SSA13 analysis: Tax and practice software

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The 2013 Software Satisfaction Awards confirmed that specialist tax and practice tools remain split between specialist tools and integrated suites. John Stokdyk takes a closer look at the results in the tax, accounts production and practice management categories.

While many accountants have embraced integrated software suites to manage in-house activities such as accounts production and tasks, these programs tend to be overshadowed in the Software Satisfaction Awards by smaller, “best of breed” applications.

The ratings across the three tax and practice categories in the SSA13 survey confirmed the existence of these two strands. While specialist applications tend to score more highly in the individual category ratings, many practice software users opt for the functional integration and convenience in dealing with a single supplier.

IRIS claimed 18-25% of the respondents across the three SSA13 tax and practice categories to confirm its leadership of the practice software market.

Sage’s samples were in the 7-17% bracket, CCH at 4-8% and Digita 3-8%. With the addition of TaxCalc, which now has a 2% foothold in accounts production and practice management to accompany its 11% of the tax sample, and a smattering of full-range PTP users, roughly 40% of our practitioner survey respondents use integrated tax and practice suites.

Register with AccountingWEB and log in to read the full analysis. In addition to highlighting the leading specialist applications across the three categories, this article identifies which of integrated suites has the strongest satisfaction ratings.

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About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and


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12th Nov 2013 11:20

very useful commentaries and stats

As a small practice moving up from Excel and separate products I would welcome a functionality comparison matrix for the integrated suites.

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12th Nov 2013 12:13


price comparisons would be useful as well !!

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By chatman
12th Nov 2013 23:54

Good luck getting prices out of Digita

yorkiehurst wrote:

price comparisons would be useful as well !!

Good luck getting prices out of Digita

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13th Nov 2013 11:51

Phone them

chatman wrote:

yorkiehurst wrote:

price comparisons would be useful as well !!

Good luck getting prices out of Digita

All you have to do is phone them.

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12th Nov 2013 12:21

From the small practice

We are a small practice and were unfortunate enough to move to a CCH small firm "bundle" some years ago (Central, Viztopia Accounts Production, Viztopia Practice Management, CCH Personal Tax and CorTax). It promised so much and has delivered so little except complications (for example we have to run a SQL server) and high levels of insoluble or niggling problems and now after recent licensing changes costs a great deal, much more than we expected so we are looking at options. From our researches with similar local firms we know, we are pointed wholeheartedly to VT for accounts production but thereafter it is far less clear cut. Indeed Forbes and PTP are regularly recommended for tax but I see no mention of either in your report. It seems Practice Management and Time and Billing are mostly paper and Excel at the micro end. In fact so far I have no recommendations to go on and am continuing our quest so any suggestions most welcome.

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13th Nov 2013 20:44

Small practice software reply reply to white suit


I run a small practice, just myself, my wife and father in law. Probably not as big as you, but I would suggest you look at the following:

VT final accounts is without doubt the final accounts software to go for. 

Digita for Personal Tax and Company tax. These products are so much better than others in my opinion. They cost more, but every year I look around, do some testing of other products and always return to Digita. 

If you use Outlook then have a look at Credenza. It is an outlook add in and costs around £17 per month. It automatically files e mails, ant creates a costing ledger for each client. I stumbled on it from an accounting web post and it works a treat. Gives you a prompt to record your time after constructing an e mail, will also record your time when composing an e mail. It is free to use if you don't use the costing and billing option. I did this first to get the hang of it.

Brightpay for payroll. No question here either. Have used it for many years now and not found anything better or a nicer company to deal with. Clients like this also.

Live drive for back up. A must given the recent cryptolocker virus. Live Drive is cloud based and is not a mapped drive so cryptolocker can't get to it (well, according to my it chap).

To be honest I don't know how long I will keep this set up. More and more clients are wanting cloud options for bookkeeping and payroll or options that work on apple, so I am looking at cloud suppliers but nothing has caught my eye yet. 

Hope that helps



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By chatman
13th Nov 2013 21:54

Digita? wrote:
Digita for Personal Tax and Company tax.

What makes you recommend recommend Digita over BTC?

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By Mallock
12th Nov 2013 14:33


I have been with IRIS for more years than I can remember and it works pretty well most of the time. I have few real complaints except for the cost.

The licences for up to about 100 clients are on the expensive side but are manageable but once you grow and add a few members of staff and have around 200 clients the costs they become exhorbitant. Once client numbers exceed about 300/350 the costs start to become manageable again with a disproportionately small increase for additional users and client numbers.

Unfortunately I find myself in the middle bracket at the moment and am looking at Digita and Tax Calc to reduce costs. I have spoken to a couple of other IRIS users and cost is becoming an issue.

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By squay
12th Nov 2013 15:07

Digita to TaxCalc

Congratulations to TaxCalc for coming top in the Integrated Suites Category even if there is no award this year! We are a small practice and had used Digita applications for up to 15 years plus. Over time these also became fully integrated. After a re-assessment of our software needs this summer we left Digita and opted for TaxCalc who we saw at Accountex launching their new integrated hub for tax and accounts production. Having used TaxCalc for three months now we are very happy that we made the move. The software is updated regularly and we saved a small fortune on costs when we moved. TaxCalc seem to be in tune with the needs of the smaller practice. 

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12th Nov 2013 15:15

Very interesting

Thank you for your work on this subject.

It would be good if you included some assessment of technical support in future surveys. I'm a user of Digita and I think their technical support is first class. Digita is also very good at arranging events so users can make suggestions and discuss future developments.

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By squay
12th Nov 2013 15:26


@Peter. I agree that Digita support is very good. They usually came up trumps when I had a problem. I cannot comment on TaxCalc support as I have only been a user for three months and not needed to call them

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12th Nov 2013 16:20

gap in the market

Personally I think there's a big gap in the market for a best of breed practice management and time/fees/billing software.  I think most of the sole practitioners here on AW are opting for best of breed, i.e BTC, VT and moneysoft, but as mentioned by @The White Suit it's mainly excel spreadsheets for practice management. 

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12th Nov 2013 17:41

Best of breed practice management

I think the main problem with best of breed practice management is getting it to communicate with other software.

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By beddj
12th Nov 2013 18:18

Software - Pros and cons

My primary expertise is in software development, for those who do not really understand the software business this may help.

Basically the key choice being made by you, the clients selecting a solution for their practice, is a choice between buying a package that has been written to cope with most situations and organisations like yours, (so that the software house can sell the single package to a larger potential client list), or buying a tailored, bespoke  solution written specifically for YOUR exact needs.

The implications are:

1) The package may not exactly meet your needs and how you operate, you will almost certainly have to accept some compromises and some things that don't quite meet your needs. 

2) The package will almost certainly be much more complex than you really need because it will include all sorts of things that others may need but you actually don't need. (To make it suitable for a larger number of potential clients.)

3) The package may well be a lower cost than a bespoke solution because of economies of scale. (but if your needs are small and simple a complicated package may ultimately cost you more.)

4) The package may well be a lower risk option, the two biggest risks in a bespoke solution being:

          i)   The skill of the client in defining exactly what they want their software to undertake; (ie what processes and what process controls do they need from a system, what reports and printouts do they wish to produce, how and when do they want to archive records, etc.)

          ii)  The skill, expertise and professionalism of the organisation producing the bespoke solution on your behalf.  (There are many developers without the skill and professional expertise to complete bespoke systems for you, though many people believe and claim that they can.)

5) The package can inhibit your ability to innovate and be different to your competitors.  If you are all using the same package you all have the same limitations and same potential benefits.  This restricts how you can operate in ways to be distinctive and unique.

6) The bespoke solution should meet your needs more effectively, and should be able to grow and adapt as your business grows and adapts.  (subject to your having a quality and reliable supplier.)  You can reduce the cost of the solution by only buying what you need when you need it and you and the staff can grow and learn as the system grows and becomes more complex.

7) Many clients choose to buy packages because they think this solution is instant.  This is a myth, in reality you really need to define and understand your needs and your processes thoroughly before selecting any solution. A high number of clients buying packages have not undertaken this step and consequently frequently select inappropriate solutions for their business.  Make a checklist and know what you absolutely must have, what is desirable and what is not needed at all.  This will also help you decide which of the available packages is right for you and which is not suitable.

8) With bespoke solutions you can shape and develop specific client services and delivery mechanisms that set you apart from the competition.  You can also link in and integrate with some of your other software packages and systems if desired.


Hope this list provides clarification and insight into the software selection process for you all. (For over twenty years my role was to help and advise the management of the Company where I worked undertake the process of choosing and using software solutions, so my advice had to be objective and impartial.)

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13th Nov 2013 22:18

VT Final Accounts and Outlook addins

When I was changing from Excel and Word for preparing final accounts I did look at VT but I didn't like it. Maybe it was just the look and feel. I then looked at Iris and Digita and went for Digita.

I've always been a bit careful with programs in case they are not going to be around in a few years time and I can't access data. This is why I keep a lot of my data as pdf, Excel, Word or Outlook files. I use an addin to transfer email messages from Outlook to Explorer with useful filenames. This keeps my pst file a lot smaller than it would be otherwise. The Digita data I have can be saved to Excel or Word.

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By chatman
13th Nov 2013 22:32

Outlook large pst files

petersaxton wrote:
I use an addin to transfer email messages from Outlook to Explorer with useful filenames. This keeps my pst file a lot smaller than it would be otherwise.

Good idea. Large pst files can get corrupted.

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14th Nov 2013 17:53

TaxCalc Prices


Here at TaxCalc we have been reading the recent technology articles and comments with interest; Accounting Web delivers Software providers such as ourselves with a great source of information.

Whilst this strays into a sales pitch I wanted to provide details regarding Taxcalc's price structure, since a request for this has been made. You can mix and match modules and types of tax returns depending on your client base to ensure you have the integrated suite you require at an affordable price - we haven’t increased our prices for over 3 years. All prices are available on our website, where you can also download a trial to use for 28 days.

All TaxCalc products include two concurrent users, no extra charge for a network licence, unlimited free UK-based support and free updates for the life of your licence and Practice Management is included at no extra cost. Further users are available at £50 + VAT.

Tax Return Production

Pro Suite                                      £400 + VAT (Unlimited SA100s, SA800s, CT600s)Pro                                               £300 + VAT (Unlimited SA100s, SA800s,)Unlimited Trust Returns (SA900s) can be included with either of the above for  £100 + VATPro Micro Practice                   £175 + VAT (12 SA100s, 5 SA800s, 5 CT600s)

 Accounts Production

Unlimited                                £499 + VAT (Unlimited clients)Small Practice                            £249 +VAT (50 clients)Micro Practice                           £99 + VAT (12 clients)


Please let us know if you would like further details, email [email protected] or call us on 0845 5190 883.

Kind Regards

Alex John

TaxCalc Product Manager

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