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2009 Tax Survey: Do You Have the Right Software?

Your peers graded Drake highest, with Thomson coming in a close second. Here's why.

September 2009
by Alexandra DeFelice/The Tax Adviser

The Tax Adviser and the Journal of Accountancy conducted a survey of their readers to determine what aspects of their tax preparation software they like and what they dislike. The survey, which received 9,776 responses, was carried out in late June and early July 2009. Of the 13 products identified for the survey, Drake scored the highest overall rating (4.439) on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 meaning "very good." In a virtual tie with Drake was UltraTax CS, a Thomson Reuters product that earned a 4.436. Thomson's other package, GoSystem, received the lowest score, 3.55.

A 2007 Journal of Accountancy tax software survey showed similar results. In that survey, UltraTax scored the highest rating, followed by Drake; GoSystem had the lowest overall rating.

Methodology

The exhibits show detailed answers for 11 of the 13 products listed in the survey, including ATX (CCH), Drake, GoSystem, Lacerte (Intuit), ProSeries (Intuit), ProSystem fx (CCH), TaxAct (2nd Story Software), TaxWise (CCH), TaxWorks (RedGear Technologies), TurboTax (Intuit), and UltraTax. Products that received fewer than 100 responses — TaxSimple and TaxSlayer Pro — are not shown here, but information about those products is available online. Intelli-Tax, which was included in the 2007 survey, was eliminated from this report because it was acquired by CCH and will be discontinued.

Most and Least Popular

Ease of use topped the list of the best-liked features across all products at 28.5 percent. Intuit's products were the leaders in that category, with 48.8 percent of TurboTax users selecting that as their favorite feature, followed by 41.2 percent for ProSeries users and 38.3 percent for Lacerte users.

Number of forms/comprehensiveness came in as the second most popular feature across all products. CCH's Pro-System fx emerged as the leader there, with 32.5 percent selecting this feature, followed by GoSystem, with 31.5 percent.

Price was the feature that users liked least, with 34.8 percent of respondents across all products selecting that answer. Lacerte users expressed the highest percentage of price dissatisfaction, at 52.5 percent, followed by UltraTax in close second, at 51.9 percent.

Those products have higher price tags than most of the others included in this survey. The price for Lacerte's Federal 1040 package for the 2009 season is $2,699 — a $149 increase over the 2008 season. UltraTax costs $2,250, a $50 increase. The only product that costs more is ProSystem, at $3,585, a $140 increase, and 39.9 percent of ProSystem users selected price as the thing they liked least about that product.

TaxAct and TaxSlayer Pro sit at the other end of the spectrum. Users of those products said price was the feature they liked the best — 61.5 percent for TaxSlayer Pro, which costs $895, and 58.9 percent for TaxAct, which costs $119 for the Preparer's 1040 Edition. Neither vendor raised prices this season.

Preparers are generally not jumping ship to other products, but for the four percent of total respondents who did switch their tax preparation software for the 2008 season, price was the most often cited reason (35.7 percent). Those who do switch must consider several other factors, including ease of use and ease of learning. TaxAct scored the best in both of those categories, with its users giving it a 4.44 out of five for ease of use and 4.49 for ease of learning. GoSystem scored the lowest, with 3.17 and 3.08, respectively.

On the more technical side, Drake received the best score for how well it ran on users' networks, with 4.68; GoSystem scored the worst, with 3.93.

This article has been excerpted from The Tax Adviser. View the full article here (PDF).