TurboTax continues to dominate the online tax filing software landscape, especially for do-it-yourself tax filers who want more hand-holding and have simple returns.
The service has once again earned the top spot on our list of best tax software list in 2024, due in large part to its convenient question-and-answer model that provides extensive tax help on every screen.
TurboTax has led the tax software industry for decades. Last year, 36 million 2023 returns were processed using TurboTax’s filing service. By comparison, H&R Block, its main competitor, helped file 20 million returns last tax season.
With tax laws changing every year, TurboTax’s easy-to-use service adds tons of value. The trade-off remains TurboTax’s lofty price, which is higher than the competition. But in most cases, perhaps with the exception of self-employed workers and those with investments, the price is digestible given what you get in return.
Who should use TurboTax?
TurboTax is a great choice for a wide range of tax filers -- particularly students and adults with simple tax returns who can take advantage of TurboTax Free Edition.
With TurboTax, if you have a W-2, dependents to claim or student loan interest you’d like to deduct (and no other deductions or income to report), you may qualify to file your federal and state taxes for free. According to TurboTax, about 37% of users are able to do so each year. And since 2014, 124 million people have filed their returns at no cost using TurboTax. This year, if you’re a Credit Karma user who didn’t use TurboTax to file your 2023 return, you may also qualify to file with the tax giant for free, regardless of your tax situation.
If you have a more complicated tax situation, like I do, TurboTax will work well, but it gets more expensive. Collected unemployment? Donated to charity? This will push you from TurboTax’s Free Edition to its paid Deluxe tier. Earned rental income or selling stocks will catapult you to TurboTax’s Premium tier, which has gone up $20 since last year’s promotional pricing.
This year, TurboTax Online has also gotten rid of its Self-Employed category and rolled it into its Premium tier. (However, TurboTax offers a desktop version of its service that still breaks out a package for self-employed workers and business owners.)
Since TurboTax charges $39 per state tax return, if you worked in multiple states in 2023, a company like Jackson Hewitt that offers a $25 flat-fee federal and unlimited state returns option, may be a better choice.
What products does TurboTax offer?
TurboTax online offers three tiers for online tax filing -- TurboTax Free Edition, Deluxe and Premium -- depending on the complexity of your return. Like its competitors, TurboTax offers promotional pricing throughout tax season to woo customers. Expect prices to increase as tax day, April 15, approaches.
If you decide you want extra help, TurboTax also offers two additional levels called TurboTax Live Assisted and TurboTax Live Full Service. The latter involves handing over your tax documents to a tax professional and having them prepare your taxes for you for a fee. If you qualify for TurboTax Free Edition, you can also get help from a tax expert and a final review for free through March 31 with TurboTax Live Assisted Basic.
TurboTax Free Edition: Best for students and filers with a simple return
A simple tax return usually contains a single W-2, may include limited interest and dividend income, doesn’t require itemized deductions, and doesn’t include rental property.
This version allows you to claim the standard deduction, earned income tax credit, student loan interest deduction, some capital gains and losses, and the child tax credit.
If you don’t qualify to file for free with TurboTax, it’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible to file for free through IRS Free File or another option, such as H&R Block Free Edition or FreeTaxUSA for federal filing only.
Disclaimer: Not all taxpayers qualify to file for free: About 37% of taxpayers qualify. Form 1040 + limited credits only. Learn more at TurboTax.
Deluxe: Best for maximizing deductions and credits
If you qualify for credits or deductions not covered in the Basic plan that boost your refund, it could be worthwhile to upgrade to Deluxe. At the time this is being published, TurboTax is charging $39 under promotional pricing for Deluxe for federal returns and $39 for state returns.
The Deluxe tier includes everything in the Basic version but also searches through more than 350 tax deductions and credits to find tax breaks that you qualify for. That makes it a good option if you had unemployment income, made charitable donations, contributed to a health savings account or had child care expenses in 2023.
Premium: Best for investors, freelancers and business owners
TurboTax’s Premium tier still caters to investors and filers with rental income. You can report investment income and rental property while maximizing your refund. This year, TurboTax Premium also lets freelancers and business owners file their returns. The separate Self-Employed tier no longer exists for online filers.
TurboTax Premium currently costs $89 for a federal return and $39 per state return.
Premium will allow freelancers, contractors and small business owners to 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 did any freelance work in 2023, you’ll need to pay for this edition of TurboTax to claim any deductions.
While all versions of TurboTax include an audit support guarantee, it’s particularly helpful for freelancers and self-employed workers. If the IRS audits your tax return, you can request assistance from a tax professional through TurboTax’s Audit Support Center. We also like that QuickBooks users can now file their self-employed taxes easily through their accounting software, which may make filing even easier for some freelancers.
TurboTax Products, compared
|TurboTax Live Assisted*
|TurboTax Live Full Service
|Students and simple tax returns
|$0 (through March 31)
|Starting at $89 for federal; $49 per state
|Maximizing tax deductions and credits
|$89 federal; $49 state
|Starting at $219 federal; $49 per state
|Crypto, investing, real estate income, self-employed
|$169 federal; $49 per state
|Starting at $309 federal; $49 per state.
If self-employed: starting at $389 federal; $49 per state
What’s going on with TurboTax and the FTC?
In 2022, TurboTax made headlines when the FTC accused the tax company of predatory marketing and misleading millions of Americans who could have qualified to file their taxes for free into paying for tax filing services.
A $141 million settlement was reached that year, and impacted users received a $30 payment for each year they paid for tax services that should have been free.
This week, the FTC ordered TurboTax to cease advertising its products as free unless they are free for all customers or it discloses the percentage of customers who qualify for the product within close proximity. If a majority of customers do not qualify for a free product, TurboTax must disclose that -- in addition to the terms required to obtain a “free” service.
In a Jan. 22 statement, Intuit said the company “has always been clear, fair, and transparent with its customers and is committed to free tax preparation.”
TurboTax expects no financial impact on its business but plans to appeal the decision.
How does TurboTax work?
Despite flirting with other services in the past, I’ve used TurboTax to file my taxes for four straight years. Some of that comes down to using what I’m comfortable with, but the fact that its software remains more robust than competitors is also a factor.
The Q&A style format works very well to help filers navigate past the myriad screens and questions you’ll have to answer. Based on my time using the service, you’ll spend a little over an hour filing your taxes on TurboTax. But it’s nice to be able to pause and pick up where you left off later on any device.
I also like that TurboTax also has all my past information saved, including where I worked last year and my home address. Of course, you’ll have to update those if you moved or landed a new job, but it’s nice not to have to input the same information year after year.
Once you confirm your basic personal information, TurboTax asks you questions about your tax situation to determine which tier -- free, deluxe or premium -- works best for you. You simply have to click all of the boxes that apply to you.
TurboTax will also ask you how comfortable you are doing your own taxes. If you want assistance from a tax professional through TurboTax Live, it’s available, at an additional cost. But if you’re willing to do it yourself, TurboTax’s intuitive interface guides you through each step of the filing process with ease.
Like other online tax filing software, TurboTax will tell you exactly where to find the information it needs on your tax forms and alert you when something doesn’t look right.
One drawback about using TurboTax is that it will try to upsell you into working with a tax expert or upgrading to a higher tier. It’s akin to getting unwanted pop ups on a website or mobile app. It’s annoying but relatively painless.
Another drawback previously mentioned is the price. TurboTax is the most expensive online tax filing software , especially for freelancers and rental property owners. But it can also become pricey for individuals who need to file multiple state tax returns. (TurboTax charges $39 to file state taxes, per return.)
One way I combat this is by looking for rebate offers on my credit cards. Both American Express and Chase are offering me cash back if I use my credit card to pay for TurboTax’s services this year (terms apply).
Are TurboTax Live Assisted and Full Service worth the cost?
If you’re comfortable doing your own taxes, most situations won’t require TurboTax’s expert help upgrades. The main strength of TurboTax is that it holds your hand throughout the tax filing process. The answers to your questions are very accessible and easy to understand.
You’ll be able to answer many of your questions through its online resources. That makes the added Live Assisted option, where you can ask an expert questions and have them review your return at the end, mostly unnecessary.
TurboTax Live Full Service is akin to a separate product. You’re simply sending your tax documents to a 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 Live Full Service option to determine which makes sense for you.
If you do want expert help, I recommend reaching out to a tax professional on your own -- you might find it’s more affordable to have a CPA handle your taxes for you, rather than paying for TurboTax Live Full Service.
Other notable features
TurboTax’s online filing software makes it easy to input information and upload tax documents. You can also upload documents from prior years or from other tax services and take a photo of your physical documents. If you start and pause the process, it’s easy to resume the process where you left off, even on mobile.
TurboTax offers other useful tools, including a charitable donation calculator (you’ll need an Intuit login to use it) and a refund estimator that consistently updates the figure as you input tax information.
Also new this year is Intuit Assist, a generative AI assistant that helps to match you with a tax expert and analyze your uploaded documents to create a personalized tax filing checklist. Should you seek help from a tax expert, they too will be equipped with Intuit Assist.
The mobile app experience is also quite good. While I’m not a fan of handling financial matters on mobile -- 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
- Credit Karma checking or savings account
Is TurboTax right for me?
For those who want to get their taxes done quickly with as little headache as possible, TurboTax is the leading contender. While it’s not the cheapest option available, the breadth of product options and smooth process make it worth the cost.