Top positive review
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Pleased overall. Solution to technical download issue included. State return error alert
on December 9, 2011
I've used H&R Block's tax software (formerly called TaxCut) every year since 1995. Several times when I saw a promotional deal I purchased both TaxCut and TurboTax to compare. I found that TurboTax did not do anything better than TaxCut while costing consistently more. In addition, I like the option of being able to file 5 free Federal e-files as I do taxes for other relatives who are less computer savvy.
H&R Block software also wins if compared to the free on-line options. I don't like using the on-line tax programs for two reasons (1) I don't want my financial data to be on someone's web site (2) free offers include the Federal tax only.
This year I used a digital download for the first time rather than a boxed version. I liked the security of having a physical CD in case I need to re-install on another computer several years down the road. But you are supposed to be able to download the software again to a different computer and when the boxed version was not available I went digital.
Downloading the software was easy, however during the install I got an error registering the software. When I started the software it immediately gave me a prompt to enter a key-code which (the prompt said) I should have received in the email after purchasing the software. The email I received from Amazon contained no such key-code. I had to call Amazon support and they told me that this information can be found following these steps
1) Log into Amazon
2) Select Your Account at the top right of the page
3) Select Games and Software downloads which is towards the bottom of the long page you see when you log in
4) Then under H&R software entry you will see the key-code that you need to enter to unlock the software
Once this was done the rest of the software functions well. In fact it looked more polished than in prior years. I always had minor display problems because I use large fonts and they never scaled quite right. This year everything displayed perfectly.
I read one review which mentioned a problem with seeing selection boxes. The problem there most likely caused by low screen resolution. Both Windows and Mac minimum requirement for screen resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels or higher. At a lower resolution, there will be problem with display such as not seeing selection boxes. Screen resolution can be changed on your control panel by change PC's display settings.
I did a preliminary tax return and below are my observations.
1. H&R Block starts the interview process with an annoying up-sell pitch, recommending an upgrade from Deluxe to Premium even when it is not necessary.
2. Copy and Paste from Interview screens is not possible. Sometimes I wish to do it for some issue as a reminder to myself. My solution is to do PrintScreen (holding ctl key, shift key, and PrintScreen key at the same time). This generates an image of the screen, which I paste into paint or photo editing software which I can print or save for later.
3. I don't use the default location for the tax returns, as I want to my backup program to back up only the data not the software itself. The software does not initially remember this new location on startup, it tells me I have no returns. I needed to pick the return manually from the File menu, as it does remember recently used files. The third time I started the software, it finally knew the location of the tax return file.
4. Some forms (such as foreign tax credit over the limit to be directly on 1040) require entering data manually. This year the foreign tax credit form is some what automated, when you hit next button it takes you to the next place on the form you need to fill out (last your you were just presented the form to fill out on your own). This form is not that hard to do manually as this form does not change year to year.
5. I use large font option on my monitor display and in the past had display issues (some things were displayed on top of each other). This year all forms displayed properly with this option. This is the first time in all the years I've used H&R Block software that I have no complaint about the display and did not need to change my monitor settings just to do the tax preparation. Nice!
6. H&R Block charges $19.95 to e-file each state return. Of course, this charge can be avoided by printing the forms and mailing them in.
7. In prior years the package include DeductionPro software. This year, like last year, this software is only available as an online tool. I will not use software that requires me to put my financial data on their site, and DeductionPro wants to import the data to H&R web site, so I will not be using it. Disappointing.
8. The price on this package changes day to day. I found a nice tools that shows history of Amazon prices and allows you to generate an email alert when the price reaches our desired price range. If you enter "price history alert" in Google it will come up at the top, it has the word camel in the name. I find this tool very helpful. I purchased this package for $31, last year I saw the prices fluctuate between $25 and the list price of $44.99.
9. For folks trying to download State Forms before January 16, 2012. The state forms are not available for download until January 16 for most states.
If you go to the Software Update Center on H&R website you will see a section called State Updates. Under there you there is a link called "Forms Available". If you click on that, it will show a table that shows availability of forms for each State. Right now (last checked on 1/6/2011) none of them are available. I called about my state (Massachusetts) and they told me that most state forms will become available for download on January 16. In the software package, select State Tab and click the button that is called "Buy" (a little scary since we already paid for it) but then "buy" will turn into "update" and when the forms will become available they will be downloaded to your computer.
10. ** ERROR ALERT ** 1/16/12 Version of Massachusetts state return contained an error that was corrected in 1/24/12 update.
If you owed taxes on your 2010 State return and paid owed tax in 2011, this payment was incorrectly included in Line 36 on the MA Form 1 as an amount withheld in 2011. This overstates the amount paid to the State for the 2011 tax year. This error has been reported to H&R and corrected in 1/24/12 update. Thank you to Tech Impaired to spotted it and reported to H&R!
I have been a H&R Block/TaxCut user for many years. The interview process is helpful in reminding you things you might have forgotten. On-line help is useful. 2011 H&R Block package appears more polished and has a number of improvements to a couple of small pet peeves I had in the past. So I am quite pleased with it and recommend it!
Ali Julia review