April 10, 2005

Taxes.

I still haven't done my taxes. I've never done my taxes using a computer program, believe it or not, but I'm thinking of doing it this year. Can anyone tell me what the best software is to use with a Macintosh?

UPDATE: Every year, I think about efiling and I start looking at software and websites, as I've been doing today, and I have a very negative reaction. It's too complicated, I'm afraid of giving my info to a private company, I'm afraid the software won't work, and there seem to be complicated hidden costs. Then I decide I don't want to waste the time figuring out any more things possibly for nothing, and I switch to the paper forms. I this close to deciding in favor of paper again. I'm picturing myself getting started with the software and then encountering problems, and problems in the form of computer problems are irritating in a completely different way. The paper forms are: free, familiar, stable, and tangible.

ANOTHER UPDATE: My colleague Gordon Smith has gone back to the paper method! In the comments people are saying I can efile federal taxes free and only pay $50 to file my state tax. Well, I'm doing taxes for three individuals, so that's $150, which doesn't seem cheap at all. Plus, it seems that only some federal taxpayers fit within the IRS free file system, and I'm expecting to find out I'm not one of them. I don't want to get started and then encounter hidden costs. I already find it agitating to do my taxes. Really, as soon as I click on those links that take me away from the official IRS page, I start to feel really nervous! I think it's like the way my mother used to feel about using a computer at all. But I've been happy and comfortable using a computer for twenty years, and I feel threatened by the efiling sites. I also don't do any banking by computer. I guess I don't like computers getting their hands on my money (but I have been buying things on Amazon since it's earliest days).

22 comments:

perry said...

I used Taxcut for Mac both this year and last year - works prety well. A good part is taht you can download the federal and many of the state editions from their website.

Happy tax preping!

nark said...

Ann...I recommend Turbo Tax.

Bill Millan said...

You really don't need to buy a software program anymore. Several of the nationwide firms make their's available to you. I have used H&R Block online the last two years, and found it just as good as the "TurboTax" I used to use. Free "Efile" and once you are set up, your return is available online to start with next year. They will file online for you also. Check them out at http://www.hrblock.com/

Ann Althouse said...

Nark: I read somewhere that Turbo Tax for Mac has some problems with state tax forms, so I've been afraid to buy it.

Bill: If I understand it correctly, when you work through the website, you pay by each tax return you file. Since I'm doing forms for three individuals, it would be much more expensive that way.

Taxcut and H&R Block are the same thing, as far as I can tell.

Glenn Howes said...

I used TurboTax on the Mac this year and was happy with it. One issue I've always had with tax preparation software (I've used 3 applications over the years: Kiplingers, TaxCut and TurboTax) is getting the proper state version. Either the web download is confusing, or you send in a coupon and the CD never gets mailed or whatever. Thankfully, state forms are much, much easier than federal so I just do the state forms the old fashioned way: download the PDF, fill it out and print.

Having said that, Wisconsin, as I recall, has some of the more complicated forms, with the renter's, homestead, blah, blah, blah credits. A century of progressiveness made the tax system into spaghetti.

The income tax form here in New Hampshire is a paragon of simplicity, being blank.

Tax Answer said...

Ann -

Go to the IRS website (irs.gov) and search for free filing. It will give you a link to all of the free online filing options. You can use Turbo Tax or H&R Block for free for the Federal Return. Wisconsin has an option for free efiling through their Department of Revenue website. You can do this all for free. I think the IRS link is:

http://www.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/index.jsp?

That should list all of the free options, notice that not all free options are available to every taxpayer.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Glenn. Read the comments on Amazon about Turbo Tax: Here.

Wisconsin taxes are complicated -- you wouldn't believe it.

I'm not sure I understand the concept of "free filing." You have to buy the software, right, but then you can file without an additional fee?

You know, I think it's just outrageous that the government "lets" us file free. It's cheaper for them if we efile.

Tax Answer said...

No - you can go to the IRS website that I mentioned above and compute your taxes through their online software and then file for free as well. No cost involved at all.

in_the_middle said...

tax answer is right, ann. i recently downloaded the free version of turbo tax for mac osX and i was done with my S.O.'s taxes in about a half an hour.

it really depends a lot on what kind of tax situation you're in. why don't you post your past few returns and we'll all tell you... just kidding.

i'm not positive, but i believe if you are itemizing, the free tax programs through irs.gov may not be robust enough or even allow you to use them. (and remember, you have to go through irs.gov to get the free software--even though it's generally the same as the paid stuff)

i have way too complicated a tax return being self employed, so i have to trust my tax accountant. but i hope you're able to make a go of it.

if not i suspect you'll be blogging for a simpler tax code :)

good luck!

Bill Millan said...

I see your question about filing with H&R Block was answered. Let me expand on it. I went to the Gov site and went though them to Block. This got me a free filing. You can do the same three times. The way they catch you is that they want $19.95 for the State. I do my state here in Hawaii at the State site free. I doubt if yours is that advanced, but you might check. In any case, you could do the three Fed filings free, and do the state ones by hand from your Fed numbers.

Judith said...

I've used Macintax/Turbotax for Mac for years. But what I do is finish as much of the return as I can myself and then have an accountant check it and finish it. That way I am not paying him to do the whole thing, but I still get a professional's expertise.

But I file Schedules A through E, plus various depreciation schedules of equipment. YMMV.

chuck_b said...

I'm so glad my boyfriend is a CPA. He can sneeze my taxes.

Which is great, because I hated doing them, and invariably got them wrong. Several times IRS and/or state franchise tax board would send back refunds a little bigger than I expected, or bills for small amounts. If they knew what the right answer was all along, why didn't they just tell me in the first place?

J.Bro said...

TurboTax has over-estimated my wife and I's taxes due two years in a row - we went to paper forms this year. I don't mind paying taxes, but I'm not paying more than my share!

Old Patriot said...

I set up a Quattro Pro spreadsheet to do my taxes back in 1998. Each year I tweak it a bit to take care of any changes, and then fill in my worksheets. I do my taxes, my son's taxes, and a couple of other family members' in about 45 minutes each for a regular 1040, Schedule A & B. I usually fill out Schedule C and a couple of other forms (although I didn't this year - no business income), and my State taxes. It took me about two days to set everything up and take care of all the bugs. Since then, it's just copy the master file, fill it in, and print out the answers. I haven't been able to get Quattro Pro to export the data to a form, so I fill in the form by hand. Still doesn't take me more than an hour from start to finish for Federal and State.

Ryan Hatch said...

Unless you have a complicated return (lots of deductions, for example), you will do just fine with TurboTax. Like others have said, go to the link on irs.gov for free federal filing link. Only a masochist would use paper, and only a fool would go to an accountant and pay three times as much. I have used TT for my fed and state returns for the past 4 years. It is FAST, accurate, easy to use, and cheap (free for federal, about $50 for the state return).

Tax Answer said...

I understand your nervousness about using the online sites, but there are no restrictions on both H&R Block's and TurboTax's free online filing. No matter what your income is you can use their online software for free. You can then use your federal numbers to compute your state return by hand or Wisconsin I believe has a free file through their Department of Revenue website. If you chose to pay for Turbotax's or H&R Block's state filing software it is only $19.95 per return.

JediCheese said...

Wisconsin's Department of Revenue has a free filing website (state run). The only downside is if you close the window, you lose your progress. The website is here: https://ww2.dor.state.wi.us/GenericFile/application?interview=1118165

Walter said...

I would recommend Taxcut over TurboTax becuase Intuit has has started to make life tough for users because of the activation problems, printing restrictions, and sunsetting issues (not working with older applications).

I just used TaxCut and it was simple to use. They changed $15.95 to efile [This state does not have an income tax, so I don't know about that part].

My Boaz's Ruth said...

We went online to H&R block and did our taxes this year.

1. It deals with itemization *just fine*

2. It even dealt with the new sales tax option for those of us who DON'T have state income taxes. (And that is so brand new that we were sent a piece of paper in the mail AFTER our 1040 came about it)

3. Yes, I was nervous doing it online. But we got a printout of the 1040 on paper afterward so I have somethign for my records. And it is H&R Block. So they are a large enough company not to want to get a bad rep for doing shady things with their customer's data.

Tax Maverick said...

Hi Althouse -- This year (2006) I suggest you try online tax software. Often such tax software is free to do your taxes. They only charge (a small price) to efile your return. The tax software availble usually has some nice help screens and makes doing your taxs easy. If you choose to E-File your taxes, it gets your taxes to the IRS in a few hours, and you can get a tax refund about a week later, straight into your checking account. One site I know well, www.Taxhead.com only costs about $10 to efile (you can find coupons for them easily on the internet). The IRS also has a list of onlien tax software companies at www.irs.gov.

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