on 23 July 2004
I loathe filling out tax returns, and the only thing that keeps me vaguely sane at the end of January is the knowledge that TaxCalc will help sort things out.
The best bit is it takes you relatively painlessly through various easy steps that identify the raw information it needs to fill out the form. There's no subtracting box 32a, 45d and 57.i ii & iii from the square root of your pension contributions. It's all very logical, straightforward and somehow less intimidating than those ghastly IR forms.
The other nice touch is when you get to the end and calculate what you owe, if it all seems far too much and you suspect there's an error, it's very easy to go back and amend figures or add in some crucial fact that can reduce your tax bill.
TaxCalc can either send your forms off electronically (but you need to register well in advance with the Inland Revenue first) or you can print them out (b&w is ok) and post them.
As for their various marketing claims, yes you could complete the return in under 30 minutes IF you have all the necessary forms and data to hand. If your filing is as shambolic as mine, this is closer to 30 days, but you can hardly blame the software for that.
Money saving tips - yes, these are ok but I don't recall any that were relevant to me - either so basic I'd already figured them out, or so complex I didn't understand.
In general though, the explanatory notes they provide for all aspects of the form are very good. They're not always simple, but this is a horrendously complex topic and they do a difficult job well.
Another nice benefit of TaxCalc is if you don't know certain figures, you can put guesstimates into the form and get a rough calculation. If you add an explanatory note, you can even submit your return with estimated figures and the TaxMan will generally be happy (which reduces the stress of not being able to find that crucial bit of paper).
I've used TaxCalc for several years now and I would be lost without it. It is absolutely worth £20 or so, I really can't imagine anyone using this and then wanting to go back to the horrendous paper forms. What's more the software isn't limited to filing one return, the whole family can have a go.
Great value, immensely useful, I'd award it 6* for sanity saving value, but feel obliged to drop it to 4* because some aspects of it could be easier to use. Even so, it's a must-have bit of software for anyone who detests tax returns.
on 22 May 2004
This is the second year I've used TaxCalc. I bought it last year because I had a mess to sort out, this year is more straightforward. The 30 minutes or less is still nonsense as there's loads to explore and frankly a marketing gimmick (surely, and who cares anyway?) but the program remains very good.
It has an import from Quicken function but it crashed and is curiously missing from the Help file. I'm not fussed about that bit. Could be useful if you've loads to type in but I doubt most folk will and I suspect it's more trouble than it's worth.
If you've used TaxCalc before it's more of the same (and none the worse for that) and it easily pulls last years details forwards and then you're off. You uninstall 2003 before you start.
So I'd recommend it as well worth £20. Probably still the only remaining sane part of the Intuit product set, given last years Quicken debacle. I await the first reviews of this years with baited breath.
on 28 April 2005
Great piece of sofware - support good too, even 2 weeks before the IR deadline when you would expect high levels of calls. I used this because my tax last FY was a bit more complex than usual.
Integrated really well with online filing - which is a must if you are going to use this software.
One tip - if you have relatively simple tax (income, pension contributions, bank income, share dividends) use the Inland Revenue's own software on their website - its free and pretty good.