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

TurboTax is one of the most popular tax filing services.

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TurboTax is one of the most popular tax filing services.
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Kimberly White / Getty Images

  • TurboTax offers a free online tax filing service for eligible taxpayers.
  • The final tax deadline is 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 Day is here.

The final tax deadline this year is April 17. That means you have to file your tax return or request an extension by the end of the day.

On the bright side, it also means you can pick up Tax Day freebies from many of your favorite restaurants.

Another bonus: If your income was less than $66,000 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.

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

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.

I used TurboTax 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.

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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TurboTax

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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TurboTax

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

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TurboTax

Here’s where TurboTax gets a bit feisty, dangling the prospect of being “50% done” if you sign up for their $29.99 “Plus” service.

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TurboTax

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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TurboTax

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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TurboTax

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

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TurboTax

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

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TurboTax

… as well as your employment status.

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TurboTax

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

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TurboTax

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’ll just automatically import your W-2 once you provide an employer identification number.

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TurboTax

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

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TurboTax

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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TurboTax

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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TurboTax

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

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TurboTax

After that, you answer questions about your health insurance.

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TurboTax

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

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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TurboTax

Read more before filing your tax return this year:

Protect yourself against tax scams:

See how you compare to other taxpayers: