TaxCalc 2010 Personal 6 review
Along with birdsong and longer nights, spring brings less heralded offerings, such as new versions of tax return software. Acorah’s latest covers the 2009-10 tax year and comes in personal and professional versions. We tested TaxCalc Personal 6, which lets you complete up to six SA 100 personal tax returns with supplementary pages.
The obvious question is, why should you buy TaxCalc when HMRC offers a workable, and free, online filing service? TaxCalc’s advantages are few, but significant. The most practical is that it stores data locally, so if the HMRC site is down – not an unknown occurrence – you can continue to work on your accounts, only contacting HMRC’s servers at the final stage.
The other advantage is the ability to import data from previous years. Handy enough for automatically entering addresses and tax year details, it’s excellent for displaying year-on-year variance between entries to spot inconsistencies. At the same time you can mark entries as provisional and attach notes to them for your own working.
As with previous years, you complete the return in one of two ways: either a traditional HMRC forms view or SimpleStep, a much easier method of entering data. Not only is the interface simpler, but irrelevant questions are ignored while others, such as date of birth, are asked early so the program can automatically calculate entitlement to age-related allowances. You can switch between modes instantly without loss of data.
At every step a snapshot of your current tax and national insurance liability is displayed. It looks gimmicky, but it’s actually a useful ‘what if’ analysis tool to judge the effect on tax liability of changes in income and allowances.
We’re pleased to see the arrival of a tool to automatically calculate capital allowances. You can add assets, original cost (or written-down value if purchased in a previous year) and purchase dates and TaxCalc works out the necessary movements, allowances and pool balance for you. Given the significant changes to the calculation of capital allowances, and supplemented by an excellent help tool, this is a very welcome addition.
Although it’s more expensive than the Adobe Reader-based ftax, the core functions of TaxCalc remain strong enough to deserve a recommendation. The few new additions are handled well, and the knowledge that it’s all stored locally is worth the price alone.