Tax season is in full swing and it is, well, taxing. I’ve filed electronically with TurboTax for the last several years and I’ve only had great experiences.
This year it’s a whole new game. TurboTax introduced a new service that eliminates a ton of stress for excessive worriers like me. It’s called TurboTax Live and it’s designed to provide live assistance from a credentialed tax expert, on demand. I consulted said experts no less than six times while doing my taxes this year. The number of contacts would have been much higher if it weren’t for the thoughtful questions at the end of the questions on each page. When I say the questions were thoughtful I mean that they provided a concise, legit question followed by a detailed explanation about why and how the information is relevant to your tax return, written in language anyone can understand.
I’ve maintained a home office for the last eight years and this is the first year I felt confident enough to actually claim the deduction. Why? Because I knew I was just a click away from asking an expert if I did it correctly. Sure, in the past years I could have gathered up all my “stuff” and bags full of receipts and hauled them into a tax preparer’s office, but I always waited until the last minute and was pure and simple lazy. Those appointments and trips never happened. Add in all of the scary horror stories on the internet about home office inspired audits, I convinced myself it wasn’t worth the risk.
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With TurboTax Live I didn’t have to leave my house. I was able to easily enter all of my job-related expenses including a portion of my utilities and mortgage payment, insurance & property tax to get that home office deduction I blew off for the last eight years. Of course, now I’m kicking myself for not taking the deduction all those years based on the fact that I did get a much needed refund this year. In previous years, I have owed a small sum on my Federal returns, not to mention my state returns.
Best of all, while I had my several experts on the line, they were able to walk me through some changes to make (to my advantage) with easy-to-see little green boxes that showed me exactly what and where to changes my numbers. One thing I always panic about is have I entered information twice, thus doubling my deductions in error and ending up with a future tax bill. One of the experts I called on with this concern took me all the way back to my initial entries to quell my concern and then explained to me why the same info appeared again. It’s all about the itemization people! But with TurboTax Live, you really don’t have to know this — they take care of it for you.
Basically, I walked away from my TurboTax Live experience feeling like I just came from a really great therapy session that not only paid for itself, but gave me some cash for simply facing my fears. If this is the future of tax preparation, I’m all in.
If you’ve had some changes in your life in the past year, have a small business or are nervous about the recent tax reform, get this experience under your belt now. It’s likely less costly than going into a tax store, and given that you can do it from home, you don’t need to worry about baby sitters or taking a lot of time off work. For some of us, it’s tough to sit down face to face with a professional and go through personal and business finances. Because TurboTax Live pro conversations take place over the phone or by one-way video (you see them, they can’t see you biting your nails) it feels a lot more comfortable.
Here are some of the key benefits and things I loved about the process:
Happy little icons greeted me when I began the dreaded task of filing my taxes. The icons happened to include a category I wouldn’t have thought affected my return.
Unsolicited Easy-To-Understand & Actionable Explanations
One of my favorite features is the Explain Why explanations. Not only did I learn the why & how behind the calculations, I also found out that I was paying a $29 penalty because the withholding tax in my paycheck wasn’t enough so I need to change my W4 with the payroll company. Take a look below.
Stress Relief When It Comes To Other Income
Besides my full time job, I often sell things when I need some extra cash when something breaks now that I’m a new homeowner. (Well pump, I’m looking at you!) I also get child support so I need to report that too. Besides enter my W2 income from my full time job, I was freaking out because I needed to know ASAP where I was going to enter that additional income. I quickly clicked the “Expert Help” button in the upper right corner.
While I didn’t talk to Neil (as shown below!), I did speak to the sweetest woman with a southern accent that assured me that I’d have the opportunity to enter that additional income. In fact, she walked me through skipping ahead to show me where those questions would come up. She also kindly explained to why that income wasn’t up front with my W2.
The TurboTax Live tax experts like the woman I spoke with about my other income are very qualified and credentialed. They either have to be Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Enrolled Agents (EA), or Practicing Attorneys with an average of 10 years of tax preparation experience. So you’re not dealing with a call center staff simply following a flow chart or script.
Final Review & Professional Sign-Off
After all my questions were answered and I made it through the information entry process, I connected with another tax expert to give my return a final look and sign off. Remarkably, after my check ins along the way, I did a great job! My pro reviewed my return, congratulated me on finally taking my well-deserved home office deduction, and signed off on it. Generally, this is what happens when you actually go to a tax store to have your taxes done by them. They “certify” that your taxes have been prepared by them. Same here with TurboTax Live, but you’re still in your home and know that it’s a certified tax expert that is assisting.
After struggling with post-filing anxiety for too many years to count, I can honestly say interacting with real people via my computer has brought me piece of mind and made me feel more comfortable claiming deductions.
Best of all, if you’re a creative with a small business or freelance gigs, TurboTax Live is perfect for the self-employed and side hustlers, whose income isn’t just an easy W-2 from one employer. Big life changes like marriage, buying a home or having or adopting kids are easily integrated up front and leave you comfortable by having quick access to answers from a real professional and the TurboTax 100% Accuracy and Maximum Refund Guarantees.
Well done TurboTax! See you next year.