Tax Software for 2010 + On-line Prep
by Betty Harris Montgomery
One huge admonition for these software programs. About mid-February update your program. By then, most changes should have been made and your program will be current…at least as current as Congress will let it be! The IRS won’t accept “defective” software as an excuse. Please update.
Enjoy your refund.
Charles W. Evans, Reviews Editor
H&R Block At Home - Deluxe
This software includes the necessary tools for the average homeowner, the taxpayer with investments, and those looking to itemize their returns. Included are H&R Block’s tried-and-true Worry-Free Audit Support, and one session of Ask a Tax Advisor, where you can speak directly with an H&R Block tax pro via phone or email. H&R Block offers almost everything TurboTax offers except year-to-year deduction comparisons.
H&R Block boasts a simple but effective interface allowing for easy navigation forward and backwards. Navigating your way back to where you need to be is a snap. The tax interview process is straight-forward, but sometimes presents questions and explanations that may seem cryptic to the average taxpayer.
One of the strengths of H&R Block is that you don't need to have accounting experience of any kind. Simply answer the questions the program asks you. H&R Block automatically checks your return for common errors. It provides an extensive explanation of tax regulations and helps you make the most of your tax return.
H&R Block has added Worry-Free Audit Support through H&R Block, so if you get audited, an H&R Block representative will guide you through your dealings with the IRS, and even represent you, the taxpayer.
Multimedia help is available to explain recent tax law changes and tax term definitions. Also included is a free, one-time consultation with an H&R Block tax professional, a helpful resource for those one or two pressing questions.
If the IRS sends an audit notice…
H&R Block will provide you assistance with the notice and/or offer to provide you with an H&R Block Enrolled Agent to represent you if you are audited. Conditions apply. Read the complete terms and conditions for details.
H&R Block's clean interface and short interview questions all helped speed things along. Imports data from personal finance software, such as Quicken and Microsoft Money. H&R Block provides tax planning calculators for estimated taxes and retirement savings.
Block also offers a Premium & Business edition that includes H&R Block Premium plus software to prepare a business tax return and payroll returns. H&R Block Premium & Business is vastly more comprehensive of a software bundle than the similarly named TurboTax Home & Business. It includes five free personal e-filings and one state filing.
H&R Block (Basic, Deluxe and Premium Editions) comes in a close second to TurboTax and may offer you the best package for your needs. It walks you through a thorough interview process to get all the necessary data. Unfortunately some of that information needs to be re-entered again.
H&R Block partners with DeductionPro, a tax deduction add-on that can handle medical and other deductions on Schedule A. H&R Block can also import W-2s as well as Schedule D, but from a more limited list of sources. If you would like to use this perk, check and make sure your data sources are supported.
With Block's rich history of tax preparation, it is tops for tax explanations and guidance as you fill in the interview. H&R Block has some great tax update information available and it's coherently explained. Some nice touches are its listing of expense categories that you check...then only in those categories is information requested. Schedule A begins with a listing of basic sections which you check if relevant. However, it is not as thorough as TurboTax in covering expense descriptions. Schedule C and D are handled competently.
Prepare yourself for some eyestrain if you plan to spend more than a couple of hours in front of this product. On the Help front, H&R Block is strong. It basically amounts to asking jargon-filled interview question by default, but placing a “guide me” button that will rephrase technical questions into a series of simplified ones.
H&R Block’s main strength is the included advice from H&R Block tax professionals. H&R Block also includes audit defense at no extra charge in both packages, up to a point. H&R Block is known for its generous customer support. For more info, updates and help go to: www.hrblock.com.
TurboTax is a winning combination of simple navigation, an extensive help library, a responsive online community full of knowledgeable users and overall ease of use. The navigation is the easiest to follow, even for novices. One of the features I especially liked is that it groups related items together and asks you to check the ones that apply to you. It saves you time from answering "no" question after question.
TurboTax has kept their software intuitive and explanations simple. It follows a linear process so all you need to do is answer the questions in front of you and if you don't know what answer to give, check the extensive Help section.
TurboTax offers every feature we looked for and includes some excellent options.
1. Direct Deposit of Refunds
2. Quick Entry for Investments
3. Deductions/Credits Guided Interviews
4. Error Checks
5. Medical Expenses
6. Electronic Filing with Confirmation of Receipt
It can evaluate your 401K contributions and estimate how much you can contribute before it affects your take-home pay.
Enhanced for 2010 returns:
Deduction Maximizer Center:Shows you how to qualifyfor just about any deduction - so there are no lost opportunities. Looks for deduction opportunities as you enter.
Audit Alerts— Flags items the IRS might question - before you file.
You can finish a tax return with TurboTax quickly if you have a simple, straightforward tax return. This makes even the basic edition of TurboTax a great deal. TurboTax caught an entry typo on a W-2.
Intuit includes the ItsDeductible software for calculating the fair market value of items donated to charity in Deluxe and higher versions of TurboTax.
If you use Quicken for your weekly finances, much of your data can be imported into Turbo Tax. However as the Quicken categories may differ, you will need to review your return carefully.
If you had significant or complicated capital gains or losses, Turbo Tax Premium handles Schedule D with thoroughness necessary for wading through the applicable tax implications.
Easiest to use service with best online deduction finder tools.
Their online tax preparation and filing system is extremely easy to use and has the most robust automated deduction tools of any of the providers we reviewed. They walk you through every step of the process, asking easy questions in clear English.
Support is available through an extensive FAQ, well-populated and active forums, a blog, an (almost useless) automated chat system, and a support line. Technical support by phone as well as professional tax advice are offered 7 days a week from 8am-5pm. You will need your credit card for this service.
Feature-wise, TurboTax is the king of tax suites – but heir apparent, Prince Block, is about to pass King Turbo! Turbo Tax’s deduction manager is peerless among its competitors. It is also one of the most expensive suites, especially considering the extra charges for audit defense and tax advice. If you plan on using either heavily, should consider Block. In any other situation, it’s hard to go wrong with TurboTax. For more info, updates, and help go to www.turbotax.com.
Betty Harris Montgomery is a HAL-PC family member and retired tax preparer. “I no longer actively prepare taxes, but I think you will gain a much better understanding of your finances by doing so.”