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2006 Review of Specialty Tax Compliance & 1040 Enhancer Products

It seems that every tax and accounting professional is looking for something a little different from their tax preparation package. While this has a lot to do with personal preferences such as forms-based entry versus interview sheets or other specific features, the needs of a professional are obviously steered a great deal by the nature of his or her clients.

From the June/July 2006 Issue

It seems that every tax and accounting professional is looking for something
a little different from their tax preparation package. While this has a lot
to do with personal preferences such as forms-based entry versus interview sheets
or other specific features, the needs of a professional are obviously steered
a great deal by the nature of his or her clients. A year-round accounting practice
with complex, multi-subsidiary, multi-jurisdictional corporate and partnership
clients, in addition to small business write-ups and then end-of-year tax prep
for these entities and for their individual clients needs a very capable system
that includes at least the option for all states, with compliance capabilities
for every primary form under the sun, including 1040, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 1041,
706, 709, 990 and 5500, along with extensive networking capabilities, practice
management systems and integrated research functions. The programs on the market
that offer compliance for all of these, along with a few other requirements,
were reviewed in our April/May issue
as Tax Preparation Suites

But many tax professionals, whether they run a full-service, year-round accounting
practice or a seasonal 1040-only shop (or somewhere in between), find that their
client base doesn’t warrant having such a comprehensive system. If they
process mostly 1040s for one state, but also a handful of 1065s or 1120S forms,
do they really need to pay for a package that also includes all of the other
entities and all states, whether or not there’s an integrated billing
package in it or not? In short, more power is great if you use it. If you don’t,
it can be an unnecessary investment. A Ferrari parked in a garage doesn’t
win any more races than a Yugo parked in a garage.

That’s not to say that any of these programs are Yugo equivalents; quite
the contrary, actually. They all perform quite well at what they do; they just
have a more specialized approach than the do-everything systems. They are reviewed
here simply because they did not meet one or more of the requirements to be
considered a full “tax preparation suite” as we had defined them
… or they are a specialty application. Some missed by one form (often
the 5500), while others specialize in only one or two areas of compliance, such
as a company that only makes a 5500 compliance program (match these together
and voila!). Yet another system reviewed here doesn’t provide compliance
at all, but rather offers a third-party analytical tool to help prevent IRS
flags and streamline workflow processes.

The programs reviewed here were scored in the following areas:
Learning Curve addresses the ease with which new users are
likely to grow comfortable and proficient with the program. Use/Workflow
& Productivity Tools
involves the intuitiveness of the user interface
(how well a user can get around) and the way work is handled from start (interview)
to finish (receipt of return). This includes tools that help professionals keep
track of client and IRS status for returns, as well as additional tools such
as integrated calculators and cross-form linking that streamline the entire

The Integration/Import & Export section assesses the program’s
capability to use data between modules, how it exchanges data with software
from other vendors, and how the program retrieves existing data from the previous
year. Support/Training & Help System looks at training
options and how the vendor has incorporated assistance features into its program,
the quality of its support documentation and the extent of its online Help component,
whether it be simple FAQs, online user communities or more advanced systems.

And finally, Relative Value offers a subjective gauge of the
dollar-to-value ratio of the software. While it is often said that, “You
get what you pay for,” the most expensive option does not necessarily
guarantee the best value, nor is the product with the lowest sticker price always
the greater bargain. On this line, we will look at the value of the features
and tools provided in a software suite and provide a judgment on how well its
price matches its offerings. An additional factor in this equation, of course,
is how well the product does what it portends to do.

The Overall Rating gives an average of a product’s
scores in each of the scoring categories, rounded to the nearest half star.
An Executive Summary follows the review section, providing a brief synopsis
of the reviews along with a summary chart with products and their ratings in
each area. 

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BNA Software — 706 Preparer
& 709 Preparer
In addition to its well-known line of tax research
products and tax planning programs, BNA Software offers applications for
estate and gift tax compliance.
Drake Software — Drake
Drake Software is offered as an all-inclusive system,
combining federal and state individual compliance modules with those for
1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 990, 706 and 709, as well as all states and taxing
H.C. Sharp Software —
1040 Review
The 1040 Review program from H.C. Sharp Software
is in a category of its own, which is one of the reasons this review section
is called “Specialty Tax Compliance and 1040 Enhancer Products.”
Intuit — ProSeries
Intuit’s ProSeries line of professional tax
compliance software provides full support for forms 1040, 1041, 1120/1120S,
1065, 990, 706 and 709 and their state counterparts, with e-filing and
a variety of enhancement modules available at an additional cost.

Fort William LLC —
5500 & 55Express
Many of the traditional tax preparation systems
in this review section lack a form 5500 module (Annual Return/Report of
Employee Benefit Plan), this is where Fort William LLC steps in.
Orrtax Software — IntelliTax
The IntelliTax preparation system from Orrtax Software
provides support for 1040, 1041, 1120, 1120S and 1065 returns via two
base modules, the IntelliTax for Windows program and IntelliTax for Business.
RCS — TaxSlayer Pro
TaxSlayer Pro offers an all-in-one package for
professional tax compliance, with the ability to process individual federal
and state, as well as fiduciary, partnership, C and S corporations and
TAX$IMPLE — Tax$imple
TAX$IMPLE offers a collection of tax modules for
1040, 1041, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 706, 709 and 990 federal compliance, along
with all 1040 states, most corporate and partnership states, and many

Review of Specialty Tax Preparation
Software 2006 — Executive Summary
The programs in this review offer compliance for
a variety of areas, from fairly comprehensive systems that offer compliance
for almost all entity types with productivity and practice management tools,
to programs that focus on individual and business entity compliance, to
a few specialty systems that help professionals fill a niche left by the
other tax vendors or offer additional analysis and workflow streamlining.