capsule review

TaxCut Premium + State + E-File

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H&R Block’s TaxCut may be the Rocky of tax-preparation software— it has come back to the Mac after a year in retirement. Citing “small participation from Mac users,” the company discontinued TaxCut for the Mac platform for the 2005 filing season, but it is back for the 2006 season.

For many, the task of filing a return borders on the horrendous, but TaxCut Premium + State + E-File does everything it can to make the process more bearable. Upon installation, the program automatically checks for available tax-code and software updates, and then prompts you to begin a new return.

TaxCut can import records from Intuit’s Quicken and TurboTax, as well as older versions of TaxCut, among others. Tax returns I had previously created with older versions of TurboTax imported cleanly. The program strongly suggests that you have last year’s return plus your identification information in front of you before you begin, and once you do, TaxCut guides you through each section with questions and suggestions. For each question, the program offers FAQ-style suggestions in its right column. It tracks each entry, offering to save the tax return at regular intervals and prompting you if an answer you give or an amount you enter doesn’t add up.

A review cycle at the end of the data-entering process double-checks what you’ve entered and provides warnings about potential errors. Click on one of the reported errors, and TaxCut takes you back to the appropriate question or section so you can correct mistakes.

Despite some improvements to its look-and-feel (the program keeps a friendly looking questionnaire on screen instead of confronting the user with an intimidating official-looking form), TaxCut continues to have some flaws in its interface. At times, my working document was too large for the window, and I had to manually resize my window to fit everything on screen.

H&R Block went out of its way to rework the software and related services this year, and the effort shows. The addition of the Worry-Free Audit Service, which offers the firm’s help, advice, and even physical presence at an audit, is reassuring and makes the product a better value. In addition, a complimentary Ask a Tax Advisor phone session is included with the software.

Macworld’s buying advice

TaxCut Premium has come back swinging and stands on a par with its competition, TurboTax Premier (   ). (We’ve got a comparative review of the two tax programs elsewhere on the site.) However, TaxCut still needs some interface improvements. Despite this, H&R Block has adapted its attention to fiscal detail to the new version of its software and created something very useful for this year’s tax season.

[ Chris Barylick is a technology journalist whose work has appeared in Mac Observer and the Washington Post . Despite having gone to business school, tax season still gives him the willies. ]

H&R Block’s TaxCut Premium presents a friendly, intuitive interface.
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