|Keep as much of your hard-earned loot as possible!|
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First off, most people will obviously want to retain as much of their cash as possible despite the handover to the IRS, so inexpensive programs will kick off our list. According to Bloomberg.com, of the three major online tax filing services, TaxACT is the least expensive. Handling 7 million returns a year, they charge nothing for the federal filing form with all associated paperwork, and $19.99 for the state filing. A $24.99 deluxe package offers federal, state, and extra aid.
H&R Block are competitively inexpensive online for their simple package (such as 1040A or 1040EZ filing), offering free simple federal return filing and $29 state filing. They also offer more comprehensive packages including Basic ($39.99, best for importing last year's data), Deluxe ($49.99, best for homeowners and investors), or Premium ($74.99, best for the self-employed or owners of rental properties.) Best of all, they offer a maximum refund guarantee and in-person audit support should anything go awry.
TurboTax have raised their prices this year, offering free simple federal and state returns for $29.99, or $54.99/federal and $39.99/state for Deluxe (their most popular program, which maximizes deductions), $79.99/federal and $39.99/state for Premiere (best for investments and rental properties), and $104.99/federal and $39.99/state for Home and Business (best for sole proprietors and small business owners.) TurboTax claim the higher price is due to their program's "intuitiveness", and they also guarantee maximum results.
However, if you're looking for tax software that's well-liked by the masses, Consumer Affairs places Community Tax at the top of their list. They offer a variety of tax-related services including help with penalties, wage garnishment, financial planning and more. Other services rated by Consumer Affairs (including Tax Slayer, H&R Block, TurboTax Intuit, Jackson Hewitt, and others) ranked poorly in comparison to the five-star service reviews for Community Tax.
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If you're looking for charts and graphs of effectiveness rather than ratings stars, an in-depth analysis of the top three programs (TaxACT, H&R Block, and TurboTax) was published by US News's Money department. PC Mag also charted and agreed with the top three assessment. Also in accord with the top three picks is The Simple Dollar, who noted the accuracy, security, and accessibility of the programs. The Simple Dollar also comprehensively assesses the pros and cons of these programs as well as other lesser-known programs on the market. Depending on your status as a worker, business owner, or independent contractor, it is important to find the software that suits your needs the best, and often that might not mean the cheapest.
Remember that the tax code changes every year, and the Affordable Care Act now factors heavily into this. While all of the tax services listed take the ACA into account, it is important that adjustments be made for those who are eligible for the advanced premium tax credits on their plans. Additionally, the exemptions and penalties for not having health care in 2014 are something that you will want your software or human tax-monkey to properly assess.
Of course, if you live in a state with no income tax, you're saved the trouble of having to file a state return. This means you, residents of Florida, Texas, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Taking this into account can help your online filing bill decrease significantly.
Now that you have the tools, get to work! There's only one day left before Tax Day! If you happen to be one of the people who will be filing late, we'll be posting an article later this week on how to accomplish that. But for everyone else, it's time to pay like a patriot. Good luck and many happy (and hefty) returns!
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