Best Firm Fit:
Tax offices primarily focused on retail 1040 processing and bank products, with some need for simple business entity returns
- Support for all entities at federal & state level
- Integrated bank products
- Unlimited e-filing
- Online return backup functions as limited portal
- Smartphone & remote access to firm reporting
- Built-in invoicing system
- Lacks document automation/scan & populate tools and no integration with financial institutions
- No form-based input (although a static form view is offered)
- Limited tools for in-firm collaboration and review of complex returns
TaxSlayer Pro is a professional tax compliance system designed for high-volume 1040 firms and retail preparation offices. The system supports all states and multi-state filings, includes business entity compliance, has unlimited e-filing. It also features integrated bank products, billing management, and marketing and practice tools. New for TY 2010, the product offers a signature pad for electronic client signatures, a 401(K) analyzer, Spanish language forms output, Crystal Reports, and extended preparer and firm security options. TaxSlayer Pro also offers a small business bookkeeping and payroll solution for firms and their clients, as well as a web-based pay-per-use W-2/1099 preparation and e-filing system.
Core Product Functions/Features
TaxSlayer Pro is offered in two bundled versions — Classic and Premium — with both offering compliance support for preparing forms 1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 706, 709, 990 and 5500, as well as all states and D.C., Puerto Rico compliance, and preparation of local income tax for localities. It supports multi-state filings, extensions and amended returns, and provides unlimited e-filing of state and federal returns. In addition to the compliance capabilities and depreciation module found in both versions, the Premium bundle also includes PDF generation and document storage, client refund status checking and automated notification, marketing materials, and the mobile reporting management utility.
The TaxSlayer interface offers icons for primary system features, including messaging, appointments, client status, IRS reject codes, calculations and client retention functions, with a window giving users options for accessing returns, e-file management and support. The system can be navigated using mouse only or in a heads-down keyboard-only mode, with tab- and numeric-driven menus. The system maintains separate client selection lists for individual and business entities, with all returns displayed in a spreadsheet view that offers summary data including contact info, refund/due, e-filing info, preparation fees and other information.
Within returns, the program uses interview worksheets for data entry, with the program guiding users through return categories for income, credits, deductions, taxes, etc. A menu on the left side of the screen also allows jumping to these data-entry areas, and the system offers a Form Finder menu that shows all available forms and offers searching, with the ability to toggle to show forms already associated with the current return. Users can also jump from the main work screen, which lightly resembles the primary federal form, to data-entry sheets. For data that may be common across multiple clients, such as employers, the system remembers previously entered information. So on subsequent returns with the same employer, the preparer can simply select the company from a list and have all pertinent data automatically filled in. TaxSlayer Pro also includes a Zip Code database that fills in city and state, and lists of NAICS business codes.
A quick MFJ/MFS comparison tool is included and lets users enter basic income, adjustments and credit information to determine which filing status is more advantageous. The program also offers guidance on AMT issues. Data-entry sheets are linked to each other, allowing users to quickly move to supporting schedules and data. 4.25
TaxSlayer does not offer “scan and populate” or automated client document organization tools, although preparers can use stand-alone systems such as Copanion’s GruntWorx for digital workpaper compilation. The Premium version of the system includes the Paper Cut system for PDF saving of client returns and paperless storage of scanned client documents, using firm-structured folders and naming processes. Notes and annotations cannot be added to PDF documents, although the program does offer review notes within return preparation functions. It also offers the ability to encrypt and email PDF copies of returns and other documents from within the system. TaxSlayer Pro Premium’s PDF Vault feature provides online backup of client returns in PDF format, with the ability to give clients web-based anytime access to their returns, thereby acting as a one-way document sharing portal.
The system’s security features enable password protection of client returns as well as preparer-level access rights that can limit users to specific actions, a good feature for firms with staff performing data entry only or for temporary seasonal workers. The program can import data from the vendor’s TaxSlayer Books accounting program, but does not offer direct import from other accounting or trial balance programs. TaxSlayer Pro includes only print-based client organizers, which requires manual entry of data into the system. Users switching from other tax software are offered free data conversion.
Other useful features in TaxSlayer Pro include the Tax Status Now tool, which lets clients check their refund status online and via smartphone, as well as the Tax Office Assistant, which produces and sends an automated text message to 1040 clients to let them know when their bank product check is ready for pickup. TaxSlayer also recently introduced the Mobile Manager system, which provides firm management with anytime, web-based access to reporting, including revenue, client management and bank products. 3.5
The TaxSlayer system routes information to associated forms and returns as necessary and includes features that automatically remember and build lists of previously entered employers, allowing users to simply select one from a list and have that information automatically populated. The program offers K-1 import from business returns into individual returns, but provides no spreadsheet import for Schedule D information, and offers accounting data integration only with the TaxSlayer bookkeeping program.
The built-in appointment scheduler, billing functions, document management, storage and client messaging utilities all work together well, providing basic management. But the program does not offer multi-year tax planning functions. An included depreciation module provides limited support for asset management functions. Research options are centered around primary source materials from the IRS, including form instructions, guides for industry types, and individual tax guidelines, with line-by-line instructions accessible from the program. No other integrated guidance/interpretive research sources are available.
TaxSlayer Pro partners with multiple bank product providers to offer various RALs, electronic refund checks and deposits, prepaid debit cards and other loan products, with the functions integrated into the program and managed from the system’s return status and banking screens. Customizable invoicing and client letters are included, along with managerial reporting options. The system does not offer credit card acceptance, but preparation fees can be withheld from bank product proceeds. 3.5
TaxSlayer Pro offers a unique interface that retains an ease of use because of multiple methods of navigation. The system includes excellent right-click menu options that give access to the Help utility, online Help, the appointment system, publications, client status, a calculator and many other features. The system also includes a PDF user manual, tutorial videos, and links to IRS and state taxing authority websites. The online support center provides a user forum, FAQs, manuals, installation and maintenance guidance, feature tips, and dozens of categorized Help topics on tax law, program functions and various other processes. Program updates can be downloaded from the site or the program can be set to automatically download and install updates as they are available. CPE-eligible training is offered through seminars and webinars.
Live technical assistance is included, with all staff based in the United States and phones answered initially by an automated system. During tax season, weekday support hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (ET), Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sundays between noon and 4:00 p.m. The user calling support should be prepared to offer the firm’s EFIN for identification. TaxSlayer Pro is not offered as a web-based system, although third-party application service providers may be able to provide assistance with hosting the program. 4.5
Executive Summary & Pricing
TaxSlayer Pro is a very easy-to-use system with little or no training necessary for even users with little tax experience. The Premium version of the system, with its client self-service feature, automated text messaging, remote reporting access and light client portal website provide good basics for small 1040/RAL-focused tax firms and seasonal practices looking for an inexpensive all-in-one system. The Classic version of the program costs $995, and the Premium is priced at $1,295, both allowing any number of users within the same networked office and using a single EFIN. Renewal rates are $825 and $995, respectively.
2011 Overall Rating 4
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