Here's What Happens When You Switch to TurboTax to File Your Taxes

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.


  • You must consolidate relevant personal and financial information, including SSNs, income forms like W-2s, and alternative forms of income.
  • You can speed up the process by listing all potential income sources and uploading digital forms directly to TurboTax.
  • TurboTax may attempt to upsell you, so know the fees before filing.

Start early and take things one step at a time.

A friend or a relative may have recommended you use TurboTax, a popular tax preparation software, to file taxes. But switching can be intimidating, especially if you're used to hiring a tax professional or you have complicated tax returns.

Away with the mystery. Step by step, here's what happens when you switch to TurboTax to file your taxes.

You become your own tax expert

You'll need to have the necessary tax information on hand to fill out your tax return. That means consolidating your 1099s, W-2s, and other information you usually send to your tax professional. Here's a short list of boxes to check:

  • Do you have your relevant personal information? That includes your SSN or tax preparation number, spouse's information, and bank account information.
  • Do you have your dependents' information? That includes SSNs, dependents' income (if any), and relevant childcare records.
  • Do you have taxable income documents? That includes forms sent by employers (W-2s, 1099s), forms sent by banks and brokerages (1099-INTs), and other income records.

If you're unsure whether you have all the information you need to file, it's best to start with what you have and go from there. TurboTax doesn't charge you until you file. At worst, you will spend time uploading information onto the platform and have to give up halfway through.

Some tips to ensure that doesn't happen:

  • List all sources of potential income. This could be employment, investment, rental income, crypto, self-employment, etc. Know where your money is coming from.
  • Estimate how much you'll be paying. TurboTax costs more for complicated forms and for folks who want tax experts to double check their filing. It's probably not free.
  • Sign up for email notices. Most financial institutions will email you tax forms. Save tax documents to your Files and upload them directly to TurboTax. It makes filing faster.

The process of actually filing is straightforward. TurboTax is set up like one giant questionnaire, broken into sections like "Income" and "Deductions."

TurboTax will ask you to upload documents. If you don't have them, you can pause filing until you receive what you need. You can skip over sections and come back to them later. TurboTax will review your documents to ensure you're not missing information.

How long does it take to file?

It took me about five hours to file as a self-employed person with five reported jobs, stock and crypto investments, interest from a savings account, and so on. But I don't have dependents, a spouse, or a mortgage. Complicated filings could take longer than five hours.

You become responsible for your taxes

Tax audits happen -- the IRS sends you a letter requesting clarity on your form. Chances are, you won't be audited. But if you are, TurboTax offers free audit support to most filers. That said, you'll have to go through the process yourself -- a tax professional won't handle it unless you pay TurboTax extra for audit protection.

TurboTax software will automatically check for missing sections, but you're responsible for ensuring accurate numbers. I've found the autofill feature mostly accurate, but it's best to double check -- I corrected at least one error on this year's form. Again, you must pay TurboTax extra to have an expert review your form with you.

Which brings us to one of the downsides of using TurboTax: the upselling.

TurboTax suggests you pay extra

TurboTax makes offers at key points throughout the filing process. It may offer live tax guidance or comprehensive audit protection. These add-ons are often unnecessary, although they do bring peace of mind. Most users can ignore them and safely receive the best possible refund.

TurboTax also advertises free filing. Most people do not qualify for this. Unless you have very simple taxes, you must pay to file.

Don't be caught off guard by fees for extra services, which cut into any refunds you receive from the IRS. Know what TurboTax charges before you put in the hours to fill out a return.

Explore alternatives

Explore alternative ways to file your taxes. The IRS offers free federal filing to those who qualify. The best tax software lets you quickly and easily file federal and state returns. And free tax software doesn't charge you anything, though you may be limited to simple tax forms.

Switching to TurboTax requires you to take responsibility for your taxes and become your own tax expert. Keep things simple by having all the necessary information at hand. Be aware of TurboTax's upselling tactics, and know the fees beforehand.

Remember to start early, take things one step at a time, and ensure you file accurately to avoid any potential tax audits in the future.

Alert: our top-rated cash back card now has 0% intro APR until 2025

This credit card is not just good – it’s so exceptional that our experts use it personally. It features a lengthy 0% intro APR period, a cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee! Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

Our Research Expert

Related Articles

View All Articles Learn More Link Arrow