PLANO -- Intuit, the company behind TurboTax, has become famous for its do-it-yourself tax software where you answer the questions and the program fills out the complicated forms.
The National Retail Federation estimated in 2013 that more than one-in-three taxpayers planned to file their taxes using some brand of at-home software. But a slightly greater percentage of Americans planned to turn to a professional.
That gave a potential edge to some TurboTax competitors, like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, because they, too, have software for people who want to go it alone; but they also have physical locations where people can seek a professional preparer.
But Turbo Tax may have found a way to one-up them.
“There are lots of little details we learned, but at the end of the day, the biggest thing we learned is that there is a market out there for this,” said Intuit Product Manager Jorge Olavarrieta at the company’s Plano campus.
He’s referring to a service first rolled out in 2013 called TurboTax CPA Select. Basically, Intuit has vetted some local accountants and linked to them online so taxpayers can read up on them, choose one, and negotiate a rate via e-mail.
And then, “digitally transfer information back and forth," Olavarrieta said.
You never meet the preparer face-to-face. You never have to idle in their office either.
They prepare your return remotely with the help of uploads and e-mails using a professional version of TurboTax. Olavarrieta believes it will make tax filing easier, faster, and maybe less of a chore.
But there could be an even greater revolution in the works.
He said that a lot of attention is now being poured into software and apps that would work in the background to keep out tax-related paperwork in order year round, perhaps eventually eliminating those embarrassing shoeboxes and overstuffed folders that we use to "organize" all of our receipts and tax documents.
“That’s one of the opportunities we are looking into -- how do we make people stay more organized throughout the year?” Olavarrieta said.