San Francisco marked leap day with a return to wintry gloom and investors abuzz about relatively exuberant recent stock market performance. Amid the excitement about a rumored impending iPad launch and divergent opinions about Windows 8, Intuit CEO Brad Smith participated in the Morgan Stanley tech, media and telecom conference, chatting with software analyst Adam Holt.
Smith noted that TurboTax is performing well so far this season, taking share online. The software category continues to outpace other methods, and Intuit uses an ever-improving product experience and new features, such as Free Tax Advice, to take share within the category.
Free Tax Advice enables TurboTax users to chat with CPAs, tax lawyers, and enrolled agents, who answer questions about their returns. Intuit’s research has shown there are tens of millions of taxpayers who don’t use software but would if they just had a little help. The idea is to get new tax filers and those using other methods to try TurboTax—and complete their returns, thanks to the confidence boost provided by helpful pros.
Intuit’s mobile tax applications, SnapTax and TurboTax for iPad, have garnered great feedback from users this tax season. SnapTax enables taxpayers to take a picture of their W-2 and complete a 1040-EZ return in a few simple steps on their smartphone, and has earned 5 out of 5 stars in Apple’s app store. And heading into earnings on Feb. 21, TurboTax edged out the Smurfs’ Village game as the highest-grossing iPad app.
Holt and Smith also talked small business, where Intuit’s momentum continued to build in the first half of fiscal 2012, to the tune of 11 percent revenue growth and ongoing margin expansion. Smith noted the small business environment is “starting to thaw, but it’s a slow melt.”
Intuit’s online payroll customers are showing annualized employment growth of about 3 percent, and charge volume flowing through Intuit’s payments business is growing. But small businesses still have a big hole to fill coming out of the downturn. Should the economy, and the small business growth engine, continue to improve, Intuit stands to benefit.
Smith always brings the conversation back to non-consumption—small businesses managing their businesses manually or on spreadsheet—as the company’s biggest opportunity. With only 5 million unique small business customers out of 29 million small businesses in the U.S., Intuit has plenty of room to grow regardless of the macroeconomic backdrop.
And that’s something that would make a Smurf smile.