How to Save Your Tax Return as a PDF in TurboTax

When you've completed your tax return using ​Turbo Tax, you'll probably want to retain a copy that's accessible on your computer. Don't worry, this is easy to do. TurboTax lets you save a printable file of the entire return in PDF format with just a couple clicks. 

In fact, saving as a PDF is an important step in your filing process because even though TurboTax saves a .tax data file of your tax return, saving a PDF as well lets you archive your return as a complete document that can be opened without ​TurboTax software. Adobe Reader is the most popular software used to view PDF documents and it's available as a free download.

What Is a PDF?

PDF stands for "portable document file," a format created by Adobe to make it easy to transmit and view documents independent of software, hardware, and operating systems. A PDF retains the design and layout of the original document so it appears the same no matter how it's viewed. A PDF is not meant to be edited like an original; editing a PDF requires special software.

PDFs are a common format used for sharing documents via email or for storing and backing them up. But you should never email a PDF of your tax return to anyone other than your tax preparer—and even then, be sure to follow any recommendations for securing the file that your preparer might suggest.

Where to Save Your PDF Tax Return Backup File

First, save your PDF tax return backup to your computer's hard drive. But you should also save your PDF file in a location where you won't lose it in the event of a catastrophe such as fire, theft, or even hard drive failure. Store it on an external hard drive or removable media such as a CD, DVD, or USB drive (also called a "thumb" drive). Then keep that media in a secure place with your other important financial documents—a fireproof box would be ideal.

You can also use a reputable online backup storage service where the document is saved outside your home. Make sure the service is secure and that it's automatically backed up by the hosting company in case of a disaster on their end. 

Remember, the PDF file is not your TurboTax data file. The data file, which has a .tax file extension, can only be read by the TurboTax software. The PDF is simply a human-friendly, page-by-page image of your return that can be viewed in Adobe Reader or other PDF reader software.

Creating a PDF in TurboTax

This is the simple part. TurboTax offers the option to save your return as a PDF in both the TurboTax Online version as well as the desktop application versions on both Windows and Mac.

Save a PDF From TurboTax Online

TurboTax Online Print Center

TurboTax online will automatically save a copy of your tax return in PDF format when you file (or when TurboTax closes after the extended tax deadline in mid-October). But you can also save a copy as a PDF before that, which will show you clearly how TurboTax fills out your tax forms. Here are the steps:

  1. Sign in to your TurboTax Online account and open your online return.
  2. On the left side of your screen, select Tax Tools in the menu.
  3. Select Print Center, then click Print, Save, or Preview This Year's Return.
  4. Follow the instructions.

If you use TurboTax Online, you'll have to pay for the service before you can print your return or save it as a PDF. And remember, the tax software doesn't read PDF files. You'll only be able to view the PDF in PDF reader software.

Save a PDF Return With Turbotax for Windows

TurboTax for Windows Print Center
  1. Open your tax return in TurboTax.
  2. Click on File in the menu, or click Print Center in the upper right corner of TurboTax. (You can also click on the File menu and choose Save to PDF.)
  3. The default is set to print all forms required for filing. If you don't want to create a PDF with all of the pages, you can specify which ones.
  4. Click the Save As PDF button.
  5. In the Save As dialog box, select the location you want to save to (a USB drive, for example) or accept the default folder location on your hard drive: My Documents/TurboTax. If you will be using the PDF as a backup, don't save it on your hard drive. Your backup file should be saved in a different location, such as a USB drive or online storage service.
  6. Click Save and the PDF will be created and saved.

It's important to remember that if you update your TurboTax data, you should save a fresh copy to PDF or your changes won't be reflected in the old version.

Save a PDF Return With Turbotax for Mac

  1. Open your tax return in TurboTax.
  2. Click on the File menu in the upper menu bar.
  3. Click Save to PDF from the menu. A save dialog box will open.
  4. Name your tax return file and select where you want to save it.
  5. Click Save.

As with other types of software, make sure that you if you make any changes to your TurboTax return, you save a new PDF that reflects them.

Article Sources

  1. TurboTax Help. "How Do I Save My 2019 Turbotax Online Return as a PDF?" Accessed Feb. 28, 2020.

  2. TurboTax Help. "How Do I Save My Return as a PDF in the Turbotax Software for Windows?" Accessed Feb. 28, 2020.

  3. TurboTax Help. "How Do I Save My Return as a PDF in the Turbotax Software for Mac?" Accessed Feb. 28, 2020.