By this point, the major software vendors that develop tax preparation and filing software have pretty well innovated the field as far as it can go: we may see some tweaks from year to year, but the functionality remains pretty straight-forward.
The biggest change with TurboTax is probably the name. Formerly known as QuickTax, Intuit has changed the name to TurboTax for the 2010 tax year to better align with its U.S. tax software titles. Otherwise, beside from some minor user interface tweaks, it looks pretty much the same as last year.
There is a Basic edition of TurboTax, which comes with eight returns (individuals with less than $25,000 in income don’t count against the total) and features basic functionality. I tested the Standard edition, which also allows eight returns (more can be purchased) but also adds wizards and tools to help you maximize your deductions. Premier and Hone & Business editions are also available with 12 returns and tools for those with investment & rental property or business taxes.
You can download the software online; I got it on a CD-ROM. The instillation and update process was smooth and I was up and ready to start doing my taxes about five minutes after I’d popped-in the CD. The only hiccup with set-up was that it refused to accept my address as real. As I’m pretty sure about where I live, I was able to bypass it.
You can see the traditional forms but I always prefer to use the interview method, which asks me questions about income and deductions, asks me to enter my T-4 and other data, and does all the calculations in the background. Little icons for different categories, like a moving truck for moving expenses, were a nice visual touch, and limiting it to a few questions per page keeps it from getting overwhelming.
I did find the constant tax-tip pop-ups, often over top of data entry boxes, to be annoying. The interview format also has some limitations. For example, their questions on education failed to capture that, while I’m not a student, I do still have student loan interest to claim. I had to go back and add that deduction manually.
Once all my information was entered and the software did a check for errors and deductions, I was ready to create a Netfile return to upload to revenue Canada. You can also print the forms to mail them in, and export a copy to PDF for your records. Each one, though, will count against your eight return limit.
All in all, TurboTax was relatively quick and painless. Now I just need to decide how to spend my refund.
Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN .