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PC Magazine’s 2009 Editor’s Choice: TurboTax

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TurboTaxPC Magazine named its 2009 Editor’s Choice for personal tax preparation software and the winner was Intuit’s TurboTax, beating out H&R Block’s TaxCut and TaxACT. Before you run out and just buy a copy of TurboTax, read the review itself. The advantage TurboTax has over the competition is in their breakdown of difficult and complicated topics. TaxCut won more points because of pricing and matches up in terms of functionality, it was TurboTax’s goes the extra mile in explanations. TaxAct is billed as the product if you’re “more budget-conscious and knowledgeable.”

PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice

In PC Magazine’s review of TurboTax Premier 2008, a product that retails around $90, they compare the three products on a variety of levels. The real distinction is in what PC Magazine calls “guidance systems:”

There’s a much clearer distinction between the competitors when it comes to their guidance systems. TurboTax makes help more obvious in many places, and gives more—and more useful—explanations more often. Take home-office expenses, for example. After you’ve told TurboTax the dimensions of your home office, it asks for a list of expenses for your entire home, like insurance, mortgage interest, and real estate taxes. It tells you up front that it will prorate those expenses for you, and warns you not to duplicate some amounts you’ve already entered.

TurboTax also offers direct importing of W-2 data from ADP, Paychex, and ProBusiness; TaxCut doesn’t. TurboTax’s FAQs are more context sensitive, TaxCut are less so. It sounds like TurboTax has a lot of nice features that can make your life a little easier, if you’re the type who transposes numbers incorrectly often enough.

Pricing

However, when it comes to pricing, H&R Block’s TaxCut wins out. Their TaxCut Premium Federal + State + E-File 2008 only runs you $45 compared to the TurboTax Premium, which goes for $90. Twice the price for a few bells and whistles? I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

All that goes out the window if you qualify for free tax filing. If you qualify for free tax filing, just go with the one you’ve always used and the one you feel most comfortable with. I have always used TurboTax because I could file for free and it didn’t matter which I used. When you’re filling out a 1040EZ and you aren’t paying a cent (except the e-filing fee), it doesn’t really matter which one you use!

Summary

If I had to choose which one to use, I’d go with the cheaper one. I have a pretty simple tax situation without any crazy investments or schedules I need to account for. If you have a more complicated tax situation, but not so complicated you need a living breathing accountant, maybe it would serve you better to use TurboTax and it’s superior interface and greater degree of handholding. Either way, using one of these packages beats walking into a tax accountant’s office!

Which do you prefer? Do you agree with PC Magazine that TurboTax is better? Or are you a TaxCut fan?

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13 Responses to “PC Magazine’s 2009 Editor’s Choice: TurboTax”

  1. Cameron says:

    I use Turbo Tax online and I think they do a great job. I haven’t used any of the other online services tho. One way to save money is to use an online service for your Federal Return and then if your state has it file online thru them. I live in Maryland and they have iFile which is free and is easy enough to use.

  2. nickel says:

    I’m a long-time Turbo Tax fan, but that’s probably because we haven’t used anything else.

  3. F2O says:

    TaxCut – I’ve used it for about 5-6 years now. It seems like I always find a discount code somewhere and get it just about free every year.

  4. Dave says:

    I’ve used TaxAct and Turbo Tax and I found that TaxAct was better. I found that going back and changing an error in Turbo Tax messed things up, and I’d end up starting from scratch. I’ve used Tax Act the past 3 years and have had zero problems.

  5. thomas says:

    I was TurboTax all the way, and then tried TaxCut and have used it the past 2 years. I think this year I may go back to Turbo as it prompted me for other savings techniques.

  6. Scott says:

    TurboTax for sure. I’ve tried on two separate occasions in the past few years to use TaxCut to save a little money. Both times I’ve ended up taking advantage of H&R Block’s money-back guarantee and going back to purchase TurboTax. In general it does a much poorer job of explaining things than TurboTax and, in one instance, it just flat did things incorrectly.

    There are some nice things about TaxCut and you may want to give it a try if you want to save a little. But, for me, I’ve wasted too much time on TaxCut already.

  7. NinjaLibn says:

    I got in the habit of using TaxCut because I use a Mac, and for several years TurboTax wasn’t offered for the Mac.

    I guess it all comes down to how complicated your return is. I itemize and work in two states, but other than that my returns aren’t all that complicated. It does irk me that I spend all year tracking my charitable deductions on a spreadsheet, then I have to re-enter all that data, even though I have the grand total right in front of me. Is TurboTax any smarter about this?

    I’ve stayed away from TaxAct and other online-only programs because I am very leery of posting my tax info on a company’s Web site. They may be as honest as the day is long, but I am very skeptical about Web security based on some of the consumer identity theft disasters we’ve seen in the past few years.

  8. jman says:

    Guys- turbotax has multiple errors (yer even after all patch updates added)that cost me big. Even the home intest mortgage deduction was not worked correctly in 2008 personal return for fed income tax!
    - I had CPA review all taxes after another turbotax error stated I could hold off on filing. Outrage- multiple basic issues we simply NOT valuated correclty even though they WERE entered correctly. In all cases error against me and artificially raise the amount I thought I was to pay.

    At this pont we wonder if these “errors” were errors at all?… I mean someone has to pay for all these stimulus plans? Stealing an extra $1k or $2k from each working/honest tax payer each year could help out dont you think?

  9. Mike says:

    I’ve used Tax Cut for about 6 years, and
    TurboTax before that for 2 years. For me Tax Cut was a better choice.

  10. Lucille Nawara says:

    This is a warning only if you use TurboTax or know someone who does.

    Since 2006, we’ve been successfully using TurboTax to file our complex income taxes (with 2 or 3 small businesses).

    I am writing to warn you that today I just lost 4 long days of 2009 tax data I’d entered while I was on the phone with a TurboTax staff person who was guiding me through on “Live Look”, where she can see my desktop and every icon on it and the movements of my cursor. The reason that I called her is that the total of our charitable donations did not match the total in the summary – off by thousands of dollars, and I couldn’t find the cause of the difference.

    In the midst of this conversation, TurboTax froze, crashed, wiping out all my work. I showed the gal (since she could view our desktop on her computer) how I could still open and close any other icon on my desktop when she said it was the fault of my computer, proving that it was Turbo, not my computer that crashed. She told me to close Turbo and put it in the trash, and empty the trash. I asked if she had a back-up copy of our 2009 tax file that she could send to me, since I was nearly done with it, and she assured me she did and not to worry about losing our copy here. She was dead wrong, and we’re back to zero. I bawled.

    This gal’s supervisor wasn’t helpful either, and both gals admitted that there have been a lot of crashes and people losing data this year on Turbo, worse than in previous years, and that “their software staff is working on it.” It is small consolation that we can take this disc back to Costco for a refund. I wish I could sue.

    I don’t know what the alternative is – hate to fork out the dough for an accountant, but may have to.

    Be careful, and follow the supervisor’s advice if you do use Turbo – save your data on a disc often, and if you have to rely entirely on that, you obviously couldn’t email your federal return.

    Lucille

  11. Dick says:

    I have used both taxcut and turbotax. I shall never ever go back to turbotax. This program is buggy. Takes up 188 MB of real estate on my H.D. and took over an hour to install. Taxcut uses between 86-88 MB. Turbotax is a huge time waster

  12. john says:

    Have used turbo tx for several years and have been happy with it. This year the installation is taking over an hour! Is this happening to anyone else.

  13. anomouse says:

    I have a 2 Gb RAM machine, 2.6 GHz, with 500 Gb hard drive. I have antivirus, antispyware, and firewall.

    This year it took 2 1/2 hours for TurboTax to install on my computer.

    It requires .NET 3.5 SP2, and perhaps part of the installation time was installing updates for that.

    OMG — 2 1/2 hours!!!

    I’ve never like TurboTax compared to TaxCut, but since I have been using Quicken, it is very quick to transfer data from Quicken to TurboTax.

    I’m currently a Linux user, though (I only use Quicken and TurboTax in a Windows virtual machine) so am swtiching to GnuCash. With luck this is my last year using Intuit products!


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