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:
- TurboTax Free Edition: If you have a simple tax situation without a lot of investment income, tax deductions and other miscellaneous tax situations, you may be able to file your federal and state taxes for free.
- TurboTax Deluxe: The most popular version, if you own a home, have charitable deductions or itemized medial expenses, this version may be for you. Federal filing costs $59, while adding state filing will cost $49 per state.
- TurboTax Premier: If you sold stocks, bonds or mutual funds, have cost basis calculations to make or have rental property income and expenses this version might be the one to use. It costs $89 for federal filing, while each state filing is $49 additional.
- TurboTax Home & Business: If you have a more complicated situation that includes Schedule C income, profit or loss from a small business, or if you have small business asset depreciation to calculate, Home & Business might be right for you. The cost is $119 for federal filing plus $49 additional for each state filing.
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 its “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, and 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.
One of the cool things about TurboTax is that you can try it out for free if you have a simple tax return, 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.