TurboTax flags items that might draw unwanted attention from the IRS, and it shows how your return compares to national averages. And there are plenty of tips on how to keep proper records. If you have two years of tax data, TurboTax can perform a ratio analysis comparison of profitability, liquidity, and so on for your personal business.
TurboTax Premier Investments 2006 also features BasisPro from Gainskeeper, a tool for determining the cost basis of a stock or mutual fund. Let's say you purchased a stock over multiple periods, but can't recall the price you paid for certain shares. On the "Enter What You Paid for This Stock" page, click the Use BasisPro button. A browser window launches, takes you to the BasisPro site, and lets you use Gainskeeper's historical data of stock prices to find the accurate purchase price.
TurboTax lets you import investments from banks, mutual funds and brokerages at 90 institutions--an advantage over TaxCut. However, TurboTax doesn't explain whether you need such details if you haven't actually sold off and profited from any investments. For example, while it walks you through listing IRA and pension distributions, TurboTax doesn't explain what "Distributions" means, or if your W-2 automatically deducts, say, your 401(k) contributions to keep that money safe from taxes. The video explains things better, but not well enough for novices. In several instances, we wanted to ask advice from a tax pro, but we found TurboTax's $39.95 fee prohibitively expensive. At the same time, if you're well-versed in investment and tax lingo, that may not be an issue.
TurboTax customers get free technical support by telephone, chat, and e-mail, which is a great deal. Intuit promises wait times of 10 minutes or less for phone queries--a promise that rang true in our tests. Support hours are Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time--and that's better than TaxCut, which gives its tech reps the weekend off. However, you'll pay $39.95 for a telephone or e-mail conversation with a tax advisor--$20 more per incident for business advice. And unlike TaxCut, TurboTax doesn't provide free IRS audit support, instead charging $39.95 to help you prepare if the taxman cometh. You must pay this fee before the IRS audits you. Unfortunately, clicking the links for Service and Support or Live Tax Advice opens a Web browser without warning, which could be annoying.
If you've used TurboTax Premier for years and have grown accustomed to its well-crafted interface, the 2006 version offers welcome improvements, although H&R Block TaxCut Premium costs even less. We don't recommend that longtime TurboTax users who are pleased with the program spend the extra time and effort to switch to TaxCut. However, while TurboTax is a thorough, do-it-yourself tax application, TaxCut is a better bargain and should serve the needs of most filers.