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Audit support

OK, OK. Doing taxes may be the last thing on your mind, but as long as you must file them (and you must), you should know there are some interesting differences between TaxCut and TurboTax, two top-tier tax-prep applications, that might help you decide which one to use for your 2008 return.

Overall, TurboTax 2008 does a better job calling out the tax law changes most important to Americans, including guiding you if you've lost your job or have had to foreclose on a home. It also offers more scenarios for folks affected by natural disasters.

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TaxCut and TurboTax 2008 both address tax conundrums with a form of frequently asked questions and extensive help files. TaxCut's common questions are baked into the sidebar for each section of the tax interview, so you'll be able to refer back to the same question and answer every time.
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This sidebar is TurboTax 2008's version of FAQs. Instead of using prewritten questions, TurboTax pulls in the top questions users are asking on any given topic. You'll be able to read the full question text and respond online. To ask your own question, you'll need to register for an account. This peer support sidebar is new to the desktop versions of TurboTax this year.
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Importing your W-2 wages from your payroll company and your 1099 investment income details from your brokerage firms is, hands-down, TurboTax's best timesaving convenience. The import won't calculate your cost basis, but it will grab the big numbers. We just wish TaxCut did this, too.
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TurboTax 2008 for the desktop is padded with more features this year than TaxCut. This deductions estimate is one such change to TurboTax's interview. According to Intuit, estimating your figures will help TurboTax zip you through the deductions process faster by showing you just the fields you need to enter.
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The IRS needs to know either your AGI (adjusted gross income) from your 2007 tax form or the PIN number you previously used to file your return electronically. TaxCut has a great convenience tool for returning TaxCut users that looks up the previous year's AGI.
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A bonus if you enjoy props and other visual reinforcements, TurboTax's audit thermometer predicts if you're at risk for unwanted IRS attention. You'll read hotter if you're a small business owner, for example, or if you claim child tax credits. If a former flame does too, that's a big IRS no-no.
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When it comes to live support, TaxCut has TurboTax soundly beat. TaxCut 2008 offers users of its paid products a free phone or e-mail session of live tax help for one topic. In addition, live audit support comes completely free, and if you do get audited, you can go into any H&R Block office for help.
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TurboTax may charge for most of its audit protection and help services involving a real human being, but you won't be left in the cold. Intuit's free, downloadable self-help audit support center is well-organized and can help walk you through the most common audits. For an additional $40, you can turn over harder cases to an Intuit's tax pros.
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