Top critical review
558 people found this helpful
TurboTax better than TaxCut
on January 11, 2009
This is an edited review with the new information immediately below. The old portions of the review can be found further down below the dashes. There you can find out how Intuit managed to eliminate their negative reviews on Amazon, or how they almost lost a bunch of customers. Now for the review ...
As promised, this is my TurboTax Deluxe vs. TaxCut Premium review. I used both programs in parallel on my Mac to do two tax returns, one with rental properties, a side business, and investments. I won't keep you in suspense: TurboTax is better. Given the recent Intuit shenanigans with TurboTax limitations and pricing, I really wanted to discover that TaxCut was better. Alas, that was not to be.
So what's better about TurboTax? The most significant for me is TurboTax's display of last-year and this-year amount columns in the wages and income summary (you get there with "select specific topics" and after you visit each topic), the deductions and credits summary, and in the rental common expenses interviews. They are the best way to see what I need to do, and what I might have forgotten. Like those home owner's association dues on one of my properties that I almost forgot. TaxCut does provide a two-year summary, as does TurboTax. However I don't find that very useful in either program since it's at a high level. Also TaxCut shows it as a form, which is an inconvenient way to look at it.
TaxCut also manages to be annoying in how it displays last year's imported data. There is a single column with blue numbers for last year. You might think that they would change color or something when you enter this year's data, but no. TaxCut doesn't even keep track of what I've entered, since it asks me if I replaced the old information, when that's what I just did. The display and questions are confusing and less than helpful.
The two columns in TurboTax, with "not visited" in the this-year column until I do something with it, as well as buttons that say Revisit if I've been there or Start if I haven't, is the right way to do it. (Though I wish TurboTax would display this year in black and last year in gray, instead of the other way around.)
Another nice thing in TurboTax is that I can have two returns open at the same time and work on them both. Not so with TaxCut. TurboTax enables much easier what-ifs between two returns, like who gets which dependents.
Again, TaxCut manages to be annoying even in opening the one return, since it doesn't remember was I was doing. TaxCut always comes up with the same window, making me pick work on an old return and click on it. The first time I came back, TaxCut didn't even know what directory I had saved the return in.
TurboTax comes up with the last return I was working on already open, with a button to continue where I left off. One flaw in TurboTax is that it doesn't remember that I had two returns open -- it only opens that last one I was messing with.
TurboTax always checks for updates when you launch it. TaxCut requires that you do that manually. TaxCut might let you know on an interview page if it happens to know that an update is forthcoming.
There were many times that TaxCut had a very short, arbitrary limit on the number of characters in a field, which prevented me from entering what I needed to identify what it was both for the IRS, and for myself next year. There may be field limits in TurboTax as well, but I never ran into them.
TaxCut also made it very difficult to look at the form relevant to what I am currently working on. In TurboTax I just hit the forms button in the upper right (and the little feetsies to get back), and I'm there. In TaxCut, I had to go find the form, if I even knew which form it was, and once there the display was cumbersome.
TurboTax also makes it easy to move between forms and worksheets by double-clicking on numbers that come from another form or worksheet. You end up at the source for that number. TaxCut instead asks you if you want to override the number from the unspecified different form.
I won't go into the myriad of little things, like TurboTax accepts 08 for 2008, where TaxCut requires you type 2008, or that TaxCut doesn't use the little red button in the corner and doesn't keep track of whether you've made any changes and need to save, but suffice it to say that in many ways TurboTax was much more pleasant to use.
Some things that are better in TaxCut: the Child EIC and tax credit rules are more clear in the interview process; the Next button mostly stayed in the same place making it easy to review, where in TurboTax the Continue button keeps moving around; TaxCut separates the deductions from the credits, which I like better than TurboTax which munges them together in one page; and of course the biggie, which is that TaxCut never bugs me about upgrading to the next version and sending them another $30 or $40 like TurboTax does *incessantly*.
But the few good things come nowhere near balancing the bad things about TaxCut. Unfortunately, I have to recommend TurboTax Deluxe over TaxCut Premium.
Cute trick! You can get rid of all the negative reviews of your product by "updating" the product! The previous Amazon page for this same product had 290 customer reviews (as compared to the 97 reviews on this page today), and out of those 290 reviews, 269 were one star! (You can find a link to the previous page just above the customer reviews here in a box titled "Looking for Customer Reviews for a previous version?".)
To be fair, the negative reviews were largely due to Turbo Tax having a charge for printing returns after the first, and Intuit changed that policy to unlimited printed returns, including my one-star review. But still, allowing a vendor to erase their reviews when they don't like them does not seem like a good precedent for Amazon. Though in this case it didn't completely work out for the vendor, since they continued to accumulate a large percentage of one star reviews (currently 64 out of 97). They did go from an average of one star to an average of two stars.
Getting back to the product, I have copied my review from the previous page here for reference (see below the ----). But first some comments about another prominent review here.
The review that is listed today as the most helpful review actually isn't very helpful, so don't take it too seriously. TurboTax Deluxe most certainly does include Schedule D, Schedule C, and Schedule SE, as well as Schedule E. This has not changed from previous years, so S. Gerber's complaint about an implicit price increase from previous years is simply not correct.
What is true is that TurboTax offers more "help" with those schedules in the more expensive Premier and Home & Business versions. Again, that has been the case in the past as well. However I have rental properties, stock investments, and a side self-employment business and have been using the Deluxe version for years to do my taxes with no problems. In general I find the TurboTax "help" to be less than helpful. All I need is for the software to provide the forms, let me fill them out, do the calculations for me, correctly, and print the forms. I have no need for the "help" in the more expensive versions.
What TurboTax does that really is helpful, at all price levels, is that it allows me to compare my previous year forms and this year's forms at a detailed level. That helps me catch things that I might have forgotten, and to spot unusual deltas that I should look into. [Added note: another review here said that this year's version has eliminated the side-by-side review that was there in previous years! If true, that may be a deal breaker for me.]
Now for my review from the old page (with a few minor changes) ...
This review previously noted the fine print for Turbo Tax, not present on the Amazon page, that said: returns after the first, even if printed, would incur a $10 charge. After a great deal of negative customer reaction, including many bad customer reviews here, a CNET article on these reviews, and their competitor changing their product to offer five free e-files, Intuit has decided to mend their ways.
Now Turbo Tax 2008 will work as before, allowing printing additional returns for no charge, and they have matched their competition in providing five free e-filed federal returns with the product. They even got Amazon to alert consumers at the top of the product page: "FREE: 5 federal e-files and unlimited printed returns included with every TurboTax 2008 product." (Funny though that they didn't have a similar alert before at the top of the page about charging $10 for each printed return, but I digress.)
My review previously ended with: "I have been using Turbo Tax for the past eight years. But not this year."
Now I plan to use Turbo Tax for the ninth year. Though I am also giving TaxCut a try in parallel and see how that goes. Based on that experience, I will decide on one or the other for next year. I will update this review once I have done that comparison.