ROSEMONT, Ill. – CCH and Intuit signaled their plans for broad Internet-product suites at the Midwest Accounting and Finance Showcase, suites that won’t quickly replace desktop-based software, but that represent the vendors’ development path over the next few years.

CCH delivered the most specific plans which include an October launch of SaaS-versions of ProSystem fx Tax, Document and Practice applications that will be tied together by a common database that will let them share information to eliminate the need to re-enter data, such as client contact information, into each application.

Mike Sabbatis
Despite these plans, CCH president Michael Sabbatis promised that “We see the present applications as a must-do for existing customers.” Sabbatis also applied a term to the CCH platform that Intuit has often applied to its strategy which is to offer disruptive technology, products that change the competitive landscape by offering important new features at competitive prices. These applications follow CCH's introduction of its IntelliConnect platform. Sabbatis said the company has already migrated 80,000 users to IntelliConnect.

Meanwhile, Intuit gave a more indirect hint at its plans at the show, which is sponsored by the Illinois CPA Society, with the announcement of its Intuit ProLine Tax, an online tax preparation package, following on the roll out of its Intuit ProLine Research product, based on BNA research tools. Intuit ProLine represents an important new brand that will be the Internet brand, while Intuit maintains its Lacerte and ProSeries desktop software.

“It’s not Lacerte Online or Pro Series Online," said Jill Ward, Intuit's senior vice president and general manager of the Accounting Professionals division.

Intuit will have a limited online tax product this year. It beta-tested the 2008 tax year software during this year’s tax season with about 125 preparers filing returns via the ProLine system, which is now available for filing extension returns with California and Arizona the only 1040 states available. For the 2009 tax year, the company will offer 1040 returns, with no plans for business tax, and it hopes to have all 1040 states ready for the next tax season.

Intuit did not announce products other than the tax and research applications, but tax product manager Jorge Olavarrieta indicated that Intuit is beta-testing document management and practice management products that might fit into a broader product line. As Intuit CEO Brad Smith has said he wants Intuit to known as something more than the company that makes QuickBooks, it seems likely the Intuit Proline brand will be extended across a number of products that are being readied, but are not yet announced. Jill Ward

CCH has also announced its ProSystem fx Portal, which provides a location for accountants to post clients' documents. The company is offering a Basic Edition for those want to save 1040 and other core documents and the Premier Edition for a much larger amount of storage, multiple clients and secure client areas.

With ProLine Tax, Intuit has redesigned some basic approaches to applications. For one, the tax application features a single input screen. Olavarrieta said that there is no need for input screen in different parts of the application, and therefore no need for typical navigation features.

“There is one input screen for everything in a tax return,” he commented. The system also ends the difference between clients and returns. Rather than having to create multiple clients for returns for the same individual, all returns would be placed in one client file.

Intuit has not yet established pricing, although there will be per-return and per transaction pricing. That’s consistent with the ProLine Research product, which is embedded in both the Lacerte and ProSeries applications. While the research product has an $849 annual subscription price, it also has a $19.95 pay-per-use pricing. Ward explained that if a tax professional searched for answers on an issue, the person would receive a summary of answers found and would pay once a particular answer was selected.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
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