Ranking the Products

Electronic filing services are gaining.
BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

Tax preparation software products continue to get high marks from the professionals who use them, with 83% reporting that they are sufficiently satisfied with the products they use that they do not plan to switch this year. That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by the National Association of Tax Practitioners (NATP) and shared with the Journal of Accountancy.

Some 541 NATP members responded to the survey, reporting what they liked and disliked about the products they had used to prepare 260,000 tax returns earlier this year. Although NATP members assessed a total of 23 software packages, only 13 were included in the final report (see exhibit 1 ). Products that received less than six assessments were excluded because they would not be statistically valid.

Users ranked their tax software products from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). Based on these rankings, users responded with satisfaction ratings averaging 3.84 for their software package and 3.72 for the software’s customer support (see exhibit 2 ). These rankings were slightly lower than last year’s figures, when product satisfaction averaged 3.97 and customer support averaged 3.84. Network users, however, reported slightly better satisfaction ratings for their products—an average of 3.98 this year compared with 3.90 last year.

The number who said they would continue to use the same package this year was about unchanged from last year. The numbers do not include those users who had to switch because their products were discontinued; the products were TAASC and AM-Tax.

ELECTRONIC FILING

More preparers offered clients the use of electronic filing (ELF) this year: 78%, up from only 59% last year (see exhibit 3 ). This year, 89% said they planned to offer ELF service to their clients. Those firms that used ELF filed a larger percentage of returns electronically this year than last year: 59% vs. 47%.

However, fewer preparers charged a separate fee for that service: 42% vs. 55%. Some 48% plan to charge a separate ELF fee this year, down from 56% last year.

When preparers who don’t offer electronic filing were asked why they didn’t, the usual replies were either “my clients don’t ask for it” or “it’s not worth the extra cost.”

STANLEY ZAROWIN is a senior editor on the JofA . Mr. Zarowin is an employee of the American Institute of CPAs and his views, as expressed in this article, do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA. Official positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.

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