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TurboTax Online vs. TurboTax Desktop

Last updated 03/02/2024 by

SuperMoney Team

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TurboTax Online provides cloud-based convenience and extensive features for taxpayers seeking full-service tax prep, while TurboTax Desktop is suitable for small businesses looking to file their own partnership and S-corp tax returns. This article delves into the comparison between TurboTax Online and TurboTax Desktop, covering pricing, accessibility, features, and customer support to help you decide which is better for your needs.
Choosing between TurboTax Online and TurboTax Desktop can be challenging for individuals and small business owners. Each version offers unique benefits and features tailored to different tax preparation needs. Read on to see how we compare these two versions to help you determine which one suits your requirements best.

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TurboTax Online vs. TurboTax Desktop

There is something to be said for each version of TurboTax, says Paul Miller, CPA and founder of Miller and Company, LLP, but it depends on your individual (or business) needs and your personal preferences.
“TurboTax Online is suitable for most individual filers, including those with relatively straightforward tax situations. It may also be preferable for users who value accessibility and convenience. [The] TurboTax desktop software may be more suitable for users with complex tax situations or those who prefer offline access and are willing to handle updates manually.”


When it comes to pricing, there are notable differences between TurboTax Online and TurboTax Desktop. In general, TurboTax Online is more expensive in the long run because you need to purchase it each year — unless, of course, you qualify for the free version, which, according to TurboTax, includes about 37% of filers.
TurboTax Desktop may have a higher upfront cost, but you only need to buy it once to use it over and over. Also keep in mind that prices vary based on the complexity of your individual tax situation or that of your business. In addition, prices may fluctuate during tax season, so when you plan to file is another consideration to be aware of.


TurboTax Online offers cloud-based access, allowing users to work on their tax returns from any device with an internet connection. This is the type of convenience that most users have come to expect in this day and age, and it has the added bonus of automatic updates. This way, you always know you’re working with the most up-to-date version.
By contrast, TurboTax Desktop requires installation on a specific computer, limiting accessibility to that device only, unless the software is transferred. Users will also have to handle any updates to the software manually, which some taxpayers may find cumbersome.
However, the desktop version has the upside of allowing users to work on their taxes offline. This is convenient if your internet connection frequently goes down or if you plan to do your taxes during your commute to work. Working offline can also be a plus for those who prefer to keep their data out of the cloud, says Miller.
“Some users may feel more comfortable storing sensitive financial information locally rather than in the cloud. There will always be users who prefer offline access, have limited internet connectivity, or prioritize privacy concerns.”


TurboTax Online boasts a user-friendly interface and step-by-step guidance, making it suitable for individuals and business owners alike. It offers features such as a deduction finder, audit guidance, and tax pro assistance, along with live support options including phone, chat, and video chat.
On the other hand, TurboTax Desktop offers the ability to import data from QuickBooks but lacks certain features like automatic updates and real-time collaboration. Still, there are certain features that you can only get with TurboTax Desktop, says Logan Allec, CPA and owner of Choice Tax Relief.
“One thing you can’t do yourself with TurboTax Online that you can do with TurboTax Desktop is file business returns, such as Form 1120 for C corporations, Form 1120-S for S corporations, and Form 1065 for partnerships. So if you want to prepare your business tax return by yourself, you’ll have to use TurboTax Desktop.”

Pro Tip

“For users with complex tax situations involving multiple state filings, rental properties, or self-employment income, it’s essential to consider which version provides the necessary features and support.” — Paul Miller, Miller and Company, LLP

Customer Support

When it comes to customer support, TurboTax Online surpasses TurboTax Desktop with its diverse range of options, including live chat, phone support, and video chat. TurboTax Online also offers full-service filing assistance, pairing users with tax professionals to prepare and file their returns. By contrast, TurboTax Desktop only provides free product support by phone.

Pros and cons of TurboTax Online and TurboTax Desktop

Some benefits and drawbacks to consider
  • TurboTax Online offers cloud-based accessibility and comprehensive features.
  • TurboTax Desktop is suitable for DIY filing, especially for complex business returns.
  • TurboTax Online provides full-service filing assistance for both individual and business returns.
  • TurboTax Desktop has limited accessibility and lacks certain features compared to TurboTax Online.
  • TurboTax Online may have higher pricing tiers for certain users.
  • Customer support options are more limited for TurboTax Desktop.


Which version of TurboTax is better for small businesses?

TurboTax Online is better suited for small businesses seeking full-service tax preparation and filing assistance. TurboTax Desktop is ideal for taxpayers who prefer DIY filing for partnership and S-corp tax returns.

Does TurboTax Desktop offer any advantages over TurboTax Online?

Yes, TurboTax Desktop allows the importing of data from QuickBooks and offers free product support by phone. It can also be used without an internet connection. However, it lacks certain features and accessibility compared to TurboTax Online.

Key takeaways

  • TurboTax Online offers cloud-based accessibility, extensive features, and automatic updates.
  • TurboTax Desktop is suitable for DIY filing, especially for more complicated business returns.
  • TurboTax Online provides full-service filing assistance for both individual and business returns.
  • TurboTax Online has multiple customer support options.
  • Free customer support for TurboTax Desktop is limited to telephone assistance.

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