The nation’s most popular tax-preparation software continues to evolve and improve, providing even more reasons for the do-it-yourself tax preparer to select this product.
TurboTax has made several changes in its program, both to improve its service, and also to adjust to changes in the tax code.
Read on for our review of TurboTax and see what’s new for those filing their 2014 tax returns.
New in TurboTax for 2015
To stay on the cutting edge, TurboTax has added new features in its 2014 tax-reporting software:
Affordable Care Act Tax Penalty
In 2014, the government initiated tax penalties to filers who had no health insurance for part or all of the year. The tax is the higher of $95 or 1% of your income above certain thresholds.
TurboTax can help you with that.
TurboTax can guide you through the new health care laws and make sure your info is entered onto the right tax forms. And if you do owe a penalty for not having coverage, they’ll check to see if you qualify to have the penalty waived, which could result in you saving hundreds of dollars. This is a feature that figures to get even more important in the future, as the impact of this penalty becomes greater.
TurboTax Mobile App
This feature was included in our 2013 TurboTax review, so it isn’t completely new. It likely includes new features, and seems to consolidate several mobile apps into a single app.
The app allows you to seamlessly switch between your phone, tablet and computer.
You can snap a photo of your W-2 on your mobile device, and the appropriate tax forms will automatically fill in. The information is saved with secure encryption so that it’s protected behind your personal password.
(Note: The TurboTax for iPad app reported last year is no longer available.)
TurboTax Personal Pro
Should you decide to punt on doing your own taxes, TurboTax gives you the option to have one of their credentialed tax experts do your taxes for you.
You choose the right pro for your tax situation, upload your documents, and the tax expert will prepare and file your taxes for you, online of course. Additional fees will apply, presumably based on the complexity of your return. You can also stay connected to your pro year-round for answers to any tax questions you may have.
TurboTax Benefit Assist
TurboTax will check to see if you qualify for certain government benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps and discounted gas and electric. Your information will be imported from your tax return into the online applications of the applicable benefits.
The Amazon Gift Card Bonus has been enhanced
Last year TurboTax offered a 10% Amazon Gift Card Bonus if you elected to receive up to $1,000 of your refund as a gift card. That made the maximum bonus $100. This year they’ve increased that bonus to $2,000 per gift card (maximum of $10,000 per customer) and it is available only for TurboTax Online/Mobile (except Federal Free Edition) or CD/download versions sold and shipped, or downloaded directly from Intuit or Amazon. The gift card option applies only to refunds on your federal income tax return.
It is now available in two tiers:
- An extra 5% added to your e-gift card if you are using the CD/download version of Basic or the online/mobile version of Deluxe, Premier or Home & Business, OR
- An extra 10% to your e-gift card if you are using the CD/download version of Deluxe, Premier or Home & Business
Personally, I’d rather get cash, especially when it involves an income tax refund. But if you are an Amazon junkie it’s a nice option to have.
Glen’s Note – This could be useful if you have recurring Subscribe and Save items through Amazon. This way the gift card is going towards items you would already buy rather than going on a spending spree.
On the mobile app side, TurboTax offers:
MyTaxRefund – This app tells you when your tax refund will arrive, and it can be used by anyone, even if you’re not a TurboTax customer.
TaxCaster – This app gives you an estimate as to how large your refund will be before you actually prepare your return. It gives you a ballpark return number based on basic information you’ve input.
ItsDeductible – This app helps you keep track of everything you donate throughout the year, so that you can import the total into TurboTax at tax time.
Other returning features include:
Audit Risk Meter – This app shows how likely your return is to be flagged for an audit. And if that likelihood is great, TurboTax gives tips to help you lower the risk. It’s available on the Deluxe, Premier, and Home & Business versions.
Accurate Calculations – TurboTax offers to pay for any interest and penalties you face if you receive notice from the IRS that your return was inaccurate due to a calculation error.
Guarantee of Maximum Refund – If you can get a larger refund through another tax preparation method (without changing any other factors) TurboTax will refund you the purchase price you paid to use TurboTax (or $14.99 if you are a Free Edition user) plus any fees paid to file your state taxes.
Free Audit Support – This includes free one-on-one phone consultations to determine next steps, answers to audit questions all year, and free advice about what to expect during your audit.
Audit Defense This is an up-sell, and one well worth having if your tax situation is fairly (or extremely) complicated. TurboTax partners with a company called Tax Resources that provides audit defense in the event the IRS audits your tax return. The company provides representation and works to resolve your issues with the IRS. The cost of this add on service is $39.95, and it may be worth every penny if it provides you with peace of mind.
Packages and Pricing for TurboTax 2014
TurboTax offers five different versions, each has its own specific purpose and price. Which one you will choose will depend upon your own tax situation.
Federal Free Edition
It’s specifically designed for those who file Forms 1040A and 1040EZ. Is free for your federal tax returns, as well as filing for the earned income credit (EIC). However, this edition has a limited features, and will not include most of the bells and whistles that TurboTax is known for.
TurboTax bills this as its most popular version. It provides most of the services commonly associated with TurboTax. It is the recommended version if you have tax deductions, and it’s specifically designed to maximize those deductions. The cost of the Deluxe package is $34.99 (the e-file is free). There a charge of $36.99 for each state return that you are required to file. If you have to file in your state, the full price is actually $71.98.
This edition is specifically designed for investments and rental property. It does everything the Deluxe version does, but it also includes the sale of investments, automatic calculation of investment cost basis, and preparation of Schedule E for rental properties. The Premier edition is $54.99 and includes free e-file. It also has a separate charge for state returns at $36.99 per state. If you are required to file in your state, the total cost of this package will be $91.98.
Home & Business
This edition is specifically for the preparation of Schedule C (sole proprietors). It does everything that the Premier version does, but it also maximizes business tax deductions and depreciation. It can also process information from personal and small business tax returns, such as income and expenses from S-Corporations, C-Corporations, partnerships and multi-member LLCs. The Home & Business edition is priced at $79.99, and includes free e-file. And once again you have to add in the per state charge of $36.99, bringing the actual cost to $116.98.
There is also a more advanced Business edition for preparation of returns for small S-Corporations, C-Corporations, partnerships and multi-member LLCs. So if your business is anything other than a Schedule C, this is the edition you’ll need. The cost is $149.99, which includes free e-file. There is also a per state charge of $36.99 per return, bringing the full price to $186.98.
Is you’ve served in the military or are currently active then you qualify to use TurboTax free or at a discounted rate! Take a look to see if you qualify: TurboTax Military Discount
If you’re a student, or the parent of one, TurboTax can help you find out if you qualify for education credit and deductions on your tax return. You can also get a FAFSA-friendly print out. TurboTax Student
Check out TurboTax for 2014. There’s something here for everyone who wants to file their own taxes, and do it online.