2016 TurboTax Review – Take the Complication Out of Military Taxes with TurboTax

This post is brought to you by TurboTax. While this post was sponsored by TurboTax, all content and opinions expressed are my own.

Military taxes are unique, and can be complex. Most service members have to contend with multiple types of pay, and may have special considerations such as claiming residency in more than one state during a tax year, tax-exempt combat pay, special duty pay, moving to a new state or country, and other factors.

Military spouses may have another set of challenges. Many spouses have self-employment or freelancing income, and they may or may not be required to change their state of residency when they relocate. Additionally, you have to factor in things such as investment income, deductions, tax credits, retirement contributions, rental income, or even running a small business. However, TurboTax makes filing your tax return easy.

Read through this review to learn how TurboTax simplifies the tax return process, and even gives you access to tax professionals if you get stuck or have a question (free of charge with their software!).

How much does turbotax charge to file state taxes

I filed my taxes by hand for several years – until I realized there was a better way. That’s when I started using TurboTax to do my taxes. I found the ease and convenience of the TurboTax software to be faster and easier than filing by hand, and much less expensive than other options.

TurboTax Gives You the Confidence to File Your Own Taxes

One of the essential parts of filing your taxes is figuring out all the required forms. You need to show you job income (W-2), interest income (1099-INT), proof of health insurance (1095), etc. Depending on your situation, there may be half a dozen forms, or more! (Find out when your military tax forms will be available from myPay).

But TurboTax takes the guesswork out of filing. They use an interview format and prompts to fill out the bulk of your tax return. Did you have wages? Did you get married? Did you have a baby? Did you move? Did you have rental income? Investment income?

TurboTax then uses your answers to these questions to fill out the appropriate forms (you don’t even have to look up the form numbers!). The tool then computes your return to make sure you get every tax deduction or tax credit you have earned.

Tools to Make the Process Faster – and More Accurate!

Technology has come a long way since I first started using online tax software. TurboTax works from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or even from your phone. Depending on your situation, you might be able to open the app on your phone and finish filing your taxes in less time than it takes to eat a meal. The best part? You can start and stop your return and come back to finish later – even on a different device.

TurboTax features a tool called W-2 Snap and Autofill™. This is perhaps the best feature I’ve seen in the new software. TurboTax has a tool that will allow you to take a picture of your W-2 with your phone or tablet and upload it to your tax return in TurboTax. The software then scans the information and imports it to your return, removing the need to manually type in your information, making it both faster and more accurate.

Even better – TurboTax has the ability to import tax information directly from over 1 million employers and financial institutions, again, removing the need for manual data entry and increasing accuracy.

What if My Situation is Unique (Rental Income, Self-Employment Income, etc.)?

How much does turbotax charge to file state taxesYep. You’re covered. Rental income and self-employment income are both common for military members, and TurbTax is set up to can handle those situations. The TurboTax software will help you identify deductions and expenses so you can maximize your return. You can even consult with tax experts through the TurboTax platform, free of charge.

Worried About Getting Stuck? Try TurboTax SmartLook™

TurboTax SmartLook™ allows customers to connect live, via one-way video to a TurboTax Expert, CPAs, or Enrolled Agents. You can get personalized, real-time answers to your tax questions at no additional cost, and can even schedule a time and date that works best so you can sit down and do your taxes on your schedule.

TurboTax also has a tool called ExplainWhy™ which helps users understand the various deductions, credits, and other aspects of their tax refund.

TurboTax just launched a new tool called, CompleteCheck™, which offers customers a streamlined review of their return. CompleteCheck™ looks for missing, incomplete, or conflicting information and flags the issue for review before you file. The tool will notify you if there are no issues and your return is ready to be filed.

Great question. TurboTax ranges from free, on up (depending on which version you purchase – see below for more information). Even better, there is a military discount!

The military discounts are based on your rank, and verified by your W-2. Simply use your military W-2 to verify rank and your discount will be applied when you file. Valid for TurboTax Online only.

  • Free federal and state filing with Free Edition or Deluxe
  • $5 off discount or bigger for Premier and Self-Employed

Military Discount: E6 and Above:

  • $5 off discount or bigger on all TurboTax federal products

TurboTax offers four different versions:

To make it easy, they offer a tool to help you choose which version is best for you. Even better – you can start your tax return for free, and you only pay when you efile your tax return. So you can start your return, and upgrade your version if you need to.

Here are the TurboTax versions, and a couple quick facts about them. Note that each successive version has all the features of the previous versions and adds more features as your return gets more complex.

Pricing will vary, but traditionally it is less expensive to file early. Prices generally increase in March.

How much does turbotax charge to file state taxes

TurboTax Absolute Zero. TurboTax Absolute Zero is free (both state and federal) for people who are only filing a 1040A or 1040EZ.

TurboTax Deluxe. This is the most popular version, and helps taxpayers automatically search from over 350 deductions, including mortgage and property taxes, charitable contributions, and more. This version also allows you to import your W-2 and other tax forms (if supported), as well as info from your previous TurboTax returns. To top it off, you can get expert help from CPAs and Enrolled Agents with TurboTax SmartLook™.

TurboTax Premier. Premier has all the features found in TruboTax Deluxe, but adds investment income, including the ability to import cost basis. Premier also covers rental property income and tax deductions.

TurboTax Self-Employed. The self-employed version can handle everything found in TurboTax Premier, but adds the ability to track business deductions such as your vehicle, phone, supplies, home office, and more. The tool may even help you find deductions you aren’t aware of.

How much does turbotax charge to file state taxesTurboTax guarantees 100% accurate calculations and offers a maximum refund guarantee.

Every personal return is also backed by the TurboTax Audit Support Guarantee.


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Same refunds, different prices for TurboTax and TaxCut

By the end of the last year's tax filing season, 78 million of the 150 million tax returns filed were electronically filed by tax professionals, and another 48 million were e-filed online individually. Even more taxpayers are expected to e-file this year—many of them using Intuit's TurboTax, the most popular tax preparation software, or its main rival, H&R Block's TaxCut.

How do the two compare?

TurboTax and TaxCut offer free versions of their software for taxpayers who have simple returns and don't itemize deductions. But to see how the programs handled more complex returns, we filed federal tax returns for a hypothetical couple of high-earners with two children. We used the deluxe versions of Intuit's TurboTax and H&R Block's TaxCut for the PC.

TurboTax Deluxe retails on its website for $54.99 and TaxCut Deluxe costs $54.95 on H&R Block's website, but you can buy TaxCut Deluxe for more than $20 less than TurboTax Deluxe at Amazon and other online retailers. (Fidelity and Vanguard customers and AAA members can get up to $20 off the list price of TurboTax products by going to those sites. ) Versions of the software that let users file state tax returns can add to tax prep costs. TurboTax charges $39.99 per state for its software and TaxCut charges four cents less, $39.95 per state.

The test couple was well off and generous. One spouse earned $160,000 and the other earned an income of $100,000, and they both made an additional $25,000 in income from renting their second home. They had paid $10,000 in property taxes and $15,000 in mortgage interest on their main house and second home. The couple had $8,000 in child-care expenses for their two children and made $12,000 in charitable contributions.

While the prices for the software were different, the federal tax refunds produced were the same. Both programs generated a $574 federal tax refund for this couple. (The average refund as of April 3 is $2,815.)

So why spend the extra money on TurboTax?

"The tax calculations for both software packages should be similar," said Bob Meighan, a CPA and the vice president of customer advocacy at Intuit. "What sets our program apart is its user-friendly interface and our sophistication to go deep on complex returns." Even though it didn't do so for the test couple, he said TurboTax can help people who run their own businesses or have rental properties and a variety of investments to identify more tax deductions.

H&R Block spokesman Gene King cited the ability to chat with H&R Block tax preparers at no extra cost and free in-person audit representation as distinctions of its program. TurboTax offers audit defense services from TaxAudit.com at $49.99 per tax return. (The chances of an audit are rare, but here are eight ways to lower your risk of being audited.)

E-filing may not be the solution for everyone, of course. For those with particularly complex returns, tax professionals can help streamline the process, identify deductions and minimize taxes, financial advisers say.

"There are a few situations that would lead me to strongly suggest that someone work with a tax professional," said Craig Bartlett, a certified financial planner with U.S. Bancorp Investments. Among them: families with multiple income sources and those with high enough incomes that a number of deductions and exemptions could be phased out.

"A skilled tax professional can find ways to mitigate those effects," he said, adding that "consistently using a professional also means that there is someone else who has a thorough knowledge of your financial situation, which many people find comforting."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the list price of TaxCut Deluxe.