TurboTax Review 2020, For The 2019 Tax Year: Four Options for You
Does a turtle move faster than you can file taxes? Go from turtle to turbo this year. We’ll review the four versions of TurboTax below along with the cost and discounts.
- Easy to use
- Great interface
As a freelancer with a day job, my taxes are more complicated than most. But thankfully, I’m still able to file them on my own using Intuit’s TurboTax software. The questionnaires are easy to fill out and at the end, TurboTax reviews my answers to make sure I get the maximum refund or owe as little as possible.
But there are plenty of DIY tax software out there and each one has its own unique qualities. Here’s a breakdown of TurboTax’s features, plans, and prices so you can decide if it’s the right one for you.
Apps, crowdfunding, and a stable economy have made investing easier than ever and Millennials are taking advantage of it. The biggest feature this year is that TurboTax Premier has been redesigned to make filing taxes easier for everyday investors.
TurboTax Premier now covers nearly every investment situation, including stocks, bonds, Employee Stock Purchase Plans, cryptocurrency, rental property and more, and provides personalized guidance and advice for each.
One of the biggest hassles for investors is entering all of their reportable transactions into their tax returns. TurboTax Premier now automatically imports investment transactions from hundreds of financial institutions, eliminating time and improving accuracy.
TurboTax Online also now supports uploading more than 2,000 cryptocurrency transactions at one time, covering the vast majority of taxpayers with crypto.
Some taxes are more complex to file than others. That’s why TurboTax has four plans with different features based on your needs. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, don’t sweat it. As you’re answering questions, TurboTax will tell you which plan is best for you and you won’t have to pay until right before you file.
It’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with available plans so you know what you’re in for. We’ll look at the difference between plans, how to decide which is right for you, and what you’ll pay for each.
TurboTax Free is for users with simple tax needs. You can easily prep, print, and e-file both your federal and state income taxes for free.
It comes with many of the features of paid plans including the ability to find your W-2 information automatically if you work for a relatively large employer or you can upload your W-2 by taking a photo of it with your smartphone. You’ll also get guidance in case of an audit, 24/7 answers to tax questions in the online community of TurboTax specialists and customers.
To qualify for TurboTax Free, your tax situations are limited to:
- W-2 income
- Limited 1099-INT or 1099-DIV income
- Claiming the standard deduction
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
- Child tax credits
If you’re a renter who’s employed by someone else with or without children, then TuboTax Free is probably a good choice for you.
Deluxe includes everything in Free and includes more deductions. Even if you’re claiming the standard deduction there are plenty of deductions and credits you can claim that aren’t covered in TurboTax Free. These include deductions on your mortgage and property expenses, student loan interest, education credits, medical expenses, HSA contributions, and retirement contributions.
If you don’t know whether you should itemize or take the standard deduction, TurboTax will go through your Schedule A form and determine whether you should take the standard deduction or itemize. It searches over 350 deductions and credits to maximize your return.
It also gives you access to Schedule C and Schedule SE. These are the forms for profit or loss from your business and the self-employment tax. You can use these forms when you have business income but no business expenses. This is great for side hustlers in the gig economy or part-time freelancers.
Once you file, TurboTax will then analyze your tax history for the year and explain how you can take steps to maximize your tax refund in the coming year.
If you’re investing above and beyond your retirement accounts then you’ll need TurboTax Premier. Premier covers everything included in Deluxe, but it also covers Schedules D and E.
Schedule D is used for stocks, bonds, Employee Stock Purchase Plans, and other investment income. This schedule in TurboTax automatically imports investment income from stocks, bonds, ESPPs, robo-investing, and cryptocurrency.
Schedule E is used to record income and expenses related to rental properties. If you’re a landlord, you’ll need this option to claim tax deductions on your rental property. TurboTax will also help you set up new rentals, calculate and report depreciation, and determine fair market value of your properties.
Premier also lets you deduct points and appraisal fees if you refinance your home so even if you don’t own an investment property you could save money on taxes by using the Premier plan.
TurboTax Self-Employed is for contractors, freelancers, and small business owners. It includes everything in the Premier version, plus Schedule C, and you deduct business income and expenses. Deluxe also gives you access to Schedule C without the option to deduct expenses.
You’ll want to choose Self-Employed if you have expenses or are dealing with asset depreciation. The asset depreciation feature is especially nice for keeping track of laptops, phones, cars, and other big expenses so you don’t have to.
TurboTax searches industry-specific deductions, offers one-on-one help from self-employment specialists, and helps you figure out expenses like standard vs. actual mileage and deducting a home office. You can also import your 1099-MISC by taking a picture of it with your smartphone.
One interesting feature of this version is that it lets you import your business’s information directly from QuickBooks Self-Employed. If you already use the accounting software to track expenses, mileage, and more, you can pull that data right to your TurboTax account.
If you run a larger business or have employees, don’t try to do your taxes on your own. Avoid unfortunate repercussions that come with errors in filing by consulting with a licensed accountant.
Each of the above plans now has a TurboTax Live version, TurboTax Free becomes Basic. Upgrading to this service gives you access to a live CPA, Certified Public Accountant, or EA, Enrolled Agent.
Both CPAs and EAs are regulated by the IRS so you don’t have to worry about their credentials.
All plans offer the same Live benefits including on-demand CPAs and EAs to answer your questions, year-round expert tax advice, and a final review of your taxes by a CPA or EA.
Prices are current as of January 21, 2020. It’s important to remember you’re less likely to find discounts on these plans the closer you get to April 14.
- Free – $0 federal and state
- Deluxe – $40 federal, $40 state
- Premier – $70 federal, $40 state
- Self-Employed – $90 federal, $40 state
- Basic – $50 federal, $50 state
- Deluxe – $90 federal, $50 state
- Premier – $150 federal, $50 state
- Self-Employed – $180 federal, $50 state
If you’re sure about which plan you’re in, you can save some money on certain plans by getting CD versions on Amazon.
Each level of TurboTax gives you access to additional tax forms, custom prompts, and fill-in-the-blanks to assist you in filing those forms. But all versions also come with additional benefits, including:
- W-2 Auto Fill: If you work for a relatively large employer, chances are that TurboTax can find your W-2 information for you automatically. This doesn’t work with every employer, but it is handy for some.
- E-File: E-filing keeps you out of the super-long post office line in early April. It may get you a refund faster, too. Typically, you can e-file both your federal and state taxes, though filing state taxes may cost more.
- 24/7 Access: TurboTax gives you access to your tax forms all the time online. This is handy if you want to fill them out a bit at a time, rather than in one sitting. It also makes it easy to print off additional copies of your tax returns if you’re buying a home or filling out other major paperwork in the coming years.
Additional benefits for the paid levels of TurboTax include:
- ExplainWhy: These pop-ups within the TurboTax software show you “why” certain things are the way they are when you file your taxes.
- My Analysis and Advice: This service will analyze your tax history for the year and will explain how you can take steps to maximize your tax refund in the coming year.
More than anything, users praise TurboTax for its interface. It’s clean and easy to use. Plus it walks you through each part of the process step-by-step. TurboTax provides the right level of support without begin too in-your-face with tips, tricks, and tutorials.
When you log in to do your taxes, you can do each step in order or skip around to the steps you want to work on. This is convenient when you have various W-2s and 1099s coming in at different times. You don’t have to worry about missing anything because TurboTax won’t let you file without double-checking each step.
One convenient feature of TurboTax is that if you’ve used the software before, it will import your most recent information. If not much has changed, you may not have to enter any personal information. Just double-check it and call it done.
TurboTax will also allow you to pull in information from W-2 and 1099 forms, if they match last year’s forms. If your employer or contract clients stayed the same, TurboTax will pull in the employer name and EIN. Then it’ll walk you through filling in the information from those W-2s or 1099s.
If you work for a participating employer, TurboTax can automatically pull in information from your W-2s. Again, this is a nice time-saving step. If you can’t find the information, it’ll tell you which box to look at on each tax form page. Then, the software will guide you through questions to fill out each part of your taxes.
Sometimes, TurboTax preempts issues in the language of the questions. To be thorough, they have to be sure to ask about everything, even some questions that seem silly or irrelevant, like this one:
I like that they clarify the issue at stake as part of the question, since it does seem silly to ask if my four-year-old is self-supporting.
Once you’re done with your taxes, you can run an audit check to see your likelihood of being audited.
If for some reason you are audited, you can get free help from TurboTax support, including information on notices, letters to write, and what to do next. The Audit Support Center includes lots of information for a DIY approach to handling an IRS audit.
If you have a high likelihood of being audited or you want extra protection for your taxes you can add on TurboTax’s MAX package. This optional service, which costs an extra $49.99, includes several features:
- Audit Defense: This gives you a dedicated team to handle an audit if this should happen to you. Your return for 2019 is covered for as long as it can possibly be audited.
- Tax Identity Restoration: If someone files with your SSN to get a refund before you have a chance to file, an Identity Restoration Specialist will help you get your identity restored and your refund back to your bank account.
- Identity Theft Monitoring: Tax season is prime time for identity theft. If TurboTax finds suspicious activity related to your identity online, you’ll be notified. And you’ll get a dedicated specialist to help you take the steps to protect your identity.
- Priority Care: You’ll get bumped to the top of the line when you call to ask any tax-related questions.
- Identity Loss Insurance: You could be reimbursed for up to $250,000 in stolen funds due to identity theft, plus up to $1 million to pay for related legal fees and expenses.
TurboTax Customer Service
Customer service is available through several channels. They offer an online forum where you can find many answers immediately. Or you can contact them online, via email, or by phone. They generally have good customer service reviews.
Remember, though, that technical customer service is different from their actual tax advice. If you need help with your taxes, you can ask the TurboTax Community but you’ll need to pay an additional fee for live CPA advice.
TurboTax Mobile App
TurboTax has a free full-service mobile app. You can do everything from choosing your plan to filing your taxes right from your phone or tablet using the app. And if you download the app on an Apple device, you can pay using Apple Pay.
You’ll want to download the app if you sign up for TurboTax Live as that’s where you can have most convenient access to them. The app has a 4.8 star rating and 280K reviews. Improvements made this year include faster app load times and photo capture ability.
TurboTax does more than fill in the boxes of your federal and state tax returns. It’s packed with additional features that ensure you’ll get the maximum return available to you and that you’re protected after you file.
Curious about what kind of deductions you might be looking at this year? TaxCaster is a free deductions estimator that’ll give you detailed information about your taxes. Answer some questions and TaxCaster will tell you your estimated return, deductions, and which TurboTax edition will likely work best for you.
Turbo is a free financial tool from TurboTax that gives you a holistic picture of you finances. It brings together your tax and credit report data to show you the numbers lenders regard highest. This includes your credit score, verified income, debt-to-income ratio (DTI), and a consolidated view of all your credit and debt accounts.
As with most tax software, TurboTax has serious security to protect your personal data. They use multi-factor authentication, which means you’ll get a single-use code whenever you sign into your account from a new device. To protect your account from fraud. You can also use touch ID with the mobile app if your phone supports it.
Additionally, TurboTax uses SSL data encryption that goes above and beyond the IRS’s standards. And if important changes are made to your account, you’ll be notified immediately.
TurboTax Pros and Cons
- Easy to use — TurboTax is intuitive, has a great interface, and it helps you walk through all of your possible tax situations.
- Trustworthy — The software is reputable and you can count on it to be up-to-date with the latest tax laws. With TurboTax Live, you also have the ability to file your taxes with the assistance of a real CPA.
- Great for complicated tax situations — If you're not sure how to file your taxes or which deductions you’ll be able to take to save money, TurboTax can guide you through this.
- More expensive than other programs — Generally the only con of TurboTax is that it is one of the pricier products on the market.
- Tax advice is extra — Customer service is only available for technical assistance. For CPA advice, you'll need to pay extra to upgrade to TurboTax Live.
Alternatives to TurboTax
There are plenty of TurboTax alternatives. H&R Block is TurboTax’s closest competitor and tends to be less expensive per plan. But depending on which schedule forms you need you may pay more overall with H&R Block.
TurboTax continues to offer a user-friendly tax-filing software with features that make it stand out in a sea of options.
Because you don’t pay until you actually file, it’s easy to start with the free plan and upgrade as needed. So give it a try and see if TurboTax is the software you’ve been looking for.