Like Christmas time, tax season seems to start earlier every year. I just received a note from the PR folks at Intuit (TurboTax) letting me know that they are once again offering to answer personal tax questions for free. I guess it is time to start thinking about 2010 taxes. I have been using computer tax software to prepare my taxes since 1996, and I plan to do so again this year. Once again, the two main contenders are TurboTax and H&R Block At Home (formerly known as TaxCut). I have not yet decided which of these software products I will use.
Anyway, the point of this post is that TurboTax is again offering to answer personal tax questions for free. They have IRS-Enrolled Agents and tax preparers available to help you with your tax question. To get started, you need to submit your question through their website: www.freetaxquestion.com. A tax advisor will research your question and give you a phone call to discuss your tax issue. Questions about this offer should be directed to TurboTax Support.
There are a couple of catches to the offer. First, it appears that their hours of operation are 8am to 5pm PST, Monday to Friday. Second, this free offer is only valid through January 31, 2011. So, you need to be organized enough to know what tax question you want to ask before then. My criticism here is that the average person doesn't even get started with their taxes until February or March. By that time, it will be too late to take advantage of this free service. After January 31, TurboTax will charge $39.95 for this advice. In the past, H&R Block had a similar free offer, but I have not heard if they will be offering that service again this tax year
Getting back to tax preparation software, last year (tax year 2009) both TurboTax and H&R Block provided me with evaluation copies of their tax software. So, I prepared my taxes twice: once using H&R Block At Home, and again using TurboTax. Without going into a lot of detail, the end result of using either programs was identical. My recommendation is if you have used TurboTax in the past and were happy with the end result, you should probably stick with that choice. On the other hand, if you used H&R Block At Home (or other tax software) and found that to be satisfactory, you probably won't gain much in switching to TurboTax. I have found that TurboTax usually ends up costing a little bit more than the equivalent competitive tax software.
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