capsule review

TaxAct Ultimate Bundle

At a Glance
  • 2nd Story Software TaxAct Ultimate Bundle

    PCWorld Rating

Like its online offering, TaxAct's desktop software is the least expensive product PC World looked at: $20 for a download or $26 for a CD-ROM.

Installation and updating were easy. The basic setup was the same as for the online version--I started with the Life Events section that reviewed the tax implications of 21 separate life events, including birth, marriage, and death. TaxAct's interview process is more basic than the one for TurboTax, offering fewer tips and suggestions. It assumed I had all the data organized and just concentrated on getting me to enter it in the proper place.

I liked the way TaxAct provided relevant links at the bottom of the screen during data entry. Clicking on Form brought up a copy of the 1040 so I could see the actual form being filled out as we entered information. Form Instructions led me to how-tos for the specific form I was working on. Site Map showed me where I was in the process, and History showed all the topics I had visited to date.

The Tax Help link gave me specific hints and tips from the J.K. Lasser Tax Guide, although they were less targeted to the specific topic than in TurboTax and required me to read and digest a lot of information.

For example, when entering dividend information, TaxAct had a Click Here link for a review when an amount in box 1b (Qualified Dividends) did not qualify, but what I got was a whole bunch of information about line 9b on the IRS form. There was also a link that gave a definition of "qualified dividends," but it led me to another link to J.K. Lasser's guide that had a multitude of further links on the subject. In general, TaxAct made me dig for information and do more research than TurboTax did.

TaxAct, though, is very flexible--I could choose whether to go through the entire program, step by step; answer only life event questions in specific areas; go directly to the federal interview; or enter data directly onto IRS forms such as 1040 and Schedule A.

In short, for those already familiar with doing their taxes, the desktop version of TaxAct offers a multitude of ways to approach the job. It's not as interactive as TurboTax, which was better at guiding me through the tax topics and gave me more targeted answers to questions, but the information is all there if you take the time to seek it out--and you can't beat the price.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Pros

    • Great price; easy setup.
    • Good tax help; flexible data entry options.

    Cons

    • Less interactive than TurboTax.
    • Not always easy to find applicable info.
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