I've used H&R Block Premium & Business to do my taxes for the past several years and have found it incredibly frustrating because the software is nothing more than a glorified version of the paper form. I always end up having to refer to the IRS forms anyway to fill in a lot of the fields. I remember having to do the same thing with TurboTax (for personal taxes only) before my wife and I started an LLC. It's like the software was designed specifically for tax professionals who already have enough background to fill out the forms, then dumped on the consumers as an effort to make a quick buck off everyone who was filling out the free paper forms.
What I want is tax software that lets me enter my information, then tells me whether I'm better off filing one way or another, instead of asking me for my own, completely uninformed decision up front (before any information is even entered). The software I've used almost always recommends one option up front but won't actually tell me in the end whether I would have been better off choosing the other option. For example, I can't stand having to prepare the return, save a copy, then go back through the entire interview again just because I want to see how changing something like my filing status affects my return.
I guess what I'm really looking for is a piece of software that was designed from the ground up with a non-tax-professional in mind. It should be able to do things like the following:
- Decide at the end whether I'm better off with "Married filing separately" or "Married filing jointly"
- Work backwards from a goal--for example, tell me how much more I would need in itemized deductions to decrease my tax liability by a given amount (to avoid wasting time on a bunch of data entry if it isn't really going to help)
- Compare my completed return with various hypothetical variations of the same year's return in a side-by-side view, with at most 3 mouse clicks and a few keystrokes (for example, changing my filing status or switching between itemized & standard deductions)
For example, I might be able to dig up another $500 in itemized deductions, but it could take me 3 hours to enter them. If it's only going to decrease my tax liability by $20, then it's probably not worth my time.
I can't tell whether tax professionals have better software which does all this, or if they just have enough experience to know intuitively how each thing will affect the tax return. Is there any software that does this?
Semi-related question: Has anyone compared an in-person Tax Advisor to software like Turbo Tax?