TurboTax Review 2023

TurboTax is one of the more expensive online filing products, but its ease of use and human help options are noteworthy.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
By Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Edited by Chris Hutchison

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TurboTax is generally pricier than everything else out there. While confident filers may not need all the bells and whistles that most TurboTax online products offer, some people may find the experience and the availability of human help worth the extra cost. We’ve long praised TurboTax for its design and user experience.

FREE

$0 + $0 per state filed.

For simple tax returns only; it allows you to file a 1040 and a state return for free, but you can’t itemize or file schedules 2 or 3 of the 1040. Limited use of schedule 1 is available. Not all taxpayers qualify.

PAID PACKAGES

Live Assisted Basic $89 (state included). Free until 3/31.

Free version plus access to a tax pro, advice and a final review until March 31.

Deluxe $59 + $54 per state (Live Assisted: $129, $59).

Itemize and claim several tax deductions and credits. Works well for business income but no expenses.

Premier $89 + $54 per state (Live Assisted: $179, $59).

Deluxe version plus investment reporting and rental income (Schedules D and E, and K-1s).

Self-Employed $119 + $54 per state (Live Assisted: $209, $59).

Premier version plus business income, expenses on a Schedule C, home office deductions and features for freelancers.

Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $15 on TurboTax.


One note about prices: Providers frequently change them and may offer discounted services and packages toward the beginning of the tax-filing season. These markdowns tend to get replaced with surge pricing the closer we get to April. We base our reviews on the list prices and not the discounts to reflect this. You can verify the latest price by clicking through to TurboTax’s site. TurboTax also offers desktop software, where your return doesn't reside in the cloud, but it’s not part of our review.


TurboTax's prices

TurboTax has a lot going for it, but price isn’t one of them. The list price of its software routinely is on the high end of the spectrum, especially when adding the cost of a state return. And if you want access to human help, it costs even more.

What you get from TurboTax's free version

TurboTax offers a free version for simple tax returns only; not all taxpayers qualify. The free version lets you file a Form 1040, claim the earned income tax credit and child tax credit and deduct student loan interest. This year it also offers Schedule 1 help, limited to simple hobby, personal property rental and personal item sales that are reported on a Form 1099-K. 

The free package, however, can’t handle itemized deductions, the full schedule 1 or schedules 2 or 3 of Form 1040, which means it probably won’t work for you if you plan to do things such as deduct mortgage interest, report business or freelance income, or report stock sales or income from a rental property.

TurboTax's ease of use

How it works

TurboTax’s interface is like a chat with a tax preparer. If you’re a new user, you’ll be asked to confirm a series of tax situations — such as if you have dependents, if you’ve donated to charity, if you have unemployment income and if you sold crypto or stocks during the last tax year — to determine which of TurboTax’s four packages will best suit your specific situation.

If you’re a returning user, your information from the previous tax year will be preloaded into the program, and you’ll be asked about life changes that occurred in the last year that might affect your tax picture, such as if you bought a new home or if you’ve started freelancing.

Once you start working on your return, TurboTax will run you through a series of Q&A-style and fill-in-the-blank questions and import documents (e.g., W-2, 1099s) automatically where possible to eliminate time-consuming manual entry. Questions are phrased simply, and tax jargon is kept at a minimum. This makes the process of filing your taxes generally seamless — the program never drops the curtain between you and the IRS forms. You simply answer questions and your return gets filled in behind the scenes. 

Note: Like most other tax prep providers, TurboTax doesn’t make it especially easy to downgrade to a lower-tiered package. If you find that you’ve accidentally started working with, say, the Premier version, and then realize the Deluxe might suit your needs, you can’t just click a button and change package types. According to the provider, the easiest way to downgrade is to delete your information and start over, but you won’t be able to do this if you’ve already submitted a credit card payment. You can find more information on downgrading here.

What it looks like

One of TurboTax’s most notable features is its contextual help in the form of videos, expandable sidebar information, and embedded links throughout that offer tips, explainers, videos and other resources. Help buttons can also connect you to the searchable knowledge base, on-screen help and more.

As you make your way through the return, a banner running along the side keeps track of where you stand in the process and flags areas you still need to complete. You can also skip around if you need to. A refund estimator is present on all pages. You can also click into it to get a detailed breakdown of what factors are currently affecting your refund.

Handy features

You can switch from another provider: TurboTax imports electronic PDFs (not scans of hard copies) of tax returns from H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, Liberty Tax/Tax Brain and ezTaxReturn.

Auto-import certain tax documents: You can automatically import W-2 information from your employer if it's partnered with TurboTax, but you can also take a picture of your W-2 and upload it to transfer the data to your return. The Self-Employed version also lets you upload 1099-NECs and 1099-Ks from clients via photo, as well as import income and expenses from Square, Uber and Lyft. TurboTax also boasts a large number of import partners (review them here).

Crypto support: TurboTax’s Premier package eliminates one of the biggest pain points for cryptocurrency investors — manual entry. Users can import up to 20,000 crypto transactions at once.

Donation calculator: The Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed packages integrate ItsDeductible, a feature — and standalone mobile app — that’s helpful for quickly finding the deduction value of donated clothes, household items and other objects.

Platform mobility: Like many other providers, TurboTax lets you access and work on your return across devices: on your computer via the website or on your phone or tablet.

TurboTax's human tax help

One of TurboTax’s most notable tax help options is TurboTax Live Assisted. It’s a service that you can add on to every package for an additional fee, and it gets you on-demand screen sharing, phone or chat access to tax pros who can help you with questions that arise as you fill out your return. From mid-January through the tax-filing deadline, you can access the tax pro feature seven days a week, from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time

Taxpayers are matched with a pro based on the question they have, and you can request a new tax pro if you’re not satisfied with the one assigned to you. According to TurboTax, its pros are either CPAs, enrolled agents, or TurboTax employees who have gone through vetting and internal training. Once you’re connected with your pro, you’ll also get to see their credentials. The Live Assisted option also gets you a final review with a tax pro before you file.

TurboTax also offers Live Full Service, which does away with tax software altogether. Instead, you upload your tax documents and a human puts together your tax return. You’ll be matched with a tax preparer, meet on a video or phone call before they begin working, and then you’ll meet again when your return is ready for review. The preparer files the return for you, and if you choose to use Full Service next year, you can even request to work with the same tax pro if they’re available. Prices range from $209 to $399 for federal returns depending on complexity, plus $49-$59 per state return.

TurboTax's support options

Here’s a look at the various ways you can find answers and get guidance when filing your return with TurboTax.

Ways to get help

  • General guidance: Searchable knowledge base, forums, calculators  and video tutorials are helpful for research on the fly.

  • Tech support: TurboTax Digital Assistant (a chatbot) and contact form available for all; paid packages get access to a TurboTax specialist. TurboTax also has an online support page that covers basic questions taxpayers may have about the product or their return, as well as a community forum.

If you're audited

Getting audited is scary, so it’s important to know what kind of support you’re getting from your tax software. First, be sure you know the difference between "support" and "defense." With most providers, audit support (or "assistance") typically means guidance about what to expect and how to prepare — that’s it. Audit defense, on the other hand, gets you full representation before the IRS from a tax professional.

TurboTax gives everyone free audit support from a tax pro to help you understand what’s going on if you get that dreaded letter about your 2022, 2021 or 2020 tax return; if TurboTax can’t connect you with a pro, you’ll get a refund. If you want someone to represent you in front of the IRS, you’ll need TurboTax’s audit defense product, called MAX. It runs an extra $49 and includes features such as identity theft monitoring, loss insurance and restoration help.

If you're getting a refund

No matter how you file, you can choose to receive your refund several ways:

  • Direct deposit to a bank account.

  • Transferred to your Credit Kama Money Spend account (up to five days early).

  • Direct deposit to Coinbase account.

  • Paper check.

  • Apply the refund to next year’s taxes.

  • Directing the IRS to buy U.S. Savings Bonds with your refund.

You also have the option of paying for the software out of your refund. But there’s usually a $39 charge to do so.

How TurboTax compares

  • Federal: $24.95 to $64.95. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $39.95 to $44.95.

  • All filers get access to Xpert Assist for free.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 25% off federal and state filing costs.

  • Federal: $55 to $110. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $37 per state.

  • Online Assist add-on gets you on-demand tax help.

  • Federal: $59 to $119. Free version available for simple returns only.

  • State: $0 to $54 per state.

  • Live Assisted Basic is free through March 31.

Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $15 on TurboTax.

  • Federal: $19.95 to $49.95 Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $39.95 per state.

  • On-demand tax help at Premium and Self-Employed tiers.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 30% off federal filing costs. Use code NERD30.

The bottom line

With its intuitive design and variety of human support options, TurboTax is in many ways the standard for the do-it-yourself tax-prep industry. Its products come at a price, however, and confident filers might find that similar offerings from competitors may provide a better value.

Methodology

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest online tax software providers. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of available software to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs. We adhere to strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

We collect data directly from providers, do first-hand testing and observe provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questions to providers. The questions are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The provider’s answers, combined with our specialists’ hands-on research, make up our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance.

The final output produces star ratings from poor (1 star) to excellent (5 stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star. For more details about the categories considered when rating tax software and our process, read our full methodology.

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