I’ve said a few times that I was going to get a tax professional to do our taxes this year. We picked a guy from friends’ recommendations, and he gave us a worksheet to fill out. I would have had to get all of my paperwork together in order to fill it out. By the time I had everything together and looked at the worksheet, I realized that I was probably 70% of the way done and I just needed to pop the numbers in. So instead, I bought TurboTax Home and Business for Mac. I’m running OS X Lion, 10.7.3, on my 13″ MacBook Pro (early 2011). Let me walk you through it.
Installation is a breeze, like most programs on a Mac. You download the disk image, mount it, and drag the application from the disk image to your applications folder. I probably spent more time writing that sentence than it took for me to install it. Really.
When you first open the application, you’re met with the splash screen with the terrible simile of “TurboTax Guides You Like A GPS”. TurboTax doesn’t coo sweet nothings of “insert this W-2 here”…whoa that’s dirty. Nor does it say in a nagging voice “RECALCULATING” every time I miss a step. Anyway, it’s a splash screen with common actions. Wee. Let’s move on.
I’m assuming that this is the first time you’ve used TurboTax for Mac – if you’ve used it in the past, it’ll detect old tax returns on your computer and offer to import them in for you. It’s nifty. Even if it isn’t your first time using TurboTax, you’ll be asked if anything major happened in your life that may affect you tax situation.
Depending on what you pick, you’ll be given some brief information on what each category entails. TurboTax will then guide you through each section, asking you to insert data from your tax forms where appropriate. You’ll insert information on W-2′s, 1099′s, and whatever other forms you have. This is where having all of your documents together will really save you time.
If you think you’re a tax pro and don’t need TurboTax to hold your hand, you can cruise each section at your leisure. When you click “Start”, you’ll be asked to fill in the information appropriate to that section. I often have to do this because I’ll find a miscellaneous tax document somewhere around the house and will have to fill it in. The list is quite comprehensive; I haven’t used many of the categories since our tax situation is not that complicated.
Deductions and Credits
After you fill out all of your tax information, you’ll go through and see if you qualify for any additional deductions or credits. Again, you have the option of going through the “GPS” and go though each topic one-by-one, or you can scoot on over to the topic listings and jump around like a pro. Our tax life is pretty simple because we’re renters, among other reasons, so we have always taken the standard deduction. New to us this year is the Child Tax Credit, which was great since it directly reduces the tax.
Finally, you’ll wrap up your tax filing by taking care of any miscellaneous stuff like AMT. Again, we’ve never had to really fill out any of this section, but you’ll have to go item-by-item to see if you need to take care of any of these.
I’ve intentionally left out the business section, but it’s pretty much along the same lines of the personal taxes section. One of the awesome things about the business section is that you can import your Schedule C directly from Quicken. It eliminates the need to enter everything in manually.
When you’re finished with your federal taxes, TurboTax for Mac will see if there’s anything you missed and alert you to any items that may be incomplete or may be an audit risk. When you’re good to go, then you’ll be able to proceed with TurboTax’s blessing. I guess this is an area where TurboTax is like a GPS – it’ll nag you if something not right. That’s a good thing.
State taxes are done in the same manner of federal taxes. It’ll be a little less time intensive and time consuming since you’ve already entered in all of your information. Of course, every state is different, so I can’t really go through what exactly to expect.
As you go through and enter information, you’ll see a running tally of how much you will owe or how much you will be refunded. It’s kind of fun to put in ridiculous numbers to see how this changes. You can see that we’re in the red this year.
Lastly you’ll review both your federal and state taxes, and see your risk of audit. You’ll also review how you did this year versus last year, and be given the chance to learn about ways to improve your tax situation in the upcoming year.
A new feature this year is having the chance to get free one-on-one tax advice from a tax professional. I’m about 90% finished with my taxes, but there’s some things that I want to make sure that I’m doing correctly, so I may use that service. I’ll update this post if I end up using it.
Overall, I’ve been happy with my TurboTax for Mac experience. It’s perfect if your tax situation is relatively uncomplicated, not much has changed from year-to-year, or if you just like to do your own taxes. I used TurboTax in the early 2000′s to do my taxes, but I switched to other software because it was better to use with the personal finance program I was using then. Now that we’re Quicken users, it made sense to switch back to TurboTax so that I could import business stuff directly into it. While I switched for that reason, I’ve been very impressed with the ease of use, look and feel, and features that TurboTax offers.