Nobody ever wants to do taxes, especially after a rough financial 2008. But as long as you have to, you'll need a straightforward tax-prep program to help you wade through tricky tax law. TurboTax 2008 continues to produce the most complete and understandable do-it-yourself tax software on the market, and it adds new features for 2008. For example, Intuit has adjusted the tax interview to make it easier for you to claim extra deductions and avoid penalties if you lost a job, foreclosed on a house, or survived a storm or wildfire this past year. TurboTax 2008 for the desktop also awards free e-filing for up to five federal returns and gains a new support feature that displays users' top questions per tax topic.
TurboTax 2008 isn't for everyone, though. Price remains TurboTax's biggest stumbling block, and live support costs extra. The rival software TaxCut charges less for its desktop software, and provides several forms of tax support for free with live agents, or with tax professionals in the H&R Block offices. To its credit, TurboTax includes a wider range of self-help tools to manage questions, risk, and audits on your own. However, any one-on-one support you want with a topic or an audit will cost you between $20 and $40. We think TurboTax's tools and new knowledge base will answer most taxpayers' burning questions.
Which desktop version?
This review covers the desktop version of TurboTax Deluxe, with State, but there's a version of TurboTax 2008 for everyone:
TurboTax 2008 Free Edition: A free, online package that's ideal for those with simple 1040 EZ returns.
TurboTax 2008 Free Deluxe ($59.95 with State): Used by the majority of people, it's aimed at those in the middle ground with some complexity, like home owners and casual philanthropists.
Premier ($89.95 with State): For folks who own rental properties and have extensive investments.
Home and Business ($99.95 with State): Tackles tax law for contractors, consultants, and sole business owners.
Each desktop version has a slightly cheaper online equivalent. Filing online stores your return on Intuit's servers and limits you to one free e-file.
Setup and interface
Sprightlier than past versions, TurboTax 2008 takes its time installing and updating the latest changes to tax law--about 10 minutes total. Make sure you're connected to the Internet, then go make a cup of coffee.
There are some noticeable changes to the interface design. For instance, a small box at the top of the interface now tracks how much you owe on your state return. This state return monitor joins an identical feature that adds up your federal dues. A new sidebar also takes root on the right. It features relevant tax questions posted in real time from TurboTax's "Live Community." As always, you can navigate TurboTax's well-organized tabs at any time, and search for specific forms and topics. As in previous years, the help menu pops up information in a separate window. We're so over pop-ups; it would be better if help topics expanded and collapsed when we click them.