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2010 Review of Professional Tax Systems (Traditional Workflow)

Tax Season is all about Productivity

From the April/May 2010 Issue

As you may have noticed, a few things have changed with our review of professional
tax preparation systems this year. In
his column in this issue
, Executive Editor Darren Root, CPA.CITP, explains
the rationale for these changes, along with the benefits we believe they will
provide you, our readers.

One of the key changes you’ll notice is that there are now two separate
review categories for professional tax preparation systems: Advanced Workflow
and Traditional Workflow. While it may not be obvious to you, the reader, we
have also implemented a more rigorous review category/subcategory rating structure
along with the addition of 1/4-star increments in our ratings.

While reviews are inherently opinion-based, we’ve taken steps to add
some measure of objectivity to this subjective process. Each product in a review
will continue to be scored on several key areas of its functionality, but how
a program scores in each of these areas will be based on several subsections.
This new grading formula will help ensure that each product is graded on the
same critical functions. The chart on this page outlines each of the sections/subsections
for this review genre so you have a clear picture of how the ratings were determined.

In general, the changes in the tax compliance reviews are intended to better
differentiate between the types of tax programs based on the workflow and collaboration
tools that they offer. The differentiation between the two review categories
(Advanced Workflow and Traditional Workflow) is necessary because firms have
very different needs and levels of expectation that often depend on their internal
workflow processes when it comes to tax engagements.

Traditional Workflow Review Criteria
  • Core Product Functions/Features
    • Product Depth/Multi-State
    • Navigation/Ease-of-Use
  • Paperless Workflow
    • Paperless creation
    • Digital Document Storage/Management
    • Data Import/Output
  • Integration
    • w/in software publisher’s suite
    • w/other or external programs
  • Help/Support
    • Online resource center
    • Tech assistance availability
    • Downloadable system updates
    • US-based live support staff
  • Summary & Pricing
  • Overall Rating

These differences are not necessarily reflective of how many staff a practice
has, whether or not they manage complex client returns, or the volume of returns
they process. Instead, it is based on their paperless workflow needs, remote
access capabilities and other factors.

This particular review section focuses on professional tax preparation systems
that are geared toward practices with traditional workflow needs. The review
of products designed for practices with advanced internal workflow processes
is also in this issue and online
. Once again, the differentiation between these groups isn’t necessarily
reflective of how many staff a practice has, whether or not they manage complex
clients or the volume of returns they process. Rather, it is based on paperless
workflow needs, remote access capabilities and other factors.

Specific features and functions that were expected from the products in this
review, at least at a basic level, included the availability of add-on modules
for functions such as write-up and other professional needs, as well as the
level of integration between those modules and the tax suite.

Another key area regarded workflow processes, notably the ability to save returns
to paperless formats and manage them, along with other digital client documents
in client folders. Scanning has become an integral part of the tax engagement,
so scan-and-populate functions were also assessed, along with whether or not
the program enabled auto-population of client data from scanned forms.

For more detailed information on these and other changes to our review formats,
please see the intro
page for the review
of products designed for practices with Advanced Workflow


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

CCH Small Firm Services – ATX
The ATX tax brand from CCH Small Firm Services is
offered in various bundles for small professional practices, providing
a comprehensive system for managing client return compliance throughout
the engagement process. New enhancements for the TY 2009 season included
integration with CCH’s IntelliConnect research platform, which allows
users to easily search all content with results lists that are also searchable
and easily formatted. Other new features include automatic updates, Sch.
D import of brokerage statements and enhanced client organizers.
CCH Small Firm Services – TaxWise
The TaxWise professional tax compliance system offered
by CCH Small Firm Services is specifically designed for high-volume retail
tax preparation firms. Available in several bundled options, TaxWise gives
firms a comprehensive system for managing all tax types. It provides management
tools for running multiple locations along with options for paperless
workflow, bank products, credit card payment, billing management and tax
planning. New features include enhanced client organizers, automatic system
updates and integration with the CCH IntelliConnect research platform.
Drake Software – Drake Tax
Drake Software offers an all-in-one tax practice suite that includes professional compliance, practice management, web-based tools for multi-office management, tax planning, write-up and business development tools. New for the TY 2009 season, the company enhanced paperless management functions, streamlined data-entry tasks, added a new debit card disbursement option, and added client payroll portals to its write-up module. .
Intuit – ProLine Tax Online Edition
Intuit introduced its ProLine Tax Online Edition
for tax year 2009. The new totally web-based professional tax compliance
system was designed from scratch (not from one of Intuit’s other
professional tax systems) in order to meet the changing workflow needs
of web-based preparers. For TY 2009, the program was limited to 1040 returns,
although Intuit will be expanding the functionality and adding workflow
tools for future tax seasons. In this review, we have rated the program
based on the capabilities and features it had when reviewed, but being
new-to-market, we’ve also included discussion of Intuit’s
anticipated developments of the product. As a web-based system, it can
be used with either PCs or Mac computers.

Intuit – ProSeries
The ProSeries professional tax compliance suite
has long been popular with small and mid-sized practices, offering several
bundled editions of the system under Basic and Professional versions,
as well as a pay-per-return option. New features for the TY 2009 season
included the addition of unlimited e-filing as a standard component; enhanced
online training; a new ProSeries Plus Add-On Solution bundle that includes
client checklists, client presentation features and client advisor functions;
as well as integration with ProLine Tax Research, which was developed
in conjunction with BNA. ProSeries supports Windows XP, Vista and Windows
Orange Tax Suite Pro
While Orange Door, Inc. isn’t yet a name that
every professional recognizes, the company’s Orange Tax Suite Pro
has been around since TY 2006, offering a completely web-based professional
tax compliance system. New for TY 2009, Orange Door has added client portals
and online document storage functions, as well as web-based client organizers
that integrate with the tax package for data entry. The system also includes
multi-office/location management tools, along with review-based workflow
functions, integrated e-filing and collaboration functions.
RedGear Technologies – TaxWorks
RedGear Technologies offers a collection of tax
practice programs, with its flagship TaxWorks system providing the core
compliance capabilities for tax professionals. The system is available
in bundles starting with the base 1040-only package, or with the addition
of various business and other entities. In the 2009 version, the company
introduced several new features, including the ability to add tick marks
throughout the system, an audit trail for form entries on 1040 page 1
and page 2, the ability to lock completed returns, greater automation
of multi-state returns and multi-office management tools.
TaxSlayer Pro Premium
The TaxSlayer line of professional tax preparation
software was initially developed by a tax and financial services company,
but has grown over the past 20 years to become a popular choice among
many firms. The system is available in two bundled formats, with the Classic
version offering the core tax compliance options for all entities, and
the Premium version adding additional practice management and workflow

— Related Articles —
2010 Review of Advanced Workflow
Tax Compliance Systems
For reviews of additional professional tax compliance
systems, please see the this review category.
BNA Software – 706 Preparer & 709
BNA is widely known for its research solutions, offering
integration with some of the income tax compliance programs included in
this review section, but also available as stand-alone resources. In addition
to its research offerings, the vendor is one of the most respected when
it comes to tax, wealth and estate planning; fixed asset management; and
corporate tax auditing and planning.

2010 Review of Advanced Workflow Tax Prep Systems — Comparison Chart

See inside April/May 2010

2010 Review of Professional Tax Systems (Advanced Workflow)

Evolving Workflow Processes Becoming Critical to Tax Compliance