The Tax Man Cometh: My Review of Turbo Tax Deluxe 2010
A new year has come, the US Congress has passed a last-minute tax package, the IRS holds processing itemized returns until February 15, and taxes aren’t due until April 16 this year. This has been a very interesting year for taxes!
This year, as in many past years I chose again to go with TurboTax Deluxe + State. I scooped it up at Costco when they had a coupon available, as I have gotten into the habit of doing. However, may deals still abound for TurboTax; at this point in the tax season amazon.com is selling Turbo Tax Deluxe for $41.99 which is only a couple dollars more than I paid for it @ Costco – a very good deal!
What follows is my experience with Turbo Tax Deluxe 2010:
The Federal 1040 tax return form is the bread and butter of TurboTax. This year, as TurboTax started to guide me through the 1040, step by step, asking questions along the way, I again as in the past found that it was extremely helpful to have it import my information from last year – it helped me realize where I may be missing some paperwork (for things I filed last year but didn’t have any papers for this year) and it also saved me a lot of time. One areas where it saved a notable amount of time was entering the names of each company I hold stock in – everything was preset from last year and I simply needed to enter the new dividend amounts. It may seem small, but there are many examples where I was able to leverage last year’s return for my benefit. Now, if you didn’t file with TurboTax last year, don’t worry – it is still a breeze to punch in your information as it walks you through the prompts and you will be all set for years to come (if you choose to stay with TurboTax).
Some might wonder why I chose to buy TurboTax on a CD and install it on my computer. Well, there is one large reason: personal privacy & security. Though I am sure Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, guard their online tax data very closely, it is still vulnerable. I work with software security every day, and I can tell you that almost anything can be breached with the right amount of effort. Now, if you’ve locked your credit reports (which if you haven’t done DO IT NOW) you don’t have too much to worry about, but it is still disconcerting to think of the very real possibility that a data breach at Intuit could cause your Tax Data, including DOB, SSN, income information, etc to end up in the wrong hands.
This year I again used ItsDeductable Online to track all of my charitable contributions, which I then imported into TurboTax. There are 2 very good things about ItsDeductable: First, it uses eBay data to give your donated charitable items a true fair-market valuation. This allows you to correctly value the common household items (that are in good condition) you have donated to thrift stores or charitable organizations. You might be surprised at the fair-market value of the items you donate, for me the value seems to be more than I anticipate! The second good thing about ItsDeductable is that it is totally free.
I was very satisfied overall with the quality and completeness of the federal forms. It handled everything that I needed it to with ease. I didn’t notice any glitches, bugs or strange behavior. I did run into a couple spots where I wasn’t sure on the details of the tax law, and having the reference information immediately available on the right side, including other user’s Q&A about the particular line on the form I was working on was very helpful.
The state form did not take much time at all. I live in a state with income tax, but most of the information needed TurboTax sources very rapidly from the Federal 1040. There were a few items that I needed to deal with on the state form: 529 plan contributions, food bank donations and detailed property tax information. Once I entered those few items I was done. It literally took almost no time at all to do the state form.
I e-filed my federal form (because it was “free”) but I printed my state form, as I didn’t see the advantage of paying an extra $20 to get my refund only a few days sooner.
Intuit has again put out a good, easy to use product for 2010. I was able to complete my taxes in one evening – despite the fact that I itemized and had many special things to enter and account for. It’s been awhile since I used (and abandoned) TaxCut – and TurboTax has given me no reason to leave; I still feel it is a quality product and worth the price.
See If the Cost Is Worth the Refund With Our TurboTax Review
Very few people actually enjoy doing their taxes by hand. Luckily, there are plenty of tax prep software tools available to help you manage your tax situation.
One of the oldest and most popular of the tax software programs is TurboTax from Intuit. Although it’s one of the pricier tax software programs, it just might be worth the cost depending on your needs.
Find out if this is the right program for you with the following TurboTax review.
While most consumers want to know the cost of using TurboTax, it’s important to realize that what you pay depends on the version you choose. TurboTax currently offers four different versions of its software, pictured below.
If you have a very simple tax return, you can file your taxes for free with TurboTax — and that includes your state taxes.
Other versions of TurboTax offer different perks. So the more complicated your tax return is, the more likely your TurboTax cost will go up if you’re filing your taxes through them. And, once you get beyond the free version, your state return will cost extra.
It’s worth noting that, even though TurboTax costs more than some of its competitors, it also offers a lot of features. Plus, paid versions of TurboTax come with the option to get help from credentialed enrolled agents and CPAs.
If you decide to purchase TurboTax, you want to make sure you get the version that works best for your situation. This TurboTax review digs into the following options currently available.
If you are filing a 1040EZ or 1040A, you can use the Federal Free edition. However, you can’t itemize if you use this version.
Therefore, if you have additional Forms and Schedules to submit, this version is not for you. It’s only for those with very simple and straightforward taxes.
That being said, you can easily prepare, print, and e-file your tax return using this version. Make sure you double-check your eligibility before you move forward.
TurboTax Deluxe is a popular version for customers to purchase. It’s ideal for someone who has tax deductions and credits. Consumers most likely to benefit from this version are those who need to itemize.
Additionally, there is support for additional Forms for those who need tax deductions and credits. For student loan borrowers there are student loan tax credits and deductions worth looking into and listing out with this version.
You can also get live on-screen help from tax professionals as you fill in your information with this version. And, TurboTax stores your documents. That way, you can import information from a previous year’s TurboTax return to help you get a jump on next year’s taxes.
This is where things start getting a little more complicated. You get everything available in the Free and Deluxe versions, but the Premier takes in investing considerations, too.
If you have investments and rental properties to report, then this is the version for you. The Premier version imports investment information, including cost basis. This makes it easier for you to properly report your gains and losses. You can even use this to manage your rental property income and deductions.
If you are self-employed, this version adds another layer of usability. Like the Deluxe and Premier versions, you get access to all the investment Schedules, and you can itemize. Plus, you also get access to help from tax professionals.
The Self-Employed version differs in that it allows you to maximize your deductions for business-related expenses. You can deduct for your home office, vehicles used for business, and more. Plus, it includes expense and mileage tracking through year-round integration with QuickBooks Self-Employed, another Intuit product.
TurboTax is considered one of the most user-friendly tax preparation programs out there. Its user interface is intuitive and easy to use, and their website makes it easy to find the right version for you based on your needs.
When using the online interface, it directs you accurately to the right product. It doesn’t try to “upsell” you on features you don’t need, as evidenced in a screenshot I took when I was checking out TurboTax myself.
Once you’re in the program, it’s easy to navigate. Plus, if you’ve used TurboTax in the past, and your information is already stored in the cloud, it imports to the current year. You just need to update it if necessary.
But if your information isn’t saved, TurboTax leads you through questions in a logical manner. It’s like having a tax professional speak with you. Except you don’t need to talk to a person.
As you go through your tax return and answer questions, the software enters your information. It then checks off the information you’ve completed and lists what you have yet to fill out in the following TurboTax dashboard screenshots.
It’s easy to get more information about questions or get support from a tax professional on-screen. The software also helps you keep track of where you are in the process. Plus, if you miss a step, TurboTax flags it for you.
Cloud storage makes it easy to work on your tax return no matter what. You can do it on your desktop or on your mobile device.
One of the advantages of using TurboTax regularly is that you get access to year-round features. Expense Finder and ItsDeductible (both pictured below) can be used even after you file your taxes in April. You can even keep track of your spending and plan your tax breaks throughout the year.
Keep in mind that you will need to link your bank accounts and credit cards to use Expense Finder. Once linked, Expense Finder goes through everything and categorizes to find deductible expenses and keep track of them. This reduces the chance that you will miss something.
You can also use your mobile phone or tablet to prepare your taxes with TurboTax. You can snap photos of your documents (like your W-2) and answer questions to get the process underway immediately.
When choosing how to get your tax refund, you have different options with TurboTax. You can decide on direct deposit, prepaid debit card, or paper check.
Keep in mind that usually the fastest option — no matter who you use to file your taxes — is to e-file and choose direct deposit for your refund.
You can also decide to apply your refund to next year’s taxes. Additionally, the IRS also allows you to use your refund to buy U.S. Savings Bonds. You can even use TurboTax to manage this option.
It’s also possible to use your refund to pay for your TurboTax version. However, you will be charged extra for this service.
No matter how confident you are, sometimes you just want to get a little help. Luckily, TurboTax comes with a number of support options.
And if you use one of their paid products, you even have access to CPAs and Enrolled Agents.
TurboTax offers the ability to search a knowledge base to find answers to questions. You can also watch video tutorials.
If you just have quick questions, the answers can usually be found with a fast search through TurboTax online
There is also an online community where you can ask questions of other TurboTax users. However, it’s important to note that not everyone in the community qualifies as a tax professional.
This is a live, on-screen human help feature. It’s included in the TurboTax cost if you paid for one of their versions.
Essentially, you get real-time help from a tax expert who can use one-way video. The expert sees your screen, so it’s easier for him or her to understand your situation. You can even schedule an appointment with one of them.
It’s also possible to ask for help about state taxes on top of federal taxes with a TurboTax expert. However, once you get into local taxes, or you have questions that don’t have anything to do with income taxes, you aren’t going to get much help.
If you have the Federal Free version, and you still want to talk with someone, you can pay $29.99 for an add-on package.
Facing an audit? The good news is that you get limited audit no matter which version you get. Audit support allows you get help to prepare for an audit. In many cases, your audit can be handled through the mail.
TurboTax will help you find the information you need to answer the audit letter. Additionally, you can also get help preparing for an in-person audit.
This isn’t the same thing as having TurboTax provide you with representation when dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). With support, you get help as you represent yourself.
If you want TurboTax to defend you and act as your representative to the IRS, you will need to pay $44.99 when you file. TurboTax doesn’t allow you to choose this option after you file, so you need to decide if you’re willing to risk it.
Chances are that you will pay more for TurboTax than for other tax preparation software. However, it still often costs less than paying an accountant to prepare your taxes.
Plus, the TurboTax cost includes a number of features that you might not get elsewhere. And its user interface makes TurboTax one of the easiest ways to prepare your own taxes this year.