6 Cheap Ways To File Taxes Online, You Procrastinator You
Time really flies — it seems like just minutes ago, it was April 2014, and you were swearing that you were going to be more on the ball about filing your taxes online next year. And now here we are, within spitting distance of 2015's IRS tax filing deadline on April 15, and you still haven't figured out what to do with all your W-2s and 1099s. How do you file if you had a full-time and a part-time job in 2014? How do you file if you had two — or even more — different full-time jobs last year? How do you make sense of all these withholdings and deductions?
Dude, I don't know. But I know some websites that may be able to tell you. Online tax filing has existed in some form or another for the past 25 years; but it's gotten increasingly sophisticated in recent years, helping the noobiest of tax newbies fill out their state and federal income tax forms correctly. Most online tax preparation software will walk you through the most confusing sections of your taxes by using simple personal questions to help fill out your forms, and provide online assistance for especially sticky questions. And, most importantly, most online tax software is cheap — think under $50, compared to a visit to an accountant, which will usually run your several hundred bucks.
Yes, accountants deal with a lot of things that online tax software can't, like complex deductions. But if you have fairly straight-forward taxes, and are just trying to make it through your first year filing taxes without help from your parents (or your first year filing taxes, period), check out one of the six cheap and well-reviewed online tax programs below, ranked by price. Then log on, and get financially responsible(ish).
1. IRS Free File
Cost: Free for federal taxes.
Did you make less than $60,000 last year? Then you qualify to use IRS's Free File tax software, a program that helps you prepare and e-files your federal taxes for, yes, free. Free File is the IRS's collaboration with a number of big-name tax preparation companies — the companies have agreed to make portions of their tax prep software available through the IRS's website for users. So Free File users get access to tax software that you'd usually have to pay for, for free. That sounds like a solid financial decision, right? You can even file tax extensions through Free File.
Free File only offers federal tax software, but several states offer free or low-cost state tax software through the Free File system. Check the Free File state tax website to see if yours is on the list.
2. Tax Act
Cost: Free for federal taxes; $19.99 for state taxes.
Highly recommended by PC World in their 2015 survey of online tax preparation software, Tax Act helps you fill out both your state and federal taxes using interview questions and an outline that helps you get a broader view of what all the different sections of your taxes cover. Tax Act's software also helps you figure out how to translate recent life events (like getting married, or having a baby) into tax talk. And if you're still stumped about a tax issue, all paying customers get access to a password-protected section of the site where you can have your questions answered by tax experts.
3. Tax Slayer Basic
Cost: Free for federal taxes; $28.90 for state taxes.
Tax Slayer Basic is no frills — it takes you through the state and federal tax filing process for a very low price, making it valuable for folks who don't need to much hand-holding while prepping their taxes, but aren't quite ready to start working with the actual IRS forms all on their own.
4. H & R Block
Cost: Free for federal taxes; $29.99 for state taxes.
Probably the most famous tax preparation business around, H & R Block's online tax software offers guided assistance in filling out your state and federal forms, as well as email assistance for puzzling tax questions, and hyperlinks within their forms to help you understand every thing you're withholding or deducting.
One trait the software offers that will thrill any budding accountant types is a running tally of your refund — so that you can see how it grows or shrinks, depending on the information that you input.
5. Turbo Tax
Cost: Free for federal taxes; $29.99 for state taxes.
Pioneers in the world of online tax prep, Turbo Tax's software offers guided assistance through your income tax form, and live chat support in case you still get stuck. The more expensive versions of the software offer more options; for example, folks who pay for the $54.99 "Deluxe" version can archive their tax forms online on Turbo Tax's secure site, for future reference.
6. Jackson Hewitt
Cost: Free for the "Free" federal tax version; $19.95 for the "Basic" federal tax version; $34.95 for state taxes.
Jackson Hewitt Tax Services are a national tax preparation company (you may have noticed their outposts at Wal-Mart). Jackson Hewitt offers their online services in a tiered payment system — those with the simplest taxes (no debts, no deductions, only one W-2 job) can file federal taxes for free; those with some student loans or other debts or deductions can file federal taxes using their "Basic" software; and folks with dependents, property, or small businesses can use more elaborate tax software. Jackson Hewitt, like many companies, packages their state tax software as an add-on, for $34.95 for all consumers.
And a final side note: If you run into any trouble filing your taxes that your service's help hotline or email can't fix, you may be able to take advantage of the IRS's VITA tax preparation assistance service. VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) offers in-person tax help from experts for people who made less than $53,000 last year. Check out the VITA location database to see if there is a spot near you.