TaxAct vs TurboTax…My humble opinion

Like most people, I loathe doing taxes.  Getting the forms, collecting all the right paperwork, calling the different places for information that should have been given but wasn’t….always a headache.  But even more than doing the actual taxes is the fear of the dreaded audit.  The tax code in the U.S. is staggering in scope.   Even being as diligent as I can possibly can, there is always a fear that something is going to be forgotten or missed and thus triggering the infamous IRS audit.

To help me minimize the risk, I have been using TurboTax Online since 2007.  And while I love the software for its ease of use and support, one thing I didn’t like was the price.  For me it runs about $100 per year to do both state and federal returns.  And while I hated paying it, I would swallow it because it was just so quick and easy to use.

So this year I decided to try another programs to see if it was as good at a lower cost.  After reading a few reviews, I decided to try TaxAct.  It was pretty highly rated, and at 1/3 the cost of TurboTax Online, why not give it a shot?

I downloaded the stand alone TaxAct Deluxe with my state for about $30.  My initial impression was positive, but I had forgotten all of the things TurboTax automated from previous years.   Still it wasn’t too bad.

Then I came to the part where it asks for interest that was received.  I had a few bank accounts that I did not receive a 1099-INT because the total interest was less than $10.  Unlike TurboTax, which asks for the name of the institution and a few other items, TaxAct wanted me to fill out a 1099-INT.  And that’s fine too.  But the issue was I did not have a payee EID number for the banks.  (On a separate, but related, note, when I asked the banks for this information one of them said “Oh, we don’t give that information out.”  When I told them that I needed it to fill out a 1099-INT form for the IRS she told me that she couldn’t give that information out to “just anyone” and suggested I not even tell the IRS about it.  Good Grief!)

So this led me down the first of many wild goose chases with TaxAct that end up with me calling the IRS for advice/direction on three separate issues.  I have never needed to do that with TurboTax.

Another point of issue was on the charitable donation portion of Schedule A.  TurboTax prompts you to input the specific information (who, what, where, how much) for all the charities and keeps a record of it for your future use.   TaxAct simply asks for how much.  And while that might be fine for most purposes, if I need to go back and look at the details from a prior year, TurboTax makes this much easier through better record keeping.

And the final think that set me on edge was on the Illinois State form.  Illinois has a “Use Tax” for anything that you buy on the internet that doesn’t charge state sales tax (we’re looking at you, Amazon…)  TurboTax always used to calculate this for me, but TaxAct want me to get the form and calculate it myself.  This made me very nervous, especially considering I did not have the UT form they mentioned nor did I know where to get it.  Later I found out that it was simply the total amount purchase times the state sales take rate of 6.25%.  Duh!

By the time I was finished, I was very nervous about the tax information I was about to submit.  So I decided that, since TurboTax doesn’t charge until I file, I would run it all through TurboTax and see what the difference was. 

It took me about 35 minutes to do both state and federal taxes using TurboTax.  I whipped through it like a hot knife through butter.  And I got that warm, fuzzy feeling that everything was going to be okay.  Well, as warm and fuzzy a feeling as you can get while doing taxes.  I finally reached the end and the verdict was in…

It turns of that my refund amounts for both state and federal taxes were identical for both pieces of software.  I felt relieved that TaxAct did not lead me astray after all.  The main differences were:

  • ·         TurboTax was easier and more friendly to use
  • ·         TurboTax was faster, but that might have been because it had historic data to go by
  • ·         TaxAct was much cheaper.  $30 vs $90 for TurboTax Deluxe with State.

So which will I use next year?  I don’t know.  I really like the price of TaxAct, but I miss the reassurance I always felt with TurboTax.  Is that extra money worth that feeling and the slicker interface?

I guess I have a year to decide.

Evil Dead 2013…what fun!

I love horror movies.  I can be a bit selective as I don’t enjoy “torture” movies like Saw and Hostel.  But in general, the old time monster/killer/demon/undead movies are right up my alley.  So it was with great excitement that, with the blessing of Sam Rami, Evil Dead was being remade.  But with that excitement came a bit of trepidation: would it be as good as the original?

A word however to those that have not watched the original Evil Dead or its spawn, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.  They are an acquired taste.  Most people would probably not enjoy them.  They are over the top.  And that it is their actual charm.  They are silly and preposterous and just barely take themselves seriously enough that most viewers don’t get the joke.

So when I learned it was coming out, I knew I had to go see it with one of my two cohorts in horror movie crime, my oldest daughter.  (My youngeevil-dead-posterst daughter is just a little too young to see this one.  Even I have my limits.)

I have to say upfront that this was not my proudest parenting moment (but it may have been one of the funnest.)  My oldest daughter is 14 and we’ve been watching horror movies together for a few years now.  I usually do quite a bit of research on horror movies before I let her see them, and this one was no exception.  Still, I don’t expect many fathers would take a 14 year old girl to see the Evil Dead, nor do I condone, endorse or approve of this movie for anybody but myself and my daughter.  Your mileage may vary.

In preparation for the new version, I watched the original with her.  She liked it and so the wheels were set in motion to see the new one.

It was awesome.  It was everything I had hoped it would be and then some.  At one point we were both laughing out loud hysterically.  It was awkward because nobody else in the theater seemed to get the jokes.  But when the movie was over, I felt that director Fede Alvarez did a fine job capturing the spirit and feel of the original and yet bringing it into the 21st century.

****SPOILER ALERT*****

The only disappointment was that Bruce Campbell did not make a cameo in this movie.

****END SPOILER ALERT*****

If you have ever wistfully wondered if you can get enough “chainsaw in the mouth” action, then this is the movie for you.  My daughter and I left the theater feeling that we got our money’s worth from Evil Dead.  We’re looking forward to the sequel and I am looking forward to a director’s cut DVD.

The Frustation of the trailing space…

I spent a good chunk of time today trying to delete a folder from a Windows 2008 R2 server that I could not get to go away.  What I finally discovered was that the folder name had a trailing space at the end of the name.  What I thought was the name “New” was actually “New ” (please note the space) and the system truncated that space when it went to delete the folder, thus trying to delete “New” which did not exist.

So in order to delete this puppy, I needed to find the the 8.3 file name.  Using the command prompt, I navigated to the directory that contained this foul beast and ran a dir /x, which returned the result of “New~1” as the file name.  Then it was simply a matter of clearing out the files “New~1” contained (which it turns out was another folder with a trailing space) and then running a simple rmdir “New~1” and I was back in business.

Way too much time for something so simple.