TurboTax for the Web Premier

TurboTax for the Web PremierTurboTax for the Web Premier has hit its stride this year. It's as clean as a whistle and a joy (if you can use that word in the same paragraph as "tax") to use. Developers have overhauled the help system to make those files even more understandable, and guidance has been better integrated into the program. For these reasons, we're awarding it our Editors' Choice.

TurboTax covers similar financial territory to its competitors, but does the job better than they do. It imports data from related outside sources, like W-2 providers, and lets you view returns from years past by your user ID. A running tally of your tax obligation is displayed prominently, and you can pull up a more detailed summary at any time.

The FAQs from years past are gone, but hyperlinks open small windows with explanations of terms. Some complex topics offer an alternate breakdown that takes you through more screens than usual, and a navigational index lets you visit and revisit topics out of turn. Click on the Get Answers button, and (mostly) context-sensitive help files open. A Google-like search tool helps you track down additional documents. Tax advice from professionals is also available for $29.95 per topic.

TurboTax also provides some of the best after-prep tools available. It checks your return for errors, offers a list of the prepared forms and schedules, and combs your return for overlooked deductions. It looks for audit triggers and offers other tools and worksheets to help you finalize your return and prepare for 2005 taxes. And for $49.95, a tax professional will review your return and make suggestions.

Intuit has also launched a new online tax product this year, SnapTax ( Taxpayers filing the 1040EZ or 1040A (some 1040A issues are not supported) can prepare and print free, or e-file for $5.95. State forms are available for California residents for $9.95 (federal e-file fee covers the California e-file, too). The 1040EZ product (federal $5.95, state $9.95) and Basic product (federal $9.95, state $24.95) are back, too. Their differences lie primarily in the depth of their interviews and advice.

Twelve years after Intuit introduced its "EasyStep" interview, TurboTax for the Web comes closer to perfection than it's ever been.