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Tax season begins in PCs

The PC part of the 2002 tax season kicks off with the release of tax preparation software from Intuit and H&R Block.

Oh by gosh, by golly, it's time for itemized deductions so jolly.

The PC part of the 2002 tax season kicked off Monday with the release of tax preparation software from Intuit and H&R Block.

Inuit is selling eight boxed versions of its TurboTax software, including new editions targeted at investors, Spanish speakers, and taxpayers planning for retirement.

H&R Block is offering two versions of its TaxCut software. Both companies will provide Web versions of their software, beginning mid-January, for filers who wish to prepare their taxes online.

Sales of tax software and services have climbed steadily over the past few years. Market leader Intuit reported that it sold 5.5 million copies of boxed TurboTax products last year, a 5 percent year-over-year increase, while traffic for TurboTax online services increased 85 percent, to 2.2 million users.

Software makers expect growth to remain steady or improve this year, thanks in part to ongoing changes in tax law and a wealth of taxpayers experiencing their first deductions for investment-related losses.

"Due to this year's economic downturn and the various other issues it's triggered, taxpayers are dealing with many special issues that need to be individually addressed during tax preparation," Tom Allanson, senior vice president of Intuit's Consumer Tax Division, said in a statement.

This will also be the first year that Inuit loads TurboTax products with product activation technology, features designed to cut down on unlicensed use of the software.