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My Experience with TAX ACT tax prep software
Old 03-27-2009, 08:40 PM   #1
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My Experience with TAX ACT tax prep software

I just finished my taxes using Tax Act, and wanted to offer a few opinions as a longtime Tax Cut user who tried it out this year for the first time
- My previous experience has been with approx 15 years with TaxCut, which I liked. I was unable to find any great sales on it this year. I wanted to do my taxes using on-machine software, rather than online. I did buy a copy of Tax Cut Standard at Dollar Tree for (guess----) $1, but this version would not handle Schedule C. I've been wanting to try/support Tax Act, so I decided to take the plunge.
Price: Very good. With Tax Act Deluxe (incl efile) and my State version included, it cost less than $20.
UsabilityGrade: B-. Though I wanted to like the software, it was just not as easy to use or as foolprroof as Tax Cut. It also left me on my own for some important areas. Examples of differences from Tax Cut:
-- Keeping track of the process: With Tax Cut, there is an easy to follow checklist that accompanies the Q&A, and as you complete sections the box changes color. Not so with Tax Act-- as you complete each section a checkmark appears, but the "granularity" is much greater--it is easy to overlook items if you don't go back and check.
-- Available help: In the Q and A, the Tax Cut questions are very complete and clear, so it is relatively easy to know how to answer each question. The Tax Act wording is closer to the wording on the IRS forms--some people may like this. Asking for "help" brings you to the JK Lasser publication that covers that particular area, and you get to a more general coverage of the subject. I found the Tax Cut "help" to be more helpful.
-- Terra Incognita: I needed to compute the maximum amount could contribute to my Solo 401K. It is fair to say that Tax Act offered almost no assistance with this relatively straightforward calculation. Instead, I learned that I should refer to the appropriate IRS publication. I did that, but also used the last-year copy of Tax Cut that I had sitting around to help me through the process. If I had never done it before, figuring out the hoops ( what is an "Elective Deferral", Profit Sharing Portion," limit of 20% for non-corporations, etc) would have been a big headache. Tax Cut also had a few minor quirks, but after you figured out the terminology it handled the calculations easily.

In addition, I think Tax Cut does a better job of highlighting changes in the tax code and of showing neophytes how to take advantage of the tax code to reduce their taxes. Tax Act worked well, but offered less handholding and was content to let me walk right past opportunities to save money.

Technical Glitches: For whatever reason, the Tax Act software cannot be run from my hard drive once it has been installed. I had to email the company, and their "fix" (offer verty quickly, so this must be a regular problem) was to have me remove the installed version and re-install the program for every session. My data was retained and worked fine in subsequent sessions so it wasn't an "OMG!!" moment, but this hardly seems like a great way to run a railroad.

Next year I'll probably go back to Tax Cut even if it costs $20 more. Tax Act was not terrible software, but I didn't find anything that I liked better about it (except the price) and, at least for me and my situation, it is not the best value despite being inexpensive. Next year in particular I expect there will be a lot of changes in the tax code, so I want to be sure my tax software will clearly and directly show me how the changes impact my situation and how i can take advantage of the new rules. Based on what I saw, I think Tax Cut may do a better job of that than Tax Act will. For me. YMMV.
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My experience
Old 03-27-2009, 10:35 PM   #2
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My experience

I did Tax Act also, this year. I've been using Turbotax super dooper for years to hande my consulting business, and have been quite happy with it.
Now that I'm totally retired, I thought I would try Tax Act.

All income other than SS is IRA distributions. I was done and filed in half an hour!

No longer need to disturb my busy nap schedule!!
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Old 03-28-2009, 06:11 AM   #3
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Been using and touting TAX ACT for a few years now. The people that run it came from the old Parsons Technology. PT had an Accounting Program that was great and could be used for both standard accounting and fund accounting. This goes back to about the dark DOS ages in the 80's.

The problem with running the "free" version of the program is that it is for a SINGLE return while the $12.95 version can be used for several returns. The fix for the "free" program is to remove the program and reinstall it (that was the fix for last years program too).
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Old 03-28-2009, 07:29 AM   #4
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Like Samclem and others, I tried Tax Act for the first time this year because I couldn't find a cheap version of Tax Cut. Spent the $12.95. Good thing too because I needed to do several versions as training for VITA tax return volunteering. I appreciate Samclem's input. I didn't have any problems.

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Old 03-28-2009, 07:41 AM   #5
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I have used Turbo Tax and Tax Cut in the past and currently work part time for H&R Block during the tax season. Any tax software program is only as good as the person's knowledge and understanding of the tax code and software program terminology, Q&As, etc. I have seen many returns done by individuals using tax software, where 1099 Rs and 1099 Misc. were put in as W-2s, and many Schedule A deductions missed. I won't go into Schedule C or D mistakes. Most of the time the errors were made because of the lack of individual's understanding of the questions or knowledge of what form may be needed to complete the return.
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Old 03-28-2009, 08:25 AM   #6
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I used TaxAct last year and this year. Last year I just printed my forms and thus it was free. This year I electronically filed the Federal forms for $10 and manually filed the state forms. Since TaxAct had already calculated my state refund, it was a nice (free) cross check to my own work. Michigan uses a flat tax, so the form is really simple - not a good value IMHO to pay extra for it.

I agree that I like TurboTax or TaxCut better, but I find Tax Act adequate for my situation. I use TurboTax for free to file my MIL's taxes, as her income is small enough to qualify her for the free version available through the state treasury website.
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:44 AM   #7
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Has anyone used both TaxAct desktop *and* TaxAct online?

I'm curious if they are similar or very different products. I'm reasonably satisfied with TaxAct online. Navigation seems somewhat cumbersome though, if I want to change one entry it seems I often need to go through several pages to get to the one I want. There does not always seem to be a way to just plug a number directly into a specific entry. I don't know if the desktop version is better.

Positives of the online is you never have to wait to download a hundred updates for stuff you'll never use. It's always up-to-date on their site and you just log in, you are not downloading anything. And your data is saved at every step, no worries about losing a hard drive or a power glitch or crash between backups or saves (trade off is security concerns).

TIA -ERD50
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:53 AM   #8
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I plan to try on-line next year IF they allow you to save the return as say a pdf (which the DT version allows). Saving it as a pdf allows you to save many, many years of taxes on a thumb drive (ours was 38KB as a pdf).
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Old 03-28-2009, 10:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by OAG View Post
I plan to try on-line next year IF they allow you to save the return as say a pdf (which the DT version allows). Saving it as a pdf allows you to save many, many years of taxes on a thumb drive (ours was 38KB as a pdf).
Yes, I use the "print to pdf" feature that is built into Mac OS to do exactly that. I don't know that that is built into Windows, but there are add-on apps to do it.

I also right-click to save the link as a pdf. This actually works better, at least for me that saves a pdf version that is searchable. It seems when I use the "print to pdf" it is not searchable.

-ERD50
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Old 03-28-2009, 10:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
I plan to try on-line next year IF they allow you to save the return as say a pdf
CutePDF.com . Free, works perfectly. I use it all the time.

-----------

I really like TaxAct. This is the second year I've used it.
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Old 03-28-2009, 11:21 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Positives of the online is you never have to wait to download a hundred updates for stuff you'll never use. It's always up-to-date on their site and you just log in, you are not downloading anything. And your data is saved at every step, no worries about losing a hard drive or a power glitch or crash between backups or saves (trade off is security concerns).
One other thing (I think) Tax Cut and Turbo Tax users lose with the online version is cross-program data import capability. TaxCut and TurboTax will import data from their own or the other's previous year data (neither would import 2007 data from Tax Act in 2008). I'm not sure you'd be able to switch programs each year and import the data if you are using the online version. This "enforced loyalty" was one reason i'd seen for the lower price of the online versions of each program-to lure in customers who are unlikely to leave in following years because of the hassle of retyping account info, etc.

Also, having the softwre on your machine enables one to easily use it later (as I did this year when trying to figure out my max solo 401(K) contribution). No passwords to remember, no hoping that last year's software version is still available online, etc.

Of course, I'm a fossil. If I could still get the software in the trusty 5 1/4" floppy media that would be great. I could run it on my Commodore 128.
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Old 03-28-2009, 11:28 AM   #12
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This year, TurboTax's user forum helped me figure out the program's bug workarounds quicker than ever...

I'm going to negotiate our kid's ad campaign for next year: "TurboTax. So simple even a teenager can use it!"
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Old 03-28-2009, 01:37 PM   #13
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sam,
Where did you buy your taxact?
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Old 03-28-2009, 01:47 PM   #14
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sam,
Where did you buy your taxact?
I bought it at their web site (https://www.taxact.com). Under each of the online versions of the program there's a pulldown option to download the software.
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Old 04-16-2009, 07:17 PM   #15
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i used taxact this year actually yesterday and I will say it is not as easy as turbo tax. Turbo tax thinks for you but tax act you have to do a little digging and thinking. For the price its good enough. Just a matter of getting used to. I might do some more returns just to practice for next year if the price is still good. Thanks to sam and some of the people here otherwise I would not have used it.
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Old 04-18-2009, 07:28 AM   #16
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For 5-6 years I have been using an excellent free (donations accepted) tax spreadsheet, exact facsimile of the tax forms. You can download it at:
Federal Income Tax Form 1040 (Excel 5.0 Spreadsheet) - Download
Tax software tends to talk down to you, it's aimed at some lowest common denominator. The spreadsheet just works: fill in the blanks and the calculations get done automatically. Don't let the plain website put you off. Good enough for me.
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Old 04-18-2009, 07:43 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by alvarezg View Post
For 5-6 years I have been using an excellent free (donations accepted) tax spreadsheet, exact facsimile of the tax forms. You can download it at:
Federal Income Tax Form 1040 (Excel 5.0 Spreadsheet) - Download
Tax software tends to talk down to you, it's aimed at some lowest common denominator. The spreadsheet just works: fill in the blanks and the calculations get done automatically. Don't let the plain website put you off. Good enough for me.
This prominent statement gives me pause:

Check your results carefully and let me know if you find any errors!

Just how the heck am I to know there are errors?
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Old 04-18-2009, 10:27 AM   #18
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For 5-6 years I have been using an excellent free (donations accepted) tax spreadsheet, exact facsimile of the tax forms. You can download it at:
Federal Income Tax Form 1040 (Excel 5.0 Spreadsheet) - Download
Tax software tends to talk down to you, it's aimed at some lowest common denominator. The spreadsheet just works: fill in the blanks and the calculations get done automatically. Don't let the plain website put you off. Good enough for me.
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Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
This prominent statement gives me pause:

Check your results carefully and let me know if you find any errors!

Just how the heck am I to know there are errors?
I'm sure that is in the fine print of the commercial packages. Sure, they "guarantee" no errors, but, if you don't know there is an error, how do you ask? Yes, if the IRS finds something, it might help. But TurboTax gave me an "error of omission", which would have led me to decide NOT to put any money in Roths that year. It's not like the IRS is going to come after you and ask you why you didn't do a ROTH. It was only my previous experience with Roths that led mew to question this and find the 'band-aid' buried in their forum somewhere (not published as a bug). That is when TT lost me as a customer.

I saw that spreadsheet a few years back and I was impressed. It didn't handle a few details I had though, so I couldn't use it (kiddie tax, IIRC).

But for most people, if nothing else I would run it as a double-check and a very nice "what-if" check.

-ERD50
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Old 04-18-2009, 11:01 AM   #19
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I switched from TaxCut, which I have used for years, to TaxAct this year. I paid $17 to get the "Deluxe" with State. It was OK to use. I most likely will use again next year.

I used the included free E-file for Fed return, but they would charge extra for the state E-file so I mailed that in. That was about 2 weeks ago. I received state and federal refunds at the same time yesterday by direct deposit.
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Old 04-18-2009, 11:11 AM   #20
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But for most people, if nothing else I would run it as a double-check and a very nice "what-if" check.
I can see it used effectively in this manner. What I have trouble understanding is why anyone would trust a spreadsheet posted by an anonymous individual on the net - especially with something as important as taxes.

Heck, you might as well trust some anonymously authored program telling you how much money you need to amass in order to give up your career and FIRE....uh...

Uh-oh.
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