TurboTax Deluxe 2009 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

TurboTax Deluxe 2009

CNET Editors' note: The Download Now link takes you to the site, where you can purchase and download the software.

CNET Editors' review

Every year, Intuit adds something new to its online and desktop TurboTax tax prep software from the previous year. Since the online and desktop versions of TurboTax Deluxe 2009 are so similar, we're reviewing them together. We'll make a note when referring to just the online or just the desktop product.

Installation and setup

As with most desktop DIY tax software, TurboTax can take from 10 to 15 minutes to install, scan for updates, and download those updates before you can get started. If you're filling out your taxes online, you'll need to only wait for a secure connection to go ahead with the online product. Also as with most tax prep competitors, TurboTax can import previous year's returns from a variety of courses, and provides forms for filing amendments and extensions.

Features

One noteworthy addition in 2009 is the capability to flag a page to return to later, for instance, if you need to look up a Social Security number, but aren't ready to interrupt your work flow to get up and find it. These flags came in handy, especially in the desktop version where they're visible at all times. Flags were hidden in a drop-down menu online, making a fine feature less accessible than it should be.

TurboTax also introduces error reporting as you go. You can ignore the error flag, of course, but tending to potential problems as they arise in the interview process can make the final error check smoother and shorter. In addition, Intuit has wrapped up numerous smaller enhancements, including a tweaked interface that adds more visuals (thumb's up), a few more risk indicators in its Audit Risk Meter, and all-new recommendations to help you plan for next year's tax return.

Much more obtrusive is a summary screen that appears after you finish each segment. Having to scroll down the increasingly long list of modules you've already completed just to move on interrupts work flow on the desktop and online. (We appreciate being able to revisit sections of the tax interview, but TurboTax could just as easily add a button at the top of the summary page or use a drop-down list to fit this recurring section summary sheet on one page.)

The capability to import forms has long been a TurboTax hallmark. The program can grab W-2 details from employers using participating payroll processors, investment information from banks and brokerages like Charles Schwab (there's a long list), and data from programs like Quicken, QuickBooks, or another program that uses the TXF format. H&R Block's app can now do this too, though TurboTax continues to import forms from far more financial institutions, making it ultimately more effective for a greater number of taxpayers.

Help and support

TurboTax's peer-driven Live Community continues to supplement the FAQs, help files, and videos. The online version also gives you Tina, a digital automaton who is supposedly available for live chatting, but instead, skirts specific questions and channels you back to Live Community and Help instead. Her one use seems to be in defining error codes.

Help from the pros will cost you. Live tax advice is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST on weekdays. It costs $30 for the first 20 minutes of phone time, and $20 for each additional 20-minute block. In addition, for $40 a real person can comb your review for mistakes. While those with more complicated cases may see value in this, TurboTax's self-service prep software should be good enough on its own to obviate the need for additional eyeballs.

In case of an audit, TurboTax's free downloadable audit support center is a well-designed guide to the four audit types, and includes some templates you can send to the IRS. Or, you can pay Intuit about $40 to represent you if Uncle Sam looks askance. One-on-one audit assistance comes free with H&R Block's already cheaper application, though Intuit claims that the vast majority of audited taxpayers receive the same letter and will do fine with TurboTax's audit wizard.

Bottom line

TurboTax certainly isn't the cheapest option, but it remains the clearest-worded interview with the most broadly beneficial tax-info importing abilities. Its bundled tools make it worth the extra cost for those who don't anticipate needing personalized help.

A note on online versus desktop prep: While there's no rule, we tend to think of online tax prep as ideal for those filing individually--it's sometimes less pricey for singletons and stores your encrypted return on the provider's server. Linux users may also prefer online prep, since most makers of tax software don't program downloads for the Linux platform. Desktop prep may be better suited for families, who can file up to five Federal e-files as part of a single software license, or for those who would rather store their data locally on their computers.

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    2.1 stars

    out of 33 votes

    • 5 star: 5
    • 4 star: 4
    • 3 star: 0
    • 2 star: 3
    • 1 star: 21
  • Current version:

    3.0 stars

    out of 5 votes

    • 5 star: 1
    • 4 star: 2
    • 3 star: 0
    • 2 star: 0
    • 1 star: 2
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-5 of 5

  • 1.0 stars

    "Miscalculates HSA max reducing refund by >$300"

    March 20, 2010  |   By ThinkerInMN

    Version: TurboTax Deluxe 2009

    Pros

    Doesn't matter what's good when it miscalculates my return and has had the same bug for two years.

    Cons

    Tells me (and MANY others for TWO YEARS) that the Federal max for HSA is less than the $3000 (single; not filing family but others claim the same error there) and says I have over-paid by $1250 and adds a penalty that reduces my refund by >$300.

    Summary

    The Turbo Tax online forums are filled with reports of this mis-calculation and transcripts of online support chats with TT promising to fix it but it still hasn't been fixed. If TT can't get this clear cut calculation right and can't seem to get it fixed for the last two years then why would anyone trust them to get the complex tax calculations right?

    Reply to this review

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  • 4.0 stars

    "It works as advertised"

    March 4, 2010  |   By doc101

    Version: TurboTax Deluxe 2009

    Pros

    Very complete tax prep includes manuy schedules.

    Cons

    Interface clunkier than in the past

    Summary

    Still the best tax prep software out there.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 1.0 stars

    "Turbo Tax has lost a step or two."

    March 4, 2010  |   By TGBarber

    Version: TurboTax Deluxe 2009

    Pros

    worked well in the past.

    Cons

    This year it would not even open for me, even though I tried it on two different machines!

    Summary

    I bought the CD, tried it on two different computers. On the first one, when it failed to open, it directed me to download and install a .NET update, which I did, but it still didn't work. Thinking it might be due to a corruption in my OS, I tried the second computer; same result. This was very disappointing, because I have used TurboTax Delux successfully for the last 4 or 5 years. There is probably a fix for it somewhere, but their support site was useless, and I don't have time to mess with it. I'm going to a professional tax preparer tomorrow.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

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  • 4.0 stars

    "Excelllent but Intuit email Support difficult to access"

    March 2, 2010  |   By rodellpr

    Version: TurboTax Deluxe 2009

    Pros

    Comprehensiveness

    Cons

    Time wasted trying to penetrate "Contact Us" on my terms not their's.

    Summary

    TurboTax weakness is in the Support area by them rather than Community or Tina or pay-for service. Then too, when you finally get an ID code and an email reply to a problem, you cannot reply to it -- no way! You must restart the entire process with yet another technician. In my experience over many years, TurboTax makes it more difficult each year to contact them for assistance.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "The best of the best!"

    March 2, 2010  |   By ankrklankr1

    Version: TurboTax Deluxe 2009

    Pros

    Saves one heckuva lot of time and is very accurate! Help screens are just a click away and there's always the Live Community.

    Cons

    At times seems to presuppose a more in-depth knowledge of the tax return process than the beginner might have. Occasionally arrives at a figure w/o providing which portions of your input got it there.

    Summary

    Have been using this program for more years than I can remember and it has worked well every time. It's not perfect, but it is well ahead of whatever is in second place. I would recommend it highly for those who have done their (long form) taxes manually as it helps to understand what the system is doing and how it arrives at its figures. It also helps during the taxpayers' review process. As with any tax program, I strongly recommend the user review the entire return, line by line, before submission, to ensure the data is correct. The developers generally keep the program up to date with all the ins and outs the user will need to maximize the return or minimize the payment. I can't think of another program I'd rather use.

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Results 1-5 of 5

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