TaxBrain uses data entry screens formatted as questionnaires and worksheets to gather your tax information, unlike TurboTax or H&R Block At Home which use interview-style screens. The difference is between these two styles is that questionnaires place related data inputs in one screen, while the interview style typically places just one question on the screen at a time. Due to its questionnaire-style layout, preparing a tax return in TaxBrain can be faster and involve less clicking. Taxpayers with more complex tax returns will need to spend extra time working through the longer data-entry forms for business income, investments, and itemized deductions. Accordingly, TaxBrain works best for wage-earners with few deductions or other tax issues.
TaxBrain's minimalist data entry screens helps speed up tax preparation
TaxBrain uses a forms-based approach to gathering your tax information. To begin the program, the user answers a questionnaire to add or remove various worksheets to your tax return. You then move through the worksheets one-by-one to enter your wages, business income, investments, and various tax deductions. The worksheets do not provide any help or tax information, unlike the full-featured help provided in TaxACT, H&R Block At Home and TurboTax. However, the minimalist design means taxpayers can focus on inputting their tax information with a minimum of clicking and reading through explanations that may or may not be relevant to their situation. As such, TaxBrain is best-suited for taxpayers with straightforward tax situations.
TaxBrain was the fastest of all online tax software, but lacks premium features
TaxBrain's bare-bones design made it easy for me to complete a simple tax return in about 15 minutes, making TaxBrain easily one of the fastest Web-based programs on the market. This speed comes at a price, however. TaxBrain did not catch a data entry typo on my W-2 Form (a common tax prep error). Neither did TaxBrain alert me that I wasn't eligible for a Roth IRA based on the hypothetical data I used to test the software. When I caught this oversight, I tried different variations of funding an IRA, and found that TaxBrain didn't offer any alerts about whether or not I was eligible to fund an IRA and if so in what amounts.
At that point I turned to the help material found in TaxBrain. This help content is brief, and doesn't address issues in a great detail. TaxBrain does feature a searchable Knowledge Base for finding more information on using the software's worksheets with links to relevant publications from the IRS.
Overall, this lack of analysis and guidance makes me feel less confident that taxpayers will be able to use TaxBrain as a tool for making important tax decisions. On the other hand, if you're already comfortable with analyzing your tax situation without the use of software, TaxBrain provides the ability to quickly input your data and finish up your return.
Based on features and functionality, TaxBrain is similar to CCH CompleteTax. Both programs are best used either for very simple tax returns or by taxpayers who don't need a lot of hand-holding.
TaxBrain Product Versions
TaxBrain from Petz Enterprises
is available in five Web-based versions:
- TaxBrain 1040EZ ($14.95)
- TaxBrain 1040 Basic ($19.95)
- TaxBrain 1040 Deluxe ($39.95)
- TaxBrain 1040 Premium ($69.95)
State tax returns cost an additional $29.95. Preparing an amended tax return (Form 1040X) is free if you completed your return using another TaxBrain product.
TaxBrain offers the following additional services:
- Online storage of your tax return for three years ($9.95)
- Printed copies of your tax returns mailed to you ($19.95)
- Audit defense to have a tax professional defend your tax return in the event of an audit ($34.95)