Intuit’s TurboTax has been around in one form or another for a long time, over a quarter of a century in fact, which sounds like an age. But, that’s helped it get better over the years too. It’s got a well-proven track history as being a solution for all kinds of users, from those who have lone filing to do as well as those with more complex tax ground to cover.
While TurboTax is powerful, it’s not intimidating either, which will be reassuring to any filing newbies or people who aren’t confident using online systems. In fact, TurboTax is a real help because of its simple and almost chatty screen-by-screen interface.
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You’ll need to pay top dollar in order to get the best from TurboTax, but if you’re prepared to shell out those extra readies then the experience is, on the whole, a good one. Which version you choose also depends on your circumstances.
However, if you’re more curious about its potential more than anything a free version makes a good place to start out, with a gratis option for federal and state 1040 folks. On from the free version, for the time being at any rate, comes TurboTax Deluxe with its $59.99 federal tax and $39.99 state tax editions.
Those with more complex accounts to file, such as investments and property, will need to opt for the TurboTax Premier edition, which costs $79.99 federal and $39.99 per state tax respectively. If you’re working for yourself then TurboTax Self-Employed is the one for you, costing $119.99 federal and $39.99 state.
Any software package can have its own unique idiosyncrasies but the good news is that TurboTax is reassuringly intuitive to use. In fact, even if you’re only a casual user it can be mastered with relative ease.
That’s mainly down to the way TurboTax has been designed, with in its most basic guise the need for inputting details of your tax year, what you do and have earned from that along with adding own or rent details, made charitable donations and so on.
You can even get a headstart by scanning in your W-2 form, which allows the system to work out much of the overall picture for your financial year affairs. The online help aspect is impressive too and works as your fast-responding and easy-to-navigate aid as you work through the various input screens.
TurboTax performs well and so it should as much of the work is done online, which means it's the wonderful world of the cloud that is doing most of the work. With support for importing your W-2 the system is able to handle much of the grind in the background and will also prepare your final account details.
Thanks to a fairly minimal interface – we won't say sparse as it’s got everything you’ll need without being fussy about it – it chunters along very nicely as you progress through the various stages. A practical toolbar allows you quick and easy access to core filing topics, such as your overall information as well as letting you drill down into Federal and State tax areas respectively.
Similarly, you can import any relevant 1099 forms to cover other earnings and all without disappearing into a convoluted accounting software hole.
Ease of use
As mentioned earlier, TurboTax shouldn't faze you too much and it has the added benefit of being able to be used across all of your devices. That’s perfect if you’re pushed for time and prefer to dip into your details as and when the moment arrives.
What’s more, once you’ve set yourself up with an account – you’ll need a username and password - the step-by-step process is sensible and organized, which is a bonus if you’re not the most organized of people when it comes to accounts. Indeed, the way TurboTax has been designed means that you’re always working in a common sense order; in other words, you’ll be asked to enter details into the system in a logical way.
When you reach the end of a section the system dips in, checks your data and highlights any issues. When you’re good to go it’s on to the next stage. It’s all pretty simple to be honest.
TurboTax is big on assistance and for good reason as filing tax returns can be stressful for all of us, especially those of us with a less than comprehensive accounting background. The built-in Expert Help area of the interface holds your hand for much of the way, and is the go-to location for more obvious enquiries as you pick you way through the filing process.
Much more help is at hand, however, with TurboTax boasting a raft of online assistance tools. These include a powerful knowledge base along with video tutorials for excellent visual hand-holding. While the online community area is a boon, anyone needing help from a real person can enlist the assistance of TurboTax Live.
For a cost, this puts you in direct contact with a CPA or Enrolled Agent by means of a video link. You’ll be able to see them and they your screen, but you pay for the privilege as year-round TurboTax Live costs $119.99, though there is a kind of Lite version from $49.99 for non-year round filers.
We like TurboTax a lot, especially in its welcoming desktop incarnation. Anyone keen to spend time on their mobile device using the app version will be happy too, though this is slightly trickier to use due to the obviously more condensed working area.
Nevertheless, you can get it for both iOS and Android, and TurboTax is one of the better options on the mobile accounting and tax software side of things. While there are costly aspects here, the core package is intuitive, dependable and good value.
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