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TaxCut Deluxe 2002 review: TaxCut Deluxe 2002

TaxCut Deluxe 2002

Gregg Keizer
5 min read
TaxCut Deluxe has changed little this year: It's still a cost-effective way to prep your taxes. The program contains a range of data-import options--including grabbing numbers from both Money and Quicken--and lets you obtain payroll info for your W-2 via the Internet. This app is inexpensive, too; it costs just $30 to prep and e-file one federal and one state return. But if your return includes investments, TaxCut Deluxe doesn't cut the mustard. For more complicated returns, you'll have to pay another $10 for the new Platinum edition. That said, we like the way that TaxCut gets the job done with the least fuss for the smallest amount of cash. This fact, combined with TurboTax's wretched activation policy, gives TaxCut the slightest edge. Installing TaxCut is a piece of cake. In less than two minutes, we had this tax-prep program on our hard drive and ready to rock. We have only two complaints about setup: We don't care for the advertising screen that popped up near the end to offer us an EarthLink account, especially since the default response is to find out more information (bringing up the company's Web site). Also, when you first launch the program, an easy-to-miss update screen offers to shuttle you to the TaxCut site to see and download the latest program updates. This screen needs to be more prominent, or else TaxCut should automatically check for updates.
Like TurboTax--but unlike TaxAct--TaxCut comes in versions for both Windows and the Mac. But Mac users must pay an extra $10 to get TaxCut's Platinum edition since there's no Deluxe version for the Mac. That wouldn't be such a problem, except that TurboTax Deluxe is Mac ready.

The Take Me To navigator shows you what you've started, finished, and need to complete.
TaxCut's looks are the same as last year, as is its modus operandi (like all this year's tax-prep apps). To fill out your return, you step through a Q&A interview, typing in the required data or marking the appropriate check boxes on the screen--pretty simple. Tabs at the top take you to major sections of the return, such as the federal and state returns, as well as the planning section. And if you want to switch from the interview to a complete form, you can do so at any time. But that might defeat the purpose of buying a tax-prep program: avoiding lots of paperwork.
TaxCut's navigator hasn't changed much either, and that doesn't bother us one bit. We still like the way that this navigator--which pops up when you click the Take Me To button at the top right of every screen--graphically displays which parts of the return you've finished, which sections you've started, and where you are in the process. You can easily jump to any part of the return.
In one area, however, TaxCut could use some improvement. The program's language seems confusing when compared to that of TurboTax. In the Capital Gains/Losses section, for example, TaxCut proclaims "In this topic, we look at your capital gains and losses." Not exactly informative, is it? We like TurboTax's straightforward, clearer approach: "Did you sell any stocks, bonds, or mutual funds during 2002?" Looking for a lot of new tools in your tax app? You'll need to steer for the higher-priced TaxCut Platinum, which costs $10 more than Deluxe after rebate. In terms of new features, TaxCut Deluxe sports only a retirement-savings planner and a home-office assistant. Platinum, by contrast, boasts a slew of new assistants, including a depreciation helper and a slick, Web-based portfolio manager.
However, Deluxe still lets you save time and avoid mistakes in the W-2 part of the program by importing income data directly from the payroll firm that your employer uses--assuming TaxCut supports that firm. To find out, enter your Employer ID from your paper W-2 when prompted to do so in the program's onscreen Q&A. If your W-2 is available, TaxCut will download it. TaxCut lists only 4 participating payroll companies on its Web site--Alliance Capital, Fidelity Investments, GainsKeeper, and H&R Block Financial Advisors. TurboTax, on the other hand works with more than 50 firms.

You can import numbers from Money or Quicken for speedier starts.
Also like last year, TaxCut lets you import financial data from Quicken or Money. In fact, if you use the latter, you can even move info back into Money for year-round planning once you've wrapped up the return. You can also bring in old returns from previous versions of TurboTax. TurboTax loyalists might want to do just that to avoid TurboTax's irksome activation scheme problems.
Unless you spring for Platinum, though, you can't import financial data from your broker. That's a shame and will push many investors to spend the extra $10 on Platinum. In fact, if you're going to go with TaxCut, we have to recommend Platinum to everyone who has investments beyond a simple 401(k) plan through work. It took us about three hours to wrap up our test return, which is a tad too long for our taste. However, we were using Deluxe--not the pricier Platinum--and therefore had to struggle through investment sections without assistance. Your mileage, naturally, may vary.

The Entry Manager lets you mark entries as tentative.
The entire process would have taken us more than three hours if not for the program's enhanced Entry Manager. To access that feature, click the little tool icon on the Q&A next to most--but not all--entries. From there, Entry Manager lets you mark items as tentative and will remind you to check on them later.
Our pricing benchmark always includes preparing one federal and one state return and e-filing both. Do that with TaxCut Deluxe, you'll fork over $29.90 after the irritating mail-in rebates. That's cheaper than TaxAct's cumulative $31 price. What's more, this price includes printing or filing returns from as many computers as you need. TurboTax now forces you to pay for each filed return. TaxCut's smart, thorough, built-in tax and program help uses the same mix of IRS publications, tax tips, and video clips as TurboTax does. The interview window already lists the most common questions on the right and lets you open them with a single click--slick.

TaxCut constantly displays common help topics at the right of the Q&A window.
When we scoured TaxCut's online support, we found few FAQs compared to those on the TurboTax site. For the majority of your questions, you can query support by e-mail. The free (toll-call) phone support is limited to questions on installation, printing, and e-filing. Hours are 8 a.m. to midnight ET, Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays from January 6 through April 16. A representative answered our installation question promptly and correctly.
If you want to pay for more for help, you can get it. TaxCut returns this year with Ask a Tax Advisor, a service that takes you online and lets you query an H&R Block expert via e-mail or phone--last year's real-time-chat option has been dropped. The cost: $19.95 per question. Fortunately, TaxCut is straightforward enough that you may never need to call for help.

TaxCut Deluxe 2002

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 9Support 7