TurboTax: New features, and a chance to win a copy
The kind folks at Intuit have given us ten free copies of TurboTax to share with our readers. We'll be giving two copies away per week for the next five weeks in a forum contest. To enter, simply leave a comment in our forums.
I snagged one that I'm going to use to do my taxes, and once I'm done, I'll post a review and tell you how it worked for me. In the meantime, here's a brief rundown of the latest features.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I've been using TurboTax (and before that, its predecessor MacInTax) since 1995. This is the first year that I got a free copy.
For Mac users like me, there are a bunch of new Mac-only features in TurboTax. For the past several years, the Mac version has been essentially a straight port of the PC version. This year, though, Intuit decided to build a Mac version from the ground up, letting them use the features in the latest versions of MacOS. (They mentioned that the latest version of Quicken is getting the same treatment.)
Cool new stuff, specific to the Mac version:
Better access to the actual tax forms For people who have done their own taxes in the past, the Mac version now has improved access to the actual IRS tax forms. Anytime while TurboTax is walking you through the process, you can click on a button and (via a cool animation of the window flipping around as if to show you the back) see the IRS form and line that the information that you're providing will go on.
Download state return software at any time In the past, the state return came at the end, after the federal return was done. Now you can download the software for your state return at any time and see what the effect on state taxes will be as you're making decisions about how to fill in the forms on your federal taxes.
Backup to CD and .Mac--including software! When you finish your taxes, there's a tool that lets you burn a CD (or save to .Mac) all the data that you provided--plus all the software, including all the updates from Intuit. That means that, if you have to go back to this year's taxes, you won't have to track down the original install disk and repeat the process of getting the updates. (I've still got all the data files from 1995 on, but I doubt if I could actually use them, except maybe the last two or three years worth. This feature will help a lot with that problem.)
Cool new stuff for everyone:
Life-event questions Right at the beginning, TurboTax gives you a screen that asks about life-events that can affect your taxes: Did you change jobs? Did you get married or divorced? Did you start a business? By getting that information up front, they can make the process of gathering your data more efficient. They also have a screen of related follow-up questions (if you changed jobs, did you also move?).
Enhanced audit support #1--warnings When you do something that might make an audit more likely--or that might prompt the IRS to ask for documentation--they give you a heads-up about possible issues, and tell you what documentation to keep. For example, if you deduct expenses related to rental property, they remind you that you must not have lived in the property more than 14 days during the year, and remind you to keep receipts for the deductions.
Enhanced audit support #2--downloadable tool If you get a letter from the IRS, you can download this new tool, match the letter that you got to samples that the tool provides, and get a step-by-step process for dealing with it. The tool tells you what documentation you need to track down, what you need to make copies of, and then provides a template letter for you to print with your response to the IRS. If it's going to take more than that, the tool will tell you that, too.
My own taxes are going to be quite a bit more complicated this year than in past years. I got a big chunk of severance pay when I left my former employer, plus I started working as a full-time writer. It'll be good to have a tool to help me deal with the new complications.
It'll probably be several weeks before I get the last forms I need and plow through them all. Once I do, though, I'll get an article up with a proper review.