H&R Block's TaxCut Premium 2003 is easier to navigate this year, thanks to an updated interface that helps you skip from topic to topic with just a click or two. Also, the new plain-talk advice section features a plethora of tax tips culled from H&R Block's deep reservoir of April 15 knowledge. H&R Block throws in a bunch of extras, too, such as a free phone session with a tax adviser and a free copy of H&R Block's DeductionPro software. That said, however, TaxCut falls slightly behind Intuit's TurboTax 2003 in the ease-of-use department, mostly because of its limited interview, which too often forces you to manually fill out IRS forms rather than guiding you through complex topics. TaxCut 2003 is a fine tax-preparation program, but it lacks TurboTax's comprehensive approach.
TaxCut 2003, available on CD-ROM or as a download from TaxCut's Web site, installed without any glitches in our tests. After installation, TaxCut checks its Web site for the latest 2003 tax forms and offers to download any updates.
TaxCut 2002 users will immediately notice 2003's improved interface, specifically the new secondary navigation bar that lets you jump between dozens of interview screens. We particularly like this enhancement, which makes it easier to reenter or change data as you move through the interview. For example, if you're slogging through the IRA contributions form and suddenly remember a long-forgotten charitable deduction, you can simply click Deductions on the navigation bar, jump to the appropriate screen, and fill in the missing information.
TaxCut 2003's new navigation bar (Personal, Dependents, Income, and so on) makes it easier to jump between segments of the program's tax interview.
Plain Talk Tax Tips are another 2003 enhancement. This context-sensitive advice section, developed by H&R Block's tax experts, is built into the tax interview and helps users navigate the treacherous minefield of wash sales, child tax credits, itemized deductions, and so on. However, some of TaxCut's advice lacks TurboTax's depth. For instance, TaxCut's advice on the alternative minimum tax (AMT) is too bare-bones; TurboTax goes into greater detail on the topic. Overall, however, TaxCut 2003's interface is a significant improvement that longtime users will appreciate.
Rather than dazzle you with a plethora of new features, TaxCut 2003 focuses on ease of use--a wise choice, since most tax software users want a straightforward utility that explains arcane tax jargon, automates IRS form preparation, and calculates every conceivable deduction.