What to look for in small-end tax prep software for 2007

The best selling tax preparation software packages, Intuit's TurboTax, H&R Block's TaxCut and 2nd Story Software's TaxACT are now available for 2007 both online and in CDs or downloads. Most have added features to make them more user-friendly, and someone looking for a tax preparation software bundled with personal financial software can find some terrific savings.

Even though Congress has not yet passed the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch for 2007 and may make other changes, product updates will be prepared for downloads when the law is passed, and online products will be revised almost immediately to reflect tax law. TaxACT Preview allows taxpayers to see what would happen to their tax return either way, Barron's says, if an AMT fix passes, and if it doesn't.

TurboTax had added a What's New in Your Life? feature for people who have had major changes like a new baby or who might have bought or sold a home. TurboTax has also added an audit support feature, according to Yahoo technology, that red flags any area of the return that could lead to an audit.

TaxCut has added the "Ask a Tax Advisor" feature to every screen so that users can reach an H&R Block tax professional. TaxCut Premium Federal software includes a feature, DeductionPro, that assigns values to donations and tracks deductions in certain categories.

Pricing is comparable to last year, with TaxACT, which is purchased from the product's Web site, the cheapest. TaxACT offers a wide range of software from one free federal return to packages that prepare unlimited number of federal returns at $12.95 and federal and one state return at $19.95. TaxACT charges $13.95 for each state but offers an all-state package for $51.80. Combined personal and business packages sell for $44.95.

TaxAct's preparer's packages for the 1040, 1065 and 1120 start at $99.50. Free preparer's evaluation packages are available now. Accompanying all-states packages are $79.65. E-filing is free

TaxCut's Federal package sells for $19.95, federal and state for $39.95 and federal and state, plus e-file for $69.95.

TurboTax is $19.95 for a federal return, $44.95 for a federal and state return. More expensive packages are available for investors and sole proprietors. E-filing is free with all packages.

Perhaps the biggest bargains, however, are bundles that some of the giant office and technology retailers are offering. Staples is offering a $30 mail-in rebate on Quicken with the purchase of any TurboTax software, which means the Quicken Starter package is free and Quicken Deluxe for 2008 is only $29.99. There are additional rebates of $10 on other software, including anti-virus packages.

Staples is offering a Microsoft Money Deluxe free with a purchase of TaxCut software, through a $40 tax bundle rebate and additional $10 instant savings. Circuit City offers a comparable rebate program on a bundle of Quicken and TurboTax but not on TaxCut.

Best Buy is offering instant cash savings of $20 on Quicken Starter and $25 on Quicken Deluxe with purchases of different versions of TurboTax.

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