How to File Taxes with TurboTax
When we left off last week, you had purchased, downloaded and installed TurboTax. If you missed that article and need to go back, here it is.
This week we will finish getting through the startup process, for both returning and new users of TurboTax.
So, start TurboTax and let’s get rolling. If you haven’t run it in a few days, it is likely going to want to update the software. I suggest you do this every time it asks, so your tax form and calculations are up to date.
If you see the prompt, click on Update and wait a minute. It will provide you an indication of the time required.
When it is finished, it will give you some information about the update and prompt you to continue.
Those three smiling faces will greet you again from last week.
The program will look for last year’s return. If you used the software last year, you definitely want to do this as it will bring over a lot of information to help you complete your taxes. If it takes more than a few seconds to find your form, you probably moved it someplace the program can’t find, so click Browse to pull up that file. The file will have a .tax2018 extension. It is likely you also saved some PDF files, so don’t click on those. If you saved multiple versions, make sure you load the last one saved.
If you didn’t use the software last year, just click on Continue Without Transferring.
If you are returning, it will transfer all of your information and display a Transfer Complete screen with a brief summary of the taxes you filed last year. Confirm you have the right data and press Continue.
At this point, I will proceed in parallel. I will continue working on live taxes from a returning perspective, so I can document that process, but for obvious reasons, I will be showing screenshots from a fictitious, and mostly, blank account, as if starting fresh.
At this point, TurboTax will begin its interview process. A few words about this, if you have never used the software before.
If you have always done your taxes by hand, you started with the trusty old 1040 form, filling in blanks from top to bottom, and going to other forms as needed to fill in the numbers. When you got to the bottom of the 1040, a much-convoluted process, you sign it and you are done.
You certainly can do the same thing with TurboTax. You can click on the View menu, go to Forms, bring up a 1040 and begin typing. But if you are going to do that, you have wasted time and money on this product.
In the first place, the interview process is designed not only to make the process easy but to make sure you don’t forget anything. This is especially helpful in future years when the software already knows a lot about you.
In addition, if you don’t allow TurboTax to use its own forms and calculations, you won’t be able to file electronically, therefore bypassing another great resource.
These articles will assume you will be going through the interview. At the end, the program will conduct its own review, but feel free to browse or print out the forms to look them over, at any time.
Whether you brought up a previous return or started from scratch, you get this screen. Click Continue
If you brought in historic data, TurboTax will look at it and ask a series of questions to make sure it knows what has, and has not changed. This is probably a good time to mention that TurboTax autosaves as you progress through the program, but will still ask you if you want to save any time you exit. Always say Yes.
Note that depending on where you left off, TurboTax may or may not return to the same spot, but know that your information has been saved and you can click back through previous screens to get back where you need to be.
Based on last year’s return, the software will ask a series of questions to make sure everything is the same, such as:
- Filing status
- Names and social security numbers
At this point, you will get the same Summary as below. Scroll down to Returning or Fresh Start
If you are starting from scratch, TurboTax will begin the interview with more basic questions like:
Hopefully, that’s not too tricky. Continue with the interview process. I will make some assumptions for the test return. It will ask:
- Military service, if any
- Confirm the state of residence
- If you lived more than one state
- Can anyone else claim you as dependent
- Special Circumstances such as blindness or death. (If you are dead, have someone else fill in the forms.)
- Marital status
- If married, is this a joint return
- If married, your spouse's first name
- Most of the same questions regarding your spouse
- Were you or your spouse a student
- Did either of you make money in another state
- Do you have children or have other dependents
At the end of this part, TurboTax will suggest a filing status. In this case, Married Filing Jointly. You have the option of accepting or changing your filing status.
It will ask you a few more basic questions, such as your last names, address, and social security numbers.
Returning or Fresh Start
Whether you are starting from scratch or with an existing return, once complete, you will get a screen that will become very familiar. At frequent points during the process, you will get a summary screen of where you are and where you have been. You will be given the opportunity to edit any prior sections or proceed. You can always come back to previous sections to correct or complete data.
Next, you get the following screen, and then the program will go into the income section, which is for your income and W2 information.
And that’s a good stopping point for today.
In the next article, we will start filling in financial data, so you will want to gather all of your W2, 1099s, interest statements and any other documents required to complete your taxes.
Another good thing about TurboTax, if you are missing some information, just stop and come back to it later, or in some cases, you can skip that section and return to it when you have the necessary documents.