ProSeries

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ProSeries aims to connect preparers with clients and one another this season. The roughly 60,000 users of Intuit's ProSeries product primarily have only a handful of employees and focus on tax prep work throughout the year. And they spend hours researching various tax laws and seeking other assistance from their peers, according to product manager Kathy Kirkendall.

"Our customers requested that we provide them with additional resources to help with complex client (issues), so they don't spend hours researching topics in multiple places. We have addressed that need through the new ProSeries Live Community," Kirkendall says. "It will allow accountants to get advice from peers inside the product. So, from whichever tax form they are on, they can get live help from a peer about a question they have. There's tremendous power in connection."

ProSeries introduced some ways for accountants to connect with their clients last year and Kirkendall says she was surprised by the amount of positive response, especially to the Client Checklist and Client Presentation.

Partner Insights

The Client Checklist provides a short list of documents clients need to bring in based on the previous year's return. It was introduced to replace traditional tax organizers, which firms find a small percentage of clients actually fill out and send back.

Roughly 20 percent of customers used this feature, which Kirkendall said surpassed Intuit's expectations of the roughly 10 percent of customers who typically adopt first-year versions.

About half of them sent the checklists via snail mail and the other half email. The biggest problem they ran into was with clients who could not open the files because they did not have Adobe Acrobat, according to Kirkendall.

"A big surprise was around clients' reactions. When they mailed (the checklists) to clients in January or even late December, they got calls saying, 'I want to make my appointment. Let's get started right away,'" Kirkendall says. Unlike the form letter they may have received in past years, "clients felt that personal touch and wanted to start working on the processes early in the season."

Client Presentation received an even better reception, with roughly 40 percent of customer adoption. This tool generates graphs and charts of client income, deductions and exceptions, which preparers can go over with their clients in five to 10 minutes to demonstrate the value they provided them in terms of saving money.

The Client Advisor was used by roughly 15 percent of customers. Though it was designed to be shared with clients to provide tax planning recommendations for the coming year, most preparers used it internally to prompt ideas for additional services they could provide, such as retirement planning or setting up education funds, Kirkendall says.

All three of those offerings were free last year but will now be part of a bundle called ProSeries Plus that costs $249 in addition to ProSeries' $1,299 price tag-which alone is a $200 increase over last season.

One client-centric feature that Mike Surfer of Falmouth, Va.-based Leite & Surfer Tax-Bookkeeping enjoys but believes many people don't take advantage of is the ability to flag all of the missing client data and email the client from within ProSeries.

"If you use it properly, it gives you the status on each return as it goes through. It makes it a whole lot easier than searching through 500 names when someone (calls)," says Surfer, though he says he would like the system to be more automated, particularly with entering dates. He would also like to see the return of a ProSeries-specific customer advisory panel.

INTUIT PROSERIES

HQ: Plano, Texas

Phone: (800) 934-1040

Web: www.proseries.com

Price: $1,299

Renewal: $150 early season discount plus free e-filing

Pay-per-return: Available starting at $18 for individual 1040 and $14 per state.

Online preparation: N/A

Multi-state processing: Unlimited.

Data entry: Integration with QuickBooks and Quicken, Zip code and EIN databases, K-1 data import from business to individual returns.

Support methods: Phone, email, in-product help, chat, online communities, Tax Almanac

Support hours: Mon-Fri 8 am to 10 pm CT; Sat 11 am to 6 pm CT; Sun. noon to 5 pm CT.

Document management/storage: ProSeries Document Management System

Online organizer: N/A

Internet portals: N/A at press time.

Internet capabilities: Email clients a list of missing information from within the software; access to online communities from within the software; Tax Almanac

Bank products: Refund transfers, refund transfer direct deposits, state refund transfers, RAL, RAL direct deposits

New for next year: ProSeries Live Community from within the software; prominent bar above tax form for important updates.

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