Review: TurboTax

Posted By: Dr. Frugal in Taxes on 08/22/2007 at 11:55:13

TurboTax is far-and-away the top-selling tax preparation software. How much market share do they command· When a glitch delayed some 2007 filers, the IRS caved and gave them an extra day to get it in. When you can make the IRS flexible you've got all the clout you need.

If you use any of Quicken's other financial software products, you'll find that TurboTax has a familiar feel. Even if you're new to Quicken products, TurboTax has taken a very stressful and complex issue and broken it down into small, manageable chunks that it won't overwhelm you. It saves on the worst part of doing your taxes--piles and piles of forms, worksheets, and instructions that you need a magnifying glass to read.

TurboTax comes in three versions, which handle returns of different complexity: 1040EZ (Basi

c), Deluxe, and Premier. You can get each version of the software as a CD to load onto your computer, download from their site, or access a web-based version that will automatically file for you.

Online vs. Desktop Version

The online and desktop versions are virtually identical with a few exceptions. The online versions of the software offer free e-filing that may be extra on desktop versions. On the other hand, the desktop versions of the Deluxe and Premier software include a free download of the state return software. State returns are extra in the online version.

The 1040EZ (Basic) version is for the simplest returns. The 1040EZ is the online version of the software, while the Basic is the desktop version. For returns that aren't too complicated, this version will zip you through the process in a hurry, whether you use the desktop or online version. This is obviously the lease expensive version, but don't pick it on price. If you need more help, choose of the more powerful options.

The Deluxe version, which has the same name for both the online and desktop package, is for the more complicated return. The Deluxe version includes a copy of It's Deductible, a guide for valuing charitable donations. This version probes you more deeply for deductions in medical care, education, and other areas that filers may overlook. The Deluxe version also includes video clips offering expert tax suggestions and easy access to authoritative IRS publications.

The Premier version offers all the benefits of the Deluxe plus assistance for people with investments, a sole-proprietorship business, or rental property. The Premier version of TurboTax is geared towards a moderately complicated return. Even if you don't have much invested in stocks and bonds, you may have a significant amount tied up in your retirement plan--either IRAs or your 401(k). The Premier version has some special features geared toward those situations, which may be helpful.

If you consider yourself "average" in most ways, TurboTax is probably right for you. When I used it a few years back for my sole proprietorship it missed a few things that my CPA caught but most people aren't running those or have a stack of 1099s. Think about it like this--if your taxes really (and I mean really) want to bang your head into a wall, TurboTax will be too weak for you. If your taxes only make you want to cry (or less), there is probably a version that is perfect for you.

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