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Saturday, April 08, 2017

Screw Turbo Tax

Satirist Stilton Jarlsberg of Stilton's Place fame (formerly Hope and Change) took last Wednesday off. He spent so much time doing his taxes online that he had no time to draw a cartoon. He wrote:
"Bells are ringing, birds are singing, and nubile maidens frolic and gambol while tossing rose petals into the air! And that's only a short list of the wonderful things that aren't happening (but should) now that we've finally finished and filed our blankety-blanking federal taxes."
He did his taxes online. Maybe it is time to re-think online tax preparation.

My taxes took two phone calls, three e-mails, and a trip to drop off the forms. I spent a total of less than 20 minutes on it. Slept well.

Like Jarlsberg, my taxes were done online. By a CPA. State, federal -- $150.

But for Jarlsberg, the process took longer:
"As mentioned here on Monday, there was no way the 2016 Turbo Tax program was going to run on our ancient (2008) Mac this year, so we ended up having to do everything using Turbotax's online site. Which was actually fine, as long as you don't mind spending $115 to wade through the government's indecipherable crap, put all of your most sensitive personal information online, and end up having no idea whatsoever if the final result is anything even marginally like correct."
So he saved $35.

And missed a deadline so he had two cartoons, not three, that week.

I did Turbo Tax for a dozen years. At first it was cheap and easy. With children in college, I was able to collect bigger returns than if I did the taxes myself.

But as the years passed, the price got higher in both time and money. Then came the form that we had to file but Turbo Tax had no way of filing the form. Nor did its competitors.

My wife called a CPA, and she was wonderful. Same direct deposit and electronic filing without wasting hours punching numbers in a computer.

Now that I am retired, I have decided to shed the things I do not like to do. Perhaps being shed of work showed me that I do not have to do things I do not like.

The CPA is Susan Graves of Nitro. This is neither a paid ad nor did she request it. She doesn't even know I wrote this.

But she did a fine job. She even threw in free advice on making my wife's eventual retirement easier from a tax perspective.

I meant to write this a while ago, but the older I get, the lazier I am.

The original."Trump the Press" chronicled and mocked how the media missed Trump's nomination.

It is available on Kindle, and in paperback.

Then came "Trump the Establishment," covering the election, which again the media missed.

It is available on Kindle, and in paperback.

Autographed copies of both books are available by writing me at

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  1. Doing the taxes are a PITA. Boy, howdy!

  2. I have used the same local CPA firm for 25 years. Cost 750. The return weighs about a pound. I'm not rich but it involves farm, rental and oil and gas. It is billed upon how many forms the return requires not how much money we made in the year. It is worth every penny to have this firm do it every year.

  3. I stopped using Turbo Tax in the early/mid-2000's when after filing my taxes they sent me notification of an error in their software that might affect the accuracy of my filing. It didn't, but the episode showed me that they're not that good. Now that I'm single and have no need to file anything more than a 1040A I use the IRS website to prepare my taxes, then print out the form and mail it in. No sense in making things any easier for my enemy.

  4. I started using tax software back when DOS was the operating system in 1992. I used PTE while reading all the IRS manuals and finally gained confidence in the software. Haven't read a tax manual since 1993. I like just answer yes, no, or $xxx.
    I used to use Turbo Tax but one year I planned on doing my daughter's taxes when I visited her and Turbo Tax would not let me load it on my daughter's computer. It would have only been two tax returns that year, but, I could not do them conveniently. Since then I've been using H&R Block with the same confidence. Early in the tax season you can get a Federal only for about $20 with 5 free electronic submissions. You don't even have to leave the house. You can download it. My wife has a business and her business return is included. All for $20 from the comfort of my home.
    Also, not a paid ad.

  5. I've been doing my own taxes since I was 16 years old and got my first real job with a paycheck. Since then I have been helping a number of my friends with their taxes. I have used TurboTax for about the last fifteen years. It's fairly simple to use and I've never had any problems with it. I don't use the online version, though. I do it all on my computer and then transmit the returns. Much safer. Screw H & R Block. They charge too much and their rapid Refund was just a short-term high interest loan. - Elric

    1. I'm with you, Elric. Before there were tax programs, I created my own tax form spreadsheet in the predecessor to Lotus 1-2-3 (whose name I cannot now remember), but ever since TT came out I've been using it with no issues, except that it won't let me override entries the way it did in the very first versions of the software.

      These days, my wife and I spend a few hours getting our paperwork together and cranking up the computers to fill in the forms. No muss, no fuss. The Internal Revenue Code is in many ways very logical once you understand the underlying "philosophy," but then again among my other "talents" I once sat for the CPA exam on a lark and passed it with flying colors, beating out a whole bunch of tax professionals for the highest individual score. My wife says I'm weird.

  6. I just LOVE Turbo Tax. Turbo Tax is the BEST THING GOD EVER INVENTED !!!!


    Turbo Tax is my FRIEND AND SAVIOR !!!!

    Darn right ... now that I've just sent off my taxes using THE GREAT !!!!, THE ALMIGHTY - TURBO TAX !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. ... wouldn't, you know? Want to get TURBO TAX mad at me and ... cough, cough, ... mess up my taxes on their way to the IRS.

    I LOVE TURBO TAX !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. I use TaxAct myself. $40 for Federal and State both, though that's actually more than it used to be and I'm a tad annoyed by that. I've used them for years.
    We file a fairly complicated Form 1040.

    1. I use Taxact as well for the last 10 years. It's a good program...

  9. I paid about $200K this year, 2016 been berry berry good to me! I use an accountant so I can get what is legal, but as much off as I can.
    600 bucks with state, too.
    As a percentage, least I've paid since the 1040 EZ days 30 years ago.

  10. While I normally used TurboTax, this year I have been comparing it with Credit Karma, and preparing my taxes in both. I'm finding Credit Karma to be very straightforward and a little minimalist. But fast. They don't have the support or forums that T Tax has, so I still Google for help and ended up calling the IRS for advice about one missing form. But, at this point, I think I'm going to switch over to Credit Karma for the foreseeable future.

  11. TurboTax has worked fine for me for the past 3 years. This year will be a good test as I sold a bunch of ISO stock options and have a huge tax bill. Scary but a nice problem to have. Go TurboTax!!!! Counting on ya.