It was unclear why TaxCut's Guide Me questionnaire didn't qualify our fictional five-year-old daughter as a dependent. Since we described ourselves as single and not divorced, who else could claim the child as a dependent? We felt that TurboTax did a better job walking us through this process.
We felt that neither TaxCut nor TurboTax did a great job explaining some basics, such as how to report state and local tax refunds from prior years. Interest income is another topic that could confound tax newbies. Do you need to list that if your savings account earned pennies last year? What if you earned interest on a bond but didn't sell it? We couldn't find explicit answers. The "Learn More" links pop up answers to questions as you go. Most are helpful, but others, such as regarding military status, offer nothing but a line or so of text.
In addition to W-2 details, we entered information for a home-based business. Here, we felt that TaxCut was slightly less confusing than TurboTax Home & Business, which started by asking details about our side business rather than our primary job. TaxCut explained the basics, like how to describe our home office, nearly each step of the way. At the same time, however, when TaxCut detected Schedule C errors, it was unclear how we could fix them on the intimidating form.
We were also disenchanted that TaxCut failed in little ways that TurboTax did not. For instance, TurboTax sniffed out our bogus New Year's stock purchase date, but TaxCut didn't raise a flag for the day when markets are closed.
Service and support
TaxCut includes very detailed and searchable help menus, FAQs, and helpful topical videos. Customer support via chat is available 24 hours daily. By phone, you can reach someone from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. PST on weekdays. Weekend hours, which were unavailable last year, now end at 6 p.m. Did we mention that help is free?
H&R Block continues to offer live technical support with tax advisers, as well as free audit support in the coming years should the IRS come knocking. For $20 per topic, the Ask a Tax Advisor service will connect you with an H&R Block tax representative by phone or e-mail. This service is not considered by H&R Block to be part of TaxCut customer care.
Preparing taxes isn't for the faint of heart, but TaxCut does a good job demystifying most tricky topics so that you don't have to scrutinize IRS forms. Nevertheless, we find that Intuit TurboTax provides more new features that the majority of users may find helpful, so it has a slight edge this year over TaxCut. We had a hard time getting some questions answered within TaxCut, despite a well-organized interface and strong support options. That said, we don't advise switching brands if you're already content with one.
We still recommend for people with simple 1040 EZ returns to stick with less expensive, online options, such as the entry level rival TaxAct. It is free except for a state filing fee.