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Customer Review

on December 5, 2011
First a disclosure; I am a beta tester this year (and have been some other years) of TurboTax.

I've been using PC tax software for about as long as I've been able to get it; first Tax Cut, then later TurboTax. I've watched it evolve over the years from something clunky and hard to use, but needed because of the complexity of Federal and state (for me New York) tax forms and rules.

I noticed that some people complained of issues in the first release in mid to late November 2011. A reminder to them; there are mountains of issues that are not yet settled when the software first hits the shelf, and a vendor like Intuit is rushing to get everything it can out to users as soon as it can. There is a caveat; you will sometimes find things that don't work YET, and somethings which you will very clearly be told will be available at some not too future date. Also, things that don't work for you may work fine for others. Regardless of why, it does happen, and your report back to the vendor as soon as possible helps greatly getting the issues corrected.

Now, my review!

I first got TT Deluxe 2011 a few weeks ago. NY State is not available, and some forms are only partially working at this point, but as of early December, the first major update release was applied and a lot more now works. I'm one of those in a big hurry to get things entered - I have reason to do all sorts of end of year planning so I can make decisions on some things before years end. If TT was not released until finished, I couldn't do that.

I enter data 2 ways. I try to go with the interviews as much as I can. Yes, I'm pretty good at filling out some forms, but these days many forms are far too complex and vague to just fill in manually. I find the interviews are generally very careful and complete and easy to follow, each year getting better in many cases. I also like the pages in TT where one sees a list of related topics and their status and can easily go back into one at any time.

Overall, as of today, Dec 5, it is looking good and smooth. Not complete, but enough to meet my immediate needs. I only have one issue (repeated from earlier years); how TT shows mortgage points. It displays the total points from the mortgage in places where you only expect to see this year's portion. That is confusing and misleading. The good news is that the actual calculations are correct.

I've run into some fairly strange tax issues over the year (whether mine or family or friends); for instance, when someone retroactively gets 'awarded' Social Security Disability having applied a couple years before, also has employer provided disability insurance, and when getting the 'award' now has to pay back piles of money to the insurer and retroactively declare the lump sum received. This gets amazingly confusing. I don't really expect TT to have an interview for this and other difficult topics, though it would be nice. But I would like to see TT to have more extensive tax help topics above and beyond what the IRS provides - which is usually unreadable even to tax experts. Note though that TT / Intuit does provide online forums where users and Intuit staff do try to help each other solve tax issues, and this help can be invaluable.

In another complex tax area; your child has gone off to college, and now there are all sorts of loans, student work income, scholarships, tax deductions and tax credits. From what I can see, TT does have a very detailed interview for this area; I'll be beating up on it pretty hard, but so far it looks very good.

I don't know yet how strong the New York state tax version will be yet. I've sometimes had issues with how well the interviews collect information for it and then pass the info on to both state and tax forms. I plan to report back on that.

If your tax needs are simple, you may wish to stick to a lower level form of the product. You might want to go with an online version. For me, Deluxe on the desktop is my choice; it meets my needs.

A couple more notes;
1. So far 2011 seems to load a lot faster then 2010 did at this time a year ago. But it does not 'instantly load' and once loaded you still then have to open your tax file.
2. Updates also seem to download and get installed more quickly so far.
3. The installation was reasonably quick and quite smooth).
4. The current methods of printing work well, especially when one uses 'previews' and gets the printable forms in PDF to preview and then print.
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