In September 2009, Intuit launched a new web based tax software called Intuit ProLine (TM) Tax Online Edition (beta) for those individuals and tax prior's that need a low-cost, comprehensive and Web based 1040 tax program. This software is designed for low volume users which client base does not justify a more expensive PC or networked tax software. Like many other web-based software programs, and in particular like QuickBooks Online, this program allows the tax preparers to work from anywhere as long as they have web access. Intuit has been in the tax preparation business for many years and has its TurboTax, Pro Series, and Lacerte matured brands. Intuit clearly understands its customers' needs and has the foresight to know that many of the tax software applications are heading towards "cloud computing" and this tax software, is another example of a Web enabled program.
How it Works – The concept behind this program is simplicity, and Intuit accomplishes this by setting up three basic workspaces for the tax prior. These workspaces are "input", "review" and "file". The "input" workspace is where the tax preparatory information information is usually entered in with W-2, 1099, Schedule A and B, etc .. Locating the proper form is very easy. Within each form you're able to accumulate multiple data entries by using a list and total feature in the software. The second workspace, is the "review" section which provides the tax prior with a summary diagnostics and a list of tax related suggestions. And finally the third workspace, is "file" which allows the tax preparer to electronically file the return or to print the tax return for manual transmission with the Internal Revenue Service.
It's interesting to note another reason for the creation of this software. Over the years, many tax preparers have purchased and used TurboTax software, and specifically the controls embedded in the software limiting multiple use, some preparers have been able to "pirate" the software to prepare hundreds of tax returns by using TurboTax. So to capture this market, Intuit designed a low cost tax preparation software for an individual that wanted to legally prepare tax returns, for instance on the kitchen table at a client's home or their own kitchen. The value proposition here, is that this software is affordable and easy to use. Although the website currently offers the software for 2008 for no cost, I've been informally told that Intuit will offer the software on a pay per basis basis of $ 16 per tax return. This price is currently not finalized or reflected in the Intuit website. So for the tax preparers whose practice does not justify the purchase of the Pro Series or Lacerte brands, then this software becomes a viable and affordable alternative.
Some of the features of the software include the following:
- 1040 only- single user
- Pay per return
- E – file or paper file for two states. It is expected that by the end of the 4th quarter 2009 that filing will be available for most of the other states.
- Data conversion
- Status tracking with the IRS
- Notes and listing features and totaling capabilities embedded in the various forms and schedules
- Diagnostics and suggestions
- Support from Intuit
Like any other new software, the concerns at this point relate to the fact that the software is still in beta. Notwithstanding the hundreds of users that have beta tested the software, there are invariably issues arising from any new software release and, only with the passage of time can the software achieve its expectations. Also, like any other web enabled software the connection and performance is dependent on the web connection, and quite frankly may result in sluggish performance. Also besides the web-enabled software, there are taxpayer's homes that may not have web access which would prevent the tax preparation from entering the tax information "on the fly". Not a major issue, since the preparer can prepare the tax return later, or back in his or her the office or home. In summary, I commend Intuit for producing a web-based tax preparation software, both for new users as well as making it easy for those individuals that have used pirated versions of TurboTax, now legally use a low-cost and affordable tax software.