How hard is it to change brands of tax software? Besides carryover
balances across years, I think you are losing by missing the examples
they show for your last year figures just as a sanity check. It seems
a painful way to try out alternatives.
As usual my software almost makes my eyes bleed in frustration,
because it logs me out without notice. Meanwhile I post excruciating
cost basis calculations here and there without a backup, and it
finally notifies me I have timed out long ago and everything was lost.
Well, it says everything was saved, but nothing recent was. Even
though it had the appearance of being live with an animated thingie.
Other frustrations are escalating costs, fuzzy fonts, and vague
terminology. Is there a gold standard brand, not too expensive?
Sounds like you're using an online program? (Shame on you! That
pain costs you more than the $50 bucks for TT Deluxe on CD.) I'm not
sure TT is a gold standard, but if you can put up with the step-by-
step-by-step-by-step ad infinitum, it works. You own the CD, you own
the computer, you can save at any time and resume later. All you do
online is update for latest info (or if you want to go online, you can
download some data from banks, etc.). For the cost basis, you could
use a spreadsheet, print it, and attach a copy.
I usually use Turbo Tax. I did use H&R Block at Home (formerly TaxCut)
one year because it was on sale. Both programs can read the other
program's data files from the previous year, so transitioning between
them was painless.
Some states have stand-alone efiling, so if you use that, you can get
by with basic Turbo Tax instead of the deluxe version, at about half
I'm seeing their discounted cd/download prices about double of online,
although they do include state taxes (but with state efile costing
extra!). So not so bad if willing to mail in the state stuff although
I don't know if it would deal with my last years TT info. Especially
for state tax, I see the online one dipping anywhere into a soup of
last years numbers for some decision points.
For TT online to be usable, you need to save often when entering a
grid of numbers such as for cost basis. Also, since it makes drastic
decisions untransparently based on vague dialogue, don't let it rush
you into efile without demanding a print draft just beforehand. Their
online review is about worthless with (say) your income not adding up
at all. So don't miss the obscure way to print to pdf and review (for
example) if they decided to credit/debit/defer some of those large
I find it hard to believe TT is some accepted standard when it fights
me every inch. For instance, the pdf it generates for my tax forms
clips off about the last quarter inch, where of course vital info is
jammed down there (often arbitrarily) and parts may have to be
submitted even for efilers in an exact true size. I couldn't discover
the trick to adjust the margins this year, but found an obscure print
option to flip things top to bottom (and thus lose the top quarter
inch which appears to stay blank).
You're using the wrong option - on the "Print/Save For Your Records"
window there are two buttons labeled "Print Returns" and "Save
Returns". The PDF file produced by the "Save Returns" button is not
intended for printing returns to be submitted to the IRS - it produces
an abreviated file optimized for viewing on a monitor. Windows has a
very much more restricted selection of screen fonts compared to the
available scalable print fonts. Most monitors display only about 72
pixels per inch, compared to the 600 to 1200 pixels per inch displayed
by a modern laser or inkjet printer.
When efiling, fonts are irrelevant, as such returns are not submitted
in print format. It appears that these submissions are mostly done as
plain text files formatted in XML code, as described in IRS
publication 4164 for software developers. See
I really appreciate the advice, but I did use the proper TT print
button... then answered the printer dialogue on my mac to save it to
pdf instead of print. The pdf actually looks fine on the screen and
maybe even TT made it the right dimensions.
But any way I try to print causes it to not find room for the bottom
quarter inch (omitting totals numbers for example). I have to print it
in exact true scaling because my stupid state requires a form sent in
(with the no photocopy warning) even though I e-filed with them. I
experimented every which way with margin control til my room was ankle
deep in paper, but only could make it worse. So just a warning to
others to check to see if last lines of tax forms are being omitted,
and that I found a workaround by printing them upside down.
This is kind of a warning to not be complacent and last minute with
tax filing. Another issue came up when I prepared to set up e-payments
via eftps during a recent business day. All their web site would show
is that e-payments thru them are now required for certain taxpayers,
and that their site was shut down for maintenance! Ah well, I limp
along with TT in spite of all this because one time I was in a catch22
at the very last minute with them, and a call to their help line
reached a calm and generous lady who gave me free access to their
premium software that could get me out of the bind.
The "Print" function means exactly what it says - PRINT on a piece of
paper. Don't insert the extra, unneeded step of going through the PDF
process before printing.
Most laser and inkjet printers have narrow "unprintable" areas around
all 4 sides of the paper. The correct values are different for each
make and model of printer. Typically around a quarter of an inch. Your
operating system printer setup may have those values set too large.
If you will print directly instead of via a PDF, the program will take
care of those settings. At least, on the PC version of Turbo Tax it
does. You had not previously disclosed that you use a Mac instead of a
I can't imagine any other method of printing. The value of a true-
printer-image master softcopy is supremely high, and apparently can't
gotten any other way. The actual printing process is utterly
unreliable and has to be a separate process because it may never
complete successfully. And a paper product is inherently undependable
and may have to be regenerated from a pdf master (backed up
everywhere). I am certainly not going to leave my fate of regenerating
a printout to the whims of TT to let me on again as a freeloader years
from now and sort out password glitches, etc.
Print to pdf seems the only sensible way to print, ever. I am almost
completely paperless except for the tax forms which may need quick
access to show an auditor or whatever. This means cranking up a
printer with year old dried up ink cartridges, or at least ones that
will give umpteen false reports that they are out of ink because I
have had to refill them without the ability to recode them to indicate
the filling. A process that can take hours of starts and restarts with
other technical issues as well, with no purchase of new cartridge or
hardware justifiable for a simple once or twice a year printing.
As I said, I accessed and overrode those 0.25 margin numbers. In
previous years I got that to work, but this year every possible change
in either direction made it either worse or the same. So I rotated 180
degrees, which omits the top 0.25 (always blank). The particular form
I absolutely needed hardcopy of was needlessly jammed by TT into the
bottom quarter of the page with the essential number on the bottom
quarter inch. I hate the ridiculous waste of paper and ink this
experimentation took, so hope someone can make use of this fumbling