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When it comes to filling your own taxes online, Turbotax is one of the elite pieces of software for individuals and small business owners. It offers a quick and easy way to file your taxes online accurately.
Tax Filing Software
AT A GLANCE
- File your own taxes for free
- Live help from tax experts
- Hands off tax filing
- Outstanding customer reviews
Best Filing Software
Pros & Cons
Filing taxes and filling out tax forms yourself can save you time and money going to an accountant, but how you can you tell which tax software is the right one for you?
Sure, there are plenty of options, and Turbotax should be one of them. The steep price tag can turn some people off depending on the tier you choose, Turbotax shines because it offers a robust service and its software is easy to navigate around - whether you're filing state or federal tax returns.
Plus, you can have the option of working with a CPA through their live service if you want someone to review your work before it’s submitted.
Does that mean you should file your taxes using Turbotax online? Keep reading our comprehensive review, where we dive into how it works, pricing and whether its features will be something you’ll need.
Best For: Ease of Use
Fees: Free to file (offers other paid options)
Promotion: No current promos
What is Turbotax?
How much does TurboTax cost? Prices & Fees
Sorry frugality — Turbotax time and time again seems to have higher prices compared to its competitors. Although there is a free edition.
For now, the quality and ease of use or their software is worth it, though in time other companies might catch up. However, if you’re doing a simple filing and nothing too complicated, then Turbotax’s basic package doesn’t look too bad.
Turbotax has five tiers and depending on what you choose, it’ll offer different services and bonuses.
W-2 income, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Dividend income
Itemized tax deductions, Student loan interest deduction, HSA, Retirement contributions (Saver’s Credit)
Stock Market Investments, Landlords
Self Employed people with expenses. Includes one year of access to QuickBooks self-employed
Federal CPA Help
State CPA Help
Total Cost Without CPA Help
Free - As the cheapest option, TurboTax free edition offers the tax return e-filing process only. You can do it manually and snapping a photo of your W-2 can make it simpler.
This version offers access to tax professionals to answer your tax-related questions as well as audit support. It also factors in dividend income, earned income tax credit and child tax credit.
Plus, a CPA or EA will do a final review of your tax return before you officially file it. You can also upload files via your smartphone and receive Turbotax’s signature guarantee.
Meaning, your return will be 100% accurate or else Turbotax will pay you the lowest return and IRS fees (though this is offered on all tiers).
This version is best for those who have a fairly uncomplicated tax situation but want someone to look over their return just in case.
Deluxe - You get everything in the Basic package plus the ability to talk to a tax expert about any deductions you’re entitled to.
There’s also to deduct charitable deductions, review mortgage deductions with a CPA or EA, plus get them to do a final review before you file your taxes.
You’ll want this version if you have dependents, children or a home. It’s also for those who have experienced a major life change, since this tier is geared towards those who are interested in maximizing their credits and deductions.
Premier - This is where it gets pretty pricey. You’ll get everything offered in the lower tiers plus other snazzy features. You’ll get access to the TurboTax Live full service - a live CPA or EA who can help provide insight on matters such as how to maximize rental property income.
This person can also help you report sales of stocks, bonds and other types of investments (you can automatically import your investment income).
Good news for Cryptocurrency traders — you can get help with accounting for gain/losses from these types of transactions.
TurboTax Self-Employed - It can be complicated to navigate tax season when you work for yourself. Plus, it can get expensive if you don’t know what to deduct or underpaid your quarterly taxes.
TurboTax’s Self-Employed packages helps take some of that burden away from offering everything in the Premier tier plus advice and guidance from a CPA or EA that’s specific to your situation — whether you’re a contractor, freelancer or small business owner.
The tax preparation services software itself also helps you find deductions that are specific to your industry. You’ll also receive Quickbooks Self-Employed which can help you track expenses and mileage.
There’s also the part where you’ll get both your personal and business income reviewed plus an audit assessment.
Easily and accurately file your simple tax returns for FREE.
Guaranteed Free. $0 Fed. $0 State. $0 to File
Navigating Around Turbotax
Like mentioned before, Turbotax is quite user-friendly if you're tackling your tax return. Here’s what you can expect once you log into your account.
Once you’re inside your Turbotax account, you’ll see how user-friendly it is — it’s meant to help you find everything you need within a matter of seconds.
You’ll be guided through the interface, like someone trying to explain different concepts as you navigate around. Turbotax aims to simplify complicated jargon and even walks you through different topics.
There’s the option to skip it and there are clear markers to show you where you’re at in the process and indicates what you still need to complete.
When you’re first starting out, you’ll be asked a few questions so Turbotax can figure out what sections might apply to your tax situation.
Once that’s complete the software will compile for you to complete. It’s great even for those who are organized as you can see how much you need to fill out before you’re done.
One of the great things about Turbotax is that you can import tax return data such as your W-2s or 1099s. In fact, you can even do so by taking a photo of it and then transfer the data that way.
There’s also the IsDeductible feature (available for Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed packages only) where you can use to find deduction values of donated household items, clothes or items — there’s even a standalone app for this.
Quickbooks Self-Employed (for those using the self-employed tier on Turbotax) offers a simple expense tracking tool where you can store photos of receipts and track mileage using their standalone app (or via desktop).
You can add on what Turbotax calls their “Live” option in addition to the base package. This includes assistance from an enrolled agent or CPA.
It’s a great option if you have questions and concerns by the end of the tax filing process, but it could be a waste of money if you don’t end up using the service.
“Max” Defend and Restore is another option you can add on for an additional $60. This option gives you audit assistance in case your identity is stolen while going through the tax return process.
In the event it does happen, an identity theft resolution specialist will assist you through any challenges until your identity is restored.
Plus, you can get audit protection in case if you’re concerned about getting audited by the IRS.
Support Options With Turbotax
Turbotax offers a few different ways to offer support to its customers. Here’s how you can receive guidance or find answers when you’re filing your return:
- Technical support - you can do this over the phone or via live chat
- General guidance - There is a huge library of knowledge articles and the software itself offers explainers. There’s also video tutorials and forums to ask questions.
- One-on-one help - You can opt to get Turbotax Live which offers a range of services such as a review of your return and questions about investment earnings. You’ll also get unlimited live tax advice — make an appointment or speak to one anytime via one-way live video.
All this to say: there’s something for everyone. You can find information on your own through their online community, knowledge base and video tutorials, or you can get more personal assistance with a CPA or EA.
There’s no doubt that getting your tax documents audited (or even the thought of it) is nerve wracking. That’s why it’s crucial you find out the level of support you’ll receive from Turbotax.
When looking at the fine print, you’ll notice that there are the terms “support” and “defense.” When it comes to audit support, it usually means you’ll receive guidance about what you can expect during an audit — think about it in terms of audit assistance.
In contrast, getting audit defense means you’ll receive full representation from a tax professional when facing the IRS. All tiers on Turbotax allows you to receive audit support from a tax professional so you can understand what’s happening if and when you get the dreaded audit letter.
However, if you want a tax professional to represent you when you face the IRS, then you’ll want to get Max Defend and Restore, Turbotax’s audit defense product.
As mentioned previously, it offers features like identity loss insurance, theft monitoring and assistance with restoring your identity. It costs anywhere from $450 to $60.
Getting a Tax Refund
You have a few options as to how you can get your refund. The fastest option is to get your federal refund via direct deposit to your bank account.
There’s also the option of getting refunded via a Turbo Visa Debit card — some states offer a prepaid card option as well if you want to go that route.
Otherwise, you can apply your refund to next year’s taxes, receiving a paper check or telling the IRS to purchase U.S. Savings Bonds with the cash.
If you want Turbotax to take a portion of the refund to pay for the software, there’s a $40 fee for the privilege.
How to Get Started with TurboTax
Creating an account initially can take a bit of time since you’ll need to input your personal information.
You’ll start by entering in basic personal information like your name and phone number to receive a confirmation code.
Once you receive it on your phone you’ll need to enter it in to confirm you’re the owner.
Then, you’ll get a personalized greeting and screenshots of real CPAs that work for Turbotax.
Afterward you’ll be asked questions about you feel about filing your taxes (there are puns if you’re into that sort of thing).
You’ll then proceed onto entering information from the previous year’s tax return — you should have a PDF copy of that.
Upload that and Turbotax will automatically populate the information from it, including tax breaks, income, address and AGI (adjusted gross income).
There’s always the manual option if you don’t have a PDF copy, though it’ll take you longer you input the information.
Afterwards, the software will give you an overview of what you submitted then give you a list of the necessary documents you need to file, like your W2.
Some might find it helpful to print this list out.
Turbotax will also ask other relevant questions like the number of dependents you have and how you plan to file.
We like that while you’re inputting information, you’ll learn relevant facts along the way, especially since deductions and claims like the child tax credit can be complicated.
The above process can take around 30 minutes (or longer if you have a slow internet connection or have a complicated background).
You’ll then move onto the federal return first then state returns. You’ll get a chance to review your information — you might need to wait for the live review by the CPA or EA — then you’ll file your return.
Should You Use TurboTax to File Your Taxes?
Quickbooks users who are self-employed will find it a great choice when it comes to using Turbotax. Same goes for those who don’t need anything other than the free service, since the software is so simple to use.
Both of these offer great value and for self-employed folks, the potential tax savings. However, for the other tiers it really depends on your other choices.
In since cases it might be worth it to hire your own CPA or tax preparer, or find better value elsewhere - possibly with alternatives like H&R Block.
Before signing up for any service, at the very least check out Turbotax and what the service has to offer.
When it comes to filling your own taxes online, Turbotax is one the elite softwares for individuals and small business owners. It offers a quick and easy way to file your taxes online accurately.