CPAs price their return ready software’s performance in the an initial season impacted by taxation reform.

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By Paul Bonner
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It"s difficult to imagine a taxation season without preparers" creating opinions about their return preparation software application — and perhaps wondering exactly how things might have gone with another product. Consequently, the JofA and also The taxes Adviser room thankful for the thousands of CPAs that took the moment to share your perspectives on your software"s performance when again in this yearly survey. Experienced tax preparation software represents a crucial tool for CPAs" methods and, as countless of them have actually said clearly in this and previous surveys, a comprehensive financial invest as well.

This year, that course, was the very first in which taxation preparers had actually to use most that the many brand-new and transformed Code provisions brought around by the law well-known as the taxes Cuts and Jobs action (TCJA), P.L. 115-97. The was through some suspense that, when filing season began, practitioners looked to how well the software program providers had revised and adjusted their solution to take the brand-new laws right into account. Encouragingly, offered the degree of the changes, many survey respondents offered their software relatively high marks for its managing of TCJA-related changes (see the sidebar "Software preserved Up v TCJA, CPAs Say," in ~ bottom the page).

The survey additionally for a fourth year asked about the incidence that taxpayer identity theft uncovered among respondents" clients, and also for a 3rd year, this difficulty abated, with a 5-percentage-point decline from the prior year in respondents reporting it, come 21% (see the sidebar "ID Theft drops Still Further," below).


The inspection asked around 13 commodities by name and allowed respondents to say they offered some other software product no listed. And, together in vault years, seven of those products drew a sufficient number of responses to be contained in the tables and also most of the analysis noted in this article. For last year"s results, watch "2018 Tax software application Survey," JofA, Sept. 2018.

These seven commodities (with the percentages of all respondents utilizing them) include three commodities from Wolters Kluwer: ATX (5.2% — a percentage point lower 보다 in the 2018 survey); CCH ProSystem fx (15.4%, also a percentage point lower 보다 in 2018); and CCH Axcess taxation (7.8% — mirroring the greatest percentage-point rise of any product this year from 2018, as soon as it was 4.2%). Two products by Intuit Inc. To be Lacerte, the second-most-used product, through 17.5% (unchanged indigenous 2018), and also ProSeries, v 11% (down native 12.7% in 2018). Drake tax accounted because that 14% of respondents, slightly listed below 2018"s 14.3%. The most-used product was once again Thomson Reuters"s UltraTax CS, through 19.9% of respondents — a slight increase from 2018. The six various other asked-about assets plus write-ins completely accounted for 9.2% the users, v the highest amongst them being Intuit ProConnect taxes Online, v 3%. Because that the percentages for all 13 products, including a breakdown of their usage amongst firms ranked by arrays of number of preparers, click here.

The respondent were predominantly in little to midsize firms; virtually one-third report themselves to be sole practitioners. An additional 37% were in that company of between two and also five preparers, and 18.7% were in this firm of six to 20 preparers. That company of 21 come 100 preparers were represented by slightly over 7% the respondents. Those in this firm of 101 to 500 preparers were practically 2% that the sample, and those in the largest firms, with over 500 preparers, were 2.5% of the respondents. This percentages skew slightly toward the larger firms from the 2018 sample or, rather, conform an ext closely come the historic average.

Firm dimension tends come correlate through the usage of one product over another. For each of the firm dimension ranges, the percent use of each of the seven major products is presented in the table "Favorites by firm Size." together previously, among sole practitioners, Drake tax was the leading product at nearly 26%, v ProSeries not much behind at almost 22%, both nearby to last year"s findings in this respect. Looked at one more way, the overwhelming majority of users of ATX, Drake Tax, and ProSeries were in that company of 5 or under preparers (97%, 94%, and 92%, respectively, contrasted with almost 70% of every respondents in this firm of that size range). One adjust year end year, however, stands out: CCH Axcess Tax, as provided above, boosted its market share stood for in the survey. And also while it did so most pronouncedly among the largest firms, to virtually 78% in the over-500 selection (up from 56% critical year), it additionally increased in every dimension range, even slightly among sole practitioners (1.8%, indigenous 1.2% in 2018). CCH ProSystem fx, i beg your pardon was likewise well represented among the largest firms, showed its highest use in the upper midrange of certain size. More than half of respondent in that company with between 21 and also 100 preparers supplied it.


Involvement in picking the software

Recognizing the the choice of tax software is not constantly strictly target or might be constrained in other methods (one top write-in because that the best-liked element of a software application product to be "have always used it" or a comparable comment), the inspection attempts to gain a take care of on what might be taken into consideration one resource of bias: the respondent"s involvement in choosing the details software. For all the major products, nearly 69% of respondents said they make the decision, and another 21% had some input right into it. This tracks, in turn, with firm size. The highest percentage of "decision-makers" were for ATX and Drake Tax, both associated, as detailed above, with smaller firms. Vice versa, the lowest was for CCH Axcess Tax, at 31%, because that which almost 41% had actually no to speak in choosing it.

Types that returns

Respondents for whom individual returns comprised the bulk of their workload were 76% of the users of every seven major products, when 88% said organization returns were much less than half of their returns, both practically identical to last year. As can be expected — again, offered that it to be the most-used product of larger firms stood for in the inspection — CCH Axcess tax users were significantly more likely to report a bulk of return were because that businesses (nearly 27% that users), complied with by CCH ProSystem fx (nearly 21%).


Respondents top top average provided the seven major products slightly lower marks on in its entirety performance this year (4.2 out of 5, compared with 4.4 last year (see the table "Overall Ratings")). Because that at the very least the second year in a row, Drake taxes users gave it the highest overall rating (4.6 both years).


Although use of CCH Axcess taxes grew, as noted above, satisfaction v it did not. ~ above average, CCH Axcess Tax got a 3.6 rating this year, fifty percent a suggest lower 보다 last year. (However, see the "Likes and also Dislikes" section below for evidence that its customers did evaluate certain an essential attributes an ext often 보다 those of various other software.) others of the major products to be within 0.2 point out of the vault year"s in its entirety rating. Comparing the scores on much more specific questions displayed in the table, although all of them because that CCH Axcess taxation were slightly reduced than the year before, the best drop to be for "How well did it manage updates during tax season?" This registered a 3.7, if in 2018, users had rated CCH Axcess taxes a 4.4 because that updates, a 0.7 allude decline. However most the the major products were down at the very least slightly on this question (it likewise figured much more prominently this year in write-in comments for many of the products), which could be expected, because TCJA transforms likely necessitated an ext frequent and thorough updates 보다 in previous years.

Malware attack and outage

To part extent, CCH Axcess Tax and also ATX users" responses can reflect the problem Wolters Kluwer and its customers skilled in beforehand May, once the firm noticed technological anomalies in that systems, i m sorry it then traced come malware it discovered in those networks. The agency took its cloud applications for both software application programs and others offline because that a few days when it tested and revived the services. No data was said to have been stolen, nor did the infection infect customers, the company said. The suspension came well ~ the April 15 income tax submit deadline, but the IRS was prompted to expand filing deadlines for influenced customers, as the might 15 attributed loomed for exempt-organization returns and those of part calendar- and fiscal-year partnerships and also S corporations. Perhaps an ext to the point, the outage synchronized with the deployment that this survey; a couple of respondents mentioned it in write-in comments, defined later.

Best because that a new practice

Consistent with usually lower ratings for every the significant products this year, the proportions of respondent endorsing their software application as a an excellent choice because that a brand-new tax practice were largely lower 보다 last year, significantly so for CCH Axcess taxes at a small under 57% (see the table "Overall Ratings"). Critical year, 69% the its users would have actually recommended it to someone starting a tax practice. Drake Tax, however, invariably the highest-rated product ~ above this question, increased slightly greater still, to end 98%.


Accuracy of the software application was the "like" most frequently chosen throughout the plank in sheer numerical terms, and users of CCH ProSystem fx picked accuracy most frequently as a high quality of the software program they chosen (as a percent of likes for each major product), at virtually 28% (see the table "Top Likes"). By a slightly greater percentage, they additionally approved that its variety of forms/comprehensiveness, also much more than individuals of any other significant product.


For at least the second year in a row, ProSeries led the other significant products in likes for the attribute the respondents in its entirety picked the second most often: lull of use.

As usual, ATX and also Drake tax were the only products for which a plurality of users" likes were for price, in ~ 29% and also 33%, respectively, when 14% that ProSeries users" likes were because that its price.

Top "dislikes," likewise as usual, were overcame by price, showing Lacerte individuals as the most regularly disaffected in ~ 41%, the very same as critical year (see the table "Top Dislikes"). Individuals of CCH ProSystem fx and UltraTax CS faulted their price 36% and almost 37% the the time, respectively. Disfavor because that product assistance was broadly higher for number of of the major products, v Lacerte basically unchanged and also ProSeries reduced than in 2018. Few of these votes versus CCH Axcess Tax and also ATX can reflect users" endure with the company"s malware strike mentioned earlier and also its communications with customers.


While ATX and also Drake taxation were appreciated for their price, they were much more likely 보다 other major products to be faulted for your integration, or lack of it, with other software, at 12% and 18.5% of your users" dislikes, respectively. ProSeries and also Drake Tax likewise registered relatively much more dislikes than others for variety of forms/comprehensiveness, at 13% and virtually 11%, respectively. Top top the other hand, as soon as asked separately if your software contained all needed forms, Drake taxes users were much more likely come say "yes," at practically 85%, 보다 the mean for all significant products (82%). ATX led top top this "all needed forms" concern at 92%. Drake tax users when again picked "tax research had in package" as a dislike an ext often than others.

Write-in comments

Only 6.7% of users of major products chose "other" as a dislike. Castle then might write in one not detailed (although an ext than a dozen did so to, in effect, offer two thumbs under for price, by both choosing it and writing that in). As stated in the sidebar "Software maintained Up with TCJA, CPAs Say," part comments took concern with their software"s implementation the the brand-new Sec. 199A qualified organization income remove or other TCJA-related alters in tax law.

A far-ranging number of respondents take it the chance to complain about the timeliness, frequency, or other inconvenience of software program updates throughout tax season, a consideration that the inspection asked individuals to rate in basic terms (see the table "Overall Ratings") yet did not encompass as a choice in likes and dislikes. Forty-one respondents, much more than one-tenth of total write-ins, consisted of the native "update" or "updates" in a comment, through some saying the updates were too frequent, demanded re-reviewing returns, required rebooting computers, or interrupted work in other ways. Numerous of these discussed updates in link with the TCJA specifically.


Although cloud computing has become generally embraced as the norm for many professional realms consisting of CPA methods (see, e.g., "What taxation Firms need to recognize Now about Technology," JofA, June 12, 2019), taxation software proceeds to be deployed by CPA inspection respondents overwhelmingly on your own difficult drive or network. This year, 82% of individuals of major products stated that was whereby their tax software resided, with virtually 18% saying it stayed on their vendor"s server. Individuals of CCH Axcess taxation were the exception, for which 87% stated it was on the vendor"s server. The overall responses show a slight readjust from 2018, once 86% claimed the software program was on your own difficult drive or network.

More respondents than in 2018 reported they obtained training in operating their software. However, that still left 66% of customers of all significant products speak they got no training. The biggest increase in training to be for ATX in ~ 17%, together opposed come 9.5% in 2018. (In both years, however, this to be the lowest portion for significant product users.) ATX users also rated the quality of training much more highly this year than in 2018, 4.2 the end of 5, increase from 3.9 on typical last year. The highest percentage that training received this year was by customers of CCH Axcess tax at 60%. However, as previously, CCH Axcess taxes users rated the training the shortest in high quality of all major products at 3.5 this year. For every the significant products combined, training high quality was rated an median of 3.9 this year.

Users reported needing technological support an ext often as whole this year 보다 in 2018 (84% versus 81%, respectively; view the table "Technical Support"). Asked how easy it to be to gain that support, Drake taxation users report the greatest ease, 4.8 out of 5, well over the mean for all major products of 3.8. ATX and CCH Axcess tax were slightly below the other significant products in lull of obtaining support at 3.1 and also 3.2, respectively — again, maybe reflecting the outage. Support was acquired most regularly by phone, at 93%, virtually unchanged from 2018. Email and live chat or immediate messaging were used slightly more often this year, through users of the CCH products registering the highest levels of both.

A experimentation YEAR COMPLETED

The critical time taxation reform to be enacted ~ above as substantial a scale as the TCJA remained in the taxes Reform plot of 1986, P.L. 99-514. Earlier in that age of document filing and also comparatively rudimentary software application tools, taxation preparers typically relied less on third parties to adapt their forms and also schedules come the brand-new reality. Now that many of the TCJA changes are baked into the modern-day professional software assets that, favor it or not, are indispensable to taxation practice, CPAs may have the ability to get through next year"s taxation season through fewer perplexities.

Results and methodology

The survey was carried out May 20—June 4, 2019, and received 3,422 responses native CPAs who suggested that they all set tax year 2018 returns because that a fee. The tables accompanying this article show answers because that the seven most-used commodities of the 13 asked around in the survey. For more information around the percentages the respondents utilizing each product and, for the seven significant products, simple features and options and links to firm websites, click here.

ID theft drops still further

While CPAs still have great reason to it is in wary of the hazard of taxpayer identification theft to your clients and practices, this year"s survey confirmed a continuing trend of that trouble receding. Indigenous a high of almost two-thirds of respondent (59%) report having had actually clients during the 2016 taxes preparation season who had actually been victim of taxes ID theft, the reported incidence dropped progressively to 21% for the 2019 season, a 5-percentage-point drop from the vault year (see the graph "Identity Theft"). The an obstacle of resolving such situations remained small changed indigenous previously, however, at an median of 3.1 out of 5, with a 5 meaning it to be "very easy" to resolve.

The IRS has likewise reported under ID steal in return it has actually received in current years, which it attributes to better filtering, analytics, and security measures. The Service also has sought come plug potential defense leaks in the way it handles taxpayer transcript requests. This measures encompass ending its practice of faxing transcripts and also no much longer mailing castle to 3rd parties (see "Changes comes to taxation Transcript Availability," JofA, June 4, 2019).

Software maintained up with TCJA, CPAs say

In this year"s Tax software program Survey, we were passionate to find out just how respondents concerned their products" power in a an essential and possibly problematic area: exactly how well it handled the many brand-new and changed Code provisions presented for the 2018 tax year by the law well-known as the taxes Cuts and Jobs action (TCJA), P.L. 115-97. The responses seemed to reflect basic satisfaction through the major products" adaptation to the taxation reform law. As the graph "TCJA Changes" shows, the all at once rating for all 7 of the major products v respect to the TCJA to be 4.0 the end of 5. Given that this to be close to the as whole level the satisfaction because that all major products in every respects (4.2), it says there was much less software-induced drama in tax offices than one could expect. In fact, the scores in this respect tracked all at once satisfaction for each product relatively closely, except for CCH ProSystem fx, for which the TCJA score was 3.7, half a allude lower than its all at once rating, and also UltraTax CS, reduced than its all at once score by 0.4 points.

Another notable feature of these scores is the they were generally slightly lower for the products most often connected with midsize to large practices and also considered more full-featured and also robust (CCH ProSystem fx, as provided above, and also 3.5 because that CCH Axcess Tax) however highest for Drake Tax, i m sorry rated less very for criteria related to comprehensiveness, such together integration with other software.

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The survey, as usual, additionally invited write-in responses come what users chosen best and also least, and some TCJA-related comments turned up in responses to the last question. There were 10 mentions of "new tax law," "TCJA," or "tax reform" amongst least-liked features, plus one more eight complaints particularly faulting the software"s managing of some facet or other of " 199A," or "QBI," both referring to the new Sec. 199A qualified company income (QBI) deduction because that noncorporate businesses, a an essential TCJA provision that is expansive in scope but novel in that particulars. Still, the is solid a tsunami the discontent, and those complaints were registered by users of all of the major products more or less equally.