Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Turbo Tax 2007 Review

This is a review of TurboTax for the Mac versus TurboTax for Windows. I've been a Turbo Tax for Windows user for years. This year, as an experiment, and since I had a Mac Mini, I installed the Mac version to see what the difference was.

The first two returns were for my mom and for Lisa. Neither were very complicated, though at least one involved the earned income tax credit. In both cases, I could download W-2s through Turbo Tax. So far so good. Both taxes were done in under 2 hours total (an hour on average).

Then I got to my own taxes. I'll admit that my taxes aren't the least complicated possible, but compared to another colleague who had to spend 50 hours on her taxes last year (because of multiple state taxes), I still consider mine easy. The first sign that all was not well was the investment downloads page. The investment download from Vanguard was straightforward, but the overview screen refused to show me the details of which investments yielded which numbers (capital gains, dividends, etc). This made it quite painful to use the downloaded results, since I couldn't corroborate the sells and buys with my knowledge of what happened.

OK, I know how to type, so I wiped out the imported data and entered all the data manually. This was fine until I got to individual stock sales. I entered all the data, saved and quit the application to get reboot my Mac for an unrelated reason, and then started up Turbo Tax again. To my surprise it refused to start from the saved file!

Chalking it up to user error, I started my return all over again and did my taxes again. The same thing happened when I saved and reloaded the application, this time, without rebooting.

I opened up Turbo Tax for Windows in a Parallels Virtual Machine and proceeded to do my taxes there. To my relief, not only does the Windows version of Turbo Tax happily load and reload my saved files (though it wouldn't load the Macintosh saved files, of course), the investment downloads page on the Windows version is usable, and saved me at least 10-20 minutes of data entry.

The moral: if your finances are non-trivial, get a Windows license and run the Windows version of Turbo Tax. This is another reason my next machine will not be a Macintosh.
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