From the April/May 2007 Review
of Professional Tax Preparation Systems
Editor’s Note: Although these products do not offer income
tax preparation, BNA’s 706 Preparer and 709 Preparer products were included
in this review because of their compliance support for estate and gift taxation.
BNA Software offers a wide range of specialty compliance tools, including its
Estate & Gift Tax line, which includes separate preparation systems for
each compliance task as well as a combined estate and gift tax planning program.
In addition to the tax research and analysis offered by BNA, the company also
offers an individual tax planning solution with support for all 50 states, sales
and use tax reporting, fixed asset management and a corporate tax analysis system.
The BNA 706 Preparer and 709 Preparer systems are offered individually, providing
calculations for all states and D.C. The 706 estate tax system costs $695 for
a single-user license, with renewals at $595. A single-user license for the
709 gift tax program initially costs $430, with renewals at $275. Additional
networked user licenses are available starting at $265 for the 706 Preparer
and $80 for the 709 Preparer. Although the two Preparer systems are independent
of each other, both share a similar interface and many common features and functions,
so both are reviewed in this article.
Learning Curve — 5 Stars
The 706 Preparer and 709 Preparer programs open directly into a screen that
shows virtually all return information at a glance for the appropriate taxation
event (estate or gift, depending upon program), with resizable and movable panels
that display the actual current form; a data-entry form; a diagnostics and data
validation screen at the bottom; and a collapsible menu of associated forms,
documents and form pages. This enables users to easily jump between documents.
Screen and form views can also be modified for more eye-friendly viewing. Data
entry is entered onto the intuitive form panel, which mimics the form view shown
above it and transfers input data when a data section is finished. All data
is then transferred and automatically calculated as needed throughout the return.
Data entry cannot be made directly onto the form view, but clicking a line
within the form automatically moves the interview sheet to the appropriate entry
field. Movement in the data-entry sheets can be performed using the Tab key
or “forward” and “back” buttons for navigation between data-entry sheets and
“previous” and “next” buttons for moving between sections. Line/field-specific
Help and IRS instructions are available by right-clicking or using the F1 key.
Neither system provides a traditional client selection or overview screen.
Instead, they utilize the standard Windows file folder structure, opening to
the Data folder within the program files, which stores each client’s return
and associated documents as a separate file. The user specifies whatever naming
scheme is desired. Unfortunately, this system doesn’t provide simplified searching
or an overview of client information, but it suffices as a basic list structure.
Overall, both the 706 Preparer and 709 Preparer provide an intuitive interface
with good assistive features that ease the compliance process.
Use/Workflow & Productivity Tools — 5 Stars
Each of the programs can import prior year data. Both boast calculation and
workflow features specific to their compliance tasks, but both have many common
tools such as customization options that enable users to tailor templates, return
sets, reporting and print options to their needs, as well as flexible formatting
for detailed grids. Both display actual government forms and allow posting of
comments to any field, and the programs include missing data alerts with linked
access to the error, as well as automatic data backup. Both systems include
spell checking on all documents, as well as a Return History feature that acts
as an audit trail. The programs can be set to automatically check for system
and tax table updates.
Features specific to the 706 Preparer include the ability to calculate federal
estate tax using Tax Table A (or the Special Rate Schedule for terrorism events),
calculation of state estate/inheritance taxes for all states and DC (including
“decoupled” states) and the ability to handle prior transfer credits, Schedule
B stocks, interrelated marital/charitable contributions, dividends and interest
and split interest charitable trusts. The system backs out half of designated
properties in community property situations, supports multiple residuary beneficiaries
for inheritance tax states and can also calculate the minimum marital bequest
that reduces the federal or state tax to zero or the lowest possible amount.
The 706 system can print all related forms and schedules, including a Probate
Inventory Report and Estate Tax Closing document, as well as automatic continuation
schedules and attachments.
The 709 Preparer supports split gifts with multiple beneficiaries and automatically
identifies marital gifts and calculates the total of such gifts. The program
also includes built-in support for generation-skipping transfers, charitable
gifts, QTIP and annual exclusions. The 709 Preparer can produce donee worksheets,
transmittal letters, client correspondence and print all supplemental schedules
for disclosures, elections and calculations.
Integration/Import & Export — 4 Stars
BNA offers a stand-alone Estate & Gift Tax Planner, but this system does
not integrate with the 706 and 709 Preparer systems, although the Preparer systems
do provide linked access to BNA Tax Management EGT Web Portfolios. The 706 Preparer
system also integrates with EstateVal and Appraise, which offer securities data
valuation. No integration with individual tax preparation systems is available.
Support/Training & Help System — 5 Stars
BNA includes a full printed user guide, and the programs include excellent built-in
Help utilities and other assistive features, including instant access (right-click
or F1 key) to line-specific instructions and guidance. The programs also offer
the full online versions of IRS Publications 448, 561, 950 and 3920. Additionally,
the diagnostics panel provides linked alerts to missing or potentially erroneous
data. An online support center includes FAQs, analysis of tax code and law,
program updates and options for enrolling in live or online training (available
for 709 only). Toll-free phone support is included in the pricing.
Relative Value — 5 Stars
Many tax and accounting professionals refer estate and even gift tax returns
to legal firms because of an unfamiliarity with 706 and 709 preparation, a desire
to avoid the sometimes complicated and tedious compliance issues involved with
these matters, or because their regular tax preparation suite is lacking in
its estate and gift tax capabilities. BNA’s 706 Preparer and 709 Preparer simplify
these processes and provide comprehensive compliance support for both tasks,
even for very complex estate and gift scenarios. Likewise, the BNA Estate &
Gift Tax Planner program offers a comprehensive method to analyze potential
situations, thus helping to find the solution most beneficial to the client.
That is, the one that is the least taxed.
2007 Overall Rating — 5 Stars