Simpler than it Seems
If fear of filing your taxes leads you to send your return in at the very last minute, there are several tools to ease your anxiety and some are even free. And if you’re taking on your taxes alone this year, computer-based tax filing programs can be as simple as filling in some blanks and answering a couple of “interview” questions to set up your profile and determine your filing status.
Here are some of the online and downloadable e-filing tools that can make paying Uncle Sam a little more bearable.
Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan
TurboTax Freedom Edition
Description: Tax filers can access TurboTax Freedom Edition (Stock Quote: INTU) online without having to download software, so you can do your taxes over time from any computer. Plus, TurboTax has been proven reliable, the Web site has a clean look and it offers some useful tax calculators and tools.
Limitations: To free-file with TurboTax, you’ll have to either make $31,000 or less, be an active member of the military, or be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Some states don’t sponsor free-file programs when preparing state taxes, so you may have to pay $14.95 for your state return.
Price: You can use the free federal edition software if you have a fairly simple return. If you need to itemize, you may have to pay for the Deluxe Edition.
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TaxSimpleDescription: Don’t be put off by the fact that TaxSimple’s setup isn’t exactly pretty. Simplicity is really the key here, and TaxSimple promises to make even complicated tax forms easy. And even before you begin, you can take a step-by-step tour. You can choose which form you want and enter all of your deductions individually.
Limitations: Free if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less and you are 66 or younger in certain states.
Price: If you don’t qualify for free filing, it costs $9.95 each for federal and state returns. It’s free to use it to prepare your taxes. You pay when you print or e-file.
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TaxSlayerDescription: TaxSlayer is a tax prep tool that you can use on the Web or download onto your computer, though beware. One user of this program complained that there was no phone-based customer support.
Limitations: You can only free file if your adjusted gross income is less than $57,000 and you are age 25 or younger, if you’re aged 65 or an active member of the military. You can also file free if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or if your adjusted gross income is less than $10,000.
Price: If you don’t qualify for free filing, it costs $9.95 for a federal return. It costs $4.95 to file a state return.
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FreeTaxUSA.comDescription: The free edition of FreeTaxUSA is online, and the company says most returns can be completed within half an hour.
Limitations: To free file, your income has to be $57,000 or less and you must be a resident of certain states.
Price: Not everything at FreeTaxUSA.com is free. It’s $9.95 for a state return.
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On-Line Taxes at OLT.comDescription: On-Line Taxes provides a list that helps you determine whether new tax legislation affects you and says it offers lifetime customer service.
Limitations: Free federal online tax preparation and e-file if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less and age 51 or younger.
Price: If you don’t qualify for the free-filing option, it costs $7.95 each to file a federal and state return with OLT.
Free TaxACTDescription: Whether your tax return will be simple or complex, you may be able to file it free with TaxACT and be guaranteed your maximum refund. Plus you can get your refund in as little as 8 days if you e-file with direct deposit.
Limitations: Free federal online tax return preparation and e-filing is available if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less and you are age 19 through 55 years old.
Price: If you don’t qualify for a free federal return, it’ll cost you $7.95. It’s $14.95 for state returns.
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EfileTaxReturns.netDescription: EfileTaxReturns.net is actually one of your pricier options, but it still beats spending $100 or more with a tax preparer to file a simple return. This online tax tool is limited to residents of certain states, but it’s being considered for release a growing number of states.
Limitations: Your federal return is free only if you make between $5,000 and $57,000 a year and live in certain states. But we imagine that, if you make less than $5,000 a year, you may want to just do your own federal and state taxes on paper for free.
Price: $29.95 for federal, $22.95 for state if you don’t qualify for free filing.
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CompleteTaxDescription: This online tax prep tool comes with a thorough tax guide and free email support. The CompleteTax Web site offers some free and handy financial calculators whether you’re using them to file your return or not.
Limitations: To free file you federal return with CompleteTax, your adjusted gross income has to be $32,000 or less or you’re using the Form 1040 EZ for simple, straightforward returns.
Price: If you don’t qualify for free filing, it costs $14.95 for slightly more complicated returns and up to $49.95 for those with investments, retirement income and small businesses.
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eSmart TaxDescription: One cool thing about this online tax filing tool from LibertyTax Service is that you can “clone” your tax return to see how taking different deductions or credits can change what you get back or how much you owe.
Limitations: You can only free file if your income is $57,000 or less and you’re aged 50 or younger.
Price: It’s $9.95 if you don’t qualify for free filing. Filing a state return will cost between $8.95 and $12.95 to file.
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Free File at H&R BlockDescription: H&R Block has faced increasing competition since the advent of e-filing, so the company would be shooting itself in the foot if it didn’t have anything free to offer as well. Not only does it have a free file option promoted by the IRS, it has other free options for individuals who don’t have any self-employment income, stock transactions, and certain types of income.
Limitations: Free federal online tax return preparation and e-file if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less and you are 51 or younger. This federal offer is valid in all states.
Price: If you don’t qualify for federal free filing, it may cost you $29.95 or more to file your federal return with H&R Block. Plus, it costs $9.95 to file your state taxes online if your state doesn’t participate in a free file program.
Photo Credit: H&R Block
CitizenTaxDescription: CitizenTax’s free edition is a simple online tool that walks you through the tax filing process. It decides for you what type of form you should fill out.
Price: If you don’t qualify for free filing, federal returns are $17.76 and state returns are $18.88.
Limitations: To free file, your AGI has to be $57,000 or less, you must be 70 or younger and live in specific states.
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1040NOW.netDescription: 1040NOW promises to accurately calculate your taxes or they’ll pay any interest, penalties or other fees you may incur.
Limitations: Free federal online tax return preparation and e-file if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less, you’re 67 or younger and you live in certain states.
Price: If you don’t qualify for free filing, it’ll cost you $14.95 to file a Form 1040-EZ and $19.95 to file a 1040-A or 1040. State returns cost $17.95.
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i-Can! E-FileDescription: With this site, if you’re lucky, you may be able to file both your federal and state tax returns free. But you’ll have to go through an extensive list of limitations to make sure.Limitations: There are more rules limiting who can e-file through the site than we can list here. Whether you can may depend in your states of residency, employer and even domestic partnership status.Price: Free, but if you don’t qualify to use it, you shouldn’t even try because your tax return will be incorrect the site says. The site does accept donations.
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ISecureTaxDescription: The company says it may disclose some of your personal information – though not sensitive information like credit card numbers - to its affiliates who sell financial services like tax services, mortgages and banking products, but you can opt out here.
Limitations: If your adjusted gross income is between $5,000 and $23,000, you can use ISecureTax to file your federal tax return free, according to the IRS.
Price: If you’re not free filing, a federal return will cost you $9.95 to file. State tax return prep costs $17.95.
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