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Tax filing software - Looking for the best, not the cheapest

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I’m thinking about doing my own taxes this year and would like some recommendations. Our income is pretty high, so we won’t qualify for some of the free options, and I actually don’t mind spending money on a good program since I’ve been paying about $400/year for the last few years. I need something that will work with several “non-basic” forms, so please don’t suggest options which can only do basic tax forms. I would like something that lets me drill into the details and override if necessary, since my last accountant used software which somehow/supposedly prevented her from properly filling out my backdoor Roth info and we had to manually file.

Over the last several years I’ve gotten to the point where I have a pretty sophisticated “tax form” spreadsheet with formulas, etc. that I fill out and use to cross-check my accountant’s work. I usually find errors in their work, but my last accountant (other than being confused by the backdoor Roth) was actually very accurate. But this year she decided to stop doing taxes on the side, and since I’ve been sort of doing them myself anyway, I’m thinking I’ll give it a go this year.

So, my ideal software would be very easy to use but also allow me to drill into the details, see the actual forms (so I can cross-check), and allow me to override, but also still let me e-file. FWIW, in addition to needing to fill out the Federal forms, I also will need to fill out the CT tax forms.

Update: In case it makes a difference, here are the forms my accountant filled out last year:

Federal:
- 1040
- Schedule A (Itemized Deductions)
- Schedule C (Profit or Loss From Business)
- Schedule D (Capital Gains and Losses)
- 8949 (Sales of Capital Assets)
- 6251 (AMT)
- 8606 (Nondeductible IRAs)
- 8889 (HSA)
- 8959 (Additional Medicare Tax)
- 8960 (Net Investment Income Tax)
- 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions)
- 8829 (Expenses for Business Use of Your Home)

State:
- CT-1040
- CT-6251 (AMT)

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I've seen a few posts here talking about "bugs" in various products. What happens when you encounter one of these bugs?... (more)

hipnetic (Feb. 16, 2017 @ 7:38p) |

I need to file my personal taxes, and several 1120's for my businesses. Will TurboTax let me file for multiple entities... (more)

Crazytree (Feb. 16, 2017 @ 9:35p) |

So I dug a little deeper and re-scanned the comments here, and it looks like I can get all of the forms I need done with... (more)

hipnetic (Feb. 17, 2017 @ 1:53p) |

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TurboTax is the 'best' but if your forms are complicated (Stocks / self employed etc) TT will run about $100-200 for the full version.

The real problem is things like the 'backdoor roth' TT might not catch all the rules behind it.

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I have used many programs over the year and H&R Block makes the backdoor Roth simple to process

http://thefinancebuff.com/how-to-backdoor-roth-hr-block-software.html 

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H&R Block lets you drill down to the tax form and make manual corrections.

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I switched from TaxAct.com to creditkarma

Free for individual and sole prop. It can not handle anything else

Just saying

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If you want to really see what's happening with your taxes and drill into the details, why not do them yourself? Then file for free directly with IRS.

IRS Free Fillable Forms

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I do them myself with the forms, takes a while, but that's the only way to understand what is driving your taxes one way or the other. Then I use HR Block software to check my calculating and then I file with them.

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I've used TaxAct, Turbo Tax and HR Block over the years... all do a fine job, just found HR Block to be the most straightforward to deal with.

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All the major brands (TurboTax, HR Block, TaxAct ) are fairly equal-at least for individual returns. All of them allow you to see forms. Obviously, if you have a larger business, you need an accountant.
You haven't stated what special forms you need, so it's hard to recommend something.

I would NOT recommend the free fillable forms, unless you can live with the many glitches and omissions that haven't been fixed after many years (and probably never will be). Some are significant enough to really mess up your return (for example, only one copy of a form may be allowed, even though you need 5 or 6 copies)

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qcumber98 said:   H&R Block lets you drill down to the tax form and make manual corrections.  

how? i havent been able to do this. I could in TurboTax,

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creditkarma.com has free filing online.. including state.. cant get better than that..

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itaos said:   I haved used many programs over the year and H&R Block makes the backdoor Roth simple to process

http://thefinancebuff.com/how-to-backdoor-roth-hr-block-software.html

H&R Block might be ok now, but a few years ago it had a bug related to backdoor Roth where it gave a weird error when I tried to e-file (I was able to work around it by manually editing one of its internal worksheets).

In general, TurboTax seems a little less buggy than H&R Block, and TurboTax supports importing 1099 forms from more brokerages than H&R Block.

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forbin4040 said:   TurboTax is the 'best' but if your forms are complicated (Stocks / self employed etc) TT will run about $100-200 for the full version.

The real problem is things like the 'backdoor roth' TT might not catch all the rules behind it.

Note that for some things like stock investments, TurboTax will "recommend" that you buy a more expensive version, but the cheaper versions also work (e.g., Deluxe, or maybe even Basic, but I think Basic doesn't include a state).  And TurboTax handles a backdoor Roth fine.

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tjguitar85 said:   
qcumber98 said:   H&R Block lets you drill down to the tax form and make manual corrections.
  

how? i havent been able to do this. I could in TurboTax


there is a "show form" button that will bring up any forms and/or calculators and then simply change any numbers you need to.

years ago I compared H&R and TT by going through their interview from start to finish and then printing the full tax forms (~50 pages each at the time).  They actually differed significantly, but I determined that H&R was the better of the two and have used it since.  I should probably do that again this year, but it does take quite a bit of time.  Any volunteers want to save me the effort?

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itaos said:   I have used many programs over the year and H&R Block makes the backdoor Roth simple to process

http://thefinancebuff.com/how-to-backdoor-roth-hr-block-software.html

  Me too.  I have a very complex return and it does it all.   Also I have found the basic $15 version will do everything that the more expensive versions will do.  It just doesn't  have the talking head videos and does pop up a few ads for the more expensive versions..  Just dismiss those and continue on.

Note to OP.  I have found that manual overrides , will prevent e-filing.  They should seldom be necessary.

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I do my taxes in a spreadsheet! Then I use H&R Block to double-check. Sometimes I've had to correct the numbers in H&R Block because of bugs. I don't recall all the details, but in either 2014 or 2015 it didn't prompt me to enter some value, so I had to enter it into the form manually.

Never tried any other software, so I can't compare. Spreadsheets!

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I have been using TaxAct probably for a decade now. The UI could be better but overall I am happy.
It lets you modify the forms. It imports 1099 from some brokerages. It imports information from prior year TaxAct. It can e-file.
They raise prices pretty much every year. Expect to pay approx $50 for personal fed+state including e-file.

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govenar said:   
forbin4040 said:   TurboTax is the 'best' but if your forms are complicated (Stocks / self employed etc) TT will run about $100-200 for the full version.

The real problem is things like the 'backdoor roth' TT might not catch all the rules behind it.

Note that for some things like stock investments, TurboTax will "recommend" that you buy a more expensive version, but the cheaper versions also work (e.g., Deluxe, or maybe even Basic, but I think Basic doesn't include a state).  And TurboTax handles a backdoor Roth fine.

  
This ^^^

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Thanks for the recommendations (even though there doesn't seem to be a consensus). I will update my post later with the specific forms that I needed last year (I expect this year to be the same as last).

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Turbo Tax Premier online.

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After testing them out, I'd recommend against credit karma's free service. It's just too basic IMO. The interview has minimal help and is very tedious to go through compared to more mature products like H&R Block or TurboTax. The state tax did not have all the deductions and adjustments - including one I needed. The federal return was also messed up by $1500 in tax owed. IMO it's not ready to handle anything but the simplest returns.

On the other hand, TurboTax or H&R Block are much easier and accurate to use. You can get in however much detail you want to, down to form view to edit the worksheets. I've used them alternatively each year and they are almost identical. Just find whichever is cheaper for the forms you need and that's it.

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I tried TaxAct 2 years back - it could not import data from fidelity & such easily. H&R Block did a decent job. I think Turbo Tax has most connectivity - that could be important if you have lot of brokerage account. Between reasonable price & feature - i found H&R Block did fine - i have to do 2 states, brokerage stmt, multiple homes etc etc. ... seem to handle it fine.

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Shandril said:   After testing them out, I'd recommend against credit karma's free service. It's just too basic IMO. The interview has minimal help and is very tedious to go through compared to more mature products like H&R Block or TurboTax. The state tax did not have all the deductions and adjustments - including one I needed. The federal return was also messed up by $1500 in tax owed. IMO it's not ready to handle anything but the simplest returns.

On the other hand, TurboTax or H&R Block are much easier and accurate to use. You can get in however much detail you want to, down to form view to edit the worksheets. I've used them alternatively each year and they are almost identical. Just find whichever is cheaper for the forms you need and that's it.

  
I agree, there were a lot of missing options for my state return and a couple for my federal. 

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skarydrunkguy said:   
tjguitar85 said:   
qcumber98 said:   H&R Block lets you drill down to the tax form and make manual corrections.
  

how? i havent been able to do this. I could in TurboTax


there is a "show form" button that will bring up any forms and/or calculators and then simply change any numbers you need to.

years ago I compared H&R and TT by going through their interview from start to finish and then printing the full tax forms (~50 pages each at the time).  They actually differed significantly, but I determined that H&R was the better of the two and have used it since.  I should probably do that again this year, but it does take quite a bit of time.  Any volunteers want to save me the effort?

  
The only downside is that if you override their form you cannot efile with HRblock. 

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If you override in TurboTax I cannot efile either. So, I just go directly to the input original form and modify there. Then there are no overrides needed and can efile. I like doing what-ifs in TT since I can see in real time which method or form to input to get the better tax reduction.

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Update:

In case it makes a difference, here are the forms my accountant filled out last year:

Federal:
- 1040
- Schedule A (Itemized Deductions)
- Schedule C (Profit or Loss From Business)
- Schedule D (Capital Gains and Losses)
- 8949 (Sales of Capital Assets)
- 6251 (AMT)
- 8606 (Nondeductible IRAs)
- 8889 (HSA)
- 8959 (Additional Medicare Tax)
- 8960 (Net Investment Income Tax)
- 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions)
- 8829 (Expenses for Business Use of Your Home)

State:
- CT-1040
- CT-6251 (AMT)

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Thoughts on which one does a good job of handling rental properties? Not a business, just an individual owner.

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skarydrunkguy said:   
tjguitar85 said:   
qcumber98 said:   H&R Block lets you drill down to the tax form and make manual corrections.
  

how? i havent been able to do this. I could in TurboTax


there is a "show form" button that will bring up any forms and/or calculators and then simply change any numbers you need to.

years ago I compared H&R and TT by going through their interview from start to finish and then printing the full tax forms (~50 pages each at the time).  They actually differed significantly, but I determined that H&R was the better of the two and have used it since.  I should probably do that again this year, but it does take quite a bit of time.  Any volunteers want to save me the effort?

  

My issue is on 1040 line 21, H&R has put "prizes, awards" on line 21 (other income). Tehse were bonuses for opening brokerage accounts. I can't seem to edit that text out. I guess it doesn't matter though.

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peas said:   Thoughts on which one does a good job of handling rental properties? Not a business, just an individual owner.
  I always used TurboTax

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tjguitar85 said:   
skarydrunkguy said:   
tjguitar85 said:   
qcumber98 said:   H&R Block lets you drill down to the tax form and make manual corrections.
  

how? i havent been able to do this. I could in TurboTax


there is a "show form" button that will bring up any forms and/or calculators and then simply change any numbers you need to.

years ago I compared H&R and TT by going through their interview from start to finish and then printing the full tax forms (~50 pages each at the time).  They actually differed significantly, but I determined that H&R was the better of the two and have used it since.  I should probably do that again this year, but it does take quite a bit of time.  Any volunteers want to save me the effort?

  

My issue is on 1040 line 21, H&R has put "prizes, awards" on line 21 (other income). Tehse were bonuses for opening brokerage accounts. I can't seem to edit that text out. I guess it doesn't matter though.

  Interesting, you're putting these on line 21? I've always put them on Sch B so that the 1099-INTs match to Sch B. How do others do it? Have you gotten notices doing it that way before? Do you attach a statement splitting out by bank or stating where those numbers are coming from?

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marginoferror said:   tjguitar85 said:   
skarydrunkguy said:   
tjguitar85 said:   
qcumber98 said:   H&R Block lets you drill down to the tax form and make manual corrections.
  

how? i havent been able to do this. I could in TurboTax


there is a "show form" button that will bring up any forms and/or calculators and then simply change any numbers you need to.

years ago I compared H&R and TT by going through their interview from start to finish and then printing the full tax forms (~50 pages each at the time).  They actually differed significantly, but I determined that H&R was the better of the two and have used it since.  I should probably do that again this year, but it does take quite a bit of time.  Any volunteers want to save me the effort?

  

My issue is on 1040 line 21, H&R has put "prizes, awards" on line 21 (other income). Tehse were bonuses for opening brokerage accounts. I can't seem to edit that text out. I guess it doesn't matter though.

  Interesting, you're putting these on line 21? I've always put them on Sch B so that the 1099-INTs match to Sch B. How do others do it? Have you gotten notices doing it that way before? Do you attach a statement splitting out by bank or stating where those numbers are coming from?
  

my understanding was that you only put 1099-INT on Schedule B. 1099-Misc goes on 1040 line 21.

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I always report it on line 8a as interest income. Doesn't exactly matter though. I usually receive 1099-INT for the income.

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govenar said:   Note that for some things like stock investments, TurboTax will "recommend" that you buy a more expensive version, but the cheaper versions also work (e.g., Deluxe, or maybe even Basic, but I think Basic doesn't include a state).
 

I forgot to say that my answer was for the desktop version of TurboTax.  If you use TurboTax online, then I think you really do need to pay for a more expensive version (e.g., Premier rather than Deluxe).  So, use the desktop version (and I think the desktop version has more features than online anyway).

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Treffen said:   
itaos said:   I have used many programs over the year and H&R Block makes the backdoor Roth simple to process

http://thefinancebuff.com/how-to-backdoor-roth-hr-block-software.html

  Me too.  I have a very complex return and it does it all.   Also I have found the basic $15 version will do everything that the more expensive versions will do.  It just doesn't  have the talking head videos and does pop up a few ads for the more expensive versions..  Just dismiss those and continue on.

Note to OP.  I have found that manual overrides , will prevent e-filing.  They should seldom be necessary.

What's a complex return to you? Personally, I find that none of the tax filing software handles the AMT well. They just ask you to enter the amounts into the fields with no guidance or explanation whatsoever. For instance, you are prompted to enter your "NOL carryover" with no further insights into the prompt.   

Further, as I've previously posted, not only does tax software make mistakes, but it makes absolutely inexcusable ones! We have household employees and, therefore, have to complete Schedule H. A few years ago, Intuit, our payroll processor and the maker of TurboTax, prepared Schedule H for us in which it managed to miscalculate the Social Security tax liability. There is nothing complicated or subjective about the calculation and the form itself even tells you how to do it (take the gross amount and multiply it by 10.4%). The fact that this is elementary school math did not prevent Intuit's tax software from miscalculating it. I noticed it myself and had to contact them about it.

I've also had to get on the phone with TurboTax about an enormous issue that I spotted with a worksheet used in connection with Schedule E (rental property). Specifically, if you sold a business asset at a tax loss, TurboTax correctly told you that it was not a taxable event but then incorrectly increased your tax liability. On the other hand, if you sold a business asset at a gain, TurboTax correctly told you that it was a taxable event but then incorrectly reduces your tax liability. I had to send in a sanitized version of my tax file to TurboTax for them to see what wa happening, at which point they acknowledged this rather serious problem and rolled out a fix. In our case, the difference was about $1,500 in extra taxes.

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I have used TurboTax, H&R, TaxAct and another (I can't remember) of the four I find TaxAct the most logical and easiest to make corrections into.  Plus I get the download version.  I don't like all my financial information residing on some companies server, I would rather keep it on my thumb drive. In late November I also make a copy of the previous years return and run "what if" scenario's as a fast and efficient way of making financial decisions for the current tax year.  Planning for the current year taxes involves changing IRA withdrawal amounts, HSA deposit amounts, Roth deposit amounts, stock sales and medical expenses impact on the current years taxes.  I have saved thousands by running tax year end scenario's.  Being proactive rather than reactive with my taxes.  I find TaxAct the best to make all these changes into and get pretty much instant results.  As others have suggested I also do my taxes "by hand" every few years.  I find this a good way to keep abreast of financial decisions impact on my taxes.  I also do my parents taxes, this gives me valuable insight into the "tax traps" the government has waiting for us as we age.  At 70.5 years this can be a expensive and almost irreversible lesson.   

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I happily switched from TurboTax to H&R Block (TaxCut ) a few years ago, although I had used H&R in parallel occasionally over the years as a comparison. Although TurboTax had a prettier interface (that like other Intuit products eventually became uselessly bloated), H&R Block includes some features that TurboTax didn't have. One thing that comes mind is that H&R Block allows you to simply enter the percentage of US Government obligations for funds, which is the format that my brokerages use.

TurboTax makes you multiply your dividend amounts for each fund by the percentage schedule for each fund on your own, which is extra (but simple) work to do.

My comments are for the PC version only. I haven't used the online versions in a few years.

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Try Freetaxusa.com as well.

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If you're concerned about possibly having to change forms manually, make sure you get SOFTWARE that you INSTALL on your computer that allows you to do your taxes offline. Even if you can do manual edits, it's almost always harder to do them in the online version at the tax preparer's website.

I've used TaxAct for myself and family for years and now I do taxes on the side and I use TaxAct Professional.

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fleetwoodmac said:   I switched from TaxAct. com to creditkarma

Free for individual and sole prop. It can not handle anything else

Just saying

  Didn't realize it would do a sole prop Sched C... Thanks!

Skipping 12 Messages...
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So I dug a little deeper and re-scanned the comments here, and it looks like I can get all of the forms I need done with H&R Block's Deluxe version. The download or CD version can be had for $30 for Federal and State (plus another $20 if I want to eFile the state), and that Deluxe version can run on OSX.

I did read a review where someone had trouble on OSX with the same version I'm at (Sierra 10.12.2), which is just one version behind the absolute latest version, so that has me a little nervous about the Mac version. I'm assuming the CD version includes both Windows and OSX versions, so that might be an option, but I'm leaning towards taking my chances and just getting the Mac Download version. If I do that and run into any issues, I'll post back.

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