Last year was the first year I abandoned my own tax return preparation, deferring to a professional to do the dirty work. I’m glad I did; he suggested I restructure my business retroactively, resulting in a savings of about $15,000. I still haven’t seen most of this; the IRS is still processing my amended 2008 return.
As you could probably guess, my taxes are more complicated than most people’s. For many years, I was able to take care of my tax filing using online software. Prior to using TurboTax Online, I completed the forms by hand and sent the paper forms through the mail. At the time, I had one W-2 and one or two 1099-INTs to worry about — no Schedule C, no deductions, nothing remotely interesting.
Unfortunately, I made a miscalculations the last year I filed by hand. the IRS caught the error and corrected my return, and I was required to pay more money at a time I was not fully prepared to do so. I decided I would trust a software program to calculate my taxes in the future. I started with TurboTax Online, alternating occasionally with TaxACT.
This year, TurboTax Online is featuring several new or enhances features.
The 2009 tax year is interesting. There are about $13,000 worth of credits and deductions available to taxpayers. The company estimates that 95% of all taxpayers will qualify for at least one credit or deduction. Thanks to a government looking to wrest the economy from the throes of recession, there have been two major additions to the list of tax credits for 2009: the Making Work Pay Credit (2009 Economic Stimulus) and the New Home Buyer Tax Credit, The latter is not just for first-time home buyers anymore.
TurboTax has been updated to include even the most recent changes to the tax law. If you answer the software’s questionnaires correctly, TurboTax will let you know what you qualify for.
TurboTax now checks for errors as you go along. In most cases the software will provide immediate feedback. In previous years, most error checking would take place in a final step before printing or filing.
Bookmark or flag pages
While TurboTax estimates that most people will complete their tax returns in two sittings, I usually took longer to finish entering my information. Part of the problem is I’d often come across a question for which I didn’t have my answer on hand. For situations like these, TurboTax offers a feature to flag the page. Your flags are like bookmarks. You can give each flag a name and jump right the the correct location next time you log on.
This could be helpful if you don’t have a dependent’s Social Security number at the time you start completing your tax return. Once you come to this question, you could flag the page and continue through the forms. You could complete your entire return if you have the information available, and return at a later time to provide the missing Social Security number and file.
Live help from the TurboTax community
If you have any questions while completing your tax return, you can search for answers provided by other TurboTax users. TurboTax employees monitor these answers, so in most cases, the information you receive will be confirmed to be legitimate. Remember that most people answering these questions are not professionals.
Answers are rated by the community, and some participants are designated “superusers” and “pros.” Pros are tax professionals, verified by TurboTax. These ratings and designations help improve the chances that the information you receive is correct.
TurboTax offers an option to “Ask Tina a Question.” Tina generates automated responses to simple, frequently-asked questions.
These features help to place TurboTax Online among the top software options for filing personal and business taxes online. One additional point I’d like to mention is that the TurboTax team is more accessible than any representatives from any other company I’ve ever done business. You can find the team anytime on Twitter (follow TurboTax, TTaxChels and TurboTaxAshley) to hear the latest about TurboTax or to have your questions answered by someone from Intuit.
Keep reading Consumerism Commentary. In a few hours, we’re going to announce a major giveaway involving TurboTax. This will not be an ordinary giveaway.
Updated December 22, 2011 and originally published March 8, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.