Very few people actually enjoy doing their taxes by hand. Luckily, there are plenty of tax prep software tools available to help you manage your tax situation.
One of the oldest and most popular of the tax software programs is TurboTax from Intuit. Although it’s one of the pricier tax software programs, it just might be worth the cost depending on your needs.
Find out if this is the right program for you with the following TurboTax review.
How much are TurboTax products?
While most consumers want to know the cost of using TurboTax, it’s important to realize that what you pay depends on the version you choose. TurboTax currently offers four different versions of its software, pictured below.
If you have a very simple tax return, you can file your taxes for free with TurboTax — and that includes your state taxes.
Other versions of TurboTax offer different perks. So the more complicated your tax return is, the more likely your TurboTax cost will go up if you’re filing your taxes through them. And, once you get beyond the free version, your state return will cost extra.
It’s worth noting that, even though TurboTax costs more than some of its competitors, it also offers a lot of features. Plus, paid versions of TurboTax come with the option to get help from credentialed enrolled agents and CPAs.
What are TurboTax products like?
If you decide to purchase TurboTax, you want to make sure you get the version that works best for your situation. This TurboTax review digs into the following options currently available.
If you are filing a 1040EZ or 1040A, you can use the Federal Free edition. However, you can’t itemize if you use this version.
Therefore, if you have additional Forms and Schedules to submit, this version is not for you. It’s only for those with very simple and straightforward taxes.
That being said, you can easily prepare, print, and e-file your tax return using this version. Make sure you double-check your eligibility before you move forward.
TurboTax Deluxe is a popular version for customers to purchase. It’s ideal for someone who has tax deductions and credits. Consumers most likely to benefit from this version are those who need to itemize.
Additionally, there is support for additional Forms for those who need tax deductions and credits. For student loan borrowers there are student loan tax credits and deductions worth looking into and listing out with this version.
You can also get live on-screen help from tax professionals as you fill in your information with this version. And, TurboTax stores your documents. That way, you can import information from a previous year’s TurboTax return to help you get a jump on next year’s taxes.
This is where things start getting a little more complicated. You get everything available in the Free and Deluxe versions, but the Premier takes in investing considerations, too.
If you have investments and rental properties to report, then this is the version for you. The Premier version imports investment information, including cost basis. This makes it easier for you to properly report your gains and losses. You can even use this to manage your rental property income and deductions.
If you are self-employed, this version adds another layer of usability. Like the Deluxe and Premier versions, you get access to all the investment Schedules, and you can itemize. Plus, you also get access to help from tax professionals.
The Self-Employed version differs in that it allows you to maximize your deductions for business-related expenses. You can deduct for your home office, vehicles used for business, and more. Plus, it includes expense and mileage tracking through year-round integration with QuickBooks Self-Employed, another Intuit product.
Using the TurboTax review online platform
TurboTax is considered one of the most user-friendly tax preparation programs out there. Its user interface is intuitive and easy to use, and their website makes it easy to find the right version for you based on your needs.
When using the online interface, it directs you accurately to the right product. It doesn’t try to “upsell” you on features you don’t need, as evidenced in a screenshot I took when I was checking out TurboTax myself.
Once you’re in the program, it’s easy to navigate. Plus, if you’ve used TurboTax in the past, and your information is already stored in the cloud, it imports to the current year. You just need to update it if necessary.
But if your information isn’t saved, TurboTax leads you through questions in a logical manner. It’s like having a tax professional speak with you. Except you don’t need to talk to a person.
As you go through your tax return and answer questions, the software enters your information. It then checks off the information you’ve completed and lists what you have yet to fill out in the following TurboTax dashboard screenshots.
It’s easy to get more information about questions or get support from a tax professional on-screen. The software also helps you keep track of where you are in the process. Plus, if you miss a step, TurboTax flags it for you.
Cloud storage makes it easy to work on your tax return no matter what. You can do it on your desktop or on your mobile device.
Expense Finder and ItsDeductible
One of the advantages of using TurboTax regularly is that you get access to year-round features. Expense Finder and ItsDeductible (both pictured below) can be used even after you file your taxes in April. You can even keep track of your spending and plan your tax breaks throughout the year.
Keep in mind that you will need to link your bank accounts and credit cards to use Expense Finder. Once linked, Expense Finder goes through everything and categorizes to find deductible expenses and keep track of them. This reduces the chance that you will miss something.
You can also use your mobile phone or tablet to prepare your taxes with TurboTax. You can snap photos of your documents (like your W-2) and answer questions to get the process underway immediately.
How to get your tax refund
When choosing how to get your tax refund, you have different options with TurboTax. You can decide on direct deposit, prepaid debit card, or paper check.
Keep in mind that usually the fastest option — no matter who you use to file your taxes — is to e-file and choose direct deposit for your refund.
You can also decide to apply your refund to next year’s taxes. Additionally, the IRS also allows you to use your refund to buy U.S. Savings Bonds. You can even use TurboTax to manage this option.
It’s also possible to use your refund to pay for your TurboTax version. However, you will be charged extra for this service.
TurboTax support options
No matter how confident you are, sometimes you just want to get a little help. Luckily, TurboTax comes with a number of support options.
And if you use one of their paid products, you even have access to CPAs and Enrolled Agents.
Searchable knowledge base and video tutorials
TurboTax offers the ability to search a knowledge base to find answers to questions. You can also watch video tutorials.
If you just have quick questions, the answers can usually be found with a fast search through TurboTax online
There is also an online community where you can ask questions of other TurboTax users. However, it’s important to note that not everyone in the community qualifies as a tax professional.
This is a live, on-screen human help feature. It’s included in the TurboTax cost if you paid for one of their versions.
Essentially, you get real-time help from a tax expert who can use one-way video. The expert sees your screen, so it’s easier for him or her to understand your situation. You can even schedule an appointment with one of them.
It’s also possible to ask for help about state taxes on top of federal taxes with a TurboTax expert. However, once you get into local taxes, or you have questions that don’t have anything to do with income taxes, you aren’t going to get much help.
If you have the Federal Free version, and you still want to talk with someone, you can pay $29.99 for an add-on package.
Facing an audit? The good news is that you get limited audit no matter which version you get. Audit support allows you get help to prepare for an audit. In many cases, your audit can be handled through the mail.
TurboTax will help you find the information you need to answer the audit letter. Additionally, you can also get help preparing for an in-person audit.
This isn’t the same thing as having TurboTax provide you with representation when dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). With support, you get help as you represent yourself.
If you want TurboTax to defend you and act as your representative to the IRS, you will need to pay $44.99 when you file. TurboTax doesn’t allow you to choose this option after you file, so you need to decide if you’re willing to risk it.
See for yourself if TurboTax is right for you
Chances are that you will pay more for TurboTax than for other tax preparation software. However, it still often costs less than paying an accountant to prepare your taxes.
Plus, the TurboTax cost includes a number of features that you might not get elsewhere. And its user interface makes TurboTax one of the easiest ways to prepare your own taxes this year.