TurboTax Online Edition

January 25, 2010

Did you know TurboTax online editions offer the same functionality that the desktop versions of the tax software provide?  I wasn’t aware of this until my recent chat with Bob Meighan, chief customer advocate for Turbo Tax. 

Last time I covered our conversation on the benefits of tax preparation software, who TurboTax is for and who it isn’t, and when people file their taxes.  This final section looks at what Bob and I discussed regarding new developments in TurboTax this year and information about TurboTax online.

What’s new in TurboTax this year?

A major focus of the team at TurboTax is making the software and the process of preparing your taxes as easy as possible.  The easier the software is to use, the more likely you and I will be to go through all the steps and enter in all our information without error.

TurboTax made several additions this year to make it simpler to use. The first example Bob gave was adding progress icons throughout the program to let people know where they are in the process and help them navigate around.  They also added the ability to bookmark a certain question so that you can come back to it later.

One other thing TurboTax is doing this year is giving people the ability to buy US savings bonds with their refund.  Intuit doesn’t make any commissions on the savings bonds; it’s just an effort to help people save more money.  With an average refund of $2,750 last year some people could benefit from saving a portion of that refund.

How do updates work during tax season?

If you’re using a desktop based version of TurboTax and you do your taxes at the end of January, what happens when tax rules change before April 16th?  As I mentioned in the first round of questions for Bob, the TurboTax team is constantly updating the software throughout tax season.

Every time you open up the desktop version TurboTax prompts you to check for updates.  In addition right before you file, the program checks for updates to make sure you have the most recent rules before printing out your return or e-filing.  Of course, if you use the online version you don’t have to worry about updating your desktop software.

How can you get a TurboTax online free trial?

When I was preparing for my Q&A with Bob I was looking over the TurboTax main page and noticed that each version of the software said that you could start your return for free and not pay until you were satisfied.

I asked Bob what this was all about and he explained that you can start filing your taxes online for free with any of the versions of TurboTax.   You can actually do your whole return for no charge without even creating an account.  You don’t have to pay until you go to e-file or print out your return; so if you don’t like the way your return came out you can decide not to use TurboTax without being out a single cent.

What’s different between TurboTax online and the desktop software?

The online desktop versions of TurboTax are pretty much the same; the one difference is that online version doesn’t allow you to view/edit the actual tax forms.  If you’ve never used TurboTax before, it basically does an “interview” where it asks you questions and then uses your answers to populate all the data on your tax forms.  In the desktop version you can open up the underlying tax forms, like your 1040, and edit them outside the interview process.

About 90% of people follow the interview format when using TurboTax.  The other 10% might not want to use the online versions because right now they don’t allow you to open and edit the underlying tax forms.

Bob explained that this is because the tax forms can be big files and customers with slow internet connection speeds wouldn’t have the best experience trying open these file.  He did think that as connections continue to get faster that they might add the underlying tax forms to the online edition in the future.

TurboTax Online Questions

Here are a few short answer questions I had for Bob about the online versions:

– If you’re in the middle of doing taxes and need a higher version, can you upgrade to the next one onlineYes

– How many people use the online edition of TurboTax? Around 60% (About 12 million people)

– Can you upload your file from desktop version into the online version? Yes

– Can you download your file from the online version for local backup? Yes. Note that Intuit saves it as well.

– Can you print your return from the online edition for your own copy? Yes

– How many people that use TurboTax online will e-file? About 95%

I hope this interview with Bob gave you some insight into the world of tax preparation software and answered any questions you have about the TurboTax product.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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8 Responses to TurboTax Online Edition

  • Stanley Wallulis

    I would like to find out the address of the President or CEO of TurboTax to mail them a recular letter.

  • Daniel Grow

    This is really a good post to know better about TurboTax online .I think this is the post which has given you wide information all about taxes.We can also know the difference between TurboTax online and the desktop software


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