Taxes: How much can you expect to pay to file online this year? What's a simple return? Get answers.
With the April 18th tax deadline now just a few days away, the pressure’s on to get ‘em done already! If you haven’t filed yet – erm, you might want to get on that – but at least you’re not alone. A third of Americans wait until the last second, according to a 2021 study, mainly because it’s “too time-consuming, too stressful and they want to make sure they’re filing correctly.”
Sound familiar? For most of us, taxes are right up there with your first colonoscopy or an emergency root canal. And this year, filing is a little trickier than usual, thanks to some important-to-know tax code changes brought about by the pandemic.
But there is a light at the end of the tax time tunnel and thanks to the latest tech tools, you really can put it all behind you for one more year.
WHEN ARE TAX RETURNS DUE? These are the deadlines to file
Cash app does taxes?
You might know Cash App (free, iOS, Android) as the money-shuffling smartphone app that lets you pay your friend for covering an Uber ride, but it’s doing taxes now, too. If you used the Credit Karma Tax app in the past, this is the same thing, only with a new name and a slight facelift.
Unlike just about every other tool on this list, Cash App Taxes is 100% free, even for filing state returns. You can file one federal and one state return for zero charge – sorry, no multi-state filings supported here – and the app is easy to use on either a smartphone or a tablet. Cash App has a max refund guarantee and “audit defense,” but without any professional tax advice included in the app, it’s a basic experience compared to its more costly competitors.
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File with names you recognize
With data breaches becoming a semi-regular thing, recording your income for the government isn’t something many people like to leave to chance. Thus, names like H&R Block, Turbo Tax and Tax Act are top go-to’s year after year.
Before we go through them all, let's define what a simple return is since it will come up a lot. It usually includes the following situations:
- W-2 income
- Limited interest and dividend income reported on a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV
- Claiming the standard deduction
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
- Child tax credits
- Student loan interest deduction
For 2022, H&R Block’s DIY tax software gets an updated look and feel, along with more freebies than in years past. Need to deduct student loans and tuition fees? H&R Block provides those forms for free and will even walk you through complicated credits like the earned income credit and child tax credit. File for free through H&R Block if you’re a student or have a simple return. For more complicated returns, including multi-state filings and itemized deductions, you’ll be paying at least $30. Adding crypto or a business means paying another $20 to $55 dollars, depending on exactly what you need and each state filing is $45 on top.
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TaxAct – which, once upon a time, was the plucky underdog that let you file for almost nothing – is back again in 2022 and it’s acting more and more like one of the “big dogs” every year, complete with multiple tiers of paid packages. You can still file for free, but you’ll need a straightforward return. For the rest of us, tiers start at around $48 (for homeowners and student loan borrowers) and $100 (for self-employed people and business owners), and each state return is $55.
If you’ve never heard of TaxSlayer, that’s okay. They’re not nearly as well-known as H&R Block or TaxAct, but they’re one of their very reasonable filing packages, making them a favorite in 2022. The TaxSlayer “Classic” package gets you all forms and credits and deductions for $30 plus $40 for state filing. That’s one of the best deals going on at the moment and an additional $20 gets you live tax support via chat, phone and email. That’s $80 for the complete red-carpet treatment, which is hard to turn down.
What’s the deal with TurboTax?
Intuit's TurboTax is the star player in the tax-prep space, with 73% of sales in last year's tax high season, according to data analytics firm Bloomberg Second Measure. I’ve been covering TurboTax for years and highly recommend it, with a few caveats.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing TurboTax parent company Intuit, claiming the software company misleads people with its commercials and promotions that put free tax filing front and center.
“TurboTax is bombarding consumers with ads for ‘free’ tax filing services and then hitting them with charges when it’s time to file,” said Samuel Levine, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, in an online statement. “We are asking a court to immediately halt this bait-and-switch and to protect taxpayers at the peak of filing season.”
In response, Intuit says it follows IRS rules and calls the allegations "simply not credible." In an email from a spokesperson, the company said more than 17 million Americans filed 100% free with TurboTax last year, which means that more people have filed free of charge with TurboTax than all other online tax prep providers combined.
Here’s what’s important to know:
- The TurboTax free version won’t charge for a federal or state return, but only if you have a simple return.
- For deductions, credits and everything beyond, you’ll pay a minimum of $60 plus $49 per state filing.
- If you have itemized deductions, schedules or unemployment incohttps://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-1099-gme (as reported on a 1099-G), you'll probably need at least the TurboTax "Deluxe" tier, which is regularly priced at $59.
- TurboTax packages also include "Premier" ($89) and "Self-Employed" ($119).
The TurboTax software is especially helpful to help discover deductions you might otherwise miss. It warns you about your level of audit risk. It also offers its "Deluxe," "Premier," and "Self-Employed" tiers with either access to a tax pro who'll give you advice (the cheaper option, called TurboTax Live) or a tax pro who'll straight up do your taxes for you (the more expensive option, called TurboTax Live Full Service).
Ask a tax pro for free
If you’re in the middle of your tax filing and run into a snag – maybe you sold $10,000 worth of Dogecoin and then used that money to buy a houseboat and turned it into a rental property (you know, normal stuff like that), hit up JustAnswer’s Tax Chat line and get expert advice from a tax guru.
The way it works is simple: Go to justanswer.com/taxchat, type in your question and the site connects you with a real, live, credentialed tax expert. The company even says you’ll be chatting online with your tax expert within minutes – no hours-long waits like with the IRS hotline. You get one free question and answer, so make it a good one!
Oh and if you find yourself approaching midnight on tax deadline day and still have a mound of receipts to go through? Form 4868 is your best friend.