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TaxCut Premium (2009)
By Tina Orem
At a Glance
Backed up by H&R Block human tax pros
Smooth interface; strong help options
State tax process falls short
Strong site with human backup, but state process needs to be more sophisticated.
At about $70 for a state and federal return, H&R Block’s TaxCut Premium continues to offer attractive pricing relative to TurboTax, and its access to Block’s army of flesh-and-blood tax preparers as well as the ability to import TurboTax data (but only from desktop versions) present a tantalizing proposition for some TurboTax customers looking to save a few bucks.
TaxCut’s user-friendly interface is virtually the same as last year’s, and it is more sophisticated (but seemed a little slower) than TaxBrain‘s or TaxAct‘s. The “% complete” bar at the bottom helps users stay focused, and navigating to other parts of a return is pretty easy and intuitive. TaxCut still does not import W-2 or 1099 forms, however, and the W-2 entry form doesn’t visually resemble an actual W-2 form, which makes data entry a little more time-consuming. Figuring out the value of items donated to charity also proved tricky unless you opted to pay another $20 to download DeductionPro (TaxCut’s alternative to TurboTax’s It’s Deductible).
Overall, TaxCut’s help options for your federal return are more organized and more relevant in their presentation than those of archrival TurboTax. A column on the right side lists common questions related to the task at hand, plus links to a help center with IRS publication instructions, tax tips, a glossary, and some troubleshooting support. TaxCut also has a handy “explain amount” link next to many summary totals, but like other sites, it only describes concepts instead of reconciling particular numbers on the return. If you really get wrapped around the axle, TaxCut offers one free e-mail or phone session with an H&R Block tax preparer.
However, TaxCut was far less helpful on the state return than on the federal. Compared with the federal return process, the in-depth interviews and the advice are virtually gone on the state side. For example, at one point on the Oregon return, users enter numbers in boxes vaguely labeled “other subtractions from income,” and the only guidance on whether I qualified for any of the thirty-odd “other credits” offered by the state was: “Oregon has many other credits that we have not covered. Select and description and enter the amount of the credit, if you qualify.”
This version of TaxCut is $39.95 for a federal return, plus $29.95 for a state return. Boxed TaxCut software comes in different combinations and permutations than the online packages do, so be careful when making a selection; like TurboTax and TaxAct, which also sell boxed or downloadable software, going offline may cost less (or more) depending on your situation, especially if you file a Schedule C or plan to e-file more than one federal return.