You can tell by its name that TurboTax aims to provide a quick online tax filing experience, but as a subsidiary of software giant Intuit, it also provides online tax preparation that is, not surprisingly, entirely intuitive. TurboTax offers more packages than most of their competitors, with the added advantage of enabling users to purchase the software on CD if they so desire.
Founded on: October 1983
Headquarters: Mountain View, CA
TurboTax offers several different tax software options that are suitable for both individuals and small business owners. Several of TurboTax's plans are available in an online version and a CDE/downloadable version, offering users the utmost felxibility to file in manner that works bes for them.
|Online Version||CD/Downloadable Version||Optional State Filing Fee|
|Deluxe||$29.99||$59.95 + S&H||$36.99|
|Home & Business||$74.99||$99.99 + S&H||$39.95|
TurboTax offers a range of features that simplify the online tax preparation process. Among our favorite features are built-in tools that search for the maximum allowance credits and deductions that can save you money. Those who use TurboTax can also enjoy direct deposit of refunds (when applicable), electronic filing (with a confirmation receipt) and assistance from a professional tax preparer for an additional fee. We also appreciated that TurboTax offers free online tax filing for federal reports (though users should note that TurboTax's paid services may offer a more favorable calculation of tax deductions). Other useful extras include a tax preparation library to help explain the process and a constant prompter that informs users of their refund or amount owed as they fill out the questions. Small business owners may appreciate that TurboTax seamlessly imports data from popular accounting software such as Quicken and QuickBooks which are also products of Intuit.
|Free Service||Basic Plan||Deluxe Plan||Premier Plan||Home & Business Plan|
|Federal filing included|
|State filing included|
|Automatic transfer of information from prior year's filing|
|Real-time assistance||Phone support is for paying users only|
|Data transfer from other financial websites|
|Provides IRS forms||Some but not all|
|Measures and reduces risk of audit|
|Provides guidance for investments|
|Guide to reporting retirement income|
|Downloadable Audit Support Center|
|Coverage for all needed forms|
|Use of Education Expense Optimizer|
|Extra guidance about tax breaks, deductions and credits|
|Guidance for self-employment income|
Ease of Use
For most people with little or no accounting background, tax preparation is an overwhelming endeavor, and there's no question that TurboTax provides excellent resources to those who are new to the system. An organized interface, coupled with explanations throughout the process make online tax filing with TurboTax almost entirely straightforward. We especially appreciated the ability to try the software for free before committing, so that we could understand exactly how it worked and make sure the system was manageable before paying.
From the very beginning, TurboTax offers direct instructions with assistance available on the right sidebar when extra help is needed.
TurboTax starting screen
As you continue throughout the process, the help section adjusts itself as necessary, and various popups are available to provide relevant information and explanations without cluttering up the tax preparation screen. One thing that was specifically helpful was that all dates and other numbers were automatically filled with the proper dashes and slashes, so that no guesswork about the formatting was required to fill out the sections.
It is important to note that users who have not registered for the service will not be able to save their information until they create an account. Fortunately, TurboTax provides this prompt before users can accidentally erase their progress. It should also be noted that registration is free and that users can choose to pay at any time when they decide to submit their online tax return. We highly recommend creating a user ID immediately upon entering the TurboTax website, because you can lose your information unintentionally by leaving the site for 20 minutes or more, as evidenced in the screen shot below.
Unintentional logout from TurboTax
If you are a registered user, your information will be saved automatically after each step, and TurboTax's software will provide filing guidance relating to the information you've submitted.
Recommended filing type
Likewise, as you proceed in the process, you will be continually updated about what you owe on both the state and federal levels so that you can chart your finances during the process.
Overall, we found the online tax preparation process to be not only easy, but nearly enjoyable, when using TurboTax, as we could see throughout the process that we were inputting the information correctly. And, in the times we weren't, help was only a click away.
If you're nervous about getting audited, you can choose to pay $39.95 for TurboTax's supplemental Audit Defense service which is run in conjunction with TaxResources. This service must be purchased before the audit is commenced, and is relevant only to returns filed on time. Through Audit Defense, a team of tax professionals will try to resolve the audit on your behalf so that you don't have to worry about it. Those who filed their online tax return late can contact the company for assistance.
Free audit support is also available for all users of TurboTax personal tax products, but does not cover TurboTax products for businesses. This service helps filers understand why they've been contacted and to plan their next steps in the process.
In addition to Audit Defense services, TurboTax offers several supplemental services which are available for an additional fee. A review of your tax return by an industry professional is available for by phone with the Ask a Tax Expert for $29.95 for 20 minutes (and $19.95 for an additional 20 minutes if necessary). With the company's Pro Review Service, which costs $39.95, you can set an appointment with a tax professional who will review your filing (which you send them), and will direct you on how to correct any changes before filing your returns.
In light of the company's extremely easy tax preparation service, we were surprised to see that TurboTax's chat support was somewhat hidden on the site. Still, once we found it, we did get a response after less than a minute of hold time.
- Extremely easy to use
- Active online community is helpful for assistance
- Knowledgebase assistance and helpful explanations every step of the way
- More expensive than other services
- It takes many steps to find the company's phone and chat contact information