When it comes to do-it-yourself tax preparation software, the most well-known program by far is TurboTax. This program has won a loyal set of customers by providing an easy way to file tax returns quickly and accurately. With the release of the online versions of TurboTax, you no longer need to purchase the boxed version in order to file your taxes. Instead, you can start your return for free by creating an online account. In some instances, you can use the TurboTax Free Edition to file your taxes 100% free. However, in the majority of cases, it will be necessary to upgrade from a TurboTax free trial to a paid version in order to file your taxes.
You can try TurboTax Online for free and start working on your return without having to pay anything. This is great for consumers because they will be able to try out the software risk free and even complete their entire return online before deciding if they want to purchase the program.
Turbotax is based on an interview format. This means that you really don't need to understand anything about how to fill out tax returns. Instead, all you need to do is answer all the questions in an online interview format. There are videos and help files to assist you along the way. As you progress through the interview, the software will complete the tax return on your behalf. While the process itself is simple, the interview will still take two or three hours to complete for most people. Also, you will need to gather all the necessary documents, such as your W2s, mortgage interest statement, brokerage statements, and other related documents.
Once you finish the interview, you will be able to file your returns. However, filing will only be free if you have a very simple return (such as those that require the 1040EZ form). In most other instances, you will need to upgrade to a paid edition of the software in order to file your return. Prices can vary, but in general, you can expect to pay $49 to $99 for the upgrade. This is still far less than the cost of hiring a CPA or tax preparation service, which routinely costs $300 or more for standard returns.
Other Tax Filing Options for Saving Money
If you really want to save a lot of money, you can always download IRS publications as well as the appropriate forms, and file taxes manually. This is definitely feasible for the more simple tax returns where you report income only and have little or no other activity to report. If your returns are not simple, you should be aware that filing manually is not recommended unless you have some knowledge of finance and accounting. Even for people who have a familiarity with such topics, filing taxes can be a very complex process that requires many hours. Mistakes can end up costing you in terms of penalties and fines, so it's important to be very thorough and careful if you file your own tax returns.
Aside from Turbotax, there are a couple other tax preparation software programs you may want to consider. The most famous one would be TaxAct, however, when we tested this software, we found it to be far less user-friendly when compared to Turbotax. In our opinion, it is not worth the small savings given that using TaxAct will likely be a much more frustrating product to use.
For the most part, TurboTax is very straightforward to use, and as long as you can follow simple instructions, you should have no difficulty utilizing this program. New users, however, should check out some of the videos below before getting started:
Tips for Getting the Maximum Refund
Each year, many individuals leave hundreds or even thousands of dollars of potential refunds on the table because they don't claim all the deductions they can. For this reason, if your tax situation is extremely complicated, then it might be a good idea to work with a tax professional.
In most other cases, using a good program like Turbotax is sufficient to accurately complete your returns and get the maximum refund possible. In fact, Turbotax has a maximum refund guarantee, which should put your mind at ease when you use the software.
That said, you are still responsible for answering questions accurately, and making elections such as whether or not to take the standard deduction or to itemize your deduction. Some about of tax knowledge, therefore, can go a long way toward ensuring that you get as much money back as possible.
If you itemize deductions, make sure you do not overlook the following deductions:
State Sales Tax
Job Hunting Costs
Credits for Energy Saving Homes
As you can see, there are quite a few deductions you may have not considered. We recommend getting a comprehensive list of deductions so that you make the most of your itemized deductions.
Turbotax Coupons and Discounts
In addition to the Turbotax Free Edition, you can also get coupons, promo codes, and other discounts from Turbotax. Such deals are not always available, but we will list them below when they are.
Currently, you can get 20% off on Turbotax by clicking the link below: