Disclaimer: All advice given on this page is provided with the best knowledge and intentions of the writer. TopFinancialTools.com strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. The information in our reviews could be different from what you find when visiting a financial institution, service provider or a specific product's website. All products are presented without warranty. All prices provided on this page are listed with the understanding they may change at any time. Verify all current prices with the service provider or product's website before making a purchase. This page contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links below, we’ll receive compensation if you make a purchase. This does not affect the price you pay for the item.

TurboTax Desktop or TurboTax Online?

Most people are familiar with TurboTax, which is the top personal tax preparation software in the U.S. What many people don’t know is there are two ways to use TurboTax. The online version at TurboTax.com, and the desktop version, which you install on a PC or Mac.

What’s the difference between TurboTax Desktop and TurboTax Online?

Here are a few of the major differences between the two:

TurboTax Online

  • Everything is stored in the cloud at TurboTax.com
  • Accessed through a web browser
  • Must be online to use it
  • Doesn’t import data from Quicken or QuickBooks
  • Can prepare 1 federal tax return
  • No business returns (LLC, S or C Corp, Estate, or Trust)
  • Limited number of stock transaction

TurboTax Desktop

  • Installs on a PC or Mac, no web browser required
  • Imports data from Quicken or QuickBooks
  • You can prepare 5 federal returns with no additional cost (perfect for households with multiple returns)
  • Allows you to ammend prior years’ returns
  • Your sensitive financial information is not stored in the cloud
  • Can handle more than 500 stock transactions
  • Can prepare returns for a business (LLC, partnership, corporation, estate, or trust)

This helpful table from https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/1901030-turbotax-online-vs-turbotax-cd-download-software shows some of the advantages and disadvantages of Online vs Desktop versions of TurboTax

  TurboTax Onlne editions TurboTax CD/Desktop editions
Cost    
  One return for each sign-in.
Form 1040-EZ or 1040-A with standard deductions and no state or add-ons is free with TurboTax Free edition.
Efile up to 5 family or personal returns.
(Useful if doing joint federal and separate state returns for example.)
  Try before you buy, pay for TurboTax plus or Deluxe and above when you efile or print your return. Buy before your try with a 60 day money back guarantee!
  Each state is extra and includes efiling. One free state is usually included with Deluxe, Premier, & Home and Business editions (each state efile is extra).
  Can efile one federal and up to 5 state returns. Efile up to 5 federal returns, each with up to 3 state returns.
Computer Stuff    
  Online system requirements are usually lower, a current browser and internet access should be good. System requirements are usually higher, see Windows requirements or Mac requirements.
  TurboTax securely handles storage and backups (pay for TurboTax Plus or Deluxe and above for access to prior tax year returns). You manage your own stoarage and backups.
  Prepare and file taxes from any Internet device. Even smart phones, iPads and tablets! Check out our new mobile apps for iOS and Android. TurboTax requires a Windows or Mac computer system with Internet access for program updates, help articles, and efiling.
  TurboTax Online is always up-to-date; you see the latest forms and tax information. The latest upates will load when you access the internet.
 Other Considerations    
  Requires a unique User ID and password for each return. And you must remember it from one year to the next to access last years tax information. Tax files are available as long as you have a computer and the program, and you keep your tax files (remember to keep backups).

Comparison Chart

Whichever you decide to use, TurboTax Online or TurboTax Desktop, you’ll be using the best tax preparation software available to ensure you get the biggest refund and save the most on your taxes.

The chart below shows the different versions of TurboTax Desktop, along with the current best prices.

(click on the chart to see the expanded version)

The following two tabs change content below.
Nate Phillips has been using Quicken and TurboTax for almost 20 years. He has spent part of that time as a Quicken beta tester, helping identify bugs and annoyances with Quicken updates before they are released. Nate holds a master's degree in Computer Science and has numerous technology certifications.

23 thoughts on “TurboTax Desktop or TurboTax Online?

  • I used download this year for the first time. Unlike previous years with a purchased CD I was unable to access “forms” either for a new form or to see the progress of one of my partially completed forms such as schedule A or even 1040. I was also unable to “override” Turbotax with a “right click” but perhaps this was due to my new use of a MacPro. Only after I paid for the download version did a Google search reveal that “forms” access is not available on the downloaded version. From now on I will only use the CD version.

    • Tom, the downloaded version and the CD version are exactly the same. The only difference is whether you have to wait for it to arrive in the mail or download and install it right away. In either case, the product is exactly the same after you install it.

      I’m wondering if you’re having problems due to your new Mac?

  • I would like to purchase the over the counter of the deluxe version that includes (1) state filing, but my new computer only has a flash drive, no disc, my old computer has a disc drive butis very slow, is there a way to copy the disc over to a flashstick

    • No, this limit is imposed by the IRS, not TurboTax. The IRS only allows a person to e-file up to 5 returns unless they register as an authorized e-file provider with the IRS.

      TurboTax will, however, allow you to file an unlimited number of returns if you print and mail them.

  • We have almost always used TT Deluxe, except when we moved to another state and bought/sold houses–we used a paid preparer for that year. We have investment income, dividends and high medical expenses–will Deluxe do the same thing for us, or do we need to go to the next step?
    thanks!

    • If you have investment income, I would recommend TurboTax Premier instead. It will provide additional guidance related to the investments and help you with filling out the correct forms. You can check out the latest prices at here.

  • If I purchase Turbo Tax Deluxe and Download it, can I make a copy of the download and load it into my daughters computer in addition to my PC? How many computers can I use it on?

      • How many MB spcace for 2016 TurboTax’s deluxe. I deleted a lot of programs, plus 2015 TurboTax’s deluxe. But I can not install it. Finall computer I don’t know why TurboTax’s cd need 4500MB space to install software. Then cd only have 459 MB. In my mine always thinking about that. Idelete a lot of programs in computer, plus TurboTax’s 2015, too. How many space need for TurboTax’s 2016. Can you help me that

    • I would recommend Premier if you have investments with capital gains. It will give you more specific guidance for filling out the Schedule D. If you are comfortable with filling out Schedule D on your own, Deluxe includes it, but without the additional guidance.

  • I am going to do my daughter’s return as well as my own. I would like to do her return on her computer (a MAC) and mine on my computer (a PC). Do I have to buy two separate comes of Turbotax or can I use one Turbota X on both a MAC and a PC?

    • You would need to buy two separate copies of TurboTax because it comes as either Windows or Mac. I would suggest just doing her return on your computer. You can e-file up to 5 federal returns with your copy of TurboTax from your own computer. You can get the latest TurboTax for either PC or Mac here.

  • I have the following income sources for 2016:
    Interest (taxable and nontaxable,
    Dividends,
    Capital gains,
    IRA distribution,
    Schedule C Self-employed income
    Several prior year installment sales
    Three 2016 installment sales

    Which 2016 Turbo Tax Do I need?

    Also my internet is ATT. Should I use cd or download version?

    • I would recommend TurboTax Home & Business to make sure you get all the guidance you need for the Schedule C. It will also cover the other items you mentioned. The download is not too big (about 116MB), so I would recommend going with that so you don’t have to wait for a CD to come in the mail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *