Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Paying Uncle Sam

Taxes. Hate 'em, curse them, and wish April 15th had a different purpose in the calendar, but of course we all have to file, and we all have to like it. This year (as a newlywed) was my first year to file a joint return, and to be honest, the first year I've actually filed taxes myself. Not having the comfort of a family accountant and the blind satisfaction that Daddy had taken care of it, JJ and I had a few decisions to make on how to file.

We toyed with the idea of using another accountant in our area, but voted against it as the end of March was creeping quickly and we had a short list of zero contact names to work with. I also stopped through Best Buy and checked out the Turbo Tax software product but didn't have enough time to compare the various choices...(What's the difference between $19.99 and $79.99)? Finally, we decided the easiest and stress-free way to go was to enlist the help of an H&R Block agent in good ole Orange, VA; a decision I can't say I will endorse again next year...and here's why.

1. It cost roughly $200 for them to prepare our taxes; and our return was very simple. Enter the W2's, deduct for education, and post interests earned on bank statements and dividends. Not a big deal...but for $200 I'd like to think I could have done that myself with my own caluclator and pocket protector.

2. It took two hours. And worst of made us late for a live basketball game; something JJ does NOT tolerate. Our Tax Associate, while seemingly educated and in the know, couldn't get our simple numbers to add up right for the first hour and a half which forced JJ to start playing bowling games on his phone, and me to repeatedly ask her if another manager in the store could give a fresh perspective: aka - hang it up ain't gettin it. Finally, she somehow changed a number and the whole thing added up correctly, but she had no idea why or how it happened. Glad we paid good money for a "professional" to have no clue.

3. It smelled like mothballs. The whole office. If you know anything about nose never lies. I have very little patience for professional environments that are not clean, well-kept, and at least appear to be updated and sanitized. Now, I do understand we live in a small town, but when you're dealing with people's money, I'd like to think offices such as this would work a little harder on first impressions.

4. The inability to file taxes in two states at the same time. This little office was so small that no one on the staff was able to file our taxes in the two states where we lived this past year. Only one person came through once a week to visit the office and complete the out-of-state work which means I have to make another trip to get the second round of paperwork. No one in the whole office can do it? Again...must be the small town factor, but still. Driving the 5 miles again next week is more of an annoyance than a burden.

Although everything is now filed and off to Uncle Sam, JJ and I left more preturbed and frustrated than we thought we'd be. (He was going to miss the opening game announcements, and I really wanted my hot dog). And so we made the decision (as suggested by numerous friends) to look into Turbo Tax next year and pull up our pants to be our own accountants. If anyone else is curious about this software, here is what I've found:

1. The software comes in four different choices: Basic, Deluxe, Premier, & Home and Business. Each one builds on the previous level (Basic being the most...well, basic) and additional features are added based on the complexity of the return. Ex: if you are single and don't have many complications other than bank statements or an IRA, Basic might be for you. If you are married, bought a home, and have education expenses on top of two IRA's and bank statments, Deluxe would be a better choice). They even have a Help Me Choose page that allows you to select various categories to show you which option is best for you.

2. A Live Community support service is also available 24/7 for you to talk directly to a tax expert or Turbo Tax employee if you have any troubles along the way. Basically, think of it as an IM chat room for taxes. Just type your question into the conversation box, and an answer will appear to help you navigate the software or make a decision.

3. The e-File option allows you the same flexibilty as an H&R Block service to get your refund back as fast as possible. After submitting your return, you will receive an email notification within 48 hours, and your return can be directly deposited into your account within 8 days.

4. Discount opportunities are also available. If you file before Mach 27th using Turbo Tax, you can probably reap the benefits of a cheaper access fee (usually about $20 less than the original price). At H&R Block, I wasn't allowed to use my new customer coupon of $20 (even though I was a first time customer) just because my husand's family had used them the year before.

5. The overly informative website will also bring you a piece of mind that this is a legitimate service and one that will likely find you the most deductions. If you're still not convinced, ask around. I'd be willing to bet several of your friends use this service and have had positive results.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed tax professional. These are my own personal opinions and observations and should not be considered professional advice.

1 comment:

  1. Em Dawggg - for the past 2 years I've used and had great success! (However when I did have a question and went into their store- one man was very rude to me... yes it was April 14th @ 11PM - BUT hey I needed help)