It’s that time of year again.
Your W-2, 1099s and other forms have probably landed in your mailbox. Now all you have to do is figure out the best way to file.
Options abound. There are many tax-software companies out there trying to win your business and take the intimidation out of the filing process. It’s becoming more common to automatically import W-2 data, and consumers confused by a tax break may be able to chat with a pro online or through video.
Using tax software is usually less expensive than having a tax professional handle your taxes. For example, 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. A person filing online with software, on the other hand, could pay up to $130 with one of the major tax-preparation companies, including the fees for one state return.
Here’s a look at what you might pay to file your taxes online, based on the complexity of your tax return. Prices are as of Feb. 2.
Basic federal return (1040)
Cost: Free, most of the time
If you have a straightforward return where you only have to file a 1040 and are claiming the standard deduction, you may be able to file your federal taxes free. The Internal Revenue Service’s Free File program is for taxpayers earning $64,000 or less. Financially savvy taxpayers who want to work the math out themselves sans software can do so and enter the results into the free fillable forms the IRS offers online.
Many of the major tax-software providers also offer free options for people with simple tax needs. But those taxpayers who want an extra service, such as the ability to store returns online for several years or to import data from a previous tax year, may need to pay a fee. (Some companies will import tax data from a competitor free.)
TurboTax: Lets customers import W-2 forms free. Customers who want to import last year’s tax return from TurboTax need to pay $34.99 for the deluxe version.
H&R Block: Taxpayers can file free federal returns including the 1040EZ, 1040A and 1040 with a Schedule A, meaning they are itemizing their deductions.
Jackson Hewitt: Customers can file free federal returns if they have simple tax needs and a free state return for most states. People who want to file the earned income tax credit or the student loan interest deduction have to pay $19.95 for the basic edition. Jackson Hewitt lets customers import W-2 forms and from last year’s tax returns free.
TaxAct: Taxpayers can import W-2 forms free, but returning customers looking to import TaxAct returns from last year will need to pay $10.
TaxSlayer: Taxpayers can file a 1040EZ and one free state tax return free. Those who want to update W-2 data or last year’s tax data may need to pay $17 for the classic edition.
Cost: $0 to $37 per state on top of cost for basic software
Taxpayers who are able to file their federal tax returns free may also qualify for a free state tax return. These fees are generally charged per state on top of whatever package the company requires for the rest of the tax return, although some companies include the service for their more expensive packages.
TurboTax: Offers free state returns for people who qualify for free federal returns, but all other customers will pay $36.99 per state.
H&R Block: Customers who qualify for free federal returns can receive one free state return. All other customers are charged $36.99 per state return.
Jackson Hewitt: No charge for people using the free edition. All other users pay $36.95 for each state return.
TaxAct: No cost for people using the free version. Charges $33 for customers using the plus and premium software.
TaxSlayer: For people using the free-file service, the first state return is free and additional state returns cost $22. People using the classic edition may be charged $22 per state return, although final fees are set at the time of filing.
Schedule A for itemized deductions
Cost: $0 to $35
Taxpayers who want to take common deductions for medical expenses, charitable contributions and mortgage interest will need to itemize those deductions on the Schedule A tax form instead of taking the standard deduction. But most of the companies require those taxpayers to upgrade and pay a little more for more-comprehensive software offered in the “deluxe edition.”
TurboTax: Included in deluxe edition, $34.99
H&R Block: Some taxpayers with simple federal returns can itemize free. Service also included starting with the deluxe version, $34.99.
Jackson Hewitt: Included in deluxe edition, $34.95
TaxAct: Included in the plus edition, $27
TaxSlayer: Included in the classic edition, $17
Schedule C for business and self-employment deductions
Cost: $35 to $90
Online costs will generally be highest for taxpayers claiming business-related deductions.
TurboTax: Included in home and business package for online software, $89.99.
H&R Block: Sole proprietors and others filing the Schedule C-EZ can use the deluxe service, costing $34.99. Others filing the Schedule C can use the premium package, $54.99.
Jackson Hewitt: Sole proprietors and others filing the Schedule C-EZ can use the basic service starting at $19.95. Other self-employed people and business owners may need to buy the premium package for $54.95.
TaxAct: Included in the premium package, $37.
TaxSlayer: Included in the classic edition, $17
Schedule D for capital gains and losses
Cost: $27 to $55
Taxpayers who sold real estate, stocks, mutual funds or other investments may need to file this form.
TurboTax: Included in premier package for online software, $54.99.
H&R Block: Included in premium edition, $54.99.
Jackson Hewitt: Included in deluxe edition, $34.95.
TaxAct: Included starting with plus software, $27.
TaxSlayer: Included in the classic edition, $17.