I’m filing my taxes with TurboTax and will probably get one of my smallest refunds ever, and I’m happy about it

TurboTax is helpful and fairly easy to use (author not pictured). philhearing/Flickr/Attribution Licence
  • With a full-time job and freelance income, filing taxes can be complicated.
  • For the third year, I’m using TurboTax to file my tax return. So far, I’ve found the site helpful and fairly easy to use – especially in tandem with other online tools and apps.
  • Although I won’t be getting a huge refund, there’s a positive side: I don’t owe money at the moment on my freelance income, especially not a huge lump sum like I have in the past, because I prepaid my taxes every quarter.

As someone with both a full-time job and freelance income, filing my taxes takes a little longer than your average process.

As a first-time freelance writer in graduate school in 2014, I didn’t know anything about quarterly payments. I got my taxes done at a free tax clinic and at the end, they hesitantly let me know I owed a little more than $US1,000 in taxes for my freelance writing income.

They explained quarterly payments and sent me home with the 1040ES forms marked with the due dates for each quarterly payment. After that first very stressful experience, I vowed never end up owing that much again.

After graduate school, I continued to freelance but made sure to send in quarterly payments. In 2017, I worked a full time job while freelance writing. I started doing my own taxes on TurboTax in 2018, figuring that I could do it on my own now that I knew more about payments and deductions.

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That year, I sent in large amounts of quarterly payments and after going through all my deductions, ended up with a considerable refund.

Since I used TurboTax that year, the site kept my information on file for my taxes this year.

In 2018, I sent considerably less quarterly tax payments because I could tell I would make less income from freelance writing. With those quarterly payments and deductions, TurboTax predicts that at the time of writing I should get a refund that amounts to approximately $US166 ($US157 for federal and $US9 for California taxes).

I am still looking at other deductions I might’ve missed, so those final amounts could change. I’m also not taking into account the final TurboTax total for using the service. It’s not a huge refund in the end but there’s a positive side, for me: I don’t owe money at the moment, especially not a huge lump sum like I have in the past.

Here’s what it’s like to use TurboTax as a single filer with a W-2 and freelance income.

Before logging in, I browsed the BankAmeriDeals on the Bank of America website. The deals offer certain percentages of cash back from purchases at restaurants, online stores, and more. I chose the TurboTax instant discount, which expires on April 20.


It includes a $US5 – $US15 discount “at the time of purchase when you file your taxes online at TurboTax using eligible online tax software products.” Since I haven’t yet finished my taxes, I haven’t received the discount, but it shows up as “ready to use” in my account.

In addition, I have an Ebates plugin currently on my browser. Ebates offers cash back and coupons on certain online purchases. Their TurboTax deal includes up to 7.5% cash back. The total amount is pending and should go through once I finish filing my taxes.


Last year, I had two W-2s because I started a new job in June of 2017. I easily delete the info for my old job and keep the name and info of my new job intact.


After that, I just type in the information TurboTax asks for so that it can automatically pull in the info in my W-2. It then asks if everything looks good. I am very anxious about making a mistake so I look at every field very carefully and slowly, often reading the numbers aloud to make sure the online version matches the W-2 in my hand.

Next is deductions and credits. My student loan website sent me an email notification that my 1098-E was available for download.


This form, as TurboTax explains on its site, is something that “lenders are required to send you Form 1098-E only if you paid at least $US600 in interest during the year.”

After logging into my student loan portal, I download the form and then enter the information from Box 1 into TurboTax. This automatically increases my refund for the year. TurboTax keeps track of the refund as if grows and decreases in the top left corner of the screen.

The next TurboTax section is for health insurance, a section where you can indicate your health insurance status for the year.


The site then calculates your self-employment tax.


TurboTax also shows you a comparison of both years.


In 2018, I used the majority of my freelance income to pay off the student loan that is a smaller amount. This also made it so that in my taxes I can report even more money paid in interest.


I also make sure to search for any other possible deductions. My expenses for freelance usually include meals (if I am interviewing someone in person) and online transcription services. I use Intuit’s QuickBooks to keep track of these expenses. I actually received QuickBooks last year after completing my taxes on TurboTax.


Because I categorized these expenses on Intuit, I could see what expenses I might deduct for the year.


The TurboTax site has helped me stay organised with my taxes, although getting an accountant’s expertise is always a good idea. So far, I’ve found the site helpful and fairly easy to use — especially in tandem with other online tools and apps.

My home workspace. Eva Recinos

Although my refund isn’t as large as last year’s, I’m certain this is because I sent smaller quarterly payments. But I am glad I got to keep my resolution of not owing a ton of money at the end of the process. I feel comfortable doing my taxes on my own for now, and pushing myself to always save some of my freelance income for quarterly payments and student loan payments.