What is the best tax preparation software for a tax professional just starting out? (Less than 15 1040 clients to start)
Starting out? Drake Software.The company doesn’t compete with you for clients like Intuit does when it sells you ProSeries or Lacerte while trying to convince your clients or prospective clients to buy their TurboTax software instead of paying you. Don’t support a company with an obvious conflict of interest against you.Everything is included in the unlimited Drake Software:online tax school with tests (use to train employees or test applicants before hiring).document management.e-filing.networking (important when you add tax preparers).all of the forms you will likely use: 1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 990, 706.all of the states (many packages add on for more states).all or many of the cities (yes, some cities have income taxes to prepare).Customizable letters you can use to tell your clients their results, engagement letters, invoices, organizers, etc.Reports you can customize, print, export to Excel.An online, supported, Do-It-Yourself program you can market to make money from those people who will prepare their own taxes anyway. It’s less expensive than TurboTax in many cases. And face it, they were never going to pay you to prepare their taxes anyway. Get your piece of the DIY market?Scheduling software to manage your client appointments with your staff’s hours.Video training tutorials to help you and your staff learn the finer points of the software.The BEST phone support, not just of tax software companies, but of any company, in any industry. They answer the phone on the first ring, nearly every time. Problems are solved and questions are answered on the first phone call. Again, nearly every time. And the staff speaks American English, with a North Carolina flavor. Super polite. Extremely helpful. Friendly. while being professional.ALL OF THE ABOVE IS FREE (no additional charge) when you buy Drake Software. Some or most if not all of these items are either extra charges, if they are offered at all.If you don’t want to pay for the unlimited version that includes all of the above, there is a less expensive, pay-per-return version available. Slightly fewer extras included, but the same great software.And yes, the software is great. It’s fast and easy to use. In comparisons to other professional tax software programs, Drake Software is rated #1 for customer service, #1 for value received, and #1 for the highest percentage of returning customers (tax preparers who use it again and again).The company is privately owned. It was started by the Drake family of accountants in the 1970’s. The company is a pioneer in computerized tax preparation and in e-filing. I was told the first year of e-filing, there were 5 companies involved with the IRS. Only 2 remain: H&R Block and Drake Software. All other tax software companies either went out of business, merged, or have less experience as far as e-filing goes. This is not some corporate behemoth, maximizing shareholder value. This is an American company, employing Americans, family-owned, private company dedicated to maximizing their customers‡ value received.I have used Drake Software for 10 years. Is it perfect? No tax software is. Besides Drake Software, I have used:Intuit’s TurboTax (inexpensive but not professional software. To be fair, it’s not trying to be professional software. It’s not for professionals, i.e. those with more than a handful of clients.)Intuit’s ProSeries (slower, due to a lot of scrolling up and down for data entry.)Intuit’s Lacerte (expensive and a very high learning curve. Even with 20+ years of experience at the time, including learning other tax software without problems, Lacerte was the most difficult to learn.)Thomson Reuters‡ UltraTax (Non-intuitive interface, difficult to learn, expensive, and not terrific customer support, especially for smaller firms.)Wolters Kluwer’s ATX (I loved the interface because you enter data on an Excel representation of the tax forms themselves instead of data entry screens so that makes it easy to learn. Also, it was affordable. I used it for 8 years, but it was buggy and crashed on me too much.)But in my opinion, after 38 Tax Seasons, including 34 years of those using software to professionally prepare taxes for clients, Drake Software is better for the tax preparer, especially for those hanging out his/her own shingle…and it continues to be better…years later for most experienced tax preparers.If you find yourself getting into specific niches as you grow your firm, a different tax software may serve you well, including the ones I have used in the past. But starting out, Drake Software is as easy to learn and easy to use as any of them. It’s affordable. The company has been around longer than the rest (AFAIK). And, hands-down, it has the best support.Best advice no one can dispute: You should get trial versions of the software you can afford and are interested in purchasing. You can usually get prior (non-current) years to try. Can’t beat “try-free-before-you-buy.” And October-December is the great time as it is between Tax Seasons. Good luck?