I do not petition
for more tax breaks. I ask only for instructions an ordinary PhD in economics can
- Alan Blinder, PhD
Death and Taxes. Some
things are certain, but that doesn't make them pleasant. Your Macintosh may not help
with everything, but it can make preparing your tax return easier. TurboTax
Deluxe is one of the leading tax preparation software packages for Macintosh. It
guides you through every step of preparing and filing both your Federal and State
tax returns. Due to continual changes in the tax code, the product is updated every
year. This product is intended for the individual preparing his/her personal tax
TurboTax Deluxe for the Macintosh supports both OS 8/9 and OS X. There is a separate
TurboTax for PCs, but this review doesn't cover that product. Unfortunately for Mac
users, Intuit charges a $10 "Mac tax" (Deluxe for Windows is $39.95, but
Deluxe for Mac is $49.95).
Installation is straightforward; there are separate installers for OS X and OS 8/9.
I only installed the OS X version. Strangely, though, the OS X installer required
that no other programs be running during installation. While this is common for OS
9 and earlier, it is inexplicable for OS X.
The CD is not required to run the program, but embedded in the interview process
are numerous video clips of experts explaining various facets of the tax code. If
the CD is not present, these clips will not be available.
After running the installer, the first invocation of the program checks the internet
(if available) to see if a newer version is available. The tax code is incredibly
complex, and extremely fluid, so this is an important step (that will be repeated
at least one more time before you file your return).
Next, you are prompted to download the state version(s) of TurboTax you want to use.
One free state download is included with the product; other states may be purchased.
I found this arrangement much superior to having to purchase the state product and
waiting for a rebate.
The normal way to use this program is to go through an interview wizard that asks
you all the questions required to prepare your return. If you used TurboTax last
year, you can import your personal information (name, address, SSN, dependents, refunds,
etc.) from last year's form. You can also import financial information from Quicken.
Since I didn't use TurboTax last year and I don't use Quicken, I skipped these steps.
The interview process is straightforward and easy to follow. The interview questions
are heavily hyper-linked, with access to detailed definitions of terms and explanations
of the tax forms. If you wish, at any point you can go directly to the tax forms
and make your entries manually. Every field supports a detailed view. Simply double-click
on a field and a mini-spreadsheet pops up, so you can itemize the things that go
into the field value. This spreadsheet is for your use only, and is not communicated
to the IRS. However, I found no use for this feature; the places where I might have
been inclined to itemize (vehicle property tax, charitable contributions, etc.) were
already itemized within TurboTax. For example, for the property tax item, each vehicle
I own was prompted for individually.
TurboTax Deluxe is intended to handle all the different tax situations that individual
filers may encounter. Certainly the "normal" permutations are covered (Schedules
A, B, C, D, K); it is not possible for any review to cover every possible scenario.
I prepared two returns: a simple 1040A return, and a more complex return with itemized
deductions and a variety of income types.
I found the depth of the interview questions somewhat tedious (I had to answer "No"
to a lot of questions), yet strangely reassuring that the software wouldn't let me
inadvertently forget to enter key financial data. As you enter numbers, a running
total of your tax obligation (taxes due or refund) is displayed in the top-right
corner of the program's window.
Once you complete your return, you have the option of printing paper copies to file
or filing electronically. Printing is as straightforward as clicking on "Print".
You have the option of printing only the required forms, or forms and supporting
worksheets. For your personal records, you might want the supporting worksheets,
but be sure not to send them to the IRS. In years past, the IRS had a "PC return",
where the salient data items were formatted to facilitate data entry by the IRS;
I don't know if that format is supported by the IRS any more, but it was not a print
option in TurboTax Deluxe 2003. If you are sending in your forms by mail, and want
to do double-sided printing, TurboTax is not double-sided friendly. You'll want to
print each form separately to make sure that the correct forms are on each side of
Filing electronically incurs a nominal cost ($14.95 for Federal, $10.95 for Colorado
state), but TurboTax Deluxe includes an offsetting rebate for the Federal filing
cost. Filing your state return electronically is not covered. The cost of filing
can be deducted from your return (for another fee of $19.95), or it can be paid with
a major credit card. Once you file your return, you are still obligated to ensure
that the IRS and your state have accepted your return. With some programs, you have
to record and remember the DCN (Declaration Control Number); TurboTax Deluxe performs
the validation step behind the scenes and tells you in plain English when your return(s)
have been accepted (note that the state return may take significantly longer to process
than the Federal one).
The entire process is
painless for the most part. For users of past versions, there is nothing new in this
year's version except for the updated forms and logic. The interface is nearly identical
to last year, and is a bit dated, but still easy to use. It is kind of cumbersome
the way you have to switch from Federal to State and back again when printing (cannot
print both at the same time).
TurboTax Deluxe simplifies preparing your tax return to the point that it is almost
enjoyable (your enjoyment will likely depend on if you are getting a refund or paying
additional taxes!). I like the confidence of knowing that all the calculations are
done by the computer, and there are no transcription errors copying from one field
to another. There's also a review process at the end that performs a run-through
of all the forms to see if you forgot anything. The interview process is very comprehensive,
minimizing the likelihood of unreported income or missed deductions. It annoys me
to pay for the privilege of electronic filing (which the IRS prefers, anyway), but
that is not a fault of this product; the electronic filing is provided by a third
party. And when you purchase TurboTax Deluxe, you get a rebate for the cost of electronic
filing for your Federal return. TurboTax Deluxe will save you money in not having
to hire a tax return specialist, and save you headaches by walking you through the
process and performing all the calculations for you. I highly recommend it for anyone
needing to answer to Uncle Sam.
- Import financial data
from prior returns and Quicken
- Easy to follow interview
- Guaranteed accurate calculations
- Polished, intuitive interface
- Detailed, multi-media
explanations for forms and tax code
- $10 Mac tax
- Odd installation process
for OS X
- Not double-sided print
- Dated interface
4 1/2 out of 5 Mice