capsule review

TaxAct Ultimate

At a Glance
  • 2nd Story Software TaxAct Ultimate

    PCWorld Rating

For $16, TaxAct gives the best bang for your buck. Even though its interview sequence isn't as interactive as TurboTax's, its new features--a crisp interface, a Q&A search with a pull-down menu, and a program tutorial--made it all easy to follow. As you go through the interview, tabs appear showing the order of questions for each topic, and you can choose to skip around. Its Tax Help was also great--each page has relevant Q&As, instructions for filling out a particular IRS form, and detailed advice from J.K. Lasser, a publisher of tax guides.

But TaxAct has lows as well as highs throughout. For example, in dealing with higher-education credits, we had to search its Tax Guide to find the differences between Lifetime and Hope credits and thus answer the straight "yes" or "no" questions that determine whether we qualified for them--but we did appreciate that TaxAct advised us which education tax treatment would give us the biggest break.

The interface also had a few glitches that wound up forcing us to go back through the questionnaire to make corrections. After doing the home-office expensing interview, we decided against taking that deduction. So we returned to the screen that asks whether we wanted to take the home-office expense interview and changed our answer to "No." In TaxAct, the data we had entered stayed in, changing our total refund. We had to go back and manually delete all the data on those interview screens. We felt a simple "no" click should have done the trick, especially since other services made deleting this data more straightforward.

It was also too easy to skip past some major itemized deductions such as home mortgage and state taxes. And TaxAct was the only service that included ads on its screens.

On the other hand, TaxAct impressed us by stating the dollar amounts we needed to exceed before claiming certain miscellaneous deductions. For example, because TaxAct told us not to claim medical expenses unless we had more than $10,000 in bills, we didn't have to waste time figuring out our expenses beforehand--we knew we would not exceed the $10,000 threshold. As a final flourish, TaxAct calculated whether it was more advantageous for us to file jointly or separately, and also showed us how the figures in our return compared with national averages for our income bracket.

Vanessa Richardson

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Pros

    • Best price; good tax help.
    • Gives dollar thresholds for deductions.

    Cons

    • Interface glitches could produce errors.
    • Questions are not always thorough enough.
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