Improving workflow efficiencies remains a strong focus for Intuit's Lacerte Software, whose clients are looking for more data import, e-file capabilities and online assistance and alerts. Lacerte introduced K-1 inputs two years ago, but Intuit is working to make the process more complete, including transferring state-related information from business to individual returns, says Jorge Olavarrieta, senior product manager for Lacerte.
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The software also shows prior-year amounts in key entry screens during current-year input, a feature meant to boost productivity and save time for Lacerte's roughly 40,000 customers, who Olavarrieta describes as primarily full-service firms looking for ways to either reduce their workload or do more work in less time in order to grow their practices.
"The amount of work they do and this compression of work into a short period-tax season - can put a strain on their business," Olavarrieta says. "They are interested in finding any solution that improves their ability to increase productivity with tax preparation and throughout their workflow."
Steve Sabba of New York-based TaxPro Financial Network finds file transfer particularly helpful.
Sabba used Lacerte at his previous job and formed TaxPro in 1991 with six individual clients and one small business. Today, his company handles returns for roughly 4,000 individuals and 100 small businesses, grossing more than $1.5 million per year with just a handful of support staff.
"I like the direct download of corporate and partnership data from QuickBooks to Lacerte and the subsequent download of the K-1 schedules from the S corporate and partnership returns to the individual shareholders," Sabba says. "I really like the family link since we have many clients whose children hold investments."
Marc Poulin of Portland, Maine-based Poulin Financial Services also appreciates the ability to populate 1040s from corporate returns, though he double-checks the information because some things don't carry over. He also likes the fact that he can update tentative returns and is a big fan of viewing prior-year returns.
"(It) saves some of that nuance of switching back and forth," he says
Intuit continues to supports additional states for e-filing business returns and continues its e-file guarantee that it issued last season after glitches in the database failed to process 11th-hour returns filed on April 17, 2007, and some Lacerte users complained that they were not adequately accommodated by the vendor.
If the vendor fails to file Lacerte customer-submitted returns before the filing deadline and the fault is due to Intuit's electronic filing system, Intuit will refund the electronic filing fees and reimburse the taxpayer for any penalties and interest.
"We continue to focus a significant investment in our e-filing system so the problem won't happen again," Olavarrieta says. "Last year, we transmitted more returns than ever and had the smoothest season I can remember."
Also on the electronic front, last season Lacerte introduced the Lacerte Live Community, which can be launched from within the product. From March 20 to April 15, the community saw 31,000 visitors, a 10-fold increase in the average visitors per day prior to having a link from within the product.
This year, it will be available on every input screen and form and be content-sensitive so people working on the same topics can see questions related to those topics.
"We saw thousands of questions and answers within the first two weeks without context search, which is the most powerful aspect," Olavarrieta says.
HQ: Plano, Texas
Phone: (800) 765-7777
Renewal: Based on discount rates at time of renewal.
Pay-per-return: Starts at $34 per return for federal and one state; $15 per additional state.
Online preparation: N/A
Multi-state processing: Available for unlimited states.
Data entry: Expanding K-1 import and transfer capabilities
Support methods: Peer support through an online community integrated into the product, phone, email, Web site, in-program help, Help Me option with screen-specific topics
Support hours: Mon-Fri 8 am to 8 pm CT.; Sat 10 am. to 4 pm. CT; Sun 11:30 am to 4 pm CT
Document management/storage: Lacerte Document Management System
Online organizer: Available
Internet portals: N/A at press time.
Internet capabilities: Link to online communities from within the software, Lacerte Research Library, Tax Almanac
Bank products: RAL, ERC, ERD
New for next year: In-product live community, critical alerts, e-file enhancements