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  Sample page title Turbo Tax 2000

Burt is now being published in the Universal Thread Magazine and the Virtual FoxPro User Group Newsletter

Categories: Intuit, Turbo Tax
Published: April 2001

I do my own taxes every year using Turbo Tax Software. This year I needed to obtain four separate packages to do my income tax returns: Turbo Tax Deluxe, Turbo Tax State, Turbo Tax for Business, and Turbo Tax Business State. All of these packages are Intuit products. As usual, the quality of the software is excellent. In my opinion, Intuit with their Quicken, QuickBooks and Turbo Tax products, is probably producing the best pc software on the market today.


The first thing I noticed about Turbo Tax is the ease of installation. All of the packages come on cd-rom, except for the business state software. All I needed to do was insert the CD in my system, and the installation process started automatically. Accepting the defaults, the installation was very easy. The business state software comes on 2 diskettes, and required me to start the setup routine manually, but after that, the process was automatic.


Once installed, using Turbo Tax is almost as easy as the installation. While the software does provide a standard windows menu, the prime interface is a step-by-step process which leads you through the process of completing your tax return. The first thing you are prompted to do is update your Turbo Tax software. This is very important. Because of the production cycles for software, and the tendency of the congress and state legislatures to make last minute changes, it is very common for there to be changes in the tax law after the software is originally produced. By using the software update, Turbo Tax automatically accesses the Intuit web site, and updates itself to pick up the latest tax law changes. Here again, the update process is highly automated.


Having updated the software, the next step is the 'interview'. During the interview, you are taken through a step-by-step process of gathering the information for your tax return. The various steps in the interview group information in a logically related fashion, not the way the tax forms are organized. One of the features I like most about the interview is the ability to import last year's tax return.


If you completed you're prepared your prior year return with Turbo Tax, you can import the information from that return automatically. This will bring in your name and address information, dependants, w-2 and 1099 providers, and income and tax totals from the previous year. Not only does this save a lot of typing, but it means you do not need a paper copy of your prior year return for reference while preparing this year's taxes. Another nice piece of automation is the ability to import your current year information from Quicken or QuickBooks. This timesaver is one that I use for my business taxes, although not for my personal return.


An interesting new feature this year is the ability to download w-2 information automatically. Apparently some companies make w-2 information available electronically. If your employer is on the list, all of the details for you're w-2 information can be retrieved electronically instead of using manual entry.


The interview proceeds with questions about all of your income, and then proceeds into deductions and credits. Rather than speaking in 'tax language' most of the questions are in English. You are asked if a specific situation applies to you, then you are led through a series of questions to let the Turbo Tax gather the details and fill in the appropriate forms.


While Turbo tax is highly automated, you still have access to the underlying tax forms. There is always an option to 'go to forms'. This allows you to bring up on your screen any of the IRS forms. Any information that has already been entered will automatically appear on the form, and you will able to review and/or correct the form as necessary. While you do this, Turbo Tax will do any math required, and will also prevent you from modifying fields that are generated on a different form. Instead, you will be directed to the form which contains the source data.


Throughout the software, there is extensive help available. The help breaks down into three Categories: Article List program help, tax help, and government help. The appropriate IRS publications and instructions are available right in Turbo Tax; you do not need separate paperwork, which is a tremendous time saver. I do have one criticism however, while the help for Federal Tax issues are extensive, the help for State Tax issues is somewhat deficient. It could be that I missed something, but several times when I tried to use help screens to look at state issues, I could not find any help on the subject.


Overall, I am quite impressed by Turbo Tax and would give it an A-. Try it, you may not like doing taxes, but Turbo Tax will certainly ease the pain. You can find Turbo Tax at


Electronic Filing


Last week, Paulette and I had an amazing experience. We were at the Internet World trade show, and we found a booth for the Internal Revenue Service. Yes, the IRS is now 'marketing' its services. The IRS product is e-file.


The US Congress has mandated the IRS to have 80% of all tax returns filed electronically by 2007. In response, the IRS is doing TV and radio spots, print ads and trade shows to encourage people to use e-file. In the past, the IRS has used various tools to encourage electronic filing. They have a Telefile program where tax returns can be entered on a touch-tone telephone, but this can only be used for very simple returns. Several years ago, they tried an experiment in direct Internet filing, which turned into a disaster.


The current incarnation is e-file. Basically, using e-file, you can do your tax return on a computer (yours or your tax preparer's), and then instead of printing and mailing the return, you transmit the return to a service bureau, which then batches the returns and forwards them to the IRS. After receiving the return, the IRS responds with an acknowledgement that your return has been received and accepted for processing.


If I seem enthusiastic about this process, it is because I am. In fact, this process is very similar to the process the State of California, Workers' Compensation Appeals Board uses in their EDEX program, with which I am intimately involved.


Of course, Turbo Tax is fully integrated with e-file. As e-file is implemented, everything is electronic; you do not need to send any paperwork to the IRS. The electronic options include direct deposit of any refund into your bank account and/or the direct debit of any payment due from you bank account. You also have the option of paying taxes due by check, or receiving a refund check in the mail. By the way, the State of California also supports a completely electronic e-file system.


I find it difficult to say this, but kudos to the IRS for a job well done.

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