With its easy-to-use, interview-style interface and slew of features that help you get the most out of your tax return, TurboTax has become the premiere online tax service to use.

How Does TurboTax Work

TurboTax may be one of the easiest tax preparation services around. First, it gives the option of either online or software-based work, so you can download the software to your desktop if you aren’t comfortable doing things online. The online version, however, lets you sign in from any device — computer, phone, tablet — to start up, continue or finish your tax return.

TurboTax also offers an easy-to-use, interview-style tax preparation system. You click through questions like, “Did you move this year?” or “How old are your kids?” and TurboTax creates a filing with optimized deductions based on your answers. It’s a much easier and simple process than having to fill out forms online.

If you have questions while filling out your tax return, the online version of any of the paid packages includes SmartLook. SmartLook answers your questions, gives you insight on deductions and credits you may be missing, and keeps you informed through a real-time one-way video with a tax expert from TurboTax. The tax experts are all certified and have access to your screen, so they can more easily answer your questions.

You can also add on a state package to any federal filing for $29.99 per state. State filings work the same way that federal filings do on TurboTax.

Once your taxes are filed, you can choose how to pay your taxes or how you want to receive your refund. If you have a refund coming, TurboTax also allows you to deduct the cost of the service directly from your refund.

What Makes TurboTax Stand Out

Online tax preparation services are getting more advanced, so some of the features that TurboTax offers are also offered by other services. There are a few, however, that help it stand out from the pack.

The interview-style tax preparation is a great bonus for people who hate doing taxes. Other services do offer similar styles, but TurboTax’s is the easiest and most intuitive that we’ve seen.

In addition, the SmartLook option is something we’ve never seen on any other online tax preparation service. Being able to ask real-time questions to a tax expert while you work on the TurboTax system is a huge benefit, and takes a lot of the guesswork out of doing your taxes. It also might help you optimize your deductions, so you can get a bigger refund.

Common TurboTax Reviews

TurboTax is the gold standard in online tax preparation, so it generally gets pretty solid reviews from both the professional consumer review sites and its users. The professional reviewers pretty consistently give TurboTax five out of five stars, with few exceptions. Most are really impressed with the user interface and the support TurboTax offers.

Users also have high praise for TurboTax in their reviews, with most commenting on the ease of use and simplicity of the filing process. Some users were upset that, in some cases, if you pick a plan and your taxes become more complicated along the way, TurboTax won’t notify you until the end that you owe more.

For example, if you try to use the Free Federal package, and end up having complicated deductions or investments, it will notify you at the end that you need to pay for the Deluxe or Premier package. TurboTax should notify you when you cross that threshold, not when you are completely done with your taxes.

Is TurboTax Right For You?

TurboTax is an impressive online tax preparation service, and so many people will find it a great fit for them. There are, however, a couple situations where another service might be more appropriate. Here are some questions to ask before deciding on TurboTax:

  • Does filing out forms stress you out?
  • Do you have an easy tax return?
  • Do you have a budget when it comes to your taxes?
  • How much help do you need?

The first question is pretty easy; filling out forms usually stresses everyone out. However, if you don’t mind filling out the forms yourself, you could probably save some money by doing your own taxes or having a less-expensive company do your taxes. If you dread the idea of even looking at tax forms, TurboTax’s interview-style preparation is a nice relief and makes doing taxes a little bit easier.

If you have an easy tax return, you can pretty much use any tax service to file your federal taxes for free. In this case, you don’t have to go with TurboTax, but if you like the interview-style preparation, you might as well since it’s also free.

It depends on what your budget is, but TurboTax is one of the more expensive online tax preparation services, so going with a service like TaxAct, which offers just the bare bones for a lower price, might be a better option.

If your taxes are super complicated, TurboTax’s SmartLook is a great tool to have, as you can pretty much ask anything and get a direct answer. Just keep in mind that it is not offered on the Free Federal package.

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