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TurboTax Review 2023: This Online Tax Software Still Dominates

Intuit's online tax software still tops the competition -- but it's costly if you have a complicated tax situation.

turbotax
TurboTax provides four levels of software for the simplest to most complicated tax returns.
Naomi Antonino/CNET

This story is part of Taxes 2023, CNET's coverage of the best tax software, tax tips and everything else you need to file your return and track your refund.

TurboTax has been a leader in tax software for decades, and returns with another impressive version this year, earning it our designation as the best tax software for most taxpayers. Whether you're filing your taxes for the first time or you're 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 about filing your tax return correctly and getting your maximum tax refund.

With tax laws changing every year, TurboTax's efficient approach adds more value than ever. It'll help you file your return quickly and easily -- and for most taxpayers, TurboTax's higher price will be worth the peace of mind it provides. 

This year, your tax return is due April 18, 2023, but filing early may expedite your refund and even help you prevent identity theft. And although you can't file your return with the IRS until the end of January, you can get started with TurboTax now. 

TurboTax

Like

  • Intuitive interface
  • Autoimports many tax documents
  • Easy to switch from another tax service
  • Offers two tiers of live support
  • Desktop and mobile app

Don't Like

  • 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?

TurboTax will make the process easier for the widest range of people. It offers four products that cover a spectrum of taxpayer situations. Individuals and families with simple tax returns only, meaning a single W-2 and no investment or rental income, should be able to use the basic software for free (not all taxpayers qualify).

That noted, TurboTax won't be the best choice for everyone. If you have a more complicated tax situation -- say, you're a self-employed worker with multiple clients or side hustles -- TurboTax's business packages may be overkill and more expensive than others. If you want to file your freelance taxes online, we recommend TaxSlayer.

It's also worth noting that if you worked or lived in multiple US states in 2022, and need to file separate state tax returns, there may be better alternatives. At around $39 per state return, TurboTax is more expensive than options like Jackson Hewitt, which includes state filing in its $25 flat-fee federal and unlimited state returns option.

What products does TurboTax offer?

TurboTax offers four product tiers -- Basic, Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed -- depending on the complexity of your return and how much live help you want.

Two additional levels of expert help are also available to add on to each tier, for a fee. TurboTax Live Assisted lets you regularly consult with a tax expert who will review your return before you submit it. And for the first time, TurboTax Live Full Service matches you with a CPA who prepares and files your taxes for you. With those added offerings, you technically have a total of 12 options.

Basic: Free option 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. The Basic version allows you to claim the standard deduction, earned income tax credit, some capital gains and losses and the child tax credit. TurboTax Basic even accepts form 1099-K, so you may be able to report income you made from a simple hobby or side hustle (though you won't be able to itemize any business deductions). Note, you can only file for free if you have a simple return, and not all taxpayers may qualify to file for free.

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.

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 2022. 

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 and 10,000 stock transactions at once. 

Self-Employed: Best for gig workers, freelancers and business owners

The Self-Employed tier allows 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 2022, you'll need to pay for this edition of TurboTax to maximize any deductions.

How much does TurboTax cost?

 TurboTax product prices range from $0 to $119, though TurboTax is lowering the cost of each product for a limited time.

TurboTax pricing, compared

Best for Product Federal State* With TurboTax Live Assisted With TurboTax Live Full Service
Simple returns only (form 1040) Free $0 $0 $0 federal and $0 state until March 31, $89 federal after $169 federal and $39 state until March 31, $209 federal/$49 state after
Maximizing tax deductions/credits Deluxe $39* $39 $89 federal and $49 state until March 31; $129 federal/$59 state after $219 federal and $49 state until March 31; $259 federal/$59 state after
Crypto, investing and real estate income Premier $69* $39* $129 federal and $49 state until March 31; $179 federal/$59 state after $329 federal and $49 state until March 31; $369 federal/$59 state after
Freelancers and business owners Self-employed $89* $39* $169 federal and $49 state until March 31; $209 federal/$59 state after $359 federal and $49 state until March 31; $399 federal/$59 state after

*Promotional pricing as of Jan. 5, 2023. Pricing subject to change.

Is TurboTax Live worth the cost?

Most tax situations won't require TurboTax's expert help upgrades. The main strength of TurboTax is that it's accessible and comprehensive, meaning the process offers enough information that you don't need to dig to find it. You'll be able to answer many of your questions 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 charitable donation calculator (you'll need an Intuit login to use it) and a refund estimator 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
  • Free partial refund advance (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, the breadth of product options and smooth process make it worth the cost. 

Compare other tax software

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