Tax time is going to be here soon, with the tax filing start date coming at the end of January. By now you should be starting to receive your W2 forms, 1099 interest income forms and other miscellaneous income reporting forms.
Now that your stack of tax information is growing, it’s time to start entering your taxes in order to get ready for filing!
The tax software that I've been using for a couple of years now is TurboTax Deluxe, available from Intuit – the same folks that brought us Mint.com.
NOTE: Read our updated TurboTax Review HERE
When filing your return with TurboTax, the first thing that you have to do is choose which version of their software you're going to use. Here are your 4 main options:
- Free Edition. If you've got a pretty basic return without a lot of miscellaneous income, investments, etc, the free edition may work for you. Federal e-filing is free, but state e-filing will cost you $27.99.
- Deluxe. For those with a pretty basic return, but who itemize their deductions, the Deluxe edition is a better choice. It costs $29.95 for federal e-filing, and state costs an additional $36.99.
- Premier. If you have more complicated stock transactions, rental property income or business income, TurboTax Premier is a good option. It will cost you $49.99 for federal e-filing. Again, state filing is $36.99.
- Home & Business. This version is designed for those who own their own business. It will cost you $74.99, plus state filing is $36.99.
For most people either the TurboTax Free Edition or TurboTax Deluxe will fit the bill quite nicely. Once your situation starts getting a little more complicated you may want to move up to Premier or Business versions.
Filing With TurboTax
TurboTax Is Easy To Use
The first thing that I would stress about this software is that it is so easy to use. It's intuitive even for the most simple minded users like myself. It will walk you through each step of the process, using it's “GPS” feature to guide you through all of the different sections including personal information, wages and income, deductions, miscellaneous income and more. It is extremely thorough, when you're done with the software you'll submit your return feeling like you've exhausted all options to reduce your taxes through tax credits, deductions and so on.
Flag Things For Later Entry Or Review
One feature I especially appreciated was the flag feature. Basically it allows you to flag any page to come back to later in case you don't have a piece of information handy at that time. For example, I had to use the flag feature once on the miscellaneous income page as I was still waiting for a couple of 1099 forms in the mail – and on another page where I needed to enter some interest income. So I flagged those pages, and it was easy to come back to just by going to the “flags” menu at the top of my screen. Click on it and choose the correct page from the list (see the screenshot below).
TurboTax Help Center
Another feature of TurboTax that I really liked was the TurboTax help center. If you ever have a question about if you're eligible to take a certain deduction, or where to enter certain tax information, you can just go to the help center menu at the top, or type in your question in the search bar. Chances are several people have already asked the same question, and your answer will be there and waiting for you.
If you've got some free time, there are also some pretty funny questions that you can find in the help center. It can be entertaining to browse through them. For example, one question someone asked was “Can I claim my dog?”. The answer given by another user: “Sure, if “Dog” is the name of one of your children.” Nice.
TurboTax – Other Features And Benefits
Some other benefits of the TurboTax software:
- GPS feature, guiding you step-by-step: Built in guidance for more than 350 possible deductions and credits. They have a maximum refund guarantee!
- Real time error checking: flags errors and missed information as you go. Fix mistakes right then, or later on.
- Double Checking for commonly overlooked deductions and credits: You won’t miss important credits that many people fail to claim every year.
- Audit support: The TurboTax Audit Risk Meter helps customers avoid common errors and reduce their risk of an audit before they file. An Audit Support Center assists customers in the unlikely event they are audited.
- Instantly transferring investment and wage information: TurboTax customers can easily, accurately and securely import 1099 investment and W-2 wage information from more than 140 financial institutions and payroll providers directly into their tax return.
- Compare to last year's return: One thing I appreciated was how, if you did your taxes with TurboTax last year, it will compare this year's and last year's income, deductions/etc. Nice so you can see how each year stacks up against the other.
Try TurboTax Out For Free
One of the cool things about TurboTax is that you can try it out for free, and see how it works for you. You can then compare your results against other software that you're testing – to see if the results are comparable – or if they're better with one or the other. You don’t even have to pay until you get to the point of actually filing and sending in your return. If you’re not happy with it, don’t go through with filing – it won’t cost you a thing. I've done this for a couple of years just for fun, and TurboTax usually has the same results or slightly better. I'd be interested to hear what results you have!
Stay tuned for a TurboTax Deluxe Giveaway later this month! Start your return now by clicking above, and then stay tuned to win a code to file for free later!