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2006 Readers’ Choice Awards

The Voters Have Spoken!

From the January-March 2007 Issue

No, we’re not talking about the mid-term elections from November, but
rather the 2006 Readers’ Choice Awards. The awards offered
those in and around the tax and accounting professions an opportunity to speak
their mind by selecting their favorite programs, hardware and other resources
from more than 25 categories. From their favorite tax preparation program, the
core of many tax and accounting practices, to other systems they use in their
practice to service clients, as well as the programs they favor their clients
using in their businesses, the Readers’ Choice Awards have proven to be
an extremely popular outlet for professionals to have their opinions recorded.
And there were a few surprises among the results.

While reviewing the results of the awards, keep in mind that this was not
a scientific survey, but rather a method by which professionals could express
their support for specific vendors or brands. Remember, too, that some vendors
actively solicited their users’ votes, and in the spirit of Chicago politics
encouraged them to “Vote early…” [But not often- readers could
only vote once.] Others chose to remain above the fray and let the chips fall
where they may. Both approaches are appropriate, and we suggest that readers
keep in mind that these philosophical differences most probably impacted the
voting. As the results show, some of the brands and companies have extremely
loyal user bases that actively evangelize the systems they use. This occasionally
resulted in products or services receiving a larger percentage of votes than
their market share actually supports. But what a wonderful predicament! Keeping
customers satisfied is crucial to any business, whether a professional tax or
accounting firm, or a software company that makes the systems those professionals
use. Actually keeping your customers happy to the point where they will actively
promote your product … well, that’s going above and beyond, and
it deserves recognition.

The best example of a vendor “going above and beyond” is Drake
Software, which won the tax preparation software category even though it holds
less than 10 percent of the market. Even when competing with the giants, the
company excels at maintaining happy and actively involved customers.

Also noteworthy is the rapid acceptance of new technologies — a trait
not often attributed to tax and accounting professionals. Intuit’s,
an online “wiki” for tax research, has quickly made a place among
the other major research providers. Since the online portal is free, it is likely
that professionals are using it as a supplemental resource along with a formal
research system. In addition, the online professional payroll system offered
by PayCycle has rapidly gained popularity.

Among other results, there is no longer any doubt that Intuit’s QuickBooks
dominates the small business market, and these results show that professional
accountants are now embracing the system. While there are likely many reasons
for this sea change in accountants’ opinions over the past five years,
chief among them is likely the continued development of the system to address
the needs of accountants, as well as the verticalization of the product and
its popularity with small business owners. That said, voters continue to prefer
Sage Software’s MAS and Accpac lines for their larger clients. In areas
not specific to tax and accounting professionals, voters overwhelmingly selected
Dell as the brand of choice for computers and HP for printers and scanners.

On the lighter side (believe it or not, some tax and accounting professionals
have a lighter side), it seems that many accounting and tax professionals fast
during tax season, or at least can laugh about it now. Pizza, however, was the
number one “late night tax season survival food,” surprisingly followed
by “healthier items.” Hmmm. Not too surprisingly, voters selected
coffee as their preferred caffeine source. Yes, caffeine still keeps the midnight
oil burning during those late April nights.

Most technology vendors care what their customers think about their products,
and while the Readers’ Choice Awards can provide a few fun facts, they
primarily offer tax and accounting professionals the opportunity to acknowledge
the technologies they find most valuable to them in their profession, whether
it is a system they use for their clients or something their client uses that
makes servicing them easier.

So thank you to all who voted in the 2006 Readers’ Choice Awards.


Choice Results

1. Drake Software
2. Intuit ProSeries & Lacerte
3. CCH ProSystem fx Tax, TaxWise & ATX

Insight: Tax preparation
is definitely still the bread and butter of the profession, with more
than 92 percent of voters reporting use of a professional tax preparation
system. In our subjective polling of “favorite” programs,
Drake had just over 35 percent of the votes, while the combination of
Intuit’s ProSeries and Lacerte lines had nearly 30 percent of the
votes. Actual usage of tax programs by professionals shows that Intuit’s
two professional tax products have more than 45 percent of the market,
while Drake actually has less than 10 percent. This shows that Drake has
a very loyal user base that is driven to support the vendor and recommend
its programs. However, the Intuit folks would likely have the opinion
that the real vote is the purchase decision. CCH recently completed the
acquisition of TaxWise and ATX and plans to continue both lines of software
under a new small-firm focused division, which is why these programs were
grouped together.

Choice Results

1. Intuit Lacerte Tax Planner
2. CCH ProSystem fx Planning
3. BNA Income Tax Planner

Insight: With nearly 25
percent of voters reporting that they use a tax planning system, the polling
in this area was very close, with the Intuit and CCH products virtually
neck and neck, and BNA close behind.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. CCH — ProSystem
fx Document
2. Acct1st — EDRMS


CCH’s program was one of the first advanced document management
systems specifically geared toward accountants, although the Acct1st
system has quickly emerged as a contender in this field, offering
customization for any vertical market.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — Lacerte
Document Management System
2. eFile Cabinet
3. Thomson Creative Solutions — FileCabinet CS


Document storage and document management are two different breeds;
these products topped user votes for electronic document storage
and retrieval systems. With only about 15 percent of voters claiming
use of a system, there is still a lot of room for the market to


Readers’ Choice Results
1. CCH — ProSystem
fx Office
2. Thomson Creative Solutions — Practice CS


Only about 20 percent of voters claim to use a practice management
or time and billing system, with only about half of these using
a system specifically geared toward the accounting profession. Sage’s
TimeSlips, although not accounting specific, also fared well in

Choice Results

1. AMS — 1099-Etc.
2. CFS Tax Software — CFS Payroll System
3. ATX/Kleinrock — Unlimited W2/1099
4. 1099 Express — 1099 Express & W2 Express
5. Greatland — WinFiler

Insight: AMS and CFS may
be smaller vendors, but they have very satisfied users. Surprisingly,
more than one-third of voters reported using a stand-alone 1099/W-2 program,
which should serve notice to the vendors of write-up and professional
tax and accounting packages that these compliance functions are sorely
missed, especially by professionals who do not utilize a payroll system.

Choice Results

CCH ViewPlan Advanced
2. BNA Estate & Gift Tax Planner
3. Thomson-West Intuitive Estate Planner

Insight: CCH
has a clear advantage in this space, however, only about 10 percent of
voters reported using an estate planning system, likely as a result of
the legal profession’s encroachment on this area of tax law.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. CCH — ProSystem fx Engagement
2. Thomson Creative Solutions — Engagement CS
3. CaseWare — CaseWare Working Papers


While these three systems generally receive excellent reviews and
may be close to the same overall functionality, CCH is still clearly
enjoying the advantage of being first to market with its engagement


Readers’ Choice Results
1. CFS Tax Software —
CA/NY Sales Tax Preparer
2. —
3. CCH — ZIPSales Returns


With about 15 percent of all voters claiming use of a sales and
use tax system, the two leaders in this category specialize in specific
geographic areas. This shouldn’t be a surprise, however, since
the sales and use tax compliance market is one of the most wide
open. Most small businesses only have compliance issues with a couple
of taxing entities and either don’t use a specially designed
package or use one that is tailored to their state. CFS only offers
compliance for CA and NY, while is strictly for
CA. The CCH product, on the other hand, provides a sales tax system
that can handle all states and jurisdictions and integrates with
the business’ accounting software.

Choice Results

1. ValuSource — Express
Business Valuation
2. MoneySoft — Corporate Valuation Professional
3. NACVA — Business Valuation Manager Professional
4. MoneySoft — DealSense Plus+

Insight: Business valuation
is a very niche specialty, with only about 5 percent of voters in this
poll signifying usage of a business valuation package. But with only a
few products on the market, the field is still very close.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — QuickBooks
Premier Accountants Edition
2. Thomson Creative Solutions — Write-Up CS
3. CCH — ProSystem fx CPAClient Write-Up
4. PC Software — Client Write-Up System

Insight: Whoa, Nelly!
QuickBooks took this category by an order of magnitude, clearly dominating
the other products among the more than 50 percent of voters who cited
a product in this category. Although this is not a scientific survey,
these results should finalize the debate over whether the professional
accounting community has accepted Intuit. This is certainly a sea change
from about five years ago when the profession bemoaned QuickBooks as not
appropriate for write-up. But through continued evolution of the product
and building it out to core verticals as well as the addition of core
features designed for accountants, QuickBooks has continued to proliferate
throughout virtually all types of small businesses, and so it seems that
many (if not most) accounting professionals are adopting QB at least for
handling their QB clients.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. BNA’s 706 &
709 Preparer
2. HC Sharp’s 1040 Review
3. SurePrep Express


This is really comparing apples and oranges since the products
in this category vary widely in purpose from analytical systems
to specialty preparation programs. Users could even be running multiple
systems from within this category, although only about 5 percent
of those polled reported using a system from this category.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. CCH — ProSystem
fx Profit Driver
2. Thomson Creative Solutions — Financial Analysis CS
3. SageWorks — ProfitCents


This may be a rare example of where the advantage of being first
to market does not always last. Although ProfitCents was essentially
the first such professional-grade tool for accountants, the big
vendors of comprehensive accounting suites were able to spot the
value of these tools shortly after. With only about 10 percent of
voters reporting use of such a product, however, this market still
has a lot of room for growth.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Drake Software — Preparer Websites
2. CCH — ProSystem fx Site Builder
3. AccountantsWorld — Accountants Office Online
4. TaxWise — MyWebsite


Drake won handily in this category, but this is likely more the
result of a very enthusiastic user base. The company offers free
websites to accounting firms who use its tax software as does TaxWise.
Although the websites may be limited in content and feature options
when compared to their counterparts, it is hard to beat FREE,
and almost any website is better than no website.

Readers’ Choice Results
1. CCH — Tax Research
2. Thomson RIA — Checkpoint
3. ATX/Kleinrock — Total Kleinrock Office
4. Intuit —

Insight: About
two-thirds of voters reported using a dedicated tax research system. CCH
and Thomson RIA have long been respected leaders in the tax research field,
so their lead in this area is not a surprise, and the close proximity
of the Kleinrock offering is likewise expected, especially considering
the bundled tax compliance/research package with ATX. The rapid growth
in popularity of TaxAlmanac is noteworthy, since the free online research
“wiki” was introduced just over a year ago. The tax information
portal received a 2006 Tax &
Accounting Technology Innovation Award

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — QuickBooks
Simple Start, Pro & Premier
2. Sage Software — Simply Accounting, Peachtree First,
Pro, Premium & Complete
3. Microsoft — Microsoft Office Accounting

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — QuickBooks
Enterprise Edition
2. Sage Software — Peachtree Quantum
3. Microsoft — Small Business Financials
4. Sage Software — MAS 90 ERP

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — QuickBooks
Premier Contractor Edition
2. Sage Software — Timberline Office
3. Sage Software — Master Builder

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — QuickBooks
2. Sage Software — Sage Accpac ePOS
3. Microsoft Dynamics — Microsoft Point of Sale

Not-for-Profit Accounting
Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — QuickBooks
Premier Nonprofit Edition
2. Sage Software — Peachtree Premium for Nonprofits
3. Sage Software — Sage MIP Fund Accounting

Readers’ Choice Results
1. Intuit — ProSeries
Fixed Asset Manager
2. Sage Software — FAS Asset Accounting
3. Thomson Creative Solutions — Fixed Assets CS


For small and mid-market companies, there seems to be nearly unanimous
agreement on QuickBooks, and considering our voters are professionals
in the accounting and tax areas, this is quite noteworthy. Only
a few years ago, accountants were hesitant to recommend QuickBooks
because of perceived gaps in the feature set.

But through aggressive development that included outreach to the
accounting community, the product has evolved to meet the core needs
of accounting professionals, while still providing the ease-of-use
that small and mid-market clients want.

In our poll, Intuit’s QuickBooks and its varied editions
took nearly every category it was in with at least 70 percent of
the vote in each. These categories included Small Business Accounting,
Mid-Range Accounting, Construction/Contractor Accounting, Retail
Accounting/Point-of-Sale and Nonprofit Accounting.

Intuit also took the top spot in the Fixed Asset Management category
with its ProSeries Fixed Asset Manager, largely due in part to the
market share that the ProSeries tax package enjoys and the asset
program’s integration with it.

All these kudos to Intuit and QuickBooks aside, the new Microsoft
product, currently named Microsoft Office Accounting (formerly Small
Business Accounting), is making some headway into the market, at
least among the voters in this poll. The Microsoft system won a
2006 Tax & Accounting Technology Innovation Award.

Additionally, Sage continues its hold on the larger market, as
is evidenced by the voting in the Accounting for Larger Entities
category below.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. Sage Software — Sage MAS 500 ERP
2. Microsoft Dynamics GP
3. Sage Software — Sage Accpac 500 ERP


Between its MAS and Accpac lines, Sage Software controls this segment
of the market, receiving more than 50 percent of the votes. Microsoft
Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains) is still a notable player in
the market, however.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. Intuit — QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll Plus for
2. AMS — 1099-Etc A-T-F Payroll
3. PayCycle — PayCycle Wholesale Program for Accountants
4. Intuit — Complete Payroll
5. ADP — EasyPayNet
6. Sage — Sage Payroll Services
6. Thomson Creative Solutions — Payroll CS

Insight: With more than
half of all voters reporting use of a payroll system, the QuickBooks payroll
package was a clear winner, although both AMS and PayCycle performed well.
It is noteworthy to point out that the PayCycle system, which won a 2006
Innovation Award, is a completely web-based payroll solution. See, accountants
can embrace technological change.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. Dell
2. HP
3. Compaq
4. Toshiba
5. Gateway

Insight: In this category,
voters were allowed to select more than one vendor (but not the same vendor
more than once), since they might have and like multiple computers from
different vendors. But even though the percentages add up to more than
100 percent, Dell still received a vote from more than 50 percent of the
voters. Dell and HP are by far the leaders in this brand loyalty here.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. HP
2. Brother
3. Canon
4. Lexmark
5. Dell
5. Epson

Insight: Voters were also
allowed to select more than one vendor in this category (but not the same
vendor more than once), since they might have a printer and scanner from
different vendors. We probably should have split this category, but as
with the computer category, even though the percentages add up to more
than 100 percent, HP still received a whopping 77 percent of the votes.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. Office Depot
2. Staples
3. OfficeMax


This question may be limited by region, as these stores do not
all exist equally throughout the United States. Of course, there
are also many stores that are semi-national or regional only, which
we did not offer as options. And while we did not include big box
stores like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, we were remiss in not
including large-scale catalogers like Quill, and major online websites.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. Motorola

2. Nokia

3. Palm

4. LG

5. Samsung

6. Blackberry (RIM)

Insight: Once again, voters
were allowed to select more than one vendor (but not the same vendor more
than once), since they might have more than one such product. There should
be little surprise in these results since the leaders here also happen
to dominate the market. Next year, we’ll ask about cell service
providers, since that is where more of the interaction is.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. “Who has time to eat during tax season?”

2. Pizza

3. Healthier Items
4. Restaurant Take-out

5. Microwaveable Items

6. Fast Food

7. Candy/Chocolate
8. Donuts/Pastries

9. Crunchy Snacks

Insight: See, accountants
do have a sense of humor (at least when it isn’t 11 p.m. on April
15). Most of these results are expected, although the number of voters
choosing “healthier items” was a welcome surprise. Of course
that may be offset by the few dozen who voted for various types of alcohol
(not on the chart). As long as it doesn’t affect where that decimal
point goes.

Readers’ Choice Results

1. Coffee

2. Sodas

3. “No caffeine for me”

4. Iced/Hot Teas
5. Specialty Coffee Drinks

6. Energy Drinks

7. Other

Insight: Fortunately,
there were no illicit drugs receiving votes; the last thing we need is
an accountant on speed. For the most part, even with those who do not
use caffeine, the results of this question pretty much show that the rest
of their peers do. Yes, coffee is still the primary fuel of the tax and
accounting profession.


Well, that’s all for this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Thank
you to all those who participated, and we look forward to next year’s balloting.
If there is a question you think should be included in next year’s awards, please
tell us