Review: TurboTax

Posted By: Dr. Frugal in Taxes on 08/22/2007 at 11:55:13

TurboTax is far-and-away the top-selling tax preparation software. How much market share do they command· When a glitch delayed some 2007 filers, the IRS caved and gave them an extra day to get it in. When you can make the IRS flexible you've got all the clout you need.

If you use any of Quicken's other financial software products, you'll find that TurboTax has a familiar feel. Even if you're new to Quicken products, TurboTax has taken a very stressful and complex issue and broken it down into small, manageable chunks that it won't overwhelm you. It saves on the worst part of doing your taxes--piles and piles of forms, worksheets, and instructions that you need a magnifying glass to read.

TurboTax comes in three versions, which handle returns of different complexity: 1040EZ (Basi

c), Deluxe, and Premier. You can get each version of the software as a CD to load onto your computer, download from their site, or access a web-based version that will automatically file for you.

Online vs. Desktop Version

The online and desktop versions are virtually identical with a few exceptions. The online versions of the software offer free e-filing that may be extra on desktop versions. On the other hand, the desktop versions of the Deluxe and Premier software include a free download of the state return software. State returns are extra in the online version.

The 1040EZ (Basic) version is for the simplest returns. The 1040EZ is the online version of the software, while the Basic is the desktop version. For returns that aren't too complicated, this version will zip you through the process in a hurry, whether you use the desktop or online version. This is obviously the lease expensive version, but don't pick it on price. If you need more help, choose of the more powerful options.

The Deluxe version, which has the same name for both the online and desktop package, is for the more complicated return. The Deluxe version includes a copy of It's Deductible, a guide for valuing charitable donations. This version probes you more deeply for deductions in medical care, education, and other areas that filers may overlook. The Deluxe version also includes video clips offering expert tax suggestions and easy access to authoritative IRS publications.

The Premier version offers all the benefits of the Deluxe plus assistance for people with investments, a sole-proprietorship business, or rental property. The Premier version of TurboTax is geared towards a moderately complicated return. Even if you don't have much invested in stocks and bonds, you may have a significant amount tied up in your retirement plan--either IRAs or your 401(k). The Premier version has some special features geared toward those situations, which may be helpful.

If you consider yourself "average" in most ways, TurboTax is probably right for you. When I used it a few years back for my sole proprietorship it missed a few things that my CPA caught but most people aren't running those or have a stack of 1099s. Think about it like this--if your taxes really (and I mean really) want to bang your head into a wall, TurboTax will be too weak for you. If your taxes only make you want to cry (or less), there is probably a version that is perfect for you.


Posted by at August 31, 2008, 11:12 am:

I need a tax form I am on ss, I deduct medicat, charitable donations, miles to dr. tx's. i have IRA's. one annuity which one woukd ai need and what is the cost, also easy to follow. Thanks

Posted by aircarl at December 4, 2008, 4:12 pm:
Intuit is trying to pull a fast one on consumers this year by including e-filing "at no extra charge." Intuit is promoting that they are including one free e-file with its software for tax year 2008, but has also increased the price of its products by about $15. In previous years, they would charge $15 extra to e-file, but you could send in a rebate to get that $15 back, which made it effectively free. This year, they charge you $15 upfront, whether you use the e-file or not, which means EVERYBODY PAYS MORE. In addition, they have changed their product's license from allowing a purchaser of TurboTax to prepare up to five tax returns within the household in the 2007 version to allowing only one tax return (with included e-file) and then charging $9.95 for each additional return prepared, WHETHER THOSE ADDITIONAL RETURNS ARE PRINTED OR E-FILED in the 2008 version. The additional charges for additional e-file submissions would be fair, but not for additional preparations and printed returns. So what this means is that, under the guise of providing free e-file, Intuit will charge up to $54.80 ($15 + 4 * 9.95) MORE to consumers to receive the equivalent of what was provided with the 2007 version. Keep in mind, they are charging even if you prepare and print more than one return without e-filing, which means there is NO COST TO THEM, but they want to charge you for it anyway. This doesn't sound free to me. This will affect many users who prepare one main return, and then a few more simple ones for children or parents, etc. Even if you only do one return, you should avoid this year's TurboTax on principle. The core issue is that Intuit is trying to change TurboTax from a tool-based product model to a service-based model. However, they have not changed the pricing to reflect this change. The problem is, they want to continue pricing the product like they did before, when it was a tool that could be used multiple times, yet restrict it like a service where you pay for every use. If you object to the one return policy, Intuit will just say, "Use TurboTax Online, it's free for simple returns!", but this suggestion is just a distraction in this discussion. What they are saying is like this: Suppose I bought a nice brand-name toolset for full price and used it on one project. I've now setup all the tools in the box just like I like it and become totally familiar with the tools and how they can be used, so much that I can just reach in the box without looking and find the tool I need and once I get it out I know just how hard to hit with that hammer. I finish the project and close up my toolbox for the day. The next day, my mom wants me to fix something so I get the toolbox but I now find that it is locked and has a security sticker on it saying that I'll have to pay $10 extra to open the toolbox for each additional project. Or, I can pack up my mom's item and drive it to the hardware store where they will let me borrow some simple tools to try and fix the item but if it gets too complicated over there, they'll start charging me to rent additional tools. Not to mention that I have to throw away all the learning that I've already developed with the great toolset that I already bought and learn another whole set of rental tools at the hardware store. If I wanted to rent tools, then I wouldn't have bought the toolbox in the first place (which was probably what the hardware store really wanted when they came up with this scheme). Here is the problem people have with this scenario: Last year, the toolbox included 5 uses. This year the toolbox costs $15 more but only allows a single use. Ok, it adds a "free" service that used to cost $15 but we may or may not want to use that service and if we did, we could send in a rebate for to get the $15 back, making it effectively free. But "Free service" aside, what happened to the value of those unlimited uses? The price of the toolbox stayed the same, but the functionality went down because we can only use it once. Maybe it would be more ok if there was a big sign at the store that said: "SAVE ON THIS TOOLBOX! YOU CAN ONLY USE IT ONCE BUT IT'S CHEAPER!" Or at have the decency to post a very big warning: "THIS TOOLBOX COSTS THE SAME AS LAST YEAR, BUT YOU CAN ONLY USE IT ONCE!" Don't let them get away this price increase that has no basis in common sense. Avoid TurboTax this year until they change this ridiculous policy, even if you only prepare a single return with it. If you buy it, they'll use your sales data to justify this unreasonable change, then who knows what else they will try to charge us for next for doing nothing on their part. Looking at the big picture, what Intuit probably wants in the long term is to move people away from the boxed product and over onto the online product and then kill off the boxed product. This would eliminate the costs of physical production and distribution and the bandwidth costs of distributing software updates. It would also eliminate the slice of the profits given to retailers that sell their boxed product and kill off any promotional pricing or freebies. With no retailer competition, Intuit could charge whatever they want for their online service. It would also increase customer lock-in since their data would be purely stored on their own company servers.

Posted by Dan_L at December 29, 2008, 1:57 pm:
Intuit reversed itself on Dec. 12, 2008 and announced that you can print as many federal returns as you like and e-file up to 5 returns (the IRS-imposed limit) at no extra charge. Details at:

Posted by Joe at March 4, 2009, 6:28 pm:
I have to agree with turbo tax being costly this year, I normally use the free version and then pay to efile it. Fine, but this time they charged me when I needed a different form. But they said we won't charge you till you file your taxes.Long story short- It would cost me 69 dollars this year to use the free file. Great going You twit-unit) Intuit. The progress is stunning, I think they hired a goverment planner this year. Count me out for using Turbo Tax this year, I'll figure it out myself.

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