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TaxBrain Online Tax Service

At a Glance
  • Petz Enterprises TaxBrain

    PCWorld Rating

    Well-designed but overpriced service.

Though TaxBrain launched in 2000, it still has work to do. I liked the service's format, but for the high price, I expected better help, more data-import capabilities, and more strategic advice.

The site's multiple-questions-on-the-same-page format saved time. In some cases, however, I would have been better off with fewer questions and more information on the page to help me answer correctly. For example, on the first page, the tenth question (not actually posed in the form of a query) stated: "You may be able to itemize your deductions if you paid any: (Schedule A) large medical bills; real estate or personal property taxes; home mortgage interest; contributions to charities; business expenses as an employee." Only after clicking on More Info did I discover that I should answer yes to the question if I had a home office.

TaxBrain's tidy list of worksheets sped up navigation, but any time saved was lost to the site's inability to import W-2s, which meant I had to key all of the details in. At least the screen looks like an actual W-2, minimizing the chance of error. Similarly, TaxBrain imports 1099 information only from GainsKeeper, a subscription-based investor site.

TaxBrain's Form 8283 for determining deductions for charitable donations provided little guidance in determining the fair market value of my donated items (and thus how much I could reasonably deduct). I wanted to consult TaxBrain's free Live Chat support, but when I logged on at 10:30 on a Friday night, I was out of luck: During tax season (January 1 through April 20), help is available only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific on Sunday.

At the end, I was pleased to see PDFs of my completed return before paying--a rare feature for tax sites, it turns out. But I could not drill down on the forms to check the calculations, and I discovered that TaxBrain does not support electronic filing of nonresident state returns.

TaxBrain offered more paid options than other reviewed tax sites did ($19.95 for bound copies of my return, $9.95 for archiving, and $34.95 for audit support). But considering the costs of the Premium service ($69.95) and state return ($29.95), I wasn't interested.

--Tina Orem

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Well-designed but overpriced service.

    Pros

    • You can see 1040 PDF before paying to file
    • Well-thought-out navigation menus

    Cons

    • Help could be more thorough
    • Expensive; can't import most tax data
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