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

TurboTax offers a free online tax filing service for eligible taxpayers. Here's how it works.

  • Published:
TurboTax is one of the most popular services for filing your taxes. play

TurboTax is one of the most popular services for filing your taxes.

(Strelka Institute/Flickr)

  • 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.

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. play

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.

(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...

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... play

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...

(TurboTax)


... or you can dive into this year's taxes.

... or you can dive into this year's taxes. play

... or you can dive into this year's taxes.

(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.

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. play

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.

(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.

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. play

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.

(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.")

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.") play

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.")

(TurboTax)


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

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

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

(TurboTax)


TurboTax kicks things off with the "basics," including questions about your marital status...

TurboTax kicks things off with the "basics," including questions about your marital status... play

TurboTax kicks things off with the "basics," including questions about your marital status...

(TurboTax)


... as well as your employment status.

... as well as your employment status. play

... as well as your employment status.

(TurboTax)


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

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

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

(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.

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. play

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.

(TurboTax)


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

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

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

(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.

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. play

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.

(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.

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. play

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.

(TurboTax)


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

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

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

(TurboTax)


After that, you answer questions about your health insurance.

After that, you answer questions about your health insurance. play

After that, you answer questions about your health insurance.

(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.

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. play

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.

(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.

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. play

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.

(TurboTax)


Read more before filing your tax return this year:

Protect yourself against tax scams:

See how you compare to other taxpayers: