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Tax Preparation Software for 2003?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the don't-wait-for-april-15th dept.

Software 112

Aaron asks: "After last year's debacle with TurboTax's copy protection system, I want to avoid their software (even though they say they won't do it again). But after reading some of the reviews on TaxCut, it sounds a bit buggy. What tax preparation software are people using for their 2003 taxes? I've heard of TaxACT, the free tax software - is that any good? I don't suppose any decent tax software works on Linux..."

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Fucking First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7886249)

FFP

Indeed

Warning: female goatse picture! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7886257)

Re:Warning: female goatse picture! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7886952)

do you have this archived? the page redirects

It's math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7886270)

Break out the calculator and suck it up, man.

Other than that, there are a plethora of websites that will do your taxes as well, assuming you trust them not to rape your financial data for illicit gains.

Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me that tax time came around.

TaxCut (4, Informative)

elmegil (12001) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886279)

Kiplinger's Tax Cut even says on the front "no product activation required". Given that TaxCut and TurboTax have been the de facto standards for years, and H&R Block partners with Kiplinger's, it's a no brainer.

frist spot?

I've used TaxCut for years (2, Informative)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 10 years ago | (#7890881)

I use it for my Federal & State and my Business (S-Corp) Federal & State. It's very easy to use and is a first class piece of software. 5 years in a row now for me. My accountant charges me around $1200 to do all those filings where I paid $145 for TaxCut. Plus, they offer to pay your penalties & interest if there is a miscalculation that causes a problem with your return! Now that is standing behind your product.

Re:TaxCut (1)

yog (19073) | more than 10 years ago | (#7893533)

Second that on Taxcut. It installed and ran on my linux workstation with Crossover and the only problem was that clicking "help" made it crash (apparently tries to launch a browser).

As a long time Turbotax user, I had initially investigated their Turbotax-on-the-Web, which I thought would be a great cross-platform solution, but it required a certain version of Internet Explorer. I complained to the company but they did not indicate that they had any flexibility on this. What's the point of the web if it's Windows-only, grumble grumble.

Now Vanguard is offering complementary access to Turbotax on the Web for its account holders for 1040 Basic, 1040EZ and State filing starting in mid-January; we'll see if they've fixed their browser incompatibilities yet, otherwise I'm sticking with Taxcut for another year.

Tried it, wasn't much impressed (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902886)

The structure of the Kiplingers "interview" process was seriously awkward when I used their product two years ago. I've found TurboTax to be pretty easy to live with by comparison, the other three times now I've gone with software. Kiplingers just wasn't giving me the same sense of context: where am I in filling this out? What holes are left? That kind of thing.

It may just be a matter of taste, but there was a distinct lack of continuity to TaxCut, from my POV.

Get a pro (3, Insightful)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886310)

A professinal accountant may cost a little more, but they will usually find ways to reduce your tax burden above and beyond what any software could do.

Re:Get a pro (2, Informative)

OneFix at Work (684397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886341)

Only if you have deductions...unless you have a house, family, investments, etc you won't find a professional any better...

As a general rule, if you qualify for the 1040-EZ, you won't get any real advantage from a professional accountant...

Re:Get a pro (2, Insightful)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886375)

If you qualify for the 1040-EZ, you really ought to save the thirty bucks and just do it yourself.

Re:Get a pro (1)

OneFix at Work (684397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886510)

That's my point...if you don't have to itemize, it won't matter who does your taxes...there are a lot of ppl here that will be in that boat...I would venture to say that most ppl here are under say 35 and rent and are either single or married with no children...

The thing that most ppl forget is that if you make a deduction, you have to keep your records for at least 5 years. Meaning that if you bought a bunch of books and deducted them as a business expense, you have to keep reciepts for 5 years (or longer)...if you are audited, these kinds of deductions are ran through with a fine toothed comb and if you don't have real and immediate proof, your are liable for that and may face a fine as well...

It's not worth it to try and get out of paying the gov't...it will come back on you 10 fold...and that's why they make it that way...

BTW, this is not to be taken as tax advice. (for those that don't know, you can be held liable if you give any tax advice)

Re:Get a pro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7888422)

As a general rule, if you qualify for the 1040-EZ, you won't get any real advantage from a professional accountant...

More importantly...

As a general rule, if you qualify for the 1040-EZ, you should spend your money at your local Community College and beef up your education, so you can get a real job.

Re:Get a pro (1)

gtrubetskoy (734033) | more than 10 years ago | (#7888594)

I have a house, family, investments, extra income, you name it, and I will probably just use the TurboTax online. The tax pros are good the first time you file and itemize, but after the first time you'll feel like you're paying them while you do their work.

My $0.02

Re:Get a pro (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886396)

It is easy to get lower taxes than any software - just be a hell of a lot less conservative on what you claim as a deduction (and pray for no audit)

Actually - becareful, the Wall Street Journal annually sends a set of paperwork to 4 accountants/tax preparing firms to see what the tax bill will be. Turns out the ammount of tax owed as calculated by the four firms aren't even close. If I recall from last year the numbers were almost double from low to high

Just remember there are numbers, accountants, and taxpreparers - only the first one has anything to do with reality

Re:Get a pro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7886417)

If you're a Canadian accountants and taxpreparers bear any responsibility for errors so there's an advantage to using them.

Re:Get a pro (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7886514)

Yeah, everything is better in Canada. Responsible CPAs, socialized medicine, the women ... oops, wait, their women are all short fat eskimos. No thanks.

Re:Get a pro (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886547)

Same in the US if they make a mistake - but if they say - well you might want to try this deduction... and you say, sure why not, and it doesn't hold up in tax court (remember guilty until proven innocent) then you bear responsibility.

If however they subtract 3 from 5 and get 4 - they can be held liable for that

Opposite experience (1)

Sanity (1431) | more than 10 years ago | (#7889669)

I used a professional accountant my first year living in the US only for the IRS to send me a letter saying that I had overpaid my taxes by thousands of dollars (in addition to the $600 I paid the accountant)!

The following year I did it myself with TurboTax - I actually found it quite satisfying.

The same thing we do every year Pinkie (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886355)

TurboTax for the web [turbotax.com] . You can get pissed at the TOS, but I'd rather be safe than sorry when it comes to my taxes.

Re:The same thing we do every year Pinkie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7891509)

I get pissed at TT.com for requiring the use of certain pathetic browsers. At least that's been my problem the last few years. Not to mention that it's so dang slow I sometimes think I could take a class in tax accounting with all the time it took to do a fairly simple return.

Until there are reasonable and complete solutions available that are useful to those of us using Free Software only, I will be filing on paper.

TaxAct (5, Informative)

Gildenstern (62439) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886367)

I've been using TaxAct since 1998 now. I've never had any problems with it and it seems to work well. It has a very nice interface. I get the 20 dollar version from their website. That gets me the State and Federal versions. I used Turbotax the year before and and this seem almost the same to me.

I don't understand (4, Insightful)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886368)

Company does something bad... People dump bad product - company cleans up act - why do you still want to boycott them.

Personally I will be VERY happy to go back to TurboTax this year - TaxCut sucked horribly and I have liked TurboTax for almost a decade now

Moral of the story - company does what I want them to - I will send my business back to them

Re:I don't understand (2, Interesting)

sfjoe (470510) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886664)


I had the exact opposite experience. Turbotax worked just fine for me. Intuit became a gang of boneheads last year so I tried TaxCut. TaxCut also worked fine for me and H&R Block has little history of boneheadedness. I'll stick with TaxCut - who knows what the PHBs at Intuit are planning next time around.

Re:I don't understand (3, Insightful)

Gzip Christ (683175) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887260)

Company does something bad... People dump bad product - company cleans up act - why do you still want to boycott them.
There's an old saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Re:I don't understand (1)

BobNET (119675) | more than 10 years ago | (#7896206)

There's an old saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The way I heard it was:

There's an old saying in Tennessee--I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee--that says, fool me once, shame on--shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again.

Re:I don't understand (1)

DEBEDb (456706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902830)

Mr.President, welcome to Slashdot.

Re:I don't understand (4, Interesting)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887823)

>why do you still want to boycott them.

Because its the strongest thing you can say to future companies.

Marketing guy A: "We should have a really restrictive DRM lock that requires the user to mail a sample of their blood."
Marketing guy B: "Wait a second. Remember the mess TurboTax got into when they did something like that?"

Alternative answer 1:
Marketing guy A: "Yes. But they did it wrong. Look how they are doing now, didn't hurt them in the long run. We can try to introduce it in the sneaky and slow way which owners will accept. Even if its less than sucessful, we can always bounce back like they did."

Alternative answer 2:
Marketing guy A: "You mean from that dead product? The one idea that sank the entire company? Maybe you have a point, I would hate to follow in that company's steps"

Re:I don't understand (1)

dirk (87083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898699)

You are forgetting the other scenario. Company A makes really bad move and does something like product activation. People start complaining and Marketting Guy A says "Why should we change now? Remember when TurboTax added activation and people complained? They took the activation out and people still boycotted the product. We might as well leave it in now and see if we can make it work." The whole idea of boycotting is to punish a company for doing something bad and to get them to correct their ways. If correcting their ways doesn't work, why should they bother?

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7900703)

What makes you think Marketing guys have a memory? Most product managers move up from Sales, where they have no experience other than "dealing with the customer", when of course, the customer is Wal-Mart or a mailing list.

Then, if a Marketing guy doesn't move up in 18 months, they are out out out. Short term memory rules the day.

Combat stupidity with morals and education.

Re:I don't understand (2, Interesting)

Maple Syrup (27770) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887931)

You know ... as much as I'd like to stay away from Turbo Tax to send Intuit a message ... I used TaxCut last year, and it was a truly awful experience.

It's not that TaxCut was buggy, it's just that, unlike Turbo Tax, (where an ordinary human can understand the program's questions) the questions in the TaxCut "interview" were written *by* tax geeks *for* tax geeks.

While my tax situation isn't complex enough to require a paid tax preparer, it's still complex enough to be easy to screw up. There were lots of places in TaxCut where the designers clearly just transcribed the (confusing and difficult) Federal forms, instead of putting the work into simplifying the questions and making them understandable.

Using TaxCut, I had to look over a number of sections *very* *carefully* (read: 45 minutes to go through 3 screens) before I was sure I had entered the data correctly. As it turned out, it was a good thing I did this: I had, in fact initially entered the wrong data, solely due to the the poor design of the interview.

In short: a classic example of poor useability.

Bottom line: this year I'm back with TurboTax.

Continuous improvement can really suck. (1)

ACPosterChild (719409) | more than 10 years ago | (#7903330)

When I first used TurboTax (~4 years ago) it was great. Decent explanations, good UI. Then they changed the UI to a seudo web-browser. It was non-intuitive and buggy. Many of the explanations were better, but you had to go to a different screen to see them (they weren't along-side the item anymore, or in a popup window), and getting back to where you were often was a 3-page process involving re-entering numbers you've already entered. Their TOS was just a last straw for me. If they had stayed with a good UI, I'd go back.

I wish this question would have come up sooner. It sounds like TaxAct is the way to go, but I already purchased TaxCut (whose interface isn't much better than TurboTax and whose explanations aren't that great).

Re:I don't understand (1)

morningstar8 (234758) | more than 10 years ago | (#7892992)

The problem is that they didn't do what I wanted them to.

I wanted Intuit to clean up the software I bought from them last year. Intuit never did that, and they insulted me by telling me that I had an agenda beyond actually getting my taxes done.

As a result, I put an in-house three-year moratorium on Intuit purchases. So I'm looking at new provider. From what I've read in this topic, it'll probably be TaxAct. I've heard that TaxCut spams its users, and TaxAct doesn't necessitate sending in those annoying rebate forms.

Re:I don't understand (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 10 years ago | (#7896266)

The main reason is that they showed no remorse at all. Their whole response was that they didn't make a mistake; their customers just didn't understand how good their system was.

Basically, they ruined whatever good reputation they had with their little stunt. I have no reason to believe that they won't do it again, except next time it'll be less visible (until, that is, you're hit with an IRS audit 4 years later and discover that you can't open your old files anymore).

turbotax via the web. (2, Informative)

reaper20 (23396) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886402)

Except the fact that it's IE-only I've enjoyed using turbotax's web feature.

I remembers past years and it takes me about 10 minutes to do my taxes. I pay the 15 dollar fee or whatever it is and I have my refund in 2 days. Not bad and I can knock it out the day I get my W2's.

If you drink heavily afterward and try to remind yourself that it's not an ActiveX buttraping waiting to happen you get over it.

Re:turbotax via the web. (1)

benwb (96829) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886700)

I'm pretty sure I used phoenix last year without any problems...

Re:turbotax via the web. (2, Informative)

hatless (8275) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887456)

I've used Web TurboTax with Netscape/Mozilla browsers 2 of the last 3 years -- with Netscape 4.x under Linux one year, in fact, with no bugs at all. I can't promise it'll still be compatible this year, but it's never been Windows-only or IE-only for me. They might say it only works with IE, but that probably just means they won't give support for other browsers. Give it a try; you don't have to pay until your return is finished and ready for transmittal or printing, and if you make it through the first couple of screens, you're all set.

Re:turbotax via the web. (1)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902305)

I've never filed my taxes with IE (OMG I don't even trust IE to render most web pages properly, let alone to handle my finances), and I've filed on-line every year with TurboTax for-da-web (which doesn't have the same evil licensing). That whole "remember what you did last year" thing is pretty convenient, though you can supposedly disable that...

Tax Software for Linux (1)

Skeezix (14602) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886410)

TurboTax claims to have a web-based application [turbotax.com] .

In Canada... (1)

Curtman (556920) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886464)

I'd go with the in-browser [netfile.gc.ca] option. I used it last year, and had no problems. (I used Mozilla too) They also have a list of software [netfile.gc.ca] up.

Re:In Canada... (1)

dan.hunt (613949) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887909)

Checked out the list of software and I'm going to use Cutetax [cutetax.ca] this year. It is low cost and because it is browser based it just might be GNU/Linux friendly.

I'm a LOSURS [losurs.org] who brews his own beer. [thebrewhouse.com]

Re:In Canada... (1)

Curtman (556920) | more than 10 years ago | (#7888463)

it just might be GNU/Linux friendly.

The browser form from CCRA [netfile.gc.ca] is free (as in beer) and GNU/Linux friendly incase that wasn't clear. (Or at least it was last year, and my Moz 1.5 passes the test they have currently)

Re:In Canada... (1)

dan.hunt (613949) | more than 10 years ago | (#7888935)

It was clear that the browser form from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency passes "the test" using Mozilla 1.5, but is that not only submitting your taxes? One still needs to prepare one's tax's.

What is the point of preparing your tax's with Microsoft Windows Software like Quicktax and then switching to GNU/Linux to submit the result. I would like to do both with Mozilla and GNU/Linux.

Whiny pussies (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7892053)

You guys are so stinking gay with your GNU/Linux shit. I swear, get a real computer and put windows on it like god intended you commie fags.

Tax laws never change, right? (1)

klangg (719009) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886476)

This was covered previously [slashdot.org] . I didn't dig through the comments but there may be a lead in there. I don't know how helpful this is since the story is from 1999. I have yet to find Linux tax software that I like. I am assuming you are in the USA. The biggest problem with finding a steady vendor for tax software is that the laws change from year to year, requiring an overhaul of the program. I've seen plenty of projects here one year and gone the next for that very reason. I've had to resort to web based tax filing for the past few years now. I hope this turns up something good, I'd appreciate it.

TaxAct (1)

Arthur Dent (76567) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886477)

I've been using TaxAct since 1997. Great software. $19.95 gets you the federal + 1 state edition.

Best part: You can file as many paper returns as you need for free. Filing online is free for the first federal+state, and I think it's $7.95 for each additional filing (max of 1 free + 4 additional).

The downloadable version is Windows only. However, they do have an online web-based edition here. [taxact.com]

TaxACT (1)

peeping_Thomist (66678) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886512)

I've used TaxACT [taxact.com] the past couple of years. It's web-based, and costs nothing if your taxes are (like mine) really simple (and, like me, you don't have a state income tax). I don't know of any solution that (1) runs on free software, and (2) is itself free software, so that pretty much limits me to using a web-based service.

Tax-cut has online product also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7886545)

Re:Tax-cut has online product also (1)

Rastor (8752) | more than 10 years ago | (#7891538)

I'll second this nomination. I've used the web interface at hrblock.com [hrblock.com] the last two years to file my taxes and it worked fine. Both times I was using Mozilla, and the most recent was Mozilla under Linux. That time I had to switch to Windows to download a PDF of my return, but the return itself worked under Linux. I sent them some feedback, so hopefully the entire process will work under Linux now.

Tax Act is the bomb (5, Interesting)

mcgroarty (633843) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886588)

I used TaxAct last year. It's free for Federal, though you want to purchase State. Split the cost with a couple friends if you like -- there's no protection, and one of their engineers actually suggested this (or said he thought many did it) off the record.

It was very easy to use and about as enjoyable as software can get before telling you that you owe a couple hundred bucks to someone. There wasn't any ambiguity -- it explains every step concisely, and even gives some tax saving tips for the coming year when you're through.

I was done in about ten minutes, and didn't feel anything had been unclear or "weird." The interface impressed me enough that I sent some feedback about it. (Least Painful Windows App Ever)

I'm looking forward to using Tax Act again this year; it promises to import last year's data so I should pretty much just have to punch in my W2, some money earned on the side, and then be done with it.

btw -- Anyone tried it with Wine?

Re:Tax Act is the bomb (1)

Arthur Dent (76567) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886858)

Re: Filing for friends/family...

It's not really off the record. They state on their web site that you can file 1 free federal tax return + up to 4 additional federal returns using one copy of the software...

Re:Tax Act is the bomb (3, Insightful)

cookiepus (154655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887016)

While it's great to hear positive user reviews about the software, I think I am suspicious of the fact that it took you 10 minutes to complete the process. It sounds like you've got a very simple tax case, in which case any software will do fine.

BTW: for simple cases, under certain levels of income (about 25k I think) you can do your taxes for free on TurboTax.com (or could do it in years past, anyway)

Now here's the deal. I was a dependant for half of 2003, but then I got a full time job in May. I was a resident of NYC for half of that year, and half of the year I was not. I have a W2, and some 1099's. Some business expenses. Some charitable donations. I paid for college. I invested in a 401k....

With these more complex tax situations, it's not going to take you 10 minutes to file no matter what software you use. In fact, in the past I noticed that after all the permutations, where was no way that TurboTax and TaxCut agreed on how much my return should be

(I was running TaxCut on the PC and TurboTax on the website, they've got their full version on the website and it's free around to fuck around with, just costs money to file once you're ready)

I believe that last year, TaxCut gave me a better refund. It's just a question of what items of the tax law the software is aware of. I certainly know fuck-all about it. Until Tax Cut asked me whether I had put more miles on my car for business purposes than I did for going to the store (something of that nature anyway) I didn't know that shit would have any relevance to my tax return whatsoever.

If you have a tax situation of any complexity, using the right software makes financial difference. If all you've got is a W2 then you're probably OK using any of them.

I'd like to see some feedback as to who had a good experience with any of these programs when it came to tax nuance.

Re:Tax Act is the bomb (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 10 years ago | (#7896386)

My program is named "CPA", and he lives just across town. Preparation costs about $200, but that includes managing stock transactions, corporate dividends, employee taxes, and other stuff that no tax package anywhere could possibly get right.

I am radically pro-accountant when it comes to taxes. Mine is honest to the point of pedanticism, which means that I know my taxes have been filed correctly without any shady "let's move this line over here..."-type stuff. And in the event that something does go wrong, his signature is next to mine on the return. That means that he has to do the explaining to the IRS, and while I'm liable for any additional taxes and interest, I'm not the one facing huge penalties and/or jail time.

I don't know what tax package could compete. I get a trustworthy human who knows the ins and outs of the tax code to a degree that a computer geek wishes he knew his favorite programming language, someone who can answer questions, planning advice throughout the year, and legal protection. At $200, there's no way I'd ever try to muddle through it myself.

Re:Tax Act is the bomb (1)

macemoneta (154740) | more than 10 years ago | (#7892693)

I also used the free TaxAct last year -- the web based version. My taxes were somewhat more complicated, including my consulting revenue and business expenses. TaxAct was very simple and straight forward to use. I paid the extra few dollars to have it do my state taxes as well. Filing was electronic and free. I received my refunds in 2-3 weeks. You also downloaded a copy for your records as an Adobe PDF file. I was very pleased with the results and plan to use it again this year.

running on linux (2, Interesting)

itwerx (165526) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886668)

Registration issues not withstanding, I've had good luck getting TurboTax to run under Wine.
(And besides, they've repented, why keep bitching about it? They do a good job.)

Another reason to use Windows (1, Interesting)

GCP (122438) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886682)

I've been using Linux for some time now, and there's little chance of my giving it up, but I still can't STOP using Windows. My taxes are complicated enough that there's no way I'd give up the benefits of TurboTax unless it's for something equivalent or better.

Where does Stallman think a free (as in yadda, yadda), reliable, continually updated TurboTax clone is going to come from? How does Stallman do *his* taxes (assuming he even does them)?

Re:Another reason to use Windows (2, Interesting)

Trelane (16124) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887878)

I'd also love and pay well (up to 2x the price of windoze software!) to be able to get a copy of quality Linux tax software.

What would be interesting is if someone made a FOSS project that did everything but the specializations inherent between state and federal [and potentially other countries]. It'd then be up to a legally certified group to provide files [strucured with XML?] that provides the list of specializations (e.g. what counts as a deduction, the various worksheets, etc.).

There is a common theme between all the components; someone could start such a project. Then one would plunk down money for your specialization files, since they have to be prepared every year. However, this completely avoids the cost of software development for the tax specialist.

It could work

Re:Another reason to use Windows (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7891907)

Where does Stallman think a free (as in yadda, yadda), reliable, continually updated TurboTax clone is going to come from?

I don't know about RMS, but I think the software would come from the same place as all other free software: from developers who write code. After all, the free software community has developed all kinds of software, even a whole operating system. Some of the brightest computer minds of our generation are involved in writing free software. Tax software isn't exactly rocket science. The problem is that tax software is thick with legal concerns. If I wrote a little gtk2 app that even did something as simple as accept inputs for the 1040EZ and then printed out an acceptable copy for the IRS (consider this my 1.0 release-- with plans to add itemized deductions for 2.0), am I acting as an accountant without a license? Am I liable for tax problems that my users have? Is someone going to enter a bunch of numbers wrong, get a totally hosed return that looks fine to them, print it out wrong, send it in and then sue me when they get audited?

These are concerns I don't have (as much) if I'm writing a web browser, an email client, an mp3 player, a text editor, or even an entire operating system for that matter. So the question isn't who's going to write the software, it's how the software can be distributed in such a way that makes it safe for developers to work on the code at all.

Another problem is electronic filing. Probably coding an app to the transmission specs needed to get returns to the IRS digitally is no harder than writing any other program. In fact, I'm guessing because it's the IRS that the specs are well described. But now we have a facilities issue. Does TurboTax connect directly to the IRS? Or does it connect to intuit.com, which then submits the return in a batch process?

Re:Another reason to use Windows (2, Interesting)

GCP (122438) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898771)

I think you're dramatically underestimating the business logic involved in a tax program. How many rule sets can you think of that are as convoluted and byzantine as the US Federal Tax Code? You're dismissing the hard stuff with the wave of a hand and then focusing on the easy stuff. (Except for the liability part, which you correctly identify as a huge issue.)

And even with a small army of testers, so many issues still slip past QA that the first thing TurboTax does when you start it up is look for new patches. Yes, I've written custom spreadsheet functions that will apply the basic tax bracket ladder algorithm to your gross salary. But that isn't even scratching the surface.

And every time the tax laws change (e.g. at least every year), a lot of that logic has to be updated and tested some more.

Just consider the money TurboTax brings in. Half of the US buys it, and then buys it again *every year*. If it were as easy as you seem to believe, why wouldn't every company that could afford liability insurance get into that game?

Re:Another reason to use Windows (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 10 years ago | (#7895857)

My taxes are complicated enough that there's no way I'd give up the benefits of TurboTax unless it's for something equivalent or better.

How about using the online version?

I filed online with H & R block (which is Kiplinger's TaxCut behind the scenes, IIRC) the past two years. I did have to use a Windows box at the end to download a PDF, because their software was too dumb to understand that I had a PDF viewer installed on my Linux box. Otherwise, it went ok.

heh (1)

BigBir3d (454486) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886730)

I go to the library (live in CT) and get the forms, go home, spend some quality time with the TI-81 graphing calculator that gets used exactly one time per year (original batteries from 1993 by the way), a pencil, staples, and a manilla envelope when I'm done. There are very few things I don't trust a computer to do. My taxes are one of them.

Security through obscurity I suppose.

The nice thing is I can do the state form on the phone, and the fed form isn't a big deal as I don't own a house yet. One W2, and the tax from my car, and I am all set.

Hope I made enough this year to warrant a $1000+ combined return. That extra $20 a pay period that I rarely notice through the year really adds up!

Re:heh (1)

sfjoe (470510) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887035)



If you don't notice the $20, why not sign up for a payroll deduction into a 401(k) or some sort of interest-bearing account? You'll still end up with the ~ $1,000 PLUS interest instead of giving Uncle Sugar an interest-free loan for a year.

Re:heh (1)

BigBir3d (454486) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887170)

fwiw i do have a 401(k) account. of course the (my projection) market slump at the end of this year will make that account worthless as a earner goes... :(

also, my job has bonuses, of large amounts, that can bump my overall tax bracket up for the year (similar to being on commission). that extra money usually comes back, but not every year. cya i say.

Has it occurred to anyone here... (4, Insightful)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886783)


That a tax system that requires spending money on complication-processing software, or having to hire an accountant/tax preparer, is a tax system in dire need of reform?

Re:Has it occurred to anyone here... (2, Funny)

RealityMogul (663835) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887483)

Aw, c'mon, it's not that bad. Although I really wish they'd rewrite the 6a question: "If your parents can claim you then do not check box C.

Would it really be that hard to rewrite the command as "Check box C if you finally moved out of your parent's basement.".

Yes it has. (1)

Dr. Bent (533421) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887716)

Death to the IRS....Viva La VAT [cato.org] !!!

Re:Has it occurred to anyone here... (1)

rizzo (21697) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887934)

What is incredulous to me is that I _HAVE_ to pay to e-file. e-filing makes the whole process easier for everyone, so WHY SHOULD I PAY TO DO IT???? I can file a paper return for free, which ends up costing the government more since they have to hire people to handle it.

But instead the government uses my taxpayer dollars to send out postcards encouraging people to buy software like TurboTax or pay accountants like H&R Block to file electronically.

Free e-filing should pretty much be a right, IMHO.

Re:Has it occurred to anyone here... (1)

Tozog (599414) | more than 10 years ago | (#7890404)

Free E-file:
http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=11 8986,00.h tml

Not up yet, but a bunch of different sites offer free e-filing based on your income for the year. Last year I was able to use Turbo Tax for the web for free. Probably won't this year since I worked the whole year instead of only half the year.

It was pretty much the "full" version of their software, just didn't do the over zealous look into your deductions. I was able to file my state and federal free.

Re:Has it occurred to anyone here... (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 10 years ago | (#7899322)

You don't have to pay to e-file. I got my copy of TaxCut Deluxe last week, and besides the full rebate on the state copy, I also got a coupon for a full rebate on the e-filing fee.

Re:Has it occurred to anyone here... (1)

cookiepus (154655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7888125)

Nope. It's fine.

Re:Has it occurred to anyone here... (1)

dheltzel (558802) | more than 10 years ago | (#7889828)

That a tax system that requires spending money on complication-processing software, or having to hire an accountant/tax preparer, is a tax system in dire need of reform?

Welcome to America !!
You must be new here. The thing I dread most from our government is when congress decides to "simplify" the tax code.
It's no wonder that things are the way they are. Any country that allows itself to be governed by a committee of lawyers is in trouble by definition.

I know they learned their lesson (2, Interesting)

mpechner (637217) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886807)

I had dinner with someone who is a salesman in Intuit. They absolutely will not pull crap like that again. They know they lost a lot of business to Tax Cut and will be working to get those customers back this year. No Worries.

Re:I know they learned their lesson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7894459)

You believed something a salesman said? Are you insane? Do you also trust everything a politician tells you?

there were other issues besides prod activation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7906007)



There have been many other issues with Intuit software over the years, the product activation was just the last straw. For me, in my pre-linux years, IIRC in the past they installed software without asking, hosed my system badly, replaced the version of IE I was using with a new version which I did NOT want and with security settings changed from where my previous IE version's were set, and more. I always liked TurboTax better than TaxCut, but last year I moved on to Tax Cut and I am not moving back. Tax Cut is "good enough".

TaxAct is good (1)

JCMay (158033) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886900)

I've used it for about four years now. Works fine.

No, there's no Linux version, but I use my wife's Win98SE PC for it and it takes me less than an hour to go through everything and print out the forms. It's a free download for the basic version, but if you buy a house or need forms not included with the free download the more complete version they sell is quite reasonably priced.

TaxCut (1)

MrWa (144753) | more than 10 years ago | (#7886974)

Where are the bad reviews and bugs in TaxCut?

21st Century Income? (1)

robdeadtech (232013) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887046)

I didn't know anybody on slashdot had actually gotten a paycheck in the past 3 or so years!

By hand on paper (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887220)

They charge a lot of money for this software. Last I checked (this changes every year though) they want you to pay to e-file.

Alternativly, you can do it all by hand on the free paper they send you, and for the cost of 2 stamps (normally my return is just more than one stamp) you can send it in. It doesn't actually take that much longer because the bulk of the work is getting all the papers you need no matter who/what does your taxes. (Okay, it takes me twice as long, but only cause I do it twice, the second time neatly on their forms)

If your taxes are really complicated a pro is worth it, but for most people everything is straight forward. Even with a house (so I have to itemize deductions) it isn't too big a deal.

The two big advantages of this are you learn what really matters. Sure I can deductte some expenses, but that doesn't mean for every dollar I spend I get it back latter, it means for every dollar I spend I get about 22 cents back (depends on tax braket of course) Not to mention all the people I know who brag about deductions they are taking, but a quick in the head calculation shows they are better off not taking them. (and odds are the pro who does their taxes just ignors them like he should)

If you have questions, the IRS has volenteers trained in the tax code to help the poor and elderly. Find out when they are around and drop by. Normally nobody is there, so even though technically they shouldn't help you, they will be happy to answer questions, and might even do it for you - for nothing.

Pros have only advantage: liability. The good ones will cover you should they make a mistake. (meaning they pay the lawyers, and your fines. you still owe the right tax amount) Make sure you understand the find print of this coverage, and make sure you get it. Any pro not willing to cover your back for their mistakes isn't worth talking to. IMO

At least try it. Many people have very easy taxes and yet still pay to have it done.

Be lucky that you're not german (2, Interesting)

datalife (17290) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887371)

In Germany we got 205 laws and approx. 96 000 regulations dealing only with taxes.
You definitely need a pro AND a programm, if you want to save money.

A side node:
60 % of the world tax literature is written in german for Germany.
It seems as we invented the damn thing!

TaxCut buggy? (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887453)

I used it for the first time last year (previously had used TurboTax, passed on it after the problems last year) and didn't have any trouble with it that I recall.

One more vote for Tax Cut (1)

DuckDuckBOOM! (535473) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887539)

Cheaper than TurboTax, relatively EULA-friendly, and trouble-free if you make sure to download all the available updates. TC's been balky out of the box on a couple occasions (I've used since '99), but the automatic updates have set it right each time.

Taxwiz - if yr. Canadian (1)

doublesix (590400) | more than 10 years ago | (#7887999)

I used Taxwiz [taxwiz.ca] last year, and plan to do so again ... its cheap ($10) and I e-filed straight from the program.

Quick and dirty.

Before automatically using software, use a second (1)

carpediem55 (157989) | more than 10 years ago | (#7888196)

On slashdot, everyone talks about what is the best tax software, but no one seems to mention much whether or not tax software is the best for your situation.
The thing to remember is that tax law is very, very complicated, and tax software is programmed to work for the lowest common denominator of user. Thus the software is not neccisarily going to give you the biggest refund. And more importently, the tax software cannot give you advice on how to best position yourself to reduce your tax liabilty in future years.
I used turbotax online few years back and got a refund, and I was happy. The following year I talked to a very experianced tax preparer, and he did my taxes that year and redid them for the past year. My refund for the past year was quadrupled. An experianced tax preparer was able (honestly and legally), to get me four times as much money back, compared to turbotax.
So before you decide what software to use to do your taxes, first decide whether software is the best way to do your taxes.

TaxSlayer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7888208)

An outstanding program. It doesn't have the frills of the Intuit software; it is just no-nonsense fill out the forms and file the returns. The software is free, it is $10 to file Federal, and they'll do State for free. You can check them out at their web site [taxslayer.com] .

Go With Tax Cut (1)

Geccie (730389) | more than 10 years ago | (#7888425)

I used Intuit until the activation feature came along then swithed to tax cut. Wait for the in-store box. You get a number of rebates (free state / free e-filing). Turbo tax fscked me hard. They required IE5.5 (or IE6.0) update which could be uninstalled after filing. At the time, IE 6 was (and still is) buggy so I reverted back to 5.0. Now I cannot upgrade to 5.5 and cannot install M$ updates / drm backdoors. IE is beyond fscked. It has no idea what version is installed. The IE component has redistribution licence restrictions so that VB assholes must require full IE installs to use the one component they really need (which cannot be independently packaged [by license]). That is why unix / linux / open source will ultimately succeed. Control over the code you run. If you cant develop it, you dont need it! Geccie

Re:Go With Tax Cut (1)

MadHungarian1917 (661496) | more than 10 years ago | (#7891436)

I used TTax from the days it was called MacInTax for Windows. TaxCut from last year until the congresscritters pass a flat tax. Oblivion to DRM!

Intuit does it again! (1)

FourthChild (729635) | more than 10 years ago | (#7889642)

I maintain my financial records meticulously using Intuit Quicken. They issue annual "upgrades" that generally offer little new functionality, so I upgrade only every 3rd year or so. This year I found that Intuit's Taxcut (slightly better UI in my experience) now REQUIRES you to upgrade to the latest 2004 version of Quicken for its most-automated data transfer functionality. Not even Quicken 2003 will work! So I think it's time to drop Taxcut, and probably Quicken!

Re:Intuit does it again! (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 10 years ago | (#7891108)

I believe you are confusing TaxCut and TurboTax. TurboTax is published by Intuit. Btw, Quicken comes with all Macs and TurboTax runs on OS X, so at least one *nix system is covered :)

Turbo Tax (1)

texas neuron (710330) | more than 10 years ago | (#7892128)

I have been using Turbo Tax on the Mac (formerly Macintax) for 10 years or so. I have been incredibly pleased with the product. Given the importance of doing your taxes right and given the fact they have corrected the issue in question.. I would reward them by continuing to be their customer. Don't you want to support companies that listen to their customer base and respond in a positive manner?

Re:Turbo Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7906056)

No.

I want to support companies that don't screw over their customers in the first place.

OpenTaxSolver - GNU/Linux Tax Preparation software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7892610)

OpenTaxSolver [sourceforge.net] is a tax preparation package for GNU/Linux. No GUI yet, and 2003 rules are still in progress, but it works. You provide a text file with the values of the lines that you have to provide (income, interest, etc), and it spits out a file with the value for every line. It does federal taxes as well as the state forms for a few states.

State Tax rebate hassles (1)

-tji (139690) | more than 10 years ago | (#7896434)

I will definitely not use Turbo Tax.. I switched to TaxCut last year because of the Intuit fiasco. (I spent several hours trying to clean the c-dilla junk from my parents computer over the holidays, reinforcing my disdain for their tactics.)

But, my problem with TaxCut is that they make you play the rebate game for state tax software. They don't offer a combined Federal/State package. And, even if you buy both from their WWW site, downloading the software, they still make you pay full price for the state portion, then mail in rebate forms.

It looks like I'll be trying TaxAct this year.. $20 for TaxAct Deluxe + State Tax via internet download.

Re:State Tax rebate hassles (1)

WebGangsta (717475) | more than 10 years ago | (#7904703)

I agree that TT had issue with giving you "free State" software, then requiring you to mail in a rebate form in order to claim the $$.

The kind folks at Intuit ("D. Jerry") have just informed me that if you buy the boxed version of TT this year at a local store (the Deluxe or Premiere versions, of course) then you will still have to fill out and mail in the rebate form. If, on the other hand, you purchase the download OR boxed version of TT directly from Intuit, then you don't have to fill out the rebate form.

Paper Form - just as good & takes just as long (1)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 10 years ago | (#7900933)

I've dickered around with both the online forms & the paper forms. I admit that I found the paper forms somewhat confusing at first. But I stuck with it.
- The computer tax software doesn't get me any more of a deduction than what I get on my own.
- I understand all of the questions & what is legal & not legal.
- I know how to modify my behavior for the rest of the year.
- It only cost postage. [Unless you are working on an open source salary ;) there is no free Federal tax software.]

Depends upon your situation (1)

MCSCG (738797) | more than 10 years ago | (#7903190)

Your choice of software (an installed client or website) or ink pen and paper (never use a pencil) entirely depends on two things: your specific financial situation and how fast you want a refund (if you're entitled to one). I will continue to use TurboTax, not because it's better than the other packages but because I like its interview-style approach, it plays well with Quicken and I've never had a problem with electronic filing. Yeah, I was pissed at Intuit for the lock, which turned into a major pain in the ass when I upgraded my OS, but since I design tax software for a living I understand why they made that decision (it's really expensive to maintain an app that deals with taxes, and most of the companies that do it barely get by). If your financial situation is complicated (married, kids, own a home or two, bought a home in 2003, run your own business, many investment gains/losses, substantial charitable gifts or medical costs, participated in 'unique' tax planning ideas and are scheduled to testify before Congress and/or haven't paid your taxes in 10 years, etc), then it may pay to hire a professional (not H&R Block, but someone who truly knows the code and regs). I have heard horror stories from people who have used many different packages (except mine). My standard recommendation to people who ask me is that if it wasn't included in PC Magazine's review of tax software apps (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,1418195,00.a sp) , then use at your own risk. Your taxes are one of the last things you want to f- up, because the IRS's computers generate most of the notices that you may receive and it takes a while to clear up any problems. And they don't accept the excuse that your software ate your tax return. The web-based packages are getting better but I'm still a bit paranoid about data security. One hack and someone has everthing s/he needs to have a field day with your identity. Although I haven't yet seen anything about electronic filing systems (both web-based systems and the systems that process e-filings) being compromised, it may just be a matter of time. Your ability to obtain better deductions with one package or another usually depends upon your knowledge of the tax regs and how aggressive you are with determining the numbers. You give the system your information; the system doesn't say, "hey, your charitable deductions look a little low compared to your income. Didn't you incur mileage driving to/from that school in the city where you donate your time as a sys admin?".

Tax Cut (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 10 years ago | (#7903669)

I've used Tax Cut the last 3 years. I used to do them manually, but These days, I have investment income/losses (trying to do that from the IRS instructions gave me a headache) and my income is borderline enough that I don't know how much I can contribute to my IRA account, so having the totals update in real time when I try "what if" scenarios for deductions is great.


Some people have complained about the way it's structured, and I slightly agree. It seems to be designed for people that have all their forms and want to sit down for an hour and do it. I probably won't have all my information until the start of march, so I enter it as I get it, so if you do that, you should double check you didn't miss some section.


Usually, you can get Tax Cut for $30, and a 10 rebate, and free (after rebate) copies of MS Money and the state edition. Since I use MS Money, I think it's a good deal.

TurboTax - Deleting C-Dilla Spyware (1)

quickenman (738822) | more than 10 years ago | (#7904077)

I used TurboTax for many years but used TaxCut last year (2002) after they Put C-DillA spyware into the program. TaxCut worked well (it lacked 1 form I needed) but TurboTax seemed to be a little more user friendly. I publish several free internet newsletters, "Dr M's Computer Tip List" and also "Dr M's Computer Tips"and have told my subscribers that the link to eliminate that C-Dilla spyware is still available even though Intuit no longer lists it on their web site. Go to: http://support.turbotax.com/kb/ViewDocument.asp?do cumentId=491&categoryId=80068

Invest in an accountant (1)

Ryosen (234440) | more than 10 years ago | (#7904343)

Seriously, getting an accountant to do your taxes is well worth the money and not as expensive as you might think. Tax software that I have seen is not that effective at getting every last drop out of available deductions and credits. Yes, tax software might cost you $50 and an accountant $300-500, but you stand to gain a lot more in return. This is especially true if you are: self-employed, own a business, are married, have children, own property, have investments or anything else beyond being single, living in an apartment and having one job as employee. An accountant knows exactly what questions to ask and can tailor the return to meet your exact needs as an individual. No tax software can do that. An accountant knows the right questions to ask and the right answers to provide. Also, an accountant is vital to have representing you should your return ever be audited.

Furthermore, and equally important, an accountant can look at your present tax situation and make recommendations on how to manage your finances in the coming year. This is called "tax planning" and it is critical to conduct it every year.

Remember that lower-income earners pay a higher percentage in taxes even though higher-income earners are taxed at a higher percentage rate. The difference is that the higher-earners know to get professional help. And I'm not referring to H&R Block and the like. The higher-earners know where to use their money to their advantage.

Essentially, the rich know how to get richer.

And with all of the time that you save by not doing your taxes yourself, you can spend it working out your financial strategy for the coming year. I recommend starting here [amazon.com] .

A vote for TaxCut (1)

anomaly (15035) | more than 10 years ago | (#7906887)

If I could do it for free, I'd be a card carrying cheapskate, so I am loathe to pay for tax prep software.

However, my tax situation is a bit more complicated than the EZ form, so I've been paying for tax prep for the past few years.

I have found that typically in mid-January you can begin to see deals for the Federal and State versions of Tax Cut along with free e-filing and including MS Money (if you're so inclined) for approx $25USD after rebate.

It's been money well spent.

Just my .02

Regards,
Anomaly

Marylanders can efile for free (1)

anomaly (15035) | more than 10 years ago | (#7906919)

Check with your state, but Marylanders can efile at no cost through the treasurer's website. [marylandtaxes.com]

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