We present the best six software for tax professionals of different sizes and clientele. Tax software is the core of a tax preparer’s business, and the best tax software for tax professionals includes preparing individual and business returns. The needs of tax preparers vary greatly based on their need for bookkeeping integrations, remote access, and budget.
The six best tax software for professionals are:
- ProSeries Professional: Best overall professional tax preparation software
- ProConnect Tax Online: Best for QuickBooks Online ProAdvisors
- Drake Tax: Best value in professional tax software
- Lacerte: Best software for complex returns such as consolidations
- CCH Axcess Tax: Best cloud-based software to manage the whole firm
- UltraTax CS: Best for certified public accountants (CPAs) utilizing CS Professional Suite for their tax and audit practice
Do-it-yourself (DIY) tax software: The tax software in this guide is for professional return preparers and is not suitable for individuals and businesses seeking to prepare their own return. For DIY tax software, see our guide to the best small business tax software.
ProSeries Professional: Best Overall Professional Tax Preparation Software
ProSeries Professional is a good fit for accountants looking for desktop software with a forms-based interface that can import account balances from QuickBooks Desktop. ProSeries offers four pricing tiers with a great option for small firms that prepare less than 200 returns per year or firms that focus almost exclusively on individual returns. ProSeries pricing starts at $539 per year plus $82 per return, including charges for both the federal and state returns.
Offers multiple packages to fit your needs
Pay per return pricing charges extra for a state return
Choose to enter data through forms or quick-entry sheets
No upfront pricing for some plans
Integrated billing clock
Multi-user access is an additional fee for most plans
ProSeries Professional Pricing
Our Expert Opinion
ProSeries Professional is reliable tax preparation software from Intuit. It can process almost any tax return, including Forms 1040, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 990, 706, and 709. However, it cannot prepare Form 5500 returns. The price is very reasonable, especially if you specialize in individual returns and purchase the 1040 Complete package. It has all the features you’d expect of modern tax software like e-file management, downloading tax forms from financial institutions, and K-1 data transfers between returns. There are a few complex functions that ProSeries cannot perform like consolidating subsidiary returns and oil and gas returns.
ProConnect Tax Online: Best Tax Software for QuickBooks Online ProAdvisors
If you are an avid user of QuickBooks Online, you’re probably going to like ProConnect Tax Online. ProConnect Tax Online is designed specifically to serve the tax preparation function for firms centered on QuickBooks Online Accountant. The programs integrate very tightly and can be managed from a single dashboard inside QuickBooks Online Accountant. ProConnect Tax is priced on a pay-per-return basis with no annual fee. QuickBooks Online ProAdvisors can try ProConnect for free and not pay until the return is filed.
Cloud-based system eliminates information technology (IT) headaches
Pay per return pricing is expensive for high-volume preparers
Manage tax returns from your QuickBooks Online dashboard
No options for unlimited returns
No annual license fee
Cannot customize client letters and invoices
ProSeries Professional Pricing
All users must pay per return on a sliding scale based on the total number of returns purchased.
Our Expert Opinion
ProConnect Tax is a great companion program for firms specializing in providing client services with QuickBooks Online. It’s powerful software that can prepare returns for forms 1040, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, 990, and 709. However, it can’t prepare form 5500 or form 706 returns. The biggest drawback to ProConnect is the lack of a plan for unlimited returns. If you’re a high-volume return preparer, you need to compare the cumulative per return cost to the price of some unlimited plans to see if the convenience of ProConnect is worth the potential extra cost.
Drake Tax: Best Value in Professional Tax Software
Drake Tax is not just a little bit cheaper than its competitors―it’s a fraction of the price. Yet, Drake provides very capable tax software and has been in business since 1977. All state programs are included, and you can prepare multiple state returns for a single business for no additional charge. While Drake is great software, it is desktop software that doesn’t have advanced integrations. Drake’s attractive price―$1,595 for their unlimited package―makes Drake a good fit for tax firms that prepare a large quantity of individual and business entity tax returns.
Prepare any income tax return: Forms 1040, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, and 990
No integrated tax research service
Pay Per Return package converts to Unlimited after 85 returns
No integrations with popular bookkeeping software
All 50 states included
Users report navigation between screens is not intuitive
Drake Tax Pricing
Our Expert Opinion
Drake Tax offers a great value for firms that want the ability to prepare any type of income tax return. It offers most of the same features as more expensive software, including client organizers, a tax planner, MFJ to MFS comparison, and multistate returns. The e-file center works like most professional software packages and includes an option to attach electronic client signatures, so there is no need to print out Form 8879 for your client to sign. Unlike some popular professional software, you cannot purchase Drake Tax bundled with a tax research service. Be sure to factor that into your decision if you’ll be needing access to tax research.
Lacerte: Best Software for Preparing Complicated Tax Returns
Lacerte is Intuit’s high-end tax preparation software to prepare the most complicated tax returns, such as consolidated returns and returns for oil and gas companies. Lacerte can import balances from QuickBooks Desktop and integrates with Intuit Practice Management. Pricing for Lacerte is only available by speaking with a sales representative.
Consolidate subsidiary tax returns
No forms based data entry
Complete complex oil and gas returns
No integrated billing clock
High-end software that provides a pay-per-return option
No upfront pricing
Lacerte Tax Pricing
Lacerte Tax does not provide pricing information without speaking to a sales representative. The company offers three plans:
Our Expert Opinion
Lacerte tax is quality tax preparation software that is right for any size firm that prepares complicated tax returns on a regular basis. Lacerte is expensive, but with complicated returns, you should be able to recoup the cost through client fees. With Lacerte, you can prepare all individual and business returns, including forms 1040, 1120, 1120S, 1065, 1041, and 990. It can also prepare gift and estate tax returns, forms 709 and 706 as well as Form 5500 benefit plan returns. Lacerte includes time-saving features like importing forms from financial institutions, importing capital gain/loss transactions from a spreadsheet, and a QuickBooks Accountant Desktop Integration.
CCH Axcess Tax: Best Cloud-based Software to Manage the Whole Firm
CCH Axcess Tax is one module of the CCH Axcess cloud-based firm management software. It’s good for small to midsized accounting firms that are looking for more than just tax preparation software and prefer cloud-based applications. CCH Axcess Tax integrates with CCH Intelliconnect, a leading tax research service to provide in-program links to relevant tax authority and analysis. You must speak with a sales representative for pricing information.
Cloud-based system eliminates IT headaches
No pricing available without speaking to a sales representative
In-program links to CCH Intelliconnect research service
Many features require add-ons for an additional cost
Integrates with other CCH Axcess modules for cloud-based firm management
Cannot import data from QuickBooks files
CCH Axcess Tax Pricing
No pricing or information regarding available packages is available on their website. You’ll need to speak to a sales representative for more information.
Our Expert Opinion
While it’s disappointing that their website doesn’t provide more feature information, being from CCH and Wolters Kluwer, I have confidence that the program will include all the standard features you need to prepare almost any return. Despite the lack of details, CCH Axcess Tax made our list because of its integration with other CCH Axcess modules for cloud-based management for your entire firm. Another outstanding feature is the ability to link to CCH Intelliconnect without leaving the tax preparation program.
UltraTax CS: Best Tax Software for CPAs Using CS Professional Suite
The biggest advantage of UltraTax CS is that it is part of Thomson Reuters’ CS Professional Suite, which is an integrated system of more than 15 programs that can be used to manage your firm’s accounting and auditing practice, payroll solutions, workflow management, and client portal. If your firm is growing and in need of an integrated management solution, UltraTax CS, as part of the CS Professional Suite, might be a good fit for you.
Integrates with CS Professional Suite for client and firm management
No upfront pricing for over 100 returns
View program and forms on up to four monitors
No pay-per-return package for very small practices
File any type of business or individual return with the custom priced package
Allowing clients to sign Form 8879 electronically requires an extra fee
UltraTax CS Pricing
Our Expert Opinion
UltraTax CS is a high-end professional tax program from Thomson Reuters. It’s incredibly powerful and will certainly save some time compared to less-expensive programs when you get to complicated areas like multistate and consolidated returns. The downside is that it is expensive. While it does have a moderately priced option for up to 100 returns, it only allows a single user and 25 business returns.
How We Evaluated Tax Software for Tax Preparers
We considered the needs of tax professionals who prepare individual and business tax returns when evaluating the best tax software for tax preparers. The price of the software is a primary concern as are the features the tax software has, such as importing data, integrating with client portals, and sending out returns and invoices for e-signature and e-payment.
Based on the needs of bookkeepers, accountants, and tax professionals, the criteria we used to evaluate the best tax software for professionals include:
- Pricing: How much the tax software costs, including annual fees and the amount you’ll need to pay, if any, per tax return.
- Features: The software should include all the features expected of modern software, including e-file management, easy data input, integration among all tax forms, and integration among federal and state returns.
- Ease of use: How efficient keying data into worksheets is, and how easy it is to review the tax forms.
- Data import and accounting software integration: Whether the tax software can automate some of the data entry, including importing data from QuickBooks or Excel, extracting data from source documents using scan-and-fill technology, and downloading clients’ tax data directly from financial institutions.
- Practice management integration: Whether the tax software integrates with practice management software.
- Electronic file sharing and client portal integration: Whether the tax software helps gather information from and send completed tax returns to clients digitally, including printing returns to a client portal, or have clients fill out a digital organizer and upload their documents.
- Electronic signatures: Whether the tax software can collect digital signatures for e-filing.
You should choose software that provides a pricing option that fits the number and types of tax returns you prepare. However, you must also consider your need to prepare complex returns and the time you could save with bookkeeping software and practice management integrations.