Did you wait until right now to think about your yearly tax filing? If so, you may have called a tax professional only to discover that they are booked past the deadline. CPA’s and certified tax preparers are only human – they will take on as much business as they can before the deadline but there is a limit to their time. At this point, you could go it alone but most people need help navigating the ever-changing U.S. tax code. If you’re filing last-minute and need some advice or if you just want to handle your taxes from home this year, check out these online options.
Turbo Tax is an online tax filing service that started as a software company called Intuit (and they still sell boxed software if that’s your thing). Taxpayers can use the free version at www.turbotax.com for basic personal tax returns. Upgraded versions exist for business owners, property investors, and military/enlisted active duty. Turbo Tax also offers live help from tax professionals for an additional fee.
H & R Block is known for their brick-and-mortar shops, but they offer an online option as well. Their pricing falls into three tiers: Free, Deluxe, or Professional filing. H & R Block advertises their free option for simple tax situations like W-2 income. The Deluxe option offers additional forms such as the IRS Form 8889 for HSA contributions. H & R Block encourages filing with a tax professional for more complicated situations. The professional route can be completed online, but an in-office option exists for those who request a meeting.
Liberty Tax Service is a brick-and-mortar franchise operation with locations throughout the United States. Their shops can often be found in strip malls and the company is known for its fun-loving employees who stand near major thoroughfares dressed as the Statue of Liberty. While their in-person presence is hard to miss, many taxpayers are unaware of Liberty’s online filing portal. Pricing is based on the number of tax forms needed and the company offers a “free double-check” at their offices for customers who had their taxes prepared online.
Tax Act is one of the newer online tax prep services and the company has gained a strong customer base since its inception in 1998. Tax Act operates entirely online. Their website offers tiered pricing with a higher-level product created specifically for self-employed taxpayers. Customers can file on their own using Tax Act’s online software or can pay extra to be paired with a tax expert or CPA.
Online filing is very similar to pen-and-paper tax preparation: signatures are required and taxpayers still have to file state and federal documents separately. Forms can be printed and sent by mail or submitted electronically. State laws differ with respect to electronic filing, so it is good practice follow-up to check that your documents were accepted. When in doubt, it might be worth the extra charge to utilize your online provider’s live service. Tax code is complicated and it changes every year. If you are unsure whether your completed tax package is accurate, the advice of a seasoned CPA or certified tax preparer is worth the fee.
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