2011 Review of Intuit Lacerte Tax Planner

Intuit, Inc. - Intuit Lacerte Tax Planner
800-765-7777

www.lacertesoftware.com 

From the November 2011 Review of Professional Tax Planning programs.

Best Fit
Lacerte Tax Planner can be used as a stand-alone program, but it’s best suited for firms using the Lacerte tax preparation system, providing simple data transfer and a familiar interface.

Strengths

  • Familiar tabbed interface & navigation
  • Full integration with Lacerte 1040
  • Integration with Document Management System
  • Customizable reporting with charts

Potential Limitations

  • Only PDF & text-file output

Designed primarily as an add-on solution for users of the Lacerte Tax 1040 preparation system, the Lacerte Tax Planner provides individual income tax planning functions, with tools for projecting future liabilities across multiple scenarios. The system has built-in projected tax rates, income phase-outs and special taxation rules based on recent tax law changes. The program can also be used as a stand-alone system.

Basic System Functions - 4.75 Stars

When used as a module of the tax compliance system, Lacerte Tax Planner can be opened directly from an icon within that program, offering quick data transfer into the planner. As a stand-alone, it can be opened from the user’s desktop. The program’s primary interface is similar to the preparation program, with an expandable worksheet menu on the left of the screen, and tabbed access to data-entry areas for summary information, income, adjustments, deductions/exemptions, tax, credits, other taxes and payments. The worksheet menu displays all currently active federal and state forms. Additional features enable copying columns and performing percentage-based or fixed amount increases in income fields across years/plans.

The plan information panel, which is also the starting point for creating new client plans, offers another tabbed work screen that allows users to set the number of years of projections, the number of cases per year in the plan, and to enter basic client and dependent data. Across the top of the screen, icons give access to plan information, data import functions, reporting, adding new cases/scenarios, and to the integrated Lacerte Document Management System.

The program’s data-entry features allow users to view and enter data at a top level or to drill down to underlying worksheets, with all calculations automatically applied as data is edited, filing status is changed, or other variables come into effect. Like the tax preparation system, Tax Planner includes a Watch List and Diagnostics features that remain on screen, displaying totals for user-selected fields, and also notifying the professional of overrides, carryover amounts, missing data or conflicts. The system can support any number of clients and concurrent users.

Core Tax Planning Features - 4.5 Stars

Lacerte Tax Planner can be used to produce up to 10 scenarios out to as many as 10 years, with each including multiple cases. It includes tools for quickly performing MFJ/MFS comparisons and various analyses, including by case and year, or based on adjustments and differences. It supports all filing statuses, and offers calculations for determining optimal itemized deductions, exemptions and the effects of AMT, ACG, retirement and lump sum distributions.

Lacerte Tax Planner includes all federal tax laws and rates, including phase-outs and inflation-pegged indexes, along with those for the following states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, GA, IL, IN, LA, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR and WI. The program also includes support for NYC, and has a customizable worksheet for other states and local taxes.

Reporting - 4.5 Stars

The reporting features in Lacerte tax Planner are easily accessible from the top menu, and include federal and state summaries, one-page summaries, adjustments, deductions and letters. Users can customize headers, footers, displayed data and other information, and a built-in graph tool makes it easy to add visual elements for client-ready reports. The reporting functions also offer customizable client letter templates.

Reports can be viewed on-screen or printed, and can be saved to PDF for digital document management or distribution, while integration is also available with the document management system.

Import/Export/Integration - 4.25 Stars

Lacerte Tax Planner directly integrates with the tax preparation packages and simplifies data transfer into client plans. Since the tax preparation package can import from QuickBooks, Excel and other common formats, this also enables data from these and other sources to be routed into the tax planner. The preparation system also offers direct access to Intuit Tax Research, which allows for its use while in the planner. For data output, the program is limited to PDF and text-based formats.

Help/Support - 5 Stars

The system offers a variety of built-in Help functions that can be accessed from the preparation and planning programs, including task-specific Help, access to an online user community, a traditional Help utility, right-click menus and tips. Likewise, the vendor offers a broad collection of online support resources that include a digital support assistant, a knowledgebase, how-tos, product documentation, support videos, training options and chat-based support. Live technical support is included with the tax package. All Lacerte systems can be used on all modern Windows PCs and networked installations.

Summary & Pricing

Intuit’s Lacerte Tax Planner is a great fit for practices currently using the Lacerte preparation system, providing strong planning capabilities for up to 10 years and supporting simple to moderately complex scenarios. The system is bundled with the Lacerte Tax Analyzer and Document Management Systems for $249 per year.

2011 Overall Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

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