Rating as of based on a review of services March 1, 2023.
TurboTax offers the best in tax software. While its pricing is higher than competitors, TurboTax does provide services for every tax situation. Plus, the software is incredibly easy to use.
- Self-employed taxpayers
- Affordable access to tax experts
- Ease of use
If you’re investigating tax software, TurboTax is an excellent option to start with. It’s the most popular tax preparation software available, which speaks volumes about its quality. But one of the reasons why it’s the most popular is because it’s so easy to use. Even if you’ve never prepared an income tax return yourself, you can do it with TurboTax. There’s nothing intimidating about the software — it’s totally user friendly.
I’ve been using TurboTax to prepare my own tax returns for the past several years, so I feel strongly that this is the go-to tax preparation software package.
Pros & cons
- Options for every return — It offers a software plan even for the most complex tax return.
- It's easy — Probably the easiest filing you'll ever do.
- W-2 — There's a W-2 upload option.
- Cost — The pricing is higher than competing tax software.
How does TurboTax work?
TurboTax works using a basic question-and-answer format. It breaks down each section of your return sequentially — general information, tax filing status, income, deductions, and credits.
Only when you’re completely satisfied that the information is accurate will you actually file your return. In addition to e-file filing your return, TurboTax also enables you to save and print copies for your records.
Once you e-file your return, TurboTax will notify you by email that it has been accepted by the IRS. This usually happens within one or two days, but it could even be an hour or so. They also offer a “Where’s My Refund?” tool that enables you to track the progress of your refund.
TurboTax has four plans, each with three different levels of tax support – DIY, Live, and Full Service.
- DIY gives you access to the software and tech support but does not give you access to a tax professional.
- Live gives you unlimited access to a tax pro so you can ask all the tax questions you need.
- Full Service allows you to just hand your taxes off to a tax expert and they will do your taxes for you.
It’s important to note that you don’t pay until you are done with your taxes and ready to file. So you can start with the cheapest plan and upgrade as you go if needed.
The prices are as follows:
|TurboTax Free Edition|
For simple tax returns only
|$0 for federal+ $0 for state||$89 for both federal and state together||$209 for federal+ $54 for each state|
|TurboTax Deluxe||$59 for federal+ $59 for each state return||$129 for federal+ $64 for each state return||$259 for federal+ $64 for each state return|
|TurboTax Premier||$89 for federal+ $59 for each state return||$179 for federal+ $64 for each state return||$369 for federal+ $64 for each state return|
|TurboTax Self-Employed||$119 for federal+ $59 for each state return||$209 for federal+ $64 for each state return||$399 for federal+ $64 for each state return|
TurboTax Free Edition
TurboTax Free is for simple tax returns only and not all tax payers will qualify.
To qualify for the free edition your taxes can include:
- W-2 income
- Limited interest and dividend income
- Standard deduction
- Child tax credits
- Earned income tax credit
TurboTax Free Edition features
- Snap. Tap. Done. You can input your W2 information by snapping a picture with your mobile device or you can use the automatic download feature enabling you to import W2 information from many large employers.
- 50% done in a click. If you filed with TurboTax last year, your information will automatically be transferred to this year’s tax return. You can also import a PDF file of last year’s return from other major tax preparation services.
Deluxe is designed for filing Form 1040, including itemized deductions and business income if you don’t have expenses. This means it’s good for homeowners, those who want to itemize, and freelancers.
However, it cannot be used if you’re self-employed or have rental properties.
TurboTax Deluxe features
TurboTax Deluxe comes with all the features of the Free Edition, plus some more:
- Deduction Finder. TurboTax will help you find the deductions you qualify for.
- Includes tax credits for dependents such as the Child and Dependent Care Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit.
TurboTax Premier is for more complicated returns that include investments and rental properties. You’ll want this version if you bought or sold stocks, bonds, employee stock plans, and other investment income.
TurboTax Premier features
It comes with all the features of TurboTax Deluxe, but adds the following:
- Import investment information. TurboTax automatically imports investment information from thousands of participating financial institutions. If you’re an active trader, you’ll really appreciate this feature.
- Find your cost basis. TurboTax offers three easy steps to help you discover your accurate purchase price for securities sold during the year.
- Set up new rental properties. TurboTax will take you through all the steps of setting new properties, and even determine fair market rent value on the property. It will also enable you to set up rental property depreciation, so that you’ll get the biggest tax deduction possible.
- Accounts for gains and losses from cryptocurrency transactions.
TurboTax Self-Employed is available for anyone who has self-employment income and business expenses.
TurboTax Self-Employed features
The Self-Employed Edition comes with all the features of the Premier Edition, but adds the following specifically for businesses:
- Industry-specific deductions. Every business has deductible expenses unique to its industry. TurboTax will help you to identify deductions you might miss. That includes expenses specific to real estate, rideshare, web design, creative and performing arts, construction, and other industries.
- Vehicle tax deduction. Automatically determines if you should use the standard mileage deduction or actual expenses. That will give you the biggest possible deduction for your vehicle expense.
- Employee tax forms. You can prepare an unlimited number of W2s and 1099s for both your employees and contractors. That’ll be a big advantage if you don’t use a payroll service.
- Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction guidance.
Read our full review of TurboTax Self-Employed.
My experience using TurboTax
I’ve been using TurboTax to prepare my tax return and several others for the past few years. Having used professional-grade tax software, TurboTax stacks up as being comparable in capabilities, but a good bit more user friendly.
You don’t need to have any experience preparing taxes, because the program will guide you through the entire process. Even on the most complicated returns, you’ll have access to everything you need to get the job done.
TurboTax is just one step short of having a tax expert prepare your tax return. And in fact, if you add the TurboTax Live feature to your plan, you’ll have live access to a tax expert to help you prepare your return. The main difference is that it will cost hundreds less than you’ll pay for an independent tax expert.
100% Accurate Calculation Guarantee
If you pay a penalty to the IRS or your state due to a TurboTax error, TurboTax will pay both the penalty and interest.
With each edition, there is an additional option for preparing and filing your state tax return. Paid versions start at an extra $54 per state.
Audit Support Guarantee
Each TurboTax return entitles you to free one-on-one audit guidance from a trained tax professional. They won’t represent you in the audit, but they can explain the issue and help you prepare for it.
If you need direct representation, you can purchase TurboTax’s Audit Defense feature. It will be like having a tax professional in your corner. Audit Defense is available at an additional cost. This service is provided by a third party service called “TaxAudit”.
You can learn more about the service here.
If you’re a QuickBooks user you can import information directly from QuickBooks into TurboTax. It will simplify both documentation collection and tax preparation, particularly if you’re self-employed or have rental real estate.
TurboTax military benefit
The Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed versions of TurboTax Online are free for enlisted, active duty military and reserve members.
Who is TurboTax good for?
Those with somewhat complicated taxes
TurboTax will work best for taxpayers who have a tax situation that ranges between moderately complicated and very complicated.
The Premier and Self-Employed versions are specifically designed to help those with significant investment activities or small businesses. The self-employed edition can even help a small business that has employees.
Those looking to work with professionals while still filing online
Each version of TurboTax also offers premium upgrades that can be critical to someone with a more complicated tax situation. The Audit Defense program gives you representation in the event of an IRS audit.
Then there’s TurboTax Live, which enables you to work directly with a tax expert. You can start doing your tax return on your own, but if you reach a point where you realize you can’t go any further, the services of a tax professional are available to help you complete your return. The remote access that the tax professional will have will be the equivalent of having that person working right across the table from you.
Who isn’t TurboTax good for?
Those looking for the cheapest software
TurboTax isn’t the least expensive tax preparation software. For example, TaxSlayer’s Self-Employed edition is about $60 less than what TurboTax charges for its self-employed plan.
TurboTax vs. competitors
TaxAct, Liberty Tax, and H&R Block each offer their software at lower prices. Each also has similar features to what’s offered by TurboTax, but TurboTax seems to be a bit more advanced in each of its services.
Here are some brief bulleted summaries of the differences between TurboTax and six competitors.
Cash App Taxes
- Free version: Yes (state included)
- Paid plans: N/A
- Customer support: Phone or in-app chat support Mon-Fri, 9 a.m to 7 p.m.
Open a Cash App account or learn more by reading our full Cash App Taxes review.
- Free version: Yes (state included)
- Paid plans: Classic: $19.95; Premium: $39.95; Self-Employed: $49.95; State: additional $39.95
- Customer support: Email, chat, and phone support (hours vary by season)
File with TaxSlayer or learn more by reading our full TaxSlayer review.
Liberty Tax Online
- Free version: No free version
- Paid plans: Basic: $55.95; Deluxe: $75.95; Premium: $95.95; State: additional $36.95
- Customer support: In-office, phone, or email support
File with Liberty Tax Online or learn more by reading our full Liberty Tax Online review.
- Free version: For simple tax returns (includes state)
- Paid plans: Deluxe: $55; Premium: $75; Self-Employed: $110; State: additional $37
- Customer support: Chat, phone, and brick-and-mortar branch support (hours vary by season)
Open an account with H&R Block or read our full H&R Block review.
- Free version: For federal tax returns ($39.95 per state filed)
- Paid plans: Deluxe: $24.95; Premier: $34.95; Self-Employed: $64.95; State: additional $44.99
- Customer support: Phone support (hours vary by season)
- Free version: Free federal returns, $29.99 for state
- Paid plans: Deluxe: $27.99; Premier: $49.99; State: $29.99
- Customer support: Support over email. Paid versions include phone and online support
Read more: Compare the best tax software options
TurboTax is the most popular tax software, likely because it has so many different options, and can deal with even the most complicated tax situations.
People who are self-employed, or have rental real estate income obviously have complicated returns, and TurboTax has editions specifically designed for each. The software is also incredibly easy to use, and there are abundant resources for any questions you have.
The levels of support and direct assistance with TurboTax are unmatched among tax preparation software packages.
If TurboTax has a weakness, it’s in its cost. It’s one of the pricier services, which may not be the best option for those with very simple returns, and very limited funds. But for everyone else, TurboTax sets the industry standard.
If you’d like to get more information, or you’d like to order one of the four TurboTax editions, check out TurboTax.