BEST FIRM FIT:
Competitive solution for small and mid-sized firms with some advanced workflow needs beyond the capabilities of the Traditional Workflow products without the most complex requirements of the Advanced Workflow products like multi-tiered consolidations, multi-office, etc.
- ProLine Tax Import offers a website to help users download and import securities transaction data from investment banks
- Pay-per-return option attractive for startup firms & those who need advanced functionality without a large up-front payment
- New organizer for trust returns, support for using organizer as a workpaper
- This year’s version adds e-filing for state partnership & corporate tax in 23 jurisdictions
- Excellent QuickBooks integration with Lacerte SmartMap tool
- Lack of a vendor-hosted or SaaS version of this product, although some third-party hosting companies offer this service
- Client Tracker is not compatible with Windows Vista/Windows 7
- Some supporting applications in the suite are very new (ProLine Practice Management & ProLine Tax Research), and not as complete as the more established competitor products
- Other products (EasyAcct write-up solution) have limited adoption & enhancements
Lacerte Tax is the top-tier tax compliance offering in the Intuit ProLine product lineup. Lacerte Tax showcases a flat workflow environment. This allows for intuitive and quick data input and simple workflow navigation. New for tax year 2010, is an organizer for trust returns. This organizer can aid clients in assembling necessary data to complete trust returns as well as allow staff to utilize the organizer as a workpaper. Other new offerings include a new mechanism for tracking extension payments and the addition of partnership and corporation electronic filing for several state jurisdictions. Improvements have also been made to the Internet-based peer-to-peer training video options available through Intuit’s website.
CORE PRODUCT FUNCTIONS/FEATURES
Intuitive navigation is at the forefront of the Lacerte Tax software design. The Clients Screen is the starting point, listing all clients divided by return type. It is fully customizable and can include a number of different data display fields. The Clients Screen also offers customizable filters to help locate specific client files. Tabs are located across the top of the screen and allow for easy navigation, including direct access to the client’s tax forms. Once in the data input mode, a listing of all input screen options is displayed. Alternatively, these input screens can be located through menu style options, broken down by major categories (Income, Deductions, Payments, etc.). Any input and form screens that have data are displayed via tabs on the bottom of the screen. Selecting one of these tabs directs users to that input or form screen. These navigation options provide a quick way to navigate through the return for both preparers and reviewers. Additionally, this navigation may be seen as more intuitive for new staff and those new to Lacerte Tax.
Lacerte Tax includes the ability to file all major federal tax returns and has filing capabilities for most state and local tax jurisdictions. New this year, is the addition of electronic filing for trust returns. With this addition, Lacerte Tax now offers electronic filing for all major federal tax compliance. Also new this year, is the addition of 23 state partnership and corporation electronic filing modules.
Lacerte Tax offers many options to ensure returns are complete and free of possible errors. Diagnostics on returns are hyperlinked directly to the underlying forms and input screens. By selecting a diagnostic, a user is redirected to the appropriate screen, which allows for proper adjustments to be made. Also available is the Client Tracker, which shows details and status of each tax return, the client contact information, as well as any client notes. However, the Client Tracker is not compatible with Windows Vista or Windows 7 and is hidden from view for users with those operating systems. Lacerte Tax also has expansive Help options. The built-in Help within Lacerte Tax dynamically changes based on which form and input screens are currently displaying. Many videos are available through the product’s training section on the Intuit website. These videos offer a wide range of product assistance, and one-on-one training is available through peer-to-peer video assistance. 4.75
Lacerte Tax offers several integration options through QuickBooks and the Intuit ProLine product lineup. QuickBooks data can be imported through the available Lacerte Trial Balance module. Accounts can be mapped at the QuickBooks level or through the Trial Balance module and then passed through to the return. This integration can significantly reduce the amount of data entry. Lacerte Tax also integrates with the newly introduced ProLine Practice Management software. This software (available through SaaS) allows access to client management, time and billing, and engagement tracking through a series of dashboards. As of our press deadline, ProLine Practice Management is still in beta form, and Lacerte Tax and QuickBooks users may use the software for free through April 30, 2011.
ProLine Tax Research is available as an add-on product and is tightly integrated with Lacerte Tax. ProLine Tax Research offers Help and research and dynamically changes based on the input screens and forms currently in use. Search queries can be made through the Ask Intuit search feature, which is linked directly to Intuit’s product knowledgebase and Internet community Help. Tax planning is available through Lacerte Tax Planner and Tax Analyzer, both offered through Lacerte Tax software bundles. An export bridge to BNA’s popular Income Tax Planner is also built-in to Lacerte Tax. 4.25
Intuit offers several paperless workflow solutions for Lacerte Tax. Lacerte Document Management System allows document storage of not only tax returns from Lacerte Tax, but Microsoft Office documents, as well. Data entry can be reduced through the use of Intuit’s ProLine Tax Import program, which provides two ways to import (both ways are included in the same add-on). The first way is a scan-and-populate capability for W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and K-1s, where the program generates a PDF highlighted with the imported numbers to speed the review process. The second way is through an exclusive service called 1099 Dropoff (www.1099dropoff.com), where accountants can download 1099 data directly from their clients’ financial institution into their Lacerte tax software (tax Import does not store clients’ user names or passwords). The application also has the ability to generate a PDF copy of a return and supporting reports directly from the program.
In addition to the previously mentioned QuickBooks integrations, Lacerte Tax also allows importing of Excel and CSV files. These files can be used to import trial balance and fixed asset information or investment details for Schedule D. Currently, Excel versions 2007 and 2010 are not supported. Files originating in these formats would need to be converted to the legacy .xls file format before import. Business returns prepared within Lacerte Tax may export K-1 data to the individual return module. 4.5
Intuit does not currently offer a hosted solution for Lacerte Tax, but Lacerte Tax may be installed and used in a Citrix or terminal services environment. This option would require a practitioner to either engage a third-party hosting company or install the application on the firm’s own internal terminal server. Intuit does offer a hosted web-based solution, ProLine Tax Online, but this solution is targeted at less complex returns and has been reviewed separately on page XX. 4
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY & PRICING
Lacerte Tax can handle a wide range of tax compliance issues and is intended for firms with a complex client base, high-return volume or those who are reliant on its extensive QuickBooks product integration. Pricing has been streamlined, and, for the second year, bundle-based discounts of groups of Intuit practitioner tools are being offered. All bundles include document management solutions as well as entry-level tax planning. Bundles include a various mix of individual and business return modules and range in price from $5,049 to $12,949. Modules may be purchased separately, with business modules starting at $1,579. Per-return-pricing is also available.
2011 OVERALL RATING 4.50
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