affect certain clients. Leading this year’s balloting are the Checkpoint and QuickFinder research systems from Thomson Reuters, followed by TheTaxBook from Tax Materials, Inc.
Estate Planning Systems
Insight: As with tax planning, the art and science of estate planning can be critical in developing generational wealth transfer strategies that minimize punitive taxation. More well-known in the legal and financial planning fields, the Zelman Wealth Protection system overwhelmingly took first place as the most preferred among those who selected a program in the estate planning category. Next up were systems from CCH and BNA.
Insight: The market for W-2/1099 compliance systems is thriving, and whether that’s a sign that the major payroll service providers may be lacking or not isn’t the point. Whatever the reason, small businesses and many professionals who help manage year-end information reporting for them are well aware of the labor-intensive and penalty-prone processes of compliance, so they turn to specialty systems that deliver ease-of-use and comprehensive functions. For the third year in a row, the compliance system from AMS has come out on top, with its user base deeply loyal and eager to show their support. Systems from CFS, CCH’s Small Firm Services, 1099 Express, Greatland, AccountantsWorld and EG Systems round out the top seven in this year’s voting.
Sales & Use Tax
Insight: State and local sales taxes are about as American as … well, let’s not demean the apple pie. But it is a significant concern for small businesses, especially those with collection and remittance responsibilities in multiple taxing jurisdictions. While most accounting firms may not directly provide this form of compliance as a service (and only 17 percent of this year’s Awards voters had a preference), the tax professionals, accountants and other financial advisors who assist small businesses should be aware of the potential risks their clients can face for non-compliance, especially as nexus laws continue to change and states get more aggressive in enforcement. This year’s most popular sales and use tax system was again the eFileSalesTax.com online program, followed by systems from CFS, Thomson Reuters, CCH, FileYourTaxes.com, SuperForm and SpeedTax.
Insight: Still one of the bedrocks of many professional practices, client write-up can be a chore, but scrutinizing hundreds or thousands of transactions for errors or deception can be vital to a small business’ financial strength and can help reinforce the client-accountant relationship. Write-up systems have dramatically evolved over the years, with most accountants adopting the professional accountant version of QuickBooks because of the ease with which they can work with the data from their small business clients, who overwhelmingly use the ubiquitous small business bookkeeping software. But there are still some strong independent write-up programs on the market that offer advanced, accountant-focused capabilities. Following QuickBooks in voting this year are systems from PC Software Accounting, Thomson Reuters, CCH Small Firm Services, AccountantsWorld, Financial MicroSystems and CCH.
Insight: As one of the final steps in preparing a business return, trial balance is more than just a summary view of the GL account balance, but is a vital link between financials and compliance. Of the 25 percent of this year’s voters who use a dedicated trial balance system, the CS system from Thomson Reuters took first, with nearly half of all votes. It was followed by the trial balance systems in CCH Small Firm Services’ ATX & TaxWise, the CCH ProSystem fx program, and Pendock Mallorn.
Insight: When productivity is increasingly focused on streamlining workflow, engagement management systems are essential to providing guided and organized procedures for audit engagements. About one-fifth of this year’s voters had a preference in such systems, with Thomson Reuters’ Engagement CS leading the pack, followed by CCH and CaseWare. However, about 30 percent of those who voted selected “other.”
Insight: Alongside engagement management systems, many audit firms also rely on specialty tools. This year’s top vote recipients were the Smart e-Practice Aids from Thomson Reuters, followed by Reinvent Data and Capital Confirmation. Systems from Audit Confirmations, CaseWare and Technical Financial Solutions were also popular among voters. About 15 percent of our survey respondents are engaged in audits.
Insight: With nearly 50 products listed, payroll is always the largest category in the Readers’ Choice Awards, a sign that the market is booming and that small business owners are eager for systems that can help them perform these processes, and that many would rather have their accounting professional manage it for them. AMS, which won the W-2/1099 category, also won again this year for its A-T-F Payroll program, which is geared for direct use by small businesses.
Following AMS was Intuit’s QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll for Accountants, Mangrove Software, and two other payroll systems from Intuit. Nearly 80 percent of all voters this year claimed use of one of these systems, but even though we listed 49 programs, more than 28 percent of voters selected “other,” meaning there are even more programs on the market.