Basic 1040 tax prep software is becoming a fungible commodity, with little separating the features of the various packages offered by software manufactures, according to some observers.That's why so many of next year's tax prep packages are touting increased efficiency, ease of use and workflow simplification, and integration with other products.

"The big trend is toward e-filing and using technology to make workflow more efficient," said Ernest Zoumot, director of software product management for CCH's Torrance, Calif.-based ProSystem fx Tax. "We've added a massive number of e-file-capable business forms as states mandate them or make them available," said Zoumot. "We're also making a larger use of PDF files for data storage and communication with clients. Watermarks can now be printed on PDF files, and we're making PDF print a lot more flexible," he said.

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