TurboTax Live Canada

TurboTax Live is one of the tax preparation services offered by TurboTax. It is managed by Intuit, the same company that owns QuickBooks and Mint.

TurboTax products and services have been used by millions of Canadians over the last decades.

The company recently introduced its TurboTax Live product (Assist & Review) & service (Full Service) which essentially provides access to tax experts who assist you with filing your tax return.

Unlike meeting an accountant in person, this service is a lot cheaper and you can complete your taxes from the comfort of your home. But like an accountant, their experts have years of tax experience.

Also, it is secure and offers guarantees that we will cover later in this article.

Related: Work From Home Tax Deductions in Canada

Checking Your Work

When you come to the end of your data-entry chores, TurboTax Deluxe’s final review, called Complete Check, examines your return for accuracy. If it finds any errors, it helps you correct them by taking you directly to the problematic fields, allowing you to change them, and taking you back to Complete Check. Most sites do not work as smoothly. TurboTax Deluxe also transfers pertinent data into your state return and tells you about any additional entries you need to make there. The last step is to pay for the product and e-file your taxes.

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What I Love About TurboTax Live

I know many people who are capable of doing their own taxes but choose to pay a tax prep service instead. They are afraid of making mistakes, missing out on deductions, or forgetting something that could lead to tax penalties or an audit.

TurboTax Live solves that problem. It gives you the confidence to take charge of your tax preparation, while still providing support as needed.

As with all TurboTax products, accuracy is 100% guaranteed. TurboTax also guarantees the maximum refund, searching through over 350 deductions and credits to help you claim what you deserve.

TurboTax Ease of Use

Preparing your tax return with TurboTax is a lot like sitting down with a tax preparer. The software walks you through the tax preparation and filing process with a series of interview-style questions.

As part of my review process, I went through the process of preparing three sample returns. Here’s how long it took me to get from start to filing for each one:

  • Single taxpayer, no dependents, W-2 income and the student loan interest deduction: 13 minutes
  • Married couple filing jointly, one dependent, two W-2s, Child Tax Credit and child and dependent care credit: 20 minutes
  • Single taxpayer, no dependents, self-employment income, federal and state estimated tax payments: 30 minutes

During the process, a banner at the top of the screen keeps a running tally of your estimated federal and state refund or amount due.

Embedded links on each screen offer tips, explain

Embedded links on each screen offer tips, explain different income, deductions, and tax credits.

If you get stuck along the way, you have the option of paying an additional fee and upgrading to TurboTax Live to get on-demand help from a TurboTax expert or CPA. When you choose this option, the tax pro will do a final review of your return before you file.

You can also pay an additional fee to move to Full Service and have your tax return prepared for you. Before filing your return, a tax pro will schedule a time to review your return with you.

While the software offers many tips to help do-it-yourselfers, including a bot (known as the TurboTax Digital Assistant), you won’t have access to hands-on customer service unless you’re willing to upgrade to TurboTax Live.

And that’s another aspect of using TurboTax you should be aware of: near-constant urging to upgrade your package. During the 13 minutes I spent preparing a simple return, I encountered no fewer than three offers to upgrade.

Throughout the tax preparation process, you’ll periodically come across screens encouraging you to upgrade from Free to Deluxe, get help from a TurboTax Live expert, or add TurboTax MAX—an add-on package that includes audit representation, identity theft resources, and priority customer service.

In some cases, these upgrades can be useful. For example, if you could reduce your tax bill by itemizing deductions, upgrading from the Free Edition to Deluxe might make sense. And if you legitimately want extra help from a tax expert, you may be happy to pay for TurboTax Live. Just make sure you need and want the upgrade before accepting the offer.

Some reasons you may want to upgrade include:

  • Your total itemized deductions are greater than the standard deduction available for your filing status
  • You have self-employment or rental income, capital gains and losses, or other income, deductions or credits not covered by the Free Edition
  • You don’t feel entirely comfortable preparing your tax return on your own and want help from a TurboTax Live or Full Service tax expert
  • You’re worried about an IRS audit or identity theft, and the peace of mind offered by TurboTax MAX is worth the extra $59 fee

Providing the Details

TurboTax Deluxe takes a path similar to the one you’d take if you were working your way through Form 1040. It first asks about income, then deductions and credits, then other tax situations. As you move into the income section, the site asks questions about income you might have. If you answer yes to some of these questions, TurboTax asks if you want to upgrade.

Next, it displays a list of all the income topics that might apply to you. If you think anything is missing, you can ask to see the whole list, including Wages and Salaries, Unemployment, and Interest and Dividends. Click the Start button next to one of these (like Other Common Income), and a multiscreen wizard opens that provides more information, asks questions, and provides blank fields or multiple-choice lists for your answers. 

When you’re finished with one income type, you click Done to go back to the income list. The Start button next to the topic you just completed changes to Edit/Add, which allows you to go back and make changes. Once you’ve visited all the entries that apply to you, you click Wrap up Income to move on. 

The other two main sections of TurboTax (Other Tax Situations and Deductions & Credits) work the same way. If you make your way through your tax return sequentially, answering all the questions, you shouldn’t get lost, even if you have to use the Back button occasionally. You can always use the Topic List if you have to return to a section you already visited.

TurboTax encourages you to provide more thorough documentation than some competing sites, such as Cash App Taxes, and that could be a lifesaver if you’re ever audited. When you enter charitable donations, for example, it asks you to select things such as the type, the recipient, amount, and frequency.

TurboTax Premier

TurboTax Premier is for more complicated returns. You’ll want to use this version if you have substantial investment income and/or investment rental properties. 

The Premier option can help you with stocks, bonds, employee stock plans, and other investment income. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are even covered in this software program.

TurboTax Premier comes with all the features of TurboTax Deluxe, but adds a few more:

  • Set up new rental properties. TurboTax takes you through all the steps to navigate the complexities of rental properties on your return. You can set up new investment properties, rental property depreciation schedules, and even determine the fair market rental value on the property.
  • Import investment information. It automatically imports investment information from thousands of participating financial institutions. If you have dozens or hundreds of stock trades throughout the year, the import feature saves you time and increases accuracy.
  • Find your cost basis. This feature lets you find the purchase price of the securities you sold during the year. TurboTax can make this often complicated step easy, especially if you have a lot of trades and the broker hasn’t supplied the cost basis.

Dont Forget About TurboTax Live

If you need help in preparing your return or you just feel overwhelmed getting started, don’t forget that TurboTax Live can help. For an extra fee, you can get help from a live CPA or enrolled agent (EA) through the add-on service.

What’s really impressive about this service is the fact that the tax expert can access your return remotely. They can even use a live video screen to speak with you directly on your screen. That means both you and the tax expert will be working on your return at the same time, which can create a significantly more personalized experience. 

When your return has been completed, the CPA or EA can review it to make sure it’s correct. In a lot of ways, this means TurboTax Live gives you the best of both worlds. You get to do your taxes yourself and without having to spend the afternoon in a stuffy tax preparation office, but you can also access an expert when you need one, and you can get a final thumbs up from them before you hit submit.

Live expert advice

The way this year was going with customer service and call-centres being backlogged beyond belief, I was unsure how the live advice would go. To start, when they told me they would call within 5 minutes I said ok, then went to get a glass of water. In less than two minutes, I had already missed the call. While they did call back about five minutes after that, I’ll admit, I was impressed at how speedy that first call was.

After that first call, correspondence was through the email-type messages on the TurboTax platform. It wasn’t nearly as fast as the phone call and sometimes took a couple of days for me to get the next steps or an answer to my questions. I’ll admit, it did seem strange to be waiting so long for the process.      It’s worth noting that I did reach out to TurboTax about this issue and they assured me that they’re working on some system improvements that should make replies much quicker.

That said, it’s not like I was sitting around waiting either. I received an email notification anytime I had something new to fill out or an answer to my question so I was able to go about my day-to-day activities normally and spend my time with my daughter until those notifications came in.

Since there’s always a human element involved, I would suggest not leaving your tax return until the last minute in case there are delays, similar to what you may expect when communicating with your accountant by email.

The entire process only took a few hours, but note that I’m a freelancer so I have more documents to gather than most Canadians. I would say that using TurboTax Live Full Service was quicker than when I did things on my own. The stress factor is definitely much lower when someone else is doing it.

What do you get with TurboTax?

  • Guidance for important tax forms. TurboTax tells you what you need to enter to do your taxes based on your unique circumstances. Get step-by-step guidance and directions for most tax forms.
  • Mobile version. Work on your taxes on the mobile or web versions, or switch back and forth. This isn’t available for the desktop version.
  • Easy tax form import and upload. Import many tax forms directly from banks and investment companies. With the mobile app, you can take a photo and upload supported forms. You can also upload your tax return from last year.
  • Detailed help resources. Help and support resources that answer most questions about your taxes with simple and easy-to-follow advice.
  • Option to upgrade for live support. Pay extra and you can talk to an expert at any time in just a few clicks, or hand off your documents to a professional who can do everything for you.
  • Multiple ways to get your refund. You can get your federal refund deposited into your bank account, sent as a check, or loaded onto a prepaid debit card. TurboTax also offers refund advance loans at the beginning of tax season.
  • Tax return storage. TurboTax will store your finished tax returns in your account for up to seven years.
  • Accuracy guarantee. TurboTax will pay IRS penalties and fees related to calculation errors. If it’s determined that you entered information improperly, the guarantee does not apply.
  • Access to Credit Karma’s new checking account. The Credit Karma Money Spend account is fee-free and has no minimum deposit.

Who Should Use TurboTax?

Whether you’re an experienced tax preparer or have little knowledge of tax law beyond knowing you need to file, TurboTax makes tax filing easy by walking you through the process with interview-style questions and options for live, on-screen support when needed.

TurboTax, a product of the financial, accounting, and tax-preparation software provider Intuit, is one of the most popular tax-filing options out there. Its popularity partly stems from its name recognition (having been around for nearly 40 years) but also from the company’s focus on design and offering users plenty of features.

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