capsule review

TurboTax Deluxe 2005

The field for Mac tax-preparation software has narrowed this year. Now that H&R Block’s TaxCut Premium (   ; May 2005 ) has gone the way of last year’s tax refund, Intuit’s TurboTax (   ; May 2005 ) is now the only application available for Mac-based personal tax preparation. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. TurboTax has consistently been the best tax-prep app available for the Mac, and the latest version includes several minor improvements that should make your yearly wrestling match with the IRS a little easier.

TurboTax Deluxe 2005 is aimed at anyone who has to file taxes, whether you have a very basic or fairly complicated return. As always, it uses a linear interview process to gather all the necessary information necessary for filing your return. But this year’s version also allows you to skip the interview altogether and bounce around to different forms in any order you please. The interview linear process is probably best for most people; however, the freedom to navigate through the application in any order will better suit users who may not have their paperwork organized.

Bring on the information

As always, if you’ve been careful to keep tidy records in Quicken (   ; December 2005 ), TurboTax easily imports all of your financial data. TurboTax can also download your W-2, interest, and investment information directly from an employer, bank, or financial institution (provided those companies offer this option), thereby lessening the chance that you’ll enter information incorrectly. This worked without a hitch.

If you make an error or enter information that might lead to an audit, TurboTax flags it. In addition, it tells you why it flagged the item, and helps you make sure that you’ve entered the information accurately, or that you’re really entitled to certain deductions. Conversely, TurboTax also helps you find deductions that you may not be aware of. Along the way, the program helps you out with informational videos and tips.

TurboTax also includes a new piece of software called ItsDeductible, which helps you assess how much you can write off for items that you’ve donated to charitable institutions.

State taxes

As before, the price includes a free download of your state tax form. But you only get one form for free, so if you owe taxes to two or more states, you’ll have to pay $30 to download additional forms. Intuit also continuously updates the program, so make sure you download and install the latest version before you actually file your taxes.

Unfortunately, there’s still no Mac version of TurboTax for businesses. However, TurboTax Premier does support Schedule C filings and income earned from rental properties. It also provides help for handling earnings from investment income and tools for maximizing your 401k contributions. But this is a small consolation for anyone who owns a Mac-based business.

Macworld’s buying advice

TurboTax Deluxe 2005 may be the only tax-prep application available for the Mac, but there’s no reason to feel cheated. TurboTax is a great program thanks to its ease of use, excellent educational features, navigational freedom, and superior error checking. I wouldn’t mind seeing another application just to keep Intuit honest, but that’s not really necessary at this point: TurboTax is so good that it almost makes tax time fun.

[ Jeffery Battersby, a frequent contributor to Macworld , still pays a professional to do his taxes. ]

TurboTax allows you to view your data in the forms as it guides you through the process of filling them out. It also provides helpful videos to guide you.
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