TurboTax review: easiest to use, but not the cheapest tax software

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  • TurboTax offers four basic tax-filing products, including a completely free option for simple tax situations.
  • TurboTax isn’t the cheapest option around, but it offers a good overall experience with excellent customer support — and it’s less expensive than a professional tax preparer.
  • If you are comfortable using a computer, TurboTax makes it easy to enter your tax forms and can handle even complex tax situations.
  • Self-employed filers who use QuickBooks to keep track of business expenses will find TurboTax especially valuable.
  • Use TurboTax on Tax Day 2020 and get your maximum refund »

While many people dread tax season, I find it to be an exciting time of year. I get a flurry of forms and documents telling me how much money I made over the course of a year, and I fill in the pieces of the puzzle that summarize an entire year’s finances in one place.

But unlike my favorite 1,000-piece puzzle, the puzzle of my taxes comes together on my computer. And I don’t do it alone. For the third year in a row, I’m using TurboTax for my taxes and suggest the same to many others.

TurboTax is the biggest and most popular tax preparation software, handling a solid 30% of electronic filings. Here’s a look at how it works, what it costs, and if it could make sense for your tax needs.

For most tax situations, TurboTax does a great job of covering your needs. I’m a self-employed freelance writer with a mortgage, bank interest, investment accounts, and other complexities, but I feel confident doing my taxes myself with TurboTax.

Some people with simple taxes may find other options cheaper, and some people might just feel better paying an accountant to do their taxes for them.

You might like filing with TurboTax if you:

  • Qualify for $0 federal and state filing 
  • Have a complex tax situation and need help navigating deductions and forms
  • Want step-by-step guidance
  • Want the ability to upgrade for instant access to an expert who can review your tax return for accuracy before you submit
  • Use QuickBooks to keep track of business expenses

You might not like filing with TurboTax if you:

  • Are looking for the cheapest e-filing option

 

TurboTax

Editor’s Rating4.75 out of 5Review summary

TurboTax is most comparable to H&R Block. It’s slightly more expensive but offers a high-quality user interface and is especially valuable for self-employed filers who use QuickBooks integration.

Cost

$0 – $170

Details

  • 4 different product tiers.
  • Completely free option for simple tax situations at any income level.
  • Mobile-friendly.
  • Upgradeable for instant access to a CPA or enrolled agent.

Next steps

Learn more on TurboTax’s website »

TurboTax is made by Mountain View, California-based Intuit. Also the owner of financial apps Mint and QuickBooks, Intuit is a recognized name in financial software.

TurboTax offers online and desktop versions of its software, with different prices depending on your tax filing needs. More on the cost and features of each version below. You can also log in and work on your taxes with the TurboTax mobile app for Android and iOS devices.

Like other tax programs, TurboTax is driven by a series of questions and answers about your household, income, and opportunities for deductions and credits. In addition to answering these questions, you’ll need to add information from your employer, other income sources, and 1099, 1098, W-2, and other tax forms that may show up in your mailbox or inbox.

If you follow the directions and enter everything correctly, you should end up with accurate taxes just as if you went to a more expensive professional tax preparer.

TurboTax online offers four versions depending on your unique tax needs. With all versions, you can start and enter your information for free. You only pay at the end when filing your federal and state tax returns. You can also buy desktop versions for Windows and Mac computers via CD or download.

  • Free Edition: $0. The Free Edition charges $0 for federal and state returns for the most basic filing needs. It covers W-2 income, limited 1099 interest and dividends, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but doesn’t allow itemizing your deductions.
  • Deluxe: $60. Intuit claims this is the most popular version of its software. It includes everything in the free edition plus the option to itemize your taxes and enter mortgage interest.
  • Premier: $90. Investors, including rental property owners, will want TurboTax Premier. This version even allows you to auto-import your investment data directly from many popular banks and brokerages.
  • Self-Employed: $120. If you own a business, including a side hustle, you’ll want TurboTax Self-Employed. It covers credits and deductions related to businesses including rideshare drivers, freelancers, and other small businesses. This includes a free subscription to QuickBooks for expense tracking, or easy integration if you already have an account.

Extra costs and fees apply in these situations:

  • State filing. If you live in one of the majority of states that require you to do state income taxes as well, you’ll have to pay an additional $50 per state. If you lived or worked in more than one state, you may have to pay for multiple state returns.
  • TurboTax Live. For a premium price, you can pay for instant, live access to a CPA around the clock during tax season. The additional charge varies based on the version of TurboTax you use.

TurboTax packages up the things most people need to file their taxes. While some people with very complex or unique situations may do better with the direct assistance of a tax professional, the majority of tax situations are easily covered by TurboTax.

  • Guidance for important tax forms. TurboTax tells you what you need to enter to do your taxes based on your unique circumstances. Get step-by-step guidance and directions for most tax forms.
  • Mobile version. Work on your taxes on the mobile or web versions, or switch back and forth. This isn’t available for the desktop version.
  • Easy tax form import and upload. Import many tax forms directly from banks and investment companies. With the mobile app, you can take a photo and upload supported forms. You can also upload your tax return from last year.
  • Detailed help resources. Help and support resources that answer most questions about your taxes with simple and easy-to-follow advice.
  • Option to upgrade for live support. Pay extra and you can talk to a tax professional at any time in just a few clicks.

One of the biggest complaints about TurboTax is the ease with which it attempts to upgrade users to the next-tier product, so beware of the upsell. You should also avoid paying your filing fee out of your refund, unless you’re OK with an extra $40 processing fee tacked on to your total.

If you’re looking for TurboTax’s completely free filing service, don’t go through the IRS Free File portal or you’ll be met with a $36,000 income restriction.

TurboTax can handle the vast majority of tax situations, no matter how complicated »

Tanza Loudenback contributed reporting.