When it comes to tax returns, most taxpayers prefer to drop the paperwork off at someone else’s desk and wait to hear how big of a refund they’ll be receiving — or how big of a check they’ll have to write.

For those in the minority who prefer to do their own taxes, the decision typically comes down to price and ease of use. Some software companies will connect taxpayers with experts on the phone or online when they get stuck. Tax companies may also offer audit assistance, which can be reassurance for people worried about messing up. Once people find a system that works, they’re likely to stick with it until they have a reason to look elsewhere. “It’s always easier to ride the same horse than to get on a new one,” says Roberton Williams, an economist with the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

That’s partly why so many TurboTax customers were up in arms this tax season when the company tried to change the TurboTax Deluxe desktop software they’ve previously used to prepare their tax returns, requiring customers to upgrade to a more expensive program — paying up to $30 more — if they wanted to prepare and file investment-related forms.

After many customers complained in online forums and threatened to switch to a competitor, TurboTax backed down, making it so that customers could upgrade for free this year and so that TurboTax Deluxe will include those forms again next year.

“You want your TurboTax desktop product to do what it always has done – handle the same tax situations as it did in years past,” Sasan Goodarzi, general manager for TurboTax said in a note to customers.”We’ve heard you, and we’re going to fix it.

The incident is a reminder for taxpayers to make sure the system they’ve used to file tax returns is offering them the best deal. Many people might save money by filing their returns from home using one of the free or relatively cheap options for tax preparation software available online.

But before you spend time wading helplessly through tax forms and income statements at home, it helps to know just how much you might have to spend to do-it-yourself.  Even taxpayers with more complicated returns may pay less than if they hired an accountant.

Of course, not all professional tax preparers and accountants charge steep fees. And as one reader commented last week, some taxpayers wouldn’t mind paying for the peace of mind that comes having an expert walk you through the process.

Still, we compared what it might cost to prepare a return with four of the largest companies offering online tax preparation services: Intuit’s TurboTax, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and TaxAct. With most of the companies, the cost of the software needed generally increased with the complexity of the return. So a taxpayer itemizing deductions or claiming capital gains will generally pay more than someone who only needs to file a 1040 and a state return. All of the companies also offer free online filing for simple federal returns.

Here’s a look at the minimum you should expect to pay for your tax return, by form and type of return:

Basic 1040:Free, mostly.

People with simple returns, those who only have to file a 1040 and are claiming the standard deduction, have a pretty good chance of filing their federal returns online for free. If not through the Free File program with the Internal Revenue Service, which offers free federal filing for taxpayers earning $60,000 or less, some taxpayers may still be able to take advantage of free options offered by major preparers.

All four tax prep companies offered a free filing option. But you may not qualify if you are claiming a certain deduction or credit or if you want an extra service, such as the ability to store returns online for several years or to import a prior year’s tax return.

H&R Block: Lets customers import W-2 forms for free. People who want to import a 1099 or tax returns from previous years need to pay $19.99 for the basic version.

Jackson Hewitt: Customers have to pay if they’re filing for the earned income tax credit or the student loan interest deduction. Lets customers import W-2 forms for free.

TaxAct: Doesn’t charge people who want to import previous tax returns from a competitor like H&R Block or TurboTax. Returning customers looking to import TaxAct returns from last year or import a W-2 form will need to pay $12.99 for the deluxe version.

TurboTax: Lets customers import W-2 forms for free. Customers who want to import last year’s tax return from TurboTax need to pay $34.99 for the deluxe version.

State return: $0 to $40, per state

This service is pretty tough to find for free. Even customers who qualify for Free File through the IRS may find they have to pay for their state return, depending on the state. (These fees are generally charged per state on top of whatever package the company requires for the rest of the tax return.)

H&R Block: Charges free-file customers $9.99 for each state return and all other customers $36.99 per state return.

Jackson Hewitt: Charges $34.95 for each state return.

TaxAct: Charges $14.99 for regular customers and $7 for deluxe customers.

TurboTax: Is offering free state returns for people who qualify for the IRS free file, but all other customers will pay $36.99 per state.

Itemize deductions:$0 to $35

Most of the companies require anyone not taking the standard deduction to upgrade and pay a little more for more comprehensive software offered in the “deluxe edition.”

H&R Block: Included in deluxe edition, $29.99

Jackson Hewitt:  Included in deluxe edition, $34.95

TaxAct: Offers free filing even to taxpayers who are itemizing and filing investment related tax forms.

TurboTax:  Included in deluxe edition, $34.99

Schedule D for capital gains and losses:  $0 to $55

H&R Block: Included in deluxe edition, $29.99

Jackson Hewitt: Included in deluxe edition, $34.95

TaxAct: No charge

TurboTax: Included in premier package for online software, $54.99

Schedule C for business deductions:$0 to $80

Online costs will generally be highest for taxpayers claiming business related deductions.

H&R Block: Included in premium package, $49.99

Jackson Hewitt: Included in premium package, $49.95

TaxAct: No additional charge

TurboTax: Included in home and business package for online software, $79.99

For some business owners, it might still be cheaper to use online software than to hire an accountant. For instance, the average tax preparation fee from an accountant is $273 for a standard federal tax return with a schedule A for itemizing deductions and a state tax return, according to the National Society of Accountants. Someone doing their own return online through one of the major tax preparation companies could pay $80 to $120, including the fees for a state return.