How to use TurboTax to file your taxes for free in 2018

Strelka Institute/FlickrTurboTax is one of the most popular services for filing your taxes.
  • TurboTax offers a free online tax filing service for eligible taxpayers.
  • Tax season officially kicked off January 29, with a final deadline of April 17 this year.
  • The IRS recommends e-filing your taxes and requesting your refund via direct deposit.
  • Business Insider decided to try the free version of TurboTax’s service.

Tax season is here.

Americans now have until April 17 to file their 2017 taxes. While the new GOP tax plan signed by President Trump in December is the law of the land, the changes won’t affect your tax return this year. The new tax brackets will only affect income earned starting January 1, 2018.

If your income was less than $US66,000 in 2017, many online tax services offer the option to file for your federal taxes – and sometimes state taxes – for free. You can check your options using the IRS Free File Lookup tool.

The IRS also says the fastest way to get your tax refund is the method already used by most taxpayers: filing electronically and selecting direct deposit as the method for receiving your refund. Your refund should hit your bank account within three weeks of filing online. Often, you’ll get your money even faster.

TurboTax, an offshoot of tech company Intuit, is one such software offering free services to eligible taxpayers.

I used TurboTaxes to file my taxes last year. This time around, I went on a quick trial run to demonstrate how you can use it during this year’s tax season. If you’re really not ready to file, TurboTax offers a free tax calculator that will estimate your tax refund for this year and next year in less than five minutes.

Of course, I didn’t actually file my taxes this time around. I just went through the motions, to give you a sense of what it’s like to use TurboTax.

Here’s how it works:


To use TurboTax, you have to set up an account from the get-go — unlike H&R Block. I filed my taxes using TurboTax last year, but I’d completely forgot my old password. Recovering my information was quite easy, however.

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If you’re a TurboTax veteran like me, you can kick things off by checking your past returns, as well as your previous federal and state refunds…

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… or you can dive into this year’s taxes.

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Here’s where TurboTax gets a bit feisty, dangling the prospect of being “50% done” if you sign up for their $US29.99 “Plus” service.

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Tempting, but I’m not really filing my taxes at this moment. And I also don’t want to spend money. Upon selecting the “free edition,” TurboTax makes a point of illustrating how you’re flushing away all that progress.

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Next, it’s time for introductions. Once you type in your zip code, the software will throw in a little shoutout to your town (“We love our New York customers.”)

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It also politely asks how you’re feeling about your taxes this year.

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TurboTax kicks things off with the “basics,” including questions about your marital status…

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… as well as your employment status.

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You’re assigned a filing status —  and an explanation of why you received said filing status.

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Next, it’s time to get into your income. In this section, you’ll be dealing with your W-2, interest on your 1099-INT, and your IRA, 401(k), or pension plan withdrawals. If your employer is partnered up with TurboTax, they will just automatically import your W-2 once you provide an employer identification number.

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TurboTax also asks you to fill in your residence status, social security number, occupation, and, if applicable, military service.

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You’ve also got to tell TurboTax if you made money in different states, if you were negatively affected by a hurricane in 2017, and if you have dependents. TurboTax provides clarifying statements and explanations for each of its questions, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

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I personally found that the free service felt very thorough. TurboTax is constantly reassuring you that it’s checking up on things —  whether it’s additional sources of income or potential extra tax breaks.

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Once you’re done reporting your income, you get to the fun part —  the tax break section.

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After that, you answer questions about your health insurance.

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And then double check to make sure none of these “uncommon tax situations” —  from the alternative minimum tax to the nanny and household employee tax — apply to you. Afterwards, you can move on to your state taxes, then a final review before you file.

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TurboTax was easy-to-use throughout my practice run. I liked that it was able to seamlessly answer my questions without overloading me with information. I’ll most likely be using it again to file my taxes for real, once I get my act together.

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