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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

I've used TurboTax for years. If I had to guess, I'd say I used it for at least the last 7 years. I've always gotten pretty good results with it, and only owed money once (not their fault) and have been pretty happy with it.

This year though, faced with the prospect of owing a fair amount of my hard earned $$, I decided to forego TurboTax and take everything I had to an actual TaxPreparer.

After entering in all my w2 and 1099 information, and all the standard stuff that turbotax asks you, she turns to me and we have this conversation:

her: what about "x"?
me: I can deduct that?
her: "oh sure, you betcha"
me: oh wow, ok..."

Repeat that about 25 times, and you'll get a rough idea of how my Saturday morning went. She asked me so many things that TurboTax never even hinted at... I'll probably never use TurboTax again.

Now I know you're probably thinking, yeah sure, but TurboTax is $40 and humans charge a lot more than that. Well, you're half right. TurboTax may be $40 at the store, but by the time you add filing fees, additional states, additional filing fees, direct deposit fees, and the fact that you're missing out on some potentially significant deductions... going to a real tax-preparer is definitely the way to go.

I went from owing ~$2500 to getting a refund of ~$130.

Posted on Monday, April 13, 2009 9:26 AM | Back to top


Comments on this post: TurboTax vs Real Humans

# re: TurboTax vs Real Humans
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Full Disclosure: the wifey works at H&R Block.

It really depends on the situation. For most people the automated software is good enough, Joe Sixpack just doesn't have much in the way of itemized deductions to justify the increased costs of a tax preparer. Oh he might have some items that a person would catch that the software would miss but its unlikely enough to make up the price difference.

If you are one of those people will all sorts of itemizable expenses then yes, get thyself to a tax pro. What HRB charges is highway robbery but you'll still come out ahead in the end.

Oh, and not all tax preparation companies are equal, best to stick with the big names. Some of the discount shops offer little more than a person who fills in TurboTax for you. HRB, Jackson Hewitt are good, Liberty is a frickin joke.
Left by Steven Cox on Apr 13, 2009 10:20 AM

# re: TurboTax vs Real Humans
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To be honest I'm envious of your experience. A few years ago while in college after having been a long time Turbo Tax user I decided to do what you did considering my wife and I had a rental property and I had taken time off to finish up my degree. Here's my experience:

After entering in all my w2 and 1099 information, and all the standard stuff that turbotax asks you, he turns to me and we have this conversation:

Him: Anything else?
Me: Yeah, I'm in college. What about my college tuition and books?
Him: Oh, okay...
(Wait for 10 minutes while he finds where he needs to put in my info, something I could have done in a few seconds with TurboTax.)
Him: Anything else?
Me: Yeah, I mentioned we have a rental property, did you take depreciation on it?
Him: Oh, um, okay...
(Wait for 15 minutes while he finds where he needs to put that in, something that took a few seconds in TurboTax.)
Continue ad nauseam for another hour...
The next year I went back to TurboTax and have never looked back. I suppose one bad experience should not define my definition of this company but it left such a bad taste in my mouth.
As always YMMV
Left by Brian on Apr 13, 2009 10:22 AM

# re: TurboTax vs Real Humans
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Also remember, each version of tubro tax (ez, deluxe, premier, Home & Business, business) all offer different levels of granularity.

I used Business last year and man o man, I got asked so many questions it took nearly 3 continuous nights to finish it. (I use the online version). However, as you stated, its nice to have someone say "what about ____ " and then they can fill it out. I had an accountant for about about 5 years and I loved it. Great tax returns, super simple. Drop off the papers, wait for the check. :)
Left by Donn Felker on Apr 13, 2009 2:18 PM

# re: TurboTax vs Real Humans
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We used to go to H&R, and they'd charge us $150+ and about two hours to do our taxes. We were never dissatisfied, but weren't real happy either. We have now found an accountant that does taxes out of her house. It takes here about 15 minutes, and she charges us $60, and we always get a ton of money back.
Left by John Kraft on Apr 13, 2009 2:31 PM

# re: TurboTax vs Real Humans
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My experience was very different as well. When I first got married, I took my taxes to H&R B thinking it would be more complex than it was...1 hour later and $150 more poorer, I realized that I should have done it myself....that year I bought myself a $29.99 Taxes for Dummies book at Amazon and have used TaxCut or TurboTax software each year since then ( I buy whichever is cheaper since I have found them to be about the same)....I itemize each year, file k-1 schedules for a partnership, file tax rebates for energy efficient home improvements, and have still found the tax software a very good value for $29 each year...of course, SD has no income taxes (sweet) but now the standard version comes with free Federal Tax e-filing and the built in Help is actually helpful

But I suppose it depends on how many states you have to declare income in, and how complex your deductions are especially when trying to claim at-home business deductions, etc....I would imagine you have an extensive list of work-related deductions that I don't even consider.
Left by Brad Osterloo on Apr 13, 2009 5:40 PM

# re: TurboTax vs Real Humans
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Do it yourself next time. No "turbo", no mirrors, just fill-in PDF forms and lots of smoke. You'll not only save the $2630 in taxes, but you'll also save the fees and learn how useless politicians really are. And most of them are lawyers!
Left by bill on Apr 13, 2009 8:16 PM

# re: TurboTax vs Real Humans
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Don't forget you can always deduct the professional's fee on your next year return.
My take is if you have a simple return then the tax software is ok for that but once it gets complicated then turn it over to the pro's.
Left by Brian Scarbeau on Apr 14, 2009 6:19 AM

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