Steve Bennett, Intuit’s CEO and president, plans to step down at the end of the year, the tax and accounting software developer said.

Brad Smith, 43, who is currently senior vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business Division, will replace Bennett, 53, on January 1. Bennett will remain on the Intuit board and serve as a consultant through July 2008, when Intuit’s fiscal year ends. He joined Intuit in 2000 from General Electric.

The company did not explain the resignation, but released a statement from Bennett saying, “Now with eight successful seasons under my belt, the company solidly positioned for the future, and a CEO successor ready to lead the company, it’s the right time for me to take some time off and explore the next challenge in my life.”

Under Bennett’s tenure, the company nearly tripled its revenue and quadrupled its earnings. However, Intuit has also faced challenges, including a database glitch that temporarily kept 200,000 TurboTax users from being able to file their taxes electronically at the end of last tax season and forced Bennett to issue an apology and refund more than $15 million in fees.

His successor, Smith, took over the Small Business Division, which includes Intuit’s QuickBooks software, in May 2005. He will continue in that role through the end of December while working with Bennett on the transition. Smith came to Intuit from payroll giant ADP. At Intuit, he has also worked as vice president and general manager of the Accountant Central unit and developer network in Plano, Texas, and he ran the consumer tax group in San Diego.

Intuit announced the succession plans when providing its quarterly results. The company reported that its net loss in the fourth quarter ending July 31 declined to $13.6 million, compared to $18.9 million a year ago. Fourth quarter sales were $433 million, a 31 percent jump over last year.

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