When filing taxes, most people have the option of choosing between the largest tax preparation companies such as TurboTax, Tax Act, H&R Block. There are several big differences between the eFile tax providers. There are also some suggestions to make sure you are getting the most refund and most accurate tax return. Remember that under some circumstances (income less than $53k, or elderly, or disabled, or limited English), you may qualify for free filing support through the IRS’s VITA and TCE programs.
General Information and Tips about Tax Software
- It is very important to remember that No one can get you your refund faster. In fact, the IRS is cracking down on places that claim to get your money faster than others because this is clearly false advertising. It doesn’t matter which tax return software that you use. Getting your tax refund is related to the fact that you’re in the queue with everyone else once that return has been e-filed. The only exception to this is that e-filing gets you your money faster than printing and mailing does. You can see the status of your refund with the IRS “Where’s My Refund” tool.
- Almost all tax software lets you get your results for free. They won’t charge you until it’s time to file. Try a few out and compare your results. There could be differences because you answer questions different. However, you shouldn’t get wildly different results from them! The math should generally be very similar.
- Once you submit your tax return either through e-file or the mail, there are no easy do-overs. If you e-file your return and then get another W-2 in the mail from a job you completely forgot about you will have to amend your return. This isn’t the end of the world by any means but take an extra few seconds to think things through before you hit send because changing all the inputs later will be much more difficult.
- If you file online, don’t wait until April 15th. No one gets their user forecast right and most of these companies are still behind the times with autoscaling and cloud computing. If you wait until the last minute you may be late. It happens every year.
Free Tax Software
If you’re using “free” software, read every screen carefully. There are upsell screens in areas where you’ll least expect them and where you’re most likely to accidentally consent to the upgrade. TurboTax has started adding a new consent screen that bypasses IRS regulation 7216. As a tax software provider, 7216 mandates that they do not use your personal information to market crap to you. This is good because we have your most sensitive data. . Keep your eyes open for screens asking you to enter your initials with phrases like “provide you a better experience” or “improve your financial health”.
H&R Block will charge you for specific types of tax credits. For example, you may agree to a $20 charge up front but that won’t include the $13 fee they tack on because you’re eligible for EITC.
IRS View of Tax Software Providers
The IRS actually wants tax reform to happen – they bear the burden of the complex tax code more than anyone else. Unfortunately they, like us, are beholden to a congress that can’t agree on where to go to lunch much less something as meaningful as tax reform.
Here’s more of last year’s batch of articles on the topic. There will surely, and justifiably, be more press this year.