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Software Review of:
TaxCut Platinum


Picture of TaxCut Platinum

Ralph Cherry

From the March, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

My assignment for this month is to review TaxCut - a tax preparation software - for the members.  I find this to be an interesting task since I have used TaxCut for doing my taxes on the computer for the last 3 years.  I have used the Standard Version of TaxCut, but for this year will use the Platinum Version, which is much more robust (and complex). 

Iím one of those who doesnít like to keep detailed records, and therefore have really detested having to compile my tax-related records every year before April 15.  I even had some trouble with the IRS at one time, but thatís another story.  Suffice it to say, with TaxCut I donít dread tax time nearly as much.  It tells me exactly which records I will need, asks the questions in a clear and succinct manner, does all the calculations for the data I enter, and at the end of the process it reviews my tax return to see if there might be some deduction I overlooked. 

Best of all, TaxCut will send my tax return electronically, at any hour of the day, night, or weekend.  I have been known to send it electronically (by Internet) at 1 or 2 in the morning. I no longer worry about trying to mail my returns during US Post Office hours.  It is instantly picked up by and fast-checked by H&R Block computers  and then by the IRS.  I have the confirmation that it has been accepted by the IRS within something like 24 to 36 hours.  If I have a refund, it will be on its way to me within 10 to 14 days.  So I sleep better at nights during tax season, worry much less, and take fewer aspirin during that time.  Yes, I am definitely a convert to computerized and online tax returns.  I recommend that you give it a try, and I personally recommend TaxCut to do that. 

TaxCut used to be connected with Kiplinger - the financial newsletter people - and apparently still is.  But the big promotion with TaxCut this year comes from H&R Block.  And who knows the tax preparation process better than H&R Block?  So Iím impressed with the professional backing for the TaxCut software.  I was also convinced to use TaxCut again by the discussions on one of my mailing lists for  small businesses, where they talked about the evidence that the big rival here - TurboTax - was revealed to send more than the expected info about its users to certain companies, and they were using it advertising purposes.  They were also starting to require ďactivationĒ so that it canít be used on 2 machines (even another of your own machines) without first calling Intuit and getting permission.  Iíll go with H&R Block, giving me a little more security and a little more independance, thank you. TaxCut installs easily and quickly, and I was up and running in a few minutes.  Each step and choice was carefully and clearly identified, with a standard window and format at each stop along the way. 

I was also impressed with TaxCut this year with the Platinum Version and all the bells and whistles that are available on the CD and on the H&R Block web site.  They have available for us: three types of tax calculators, a tax calendar, tax tips, rate tables, tax preparation checklist, and all federal tax forms (no need to make a trip to the library for these anymore).  Other services (some with a price, some free) include a tax return comparison with national averages, a home loan advisor, a donations tracker, an investment planner, and tax savings advice.  Thatís all by the H&R Block people, so I figure itís pretty authoritative. The info here says that H&R Block served about 23 million customers during the 2002 tax season. 

The Platinum version also includes a stock options advisor, a capital gains assistant, a rental property helper, a depreciation helper, and other helpers.  So TaxCut goes beyond just filling out the tax forms and on into financial and tax planning.  A lot of us could use some help in those areas. 

When the program actually opens up, your first screen starts with the basic questions needed to prepare for the next step.  Then it leads to to questions about dependants, income sources, and similar questions.  Depending on your answer, it takes you to the next appropriate page.  No flipping back and forth, no searching for data tables, no working with a hand calculator trying to figure out the formulas.  They are all worked out for you along the way. This includes a running count of the tax refund or extra payment due to the IRS.  That figure is always in a little box in a corner of the page.  Any time you need help there is a Help Central page, accessible from any page. 

I highly recommend that you use TaxCut this year to prepare your taxes.  I have used the Standard Edition in past years - and it has served me well - but am checking out the Platinum Edition this year.  I include some desktop screen shots to show you what it looks like on your computer, and to indicate the clarity of the questions and the navigation.

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