Before you buy it, here’s what you need to know.
What Is TurboTax?
TurboTax was one of the first DIY tax prep software offerings. It’s been around since the 1990s, when you could have bought a CD-ROM disk and used it to fill out your forms.TurboTax is owned by Intuit, the same company that owns QuickBooks and personal finance software Mint.
Today, you can still buy the software in that physical form, but online options make it much easier to manage. With a single sign-in, you can access TurboTax across online desktop and mobile platforms, no matter what point you’re at in the process.
This TurboTax review will focus on the online version, rather than considering the desktop version. It’s one of the most complete programs, with a flow that makes you feel as though you’re sitting down and talking with a tax professional the whole way through.
Who Is TurboTax Good For?
TurboTax is for those who want a little more handholding from their DIY tax prep software. It’s the most feature-rich among options, and it’s one of the easiest to use. If you’re a filer looking for a better value, and you don’t need as many frills, consider cheaper software, such as TaxAct.
However, TurboTax can also be good for a confident tax filer who is pretty sure they can handle a complex tax situation without paying for an accountant — as long as they have some help. Even with the high cost, TurboTax is still less expensive, in many cases, than hiring a CPA to do your taxes for you.
|Small Business Features|
|Audit Assistance Included|
|Accuracy Guarantee||Penalty and interest reimbursement|
|Filing Support||Online knowledge base|
TurboTax Plans and Pricing
As with many tax prep programs, TurboTax bases its pricing and products on the complexity of your tax situation and the circumstances you’re in. Some of the things you can expect with TurboTax include:
- Complete integration with QuickBooks, since both are owned by Intuit
- Sidebar navigation keeps you updated on the process and lets you know what you’re missing
- Easy import of W-2 information and previous year’s tax return
- Maximum refund guarantee
- 100% accuracy guarantee — or TurboTax will pay IRS penalties
- CompleteCheck, which reviews your return before you file
- Extensive knowledge section, including online video tutorials
As with many other tax programs, you start by selecting items that reflect your tax situation, including dependents, businesses, investments, and more. You can start the process for free and pay only when you file.
Federal Return: $0
|Like most other tax prep software, TurboTax offers a free version for those with the simplest of tax situations. Import your W-2 or last year’s 1040 to get started. As long as you don’t need much beyond child credits and EIC, this edition can help.
If you want live help, you can get TurboTax Live Basic, which gives you on-demand live help online and a review of your form before you file. As of February 2021, TurboTax Live Basic is free, with state filing included. Live Full Service, a product where tax experts file for you, is $100 for federal filing and an additional $40 for state filing.
Either way, though, you won’t be able to itemize deductions using Schedule A.
Federal Return: $40
|With the Deluxe version, you can file a Schedule A, and TurboTax will help you sort through more than 350 tax credits and deductions. It also comes with special help for homeowners interested in claiming related benefits. Deluxe also has ItsDeductible, which is a standalone app that can help you get the values of donated household items, clothing and more. If you want to add TurboTax Live, add another $130 to the cost; Live Full Service will run a minimum of $220.|
Federal Return: $70
|This is the version to get if you have rental property and/or investments. You’ll get everything that comes with the Deluxe version (including ItsDeductible, with over 400 credits and deductions), plus the ability to add a layer of complexity to your tax situation. This version can also handle transactions related to cryptocurrencies. If you want to add TurboTax Live, your cost will be another $200; Full Service is $280.|
Federal Return: $90
|As you might suspect, this version is meant for those who are self-employed or work as contractors. You can get personalized suggestions based on your industry, as well as get help with tax issues that arise when you work as a rideshare driver. Plus, it integrates with Square, Uber and Lyft, and UberEats with over 450 tax deductions. You'll have the ability to track mileage from your phone and store photos of needed receipts. Adding TurboTax Live will cost another $230, while Full Service offerings run $310.|
Tax Refund Options
You can get access to a number of tax refund options, which is common when you use DIY tax prep software.
- Direct deposit into your checking, savings, brokerage or IRA account
- Paper check
- Applying to next year’s taxes
- Buying U.S. savings bonds
You can also pay for your tax prep with your refund, but you’ll be charged an extra fee — on top of the cost of the actual tax prep itself. The exact fee is not specified, as it depends on your specific circumstances and if you use any add-ons.
As you can see, TurboTax is among the most expensive services. Prices change regularly as well, but you don’t have to pay until you finish your return and TurboTax has determined which product you’re actually using (as opposed to the one you started with).
How to Sign Up
Creating a regular sign-in can allow you to access TurboTax across platforms (desktop and mobile), as well as set you up to use the service multiple years. Once you have a TurboTax account, the previous year’s information can be used to easily start subsequent tax returns.
Your TurboTax sign-in can also be used across other Intuit products, so you’ll be eligible to buy QuickBooks products and use Mint. You provide an email address, pick a user ID, share your phone number, and create a password. You can verify your account using email or text message.
Once that’s done, you’re taken to your tax home page, where you can begin the process. It’s fairly simple and straightforward and lets you get started quickly.
The ability to upload a PDF copy of your 1040 from last year is a nice way to begin populating information. Plus, you can synchronize your use between mobile and desktop seamlessly.
Finally, other DIY tax prep software can sync with QuickBooks, but this integration is stronger with TurboTax since they are both owned by Intuit. This can help you move quicker through your tax return if you use QuickBooks for business.
You can get the mobile app for iPhone or Android. You can sign in and use the app to snap images of important documents and even file your taxes on a tablet or phone. If you’re using ItsDeductible, realize that it’s a separate app. You can use the app and connect it to your account, allowing you to track deductions all through the year and import the information to TurboTax.
There’s a huge online community for TurboTax, allowing you to ask questions of fellow filers and other TurboTax users. There’s also a searchable knowledgebase with video tutorials. You can even use Alexa to check your refund status.
If you want on-demand live help with screen share, though, you need to sign up for TurboTax Live. It can get expensive.
However, with the flow of information inside TurboTax as you prepare your taxes, and the extensive knowledge database, unless your tax situation is super complex, there’s not a lot of reason to pay for TurboTax Live.
TurboTax Pros & Cons
Step-by-step help with your tax return—You get helpful information every step of the way with your tax return. For most people, the information provided in the program is enough to accurately fill out their taxes.
Integration with QuickBooks—For business owners, the ability to easily import QuickBooks is a bonus.
Talk with tax professionals—For a fee, you can speak with tax professionals, including CPAs and Enrolled Agents, about your tax return and have them review it for you.
Easy navigation—Using TurboTax is intuitive and simple. Everything flows, and it’s easy to see where you are in the process.
Mobile options—Plenty of mobile options to help you on the go. They easily sync with your desktop.
High prices—All of the products are higher priced than many competing products. You’ll pay a lot more when you use TurboTax.
Extra fee for using your refund to pay—You can have the cost of your tax prep deducted from your refund, but you’ll be stuck paying an extra fee.
You don’t know your cost until later—Your final price won’t be revealed until you’re done going through the process and are asked to pay, based on which features you used.
TurboTax Live is expensive—Like everything else about TurboTax, this feature is very expensive. Even if you get help on the free version, you’ll pay a steep price.