H&R Block TaxCut Premium 2006 review: H&R Block TaxCut Premium 2006

TaxCut walks you through life-changing events that may affect your tax return.

TaxCut's income-input forms largely match the numeric fields from tax documents you've received from employers. For instance, the software matches your W-2 form line by line. The same goes for pull-down Description and Code menus, so you don't need to know what CAVPDI or WASWCF means to select them. Learn More links pop up with explanations so you can find out what a nonstandard W-2 and other terms mean.

TaxCut isn't perfect. For instance, we wish that it filled in W-2s automatically, as TurboTax does. The fields on our paper 1099-MISC form didn't match those within TaxCut, which was a bit confusing. When we entered home office expenses, TaxCut didn't explain whether it expected monthly or annual figures.

Plus, we wish that both H&R Block and Intuit would integrate their deductions tools with their tax applications. As for TaxCut, the separate but included DeductionsPro has a straightforward interface, even displaying a running tally of potential deductions and tax savings. But to our dismay, only after entering our health care bills did DeductionsPro tell us that TaxCut doesn't import those medical and dental expenses. That's a big downer if you've grappled with substantial medical costs. Still, even Intuit's Medical Expense Manager application doesn't integrate with TurboTax.

Keeping immaculate records won't prevent you from feeling stumped about unusual questions. What if, for example, your home business expenses are $50 short of an allowed deductible amount? Will you get in trouble if, say, you pretended that a personal shopping spree at The Home Depot was really for business supplies? TaxCut can't make the call for tricky questions. Nevertheless, we like that when you finish your taxes, TaxCut pits your return against U.S. averages, and its tax-planning section connects to an online Tax Estimator to help plan next year's taxes.

TaxCut's free audit support--an extra $40 with TurboTax--guarantees that if you file electronically, you can get advice from a tax advisor should the IRS come knocking later. TaxCut Premium users get free phone, e-mail, and chat assistance. The software includes brief video tutorials. Support hours are weekdays from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. CST, which is bad news for weekend filers. Still, we found TaxCut's support representatives to be both polite and knowledgeable about the software.

Overall, we like the changes within TaxCut Premium Federal + State + E-file. Its straightforward menus and questions helped us to understand how to fill in the blanks without too much chin-scratching about arcane tax terminology. The application also provided plenty of reading material to guide us through tricky situations. While no tax software is perfect, TaxCut did a thorough job of guiding us through the filing process. And if your overall goal is to save money up front, TaxCut's lower cost makes it an attractive alternative to Intuit TurboTax.

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