Wednesday, October 26, 2011

George Mindling Column 02-24-2006


How to Find Tax Preparation Software


It’s time again for the perennial question: which home PC tax preparation program is the one for you: Turbo Tax or TaxCut? Well, maybe that question only comes up after “How much do I owe?” or “How much will I get back?” The answer to which program is best for you depends on how detailed or complicated your return will be. There are different levels of most programs tailored for your individual needs. Some basic programs, however, are more detailed than others. Annual updates to interfaces and entry screens are a major part to every software package, as are the changes to tax laws. But are they better and more user friendly than before, or do you have to be an accountant to use them?
The giants in the field, Turbo Tax, an Intuit company, and TaxCUT, by H&R Block have been joined by other tax preparation software. One product is TaxACT, by 2nd Story Software, which has a free version of its software (http://www.taxact.com/). Another is TimeValue (http://www.timevalue.com/), a company that has been doing commercial or professional software for several years.
The federal government has joined the ranks of free electronic tax program solutions this year as well. You can check out the free government income tax filing site at www.irs.gov/efile.

Free File is a free service offered by companies for taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $50,000 or less.  Carefully review the free offer descriptions before starting your return. Individual company offers may be limited to specific states and income levels.

Each company has a description of their eligibility criteria for preparing and e-filing your federal tax return for free.  When choosing a company, be sure to link to the company's web site through IRS.gov. By going directly to a company's web site, you may not get the free service.

You are under no obligation to buy any products or services.  Telephone filing (Telefile) is no longer available. Many taxpayers who used this telephone service in the past may qualify to use Free File.

For detailed looks at tax preparation software, one site to check is ConsumerSearch.com (http://www.consumersearch.com/www/software/tax-preparation-software/reviews.html). The page allows you to look at surveys and comparisons of tax preparation software from Smart Computing, PC World, PC Magazine and Home Office Review, among others. They also list comparative prices and availabilities of all tax preparation programs. Most of the tax programs can import your last year’s data from past versions of their competitors. There is no TaxCut product this year for the Mac.

Hopefully, the tax preparation programs and the PC and Internet security programs I have used in the past have learned to co-exist. Turning off the firewall to allow updates seems to defeat the purpose of Internet security. The final filing date for Federal Income tax returns this year is April 17th. 

George Mindling

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