Pitbull vs Canopy: Battle of the Tax Resolution Software Titans

“Should I use Pitbull or Canopy?”

“What’s the best tax resolution software?”

…and other variations on this same question have become the #1 thing I get asked on the “Ask Me Anything” webinars that I occasionally host.

Since it’s a question that inevitably turns into a 15-20 minute conversation about features, pricing, and user interfaces, I’ve decided to create this page to have a place to send all the folks that ask the question. So if I sent you here because you asked the question, please don’t be offended — I’ve simply gotten tired of repeating myself over and over and over and…

To cut straight to the chase…

1). There are only four full-service tax resolution software programs that I’m aware of. One of them is really old and archaic, one of them is too new and behind the 8-ball. That leaves Pitbull and Canopy.

2). What about Audit Detective from Tax Help Software? Yes, it’s a great tool — I used it myself when I was in practice. If you want a stand-alone transcript analysis tool without all the other features of a full-service tax resolution software package, then by all means get Audit Detective and don’t even bother looking elsewhere. But if you want a full package suite, that’s not what they do.

3). Don’t be a cheapskate on this. The price difference between Pitbull and Canopy is insignificant. Both platforms offer the exact same core features, such as client portal, document management, 433 questionnaire, resolution options determination, etc. They both offer additional features for additional fees. How they break out those features and fees is very different. For example, transcript service is included at no cost with Canopy, but Pitbull charges an extra $250/yr for it. They also both charge extra for practice management features, such as time tracking, billing, payment processing, etc. With Pitbull, you’re going to be in about $1500 per year for a single user license for the important stuff, at Canopy it’s $2000. You should ambivalent about that $500 difference, as one tax resolution case pays for your entire year of software.

4). In terms of overall features, there’s very little difference between what the two platforms actually do, which is the important part. Some people will argue that Pitbull’s fee quote generator pushes that platform in their favor, but hold the phone. I have long held strong opinions regarding how the big, national fly-by-night tax resolution companies quote fees. I have serious ethical concerns with their methodology. Unfortunately, Pitbull uses a very similar methodology to make their fee suggestions on client cases. As such, I cannot recommend using their fee quote tool. The rest of their platform is great, but the fee tool is an absolute no-go, in my personal opinion.

5). User interface. This right here is the one, single criteria that the vast majority of users will make their decision on. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Every single person I speak to about why they’ve chosen Canopy or Pitbull over the other tells me that it comes down to the user interface. Among Tax Marketing HQ Diamond and Gold members, they are literally split 50/50 between their preference of UI/UX. Pitbull has historically lagged in this department, since it’s an older software platform. However, they’ve recently made some design modernization changes, so the gap has narrowed. Some users will prefer the workflow, form layout, and navigation structure of Pitbull, and others will much prefer the design aesthetic and workflow of Canopy. If you like modern “flat” design, common in many Web 3.0 sites, or prefer the Mac OS X environment, then you’ll probably prefer Canopy. If you prefer a slightly older, Windows XP/7-style look and feel, more like Web 2.0, then you’ll probably prefer Pitbull. Maybe. Gross over-generalizations.

Many moons ago, I programmed my own tax resolution case work management system from scratch, before current commercial solutions even existed. I preferred it over Pitbull even after they came along, and continued using my in-house solution. It wasn’t until Beanstalk, which later became Canopy, came along that I became a fan of something else. I provided some early advice to the founder of Canopy regarding what the software should include (primarily encouraging him to build out the 433-B/941 resolution side of the software), and helped them acquire their earliest customers, that’s how much I liked the platform.

Please note that I have no ownership interest in any of the companies mentioned here, and nobody has paid any money to be mentioned here. These are my own opinions, and I have long remained staunchly independent of formal vendor relationships specifically so I can speak my mind. My only financial relationship with Canopy is that they exhibit at some of my CPE seminars (and that opportunity is open to all vendors).

So there you have it. That’s my take on Canopy vs Pitbull. Since both companies keep up with each other on features, it’s not really about that. Nearly everybody makes their decision based on workflow, look, and feel. So my advice is to take BOTH of them for a free trial, and make your decision based on your preference for one UI/UX over the other.