- Simple and logical interface
- Thorough, straightforward interview process
- Useful additional tools
- Maximum refund guarantee
- Advanced account security
- Variety of features in paid products
If there is one thing people can’t stand it’s doing their taxes. Going through all those different documents that seem like they have been worded by aliens is pure torture for anyone. So it’s not surprising that once taxpayers find a solution that prepares their taxes and explains the process in plain English, they stick to that solution no matter what. This is the secret behind TurboTax’s success, a company that has been helping people deal with those pesky tax returns since the 80s. TurboTax Online, the company’s online tax prep solution, provides everything that a taxpayer needs to create accurate returns. The user-friendly interface of the software is particularly important, but so too are the thorough interview questions. There are a number of additional extras, too, all of which will help you receive the biggest possible refund in the end. And this, believe it or not, is just the surface, since not only is TurboTax fully supported on mobile platforms but it’s also very safe to use thanks to the outstanding built-in and optional security settings.
Despite sporting one of the best software interfaces on the market – combining simplicity with modern design – TurboTax Online isn’t without its problems. One of the most noticeable issues is that the account can only handle one return, which is kind of incomprehensible seeing how a single account can also be used to access other Intuit products including QuickBooks Online, which is actually provided free for a year for TurboTax Self-Employed users.
Another thing that can also be quite jarring is how the importing of previous years’ tax returns works. Granted, the program does this seamlessly with past TurboTax Online returns, but 1040s created through any other means – including the company’s own desktop products – can only be uploaded manually and not before upgrading to the Deluxe product and then wiping the current return clean. Actually, there is the option to start the return all over again by clicking the “Clear & Start Over” button, which is in fact the only way to downgrade to a basic version of the software if the wrong product was chosen initially.
Thankfully, however, these are the only major issues that TurboTax Online has, which has managed to maintain its straightforward nature for many years now while still having time to add many convenient tools into the mix. There is, for instance, the Tax Tools tab that contains the detailed summaries of federal and state tax returns and provides the option to save the return on the computer or share it with a certified tax agent. Additionally, it’s also possible to delete unnecessary forms one by one, search for particular topics, and find all the subpages within the software that have been bookmarked.
As a nice extra, TurboTax accounts are also equipped with support tools, including a built-in knowledge base – which, for some reason, has to be used when contacting live customer support – and the TurboTax Assistant chatbot. Admittedly, there is also the option to speak with a tax expert but this is an extra that is only available after paying a $74.99 fee.
The program itself may not be a masterpiece but when it comes to dealing with the different tax forms, TurboTax is simply incredible and not just because it intelligently categorizes its tax topics. Everything is simplified to such an extent that even the least experienced taxpayer can understand what’s going on, even explaining how and why certain actions are being performed.
But the software is also extremely thorough where its questioning for different tax topics are concerned. In fact, TurboTax is so precise that it only displays the forms that are relevant to your tax situation based on the answers given in the personal information section. However, there is still the option to review any other topic even if a selected category isn’t covered by the currently selected TurboTax product, since the program will automatically prompt you to upgrade to a higher-tier version, which can also be performed manually at any time.
TurboTax also makes sure that manual data entry is reduced to the absolute minimum. Aside from importing most data from federal forms into state returns, the program can pull details from W-2s created by TurboTax partners and is also capable of displaying the actual values of donated items and importing those donations from Intuit’s ItsDeductible iOS app. Speaking of which, TurboTax always strives to maximize your refund by looking up all possible options to increase that amount but also by automatically deciding whether standard or itemized deductions is the better option.
Filing and Extras
TurboTax ensures no error goes unnoticed as the software goes through each form multiple times during and after the filling-out process, and if it finds a problem then you are alerted immediately to take the necessary countermeasures. Unfortunately, the program isn’t as thorough with its tax return summaries since they only contain the most necessary data – unlike those in the Tax Tools tab, which are more detailed. The program focuses instead on advertising TurboTax’s add-ons: “PLUS” which is only available for users of the free version, and “MAX” which complements the extra security services that are provided to paid subscribers by default.
However, this also means that nothing interrupts the filing process, meaning that aside from the questions that you typically have to go through in such a solution, the process of filing is straightforward and hassle-free. As a matter of fact, the only things that users will need to decide about is the format through which tax returns will be filed, whether the service should be paid for via credit/debit card or by deducting the necessary amount from the refund for an additional $39.95 fee and to where the refund should be remitted.
Mobile & Software
When it comes to mobile support, users have two options to choose from: the official iOS or Android app, or accessing TurboTax Online from a mobile browser. Thankfully, both versions retain all of the important features, are almost identical to one another and come with their own respective merits, too. The app, for instance, is capable of capturing and processing W-2s, not to mention has advanced security by adding fingerprint login and/or FaceID into the mix. Sadly, the app lacks all of the additional functions from the Tax Tools tab, including the option to start the tax return from scratch.
However, these particular functions are available from the mobile browser version, which perfectly adapts the software to smaller screens. However, this version isn’t perfect either, because for some reason whenever you access the program from mobile browsers the “Help” and “Search” tabs within the tax return page become unusable.
One of the biggest advantages of TurboTax is that it provides the same level of security that all Intuit products have, especially when considering the additional security features that make TurboTax accounts virtually impenetrable. These features include the accurate logging of account activity and the option to further secure your data via two-factor authentication (2FA), which appears in the form of temporary SMS codes. It’s worth noting, though, that 2FA first needs to be activated, while accessing TurboTax from an unknown browser or device requires authentication via an additional passcode, a slight nuisance that taxpayers should definitely deal with to keep their data safe.
Thankfully, the default security features aren’t too bad, either. In fact, the system is capable of automatically sending out emails should important personal information be changed, not to mention the fact that it will verify the validity of a Social Security number the moment it is entered into the program’s database.
Since TurboTax is a powerhouse of a tool, it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the most expensive tax prep services on the market, especially its Premier and Self-Employed products – costing $79.99 and $119.99 respectively. Granted, the appropriately named Free Edition contains the most important features – even the IRS audit assistance – but to truly enjoy some of TurboTax’s best functions like importing last year’s returns or the ItsDeductible app, it’s highly recommended to opt for Deluxe for $59.99. Users of the top-tier plans can also purchase the additional TurboTax Live service for $74.99, which provides the option to contact a certified CPA/EA to get help in filling out and reviewing their tax returns in real time. Note that this service is included by default in the company’s top product – conveniently named TurboTax Live – but in this case you should be prepared for a whopping price tag of $179.99.
Unfortunately, TurboTax doesn’t provide too many options for discounts aside from an unimaginative referral program. Instead, it focuses more on upgrades, including the PLUS add-on for $29.99 for on-demand live tax assistance for free users, and MAX ($44.99) which complements the default IRS audit and identity theft services of higher-tier users by adding representation by an expert in case of an audit, identity restoration, ID theft monitoring, and priority care.
To put it simply, TurboTax’s customer support is like the two sides of a coin. On one hand, its static support options are extensive and versatile, providing virtually everything from a support page, an FAQ and video tutorials to an up-to-date blog, countless tax calculators and, quite surprisingly, a tool to check the status of a tax return without having to visit the IRS website.
On the other hand, there are TurboTax’s live support options, which aren’t quite as robust. For starters, email support doesn’t exist at all. It’s quite a challenge to get connected to a staff member by phone, too – unless, of course, you are a paying TurboTax Live user. Live chat isn’t an option either, it’s just operated by a chatbot connected to the company’s knowledge base, and even has issues functioning properly in Chrome desktop browsers. Sadly there are only two guaranteed ways to talk to a tax expert or a technician, either by posting a question to TurboTax’s active community or visiting the company’s social media pages.
Although it’s far from being perfect, TurboTax has been a market leader for many years for good reason. In fact, it’s rare that a tax prep solution can be so impressive despite suffering some major issues like the flawed data importing from past returns or the fact that it is limited to just one return per account. But TurboTax manages to do just this, with an outstanding tax program whose user-friendliness, thoroughness, and complementary features helps make the tax preparation process much less hassle. Granted, the company still has a lot to work on when it comes to its live customer support, but ideas like the chatbot assistant clearly show that TurboTax is on the right track. All that’s needed is a more affordable pricing policy and TurboTax could easily become the king of the taxing world.