|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.|
lthough tax software preparers are satisfied with the products they used this year, their fondness has cooled somewhat from last year. On the other hand, customer support has improved, they say. A These are some of the conclusions of a nationwide survey just conducted by the National Association of Tax Practitioners (NATP), an organization that provides educational services and research for tax professionals. NATP members were asked to rate their software, and 1,103 of them provided reports of what they liked and didn't like about their software and their vendors' customer support. Although we received input on 35 products, we report on only the 18 that produced assessments from 10 or more users; we felt that assessments from fewer than 10 were not statistically valid.
LIKES AND DISLIKES
Users were asked to rank their software from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). The 18 products received an average rating of 3.95, down a bit from last year's 4.22. However, the average rating for customer support rose to 3.81 from 3.74. The 290 responding preparers who use network versions of their software rated their products an average 4.00; there are no comparable data for last year. Exhibit 1, pages 2829, lists the respondents' assessments. Some 83% of the users said they would continue to use the same package this year; 6% said they planned to switch and 11% were undecided. These percentages do not include those who had to switch because their products are being discontinued (for more on consolidation in the tax software industry, see the preceding article, "Tax Software Hits the Net," page 24). Although we lack comparable year-to-year data, it appears that electronic filing continues to grow because of its convenience, accuracy and speed. Some 63% of the respondents said they offered electronic filing, and they transmitted 44% of their eligible returns to the Internal Revenue Service. Some 58% of electronic filers charged a separate fee for the service, and they reported transmitting an average of 25% of their returns. However, those that didn't charge a separate fee transmitted an average of 70% of their returns. Three-quarters of the respondents said they planned to offer electronic filing next year, and 57% of these planned to charge a separate fee for the service. Details are in exhibit 2, page 28. And for a list of the 18 vendors covered by this survey, see exhibit 3, page 29.