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All Categories » Software Upgrades » Turbo Tax
Turbo Tax
Added by Michael Cummins of Computer Assistant
Tuesday, April 6, 2010


TurboTax is very quick and easy for simple tax returns, and provides plenty of added features for those purchasing a premium version of the software product. Intuit has several versions of the software, ranging from a basic bare-bones version for the simplest tax returns to their top-of-the line Home & Business for entrepreneurs.

I like TurboTax's ability to import data from a personal finance application such as Quicken, Quickbooks, or Microsoft Money. For entrepreneurs that keep track of their invoices and expenses, this can save a lot of time by automating some of t he data entry.

TurboTax provides extra guidance for tricky tax topics

You can finish a tax return with TurboTax rather fast quickly if you have a simple, straightforward tax situation. This makes even the basic edition of TurboTax a great deal for people who want to finish their taxes quickly. Speed and accuracy are important, as no one wants to rush through a return only to make a mistake. TurboTax even caught a data entry typo I made when entering my W-2 form. This is a common tax preparation mistake, and TurboTax quickly prompted me to verify my numbers to make sure everything was correct.

For complex tax returns, TurboTax Home & Business, Intuit's top-of-the-line tax software, handled my demanding and complex tax scenario with a minimum of frustration. Their step-by-step interview questions were clear, appropriate, and not too overwhelming. The Online versions of TurboTax share all the same features as the desktop software. If you need to set up business assets, you will find TurboTax offers a great set-by-step approach to depreciation.

Premier and Home & Business versions feature extra help in calculating your cost basis in stocks and mutual funds, which is a common situation many people need help in figuring out. Premier and Home & Business also include my favorite feature: a 401(k) Maximizer for figuring out how much you can contribute to a 401(k) retirement plan without decreasing your net paycheck.

TurboTax includes Live Community for Help

TurboTax's Live Community provides a Question-and-Answer forum for getting help either with the software or with tax issues, right from inside the software interface. The questions showing up from the Live Community are context sensitive. For example, when I was entering bank interest, I saw the question "How do I report interest on a savings bond?" You can also ask a question right from the software too. While I was skeptical last year about Live Community, I've have come to appreciate that I can find answers to my questions faster than digging through Intuit's help site. Still, using the Live Community requires taking the extra step to create a user ID and log in. The "Search Q&A" link below the Live Community logo lets users search for messages in the Live Community and by-pass the registration step. This helped me save some time when all I needed was to find some quick answers.

TurboTax provides plenty of help content site inside the software as well. Important topics are explained through a "Learn more about this topic" link or through in-depth interview questions when clicking on "Guide Me". From the program's Help Center, users can search for help content, access official IRS Publications, find tips for using TurboTax, and watch videos covering common tax situations.

Consent to Use Tax Information

This year TurboTax asks "Before We Continue, Tell Us Which Options You Would Like To See." An affirmative answer results in TurboTax being allowed to pitch refund loans and other bank products. TurboTax is required to ask for your consent before pitching these products.

Still hard to find some modules in TurboTax

TurboTax continues to improve and revise their navigation system. As in previous year, TurboTax sports a clean and uncluttered interface, which I think will help people stay focused on the preparing their tax returns with a minimum of distraction. However, I still have trouble finding specific data entry screens. For example, the "Explore on My Own" link under the Deductions & Credits tab will bring up a fairly complete list of deductions, credits, and payments. Whereas the "Guide Me Through" button will guide you step-by-step through the most popular deductions and skip over less popular areas of the tax form. The same is true in the Income areas of the software. Just be aware that there are multiple ways to find the same module.

Unlike last year, I had no problem finding where TurboTax puts the worksheets for a SEP-IRA or solo 401(k) plan; previously I've been able to find this only by searching for it. The questions and calculations for the solo 401(k) sounded a bit awkward to me, but TurboTax's calculations corresponded to my own calculations by hand.

Just like last year, I had trouble finding where to report a foreclosure and canceled mortgage debt. TurboTax seems to offer in less help and guidance in dealing with foreclosures than last year. I was able to get TurboTax to calculate this correctly, but then I already knew what I wanted to enter. Individuals who are facing this situation won't find much hand-holding from TurboTax.


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