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Software Review of:
TurboTax
Deluxe

 

Clarke Bird did not complete his 2001 tax return when writing this review as he had not received some income information prior to the March issue deadline. You can be sure it will be filed electronically and a Shiner Bock will be opened to celebrate the occasion sometime early in March.

From the March, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

According to a current H&R Block TV commercial, over 440 tax law changes were enacted for the 2001 tax year. Show me someone who enjoys doing their taxes and I’ll show you someone that does income tax returns for a living.

After having my taxes prepared commercially for several years, I opted to try TurboTax Deluxe to complete this years tax forms. I am retired, married (she reminds me of my martial status frequently), children are grown, own our home, and we have a few investments so filing my taxes are relatively not complicated.

TurboTax comes in two versions, TurboTax Basic (see review on page 44) and TurboTax Deluxe. The perks you get with TurboTax Deluxe are one free state tax download (not much benefit here in Texas) or choose to have Intuit ship it to you — reportedly a $29.95 value, one free Federal electronic filing (a $12.95 value) and several in-program videos to choose from to answer certain tax situations. New to TurboTax Deluxe is Tax Law Advisor which shows the user how the new tax laws will affect your tax situation for tax year 2001 and in future years. As I prepared my return, the Tax Law Advisor would pop up at various places in my return, telling me of current savings under the new laws and to offer tax strategies on future tax returns.

A sample of the video clips in the Deluxe version that would pop up to explain a section of the return where I was working were:

  • Tax Law Changes
  • Dependents - who qualifies?
  • Importing data from Financial Institutions (When you are ready to enter your wage information, the program will determine whether or not your employer, stock broker, and mortgage company participates in the Instant Data entry program. If they do, you can download your W-2 or 1099 wage information directly into TurboTax.)
Installation
 In previous years, TurboTax for the current tax year would be late appearing on dealers shelves, awaiting the latest tax changes, etc. Now, when you install TurboTax, a window pops open asking you if you want to update TurboTax with the latest tax changes and program enhancements, ensuring that you have the very latest tax changes. After updating the program, I printed out the changes which took three pages to list all the detail of the changes/updates.

During installation, I was asked if I wanted to install AOL as my Internet browser. I clicked no — only to find an AOL icon on my desktop after TurboTax was installed. 

Message to Intuit:  sneaky actions like that is poor business practice.

Intuit has craftily tied several of their products to work seamlessly together. For instance, if you use Quicken or QuickBooks, you can easily load various parts of TurboTax with data residing in Quicken without having to rekey any data. This import feature has been improved this year by importing selected data step by step as you prepare your tax form. You will need to assign a tax form and line in your Quicken/QuickBooks data for the information to transfer successfully to the right location on your tax form.

Similarly, if you used TurboTax (or even TaxCut) to prepare your taxes in the previous tax year, this years version will automatically pick up information from last years tax return and insert it in the appropriate places in this years tax form. You select the button “Transfer from last year” and all the needed information will be transferred. I clicked the button “Skip transfer.”

To help with problem returns, Intuit’s Website has a link to TurboTax.com to get answers to tax questions and has “tax slashing tools” to analyze your tax situation and offer tips to minimize your taxes. Plus, for a fee, there is “Live Tax Advisor” where tax professionals will answer your tax questions via phone or e-mail. You can even have a professional review your return before you file. I didn’t determine what fees are charged for this service.

The TurboTax program utilizes the “interview” technique to gather information regarding your taxes. After you answer the questions about your tax situation, the program reviews your return for errors. If errors are found, the program will show you how to correct these errors. There are 9 basic parts to completing your form: 

  • Personal Information
  • Income
  • Deductions
  • Taxes and Credits
  • Miscellaneous
  • Final Review
  • State Taxes
  • Print and File
  • and a final section, Planning.


The program is always prepared for the users tax questions with numerous help windows

In the upper right corner of your monitor screen, a little window shows “Tax Due” and an amount as you fill out the forms. This changes to “Tax Refund” when enough of your data is entered showing how much the program has calculated that the IRS owes you.

At one point in the interview, I was asked if I received an income-tax rebate check in 2001. Whoa. If I answer yes and put the amount of the rebate, is the program going to consider it as income? After some nervous anticipation, I finished my taxes and determined that the rebate was not considered as income. The first clue was the window in the upper right of the screen showing tax libility or refund due did not change when I entered the amount of the refund.

After reviewing your return, TurboTax guides you through the filing process. You can either file your return electronically or mail a copy to your regional IRS office.

Intuit has been a leader in income tax preparation software for many years and each year, it just keeps on improving the program and making it easier to complete your tax return. TurboTax Deluxe sells widely for $29.99 and is usually bundled with a free version of Quicken 2002 Basic or a free TurboTax state return (if you are unfortunate enough to live in a state with state income taxes).


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