Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Occasionally you hear an endorsement from me.  I'm pretty choosy, and don't give fealty unless it's earned.  So when I had a great shopping experience at Lowe's, they won my loyalty.  In the hard-fought arena of big box grocery stores, it's anybody's game.

When it comes to tax time, up until a couple of years ago I rolled up my sleeves and did my own, from start to finish.  Two copies were generated, the first one in pencil and the second one in ink.  I'd file the pencil one, and mail the ink.

Well.  That day is done.  This marks the third year I've done my taxes with TurboTax, and let me tell you that it's hard to find an easier process.  If you're using your bank's online services, they may well make TurboTax available as a nearly-free service.

TurboTax walked me through the entire process.  The interface is nonthreatening and in mostly plain English, so the taxspeak the government is so fond of is translated for us mortals.  I'm pretty smart - or at least, I test really well - and have usually been able to make sense of the tax instructions, but there have been times when I was at a loss.

Open an account.  Enter your name, email address, et cetera.  It's really a very painless process.  If doing your taxes is one of those things you dread every year, like going to the dentist or waiting in line at the driver's license office, TurboTax is really a fantastic product, and I sincerely doubt I'm going to be paid for saying that.  I'm not looking for paid endorsements, I'm crowing about it because I like it.

This year is the first year I actually wound up paying for the product, something like $25.  That's chicken feed, you can drop more than that feeding four people at McDonald's.  And where I usually need a couple of hours to get through the whole thing, dot every i and cross every t, TurboTax gets me done in almost exactly an hour.  That's from first clicking the link to printing the last page for permanent records, and pausing in the middle for dinner.  I was relaxed and even enjoying myself.

In the end, my income was high enough that my refund wasn't what it has been in the past.  I make too much money, according to the government.  Yeah, right - easy for you to say, government.  But TurboTax found a credit I was eligible to receive, and that brought the amount back up a bit.  I might have found it, I might not.  I was trying to apply for another credit too, and TurboTax shut me down, including the warning that if I tried to apply for that credit and received it, I would be subject to all manner of lengthy and unpleasant extra monitoring, disqualification for the credit for the next ten years, et cetera.  They were watching my back, you see.  And of course why wouldn't they - if I get hammered on applying for a credit I shouldn't while under TurboTax' direction, it reflects badly on them.  So it's in their best interest to keep my best interests in mind.

When the job's all finished, TurboTax does a quick review, walking back over all the points just like you would.  It's almost as personable as going to a live tax preparer, but when I was done I just clicked "take the processing fee out of my refund" and that was that.  So simple.  I didn't have to enter my credit card number or write out a check and mail it.  Click, done.

And here's where it gets amazing: whenever I file my returns by hand, it takes about a month to six weeks to get the check.  And that's pretty good, considering.  I'm willing to twiddle my thumbs for a month and a half for that payday.  But TurboTax got it to me in eight days.

Eight days.  And again, no running to the post office: it was deposited directly to my bank account.  There are certain things I miss about going to a brick-and-mortar bank, but frankly being able to check my balances at any time of the day or night is tough to beat.  7:00am on a Sunday, click on the account button, eyebrows go up.  "Let's go out for breakfast, today."

I'll say it again, because it bears repeating.  I do my taxes with TurboTax.  It's quick, easy and affordable.  You might want to check it out.

This was an unsolicited endorsement.

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