TurboTax Review: Is it the Best Option for You?

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Last updated on February 8, 2021 Comments: 67

TurboTax is one of the best-known tax filing software packages, having been around since the early 1980s. Over that time, it’s established a great reputation, especially for people filing their taxes for the first time, despite being a little bit more expensive than some of the alternatives.

There is a desktop version, but in this TurboTax review we’ll be looking at TurboTax online – answering the questions, “How does TurboTax work?” and the all-important, “Is TurboTax good?”

What is TurboTax?

What is TurboTax? Simply, it is software that guides you through the complicated process of filing your taxes. At its simplest – particularly in its free iteration – TurboTax software makes your taxes a lot less painful. But it also pledges to get you the largest tax refund possible, promising to save you money compared to filing your taxes by hand.

TurboTax software comes in different tiers, offering more support – and complexity – the more you pay. The free version of the TurboTax app allows for simple self-service filing, with very little support, as you work up the tiers you gain access to more complex features and greater levels of support, up to and including personalized advice from a tax professional.

Feature Highlights

How does TurboTax work? Highlights of the TurboTax app include:

  • Free self-service tax filing – Form 1040 and a limited selection of other forms and schedules.
  • Assisted tax filing – Expert advice while filing your return, and a final review before you file.
  • Tax experts service – Pay extra to get a tax expert to file your return for you.
  • Tax refund estimator – Use the TaxCaster Tax Calculator to calculate your return (or how much you owe).
  • Audit Support Guarantee – Free year-round audit support, including one-on-one guidance.
  • Federal & State Tax filing – File for Federal and State taxes directly from the TurboTax software.

Access to each feature depends on which level of TurboTax online you’re using (TurboTax rates are described under ‘How Much is TurboTax?’ below.)

TurboTax Filing Options

There are three broad TurboTax options for filing:

Q&A

The easiest route is letting TurboTax online guide you. Asking a series of questions, it will take you through each element of your tax return, your answers dictating where it takes you next.

Navigate yourself

If you’re comfortable with your taxes – and know how to use TurboTax software – you can go through each section by yourself, skipping the parts that aren’t relevant to you.

Adviser assisted

Pay a little extra and you can have a tax adviser talk you through it, or even fill out your return on your behalf.

Whichever TurboTax option you use, its automated return checker will let you know if you’ve missed anything, and you can have a tax adviser give it a final review as well.

Pros & Cons

For most people, there’s very little downside to TurboTax, but it does have some drawbacks. Here’s a quick at-a-glance TurboTax app review.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Access to human advisers
  • Guaranteed audit support
  • Maximum tax refund guaranteed

Cons:

  • You have to pay for more complex taxes
  • TurboTax rates are a little higher than its rivals

The principal drawback is cost. But if your taxes are anything like ours, TurboTax online is a worthwhile investment.

How Much is TurboTax: Packages and Plans

So how much does TurboTax cost? That depends on how you intend to use it. The table below gives a brief overview of the TurboTax options available.

Plan Free DeluxePremierSelf-Employed
CoversSimple tax returns only350+ tax deductions and credits, incl. property and mortgageStocks, bonds, ESPPs, rental income and crypto investmentsPersonal & business income
Federal Filing$0$60$90$120
Federal Expert Help$50 (State Included)$120$170$200
State Filing$0$50$50$50
State Expert Help£50 (Federal Included)$55$55$55
Expert Filing$130$200$260$290

It should be noted that the prices above are as listed, but TurboTax rates are often discounted, changing throughout the tax year. At the time of writing, state filing is $40 (rather than $50) on top of the package price. And each tier is discounted by $20-$30.

Also, if you’ve wondered ‘Is there a fee for TurboTax?’ unless you’re using the free edition, the answer is ‘yes’. The state fee is for each state you file in, which can really add up.

Where to Buy TurboTax

Wondering where to buy TurboTax? You can get it directly from their website, or retailers like Costco, Walmart, Staples, and Best Buy.

Ease of Use

Is TurboTax easy to use? Absolutely. Its ease of use is its principal benefit over competitors. If you want to control the software yourself, you can, but it’s the Q&A walkthrough interface and access to varying levels of human support that really make TurboTax shine.

Support

There are lots of TurboTax options for support, both for learning how to use TurboTax and for help with filing your return. Broadly, these fall into three camps:

Community & content

Searchable knowledge base and forums. Video tutorials and articles.

Tech support

All users can use the TurboTax Assistant chatbot, or get in touch with TurboTax via the contact form.

TurboTax Live support

Paying for TurboTax Live gets you live on-screen advice from a human tax adviser. They’ll also answer any queries within 24 hours of submission.

TurboTax online also features lots of tools to help. For example, if you’re asking, “I filed with TurboTax when will I get my refund?” there’s a refund tracker tool to check on progress after you’ve filed.

There’s also bound to be a knowledge base entry where someone’s already asked, “I filed with TurboTax when will I get my refund?”

Is there a fee for Turbotax support? Broadly, no. But of course, you pay for live tax advice.

Is TurboTax Safe?

TurboTax prides itself on safety. TurboTax online features multi-factor authentication – asking you to verify your log-in on a secondary device, your email account, or by answering a series of questions – as well as biometric touch ID if you have a fingerprint-enabled device.

You can access your log-in history at any time and receive automated emails any time your account information is changed, so you can verify it was you.

When your return is filed, it is sent over an encrypted SSL connection that exceeds IRS standards. And TurboTax has a team of dedicated security working with the IRS on anti-fraud measures.

TurboTax Online vs Brick and Mortar

When compared to an in-real-life tax adviser, is TurboTax good? We’d say so. For starters, you can walk through your return with a human adviser if you’re willing to pay for it, or even just get a professional to check over your work.

The advantage of using TurboTax online is that you can work through it at your own pace, and ask for as much – or as little – support as you like, within a clear flat-fee pricing structure. And the software should help most people through the majority of their return without the need for additional help, anyway; probably working out cheaper than hiring a high street tax advisor from the get-go.

And if you’re questioning ‘how accurate is TurboTax?’, the software and services are backed by some pretty hefty guarantees…

Is TurboTax Accurate?

How accurate is TurboTax? There’s no sense in using the software if it introduces errors. Thankfully, accuracy is a point TurboTax is particularly insistent on. All returns can be checked by their automated tool, and if there are any problems, TurboTax says they’ll pay any penalties or fees that result from inaccuracies on your return.

Similarly, TurboTax guarantees you’ll receive the maximum possible refund you could. If you can demonstrate you could have got a bigger refund using a different method of filing, they’ll pay you the difference. All of which is a pretty confident response to the question, “Is TurboTax accurate?”

Who is TurboTax Best For?

Truthfully, TurboTax software is a great option for anyone looking for a hand in making tax filing more efficient than doing it all by hand.

But it’s best for people who’ve never managed to get their heads around tax, or are just beginning to file for themselves. The comprehensive support available – automated and otherwise – is easily tailored to the level you need, with clear up-front pricing that won’t get away from you. It’s best for anyone who’s wondered ‘is Turbotax easy?’

TurboTax Alternatives

If TurboTax rates are a bit high for you, there are cheaper alternatives worth considering. The three big hitters are:

H&R Block

H&R Block offers much the same as TurboTax, at a slightly reduced price. What it lacks is the hand-holding Q&A process of TurboTax online, making it a little less suited to beginners. Read our H&R Block review.

TaxAct

Like a pared-down TurboTax. Most of the same functionality but with a slightly less user-friendly interface, pared-down audit coverage, and reputedly less comprehensive support.

E-File

The IRS’s own online filing service, E-file is the cheapest option, and can be free. There is telephone and e-support but you’re largely on your own. If you’re confident, E-File could be for you.

In the online tax filing game, you get what you pay for. TurboTax is slightly more expensive, but you get the most bang for your buck. If you need a little less bang, you can pay fewer bucks.

Bottom Line

To sum up this TurboTax app review, TurboTax is great for people who need a hand filing their taxes. In fact, it’s arguably the best on the market if support is what you need.

That said, it is a little more expensive than its competitors. So if you know your way around your tax return – and might only need to ask a couple of questions – you could save yourself money by using a different software package.

If you’re not sure exactly what you’ll need, and can afford a few extra dollars, then TurboTax is the obvious option. You’re bound to get what you need out of it.

If you’re looking for where to buy TurboTax, or want to find out more, visit the TurboTax website.

Article comments

67 comments
Anonymous says:

I have been using turbo tax for about 6 years and never had a problem. It has worked very well. This year the experience was horrible. Turbo created woksheet problems that it could not help you solve. ,For one example, it refused to efile my state return because it somehow figured that I filed tax returns in more than 1 state. I did not lead me to the point of supposed error. i went thu the forms manually and did not find where their created error occured and ended up filing by mail even though I downloaded and paid for their state program. In general the program does not work like in the past and i likely wont be using turbo agin next year.

Anonymous says:

The worst experience I’ve had with the free online tax preparation. Last year they charged me for the state tax preparation, when it should have been free. They gave me a refund. This year, 2013, I found it impossible to cut through the advertising and bate and switch schemes they used to get me to pay for the upgrade. I used another site with no trickery involved.

Anonymous says:

Buyer Beware!
TurboTax will not run on MacBooks that use the Intel Core Duo processor!!!!
Even if your OS X version is supported it does not mean it will run on your Mac!
I found out the hard way, and I am out $58 down the drain. (Can I deduct that on my 2013 return?)

Anonymous says:

i ONLY BEGAN TO TRY TURBO TAX 3 YEARS AGO. I DID NOT FILE MY RETURN WITH
THEM. I HAD PUT IN ALL MY INFORMATION AND THEY WERE NOT GIVING MY FULL REFUND. I HAVE BEEN PREPARING TAXES FORN OVER 20 YEARS AND I AM AN ATTORNEY. I WANTED TO TEST THEIR SOFTWARE—ESPECIALLY SINCE THE POINT OF TURBO TAX WAS THAT ALL YOU NEED IS THEIR SOFTWARE TO FILE AN ACCURATE RETURN. NO NEED FOR TAX EXPERTS OF ANY SORT! MY FIRST TRY WITH THE YOUR SOFTWARE AND I WOULD HAVE BEEN OUT MONEY! I GUESS THAT THEY ARE NOW GIVING INTO THE NOTION THAT YOU DO NEED MORE THAN SOFTWARE FOR AN ACCURATE TAX RETURN. LAST YEAR , I SAW MORE TURBO TAX RETURNS THAT NEEDED CORRECTING THAN EVER BEFORE. PERHAPS, THE ORIGINAL TURBO TAX PREMISE–THAT ALL YOU NEED IS THEIR SOFTWARE IS WRONG. PERHAPS YOU SHOULD HAVE RETURN LOOKED AT BY A PROFESSIONAL

Anonymous says:

I am soooo mad right now. I purchased Turbo Tax Business 2011 to file my 1120S return, and it will not calculate in my cost of goods sold figures! As you can imagine this make my net income quite high and raises my tax bill SUBSTANTIALLY. I have tried to contact Turbo Tax about this and they are unavailable….the cowards! So now I get to pay for a piece of crap software and still do my taxes by hand, which is quite laborious and time consuming! LET ME REPEAT I AM STEAMING MAD.

Anonymous says:

Jim,

Is there a way to correct this? I had my neighbor do the taxes and apparently she erred. I would very much like the refund to be deposited to my checking account. The checking account number is on the filing. Pls advise. Thanks.

Anonymous says:

My 2011 taxes were e-filed through TurboTax and I received two emails in response. One stated that my form was accepted. The other, and more problematic, stated that a third part bank had and “agreement” with TurboTax and that the IRS would be sending this third part bank my refund and that this third party bank would then take a fee from my tax return. I really question this. I’ve never experienced this before and I’ve been e-filing for years, without a third party and a third party fee. Make sure you investigate this before filing through TurboTax. Just saying.

Anonymous says:

There’s an option on one of the screens near the end of the process that allows you to specifiy how you want to receive your refund (direct deposit, IRS mailed check, third party). Somehow the third party option must have been selected.

Anonymous says:

I just tried to use your tax computation software. Nothing changed for me from last year–save I worked for 6 months in 2011 for my company (from which I am retired) thru a temp agency. I earned $26,076.82—$3924.86 withheld Fed–from them. My pension came to $33,883–withheld $3592 Fed–which is about the same thing it is every year. I even had this temp agency take out additional withholding and declared -0- dependents so I would not come up short. I got a refund of $2811 refund from Federal last year–and you tell me I’m going to get about $1200 this year from Fed. That makes sense to you??? Also, my preparer last year (retired IRS Supervisor) showed my wife and I with $28,188 in SS income–but only $9,835 of it was subject to tax. I didn’t see that from you. Not looking forward to hiring a tax return specialist for $200–but your suggestion that I am losing over $1600 in Fed refund leaves me with no choice. You, surely, can do better by future customers in my bracket.

Luke Landes says:

Reese,

I think you’ll need to contact TurboTax directly with your issue.

Anonymous says:

TurboTax is great, easy to use, easy to file, I’ve been using it for years.
One thing to note, Vanguard customers get a 25% discount using TurboTax online (could have saved yourself some money Flexo!).
I’m curious to know (and if you checked) if there was a difference between what your return was from using TurboTax compared to what your accountant figured out??

Anonymous says:

how do you provide proof that you are a vanguard customer?

Anonymous says:

You can access TurboTax through Vanguard’s homepage, it asks you to log in to your Vanguard account, it then redirects to TurboTax’s website and the discounts are applied automatically.

Anonymous says:

We have a multi-member LLC and I used TurboTax for Business with good results.

Anonymous says:

Turbo Tax is great. Have used it since late ’90s.

Anonymous says:

Can the tax information be saved to my documents? I do not have a printer.

Anonymous says:

Following you on FB @ Lynn Dutt

Anonymous says:

I used this software last year and I was happy with it, was easy to use and fast.

Anonymous says:

TTAx has a Business edition that will cover LLC’s, Trusts, etc. The downside is that it does NOT include personal income tax returns, so you have to buy TWO versions each year. I truly don’t understand why they don’t just include the personal and charge a little more for it, so that the data would be coordinated.

Anonymous says:

I tweeted here: http://twitter.com/#!/anashct/status/38768956651216896
anashct [at] yahoo [dot] com

Anonymous says:

I follow flexo on twitter @anashct
anashct [at] yahoo [dot] com

Anonymous says:

turbo tax makes life easyy as pie!

Anonymous says:

Already following you on Twitter as @sazzyfrazzy. Tweeted here: http://twitter.com/sazzyfrazzy/status/38045440301604864
sazzyfrazz at gmail dot com

Anonymous says:

I like you on FB and left a comment on the giveaway post!
sazzyfrazz at gmail dot com

Anonymous says:

I ‘ve been using Turbo Tax since about 1998, I believe! I love it!
sazzyfrazz at gmail dot com

Anonymous says:

I’ve used turbotax for many years. I like the way it preloads the necessary data from the previous year. Saves a lot of typing

Anonymous says:

I use turbotax for years and it helps me make less mistakes.

Anonymous says:

I have used turbotax for the last several years. I agree with your comments.

Anonymous says:

Good writeup. I’ve been using TurboTax for years. Even though I hate doing my taxes, their software makes it very easy. By the way, are you sure you didn’t adopt a child? 😉

Anonymous says:

Thanks for the giveaway…. I commented, tweeted, followed and “liked” ….. Happy tax Season!

Anonymous says:

Oh boy, pick me, pick me!

Anonymous says:

TurboTax has helped me significantly, especially the Premier edition which helps me with my personal returns and trying to navigate my tax situation based on investments and my ownership stake in a business. One of the best products, if not the best, out there.

Anonymous says:

I like you on Facebook with my username beckytrombley, and I left a comment on your FB wall.

Anonymous says:

I’m a huge Turbotax fan, and have been using it for years for home and business. I’d love to win!

Anonymous says:

I’m a CPA and I still use Turbo Tax. It is just so simple to use. Last year upgraded from the free edition because I itemized. However, for simple returns I would still use the free edition. This is a very good review of the product, and a testament to the usefulness of TurboTax.

Anonymous says:

I’ve used Turbo tax for 10 years now and I loved it.

Anonymous says:

I’ve used TurboTax for a couple of years now, and it does a great job in my opinion. Is it the cheapest option for all circumstances? Probably not. I know I had filed cheaper through other services in the past like taxslayer.com. But for my money just the ease of use for TurboTax makes it worthwhile.

Anonymous says:

I would love to get TurboTax, been using it for years and love it. This year I’ve been reluctant to get started since I have to fill in two states and sold some stock. A free prize would be great!

Anonymous says:

I’ve never actually used TurboTax – I’ve used TaxAct for the past several years, and the MD Ifile system for state taxes. MD’s system is so easy, I have no idea why people with simple returns still pay to have their taxes filed in MD!

Anonymous says:

Turbo tax is a SCAM!! When you google “Free Edition” Turbo Tax, an option will come up for free filing is linked to Intuit.com. Once you click on this site, it automatically reroutes you to Turbotax.com. You’re under the impression that you are in the free edition web site. This happened to me when I went to file my son’s income tax. He was getting back less than $225.00, but I ended up paying $93.85 just to file for him. He worked part-time in another state, so they charged me for tow state filings. I called for a refund because I had not transmitted the return yet. I called the number listed 8004468848 and talked to a representative who told me why I had to pay the $19.99. In actuality, when you click on the “Free Edition” to file, you are rerouted to the edition where you HAVE to pay $19.99 just to USE the program and then you are charged an additional amount for the number of states you are filing for. Free-edition states that you don’t pay until you actually file. They had charged me before I even got a chance to save my information, let alone transmit it. Then they wanted to tell me that I had transmitted the return, when I knew that I had not. Rip-off city. Be aware!! I’ll go with Taxact next year.

Luke Landes says:

Filing a state return, even if you’re in the “Free Federal Edition,” costs money. More if you have to file two state editions. It’ll also cost more money (the $19.99 you mention) if you need to go beyond the 1040-EZ form. But your information *is* saved before you have to pay, and you could have stopped at any time. Unfortunately, because you couldn’t use form 1040-EZ, and you filed for two states, the free version you found in Google did not apply to your situation. I don’t work for TurboTax, so this is just from my own observation. Once you no longer qualify for the 1040-EZ, and if you want to file state returns, the process is no longer free, and that’s pretty clear on their website.

Anonymous says:

Today I learned about the power of Tweeting.

Anonymous says:

Tried the free version on my daughter’s simple return, and Turbo Tax worked flawlessly except the software suggested upgrading to do a state tax return, but we don’t have a personal income tax in this state! My complex return could use the higher version. Thanks for offering the chance to win.

Anonymous says:

thank you for the opportunity! i would the chance to win!

Anonymous says:

Can I have it in Spanish language version? TurboTax for everyone! Thanks.

Anonymous says:

I’ve been using it every year for more than 10 years.

One thing I didn’t like this year was that I had two home offices, and it was trying to help me allocate expenses between the two, but the prompting text hid the “total” (line 16). TurboTax online doesn’t give you direct access to the forms, so it was cumbersome to work out exactly what the total was to allocate between.

Anonymous says:

Last year, my local bank offered TurboTax online for free to its online customers, so I used it and was pleased. This year, the bank is offering it again, but no longer free. So I’m back to the point of trying to decide what product I will use this year. I would happily stay with TurboTax if price weren’t an issue.

Anonymous says:

Flexo,
Your article explained the new GPS features of turbo tax well,
Gary

Anonymous says:

I’ve been pretty satisfied with Turbotax for the last couple of
years, although one year I filed myself and didn’t have too much
trouble even with itemizing and figuring out the form for
the 15% dividend rate (which used to be a lot worse than it
is now) I could use a free copy!

Anonymous says:

Thanks for the opportunity to win! I used TurboTax last year and the year before that as well I believe. Never had an issue and it was relatively quick and easy. Definitely considering using them again this year. Thanks for the thorough review!

Anonymous says:

I used a tax preparer for years. Last year used TurboTax. Not going back now 🙂

Anonymous says:

A complimentary copy of Turbotax would be cool. I am a user for several years but always have to wait until April to do my taxes…

Anonymous says:

I have used TT and I like it much better than others. I am in for one.

Anonymous says:

Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you *and* Turbo Tax, so I’d love to win the giveaway!

Anonymous says:

Gooooooo me!

Anonymous says:

TT also has a “Basic” version, though sometimes I have to dig around a bit to find it.

Anonymous says:

My parent’s have been using turbo tax since its beginning. I personally use H & R block free online service and it seems to work for me.

Anonymous says:

I have been using turbotax for the past 4 years. Takes the stress out of the process.

Anonymous says:

I follow you on Twitter (@mami2jcn) and tweeted-http://twitter.com/#!/mami2jcn/status/37179133821853696

Anonymous says:

I like you on Facebook with my username Mary Happymommy and left a comment on your FB wall.

Anonymous says:

I’ve used Turbotax for years and find it really user-friendly.

Anonymous says:

I would love to win this… It would save me from buying it this year! Yet another way CC is helping me (possibly) manage my finances. 🙂

Anonymous says:

Have been using Turbo Tax for the last 4-5 years and it does what I want it to.

Anonymous says:

Wouldn’t mind trying out TurboTax this year. Been relying on an accountant for too long!

Anonymous says:

TurboTax is absolutely killer. Every year it’s my go-to software. Even with how easy TurboTax makes it, taxes are still such a pain for me because I don’t keep a good record of things all year-round. So I end up doing all my bookkeeping at the end. This isn’t painful for my personal stuff, but it’s a horrible habit for business. (btw, I’m not entering the drawing, just commenting)

Anonymous says:

Ooh pick me, random.org. That would be super-useful. Started a business last year and I’ve never done taxes for one before.

Anonymous says:

I’ve used TurboTax since round about 2000 and I’ve been satisfied enough with the work that I return year after year and highly recommend it.