How to File Taxes Online With TurboTax
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When it comes to filing your taxes online, there are few names bigger than TurboTax. The app has become synonymous with do-it-yourself taxes. But is it any good? How much does it cost? And how do you use it?

We dove into TurboTax to find out.

How Much Does TurboTax Cost?

If you’re looking to file your taxes online with TurboTax, you’re probably curious as to how much it costs. There are a number of different levels of service you can use, each with their own price and features. Here’s what you’ll pay:

  • Free Edition lets you do simple tax returns (1040A or 1040EZ forms) and state returns for free.
  • Deluxe Edition ($59.99 + $39.99 per state) searches over 350 deductions to help you minimize your tax burden, maximizes mortgage and property tax deductions, and itemizes your charitable contributions.
  • Premier Edition ($79.99 + $39.99 per state) includes investment income and rental property information, and also covers refinancing.
  • Self-Employed Edition ($119.99 + $39.99 per state) provides guidance for independent contractors and self-employed businesspeople. It also integrates with Quickbooks Self-Employed to help you maximize your deductions.
  • TurboTax Live ($179.99 + $39.99 per state) includes a one-on-one review with and professional advice from a CPA or EA before you file.

It’s worth pointing out that you don’t have to pay when you start your return with TurboTax. You only pay when you file.

Which TurboTax Edition Do I Need?

With all these options, choosing the best one for you can be difficult. How do you choose?

In general, if your taxes are more complicated than the simplest 1040 forms, it’s not a bad idea to pay for a higher level of TurboTax. If you itemize your deductions, for example, stepping up to the Deluxe edition is a good idea. If you have a lot of investments, the Premier level is worth paying for.

This is especially true if you’re self-employed. Self-employment comes with a lot of complicated tax forms, and getting help on them will help you pay the correct amount. You also get a free copy of Quickbooks Self-Employed if you pay for the self-employed option.

turbotax guide - choose edition

And if you want to be absolutely sure you get your taxes right the first time, TurboTax Live is a great way to go. It’s often cheaper than hiring an in-person tax professional, but you still get a CPA or EA’s expertise.

If you’re still not sure, you can use TurboTax’s recommendations. Just head to their online taxes page, select which items apply to you, and you’ll get a suggestion.

It’s worth noting that you can also get downloadable or CD-based tax software from TurboTax. But when you can do it all online, why would you?

How to File Your Taxes Online With TurboTax

After you’ve chosen which level of TurboTax you need, you’ll want to gather the tax documents you need. The exact documents will depend on your situation, but here are a few things you’ll want to make sure you have:

Once you’ve collected your documents, head to the TurboTax website, go to Products & Pricing at the top of the screen, and select Online products.

turbotax guide - online products

Choose the option that best fits your situation, and click the Start for Free (or File for $0) button in the corresponding column.

Once you’ve signed in, you’ll jump right into your tax return. You’ll need to create an account if you don’t have one already.

To get started, you can upload a PDF copy of your previous year’s return to pull in information like your address and adjusted gross income:

turbotax guide - Upload a PDF to prepopulate TurboTax fields

Whether you upload a PDF or enter your information manually, TurboTax will ask you a few questions next. You’ll be given choices, like which of a list of things apply to you:

turbotax guide - Choose TurboTax options

You’ll then enter personal information, like your name, occupation, and address. Once this section is completed, you get down to the core of your tax return: income information.

Fortunately, the app walks you through the process and makes it very clear when you need specific forms and which information you’ll need to enter.

turbotax guide - TurboTax asks for information from W2

TurboTax will walk you through each step and tell you where to find the information you need.

It also tells you whether you’ve chosen a common option on some confusing choices, like this one:

turbotax guide - TurboTax reassurance on difficult items

After you enter your income, TurboTax will take you through specific areas that may qualify you for deductions:

turbotax guide - TurboTax calculates deductions

As you go through your return, the app will ask you to upgrade or pay for additional services. Some of them might be useful to you, while others will just be overkill. Decide as you see fit.

At any point, you can exit your return and TurboTax will save it. You can always come back later to add information or finish it. Just use the sidebar to jump to the section you need:

turbotax guide - Menu

When you reach the end of your return, you’ll have the chance to review it before submitting. TurboTax will automatically review your return and let you know if there are any issues that you should address before submitting it:

turbotax guide - return review

Finally, confirm that your return is accurate, enter your payment information, and send it off!

Tracking Your Return With TurboTax

It can be nerve-wracking waiting to hear back from the IRS after you’ve sent your return. TurboTax makes the process a little less painful by helping you track the status of your return.

Here are some general guidelines on how long it takes for your tax return to get to various stages:

turbotax guide - Estimated income tax return timeline

If you want to try to get more detailed information on your exact return, TurboTax’s Where’s My Refund? tool can help. Just enter as much information as you can and you’ll get an estimate.

Is TurboTax Good?

After going through the process myself, I can tell you that TurboTax is great. I’ve used a lot of different online tax-filing apps, and TurboTax was very simple and never confusing. The tooltips and sidebars are a huge help.

turbotax guide - TurboTax help sidebar

That’s especially true if you need more than just the basics. My own taxes cover two self-employed individuals, so I need all the help I can get.

The potential cost is a disadvantage… but you can always choose the free option. There are many other free online tax return options available, but the TurboTax interface is the easiest and nicest that I’ve used.

TurboTax comes with companion apps for Android and iOS. The apps are free and you need to pay only when you file your tax. They can save you some time. For instance, you can snap a photo of your W-2, verify your data and your information is entered into all the right tax forms.

Download: TurboTax for Android | iOS (Free)

How Long Does TurboTax Take?

If you have very complicated taxes, you could be looking at a long time. I was able to complete mine in a couple hours, and that included chasing down some forms that I hadn’t yet received in the mail and coordinating with my wife to get her business’s information.

If you have a simple return with a one or two W-2s and not much else, you’re probably looking at less than 30 minutes to complete it.

And the advantage of using an online filing app is that your return is sent to the IRS immediately, so they can start processing it. TurboTax can’t speed up this process, but the electronic filing does help it move along.

File Taxes Online With TurboTax to Minimize Hassle

Filing your taxes is a pain. Filing them online makes it a little better. And using TurboTax is a great way to make it easy. There are still some difficulties like finding all of the forms, dealing with the frequent upsells, and so on. But overall, it’s remarkably easy.

And now that TurboTax offers free federal and state returns, they’re not going to get beat on price. The app’s ease of use is what makes it really stand out, though. The interface is great, the process is easy, and the instructions are clear. It doesn’t get much better than that.

You have better things to do than waste your time, so avoid the hassle of tax returns by filing your taxes online using TurboTax.

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  1. R. W. Mountz
    March 29, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    I've used Turbo Tax for years, but now it has failed me. I live in a foreign country and had to pay U.S. taxes on my pension income. In addition, I was taxed in my foreign country on the same money. Not only is there no place to declare this as a deduction, I could get no help from the Turbo Tax Community Help or its own help section on this problem. Very disappointing.