PROS / TurboTax is simple to use and provides the best opportunity for you to quickly and easily prepare an accurate federal tax return.
CONS / For individuals e-filing 1040s with itemized deductions, this online tax software costs more than other programs.
VERDICT / TurboTax can easily guide you through the process of preparing your return. In addition, professional support is available should you require advanced assistance.
Editor's Note: The personal tax deadline for the 2015 tax season was April 18, 2016. You can still use this service to file your taxes late or file an amendment online; however, we will not update this review until the start of the 2016 tax season in January 2017.
TurboTax is offering AbsoluteZero, a free federal and state filing option for 1040EZ and 1040A filers. Both TurboTax and TaxAct include free state filing for individuals filing a simple return, while other programs may charge over $20 for the state filing option alone. This online tax software is simple to use, you can even take a picture of your W-2 and TurboTax will automatically upload your tax information for you. No matter which version of TurboTax you use, and there are four versions to choose from, you can start creating your return for free and do not have to pay until you e-file. In addition to its ease of use, you can obtain your refund by direct deposit, check or prepaid card. Because of these features and others we discuss below, TurboTax is Top Ten Reviews' Gold Award winner.
This tax service offers four tax products. The federal free edition is for those filing Forms 1040EZ and 1040A, and it includes free state filing as well. This version can handle dependent and child credits but not itemized deductions. The deluxe version, the next step up, is for those who need to itemize deductions, and it is suitable for homeowners. This version is not free to file, plus there is an additional fee to e-file your state tax return. The premier edition can help you with investment and rental property income. This version also charges extra for state e-filing. Finally, the home and business edition is the version to use if you need to claim self-employment or small business income. This is the most expensive version, but it includes the most options. Again, it costs extra to prepare your state return. According to Intuit, the manufacturer, prices should stay the same until March 2016.
TurboTax may not be the lowest-priced tax software, but it produces good results. Our test team was able to create accurate federal and state returns using this software. And if you simply need to file a 1040EZ or 1040A, you can e-file your federal and state returns free of charge. Other versions range from about $35 to $80 plus state e-filing fees.
The best tax software guides the filer to enter the correct information into the correct fields to create as accurate a return as possible. In our evaluation, our testers stated that TurboTax's return-creation process seemed "as close to common sense as possible" and that "it felt like it would be a lot easier right away." They liked the guided interface and the life-event topics that helped them understand what deductions and credits they could claim, such as mortgage interest, child care expenses and charitable donations.
Ease of Use
TurboTax garnered the highest ease-of-use score among the other programs in our lineup. Testers found the login process brief and simple, and requesting lost login information was also a quick process. While most of our evaluators did not need to consult the help information, they noted that assistance was readily available if needed. TurboTax doesn't confuse filers with complicated tax jargon, and educational information is logically organized. It was not overridden with annoying pop-up ads or upsell pushes.
TurboTax utilizes a guided interface that does not require you to understand complicated tax topics in order to use the program correctly. For example, it will ask you simple questions, such as whether you have children or dependents, if you own a home, or if you need to claim stock sales gains or losses. Based on your answers, it can help you determine which version of TurboTax you need to use and which IRS forms are required, so you can create an accurate return.
Our test scenarios included deliberately introducing a few built-in errors to test the software's ability to spot our mistake and notify us of a problem. TurboTax caught our built-in errors as well as user entry errors. One thing to note is that even if the software doesn't alert you to the error, it may automatically correct your mistake for you to ensure that your return is accurate. For example, in one of our tests, our medical expenses were too low to claim. Testers reported that the software didn't notify them of the error; however, the application accounted for it properly; it just didn't claim the expenses. As an extra layer of assurance, TurboTax also runs error and audit-risk scans before you file your return.
Help & Support
TurboTax provides online support 24/7 through the entire tax season. This tax services provides access to human tax experts who can help answer your questions. Phone assistance if often fee-based but worth the expense if you need one-on-one help. Its credentialed tax experts are all certified public accountants or enrolled agents.
This tax software includes numerous help files and explanations of various tax topics. Our testers were able to fly through the program without consulting the help files, but they appreciated they were readily available. To increase your federal tax knowledge, TurboTax offers video classes and tax guides. It also supports an active user community and social media accounts, which also discuss tax topics.
TurboTax pulled it off again this year. It proved to be the easiest online tax software, and it produced the most predictable, accurate results. It even offers free state filing options this year for those filing 1040EZ/A returns. If you are anxious about preparing your own return, do not fear, TurboTax can easily guide you through the process.