My New Tax Prep Choice – TaxAct

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Over the years, my choice for tax preparation software has always been H&R Block tax program.  I never used TurboTax since it has been reported in the past to having spyware within it.  However, this year I decided to try something new or at least new to me.  Let’s welcome TaxAct to the corral.

I was intrigued by the fact that this program cost under $25, where the others are $40 or more.  To add more to my interest was that the program also allowed for one Free State e-file.  This was the selling point to me since all I needed was just one state filing only anyway.  So let’s take a look at the product.

When opening the box, inside you will find the disc and an actual instruction manual.  Not just an installation card, but a manual to tell you how to install, print and other basic functions.  This is certainly a welcome change from the past products that send you on your own after install.

Installing the product on Windows XP machine was quick and downloading the required product update was just as fast.  After about 15 minutes, I was up and running.  The program ran pretty much like the H&R Block program that I had been used to and the whole tax process took about an hour including the state.  Help was well written and in English unlike many others that are written with a CPA knowledge in mind.

The only problem I had was when I went to e-file the state and it didn’t like the previous year information for the federal taxes.  After getting the proper information that the program needed, both the federal and state e-files went smoothly, but could have been avoided if I was notified for the federal before I even tried to submit the state.  Unfortunately, the program submits both at the same time and results aren’t known until everything is done.

My only gripe with the program (and it is a fairly big one) is that the program is paranoid of itself and displays a constant copyright notice in the bottom of the display.  Out of all the thousands of programs I have run over the years this is the first one I have ever seen that does anything like that.  For that reason I am dropping my score by 1 point just for this annoyance.

Overall, my experience with the program was better than I expected.  It was quick and didn’t crash at any point as I have seen with previous products that I have used.  It is cheap and works well.  I highly recommend this program.

My score:  8

 

Pros:

  • Good manual with detailed instructions
  • Fast install
  • Free state e-file included
  • Help is in English not tax talk

Cons:

  • State program required to be downloaded a second time after first install didn’t seem to work.  Ok with second attempt.
  • Annoying copyright notice occupies the bottom of screen taking up precious screen space.  One point was deducted from my score because of this annoyance.

Summary:

This is a highly capable program for both seasoned users and beginners.  Don’t be fooled by the cheap price as this program is as good as the competition, if not better.  This is certainly goes to the top of my preferred tax software list.

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Another Newsweek Response–Just Keeps Getting Sillier

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Today I received yet another response from Newsweek. Here it is exactly as I received it:

Dear Louis Brown,

I do apolgozie for the inconveince. I have forwarded your comments for further review of the account. Thank you for your patients.

As you can see from the above, it has 2 spelling errors and 1 incorrect word. Can this company even be trusted to deliver news if they can’t even write a simple 2 sentence email. My answer is I doubt it. So this saga goes on…

Finally, Another Newsweek Response

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After nearly 3 weeks without a response from Newsweek, I finally received the following response today:

Dear Louis Brown,

I apologize for the previous response. A review of your account shows that your subscription was to expire with the March 08, 2013 issue. If you were to cancel your subscription a refund would not be issued. If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.

Thank you for subscribing to Newsweek.

It appears that the company PURPOSELY waited until my subscription was over to contact me about it that way they would not have to issue me any kind of refund. However, as mentioned previously, they had extended my subscription by 2 months, so it seems that I should still be entitled to something.

I have sent them one last final email telling them how angry I was and that I was reporting all of this to my blogs. My advice to anyone wanting to subscribe to Newsweek: DON’T BOTHER – It is just not worth it no matter what.

 

Why Gmail is NOT my friend

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Imagine living on a long street and being the first house on that street.  Now consider the idea that your local mailman decides that he would place all the mail of the street in your mailbox whether it belongs to you or not.  Every day you take that mail and bring it to the post office and tell them that this mail is not yours and needs to be delivered to the right address.  However, every day the same thing keeps happening and you keep getting the same mail that doesn’t belong to you over and over again.  After a very short time, you would get sick of this very quickly and possibly the lazy mailman would get fired for not doing his job appropriately.

Well, welcome to the wonderful (or not so wonderful) world of Gmail, the Google email system.  I signed up with Gmail as a very early user and everything went fine up to about a year ago.  Then everything went downhill.

I started receiving bills for cellphone services such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and others.  One by one I had to email these companies to tell them that they had the wrong email address.  Some were easily accommodating; others took several attempts before eliminating me off their bills.  Along the way I also had requests for Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, and even other Gmail accounts.  Each of these I had to either terminate or not accept at all.

However, the last straw came last week when one person who had been emailing bills for some weird items got way out of hand.  After contacting this person a couple of times that they had the wrong email address, they got angry at me and blocked me and made racial slurs against me even without ever meeting me or having anything to do with me whatsoever.  My thought was that at least this person was gone from life because of this, even though I was harassed in the process.

This brings me to my point:  Don’t use Gmail for your everyday usage as you could get emails that aren’t even yours.  Sadly, Google offers NO help with this problem and a generic email response I received from them a few months ago just got me madder.  (Sound familiar?  Think Newsweek.)  In fact the ability to receive help from Google is almost impossible as there is no easy way to a “Contact Us” link—it just doesn’t exist!

So what do I recommend?  Here is a list of some I have used and my feelings of them:

  • Yahoo MailIf you love spam, then this is the email system of choice.  I spend more time deleting emails from this service than any other.  The plus side is the groups, which is also their big minus as well.  Recommended only to the lonely and those who love to exercise the delete key.  If you do use this service, I would recommend going to the classic edition, which is non-Java based.  It provides faster deletion of emails.
  • Hotmail:  Soon to be merged into the newer Outlook.com site.  This is my preferred email service and tends to filer spam better than any other service.
  • Outlook:  A souped-up version of Hotmail.  I signed up as soon as this became available just to get the address I wanted.  Haven’t used it much, but looks promising.
  • Road Runner:  This is for Time Warner customers and associated services only.  Works well, but extremely dated look.  Filters spam pretty well, but not used much anymore because of its awkwardness.
  • NetZero/Juno:  These twin services I used when I first started online and haven’t used them much since.  Possibly worth having just to have a free email service.
  • Mail:  A lot of pop-ups make this a bother, but unlimited storage and putting everything in one place may be a plus to some.

Overall, I prefer the Hotmail account for being most efficient and one I use most often.  Gmail hits the bottom of the deck as if you really wanted to get everybody else’s mail.  Now if you excuse me I have more emails to get rid of from Gmail and many to delete from my Yahoo accounts.

 

Review: Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7

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Last week Microsoft released the final release version of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7.   Unfortunately, this suffers from the same problems as the previously mentioned beta version a few months ago.

Facebook still has a problem with things like the Like button and multiple other issues of various types still remain.

The bad thing is that Microsoft will be rolling out this release as part of the Windows Update over the next few weeks.  My recommendation is to ignore this update or wait until Microsoft can fix the bugs in the update and release a more workable version of the program.

However, for those of you like myself that got caught in the beta pre-release version, is to download this update and suffer with it until another version comes out that fixes the problems.  I don’t recommend trying to uninstall version 10 beta unless you want to create problems with your computer.  Believe me, I tried and quickly realized how bad this could possibly be to roll back to IE9.  Interestingly, it seems that Microsoft purposely made it virtually impossible to go back to the old.

Final Score4

 

Summary:

This product not quite ready for release, but then again anybody who remembers back when Windows ME was the in-thing and survived that horrible program will certainly survive this.  Note that this grade applies only to IE10 on Windows 7, not the version released with Windows 8.  IE10 for Windows 8 was not tested.