Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tax Preparation Software

It is that time of year again. I have been using tax software to prepare my taxes since 1996. For the first several years, I used TurboTax exclusively. There was one year (I think it was 1999) that Microsoft came out with a program called TaxSaver, but that product has since disappeared. Even though I bought TaxSaver, I ended up using TurboTax for 1999. (Note that in this post, I will be referring to the tax year "TY" version of the software. The current tax products are for tax year 2007, even though it is already 2008.)

In TY 2002, I switched to using TaxCut from H&R Block. This was also the year that TurboTax from Intuit introduced its short-lived product activation scheme. To make a long story short, one was not allowed to install TurboTax on more than one computer, and this caused a lot of discontent among TurboTax users. Also, TaxCut is usually cheaper than TurboTax. I stayed with TaxCut until TY 2005 when I switched back to TurboTax. I feel this was a mistake, as TurboTax 2005 initially did not allow me to import my tax file from TaxCut 2004. Intuit cited "security reasons" as their excuse for not allowing data imported from TaxCut. Intuit later corrected their flaw, but not until after I had already re-entered all of my data into TurboTax manually. I guess that it wasn't really a security issue after all. I could still import my old TaxCut data to TurboTax, but that would wipe out all of the new data that I had already entered.

I have noticed that if you register your copy of either TaxCut or TurboTax with the manufacturer, they will automatically send you a CD-ROM with their software for the following year. Don't be fooled into thinking that you are getting something for nothing. When you read through the fine print, you will find that the software requires you to enter a credit card number to purchase the software. I have found that the software on the CD-ROM that they send you usually costs more than if you bought it from a store.

Once again, I am back to using TaxCut for TY 2007. The TaxCut CD-ROM that I received in the mail did have a $10 rebate coupon for purchases from certain stores. So, I recently I bought TaxCut Premium Federal + State software at Staples. The import of my TaxCut data from last year worked without a hitch. Going forward, I will probably stay with TaxCut, since I'm pretty much fed up with Intuit's TurboTax shenanigans over the past few years.

Another reason for buying the tax software in a store is that they usually offer a rebate for certain financial software. TaxCut offers a rebate on Microsoft Money Plus (Money 2008), and TurboTax offers a rebate for Quicken. I bought MS Money Plus with TaxCut 2007, but I haven't installed Money yet. Ironically, this new version is the first version of Money that requires you to “activate” the product. There is an activation key included with the CD-ROM.

From what I have read on the Internet, one can install MS Money Plus software on two machines using the same key. Also, I read that Microsoft will discontinue support of Money 2007 in September 2009. Until last year, I was still using Money 2004 on one of my computers, so it is very possible I’ll still be using Money 2007 in 2009. For Money Plus, they discontinue online services 2 years after your activation date. That is another reason I will probably postpone activating the new product.

I have always used the Deluxe or Premium "desktop" version of the tax software, which includes the state version of the tax preparation software. However, an online version is available for both TurboTax and TaxCut, which I have not used. I also haven't tried using e-file yet, but I might consider it this year.

One last thing that I wanted to bring up is that that H&R Block is offering a free "Ask a Tax Advisor" session in honor of National Tax Advice Day. Through January 31, 2008 you can have a free email or phone exchange with an H&R Block tax professional. Here is a link to the H&R Block offer. Note that it seems that you have to sign up with a username and password to take advantage of this offer. Another criticism that I have about this offer is that it is only good for this month. I would guess that the average person doesn't even get started with their taxes until February or March. By that time, they will be too late to take advantage of this free advice.

Update: I have been informed in the comments below that TurboTax has a similar offer for free tax advice. In order to be fair, here is a link to the Intuit offer from TurboTax. PFStock does not receive any compensation for this post or for the posting of these links.

So, what tax software does everybody else use?

DC

5 comments:

turbotaxprguy said...

I'd be interested to hear more on why you left TurboTax. We certainly would love to have you back as a customer.

In addition, we were the first this year to offer a free tax question offer with a tax professional. Block followed suit two weeks later after we announced. You can visit www.freetaxquestion.com and ask a TurboTax advisor a question.

Thanks,
Scott Gulbransen
TurboTax

pfstock said...

turbotaxprguy: Thank you for your comments. I have updated my posting to include a direct link to the free tax question offer from TurboTax.

Let me summarize the reasons why I have not chosen TurboTax for my taxes this year:
(1) TaxCut is slightly cheaper than TurboTax.
(2) I was unhappy about the product activation scheme that TurboTax tried to implement in TY 2002.
(3) I use MS Money more than Quicken, and TaxCut had an offer for a free copy of Money.
(4) I was very much annoyed about not being able to import my TaxCut data into TurboTax TY 2005. At first TurboTax claimed it was a "security concern", but later reversed course and provided an update to correct the problem. By that time, I already manually re-typed my ENTIRE tax return into TurboTax, so there was no point in then importing the TaxCut data which would have wiped out all of my work.

In my tax situation, I see no advantage of switching to TurboTax. Furthermore, TurboTax has made no guarantee that I won't again have serious problems importing my current tax data into TurboTax. I feel that Intuit has not been straightforward about the aforementioned "security concern." Perhaps that was their way of trying to punish users who previously switched to a competing tax product...

If you would like to discuss these issues further, I invite you to send me an Email at the address listed in the right sidebar.

Seo Link Master said...
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Anonymous said...

I have used Turbo Tax and Tax Cut off and on for years. This year's Turbo Tax was the worst ever and I will NEVER use it again. After efiling with Turbo Tax in order to more quickly receive the rebate being issued by the government this year, and to have it directly deposited, I found that this is not possible with Turbo Tax! Your rebate amount is not able to be directly deposited if you specifically use the Turbo Tax software and pay taxes you owe from your checking account (electronically submitted.) I called the IRS regarding the lack of deposit of said rebate, and the above answer is what I received. How weird is this!? Of course, Turbo Tax sent a ridiculous email trying to explain itself, but the long and short of it is that it would appear that Turbo Tax will mislead their customers in order to make even the smallest profit ($17.00 fee!) I certainly would have never efiled owing the government money if I had known the truth of the situation - their software even asks you if you want the rebate to go direct deposit or by check. Shame on Turbo Tax for this unscrupulous behavior all for the lousy $17.00 efile fee. If they didn't do this on purpose, they apparently don't know what they should know about the tax business. I teach at a community college that uses Turbo Tax with their accounting program. You can bet my colleagues and students will know about this experience. Tax Cut next year.

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