Tax Day is Monday, April 18, which means time is running out to get your tax information in order. While the tax deadline was extended in both 2021 (until May) and in 2020 (until July), this year it looks like things are “back to normal” and the regular deadline will remain intact. However, the good news is that if you need more time, you can file for an extension of your tax return, which will give you until October 15 to file. Keep in mind, though, that you will still be required to pay your estimated taxes by April 18.
If you’re shooting for that April 18 deadline, utilizing a tax preparation software can be a great way to make sure you’re providing all the information that you need. Here’s a look at some of the top tax preparation software programs available.
Perhaps the biggest name in tax preparation software, TurboTax can also be the most expensive, depending on which program you get. It does have a free version, but it also has deluxe, premier, and self-employed versions, which cost money for additional features and assistance. That being said, filing and access to the deluxe, premier, and self-employed products is available for free to members of the military. If you’re an investor or have a lot of documents, TurboTax can make filing easy due to its ability to import a wide variety of material.
Slightly cheaper than TurboTax’s paid products, H&R block also offers a free version for those with simple tax returns. H&R Block allows you to file with the help of a tax advisor, either in person (with offices in all 50 states), online, or in a hybrid approach. H&R Block specializes in finding deductions for those with Health Savings Accounts (or HSAs), which are funded with tax-deductible contributions.
TaxAct offers a $100,000 guarantee that you’ll get your maximum refund, and with its ability to cover multiple revenue and income streams, it’s a great program for those who are self-employed or who have small businesses. That being said, it does not have any free versions for state filings (but does have a free version for federal filing). TaxAct also has paid federal versions that offer more support and are applicable to a wider range of situations. If you’re an active military member, you’ll be able to utilize TaxAct for free.
While Jackson Hewitt is primarily known for in-person help, they also have an online software available. They don’t have any free versions of this software, and also have tiered products for more service and options available; that being said, for just one flat fee, you’ll have options to file in every state. Most other programs charge for each additional state, but not Jackson Hewitt. If you need to file in multiple states, Jackson Hewitt may be the way to go.
TaxSlayer’s free version is available at no cost, but because of its limitations, it should only be used for those who have extremely simple tax returns. However, it also offers Classic, Premium, and Self-Employed tiers, which offer additional services for a price that’s much more affordable than some of the bigger tax software programs – TaxSlayer’s most expensive tier is only $54.95, and gets you live chat assistance, help from tax advisors, and estimated payment reminders. They also offer discounts for active-duty military.
E-File offers free federal tax returns, with options for deluxe or premium upgrades for a price, as well as state tax returns for $21 per state. E-file is fast and easy to use, and gives you the option to either submit your filings electronically, or print them out and mail them yourself. E-file may be best for those who know what they’re doing, but if you get stuck, you can pay for phone or email help with completing your returns.
With a free version as well as a deluxe version that’s only $6.99, FreeTaxUSA is an affordable option for those looking to file their taxes online. They also offer state tax returns for $14.99 per state. And once you file your tax return, FreeTaxUSA allows you to store a PDF copy of it for free for up to 7 years.
Credit Karma Tax is completely free to use, for both state and federal filings, and doesn’t have any paid tiers – even comprehensive tax returns are free. However, you will have to manually type in your information from your investment documents, as it doesn’t support importing for those documents; but you can import prior tax returns from other software programs. While it does have useful tips and navigation tools, they don’t have any tax advisors or professionals available to offer guidance, making Credit Karma Tax useful only if you won’t need support from a professional.
Credit Karma Tax is currently offered in 40 states, but isn’t available in states where a free online tax filing service is already available. In addition to the above services, Credit Karma Tax offers free audit defense and a $1,000 accurate calculations guarantee.
For a flat fee of twenty-five dollars, 1040.com’s online filing software lets you file for your federal and state returns. It has a useful walk-through system that can guide you through the process without being over the top. Tax professionals are available to help through email and online chat, but phone support or in-person support are not options. Only W-2s are able to be imported to 1040.com, with all other documents having to be manually typed in.
Other Ways to File
Using a tax preparation software isn’t your only option when it comes to filing your taxes. You can also find a professional to do them for you – this is usually a Certified Public Accountant or a Tax Attorney. They will ask you for specific documents related to your finances and help prepare your filings, normally for a fee. Additionally, you can file your taxes without the guidance of any software or professional, but since taxes can be quite confusing, you should only do this if you are extremely familiar with the many forms and rules that go into tax preparation.
No matter what you decide, the important thing is to file your taxes on time! So get started today!