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Money Savvy Weekend

Taxes by Computer

March 10, 2000|LIZ PULLIAM WESTON

Do-it-yourself tax preparers have several options:

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Software

The two best-selling software packages for use on a personal computer are Intuit's TurboTax (or MacIntax for Apple computers) and Block Financial Corp.'s TaxCut. Deluxe versions that include both state and federal forms retail for about $30. (Microsoft also has debuted tax software dubbed TaxSaver for $20, but the product does not include state forms--a necessity for Californians.)

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Online Help

More than two dozen Web sites offer online tax preparation filing. Not all include state forms. Among those that do are TurboTax at http://www.turbotax.com and TaxCut at http://www.taxcut.com. Both charge $9.95 each for state and federal returns and offer free preparation and filing for 1040EZ filers. In addition, TurboTax offers free preparation and filing for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes under $20,000.

* CCH Inc., a leading tax research firm, enters the retail market with CompleteTax at http://www.completetax.com for $7.50. The downloadable program includes both state and federal preparation and filing. The advice and help sections are well-organized and clear, although navigation through the forms is a bit awkward.

* H&R Block, a tax preparation chain, also offers Web-based preparation and filing ($9.95 federal, $4.95 state) at http://www.hrblock.com.

* H.D. Vest, a financial services company, offers free preparation and filing at http://www.hdvest.com in exchange for sharing personal information with the company. Most other tax preparation sites vow to keep information secret, and many say they cannot access the information entered on their sites.

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Hybrids

Several sites offer online tax preparation by professional tax preparers. Taxpayers type in information and chat with tax preparers by phone or e-mail. The service is not as personalized as having your own tax preparer, but it typically costs about half as much as a visit to an enrolled agent or certified public accountant.

* TaxLogic at http://www.taxlogic.com uses CPAs and enrolled agents to prepare most returns; costs start at $75.

* Taxes4Less at http://www.taxes4less.com uses licensed tax preparers who are not enrolled agents or CPAs; costs start at $35.

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