Admit it, you hate doing your taxes every year. The only thing worse -- at least for the small business owners among you -- is keeping up with the books year round. Fortunately, since the advent of the personal computer, we have had accounting software to make these absurdly mundane tasks just a little bit easier. Enter Intuit Corp. (NASDAQ:INTU), creator and publisher of Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax. These products are practically indispensable today, and this simple fact makes Intuit Corp. a fantastic buy for Foolish investors. Here are the details.

Products, history, and competition

Founded in 1983 by Scott Cook and programmer Tom Proulx, Intuit's mission was to disrupt the paper and pencil accounting processes of corporate America and mom-and pop small businesses alike. Intuit eventually branched out into, you guessed it, tax software as well. Throughout the years, and thanks to its dominant franchises, Intuit has attracted fierce competition, particularly from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) which had originally attempted to buy Intuit in 1994. The buyout fell through, and Microsoft unleashed a bevy of competing products under the Microsoft Money umbrella. Fortunately for Intuit shareholders these attempts were quashed, and Intuit stands as the market leader in this huge and extremely profitable market.


Image source: Getty Images.

A quick Google search for "Best Small Business Accounting Software" or "Best Tax Software" yields an unsurprising result: a plethora of Intuit products ranking as the top options for tax payers and small business owners to get their accounting tasks done as painlessly as possible.

The major competitors to Intuit in these spheres, particularly on the tax side, are the tax preparation companies like now-bankrupt Jackson Hewitt and H&R Block (NYSE:HRB). This should not be surprising: according to an industry report by "The vast majority of tax preparers are small businesses -- 37% are run by a single person, while 53% employ less than ten people. There were plenty of tax returns to go around -- the IRS estimates that there will be over 250 million filed by 2018." That is a big market for millions of customers that need help quickly and cost effectively getting their taxes done.

Fortunately for INTU shareholders, Intuit's products are by far the market leaders. For example, as noted by Ben Steverman of Bloomberg in February of this year, "TurboTax, already the dominant player in online tax filing, has boosted customers by 9 percent through Feb. 20 compared with the same period a year ago..."

Intuit's strategy in this market, and the reason it continues to take away customers from human tax preparers and competitors alike, is to offer the product for free -- at least at first. As Bloomberg noted in their article: "In reality, most TurboTax customers pay far more than zero. Filing is free only for those using 1040EZ and 1040A forms (Their state returns are free, too). The offer is designed to bring in young taxpayers and get them hooked before their tax situations get more complicated. The free customer now turns into a paying customer later, or so the thinking goes."

Lastly, in an increasingly cloud-based world, INTU continues to make strides. For years now, the company has been laser focused on expanding its QuickBooks Online (QBO) subscriber base. To that end, nearly 100,000 QBO customers were added in the January quarter, 80% of which were new to the Intuit franchise. It's tough to imagine these customers going anywhere else once they've been brought into the Intuit fold.

All in all, these strategies are proving to be particularly dynamic, as Intuit's top and bottom line continue to grow.

Show me the money

Not only does Intuit generate exceptional returns on equity (averaging 24.12% over the last 5 years), but it continues to pull ahead of the competition -- with predictable effects on its forward estimates from analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ:

Intuit Corp. Estimates:


FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

FY 2019

FY 2020

Normalized EPS







$4.67 billion

$5.088 billion

$5.54 billion

$6.28 billion

$6.9 billion


$1.7 billion

$1.97 billion

$2.25 billion

$2.59 billion

$2.9 billion

Intuit is expected to grow earnings per share at a 20% clip through the end of the decade, as revenues expand over 47%. While the company currently trades for 30x forward earnings, should it make good on these projections, it's not hard to imagine shareholders doing quite well in the years ahead.

Foolish takeaway

A dominant franchise in the financial software world is tough to come by. Intuit has succeeded where so many have failed, and it continues to expand its offerings under its "Absolute Zero" simple tax return banner -- an initiative that will yield millions of new paying customers in the years ahead as they move up the income ladder and their returns become increasingly complex. Intuit is the dominant player in its industry, and has a long runway of growth ahead of it as it continues to take business away from the old guard of accountants and tax preparers. For all of these reasons Intuit, as a true market disruptor, is almost certainly worthy of consideration by Foolish investors. 

Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Intuit. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.