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Anybody else try multiple tax apps?
Old 03-19-2015, 07:25 AM   #1
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Anybody else try multiple tax apps?

After going through the upgrade confusion and refund from Turbo Tax this year I decided to run Tax Act in parallel to see which was easier/better for future use. Has anyone else tried this? If so did they output the same results and which did you prefer?

It feels like Tax Act is a little bit more transparent (easier to see all the categories, what is going into the forms, etc.) and better for avoiding upgrade come-ons. But, surprisingly my Federal return promises a $452 refund on TT and an $82 refund on TA. I assume I entered something differently but haven't been able to suss it out looking through all the summary screens in TA and TT. I will probably export PDFs of the 1040s and go through them line by line to see what is up but what a PITA.

My basic taxes are straightforward - retirement income from a Fed pension, interest, dividends, and CGs, simple itemized deductions. But things get complicated by a $30K "stipend" DW gets from her law firm. This is standard self employment income on a K-1 (even though she doesn't actually have to put in any hours to get it) so we have social security taxes and 6 state tax entries other than DC, our home state, (the firm files in all but CA we we have to file a return in addition to the DC return). I suspect that something may have gone wrong on the self employment side. In particular I was confused by some of the questions regarding health insurance and long term care. I ran into two input forms that asked me about it - one under DWs self employment and one under itimized medical deductions. Maybe I missed something and got a double entry for LTC in one of the apps.

The biggest problem for me is that a fair number of the questions concerning health insurance and income types in self employment are pretty opaque. This stuff should be easier to figure out. Can't wait for next year when I will have the sale of out weekend house to deal with.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:09 AM   #2
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DD did her return on H&R Block's online product. Since I have some free federal filings left from my TT download, we decided that she would file using that so I reproduced her return in TT using the same inputs and the federal and state amounts were identical. I was actually a bit surprised.

What you might try is taking out your DW's income since that might be the cause of the difference and see if the amounts are the same before introducing that complication.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:16 AM   #3
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This was my first year using tax software. I have always done them by hand so that I was closer to the numbers and had to understand (as much as one can) the tax laws that affect my family.

I started with TaxAct. Then the wife got a free copy of TT. Since we had a very complicated year (regular jobs for part of the year, some self employment income, and three different ACA policies) I decided to run both. Federal and state agreed to the dollar.

I thought the questions were easier to follow in TT, but I hated it for what-ifs, changing entries (I put in some anticipated numbers till the final ones came in), or comparing to last year. TA was very easy to look at the filled out forms on the screen and make changes to see how they rolled through the rest.

I guess I would say that TA is based on the tax forms and guides you into filling them in. TT is an interview and then spits out the answers. I like to know what is going on under the hood, so I prefer TA.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:18 AM   #4
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Actually I rarely use the interview in TT. I use forms mode almost exclusively. I did use the interview to answer the health insurance questions since the forms are new this year.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:33 AM   #5
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Actually I rarely use the interview in TT. I use forms mode almost exclusively. I did use the interview to answer the health insurance questions since the forms are new this year.
Did you use the online version or the PC version? I have TT online and can't find a forms mode.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:43 AM   #6
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I used TT for many years until I tried TA in 2007 - Have used that exclusively since then. My father got TT this year and did his taxes but wanted me to double check, (he is 89!), so I ran it through my TA software and after reallocating some things he did in TT got the same answers for both. The TT interview tripped him up in 1 area hat had led to the discrepancy.
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Old 03-19-2015, 09:32 AM   #7
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I've used TT exclusively for maybe 20 years or so. I bounce between the interview mode and forms mode. The interview mode does allow a fair amount of DIY.

With the customer issues TT created this year, I would bet that they will play it straight for the next couple of years.
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Old 03-19-2015, 10:07 AM   #8
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Did you use the online version or the PC version? I have TT online and can't find a forms mode.
Download version.
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Old 03-19-2015, 10:22 AM   #9
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When it looked like TT was going to cost me too much this year, I downloaded free TaxAct and started to use it. It was too clunky for me and wanted me to pay money for upgrades. I gave up on it because it was just too hard for me.

Then TT became available cheaply, for less than the upgrades for TaxAct, so I got it and used it.

I have used TT quite a lot and use it for many "What if?" calculations, so I am very familiar with it. I haven't found a need to override any numbers in the Forms interface, but I do look at the forms. Maybe that's why I found TA clunky and didn't like it: lack of familiarity.

I had my youngest do his first required tax return by TT a couple days ago. It was amazingly easy as I watched him click away with his simple inputs. Ah, to be young again and have no 1099s, no money, and just one simple W-2, no Schedule C, no nothing. OTOH, he learned some new vocabulary words like "claimed", "dependent", "jury duty", "dividend", "Roth IRA", etc.
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Old 03-19-2015, 10:29 AM   #10
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Given a return of average complexity of the members here, I'd bet that if one restarted the filing process from scratch, most would arrive at a different tax number the second time. The filing process, via software or the paper forms themselves, is simply too complex to yield regularly repeatable precision down to the dollar.
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Old 03-19-2015, 11:07 AM   #11
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I have the difference down to less than $100 but there are still differences.
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Old 03-19-2015, 11:42 AM   #12
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I have the difference down to less than $100 but there are still differences.
Print out the 1040 and see what lines the differences lie in. If the TI is the same then the tax should be the same (unless you've entered ST/LTCGs or quailfied dividends differently or you have AMT or something like that).
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Old 03-19-2015, 12:34 PM   #13
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I have an excel spreadsheet that figures it out. I then use TA to check and also to e-file.
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Old 03-19-2015, 02:41 PM   #14
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Did you use the online version or the PC version? I have TT online and can't find a forms mode.
I don't think forms mode is available on the online version.

I use the online version and wish there was a forms mode, if only to easily do short 'what if' scenarios.

I can't quite understand why the online version would have less functionality; I'd imagine that TT would want people to use the online vs having to produce those discs!
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Old 03-19-2015, 03:20 PM   #15
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Thanks for the reply. I thought I was just not able to find something everyone saw. No forms mode is a deal breaker for me.
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Old 03-19-2015, 04:49 PM   #16
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I don't think forms mode is available on the online version.

I use the online version and wish there was a forms mode, if only to easily do short 'what if' scenarios.

I can't quite understand why the online version would have less functionality; I'd imagine that TT would want people to use the online vs having to produce those discs!
I just download the software. TaxAct was free; I get TT through Vanguard. In the end I usually use Taxwise since I have free access to it and I don't pay to e-file Fed or State but I sometimes use the free packages to check something quickly. Both have forms mode. Interview mode is a waste of time and often leads to errors.
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Old 03-19-2015, 05:26 PM   #17
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After going through the upgrade confusion and refund from Turbo Tax this year I decided to run Tax Act in parallel to see which was easier/better for future use. Has anyone else tried this? If so did they output the same results and which did you prefer?
I'm doing this with H&R Block and TT, both desktop. I haven't finished so a final comparison isn't ready, and I want to praise the virtues of HRB, but so far I can't. I'm having a big issue with form 1116 (foreign tax credit) and TT is doing a much better job.
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Old 03-19-2015, 05:35 PM   #18
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I just download the software. TaxAct was free; I get TT through Vanguard. In the end I usually use Taxwise since I have free access to it and I don't pay to e-file Fed or State but I sometimes use the free packages to check something quickly. Both have forms mode. Interview mode is a waste of time and often leads to errors.
+1 also, some people think that the download version is more secure but I'm not totally sure about that.
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Old 03-19-2015, 07:22 PM   #19
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I used TT download because I use it to keep track of income, roth conversions and cap gains, as I plod along in 2015.

This year I finally made an excel sheet where I can monthly, put my numbers in, and then it puts the numbers on a 1040 by the lines I use. I have Vanguard for all my taxable accounts, so the download to TT was a breeze.

I already had the IRS verify my return, because I fat fingered an est qtrly. So even though I told them to use my $200 refund for 2015, they cut me a check for $300.
They actually had my AGI and taxable income to the dollar.
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Old 03-20-2015, 06:03 AM   #20
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+1 also, some people think that the download version is more secure but I'm not totally sure about that.
I don't know either. The filing entities (CCH, Intuit, etc) have the key record (SSN, name and address) when you e-file. I have not heard of any breaches in that data. They will have it whether you use the online or downloaded version.

I have used the online version of Taxwise since 2010 with no problems. You don't have to worry about updates and functionally it is the same as the desktop version. If the retail software guys were smart they would make the same shift and make their online versions functionally equivalent and start phasing out downloaded software.
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