Cloud Vertical

Transitioning our firm to cloud-based tax software

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For the last three tax seasons, Fox Alliance has used Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax as our primary tax software solution. Despite a small fraction of our offices continuing to operate using a separate tax software for longstanding legacy clients, we have an active transition plan designed to make ProConnect our sole tax software by the culmination of tax year 2023.

Prior to our shift to ProConnect, our firm relied on various desktop software solutions that served us adequately. However, they fell short of fulfilling our broader expectations that we felt could be leveraged from a comprehensive tax software solution. The majority of our tax professionals primarily operate using laptops, and have adapted to working remotely for a substantial part of the year. This setup emphasizes the need for software that’s capable of handling our firm’s needs, but also flexible, enabling accessibility regardless of the location or the office. We needed a software solution that could keep up with us, providing the power to manage our tasks effectively—and, at the same time, adapt to the ever-evolving demands of our remote work setup. ProConnect Tax, with its native-cloud functionalities, has been a step in the right direction.

Scaling for growth

With our primary offices in Austin and San Antonio, we have 15 on staff, which can vary depending on the time of the year. Our range of tax services include preparing personal, partnership, and corporate returns, as well as estate, trust, and gift tax returns. While we serve a diverse client base, our focus revolves around individuals and small businesses. We handle an array of state and business returns, typically involving multiple partners and shareholders. In addition to tax prep, we offer comprehensive bookkeeping, payroll, advisory services, and tax planning solutions.

We encountered numerous challenges when it came to streamlining software across multiple offices, including the following:

  • The acquisition of various offices within a short span resulted in each location using different tax software and employing different processes for client document storage.
  • Legacy servers in each office limited file access to their respective locations.
  • We had a combination of Macs and PCs, so there was often a compatibility issue across different locations and users.
  • The existence of various tax preparation software led to inefficiencies in staffing, data management, and pricing, because we had to allocate resources to manage multiple software systems.

We experimented with various software and hosting solutions to try and get every office and staff on the same software so that we could better manage the multiple offices. At one point, I was using a PC for one office, a Mac computer for another, and a hosted solution on my PC, just to have access to everything.

Hosted solutions were not the answer

Remote connectivity proved to be a major obstacle with hosted solutions. Frequently, we would encounter delays connecting to the desktop software. The software would often require updates at inconvenient times, or there would be a cumbersome installation and access process for every new user. Some of these solutions could take up to 5-10 minutes to login and connect each time, which quickly accumulates over a tax season when you’re prepping multiple returns. Updates that could take up to one hour to fully install were often required, preventing returns from being filed—and then everything had to be restarted to implement the changes. These issues not only slowed down our workflow, but also resulted in frustrating situations where team members would be unable to access or work on tax returns for hours at a time, due to technical issues.

Whether using a hosted solution or connecting to a local server, we frequently encountered a cumbersome process to locate locally stored files, often navigating through multiple steps, such as making copies of the files and opening them within the program. One specific software exacerbated this issue by necessitating the manual repetition of these steps for each return in the subsequent season. Furthermore, it enforced a requirement for users to log out of the file successfully before allowing access to a different user, rather than enabling simultaneous access. In addition, all the desktop solutions we had required manual saving, posing a risk of work loss. This issue was particularly detrimental when working through a hosted environment prone to frequent connection losses.

Obtaining timely assistance proved to be another source of frustration when it came to customer support. We often had to call a support number, endure lengthy hold times, and hope to find someone capable of understanding and addressing our concerns. There would also be different support lines for hosting issues vs. actual software issues, further creating additional down time. The programs were notably slow in implementing feedback and changes. We would frequently reach out to the developers to suggest improvements for the software, but rarely received a response, let alone any actual changes. The programs remained stagnant in terms of development updates.

Along with efficiency, our old process was not very cost effective—some software offered a limited number of states free of charge, while charging per state for additional ones. Given our diverse clientele across multiple states, the seemingly reasonable pricing per return could quickly increase to two or three times the initial estimated cost. It would be difficult to gauge what our costs would be until the tax season was over.

Choosing ProConnect Tax

We eventually reached a breaking point, and were determined to find a solution that offered a seamless experience with 24/7 access. The primary driver behind our decision to go with ProConnect Tax was the desire for a hassle-free experience, as well as the following reasons:

  • We wanted a solution that eliminated the need for constant updates and concerns about file synchronization among team members.
  • We wanted something that would allow us to view the status of all returns across multiple offices and allow us to resource accordingly.
  • Consolidating our systems into the cloud offered the promise of improved operational and user efficiencies, which we hoped would outweigh any potential increase in cost per return.
  • While cost was a legitimate concern, we recognized that our current solutions were causing significant inefficiencies. We were willing to take a chance and embrace the pricing structure of cloud-native software.
  • The opportunity to maximize our time during tax season and eliminate the burden of managing a hosted solution or dealing with limitations became our top priority.

By transitioning to cloud-native software, we aimed to achieve a seamless and worry-free tax prep process that allowed our team to focus on providing a high-quality service. We wanted a solution that would allow us to focus on our core tasks without the added complexities and distractions of technical issues. With our sights set on maximizing efficiency and productivity, we were optimistic that the cloud-based software could provide the best solution.

Transition and learning

While there is always a transition period when setting up with a new software, we found the transition to be relatively straightforward. ProConnect Tax had an individual solely dedicated to helping us transition all of our client files from other tax software. We had several thousand files to migrate over, a process that was entirely hands-off on our end and took just over a day to seamlessly integrate everything into ProConnect Tax.

While learning a new software can often take some time to adjust, especially as a whole firm, we were surprised how quickly Fox Alliance was able to adapt to ProConnect Tax. Our team immediately found the accessibility and interface to be a huge plus. As a Mac user, I could have a specific tax return pulled up within 15 seconds after logging into my computer. While the layout of the data input can look different from other software, our team found it easy to navigate and very user friendly.

It was refreshing to experience a software that didn’t feel as if you were working on something that hadn’t been updated in 10+ years. During the demanding hours of tax season, it’s important to me to work with a product that isn’t monotonous or uninspiring. I realize that each tax pro has their own unique approach and preferences in preparing a return or viewing displayed items. However, the layout and depiction of ProConnect Tax has always intuitively aligned with my understanding of how things flow into the return, which I find particularly valuable when preparing a return.

Tax advisory is now possible

As a firm, we focus on planning and advisory services, and for the past few years, we used various third-party software, but the biggest constraint with all of them was getting the client information into the software. This would either involve manually entering return information, or using a scanning tool that would leave out plenty of information and still require a review and further entry.

While still in the early stages, Intuit Accountants has implemented Intuit Tax Advisor, a new planning tool that integrates directly with ProConnect Tax. Our team can quickly build out a tax plan using the information already populated from the tax return, rather than having to re-enter everything in another software. The tool itself has come a long way in the level of strategies in just the short time it’s been available.

The Intuit ecosystem is a plus

Customer support is a crucial aspect of any tax software, so the availability of helpful, efficient support can greatly impact the user experience. With ProConnect Tax, we found the customer chat feature to be particularly beneficial. Instead of enduring lengthy hold times on the phone, we could simply initiate a chat and connect to a support specialist who could assist us while accessing the return in real time. This allowed for quicker resolution, along with the extended hours and weekend support during busy times.

Another added benefit has been the integration with QuickBooks® Online to automatically populate a client’s books into the tax return. While we do not currently map all of our clients, the Books to Tax Feature saves a lot of time for simpler business returns with clean books. In fact, we can often prepare a business return in just a few minutes once the mapping is set up properly in the initial year.

While ProConnect Tax has improved efficiencies in numerous ways, we have identified a few limitations with the software. However, the development team has been receptive to our feedback and made efforts to address these issues, leading to noticeable improvements each year—something we hadn’t experienced with prior software. For example, we encountered difficulties with returns being edited after they were filed, because there was no easy way to lock the return and prevent further modifications. However, Intuit has since taken our feedback into consideration and implemented a locking feature with the most recent tax season. They also provided the option to restrict access, depending on the team member’s access level.

One of the main constraints we faced was the lack of a convenient method for mass e-filing, particularly for extensions. This was time-consuming and cumbersome to individually select and process thousands of returns for extension or e-filing. However, an update to allow for batch extension filing is now available, which we plan to test very soon.

In addition, we work with many businesses that have multiple partners or shareholders, and had to manually print each individual K1—a time-consuming process. ProConnect has since introduced partner and shareholder packages that allow for the easy separation of K1s for each specific member, streamlining this process.

Ease and access are key to our success

The transition to cloud-native tax software has brought significant improvements to our firm’s operational efficiency and user experience. The accessibility, interface, and user-friendly nature of ProConnect Tax streamlined our workflows and reduced the frustrations associated with outdated desktop software. We have valued the ease in which we can access the software, regardless of a team members’ location, the ongoing improvements that are being continually made, and the ecosystem’s integrations with accounting and planning software. With ProConnect Tax, we have cloud-native solution that enhances our firm’s productivity.

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