H&R Block TaxCut 2005
H&R Block TaxCut Premium 2005 won't surprise longtime users with dramatic changes. The main interface is largely unchanged from the 2004 version's, although you'll find a few welcome enhancements here and there. The 2005 tax interview, for instance, uses fewer screens to collect personal information, and the expanded Life Changes section now gives tax advice to filers who served in the military, inherited property, lost a spouse or a job, or had a major illness in 2005. H&R Block, like archrival Intuit, has wisely done away with hated product rebates and now ships the TaxCut federal and state editions in one box (except for the TaxCut Standard package). It may not be quite as user-friendly as TurboTax Premier, but at $20 less, TaxCut Premium 2005 is a great bargain buy.
TaxCut Premium 2005 installs in just a few minutes. Because the federal and state tools ship on one disc, setup is easier than with last year's edition. After the federal version loads, you select your state from a list, and TaxCut installs the appropriate state version as well. DeductionPro, a utility for determining the fair-market value of noncash charitable contributions, comes on a separate CD and installs separately (you might forget to install it). In the future, we'd like to see tighter integration between the TaxCut and DeductionPro setup routines, such as automatic installation of DeductionPro.
TaxCut 2005's uncluttered interface doesn't break new ground, but that's not a problem. Its tax interview is well written in understandable English, eschewing most IRS jargon, and helpful videos explain the importance of recent tax-law changes. The Take Me To box, accessible via a button in the upper-right corner of the screen, lets you jump to different parts of the interview--from Wages to Capital Loss Carryover--with a few clicks. Then again, the Take Me To box's long list of topics can be a pain to scroll through; we prefer TurboTax 2005's updated menu system, which quickly directs you to a particular topic.
One welcome change: the TaxCut interview uses fewer data-entry screens this year--a time-saving improvement most evident in the Personal Information section. In version 2004, you had to slog through four screens to enter your name, home address, social security number, occupation, and other basic information. TaxCut 2005 asks you to input these facts on a single screen.TaxCut 2005 comes in three flavors: Standard, Deluxe, and Premium. We tested Premium, the high-end $50 package for filers with complex tax returns. Premium includes the Business Expense Assistant to help small-business owners capitalize on deductions and offers help for reporting capital gains and rental income. Like Premium, the $30 Deluxe package includes a copy of TaxCut State and DeductionPro. However, it lacks extra guidance for handling investments and rental property. At the low end, the $10 Standard package for basic filers doesn't include a copy of TaxCut State (an extra $25). Don't buy Standard; even if your return is 1040EZ simple, you'll save money by buying the $30 Deluxe package.
TaxCut Premium 2005 has several enhancements, including the Moving Expenses Assistant step-by-step guide to tally packing, traveling, and other out-of-pocket costs from a job-related move. This new Assistant better highlights information previously buried in TaxCut's help file, such as the little-known fact that a dog-kennel stay is deductible.