PC Tax Kits Go 'Out of the Box' ; Leading Software Packages Now Offer Links to Online Tax Experts

Article excerpt

Live tax advice is the latest wrinkle in tax-preparation software. Both leading packages offer Internet links to tax experts who will e-mail or even call you with answers to your questions. It's another reason to consider using tax software to ease those filing blues.

Consumers who make that choice have fewer options this year. As usual, Intuit's top-selling TurboTax is battling No. 2 Kiplinger TaxCut from H&R Block. But Microsoft has axed its tax package and teamed up with H&R Block this year. The duo's TaxCut program is the budget option. TurboTax offers a more polished and comfortable interface.

Both programs offer all the IRS forms and instructions most taxpayers will ever need. By working through their respective interviews, users can confidently and quickly fill out their returns.

The deluxe versions of the programs allow you to do your state tax returns, offer extra help, and include short video explanations, which are surprisingly succinct and informative.

Yet small problems remain.

TaxCut's integration stumbles at times. For example, the program makes the distinction between 50 percent and 30 percent limitations on charitable contributions, but offers no quick link to explain that distinction.

TurboTax no longer directly imports data from older versions of its sister program, Quicken. (You can still import indirectly, but why make it so difficult? Does Intuit want all Quicken users to upgrade?)

TurboTax offers a slick new feature that allows users with Internet access to download their W-2 forms as well as interest and dividend data from financial companies. …

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