If you’ve never done your taxes with software, I don’t know why you’ve been waiting. I’ve been doing my taxes on the computer since the early days of DOS (remember DOS?) with a program I downloaded from a dial-up BBS (Before the Internet, kiddies), called AmTax.
Fast forward to 2020, and I’ll be doing my taxes with Turbo-Tax as I have for the last 30 years or so. It’s fast, easy, and very hard to make a mistake. And the reason I like buying the software each year, rather than the ‘free’ version, is, it remembers everything, making data entry a lot easier. And so you know, if you do much beyond basic forms, the free version isn’t free anymore.
There are several tax programs, both online and as software, that are perfectly fine, and I have used a few. But when I started accumulating data that needed tracking year over year, such as passive gains and losses, I settled on Turbo Tax and never looked back. Any major tax software will do this, but you need to stick with the same company to track historical data.
You can buy Turbo Tax as physical software, or buy it online. If like me, you find the best price as software, in my case at Costco, you can still download it. My current laptop doesn’t have a CD drive, so I had no choice. If you buy it online as downloadable software, follow the instructions from the vendor on getting your local copy. At that point, the rest of the instructions should be the same.
Also, for each version, there is a desktop version, either physical software or downloadable, and an online version. Compare versions, both online and desktop from various vendors to see where you get the best deal. For me, Costco had the best price I could find, including the discount offered me by Intuit.
One significant difference between the desktop versions and the online versions are the forms included. Intuit’s marketing will usually give you the impression you need a higher level of the software than you do. But the desktop versions have all of the forms available; the higher levels offer more help. I have rarely felt the need to make use of their support, but your results may vary. Don’t get scared by that, however. The amount of help you get just filling out the form is enormous.
All versions of the desktop software include all forms. The online version has differences in the forms for each version, shown below:
That page also lists lesser-known forms, so check there before using the online version.
I prefer having the physical software. For one thing, years from now, I know I could reload the software and play around with my return for that year. I don’t know the actual availability of the online version.
That said, I am using the Premier version. For years, I used Home & Business, recommended for: Personal & Self-Employed. I was fooled into thinking I needed that, since I had both a business and rental property, but that was not the case.
This year, I downgraded to Premium, but will probably go to Deluxe next year since, as I said, they have all the forms. Note that the Basic version does not come with a free state, so the extra cost is worth it to go at least Deluxe.
This article will begin with downloading the software from the Intuit site. The instructions should be the same regardless of how or where you purchased the software. I will not be covering the online version, but once we get started, the mechanics should be similar.
Whether you buy it online or the CD, they will provide you with the download site and a License Code. The insert for the CD is shown below.
My License Code is #YouHaveToBeKidding
Once you land on the page above, you will need to create an account or log-in.
I already had an account, so I just logged in. Once you create your account, you will end up at the same place.
Enter your License code and select your OS and click Get download. The site will verify your purchase and send you to the next page to download the software. Click on the Copy Code link to easily paste your license code during the installation. If not, you will need to type it in again.
The software will download, following standard procedures for your operating system. When it is complete, click or double-click on the download to begin the installation. Just follow the prompts, clicking Next, agreeing to stuff you’ll never read, and accept the default download choices.
For Advanced Users: You can install the software elsewhere, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you really know what you are doing and have a good reason for doing so. Update automatically is a good choice, saving you time each time you start the software. Help Us Improve is up to you, but I have no problem with it.
Click Install and go have a sandwich.
After you finish your sandwich, click Launch TurboTax Now.
Kind of feels like you need the secret launch codes, doesn’t it?
It should only take a few seconds, but get used to seeing this. The software is apparently even more impatient than I am.
After your initial install, it is going to want to update. Always keep the software up to date, as the tax laws change often.
If you didn’t have a sandwich above, now is the time.
When that completes, click Continue using Turbo Tax 2019.
Or whatever year you are installing. With the permanence of the Internet being what it is, you could be installing Turbo Tax 2525 for all I know.
It will restart, humbly admit to taking too much time again, and then give you the activation screen. This is where you need those secret launch codes.
Actually, you just need the code you typed in earlier, and is hopefully now ready to paste into the box. Either way, enter your license code and click Activate Turbo Tax
You will be greeted with a very satisfying:
So click Get Started.
The registration screen will display. I don’t know if it is still the case, but you used to be able to continue without doing this, but I don’t recommend it. It will bug you for it every time, so you may as well and get it out of the way now. The mobile phone will be useful after you file to get alerts.
You will then be greeted warmly by these anonymous strangers purchased from a stock photo site, such as Alamy. (Personal stock photo portfolio cleverly embedded in the link.)
If you are ready, click Begin…
But that is as far as I’m going today. If you want to follow my tutorials, you will need to come back for Day 2: Getting Started.
If you liked this article and want more, please clap, highlight, fan, all that stuff. If I get enough feedback, the second edition should be out in a week or so.