Filing your taxes online: Use this software comparison chart

It’s tax season again. And if you’re like me, you usually wait far too long to do them.

This year, I filed them earlier (last weekend), and I am reveling in the peace of knowing they’re finished. Done and done. And each year I try to pick the best software while avoiding my arch-nemesis company.

When I was in college, a large tax preparation company representative charged me an exorbitant amendment (1040x) fee when I realized I hadn’t reported my savings account interest (less than $10). I, in my naïveté, didn’t want the IRS to hunt me down over unreported income, and paid something like $35 in addition to my basic preparation fees. In fairness, I know this company probably had an established amendment fee, but I think it would have been better customer service to waive it in this situation. The amendment took less than five minutes to file.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I make sure my documents are organized and I’m ready to complete my taxes in one session. But it doesn’t hurt to find out what that amendment fee is for any tax preparation — just in case.

If you’re still looking for online tax preparation programs, here’s a great comparison chart from toptenreviews.com. The important thing is to find the program that’s best for you and your financial situation. Just read the fine print when making your final decision because the chart only reveals so much.

For example:

  • TurboTax is listed with a federal return price of $29.95, but it also offers a “free edition” of its program in which the 1040EZ is free.
  • If you choose H&R Block at Home tax software, the deluxe package is actually cheaper than the basic package because they throw in the state return for free.

Once you’ve settled on a program, do a quick coupon code search to find extra savings. I got a couple extra dollars off TaxSlayer from RetailMeNot and couldn’t be more happy about it. (Note: The RetailMeNot site seems to be down right now. I hope it goes back up soon so we can peruse the coupons.)

If you’ve used online software to file this year, which program did you find the most helpful? Which program has the greatest value (bang for your buck)?

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

See a great deal I should know about? Email me at ldavidson@ajc.com. You can also follow me on Facebook or on Twitter @atlbargains.

16 comments Add your comment

Daniel Eubanks

February 23rd, 2011
7:52 am

All new users to TaxSlayer.com can save 20% with promo code SAVE20

Lauren Davidson

February 23rd, 2011
8:35 am

Thanks, Daniel. That’s a good one. I know retailmenot.com has some others for H&R Block, etc.

Pat21

February 23rd, 2011
11:04 am

Wish I had known the Deluxe version of H & R Block was a better deal before I started my taxes using the Basic version…

When I realized how much it would cost to file the state return in the Basic version, I tried to switch to the Deluxe version but it wouldn’t let me. I ended up filing my state taxes myself because they were charging $35 to efile the GA tax return on H & R Block.

Ganners

February 23rd, 2011
11:06 am

I had the exact same experiance with a big tax preparer….never again!

I picked up Turbo Tax from Costco with a $10 off coupon from the last Passport Savings mailer. It was easy and fit our needs. I have used Turbo Tax for the last three years and will likely continue using the software unless we become more complex than 1099 and 1040s.

Happy tax season :/

Retired

February 23rd, 2011
11:15 am

I used Turbo Tax Deluxe for the first time of any tax preparation sources like this last year. It was a total bust for State taxes as it did not perform the “Exclusion” section correctly for us retirees. I had to do the State forms manually and send them in. I even tried to get assistance from Turbo itself by phone with a live person. The only resolution was to do it manually.

Lauren Davidson

February 23rd, 2011
11:18 am

I wonder if any of the other online software program have a helpful state filing system (especially for retirees).

Eric

February 23rd, 2011
11:28 am

I have used Turbo Tax for the last four years, it has always worked very well for me. This year I received an email offer from them to do my federal return for only $19.95 if done by a certain date, which I quickly took advantage of. This year my taxes were a lot more complex due to the sale of my home, a relocation to another state, significant charitable contributions, the sale of stock and a relocation bonus to cover moving expenses from my company. My normal return was around 8 pages, this year was 34. Everything went without a hitch, and my refund was considerably larger than I estimated. The down side was that because I had income from two different states, I had to pay for filing in two states at $36.95 per state. So while it was a bit more expensive for me this year, I think TT did a great job and will definitely continue to utilize this software in the future.

Stayce

February 23rd, 2011
12:00 pm

I have used TaxAct for the past few years @ about $17 to e-file, with no problems.

Cindy

February 23rd, 2011
12:05 pm

I tried to use TaxSlayer, but a form that I needed to fill out wasn’t compatible with Google Chrome, it only works on Internet Explorer. (FYI: After contacting the support team, I understand that many forms don’t work on anything other than IE.) Turbo Tax worked well for me, though. I used the free version, but it isn’t entirely free. Both Turbo Tax and H&R Block will help you e-file for free for the Federal return, but there’s a (roughly) $30 fee for the state return.

Ted Striker

February 23rd, 2011
12:14 pm

I prefer TurboTax for it’s ease and the ability to transfer data from one year to the next.

Bank of America customers receive a 35% discount on Turbotax Federal if purchased through the BOA website. However buying through Amazon is more cost effective if purchasing both state and federal.

I also recommend “audit protection” from Tax Resource Inc if you have any concern at all about ever being audited.

Maybe it’s not for everyone however I had a friend get audited about 10 years ago. I thought “could happen to me.” Then bam! — 2009 — I was randomly selected for an audit of my 2007 return. You haven’t sweated till you get the certified letter from the IRS. It was sure nice to be able to hand things off.

Bob Horton

February 23rd, 2011
12:14 pm

I have used an online service for the past 5 years called express1040.com. It is very easy even for itemized deductions. The federal is filed at no charge with the state is $12.95. The best part is that it carries forward info from the prior year making it easy to enter w-2’s and other 1099 forms. I filed my federal and state on February 9th and have received both of my refunds via direct deposit. This included the delay caused by congress affecting those with Schedule A (itemized deductions) whereby the IRS would not accept until February 14th. Express1040 held the federal return until the 14th and I got my refund on 2/22.

Ted

February 23rd, 2011
1:04 pm

The choices aren’t quite as simple as that chart makes them out to be. I used TaxAct which has a federal e-filing version for $9.95 if you use it online, or $12.95 if you download it (which is what I do). A version that includes federal and state e-filing is $17.95 online or $21.95 to download (to me, not worth it because state is pretty easy once the federal is done). The table lists $17.95 as the price, which must be the federal and state e-file version, while the H&R Block price is $14.96, but the federal return is $16.96 and state is $27. So what are you getting for $14.96 from H&R Block?

Sunshine

February 23rd, 2011
1:40 pm

FreeTaxUSA & Tax Hawk are free. Turbo Tax has a freedom edition that is no charge. You have to go on the Georgia Dept of Rev website though.

Free File

February 23rd, 2011
1:50 pm

There’s a program on the IRS website called Free File, which offers usage of tax software from a multitude of companies. If you make less than $58k, you can use brand-name software and file federal and many states for free. If you make more, and are comfortable with tax forms, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, which are essentially online forms with no programming intelligence built in. Go check it out at irs.gov, link on the right side of the page!

MannyT

February 23rd, 2011
2:20 pm

I bundle my needs this time of year. buying tax prep software at office supply or electronics retailer usually comes with a deal on other software. This is when I get my virus protection for the next year. Cheaper than renewing the existing software.

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