There’s one good thing about tax season in 2019: Filing your taxes has never been faster or easier, especially if you do it online. Since many of us wait until the last minute to arrange all our paperwork, digital filing is a real life-saver. No matter how complicated your professional situation, easy-to-use software enables you to tally your taxes and – if you're up to speed – calculate your return.
Some folks prefer to hire a skilled accountant, especially with all the changes in the past year, but the DIY approach may cost little or nothing.
Different people gravitate toward different software. Some are better for simple filings, such as full-time employees with no side jobs. Others are better for complex filings, such as independent contractors and small business owners. Most of us prefer free software, but paying for a service often provides you with tech support and extra security measures.
Such security measures are essential. Fake tax preparers are on the rise, and they can steal both your personal data and your return.
So which is the best for you? Here is a comparative list of several different programs and their different subscription models.
If worse comes to worst, you can file for an extension, which will give you until Oct. 15 to file for 2018. An extension applies to only time to file; if you owe money, that’s due on tax day. Extensions for state taxes vary, so check with your state’s government website. Although if you want my advice, get it out of the way as soon as you can, especially if you think you may owe money.
Best site for DIY tax prep
TurboTax by Intuit is simple, dependable and very popular. This year, TurboTax offers four packages, depending on your filing situation. Buyer beware: TurboTax is an oft-spoofed brand name. Avoid downloading pirated versions of TurboTax by verifying deals on the TurboTax website.
If you have a simple tax return to file, your best option is the free edition. You'll pay nothing to file your federal and state taxes with the free edition. Start by importing your W-2, answer a few simple life questions, and TurboTax will help get you the maximum refund.
Other options include deluxe, which helps maximize tax deductions and credits. Premier is for those with investments and rental property. Finally, there's a Self-Employed edition, which is perfect for personal and business income and expenses.
Prices: Free Edition $0, Deluxe $40, Premier $60, Self-Employed $90
State filing fee: $0 with Free Edition and $40 for all others.
Best online tax site if you need a little help
If you need a little help filing, you might want to turn to the pros at H&R Block. This is especially helpful if you’ve worked as an independent contractor or have numerous credits or expenses that count against your final bill. This year, H&R Block has four online options.
The Free Online option is best for those with a W-2, with or without children, and rent the place you live. It's straightforward to use. You can even snap a picture to import your W-2. For those that qualify for this version, it's free to file both federal and state.
The other online options include Deluxe, which best for homeowners, donations and HSAs. Premium is best for freelancers, contractors and investors. Finally, Self-employed works best for self-employed and small business.
Prices: Free online $0, Deluxe online $29.99, Premium online $49.99, Self-employed online $79.99
State filing fee: $0 with Free online and $36.99 for all others
Best site for earning bonus points
If you choose to go with TaxAct, you might be able to receive a bonus with your tax refund. It's offering up to a $100 refund bonus by putting part of your refund on gift cards from a list of popular retailers. The bonus amount depends on your refund and choice of gift card.
TaxAct also offers a Free filing option for simple returns that can include retirement income. There are three other options to choose from.
The Basic+ option is perfect for filers with dependents, college expenses and more. The Deluxe+ works for homeowners, deductions, credits and adjustments. And the Premier+ is for filers with investments, rental property and includes prioritized support.
Prices: Free $0, Basic+ $9.95, Deluxe+ $29.95, Premier+: $34.95
State filing fee: $0 with Free option, $19.95 with the Basic+ option, $39.95 for the Deluxe+ and Premier+ options
Best tax prep site to protect your identity
If you want peace of mind that comes with identity protection, you might want to take a look at TaxSlayer. There are five options to choose from, and its Ultimate package includes identity theft protection and tax audit defense.
It also has a Simply Free option that is perfect for simple filings. You can upload previous tax returns from another tax service to make the filing process easier.
Other options include Classic, which is its most popular and good for all tax situations, all the forms included. Premium is the fastest way to prep and e-file and includes priority support when you need it. Self-employed comes with the most personalized guidance for unique self-employed situations. Ultimate offers ultimate peace of mind for any and all tax filers with defense and protection.
Prices: Simply Free $0, Classic $17, Premium $37, Self-employed $47, Ultimate $57
State filing fee: $0 with Simply Free and $29 with each of the other options
Best tax site for experienced DIY-ers
Jackson Hewitt offers step-by-step preparation along with unlimited online support in case you need help. Jackson Hewitt has three plans to choose from that aren't named, just identifiable by price.
The free option is best for filers with simple returns with up to $100,000 taxable income. The second tier plan is best for families and retirees that includes filings with children and other dependents, student loans, educator expenses and retirement income. The third tier plan is best for those complex returns with income over $100,000 that might include rental property.
Prices: Tier 1 $0, Tier 2 $29.99, Tier 3: $49.99
State filing fee: $0 for the Tier 1 plan and $36.95 for the other two
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