Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
FBN2014
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Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by FBN2014 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:49 pm

My 2 cents for those of you who need to prepare trust or estate tax returns this year.

TaxAct: Used to be very cheap ($30) and easy to use. Little tax knowledge needed. Price doubled this year but the really bad part is that you can no longer preview the entire return before printing it. Once you print it and then want to change an entry, you need to pay an additional $60 to print again and so it goes for every time you make a change and want to print again. Also $60 fee is only for one federal return, $25 for state. If there are several trusts then this can get expensive real quick. Support is very poor -email or phone. Most of the time they don't answer and when they do they are not very knowledgeable.

H&R Block: About same price as TaxAct but unlimited federal and state returns. Must have in depth tax knowledge since program will not automatically put entries on correct forms and do proper calculations. I also noticed that entries did not transfer properly from one worksheet to another, therfore resulting in wrong calculations - unacceptable. Support is through a forum, many times no one answers question.

TurboTax: I found this to be the easiest to use. Little tax knowledge needed, automatic entries on correct form, unlimited federal. State return $55. Most expensive - I paid $103 just for federal. Great support. Ask a question and its answered within a short time by someone who knows how to get around the program and has tax expertise. Sometimes the most expensive is the best as in this case.

Hope this helps. I thought about having a pro do the returns until I was quoted $750 per federal return for 2 trusts.
Last edited by FBN2014 on Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:42 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Silk McCue
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by Silk McCue » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:00 pm

You must be mistaken about Taxact not letting you modify anything on a return without paying again once you have printed. That defies logic and no one would use them.

FBN2014
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by FBN2014 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:04 pm

That was my experience unless there is a glitch in software. When I complained, they did not respond. You can only preview the 2 pages of the 1041 and K-1. You can't preview the attached schedules. There is an option to file an amended return. :oops:
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whaleknives
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by whaleknives » Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:48 pm

FBN2014 is more right than Silk McCue. My experience with TaxAct online was that you couldn't see or print the complete forms until you paid for and submitted the return, but you didn't pay anything until then.

You had to review your return before submittal on the TaxAct input and summary screens.
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by WolfgangPauli » Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:53 pm

Just finished my second year of using the online version of turbotax and really like it. Walks you through just about everything. There were just a couple of things I had to "double check" but it was because the software took care of things without telling me. For example, form 8606 for registering cost basis on non deductible IRAs - I had to search for it, found it and it was all filled out properly and there was nothing to alert me to that. So I guess the moniker at intuit is "trust us".

Anyway, very simple.

I used the USAA discount and I think I paid $35 for the whole thing.. very cheap. Although I saw if you do your taxes after March 16, it goes up in price. I guess they are just taking advantage of procrastinators.
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by flamesabers » Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:09 am

I use H&R Block for my tax software as I get it for free because I'm in the army reserves. H&R Block gets the job done for me. It's hard for me to evaluate the software as I don't have much experience to compare against it. The only issue I had was with my 2016 taxes. For whatever reason, this was the first time the software wouldn't calculate my foreign tax credit even though I imported all of my tax forms directly from Vanguard. The solution was upgrading the software to the next tier, which I fortunately could do for no cost. Once the upgrade was finished, the software automatically factored in my foreign tax credit.

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Re: Review of tax software

Post by jbuzolich » Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:16 am

Hmm my experience is mostly opposite to nearly everything from the OP. I plan on using tax act again this year for the second time but I'm definitely not paying the rates mentioned. It was much less expensive than I had been paying at HR Block online even with rental income. Tax act filled out the forms just fine and you have multiple ways to review before submission.

HR Block was the same just more expensive. Forms filled out fine through interview process. No errors or issues. Any problems just a quick call

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Earl Lemongrab
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:41 pm

FBN2014 wrote:H&R Block: About same price as TaxAct but unlimited federal and state returns. Must have in depth tax knowledge since program will not automatically put entries on correct forms and do proper calculations. Support is through a forum, many times no one answers question.
I don't know what you mean here. I've been using Block for years. I've never had problems getting things in the proper place through the interview process. When I did have a problem with a 1099-R a few years back one of their specialists looked at the return (had to upload to their server).
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by DSInvestor » Sat Mar 18, 2017 4:00 pm

I use the download version of Taxact and can preview the entire return.
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by Vanguard Fan 1367 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 4:47 pm

I like the Turbotax Home and Business. Bought and downloaded from Amazon it is worth the cost and maybe a little cheaper than some places.

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Re: Review of tax software

Post by 2015 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 5:46 pm

DSInvestor wrote:I use the download version of Taxact and can preview the entire return.
+1
As I've posted before, I got fed/state download for $28 when I pre-ordered in October 2016 after getting an email from TA. Preview was available in December. Don't know if things will change this year. We shall see.

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Re: Review of tax software

Post by Katietsu » Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:15 pm

Generally speaking, you need to pay something before printing the entire return with any program. Otherwise, anyone willing to mail in forms could use the tax program for free.

Last time I used TaxAct, I found them to respond quickly and helpfully to email questions. Do not have any TY2016 experience.

From TaxAct website:
You can view a copy of your return before you submit it by following the steps below.

TaxAct Online Users:

Sign in to your TaxAct Online return
Click the My Return button at the top right side of the screen
Click Print Center, then click the Return tab
Enter the number of federal and state copies you would like to print or save
Click on the indicated link to view the return and then click on the printer icon to print the return
If you see the message "You will need to complete the filing step first" in Step 3 above, then you will need to return to the Filing tab and complete that process far enough to print the return. You do not need to go to the end of the filing steps and submit the return at this time. Return to the instructions above if you need to print the return again. Alternatively you can click on Preview Paper Return (Non-Printable version).

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Re: Review of tax software

Post by Silk McCue » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:03 pm

whaleknives wrote:FBN2014 is more right than Silk McCue. My experience with TaxAct online was that you couldn't see or print the complete forms until you paid for and submitted the return, but you didn't pay anything until then.

You had to review your return before submittal on the TaxAct input and summary screens.
I'm not always right but I am in this instance. I filed a 1041 just last week with TaxAct for my mother-in-laws estate. I went back in just now and started changing a few items one at a time and was able to complete the process and print an updated return without charge. However, once I tried to change the Employer identification number TaxAct told me I had to pay $60 again. They aren't stupid. They are charging you to do one return at the stated price on 1041's. If you try to change the Tax ID and get busted don't blame them. If you now realize that you accidentally typed in the wrong number and need to change a digit or two reach out to them and convince them.

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whaleknives
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by whaleknives » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:24 pm

Silk McCue wrote:
whaleknives wrote:FBN2014 is more right than Silk McCue. My experience with TaxAct online was that you couldn't see or print the complete forms until you paid for and submitted the return, but you didn't pay anything until then.
You had to review your return before submittal on the TaxAct input and summary screens.
I'm not always right but I am in this instance. I filed a 1041 just last week with TaxAct for my mother-in-laws estate. I went back in just now and started changing a few items one at a time and was able to complete the process and print an updated return without charge. However, once I tried to change the Employer identification number TaxAct told me I had to pay $60 again. They aren't stupid. They are charging you to do one return at the stated price on 1041's. If you try to change the Tax ID and get busted don't blame them. If you now realize that you accidentally typed in the wrong number and need to change a digit or two reach out to them and convince them.
As I did for many years, using TaxAct online to submit for the current year and estimate payments, but not submit, for the next. But they won't show you the actual forms until you pay.
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yatesd
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by yatesd » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:44 pm

FBN2014 wrote: H&R Block: About same price as TaxAct but unlimited federal and state returns. Must have in depth tax knowledge since program will not automatically put entries on correct forms and do proper calculations. Support is through a forum, many times no one answers question.
I've used TurboTax and H&R Block for many years. Usually H&R Block is cheaper. I paid about $22 on Amazon this year, for Federal, State, and free e-file for the Federal. You can pay to e-file State for $20. These programs are nearly identical & the interview process is essentially the same for both programs.

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Re: Review of tax software

Post by FBN2014 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:11 pm

I think many that have posted are confusing the different software versions. I used the software for trusts and estates only:
TaxAct for Trusts and Estates
H&R Block Premium & Business
TurboTax Business
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yatesd
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by yatesd » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:39 am

FBN2014 wrote:I think many that have posted are confusing the different software versions. I used the software for trusts and estates only:
TaxAct for Trusts and Estates
H&R Block Premium & Business
TurboTax Business
OK, I did miss that the review was focused on this specific area. Adding to the title might help avoid confusion.

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Re: Review of tax software

Post by Silk McCue » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:43 am

FBN2014 wrote:I think many that have posted are confusing the different software versions. I used the software for trusts and estates only:
TaxAct for Trusts and Estates
H&R Block Premium & Business
TurboTax Business
I completed and filed a 1041 for my MIL's estate using TaxAct online on March 6th. Based upon your experience I tested my ability to modify various aspects of the return last night. My test was not exhaustive but I made one change across each of five tests and the only time I was prompted to pay was when I modified the Employee Identification Number which makes sense as the $60 cost is for a single taxpayer return. I'm not certain what you were trying to change but if it was something else I would be happy to test that on my return for you.

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Re: Review of tax software

Post by FBN2014 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:33 am

Silk McCue wrote:
FBN2014 wrote:I think many that have posted are confusing the different software versions. I used the software for trusts and estates only:
TaxAct for Trusts and Estates
H&R Block Premium & Business
TurboTax Business
I completed and filed a 1041 for my MIL's estate using TaxAct online on March 6th. Based upon your experience I tested my ability to modify various aspects of the return last night. My test was not exhaustive but I made one change across each of five tests and the only time I was prompted to pay was when I modified the Employee Identification Number which makes sense as the $60 cost is for a single taxpayer return. I'm not certain what you were trying to change but if it was something else I would be happy to test that on my return for you.
Actually it was the EIN number that I entered wrong. But the fact that it does not allow you to review the entire return with schedules and do more the one return is a disqualifying feature.
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FBN2014
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by FBN2014 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:34 am

yatesd wrote:
FBN2014 wrote:I think many that have posted are confusing the different software versions. I used the software for trusts and estates only:
TaxAct for Trusts and Estates
H&R Block Premium & Business
TurboTax Business
OK, I did miss that the review was focused on this specific area. Adding to the title might help avoid confusion.
Sorry for confusion. I did change the title of post to clarify.
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whaleknives
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Re: Review of tax software

Post by whaleknives » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:52 am

FBN2014 wrote: . . . But the fact that it does not allow you to review the entire return with schedules and do more the one return is a disqualifying feature.
I think the ultimate solution, across all brands, is to buy the download version.
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by geobrick » Sat Apr 08, 2017 4:55 pm

Vanguard Fan 1367 wrote:I like the Turbotax Home and Business. Bought and downloaded from Amazon it is worth the cost and maybe a little cheaper than some places.
Are you sure it was "Turbotax Home and Business"? I wasn't able to use that version to prepare taxes for a Trust on a 1041. I had to buy TurboTax Business for that capability.

TurboTax business worked OK but was very clunky in handling income from a K-1 (limited partnership). In Part III of the K-1, there was more than one category of income (in sections 1 - 4 of Part III). In these cases TurboTax business needed me to enter each as if I'd received a separate K-1 for each category of income. Not a huge problem except there was no way for me to know how to parse the remaining amounts on the K-1. Seems to be an weak method of handling income from a K-1. I filed my return anyway because even if I got it wrong, the difference was too small to be noticeable in my case.

My other issue with TurboTax is it put me in a runaround loop when I tried to efile. One of the Trusts I was attempting to file was subject to an underpayment penalty but TurboTax wouldn't let me efile because it said the IRS has not released form 2210 yet. It offered "click here if you want us to email you when the form is ready". The next day I got an email saying "The wait is over! The tax forms we needed to finish up your taxes are ready to go." I opened the program, tried to file, same problem. I verified I had the latest version and tried again. Same problem. Clicked again for them to email when the form is ready and got the same email the next day. Ultimately I manually changed form 2210 to let the IRS calculate the penalty and TurboTax let me efile. Not the end of the world but still annoying.

After I filed, I searched the web for a good alternative to TurboTax business and decided to try out the online version of TaxAct (since it was free to try it). I ran the same information through Taxact online and noticed they handled the multiple categories of income from the K-1 limited partnership without a problem. I also found their customer service responded quickly by email when I submitted a question. I was surprised by that.

I've been using TurboTax since 2004 but will likely try Taxact for 2017 taxes.
Last edited by geobrick on Sun Feb 04, 2018 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

tibbitts
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by tibbitts » Sat Apr 08, 2017 8:46 pm

The problem I haven't heard back from on TaxAct yet is that when you enter the Fiduciary with a Middle Initial and an Apt number, those are printed on the 1041. On the K-1, the Fiduciary shows up with no Middle Initial and a blank line for the Apt number. There appears to be no way to fix that or at least I can't figure out how to. I don't know that it matters but it's annoying. If somebody has a solution, or observes a different behavior, please let me know.

I think the EIN is an unfortunate thing that they should very loudly warn you about. I do understand why they're doing that though. I made a mistake on a payee ID on a 1099 and was able to change that.

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by LonScott » Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:28 pm

Rather than start a new thread, I have an issue with H&R Block Small Business Owner Premium and Business for 2017 returns.

How does one start a 1041?

When I open the program, (Desktop, installed from a Disk) the program only allows me to do a 1040.

The back of the box states: The back states: "Get guidance for, prepare and file corporate and S corporations(Forms 1120 and 1120s), partnership and LLC tax returns (Form 1065) and estate and trust tax returns (1041), nonprofit tax returns (Form 990)." Also "Create payroll (940&941) and employee(W-2 and 1099) forms." One can find this on the Amazon Product page: https://m.media-amazon.com/images/S/apl ... 2914cf.PNG

The way I read this, I should be able to fill out these forms with this product but cannot not. I am missing something?

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by OhioGozaimas » Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:05 pm

I used HRB Premium & Business last year. (But not this year.)

I installed two completely separate programs from the one disk: "H&R Block 2016" (for the 1040 return) and "H&R Block Business 2016" (for the 1041 return).

I am guessing that the 2017 is probably similar(?). Try loading the CD again and looking for a separate install. I hope this helps.

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LonScott
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by LonScott » Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:29 pm

found my answer:
The H&R Block Small Business Owner Premium and Business disk installs two programs: H&R Block and H&R Block Business. The later has the business forms.

Sorry for my confusion but there are no directions that state this, not in the software nor on any H&R Block website.

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Sat Feb 03, 2018 5:59 pm

I was wondering if anybody had updated thoughts on the state of Trust and Estate tax software for 2017?

I am trying to figure out the most cost effective and easiest way to file several returns this year. I can always fall back on using a CPA, but figured I should try myself first.

I have 5 irrevocable trusts to file for, one of which will be filing a final return because it distributed all assets to the other trusts. I also have to file one estate return, which will be a final return.

These trusts only contain Fidelity brokerage accounts, so should not be overly complex. However, there are inherited IRAs in the trust, which might be slightly more complex.
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by geobrick » Sun Feb 04, 2018 4:20 pm

bostondan wrote:
Sat Feb 03, 2018 5:59 pm
I was wondering if anybody had updated thoughts on the state of Trust and Estate tax software for 2017?
I'm in a similar boat with 2 Irrevocable Trusts (as well as 5 personal 1040s to file). As I said in my post from last April, I'm leaning towards Taxact this year (after using desktop versions of TurboTax since 2004). You can try their online versions for free (up until filing) so it can't hurt to try the various choices out there and see which you like better. My only hesitation with Taxact is my discovery of a pretty serious tax calculation error on the 1041 form where they calculated the tax on qualified dividends at the maximum 39.6% rate (as if it were regular income) instead of the ~20% rate that should be applied to qualified dividends. Not good. To their credit, they replied very quickly when I notified support and said their development team acknowledged the error and would be working on a correction. It was already April 8th and I didn't expect a fix by April 15th plus I already had TurboTax. I was just evaluating Taxact because I was frustrated with TurboTax (read my earlier post). To me, their acknowledgement was probably the best response I've ever gotten from a software company. So much so that I'm willing to give them another shot for my 2017 taxes.

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bostondan
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:29 pm

Interesting. That does seem like a pretty major mistake by TaxAct, but I'm glad they were responsive.

Does anybody know more about how the pricing works for TurboTax Business (which does the trusts and estates)? Do I have to purchase the Massachusetts forms for TurboTax 6 times (once for each of 5 trusts and 1 estate), even if I print and file? Or do I only have to purchase Massachusetts forms once and then they'll be available for all my returns?
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:50 pm

I have been looking into the various software. Here is what I have discovered so far:

H&R Block Premium & Business:
This looks to be the cheapest by far, with a price in the $50-60 range on some sites. It allows for unlimited estate/trust federal and state returns to be printed and filed.

However, it has horrendous reviews on every site. It apparently provides nearly no guidance at all. Some of the reviews came with screenshots attached, showing that the program has lots of bugs and a very outdated interface. It apparently does not have the same updated interface that the other H&R Block products do.

TurboTax Business:
This is $159.99 to get the federal forms and then $49.99 for each state return. If I print and file, I can do however many federal returns as I want with the single purchase, but need to do a separate $49.99 purchase for each state return, even though they are all for the same state.

This is moderately easy to use, but appears to have a fair number of bugs, or at least things that it does not do without modifying the forms manually. For example, you cannot have TurboTax pass carryover losses to the beneficiaries in the final year of a trust/estate without making the change manually on the forms, even if you select that it is the final year. There are many threads on the TurboTax Q&A site discussing this and providing guidance on how to get around it. Those threads are a few years old now, so it is surprising they have not fixed this issue.

TurboTax does not provide guidance on some reasonably basic things, such as where to input a 1099-R for a trust. It directs you to "other income" but that only allows for the input of a single box containing taxable income. For the case of an inherited Roth IRA, as with our trust, there is no way to report that easily. I posted this question on the TurboTax Q&A site and someone suggested that I put $0 for income and just attach the 1099-R to the printed return. For some reason that question was deleted several hours later by moderators. I'm not sure why it was deleted, but perhaps it was a wrong answer or violated some rule.

I like that I am able to preview the K-1 forms before filing to make sure that everything is being calculated correctly. I have not tested the state portion of TurboTax because I would need to pay extra to do that.

TaxAct Estates & Trusts:
The cost appears to be $60 per federal return and $37 per state return, regardless of whether you use the download or online version. The download version apparently can only do a single return per purchase, even if doing print and file. The total cost of this will end up more than TurboTax for me since I have to do 6 total returns, but would generally be cheaper than TurboTax for one or two returns.

I have only tested the online version since you can start for free. The state forms are not available and say to check back on 1/31, but that date has obviously passed and they are still not available.

It does a MUCH better job of guiding you through the process of a trust or estate tax return. It asks if losses should be passed through to beneficiaries in the final year, has a clear area for inputting 1099-Rs with guidance along the way. There are a few areas where it gives a message saying that stuff is not ready yet and to check back later, which is worrisome, but I have to imaging those will be ready well before the deadline to file.

There is no ability to preview the K-1 forms before filing, so it is not possible to know if it is making errors similar to TurboTax (not passing through losses in the final year) until actually filing. I am not sure if I would have to pay again to print and file if I realize a mistake was made, but I have reached out to TaxAct with that question.

None of the software options automatically import 1099 data from online brokerages like the personal products do. This is not a huge deal for us because we only use a handful of index funds, but I can imagine it being annoying for some people.

Conclusion
I can't believe these are the only options available. They are all relatively bad, but TaxAct seems to be the most consumer-oriented product. TurboTax pretends to be consumer-oriented, but requires all sorts of knowledge of workarounds and "bugs" to make sure it comes out right. A person without enough knowledge of trust/estate rules would not be able to use TurboTax successfully. H&R block is apparently awful and I don't plan to try it based on the terrible screenshots and reviews.
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by Hockey10 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:00 pm

bostondan wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:50 pm


Conclusion
I can't believe these are the only options available. They are all relatively bad, but TaxAct seems to be the most consumer-oriented product. TurboTax pretends to be consumer-oriented, but requires all sorts of knowledge of workarounds and "bugs" to make sure it comes out right. A person without enough knowledge of trust/estate rules would not be able to use TurboTax successfully. H&R block is apparently awful and I don't plan to try it based on the terrible screenshots and reviews.
Dan, thanks for your review of the various products. I used the online version of TaxAct last year and I was happy with the product. I don't recall having any problems with it preparing the 1041.

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Robert The Bruce
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by Robert The Bruce » Sat Feb 24, 2018 4:13 pm

Just a quick *thanks bostondan* also for the detailed analysis! And actually, I don’t have a PC, just a pad so it looks like I am wedded to TaxAct. That’s what I used last year for our trust.

BTW, after seeing this page on the NCDOR website, I switched and did my personal taxes on FreeTaxUSA: https://www.ncdor.gov/ncfreefile
The stone age didn't end for lack of stone.

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bostondan
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:01 pm

Robert The Bruce wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 4:13 pm
Just a quick *thanks bostondan* also for the detailed analysis! And actually, I don’t have a PC, just a pad so it looks like I am wedded to TaxAct. That’s what I used last year for our trust.
Glad I could be helpful.

As an update, I have since discovered that another benefit to TaxAct is that it lets you complete the state return for a trust before paying for anything. With TurboTax you need to pay for your state before it can be installed and completed. I had a copy of TurboTax Business available to try, so I did the federal portion, but was frustrated that I could not try out the state portion of it without paying. I am still planning on sticking with TaxAct.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” - Elie Wiesel

geobrick
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by geobrick » Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:15 pm

bostondan, As a test, if you are using tax act, can you try adding some Qualified Dividends into the Trust's earnings without distributing any of it to beneficiaries (maybe $20,000). I want to see what tax rate is applied to those earnings (to see if you see the problem I had last year).

geobrick
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by geobrick » Tue Mar 06, 2018 6:51 pm

I started using Taxact Online for Estates & Trusts this week for one of the Special Needs Trust 1041's I need to file. So far it seems like it's handling everything fine. There are only two places where it could be more clear for me. Otherwise I like it more than last year's TurboTax Business (I may try this year's version and follow up here).

1) The method taxact uses for entering income distributions to beneficiaries confused me for my specific situation (where the Trust language has no required distribution amount). Under a section called "Income required to be distributed currently", the first thing asked is "Does the trust document instruct income to be distributed by percentages or specific amounts to each beneficiary?". There are only two choices, "Percentages" or "Specific Amounts". In my opinion there should be a third choice like "Not specified" or maybe the question should be reworded to "Does the trust document require income to be distributed?" and if yes, then ask about the method (percentages or specific amounts). I chose specific amounts because I can choose $0 if that's what I chose to distribute. Only after I go through those steps does taxact ask for the required amount called out by the Trust.

2) The method for entering information to get a Foreign Tax Credit isn't very clear to me (The trust owns some foreign stocks and some of the dividends are taxed by the associated country). It took some trial and error to enter the "Foreign Source Dividends". I had to enter the total amount of the dividends in two of three places to get it to work, "Foreign source ordinary dividends" and "Foreign source qualified dividends" even though the dividends were listed on the 1099 as qualified dividends (I suppose all qualified divs are ordinary divs). There were some clues that I was getting it wrong but Taxact could have had a better way to lead me through it.

Most of my issues are minor and in the weeds. I'll likely follow through and file using taxact this year for the two trusts and may use also it for the five 1040s I'll need to file this year.

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bostondan
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:01 pm

I have also have found TaxAct fairly straightforward. I previously stated that there was no way to import data from a brokerage account using TaxAct Estates & Trusts, but that was not true. There is a way to import it, but it was just not obvious and I wasn't prompted in the interview process.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” - Elie Wiesel

geobrick
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by geobrick » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:28 pm

Here's my quick assessment of TurboTax Business (was able to use a colleagues version to set up the same return I have in TaxAct Online for Estates and Trusts).

1) TurboTax still doesn't display the running 'Tax owed/Refund due' number so you can't quickly see what changes as you enter numbers or try out different scenarios. They do this for their other versions, I'm not sure why they don't offer it on this product (minor inconvenience).

2) When choosing the type of Trust (Complex, Grantor, Simple), the option for a Qualified Disability Trust is buried in the Q&A process. It was the same last year and resulted in not knowing the option to select it was even there. If I was given the option to select that type of Trust, I would have learned that there was a big advantage to making sure it was selected (plus I would have learned that the Trust I'm managing actually meets the criteria for a Qualified Disability Trust). Last year I didn't discover this until after I filed forcing me to have to file an amendment (made a $900 difference because the QDT allows an exemption of $4050 vs $100 for the other Trust types). This year's version is the same but now I know about it and where to find the option to select QDT - It's under 'Federal Taxes'/'Other' in the 'Other Return Info' where you can click 'Type of Trust' and select 'This is a different kind of trust'. Then it gives you the option to Select 'Qualified Disability Trust'.

3) A plus for TurboTax. It acknowledges 1099Bs may have transactions listed as Category 'X' (not just A, B, C, D and E). Not a huge advantage but when I was entering Capital Gains transactions in TaxAct, I had to stop and do a few google searches to figure out how to handle my 1099B category X transactions.

4) Trust Distributions: I'm either confused, lack the knowledge or there's a bug in the current Turbo Tax business when it comes to entering beneficiary distributions for a Trust that has no specific language about how much of the trust earning or assetts must be distributed. As Trustee, I can distribute all or none of the earnings. Maybe all three are true (I'm confused, don't know and there's a bug). Since the Trust has no required distributions, the Q&A reqarding what's called the 'The trust's accounting income' or 'distributable net income' or 'Trust Accounting Income' (depending on where you look) is not that straight forward. While I found TaxAct's method of Q&A a bit reversed, I figured it out fairly quick. I can see the Income, I can select $0 required to be distributed and then I can select how much I distributed. Pretty easy and straight forward. TurboTax on the otherhand didn't present the screen allowing me to enter the amount I distributed unless I entered a number for 'Allocation of Capital Gains (Loss)' under the 'Investment Income' section. It needs me to enter a number for 'long-term Capital Gain ... Allocable to the beneficiaries'. I don't know why I'd need to add this. If I put nothing, I won't get the screen under 'Distributions' to enter the distributions. So I enter something (doesn't mater what). But what does this have to do with my distributions? It's very confusing. And to make things more confusing, I opened my 2016 version of TurboTax business to see how I did it last year and I'm more confused. Even though I can see the amount I distributed on the 1041 form, I'm not seeing the screen to enter that number under the distributions. And in the case of 2016, there is no 'Allocation of Capital Gains (Loss)' under the 'Investment Income' section. Maybe I entered the distributions manally last year or maybe the bug was introduced after I filed.

So all this is pushing me towards TaxAct for 2017 (even though they were the ones with the tax calculation error when I tried them last year).

Which ever one you end up choosing, If you have the luxury of time, try both if you can. It's a good sanity check on your return if they calculate the same result. That's how I figured out the tax calculation error in TaxAct last year. This year, working around all the issues, TaxAct and TurboTax were within a $1 of each other when calculating the Tax I owe.

FBN2014
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by FBN2014 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:57 pm

geobrick wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:28 pm
Here's my quick assessment of TurboTax Business (was able to use a colleagues version to set up the same return I have in TaxAct Online for Estates and Trusts).

1) TurboTax still doesn't display the running 'Tax owed/Refund due' number so you can't quickly see what changes as you enter numbers or try out different scenarios. They do this for their other versions, I'm not sure why they don't offer it on this product (minor inconvenience).

2) When choosing the type of Trust (Complex, Grantor, Simple), the option for a Qualified Disability Trust is buried in the Q&A process. It was the same last year and resulted in not knowing the option to select it was even there. If I was given the option to select that type of Trust, I would have learned that there was a big advantage to making sure it was selected (plus I would have learned that the Trust I'm managing actually meets the criteria for a Qualified Disability Trust). Last year I didn't discover this until after I filed forcing me to have to file an amendment (made a $900 difference because the QDT allows an exemption of $4050 vs $100 for the other Trust types). This year's version is the same but now I know about it and where to find the option to select QDT - It's under 'Federal Taxes'/'Other' in the 'Other Return Info' where you can click 'Type of Trust' and select 'This is a different kind of trust'. Then it gives you the option to Select 'Qualified Disability Trust'.

3) A plus for TurboTax. It acknowledges 1099Bs may have transactions listed as Category 'X' (not just A, B, C, D and E). Not a huge advantage but when I was entering Capital Gains transactions in TaxAct, I had to stop and do a few google searches to figure out how to handle my 1099B category X transactions.

4) Trust Distributions: I'm either confused, lack the knowledge or there's a bug in the current Turbo Tax business when it comes to entering beneficiary distributions for a Trust that has no specific language about how much of the trust earning or assetts must be distributed. As Trustee, I can distribute all or none of the earnings. Maybe all three are true (I'm confused, don't know and there's a bug). Since the Trust has no required distributions, the Q&A reqarding what's called the 'The trust's accounting income' or 'distributable net income' or 'Trust Accounting Income' (depending on where you look) is not that straight forward. While I found TaxAct's method of Q&A a bit reversed, I figured it out fairly quick. I can see the Income, I can select $0 required to be distributed and then I can select how much I distributed. Pretty easy and straight forward. TurboTax on the otherhand didn't present the screen allowing me to enter the amount I distributed unless I entered a number for 'Allocation of Capital Gains (Loss)' under the 'Investment Income' section. It needs me to enter a number for 'long-term Capital Gain ... Allocable to the beneficiaries'. I don't know why I'd need to add this. If I put nothing, I won't get the screen under 'Distributions' to enter the distributions. So I enter something (doesn't mater what). But what does this have to do with my distributions? It's very confusing. And to make things more confusing, I opened my 2016 version of TurboTax business to see how I did it last year and I'm more confused. Even though I can see the amount I distributed on the 1041 form, I'm not seeing the screen to enter that number under the distributions. And in the case of 2016, there is no 'Allocation of Capital Gains (Loss)' under the 'Investment Income' section. Maybe I entered the distributions manally last year or maybe the bug was introduced after I filed.

So all this is pushing me towards TaxAct for 2017 (even though they were the ones with the tax calculation error when I tried them last year).

Which ever one you end up choosing, If you have the luxury of time, try both if you can. It's a good sanity check on your return if they calculate the same result. That's how I figured out the tax calculation error in TaxAct last year. This year, working around all the issues, TaxAct and TurboTax were within a $1 of each other when calculating the Tax I owe.
You can use the TurboTax answer exchange to ask questions about the software and tax questions. They are very responsive. I have multiple trust returns so TaxAct is out of the question since each return costs $60 and if you find a mistake after printing and want to change something they will charge another $60. I did use TaxAct in 2014 and 2015 before they put those restrictions on the software.
"October is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May March, June, December, August and February." - M. Twain

geobrick
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by geobrick » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:14 pm

FBN2014 wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:57 pm
You can use the TurboTax answer exchange to ask questions about the software and tax questions. They are very responsive. I have multiple trust returns so TaxAct is out of the question since each return costs $60 and if you find a mistake after printing and want to change something they will charge another $60. I did use TaxAct in 2014 and 2015 before they put those restrictions on the software.
Thanks. I have posted my question about the Distributions issue and have gotten a quick reply (though the initial reply missed the main point of my question). We'll see if they reply to my follow-up.

Does the TaxAct restriction apply to the downloadable desktop version or only the web version?

lightning
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by lightning » Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:05 pm

geobrick wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:28 pm
4) Trust Distributions: I'm either confused, lack the knowledge or there's a bug in the current Turbo Tax business when it comes to entering beneficiary distributions for a Trust that has no specific language about how much of the trust earning or assetts must be distributed. As Trustee, I can distribute all or none of the earnings. Maybe all three are true (I'm confused, don't know and there's a bug). Since the Trust has no required distributions, the Q&A reqarding what's called the 'The trust's accounting income' or 'distributable net income' or 'Trust Accounting Income' (depending on where you look) is not that straight forward. While I found TaxAct's method of Q&A a bit reversed, I figured it out fairly quick. I can see the Income, I can select $0 required to be distributed and then I can select how much I distributed. Pretty easy and straight forward. TurboTax on the otherhand didn't present the screen allowing me to enter the amount I distributed unless I entered a number for 'Allocation of Capital Gains (Loss)' under the 'Investment Income' section. It needs me to enter a number for 'long-term Capital Gain ... Allocable to the beneficiaries'. I don't know why I'd need to add this. If I put nothing, I won't get the screen under 'Distributions' to enter the distributions. So I enter something (doesn't mater what). But what does this have to do with my distributions? It's very confusing. And to make things more confusing, I opened my 2016 version of TurboTax business to see how I did it last year and I'm more confused. Even though I can see the amount I distributed on the 1041 form, I'm not seeing the screen to enter that number under the distributions. And in the case of 2016, there is no 'Allocation of Capital Gains (Loss)' under the 'Investment Income' section. Maybe I entered the distributions manally last year or maybe the bug was introduced after I filed.
So, I am a novice with doing a trust return and still learning how to use the tools. This year I used Turbotax. I chose a Complex Trust as there are no set distribution requirements. I had mostly qualified dividends, capital gains, and foreign taxes paid to deal with. I, too, was puzzeled how to get distributed income on the K-1. The software is not particularly helpful in walking me through the interview.

My reading of the IRS documents led me to discover that dividends are normally considered distributable but that capital gains are not unless you specifically "allocate" them. In my case, the expenses exceeded the dividends so it wouldn't let me distribute them. I had to "allocate" capital gains in order to distribute any taxable income. And the allocation appears to be whatever you need it to be, as far as I can tell.

Hope this helps.

geobrick
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by geobrick » Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:14 pm

lightning wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:05 pm
So, I am a novice with doing a trust return and still learning how to use the tools. This year I used Turbotax. I chose a Complex Trust as there are no set distribution requirements. I had mostly qualified dividends, capital gains, and foreign taxes paid to deal with. I, too, was puzzeled how to get distributed income on the K-1. The software is not particularly helpful in walking me through the interview.

My reading of the IRS documents led me to discover that dividends are normally considered distributable but that capital gains are not unless you specifically "allocate" them. In my case, the expenses exceeded the dividends so it wouldn't let me distribute them. I had to "allocate" capital gains in order to distribute any taxable income. And the allocation appears to be whatever you need it to be, as far as I can tell.

Hope this helps.
It seems like you've got a good handle on it. This is my 2nd year and it's been a year since I last did it.

What I've discovered in the last half hour by going back and forth with the TurboTax Answer Exchange (you can probably find the discussion there) is the issue I'm having seems to be a bug related to selecting "Qualified Disability Trust" as the Trust type (the option is not where you'd expect to be).

The first problem is when you've selected "Qualified Disability Trust" and select to distribute an amount vs a percentage to the beneficiary, the two entry boxes to enter the required and other amounts don't show up. There's just white space where they're supposed to be.

I thought I discovered that by allocating any amount of capital gains to the beneficiary in the income section, the distribution section worked properly. What I've since found out is problem 2; As soon as you allocate an amount of capital gains to the beneficiary, TurboTax automatically changes your Trust Type to 'Complex' and removes the "Qualified Disability Trust" setting (without any notice that it's doing so). This shouldn't happen. When I reset the Trust Type back to "Qualified Disability Trust", the two entry boxes under distributions disappear again. This must be a bug.

A feasible work-around was suggested by their 'tagteam' where I can elect to distribute the income as percentages and eventually be asked "Was all the Trust's Income Distributed?". By selecting 'no', the two entry boxes appear and I'm able to enter the distribution. However, it is a work around and I should be able to do it the other way (not a big deal).

The big issue seems to be that TurboTax is automatically changing the Trust Type from "Qualified Disability Trust" to Complex whenever you allocate capital gains to the beneficiary. This can cost people about $1,000 because when the change happens, you lose the $4050 exemption. And with no notification of the change, it may be easy to miss. Even when you change it back, it will revert to "complex" whenever you revisit the 'Allocation of Capital Gains (Loss)' section (even if you make no changes).

Is your Trust a Special Needs Trust? If so, it could also be a "Qualified Disability Trust".

FBN2014
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by FBN2014 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:48 pm

geobrick wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:14 pm

Thanks. I have posted my question about the Distributions issue and have gotten a quick reply (though the initial reply missed the main point of my question). We'll see if they reply to my follow-up.

Does the TaxAct restriction apply to the downloadable desktop version or only the web version?
I'm pretty sure it applies to both version as I recall asking TaxAct support that exact question. I used the web version.
"October is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May March, June, December, August and February." - M. Twain

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bostondan
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Sat Mar 10, 2018 9:52 am

FBN2014 wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:57 pm
I have multiple trust returns so TaxAct is out of the question since each return costs $60 and if you find a mistake after printing and want to change something they will charge another $60. I did use TaxAct in 2014 and 2015 before they put those restrictions on the software.
I'm not sure this is correct. I spoke with support and they said that as long as I don't change the tax ID/SSN it will not charge me again. I also tested it after submitting one return and it seems to be true that it won't charge me again.

Was the error you made with the SSN/TIN? They said that if this was the error, there will be another charge, but otherwise no. It seems pretty crazy to charge for adjusting a return before submitting it if paper filing, which is why I was slightly skeptical.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” - Elie Wiesel

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Sat Mar 10, 2018 10:02 am

Has anybody successfully added a credit card and paid for a Trusts & Estate return through TaxAct today? I submitted one a few days ago and it was fine. Today, for an estate return, I am unable to add a credit card. It says, "Failed to validate the card, please contact customer support."

I tried entering it manually, with my password manager to autofill it, in multiple browsers, on multiple networks, and with multiple credit cards. It gives the same error every time today. All cards are working fine on other sites.

Also, when I contacted support, they were not terribly helpful. A very quiet person who spoke in partial sentences tried to help me, but mostly just had me repeat all the steps above that I had already taken. He put me on hold for 15 minutes, then came back and told me to just try later. I asked if this was a known issue, he wouldn't tell me, then said, "I don't know, maybe in a couple places." I wasn't totally sure what that response meant, but I think it means it is a known issue.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” - Elie Wiesel

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by FBN2014 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 2:01 pm

I can't understand why TurboTax Business can't import brokerage statements like other versions of TurboTax. An annoying flaw that should be corrected.
"October is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May March, June, December, August and February." - M. Twain

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bostondan
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:48 am

FBN2014 wrote:
Sat Mar 10, 2018 2:01 pm
I can't understand why TurboTax Business can't import brokerage statements like other versions of TurboTax. An annoying flaw that should be corrected.
I agree. Luckily our investment income is simple due to maintaining a basic three-fund portfolio with rare sales.

I had previously mentioned that TaxAct does allow for import of brokerage statements. However, upon actually trying it I discovered it was fairly useless. I have many different types of accounts using my Fidelity login, including personal, two trusts, and another account that I have authority to manage. TaxAct simply listed each of the 1099s available to import as "1099" with no identifying information. In TurboTax personal I am given an associated account number (or at least a partial account number) which allows me to know what I am importing. I ended up just doing it manually.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” - Elie Wiesel

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by tryonthis » Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:35 pm

I downloaded TaxAct last year for 2 irrevocable trusts and was surprised when it would not allow me to do the second trust. That was false advertising. In any case, I got around it by moving the first Trust file to a different location and starting from scratch with the second. I mailed in the returns.

FBN2014
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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by FBN2014 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:58 pm

tryonthis wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:35 pm
I downloaded TaxAct last year for 2 irrevocable trusts and was surprised when it would not allow me to do the second trust. That was false advertising. In any case, I got around it by moving the first Trust file to a different location and starting from scratch with the second. I mailed in the returns.
That's why I switched to TurboTax. I used TaxAct in 2014 (first year I filed trust returns) and in 2015 and it allowed me to do multiple returns. Price was $30. Then in 2016 they doubled the price and never mentioned that it was for one return only (as you said, false or misleading advertising).
"October is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May March, June, December, August and February." - M. Twain

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by bostondan » Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:18 pm

FBN2014 wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:58 pm
tryonthis wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:35 pm
I downloaded TaxAct last year for 2 irrevocable trusts and was surprised when it would not allow me to do the second trust. That was false advertising. In any case, I got around it by moving the first Trust file to a different location and starting from scratch with the second. I mailed in the returns.
That's why I switched to TurboTax. I used TaxAct in 2014 (first year I filed trust returns) and in 2015 and it allowed me to do multiple returns. Price was $30. Then in 2016 they doubled the price and never mentioned that it was for one return only (as you said, false or misleading advertising).
Were you able to do multiple trust returns on TurboTax for one state without paying again for each return for the state? I wasn't sure how that would work if I had gone with TurboTax.

TaxAct gave me $15 off each online return just for asking, which was better than nothing.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” - Elie Wiesel

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Re: Review of tax software for trusts and estates

Post by FBN2014 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:17 pm

bostondan wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:18 pm
FBN2014 wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:58 pm
tryonthis wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:35 pm
I downloaded TaxAct last year for 2 irrevocable trusts and was surprised when it would not allow me to do the second trust. That was false advertising. In any case, I got around it by moving the first Trust file to a different location and starting from scratch with the second. I mailed in the returns.
That's why I switched to TurboTax. I used TaxAct in 2014 (first year I filed trust returns) and in 2015 and it allowed me to do multiple returns. Price was $30. Then in 2016 they doubled the price and never mentioned that it was for one return only (as you said, false or misleading advertising).
Were you able to do multiple trust returns on TurboTax for one state without paying again for each return for the state? I wasn't sure how that would work if I had gone with TurboTax.

TaxAct gave me $15 off each online return just for asking, which was better than nothing.
I'm in NC and the state return isn't available on TurboTax so I will download from state website and type in info. Pretty simple since I just have to transfer info from federal and do a few calculations.
"October is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May March, June, December, August and February." - M. Twain

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