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CompleteTax Online Tax Service

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At a Glance
  • CCH CompleteTax

With its plain white background and unfussy layout, CompleteTax is the minimalist's favorite. The site's several-questions-on-one-page approach speeds the work along, as do the tabs across the top that make backtracking a little faster.

The Quick Navigation area also helps by displaying a list of completed and uncompleted screens. One feature that slowed me down, however, was the requirement to check a box on every single page to verify that the questionnaire was "complete."

CompleteTax supports import of W-2s from employers that use the ADP, Ceridian, or W-2 eXpress payroll service. Only Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab customers can import 1099s; everyone else must type in the data or download it from CompleteTax's sibling site, the subscription-based investor site GainsKeeper.

I want my tax software not only to ask the right questions and do the math correctly but also to tell me when something seems fishy. As a result, I was concerned when CompleteTax failed to say a word about my obviously fake 123-45-6789 Social Security number. It did point out, however, that I didn't deduct any property taxes despite the fact that I was deducting mortgage interest and therefore owned a house.

When I indicated that I had sold 100 shares of stock, CompleteTax presented a long drop-down menu for describing what kind of sale it was; choices included 'not deductible', 'section 1045 rollover', 'section 1397B rollover', and other technical-sounding terms. Yet when I clicked on the link for the term 'holding period or classification', a pop-up told me that CompleteTax automatically determines the holding period or classification of the sale based on the asset's acquisition and sale date. This area should be more straightforward. A refund ticker would have been nice, too.

The site offers online chat help, but it costs $4.95 per chat and is available only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central on weekdays through April 15 (sorry, extension people) and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Central on Saturdays and some Sundays. It isn't available on holidays.

As is the case with most of the tax sites I reviewed, I couldn't see my actual Form 1040 until I paid for the service and indicated exactly how and where I wanted to receive or send refunds and payments. CompleteTax was priced in the middle of the bunch--$29.95 for a federal return and $14.95 for one state--but that seemed high given the dearth of tax help.

--Tina Orem

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At a Glance
  • Fine if you're just looking for help with math on forms; not so great if you want guidance.


    • Moderately priced
    • Fast for people who don't need any hand-holding


    • Pedestrian design
    • Less tax help than you get on other sites
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