2011 Review of BNA Software — BNA Income Tax Planner

BNA Software - BNA Income Tax Planner


 From the November 2011 Review of Professional Tax Planning programs.

Best Fit:

Practices offering individual income tax planning services to clients with varying needs, up to and including high net worth individuals with significantly complex income channels and assets.



  • Intuitive interface & navigation
  • Comprehensive tax calculations & analyses
  • Up to 20 side-by-side comparisons
  • Excellent reporting & graphical customization
  • Data integration with top tax compliance systems


Potential Limitations:

  • BNA doesn’t offer 1040 compliance


BNA has long been one of the most recognized names in tax, accounting, regulatory and legal information and analysis. Its software division produces several programs designed for asset management, estate and gift tax planning and compliance, sales and use tax compliance, and individual tax planning. The BNA Income Tax Planner can manage even the most complex taxation scenarios, offering quick calculation of prior and future liabilities, with built-in formulas for AMT, inflation, phase-ins and phase-outs, and planning for all states.

Basic System Functions - 5 Stars

After installation, the system’s interface opens directly into a new planning document, with a default main worksheet that offers three-year views for two separate cases/scenarios. The worksheet offers a spreadsheet view, with columns displaying planning years and rows for the various components of an individual tax return, including filing status, personal exemptions, income types, deductions, AMT, capital gains, farm income, foreign income, state taxes and other items.

Users can drilldown to more detailed sheets, or can add worksheets from an extensive menu on the left side of the screen that includes expandable selections for very specific activities, incomes, credits and deductions. This includes Keoghs, educational interest income and domestic production activities, passive and MAPRRA, real estate exemptions to AMT, and recent credits such as for residential improvements, 2008 Recovery Rebate, first-time homebuyer and the “making work pay” credit.

While working within client plans, the program can be set to automatically perform calculations. System icons across the top of the work screen allow users to attach notes, increase or decrease selected fields on a percentage or dollar basis, or lockout columns from changes. Users also have quick access to a summary report, and can easily sort worksheets by federal, state and other types. For client selection lists, BNA Income Tax Planner uses the basic Windows file structures.

BNA Income Tax Planner can be installed on workstations or networked servers, as well as with terminal services or Citrix for remote access within a firm. The program can support any number of concurrent users and can manage any number of clients, with the ability to password-protect individual client files. Customization options include calculation settings, screen appearance, colors and client letter templates.

Core Tax Planning Features - 5 Stars

BNA Income Tax Planner can plan for up to 20 years and can be used to manage up to seven modes of analysis, including years within cases, cases within years, adjustments, differences, taxpayer-spouse, minor child and annualization. Scenarios/cases are displayed side-by-side, allowing users to quickly see the results of changes in liabilities as data is entered, with drilldown for detailed supporting worksheets. It can do prior-year calculations as far back as 1987. The number of years planned, different case types and those displayed simultaneously can be managed using the Assumptions menu.

The system includes support for planning combined parent and minor child calculations, AMT, AMT rules for children, alternative capital gains, farm income averaging, underpayment penalties, retirement contributions, lump sum taxes with five- and 10-year forward averaging, and other factors. It can also print estimated payment vouchers. Selection lists make it easy to quickly change filing status to see comparative differences in filing as MFJ or MFS, as well as filing as a qualified widow, head of household, or for trusts and estates.

The system includes built-in calculations and support for all states with an individual income tax, as well as local taxes for New York City and Washington D.C. Non-resident taxes are also included for the following states: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MS, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, UT, VA, VT and WV. BNA Income Tax Planner includes special worksheets for state tax payments, calculation of refundable credits, and federal deductions and refunds.

Reporting - 4.75 Stars

All of the detail and summary reports, worksheets and client letters in BNA Income Tax Planner can be customized to user needs, including the ability to generate visual elements such as graphs that are designed to show clients the effects of certain actions on their taxes, AGI and other variables. Other output includes the ability to prepare and print estimated tax vouchers. Reports can be saved to PDF and can be emailed from within the program, or can be saved to Word and Excel for additional customization. BNA does not offer client portals, although the system provides considerable integration and data sharing functions with outside programs.

Import/Export/Integration  - 4.75 Stars

As previously noted, reports and projections can be output to PDF and common file formats. Data bridges are also available for direct export of client data from ProSystem fx, Lacerte, UltraTax and GoSystem. The Dynamic Data Exchange utility offers additional options for moving data between BNA Income Tax Planner and other Windows programs, including Word and Excel. BNA offers a wide collection of tax research tools, which can be used alongside the tax planning program.

Help/Support - 5 Stars

A traditional Help utility is enhanced by right-click menu options, task-specific lookups and built-in program tutorials, while online support options include user guides, FAQs, implementation guidelines and program updates, which can also be set to automatically install. An additional resource center offers white papers, guides, articles, eBooks, seminars and advanced training options. Live technical support is included with program pricing, and is available on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Summary & Pricing

BNA Income Tax Planner provides an easy-to-use, yet comprehensive planning system that can handle most any individual taxation scenario. The program also offers support for all income taxing states, and has useful client communication features. It is exceptionally suited to firms with complex and high net worth clients. Pricing for the base federal system starts at about $600.

2011 Overall Rating: 5 Stars