Intuit has announced the release of its latest new product, Intuit Tax Advisor, which is aimed at professionals moving from a practice focused on compliance to a practice focused on advice.
The online product helps accountants develop specific tax plans for their clients. Head of software development, Shekinah Cravens, senior product manager at Intuit, said the product reflects the industry’s move towards client advisory services. Today’s tax practitioner, she said, is not looking for one-off compliance engagements, but strategic partnerships with clients where advice can be provided year-round.
This is the theory behind how ITA works: once a user has logged into the web service, they select a client to work with and set their basic starting information, such as W2 or 1099 or rental income. This information is then processed into a library of tax strategies (Cravens said he currently has 27 strategies and plan to add more over time) and the program produces “information” about the client. This could indicate, for example, that someone has maxed out their 401(k) contributions and should therefore back off, or that they could bear putting more into their health savings account.
The program allows for the creation of custom strategies, which Cravens said was intended to give accountants more flexibility. The ITA also allows strategies to be turned on or off, which it says was done to make scenario planning easier, saying accountants generally want to know what something would look like with or without a particular strategy.
After then reviewing the overall strategy for the client, the program ultimately produces two reports. One is a shorter proposal outlining the plan and how much money the client could save, which Cravens said would be used to introduce the client to consulting services. The other is a more detailed and granular report that explains the strategy in depth, which is intended to be given to the client once the engagement has begun.
Craven pointed out that the reports, with their simple presentation of information, are part of an effort to keep the customer as well as the accountant top of mind when it comes to product features. She also added that the product was designed to be scalable, noting that many tax practices are just getting started with client advisory services. In interviews with tax professionals, she said, Intuit has observed that in many firms only the principal owner of the firm performs advisory work while everyone else does consultancy work. compliance. With automation features removing much of the consulting work, she said such engagements can be done by many more people, expanding the company’s ability to offer consulting services.
“We kept that in mind, so you’ll notice that with our product, the focus has been on automating the entire workflow. Our goal has been to standardize different strategies, drive estimated tax savings and to ensure that communications with the customer are simple and secure. [the client] knows what to do,” she said.
Craven admitted that Intuit “didn’t really have any advice in its area”, but it “is now really focused on tax advice”. She said, however, that in the long term, the company plans to focus more on software that supports general consulting work, and this new product reflects that shift.
“I would say Intuit will go after that…. We’re focused on automating compliance work, but also moving the industry towards consulting, and we think those two steps go hand in hand. Once as you automate compliance work, the next thing accountants will need are tools to help them share advice with their clients,” she said.
Craven said that – while the product shares a design aesthetic with other Intuit products and was built using the company’s own design library – the program, along with the strategies and automations of workflows it contains, were built from the ground up.
“I would say it was a combination of both. We were able to leverage Intuit’s strengths and expertise to bring this product to life, but we also had to create a lot of this content from scratch. “, she said.
The ITA, which ran for two years, covers federal taxes and state taxes for the primary state of residence. It also integrates with Lacerte and ProConnect Tax. Pricing is based on customer credits; one purchased credit equals one customer, for which the accountant can generate an unlimited number of tax plans in a calendar year.