Surprise! No Hidden Fees with TurboTax in 2022!!

Who should use TurboTax?

For most tax situations, TurboTax does a great job of covering your needs. I’m a self-employed freelance writer with a mortgage, bank interest, investment accounts, and other complexities, but I feel confident doing my taxes myself with TurboTax.

TurboTax isn’t the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. That’s good customer service, intuitive forms and interfaces, and confidence that you got an accurate tax refund with the maximum cash in your pocket.

However, some people with simple taxes may be satisfied with cheaper options, and some people might just feel more comfortable paying an accountant to do their taxes for them.

TurboTax Pricing

TurboTax offers several pricing options, starting from a free version* for users with straightforward tax returns to pricier packages for people who’d rather turn their taxes over to a professional.

Those pricing options generally fall into three categories:

  • Do-it-yourself: If you feel comfortable filing on your own with step-by-step guidance
  • TurboTax Live: To get unlimited help and advice from a tax expert while you do your taxes, plus a review of your return before you file
  • Full Service: A tax expert prepares, signs and files your tax return for you

Currently, those pricing tiers are:

Package Price Includes
Free Edition* $0
  • Free filing of federal and state returns*
  • Covers W-2 income, limited interest and dividend income, the Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, the standard deduction, and student loan interest deduction
Do-it-yourself options Deluxe $59 Federal $49 Per State
  • Allows itemized deductions
Premier $89 Federal $49 Per State
  • Allows reporting of capital gains and losses
  • Allows reporting of income and expenses from rental properties and pass-through businesses
Self-Employed $119 Federal$49 Per State
  • Allows reporting of income from a trade or business, contract work, and freelancing
  • Also works for the home office deduction
Basic $79 Federal & State
  • Essentially the free version but with on-demand help from a tax pro via video and a final review of your self-prepared return
TurboTax Live Deluxe $119 Federal$54 Per State
  • Everything included in Deluxe, plus on-demand help from a tax pro via video and a final review of your self-prepared return
Premier $169 Federal $54 Per State
  • Everything included in Premier, plus on-demand help from a tax pro via video and a final review of your self-prepared return
Self-Employed $199 Federal $54 Per State
  • Everything included in Self-Employed, plus on-demand help from a tax pro via video and a final review of your self-prepared return
Basic $199 Federal and State
  • Everything included in the free version, but a tax pro prepares your return for you
Full-Service Deluxe $249 Federal $54 Per State
  • Everything included in the Deluxe version, but a tax pro prepares your return for you
Premier $359 Federal $54 Per State
  • Everything included in the Premier version, but a tax pro prepares your return for you
Self-Employed $389 Federal $54 Per State
  • Everything included in the Self-Employed version, but a tax pro prepares your return for you

*For simple tax returns only. See if you qualify.

These prices reflect the list prices advertised as of Feb. 10, 2022, without any discounts that TurboTax may offer to people who file early in the tax filing season. If you want to pay your filing fee out of your federal refund, TurboTax charges an extra $39 refund processing fee for the convenience.

Video

TurboTax Premier Edition

  • Cost: $69 for federal + $39 for state
  • Should you get it? If you have investments and rental properties, then this is a good no-fuss option. TurboTax will also account for the gains and losses of cryptocurrency transactions (Bitcoin, anyone?).
  • Free alternative: Prepare your taxes yourself with Free File Fillable Forms from the IRS. You can also avoid the $39 TurboTax fee for state by filing through your state’s website for free.

Is TurboTax Live worth the cost?

In our view, most tax situations will not require TurboTax’s expert help upgrades. The main strength of TurboTax is that it’s accessible and comprehensive, meaning that the process offers enough information that you don’t need to dig to find it. Many of your questions can be answered through its online resources. That makes the added Live assistance category, where you can ask an expert questions and have them review your return at the end, mostly unnecessary. 

The category of Full Service is akin to a separate product. You’re simply sending your tax documents to a CPA or tax preparer, so you’re not using any of TurboTax’s interface — it’s just a way to find a qualified tax preparer through TurboTax. Our recommendation would be to compare the cost of a local tax expert with TurboTax’s Full Service option to determine which makes sense for you. 

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How much does each version cost?

When we looked up prices on Amazon, here were the prices for the digital download (these are the retail prices, listed price may be lower because of discounts and promotions):

I included the packages that also offer state filing too. If you don’t need that, you can often get it slightly cheaper without it.

Sometimes, it’s possible to do the Federal return with software and to file your state return on paper. This can save you money and state returns are often less complex.

Is TurboTax ever on sale?

Though the best TurboTax discounts happen early in the tax season — next year, buy your software in January — there are still good deals available on TurboTax software. CBS Essentials has found deals on TurboTax software at Amazon that you can shop right now. Keep scrolling to find deals on TurboTax software. 

Checking Your Work

When you come to the end of your data-entry chores, TurboTax Deluxe’s final review, called Complete Check, examines your return for accuracy. If it finds any errors, it helps you correct them by taking you directly to the problematic fields, allowing you to change them, and taking you back to Complete Check. Most sites do not work as smoothly. TurboTax Deluxe also transfers pertinent data into your state return and tells you about any additional entries you need to make there. The last step is to pay for the product and e-file your taxes.

TurboTax Live Full Service

  • Cost: $0 federal + $0 state for Basic; $249 federal + $39 state for Deluxe; $359 federal + $39 state for Premier; $389 federal + $39 state for Self-Employed
  • Should you get it? This is as hands-off as it gets. A tax expert will prep, sign, and even file your taxes. It comes with a hefty price tag, but if not having to worry about taxes is worth it to you then absolutely do it. 
  • Free alternative: None that we could find at this level, unless you qualify for the VITA or TCE programs.

A Quick Look at TurboTax

TurboTax has been around since the mid-1980s. Part of its popularity is due to the fact that it’s owned by Intuit. Intuit also makes a software called Quickbooks, which millions of companies use to manage their accounting. But TurboTax is also popular because it offers a user-friendly design and straightforward step-by-step guidance.

Like H&R Block, TurboTax has a free filing option that allows you to file your federal return and one state return at no cost. However, the free option only supports simple returns with form 1040. If you want to itemize your deductions with Schedule A or if you need to use any other forms, you will need to upgrade to a paid plan.

There are three paid TurboTax plans that run from $60 to $120 for federal filing. State filing is always $50 per state with the paid plans. The free option includes one free state return. Here’s a breakdown of your options with TurboTax:

TurboTax Filing Options
Filing Option Costs Features
TurboTax Free Edition – Federal: Free – State: Free – Best for simple returns using Form 1040 – Comes with easy import, error check, refund explanations, deductions for dependents
TurboTax Deluxe – Federal: $59 – State: $49 – Best for homeowners and for maximizing deductions – Comes with all previous features, plus charitable donations calculator
TurboTax Premier – Federal: $89 – State: $49 – Best for investors and rental property owners – Comes with all previous features – Focuses on investment and rental property income, accurate stock reporting, refinancing deductions
TurboTax Self-Employed – Federal: $119 – State: $49 – Best for self-employed, independent contractors, freelancers, consultants and small business owners – All previous features, plus access to self-employment tax experts, maximizing business deductions

As with H&R Block, TurboTax’s free option supports the 1040 with some child tax credits. The Deluxe option will be enough for most filers if they want a paid option, though. It costs $59, which is the same price as H&R Block’s Deluxe plan. You get slightly more features for that additional cost, however. Small business owners and self-employed individuals will need to upgrade to the Self-Employed option, which costs $119 for a federal return. TurboTax also frequently runs sales on its services and products during tax season.

TurboTax doesn’t have any physical locations like H&R Block, but it does provide access to tax experts like CPAs and EAs. It will cost extra for you to get access to an expert, but there are four plans available, corresponding to the four plans listed in the table above. For only expert advice, plans run from $79 to $199 for federal returns. But if you want full expert service, plans will cost you anywhere from $199 to $389 for federal returns. State filing still costs $54 per state with each of these versions.

Getting Started With TurboTax

Once you create an account or sign in with an existing one, TurboTax helps you select the correct version for your 2021 taxes. It displays several life situations that might affect taxes (owning a home, having children, selling stock, paying off student loans, and so on) and recommends the best solution for you. Once you’ve entered the site, it asks how you did your taxes last year and helps you import that data from TurboTax or another personal tax preparation website. Next, it asks you a second time to indicate which life situations apply to you. Finally, you get a list of the topics you identified as well as the tax documents you’ll need for each, which is very helpful. It also supplies tax tips for some topics.

If you’re using TurboTax for the first time, you have to provide answers to the site’s questions about your personal background, including your address, Social Security number, and occupation, along with several other queries about you and others on the return. If you’ve filed using TurboTax before, the information appears automatically. If you’re new to the site, you can automatically fill in some of that data by scanning the barcode of your driver’s license or state ID. 

When you come to issues that may be confusing, like filing status and dependents, TurboTax Deluxe asks questions and provides extra guidance, just as sites like TaxSlayer do. As you finish, you see a summary of your personal information. The service also asks whether you want to subscribe to MAX Defend and Restore, which includes full audit representation, priority care, and help with identity theft monitoring and identity restoration for $49.

At this point, you’re ready to move on to the meat of the site: entering your income, identifying your deductions and credits, and taking care of other tax-related situations. TurboTax, like some competitors, tries to streamline and accelerate data entry where possible. For example, you can import W-2 data if your employer supports this option or upload a copy of your W-2 to automatically fill in the details. Reporting interest from a Form 1099-INT is similar. You can upload a copy of the form, or you may be able to import the information directly from your bank. Where these options aren’t available, you click through related clusters of questions. Other times, you fill in blank fields.

HR Block vs. TurboTax: User Friendliness

Both of these services are known for their ease of use, but TurboTax is generally the more user-friendly of the two. This is generally true for both desktop and mobile users.

TurboTax’s interview-style approach will guide you through the filing process with simple and straightforward questions. There is minimal tax jargon. H&R Block is also user-friendly, but its questions and explanations are not always as clear as you would hope.

The filing process with TurboTax also includes encouraging phrases throughout. This isn’t a necessary feature, but taxes are stressful for many people. Seeing, “You can do this,” throughout the process may help to reduce some anxiety.

Another important consideration is how easy it is to upload documents. Both services do well on this front. H&R Block and TurboTax both let you upload your W-2 by taking a picture of it. Both services allow you to import your previous returns no matter which tax service you used (as long as you have a PDF version of the return). They also make it easy to fill out your state return after going through your federal return. Your information quickly transfers so you don’t waste time retyping everything.

What are some TurboTax alternatives?

Credit Karma Tax is the free tax service of Credit Karma (they recently rebranded to Cash App Tax), a popular credit score monitoring site that I have used for years. They offer free federal tax preparation and e-file, with many of the forms supported by Premier and Home & Business. They don’t have a deluxe/premium paid version, it’s 100% free with no upsells.

If you happen to need a form that isn’t covered by Credit Karma Tax, then you won’t be able to file with them.

FreeTaxUSA is a popular alternative that offers a free federal return with e-file. They make money on the state return, which costs $12.95, and on the deluxe version, if you need extra customer support, which only costs $6.99. The deluxe version is only about support. Their free version includes much of what is included in TurboTax Premier (investments, rental income) and Home & Business (1099 income and expenses). You can see our full review of FreeTaxUSA for more.

I hope this guide helped you understand the differences between the different versions of TurboTax!

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