TurboTax is the most popular tax filing program, and with the many different options available, there’s a fit for most anyone. It was the top-rated, best-selling tax software last year, and is likely to continue that trend. With the clean, streamlined design and step-by-step interview, this program is a great choice for novices, but does also offer support for more advanced tax situations.
With multiple apps, including a full-featured iPad app that supports all the versions, TurboTax is a product that has kept up with the times.
- Biggest Refund Guaranteed. TurboTax guarantees it will get you “the biggest refund you’re entitled to.” If you use another tax preparation method and get a bigger refund, TurboTax will refund your money.
- 100% Accurate Calculations Guaranteed. If TurboTax makes a math error, it pays the IRS penalty and interest (though not any taxes that are due as a result of the error).
- Free Audit Support. You’re entitled to free one-on-one guidance from a tax pro to understand your IRS letter, how to prepare for an IRS meeting, and year-round answers to your audit questions. For a fee, TurboTax can send someone to meet with the IRS for you.
- Helpful Charitable Donations Guide. The built in program “ItsDeductible” provides the values for more than 1,000 donated items to get you the fullest value for your donations – but to access it, you must purchase the Deluxe, Premier, or Home & Business versions.
- Assesses Medical Deductions Eligibility. TurboTax automatically helps you determine whether you qualify for medical expense deductions (so you can quickly see whether it’s worth calculating all those receipts).
- Always See Your Current Total Refund. On the sidebar, at every step of the way, you can see where you stand with your refund or what you owe. This can be a helpful and interesting way to see how each step affects your refund.
- Easy to Understand. TurboTax’s plain-English style and one-question-at-a-time format are easy to understand and make things simpler for first-time or nervous filers.
- Prioritizes Items for You. TurboTax highlights the items most people are likely to need, such as entering a W-2, or figuring out deductions for children. Other items are available and easy to access, but you won’t need to go through all of them.
- State Taxes Are a Snap. You can do federal and state taxes at the same time without needing to input information twice. State taxes are extremely simple, and ask only the necessary questions. (Each state tax return is an additional $36.99, however.)
- Unlimited Federal Returns. You can do as many federal returns as you want, with five free federal e-files included, so you can prepare federal taxes for multiple members of the family without paying an additional fee. If you want to file more than five returns online, you can print the additional ones and file by mail.
- Do Your Taxes on Your iPad. TurboTax has a full-featured iPad app available. Simply download the app for free, then pay to upgrade to the version you need.
- File Quickly With SnapTax. If you only have a W-2 or otherwise have very simple taxes, you might be able to file on your mobile device using their new app SnapTax, which allows you to take a picture of your W-2, then file your federal taxes for free and state for $14.99.
- Don’t Pay Until You File. You can start all returns (with the exclusion of the Business edition) for free, and you don’t need to pay until you are ready to file. If you have items that are only addressed in a more expensive version, it will prompt you to upgrade at that time. You won’t be asked to pay until the very end, and you can use your refund to pay your tax prep fees (though you’ll be charged an extra fee of $29.99 on top of the tax prep fees to do so).
- Clean, Streamlined Design. The bright, simple design keeps the screen uncluttered and helps you focus. The question-and-answer interview breaks down data entry into one question per page to keep things simple. Often, you only need to enter one piece of data per page.
- Live Support Available. Free technical and tax question support is available with all online versions.
- See Answers to Others’ Tax Questions. TurboTax’s help system shows questions from real people with answers from tax experts. This can help you find answers to questions more easily and quickly.
- Multiple Access Options. TurboTax is available for download, on a CD, or as an iPad app.
- Transfer or Import Your Info. You can store information from year to year, and the software also allows you to import some prior year’s tax forms from H&R Block or TaxACT. Or, you can look up your W-2’s using TurboTax’s database, which pulls from ADP, one of the largest American payroll processors.
- Audit Support Available. Lots of free support is available in case of an audit – the Audit Support Center helps you determine what to do with a letter from the IRS. You’re also entitled to free one-on-one audit support, and you can ask agents unlimited questions year-round. If you do get audited, you can also pay to have someone from a TurboTax-affiliated firm meet with the IRS on your behalf, so you don’t even have to show up.
- Military Version Available. The military version helps you answer questions specific to military life (such as how to handle combat pay), and it is free for personnel in ranks E1 through E5.
- Get a Bonus on Your Refund. If you choose to receive some of your refund as an Amazon gift card, you can get an additional 5% to 10%, depending on the version you file with. (That is, if you elect to get $100 of your refund as an Amazon gift card, you’ll actually receive a card worth either $105 or $110). Free and Basic filers receive 5%, and all other get 10% extra.
- Useful, Free Apps. Additional apps are available to help you check your refund status, estimate your refund, and track deductions year-round as soon as you incur them, to be automatically imported into your TurboTax account at tax time.
- Can’t Transfer From iPad App. If you use the iPad app, reviewers indicated that you can’t switch from the iPad app to the online version – you’re stuck using one or the other.
- Can Be Slow. The system of being asked one question at a time is simple, but the many screens required to get through one section can become tedious if you know what you’re doing or have more complicated taxes.
- Annoying Reminders. TurboTax really wants you to know about the many methods by which you can obtain help – through popups, interstitial screens, and lots of reminders. However, it takes a few clicks to access the live tax help; most of the links are to internal help pages and questions asked by other users.
- May Prompt Unnecessary Upgrades. If you look at the guides on TurboTax’s website, they will tell you that you should upgrade to a higher version than you probably need. For example, the Basic version can handle mortgage deductions, but the website will tell you that homeowners should use the Deluxe version.
- Hidden Fees. Taking advantage of the offer to pay your TurboTax fees with your federal refund nets you a $29.99 processing fee.
- Not Intuitive for Complicated Taxes. It’s very easy to do a simple tax return, but if you have more complicated taxes, it can be difficult to find the proper forms to input additional information. TurboTax is especially great for simple taxes, but can be annoying for more advanced filers.
- CD Filers Pay for Live Advice. Live tax advice is only available for free if you use the online version. If you buy the downloadable or CD versions, a fee applies (though the exact amount of this fee is not disclosed).
- Help Answers Are Not Exhaustive. If you need more in-depth assistance than what is offered by the help section, you might need to find another resource. Also, many of the help files are questions asked by other users, who may not have checked their spelling (much less their capitalization) before entering – adding these to the permanent help files looks rather unprofessional.
The TurboTax website has a guide that asks you several simple questions to help you determine the best package for your needs. Each edition can only take you so far if you have to claim items such as self-employment taxes or investments, but if you tell the software you need to enter something else, it prompts you to upgrade.
The prices listed below are for federal taxes only, and a price increase may occur closer to the tax filing deadline. State fees are $36.99 per state form.
This version is strictly for those who have a straightforward filing status, such as those who are entitled to use the 1040EZ. It doesn’t include most of the schedules (such as Schedule A, for itemizing deductions, or Schedule C, for small businesses) – it only includes Schedule B (for interest and dividends), Schedule R (for the elderly or disabled), and Schedule EIC (to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit).
If you have a W-2 and a couple kids, this will work for you. But if you own a home, have capital gains, or received a 1099-MISC, you need to upgrade to Basic. You also can’t import prior year returns, access the tax return in later years, or import your W-2.
Basic – $19.99 (for a limited time)
This version supports the most commonly used schedules (A, B, C-EZ, EIC, H, R, and SE), but does not provide any advanced tools such as the ItsDeductible charitable donations maximizer. You can file a Schedule C-EZ (for self-employment or freelance income), but not a full schedule C. If you run a small business and want to use schedule C, you need to upgrade to Home & Business.
This version also allows you to access your tax returns at any time over the years after you file them, whereas the free edition doesn’t offer that ability. It also offers the ability to import your W-2. However, it doesn’t include support for the tax forms needed to report capital gains and other investments. This version is sufficient for many people with a W-2 job, a house, and common deductions, but doesn’t offer the additional help that many people turn to TurboTax to receive.
Deluxe – $29.99 (for a limited time)
The Deluxe version is the most popular version, offering support for everything in the Basic version, plus calculators and advice to maximize charitable deductions for goods, stocks, mileage, and home improvement deductions, such as new energy-efficient windows. It also offers more help with tuition and education-related deductions, as well as showing you your Audit Risk Meter, a tool that tells you what your overall risk of an IRS audit might be, and which parts of your return could be increasing your risk of an audit.
However, it doesn’t allow you to file a Schedule C, Schedule D, or many investment-related forms. If you want a little more hand-holding, this version does that – but otherwise, it doesn’t support much more than the Basic version.
Premier – $49.99 (for a limited time)
The Premier version includes everything featured in the Free and Deluxe editions, but also provides forms for investments such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and rental property. This version also includes more business-related forms such as the home office deduction; however, it still doesn’t include the full Schedule C.
Premier can help you calculate gains and losses on your investments, import information on your investments from participating financial institutions, search for tax-saving rental property deductions, and track employee stock plan purchases. It can help you keep track of your investments’ cost basis, assist with mortgage refinancing deductions, and help you set up new rental properties, among many other items. It also includes support for schedule D (capital gains) and schedule K-1 (estates and trusts). Using the tools in this version from year to year can help cut down on your data entry time, since it transfers information such as cost basis and rental property locations from one year to the next.
Home & Business – $74.99 (for a limited time)
This edition is for those who are sole proprietors, consultants, contractors, or the single owner of an LLC. If you need to file a Schedule C in order to deduct your business expenses, you need to upgrade to this version. It includes everything in the Free, Deluxe, and Premier editions, and also includes tools to guide you on where to deduct your business expenses on Schedule C to help you get the biggest deductions for your business.
It also looks for deductions specific to your industry, provides advice on asset depreciation, and helps you prepare 1099s and W-2s for your employees or independent contractors. This edition is great for those with a small business, and it helps you maximize deductions on your personal taxes too, with tools for reporting charitable goods donations, home improvements, and more. This edition handles pretty much every form there is (except for farming income and foreign bank account reporting).
Business – $149.99
If you run an S corporation, partnership, C corporation, or multi-owner LLC, you need to upgrade to the Business version. While Home & Business is sufficient for single-person small businesses, those with more complex business arrangements need the extra forms support and guidance this version provides. It can produce not only unlimited W-2s and 1099-MISC forms, but also Schedule K-1 forms and 1099-DIVs.
Using QuickBooks during the year can make tax time very simple, as this version of TurboTax imports and categorizes all of your expenses. It includes all the features of lesser editions, and can also help business owners get the most deductions possible with tools to help categorize business expenses to get the biggest deduction. TurboTax Business is only available by download or on CD.
Military – Free or $24.99
Free federal and state filing is available for active-duty or reservist personnel in ranks E1 through E5 ($24.99 federal and $36.99 state for ranks E6+ and officers). Essentially, this version is the Deluxe version with some specific questionnaires to help you handle military-related items, such as combat pay and military-related job equipment deductions. The Military edition also helps you determine your state of residency if you’ve moved a lot. This is a great option for military members because many items in a military family’s tax situation aren’t handled in a normal tax program.
Whether you are filing a 1040EZ or for a multi-member LLC, TurboTax has a product that can support all the forms you need. The only major downside is that Schedule C filers must upgrade all the way to the expensive Home & Business version just to deduct some postage or fliers.
TurboTax is the online choice of most tax e-filers. It is easy to use, and can help you understand some of the more difficult areas such as deductions and corporate tax elements. For the majority of tax filers whose situation isn’t all that complex, it can get you through the process quickly and with a minimum of stress. The interface has been redesigned with a cleaner, simpler look, and the format is very easy to follow.
Looking to file your taxes online using a different service? See a comprehensive comparison of TurboTax vs TaxACT vs H&R Block.