2008 Review of Tax Planning Applications

From the August 2008 Issue

In 2007, like every tax year, the IRS instituted a series of new tax rules and calculations. Chances are that your clients can’t name half of them. I know I can’t. When offering tax planning services to your clients, it’s important to make them aware of the new rules and calculations that affect them. It’s also important to advise your clients that tax planning is not just an option for the wealthy. Almost every client that comes into your office to have their tax returns prepared would benefit from some type of tax planning service. So it’s best to have tools that will enable you to provide the services they may request or the ones you suggest.

This review of tax planning products considers the following categories:

Program Use/Data Entry
Tax planning programs basically perform a variation of the same functions; the main difference lies in the level of calculations performed. This section answers some of the following questions: How many tax scenarios can be performed? Is the user interface easily navigated? Are fields, toolbars and menus customizable? Do worksheets update in real time?

This section explores the reporting options available in each product as well as report customization capability. It also notes the report formats available and the availability of charts, letters and graphs.

Import/Export Capabilities
This area is particularly important when using a stand-alone product. Many of the products reviewed here are truly designed to work in conjunction with their respective tax preparation products, but integration with third-party products is provided by several.

Help/ Support & Training
It’s always good to know that you can easily reach product support personnel if/when needed. Help and training options are also important, especially for the sole practitioner who doesn’t have the time or the staff to deal with steep learning curves and complicated program setup.

Relative Value
As previously noted, most of the products reviewed here are components of various tax preparation suites, which must be taken into consideration when trying to assess the value of each product. As a result, relative value is usually assessed by looking at each product’s capabilities, ease of use, total cost and how quickly it would pay for itself.

As always, I suggest you pay a visit to all of the vendor websites where additional information can be reviewed and online demos accessed. This information can go a long way to help you make a decision as to what product is best for you and your firm.

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BNA Software - BNA Income Tax Planner
overall rating
If you currently offer tax planning services to your clients or intend to in the future, you may want to take a look at BNA Income Tax Planner. This program is designed to simplify your life, while providing your clients with comprehensive tax analysis and multi-year projections for up to 20 years.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business - ProSystem fx Planning
overall rating
ProSystem fx Planning is part of the ProSystem fx suite of products offered by CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business. Designed to work in conjunction with the vendor’s tax preparation product, ProSystem fx Planning can also be used as a stand-alone product.
Intuit - Lacerte Tax Planner
overall rating
Lacerte Tax Planner is part of the Lacerte tax preparation line of products. Designed to create accurate tax-minimizing strategies for your clients, Lacerte supports tax planning capabilities for many states.
RedGear Technologies - TaxWorks TaxPlanner
overall rating
The TaxWorks TaxPlanner is an add-on product designed to work with the vendor’s tax preparation product. TaxPlanner includes federal tax phase-outs of current laws as well as inclusion of future tax laws.
Thomson Reuters - Planner CS
overall rating
Planner CS is part of the CS Professional Suite of accounting and tax products from Thomson Reuters. Designed to work with UltraTax CS, Planner CS provides users with income tax planning for both state (where applicable) and federal taxes.