There’s just no way around it: Tax preparation is painful. So you may as well ease the pain and streamline the process by using good software. And the three products we review here—Kiplinger TaxCut Deluxe, Quicken TurboTax Deluxe 2000, and TaxACT 2000 Deluxe—are all better than good. This software automates tax preparation by making all necessary calculations and carryovers, reviewing your return for errors and missed deductions, and printing or electronically filing your return.
Of course, you could skip the software in a box and go online. Tax-preparation Web sites offer less expensive programs with similar capabilities, and bugs are much easier to deal with online than they are in software. But there’s a catch: Unless you have a broadband connection, online tax preparation, including all the complex calculations, can be exceedingly slow and frustrating.
The most time-consuming aspect of using tax-preparation software is entering all the data. Intuit has taken a big step toward simplifying the process with Automated Tax Return. This feature saves about 20 million people who receive W2s and 1099s from leading payroll services and brokerage firms (such as Ceredian Corp., Fidelity Investments, and Salomon Smith Barney) from having to input the information from the forms into their electronic returns.
Another big change since last year: Microsoft has shelved its TaxSaver program and opted instead to throw its support behind Block Financial Corp.’s Kiplinger TaxCut (see the product review for details). As for TaxACT, 2nd Story Software says it will launch an online version. That means you’ll have four tax-prep Web sites to choose from: those hosted by the three desktop software publishers, and the H.D. Vest Technology Services site (www.hdvest.com). These are all slated to be available sometime in January.
Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.