TurboTax Review [2021]: A User-Friendly Program That Makes Filing Simple

TurboTax has a user-friendly interface, but can be pricey if you need to do more than just file a 1040 form.
Last updated May 13, 2021 | By Christy Rakoczy
Couple using TurboTax to file their taxes

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TurboTax is one of the best known and widely used tax preparation software programs — and with good reason. It's user-friendly, walks you through filling out all your forms, and it actually makes filing and paying taxes simple.

But all of this convenience can come at a cost as Turbotax tends to be more expensive than many competitors if you need to do anything beyond file a 1040 form, such as filing a business tax return. You may find that it's worth paying a premium for all the features it offers, though, including guidance on how to manage your money. This TurboTax review will help you decide.

TurboTax Benefits

  • America’s #1 brand in tax software
  • Searches a database of 350+ tax deductions
  • 100% accurate calculations

In this article

TurboTax overview

TurboTax is owned by Intuit, which also offers other well-known financial software including Mint and Quickbooks. According to the company, which was founded all the way back in 1983, its mission is "powering prosperity around the world."

TurboTax has become a well-established brand over the three decades it's helped people do taxes and is now the best-selling tax software provider in America. Tax-filers trust it because of its long history but also because it provides multiple guarantees.

It not only guarantees its calculations are 100% accurate so you can avoid some common tax mistakes, but it also promises to maximize your refund. If another tax prep method gets you more money back, it'll refund what you paid for the software or give you $30 if you used the TurboTax free edition.

How much does TurboTax cost: Products and prices

TurboTax offers the chance to use its software and file for free, but only if your return is very simple and you're claiming the standard deduction. If you hope to claim any other deductions — including a deduction for student loan interest or contributions to retirement accounts or health savings accounts — you'll need to upgrade to its costlier Deluxe product.

For those whose returns are even more complicated because of business expenses, rental properties, or investment income, the price climbs very quickly. TurboTax also charges a fee of $40 per state return (unless you're using the free edition) so the program gets even more expensive if you live or work in one or more states that impose a personal income tax.

If you find taxes confusing and want a CPA to review your return, you can opt to pay an additional premium for live support. You'll get on-demand access to an accountant or enrolled agent who can you talk to right from your computer screen. You can ask as many questions as you want as you're filing taxes, including having the expert do a line-by-line review of your return. While this is a great feature for those who are nervous about getting everything done right, the cost is about double, depending on which product you've chosen. 

If you'd prefer to have an expert file taxes for you, TurboTax also offers this option with its full-service product. You simply upload your tax forms and an expert will prepare your returns. You have the option to request tax advice and ask questions throughout the year, not just at tax time, and you'll be able to do a one-on-one consultation with your tax expert before they file your returns. 

The table below shows the price of your options so you can see how much you'd have to pay based on the type of return you need to file and the level of support you'll require.

Product Cost Best for...
Free Edition $0 Taxpayers with very simple returns who want to file federal taxes and state taxes for free
TurboTax Basic $0 (if you file by 3/27/21) + $40 per state for Live Basic

$100 (if you file by 3/27/21) + $40 per state for Full-Service Basic
Taxpayers with simple tax situations who want a CPA to review their return
TurboTax Deluxe $40 + $40 per state

$90 + $40 per state for Live Deluxe

$170 + $40 per state for Full-Service Deluxe
Taxpayers with deductions including the student loan interest deduction
TurboTax Premier $70 + $40 per state

$140 + $40 per state for Live Premier

$230 + $40 per state for Full-Service Premier
Taxpayers with investments or rental property
TurboTax Self-Employed $90 + $40 per state

$170 + $40 per state for Live Self-Employed

$260 + $40 per state for Full-Service Self-Employed
Taxpayers with business income or business expenses

How does TurboTax work?

TurboTax prides itself on making taxes as simple as possible and its user-friendly interface achieves this objective. The program guides you through completing your federal and state tax return by asking you basic questions about your life in simple, plain language. Based on your answers, the program not only fills out your tax forms for you but also helps you identify deductions and credits you're entitled to. Its database of more than 350 deductions ensures you won't miss any chance to save on your taxes.

Completing your forms is also incredibly simple thanks to the fact TurboTax allows you to take a picture of your W-2. The program uses the information from your picture to autofill your tax forms.

If you need a little extra help, you can talk to a CPA or Enrolled Agent on demand. And once your forms are complete, you have the option to have everything checked over by an actual CPA. While this live support costs a little more than if you do everything yourself without help, you'll likely still pay less than if you hired an accountant on your own. If you want to take your tax return off your plate entirely, you can also opt to pay an additional fee and have a tax professional do your taxes for you with a TurboTax Full-Service package.

Best of all, you don't have to stress over errors to your state or federal return, as TurboTax offers both a guarantee that the math is done properly and a guarantee that you'll qualify for the maximum deductions and credits.

If you're charged a penalty because TurboTax made a math error, your penalty and interest will be paid. And you'll be refunded for the price of the program or given $30 if you used the free edition and another tax prep program got you a bigger refund.

TurboTax pros and cons

There are a few major pros of using TurboTax, including the following benefits:

  • The company's user-friendly interface. Doing your taxes is both quick and easy thanks to the auto-filled forms and the fact you're asked simple questions to complete your forms and identify opportunities to save.
  • The chance to get support from a CPA. If you want added reassurance, access to professional advice from a real person can make all the difference.
  • The TurboTax guarantees. Tax penalties can be costly but you won't have to worry about owing money due to a math error.
  • Audit support: You'll get free answers to questions year-round if you're audited by the IRS. And TurboTax provides the option to get professional advice at an additional cost.
  • Access to tax preparers: If you'd prefer to have an expert prepare your tax return, TurboTax offers this option. 

There are also some cons to consider. The disadvantages of TurboTax include the following:

  • The program can get expensive, especially if you pay for live support. Unfortunately, you cannot claim common deductions, including the student loan interest deduction, if you use the free version, so many filers will have to pay.
  • The maximum refund guarantee only refunds what you paid to file (or $30 if you used the free version). If you missed out on deductions or credits, TurboTax doesn't refund you the amount you'd have saved on your taxes.

It can help to compare TurboTax to other tax preparation software available such as TaxAct and H&R Block. With a side-by-side comparison of TaxAct vs. TurboTax vs. H&R Block, you can better determine if TurboTax maximizes the advantages you need while limiting the drawbacks.   

How to contact TurboTax

TurboTax provides access to an online forum where you can ask questions and get answers from other community members. There is also a searchable database offering instructions and video tutorials.

If you need to call TurboTax, tech support is available via phone at 888-777-3066, which is the general customer support line. You can also sign in to your account and connect via phone or chat with an expert offering personalized support for your specific issue. If you pay for TurboTax Live, tax help is available via screen-sharing and video support.


How much is TurboTax?

The price varies by product. There is a free option if you have a very basic return, but prices range from $50 to $260 if you have a more complicated return or prefer to have a tax preparer complete your return.

Is TurboTax really free?

Tax filing with TurboTax is free if you have a very simple tax return. Beyond that, pricing varies for different products and levels of support. You will have to pay if you need to claim certain deductions or credits; if you have business expenses or earn small business income; or if you have income from investments or a rental property.

Do you have to buy TurboTax every year?

You will need to pay for TurboTax each year when your taxes are too complicated to use the free edition or when you want live support.

What does TurboTax free edition cover?

You can use the free edition if you only have W-2 income and you are claiming only the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits. You cannot use it if you have income from other sources or wish to claim other deductions, including the deduction for student loan interest or mortgage interest

Can you use TurboTax on your phone?

TurboTax offers a mobile app for Apple and Android devices. You can use the app to complete all your tax forms or to simply snap a photo of your W-2 so the information can be imported into your tax forms. You can also connect with a CPA or EA from your phone if you use TurboTax Live.

In addition to its tax app, TurboTax also offers a TaxCaster app to quickly estimate the amount of your tax refund as well as an app to keep track of deductible charitable donations called ItsDeductible.

What is the best tax preparation company?

While TurboTax is an excellent tax filing option, there are several good alternatives out there including FreeTaxUSA, TaxSlayer, TurboTax, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, TaxAct, and Credit Karma. To find the best one for you, shop around and compare prices and features.

Bottom line

TurboTax is one of the best tax software providers because it's easy to use, offers ample support, and provides product guarantees that should give you peace-of-mind. While the price may be a little higher than some competitors, you may just find the added cost is worth paying this tax season, thanks to all this program has to offer.

TurboTax Benefits

  • America’s #1 brand in tax software
  • Searches a database of 350+ tax deductions
  • 100% accurate calculations

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.