This story is part of, CNET's coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.
TurboTax has been a leader in tax software for decades, and returns with another impressive version this year, earning it our designation as. If you still need to file your tax return -- income taxes for 2021 are due in a few days on April 18 -- TurboTax will get it done for you quickly and efficiently.
Whether you'reor an experienced tax filer, TurboTax can help you organize your tax information and deftly guide you through the process of completing your federal and state tax returns.
An efficient question-and-answer process and extensive tax help let TurboTax shine a bit brighter than its competitors. Its ease of use and tax expertise will eliminate any concerns aboutand getting your .
In awith , TurboTax's efficient approach adds more value than ever. It'll help you file your return quickly, while optimizing your odds of receiving a . For most taxpayers, TurboTax's higher price will be worth the peace of mind it provides.
- Intuitive interface
- Autoimports many tax documents
- Easy to switch from another tax service
- Offers two tiers of live support
- Desktop and mobile app
- Higher price than competitors
- Frequently prompts you to upgrade or buy more products
- Charges you for each state return you file
Who should use TurboTax?
While there are multiple approaches to filing your taxes -- hiring a CPA, using third-party software or using one of the IRS's Free File Online partners -- TurboTax will make the process easier for the widest range of people. Intuit offers four products, covering a spectrum of taxpayer situations. Individuals and families with a simple tax return, meaning a single W-2 and no investment or rental income, should be able to use the basic software for free.
That noted, TurboTax will not be the best choice for everyone. If you have a more complicated tax situation -- say, you're awith multiple clients or side hustles -- TurboTax's business packages may be overkill and more expensive than others. In fact, if you're not inclined to hire a CPA, we recommend .
It's also worth noting that if you worked in multiple US states in 2021, and will need to file, there may be better alternatives. At around $50 a pop per state return, TurboTax doesn't look as good as , which charges $25 and includes free, unlimited state returns when you file a federal return.
Taxpayers who need to claim qualified disaster retirement plan distributions should be aware that the required IRS Form 8915-F will not be available to file via TurboTax until March 24, 2022. Others like Form 4972, Tax on Lump Sum Distributions, won't be ready until March 31. Check to see all of the IRS forms that TurboTax supports and their available dates for e-filing.
What are TurboTax's different products?
TurboTax offers four different products, Basic, Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed, to choose from depending on the complexity of your return and how much human help you want.
Each tier offers two additional levels of expert help: TurboTax Live (live assistance from tax professionals) and TurboTax Live Full Service (a human CPA will handle your taxes for you). Live assistance is an optional category that allows you to regularly consult with an expert who will review your return. Full Service has an expert completely prepare and file your return for you. With those added offerings, that means you technically have a total of 12 options.
Basic: Free option for students and filers with a simple return
A simple tax return, which usually contains a single W-2 from one employer, doesn't require multiple itemized deductions and doesn't include investment income or rental property. You can claim the earned income tax credit, student loan interest and all or the rest of the. If you received unemployment benefits, however, you'll need to pay for the Deluxe edition.
You can also add expert help -- it will cost you $79 for TurboTax Live and $199 for TurboTax Live Full Service. If you file before March 31 for TurboTax Live or Feb. 15 for TurboTax Live Full Service, these services are free.
Deluxe: Best for maximizing deductions and credits
The Deluxe tier costs $39 for your federal return and $39 for each state return.
(Note: It's not always easy to determine if it's worth extra money to try to maximize your refund if you're not eligible for any credits or deductions. If you are eligible, however, and the Deluxe tier gets you an extra $500 with your refund, that $100 is a good investment. Keep in mind that if you decide to shift to a lower tier during the process, TurboTax will prompt you to start over and reenter your information.)
If you'd like to add TurboTax Live, it will cost $119 for your federal return and $49 for each state return. If you'd like Full Service for this tier, it costs $249 plus $49 for each state return.
Premier: Best for more complicated returns (investments and real estate income)
With the Premier tier, you can report investment income and rental property, while maximizing your refund. It's also a great option for those with robust cryptocurrency activity, allowing you to upload 4,000 crypto transactions at once. It costs $69 for your federal return plus $39 for each state return.
If you'd like to add TurboTax Live, it will cost $169 for your federal return plus $49 for state returns. For Full Service, it costs $359 plus $49 for each state return.
(Note: At this cost, you're entering standard CPA price levels.)
Self-Employed: Best for gig workers, freelancers and business owners
With the Self-Employed tier, freelancers, contractors and small business owners can maximize their deductions and report personal and business income and expenses, along with investment income and rental property income. Even if you have a salaried job, if you've done any freelance work in 2021, you'll need to pay for this edition of TurboTax to report this income and maximize any deductions. The starting price is $89 for your federal return plus $39 for state returns.
If you'd like to add TurboTax Live, this tier will cost $199 for federal taxes and $49 per state. For Full Service, you'll pay $389 for federal taxes and $49 per state.
TurboTax products, compared
|Best for||Product||Federal||State*||With TurboTax Live||With TurboTax Live Full Service|
|Simple returns only (form 1040)||Free||$0||$0||$0 federal/$0 state if by March 31, $79 after||$0 federal/$0 state if by Feb. 15, $199 after|
|Maximizing tax deductions/credits||Deluxe||$39||$39||$119 federal/$49 state||$249 federal/$49 state|
|Crypto, investing and real estate income||Premier||$69||$39||$169 federal/$49 state||$359 federal/$49 state|
|Freelancers and business owners||Self-employed||$89||$39||$199 federal/$49 state||$389 federal/$49 state|
*Cost is per state return filed
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.
Other notable features
Both the desktop app and the mobile app make it easy to input information and upload tax documents through TurboTax. You can also upload documents from prior years or from other tax services, and you can even take a photo of your physical documents. If you start and pause the process on one device, it's easy to resume the process where you left off on another.
TurboTax offers other useful tools, including a(you'll need an Intuit login to use it) and a that consistently updates the figure. Most advantageous, however, is the additional information that's provided to help you answer your difficult tax questions with simple responses and expanded context. You can delve as deep as you like to resolve a tax matter, depending on what your needs are and how much time you have.
The mobile app experience is quite good. While I'm not a fan of handling financial matters on my phone -- for both personal and practical reasons -- TurboTax makes it easy. It's a bit harder to read the additional information given the smaller screen, but you can still follow along with TurboTax's interview-based approach on a limited interface.
You can also choose to receive your refund a few different ways:
- Direct deposit
- Turbo Visa Debit Card (you'll have different options for state taxes, depending on where you live)
- Paper check
- Applied to next year's tax return
- US savings bond
- (valid through Feb. 15)
Why we recommend it
For those who want to get their taxes done quickly and with as little headache as possible, TurboTax is the leading contender. While it's not the cheapest option available, in our opinion the breadth of product options and smooth process make it worth the cost.
The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.