Well, it’s that dreaded time of year again, the time you need to get all your paperwork out (receipts, mileage logs, property taxes, and more) and get ready to sit down and do the dirty deed, filing your taxes.
So the easiest way is to use a Tax preparation software to complete that task. But with so many of them out there it’s hard to know which one to use. So I have prepared a tax preparation software review of the top four that most people use.
You will start out answering simple questions about yourself, for example, “Are you single or married’, “Do you have children”, “Do you own a house”, and so on. And you will continue through the program answering simple questions and entering your data from your W-2’s and other income, in boxes that look similar to your own, so there is no guessing to what and where to enter your data.
The new programs out now will allow you to take a photo of your W-2’s and other income and insert them into the software saving you the hassle of entering everything by hand. How neat is that? (You’ve got to love technology)
Filling out the proper forms will be taken care of in the background as you proceed. Unlike the old days of filling out the Federal forms yourself where you’re not sure where to enter this or that and there was little to no instruction on what each line requires.
The software will cover all bases about your income, deductions, and earned credits, so no matter what your situation is they have you covered, and if you know what you need to enter, you can skip the other questions and go right to the spot you need to be.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for one:
- Real-Time Updates: Look for one that will search for the most current tax law changes and updates from the Federal Government and State. You know the federal government, there always making changes in the tax laws, the way till April 15th. 🙂
- The best deduction available: Check the software and make sure they mention something to this fact. H&R Block did a survey back in 2013 and noted that U.S. taxpayers left over $1 billion dollars on the table due to the missed deduction.
- Takes you through only the forms you need: Here you want one that will ask simple questions to find out your filing situation, keeping you on track using only the forms you’ll need.
- Schedule C capabilities: If you have a small business, you will for sure need this.
- Import data from personal finance software: If you use Personal Finance software, you will want one that can import your information directly from that software. Saving a lot of time in entering data into the program.
- Unlimited returns. You will want this so you can file returns for everyone in your household, no reason to pay for extra returns.
- Federal and State. You will want one that handles both, Federal and State, that way it can transfer your Federal data to the State worksheet for you. No fun in doing that yourself and making sure everything is correct.
- Ability to skip sections: Again making sure it will take you through the forms that you need and not the ones you don’t, saving time and headaches from too many questions.
- Import your W-2 and 1099: This is especially nice if you are doing a lot of W-2’s, having the program install the information directly to the software from your employers, saving time and making any errors.
- Import from last year: If you’re not using the same tax software provider as of last year, you will want it to be able to import last year’s tax info from the other software files.
- Tax help if audited: Look for ones that offer the help in case you’re ever audited.
OK if you’re ready let’s take a look at the Top 4 Tax Preparation Software that’s available on the internet. From here I will be showing you there prices and a little bit on how they work.
So let’s get started with TurboTax, because…..
This one is my favorite, probably because I have been using it since they first started making tax programs back in the dark ages (well not really the dark ages, more like the floppy disk era). 🙂
- Federal Free Edition: For those that are just filling a 1040EZ or 1040A
- Deluxe: $34.99 + $36.99 for State: For those that have dependants and deduction to file.
- Premier: $454.99 + $36.99 for State: For those that have investments and rental property.
- Home & Business: $79.99 + $36.99 for State: for those that are self-employed and for small business owners.
To start your taxes you will first come to a page (see below) where it will ask you to click on all that applies to you from six different boxes like (Single, children/dependents, home, and so on), once you have done that it will highlight the tax software for you to get started with. You will then click on the Start for Free button to get rolling with your taxes.
You will then need to sign up for the program, and then you will be able to import your last year’s taxes from any of these that you might have used last year (H&R Block, TaxAct, or Jackson Hewitt).
Once you have imported your data from last year it will take you through all the steps required to filling out a Tax Return with easy and simple question that even a beginner will be able to answer.
TurboTax will be saving your information as you go, so if anything should happen to your connection it will know where you were when you come back.
Once you have entered all your information and gone through your deductions and credits, it will want to review your return and check for any mistakes and/or deductions you might have missed prior to you filing them. Once you’re satisfied with your results click file my return, and away you go. 🙂
You can purchase the download or CD versions.
- Basic: $29.99 +$39.99 for State: For those that are filing 1040EZ/1040A
- Deluxe: $59.99 State included, up to 5 Federal e-files: For those that are married, own a home, have dependents, and deductions.
- Premier: $89.99 State included, up to 5 Federal e-files: For those that have investments and rental properties.
- Home & Business: $99.99 State included, up to 5 Federal e-files: This one will cover everything from Personal and Small Businesses.
Here is a short rundown of what to expect when using there CD/download products.
After installing, click run and this is where TurboTax is going to ask you if you want to get updates for the new tax laws, here you will want to click on yes, this way you will have most up to date tax laws. After that it will begin asking you some simple questions about your life, like where do you work, do you own a home, do you have children, and so on.
Next, it will ask you if you would like to auto-import your W-2’s from over a million participating employers and financial institutions, with that many your chances are good that your employer has this option.
From there it will take you through entering your information on income, deductions, and more. As you go through the steps it will be saving your data as you go so if you need to come back later to finish up, it will know right where you left off.
As you go, it will be running thousands of error checks on the information that you have entered, and just before you file your return it will double check everything. This way they make sure you are getting the most deduction and credits so you can get the most return on your taxes. Or if you end up owing, they will help you get that as low as possible.
TurboTax is extremely easy to use, even if you’re just a beginner user of a computer, and they have experts that you can talk with 24/7, so if you want to do your taxes in the middle of the night and have questions, no problem.
All but the Basic have the State included.
- Basic: $19.95 + 39.95 For State: This is the simplest tax return, no deduction or credits.
- Deluxe: $44.95: Best for homeowners or investors.
- Premium: $64.95: For those that are self-employed, rental property owners, and so forth.
- Premium & Business: $79.00: For those that have a small business.
Once you’re on their site you get the option to click on a variety of things that would apply to you, like single or married, children, have a home, and so on. From there it will highlight the product that will fit your needs, this way you don’t have to make a guess as to which one to use.
From there you get to download your software instead of waiting for a CD to arrive in the mail, this way you can get started right away.
Now the only problem with downloading your software would be that if for some reason (computer crashes) you end up losing that program, you’re out of luck and you will be buying it again.
But for an extra six dollars, you can get extended download service, which will give you 2 years of access to your software. Or you can purchase what they call a Backup CD for $10.00. You may want to get the CD if your internet connection is like really slow, which could hamper the download.
Once you have your software installed and have clicked run you will be greeted in the same manner as with TurboTax.
It will then take you through the steps of entering your information in the same type of layout as does the TurboTax one.
So with that in mind, I won’t bore you with repeated details. The layout here is just as easy and simple as with the TurboTax, and you won’t have any trouble following the instructions.
Now here are the prices for using their online software.
- Free + $9.99 for State: For those filing a 1040EZ/1040A
- Basic: $24.99 + 36.99 for State: This is for those that have dependents.
- Deluxe: $34.99 + $36.99 for State: This one is best for Investors.
- Premium: $49.99 + $36.99 for State: This one for self-employed, rental property, and small business owners.
Using the online method:
If this is your first time with H&R Block (I’m sure it is or you would not be here. Right! LOL) you will have to create an account. Once you’re in the program the layout is similar to that of TurboTax, extremely easy to navigate through, and entering your data.
They also have the ability to import your W2’s and 1099’s; along with importing last year’s taxes from TurboTax, Quicken software, and of course H&R Block.
Just like TurboTax, they offer Maximum Refund Guarantee, 5 Federal electronic filings for free, Unlimited free advice from tax experts, Data Security, and 100% accuracy guarantee.
I would have to say that H&R Block and TurboTax go toe to toe with everything they provide, and with what I can see the biggest difference would be in the prices, a lot of people like this one because they are a well-known tax expert. And of course, you can find an office most everywhere if you would still like a Tax accountant to do your taxes.
TaxAct: Online only:
- Free: This is the simple tax returns (1040 EZ/A) and includes the state.
- Basic: $9.99: You get unlimited phone support for filing your 1040 EZ/A. The state will cost you an extra $9.99.
- Plus: $14.99: This is their most popular one, and is great for those that will be itemizing their returns. State is an additional $14.95
- Premium: $21.99: This one is great for the self-employed, contractors, and freelancers. And like the others, the state is an additional $14.95.
To start out using TaxAct you must first sign up for an account, once you fill that out and set up your security questions they will send you a verification code by you choosing an email address or cell number.
When that is done you will be brought to this screen (below) welcoming you to TaxAct, select continue to get rolling. Like the other two, you are giving the chance to import your last year’s return from TurboTax or H&R Block. Now if your tax return contains both Federal and State together, it won’t be able to import both of them together, they have to be separate. (Buzzkill)
If you need to stop anywhere, you can save your information by clicking on the bookmark icon and come right back to the place you left off (Just like the rest). From here on it gets a little different (ok big difference) from the other two, the questions are really basic and don’t explore many variations.
Now if you pause long it has a popup window asking if you need help, this gets annoying after a while if you’re always taking time to find something, so be prepared. From there it will take you through gathering all the important information and you can bounce around the program at your convenience.
So if you are familiar with filling out forms then this program is great for the price. You just don’t get the bells and whistles of the other two.
Oh, and before I move on, this program is done all online and you don’t pay until you’re ready to file electronically or by mail. (Yes some people still do it by mail)
This is another one that is done online, no CD option, and like H&R Block you most likely can find an office in your area to visit and let a Tax consultant do your taxes.
Here is a list of there programs.
- Free Edition: This is for simple returns (1040EZ/1040A) and the state is included.
- Basic Edition: $19.95 + $36.95 for State: This for recent grads, and newly married with no children, or any other dependents.
- Deluxe Edition: $34.95 + $36.95 for State: This one is for those with families have a home and investments.
- Premium Edition: $49.95 + $36.95 for State: This is for those that are self-employed and have complex returns.
Just like with all the others, you set up an account with them to start your taxes. After entering your verification code you are brought to a page showing you the information you will need to gather, like W-2’s, last year’s taxes, and so on.
You can also use their Tax Document Checklist Tool, this way you won’t miss a thing in gathering your information. From there, click on Start filling.
Next up, you will have the option to import your last year’s taxes from any one of these, TurboTax, H&R Block, or TaxAct, and unlike TaxAct, this one will import the files that contain both Federal and State.
But I was a little disappointed in the fact, that all it imported was your name, address, and dependents, so your left with having to have your last year’s taxes in front of you so you can compare your info with last years.
From there it will take you through the same steps as the other ones do, saving everything as you go so if you need to quit and come back later, you will be able to continue where you left off. Once you’re through entering all your information it will run a review for you and check for any mistakes, just like the other ones do. Once you’re finished with that you can file your taxes online or print and mail them.
Wrapping it up:
As you can see the prices are all similar with each other with the exception of TaxAct, which as I mentioned above, if you’re familiar with doing your taxes you might want to use them, you just won’t have the bells and whistles.
If this happens to be your first time in doing your own taxes, you can rest assured that it is really easy to do. Even if you have a lot of different deductions, and income sources, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is!
And hey you can try out the online ones for free to get a handle on what is involved with filing your own taxes before paying any money.
So what do you say, want to give it a try, I promise you won’t be sorry you did! Just go ahead and click on the one you want to try, or better yet try them all if you want to, and then pick the one you like best.
Go Ahead and Click on The One You Want to Try.
- TurboTax is the #1 best-selling tax software. Learn more about TurboTax here.
Be sure to have some fun doing your taxes! And have a wonderful day.
Have any Question or Comments you would like to share?
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