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PC Magazine’s 2009 Editor’s Choice: TurboTax

PC Magazine named its 2009 Editor’s Choice for personal tax preparation software [3] and the winner was Intuit’s TurboTax [3], beating out H&R Block’s TaxCut [4] and TaxACT [5]. 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.


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 [6]. 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!


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?