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.