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"Hipsters" to the Rescue: Tax Filing Options & Tips

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I have received so many emails from readers asking for the best deals on tax software and tax filing options… here are a few:

Any recommendations on good, safe, cheap online tax filing?

I thought if anyone could help me you could.  We usually buy Turbo Tax at a store and do our taxes ourself, but the price has increased this year.  Do you know of any coupon codes, promotions, etc… Thanks so much!

My husband loves how much money I save, thanks to you.  He just asked me to find a deal for the tax filing software we have to buy every year.  I’ve been keeping my eyes open for Turbo Tax sales but I haven’t seen any.  Can you help us?  Thanks!

Since I am by no means an expert in this area, I thought I would also ask all of you to help me answer these questions! I have a couple of suggestions below and am hoping that you can add to my tips and provide some different alternatives as well.

* Head over here to sign up for a FREE edition of H&R Block At Home or head over here to sign up for a FREE edition of Turbo Tax (you’ll be able to prepare, print and electronically file your federal tax return for free). If you need a more customizable version, consider purchasing Turbo Tax from Costco or an office supply store where there is often a coupon or special promo offer available.

* Check the daily deal sites…Groupon recently offered up a $30 voucher for online tax preparation products at H&R Block for ONLY $15.

* If you are in the military, you can snag a FREE customized version of basic H&R Block at Home electronic tax filing product. This customized product allows for FREE federal filing and FREE state filing (up to three states). In addition, free telephonic tax consultations are available to help with tax- related issues. Check out Military One Source for more information.

Now it’s your turn! What are your tips?!

Join The Discussion

Comments 152

  1. Janice H

    I have been using TaxAct.com for 3 years and I love it!

  2. Anonymous

    I never pay to file taxes! I do the free federal filing on turbotax.com, then I go to the states’ dept of taxation website, and any state we’ve ever lived in has had free efile on their dept of taxation website. Easy and free!

    • Liz

      I do the same thing! The state e-file requires my Adjusted Gross Income from my federal tax return and my W2. That’s it! It’s so easy, especially as someone who doesn’t itemize. I just put in my personal info, my AGI, and my W2 number and I’m done!

  3. Anonymous

    Military One Source has a free tax service that my friends have used for years and have always gotten a return. This is the first time I’ll be filing myself so I’m going to try it!

  4. NolaGirl

    Loyola University New Orleans’ College of Law offers free tax preparation annually to low-to-moderate-income clients through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The program offers electronic filing which means quick refunds for those due to receive them. Many non-profits and universities in major cities offer similar free filing programs.

    Taxpayers who e-file can get refund information 72 hours after the electronic return data is acknowledge as accepted by the IRS. To check the status of a refund visit the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96596,00.html. Taxpayers without Internet access can get refund information by calling the IRS at 800-829-1954 or 800-829-4477.

    Generally, if a return is accepted by the IRS before Friday, you will receive your refund by direct deposit on the Friday of the following week. If you are expecting a “paper” check, that will be mailed on Friday two weeks from the date your return is processed. 2011 IRS e-file Refund Cycle Chart http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p2043.pdf

    • NolaGirl

      Moderate income is usually defined as 80 to 120% of the area’s median family income.

  5. Melissa

    We are military and for the last 4 or 5 years have been using Taxslayer.com
    It is free for military and I have never had any problems. Very easy to use.

  6. cnor

    I have used TurboTax since it was developed. It was perfect for us early in our marriage, with our simpler financial life. If your financial needs do not involve multiple state returns, depreciation of real estate or other headache creating tax puzzles, Turbo Tax is the software to use. Remember, the cost of the software is deductible on your following year return as part of the tax preparation costs.
    However, once our financial life became rather convoluted, we started using a CPA. That was the best move we could have made! She saved us thousands of dollars over the years. We currently live in an area of the USA that was declared a federal disaster area and our CPA did an amended return to reflect the losses suffered to the value of our home and was able to get us a refund of over $5,000. We still use TurboTax to help us organize our records and receipts and keep us on track when we take everything to the CPA. Having records organized sure makes tax preparation a lot easier for the individual or for the professional.

  7. Anon

    Be careful with Turbotax!! It didn’t file our 2007 taxes for our state, and now, three years later they come back and say we didn’t file. We now owe penalties and interest on what we owe! I know for sure I filled out the paperwork, and Turbotax has no record of it. Then, we had to amend our 2009 taxes because they were wrong as well. We owe state taxes and penalties and interest on that year too! I’m not saying its not okay for most, just be careful. There’s no one to review it, not an actual person like H&R Block, its just a computer program. I won’t use it again.

    • Diann

      If you filed electronically with Turbo Tax (or any other e-file service), you should have received a notice back from the IRS (both Federal and State) saying your taxes were received and accepted. If you do not receive this, there is a problem and you need to follow up. If you received this notice, you have all the proof you need to show that you did in fact file your taxes on time. If you are not e-filing, you should have mailed your taxes in yourself…Turbo Tax does not do this for you.

      I used Turbo Tax for years but the last 2 years I have used Tax Act. The first year I used Tax Act, I ran all the numbers thru both Turbo Tax (online) and Tax Act and they matched so I did the actual e-file thru Tax Act which was significantly cheaper.

      No matter what you use, you must follow the instructions regarding filing exactly and make sure you get the acceptance notification.

  8. Pam

    I file for myself and several of my children and mother every year. We NEVER pay filing taxes. There are so many free sites to file your federal taxes on. If you go to the irs website in the free file section it will guide you to a place with dozens of choices dependent on your state, income, etc. Then file your state and local taxes on your states website.

  9. Joan Hunt

    We purchased the Turbo Tax Deluxe @ Sam’s Club this week for $39.78. Originally, it was $49.78 but to our surprise we got a $10 rebate @ checkout.

  10. Nicole

    We are prior military and bank with USAA. If you are a USAA member you get a 25% off discount with TurboTax…

    • Megan

      we also use USAA , how do you ge tthe discount on Turbo Tax?

  11. amee

    We use taxact.com. I found it last year, it’s free (you just pay to e-file), is super fast and easy. It was similar to turbo tax. You also have the option to print, and mail it in, which is free. I’ve already got my taxes done for this year, and I do pay to e-file it, which is worth it to me to have it done and my refund on the way. Usually I end up procrastinating and not doing it until the first or second week in April. I’m super excited this year!

    • Anonymous

      I love TaxAct too – super cheap! I have very simple taxes though – is it just as good for itemized filing?

      • Haila

        We use Tax Act too, and have for a number of years. We do itemize, and it does great with it – you enter all the things you itemize in separate “worksheets” which you can save/print for your file if you want. Super easy, fast, and inexpensive. We also like the option to save info from the previous year which really speeds up entry of repeat items.

    • Amy

      TaxActOnline.com is definitely the best. We itemize our taxes and it is super easy to use. It’s free for us to file Federal, but we have to pay for state which is only about $15. Someone else mentioned how they save your data from prior years and that’s one of my favorite things about TaxAct.

      • Sue M.

        I second, third, and fourth, taxact.com. I work in a tax office but do some select friends/family members returns at home. Yes, it works well for itemized filing. My pain in the rump, so to speak, lol, tax filing every year is a friend who has numerous pensions, a job, and two businesses, so I deal with 1099R’s, w-2’s, and Schedule C’s…. At the office I work at, since the software is more expensive, and sophistacated, it would take me about 40 mins. Taxact takes me about an hour and a half to enter everything into; but the savings are tremendous.

        Just a tip for this year though-if you are itemizing, using a Schedule A, or using school/tuition credits, -the IRS is not accepting those returns until approximately Feb. 14 (and possibly Feb. 22), because of the tax law changes, and they needing to update their own systems to accept them.

      • kathy

        I use TaxAct too! I think it’s fantastic and I’ve used it ever since I’ve done volunteer tax work for the Accounting Aid Society, several of the volunteers recommended it to me. Just like you, I pay for the State filing and that’s it

    • loreli

      I love TaxAct and have used it for years too. Have converted my TurboTax loving hubs away once we got married and consolidated to one form:) Gives great confimations that everything has been received by both Fed & State with tracking numbers that can be printed and saved with your records.

      • Mandi Presley

        We use Tax Act also. We love it and best of all it’s FREE!

  12. Kjohnston9283

    I usually go somewhere to get my taxes done but I’m thinking of trying turbo tax and need a little help? I claim kids and have a few deductions as far as school and what not. Also I might qualify for earned income credit. If I were to use turbo tax do I need to show proof of any kind? Or does it just go by what numbers I type in? I of course would never lie, it just seems like it would be too easy for others to do. What happens if I do make a mistake though? Also how long does it usually take to receive a refund this way? I appreciate any help I’ve only been doing taxes for a few years now and am not sure how everything works. Which is why I usually go somewhere, but lately I’ve been questioning how much I’ve been charged.

    • Haila

      You should keep on file all the documents you normally would as proof of deductions, expenditures, etc. Of course it’s possible to lie/incorrectly report info – but that’s the case with paper filing too. Just keep everything in a file (including a paper printout of your tax forms, even if you efile) just in case you get audited!

    • Lori Hermann

      Turbo Tax is simple. It takes you step-by-step through the whole process. You don’t have to show proof of anything at any time unless you get audited and then you must make sure you have proof of everything. It’s no different than if you used a tax preparer. They are not ultimately responsible for the accuracy, you are when you sign your name to the form (or use the electronic signature in the case of e-filing). See my comment below about how to get share Turbo tax with 4 of your friends!

    • Sue M.

      Please see my reply above. If you were simply claiming your children, your return would be no problem. However; if you’re claiming the Education credits, then the IRS is not accpting the Returns, at the earliest, before 2/14. That’s the reason that they are extending the Tax filing deadline to April 18th this year.

  13. jana

    If you have a State Farm Bank account and maybe State Farm Insurance.(i have both) Register your policy/account online and get turbo tax free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • JustMe

      I made a deposit with State Farm Bank a few years ago just for this purpose. Love the free tax prep and free e-filing. I’ve done my college kids’ returns when they had to file in more than one state and never have had to pay any fees.

  14. Anne

    We always use Taxactonline.com to file every year. They charge 14.95 to file. Very simple to use. Highly recommend!

  15. Carla M

    Aren’t all the free filings only for people that make under 50K? Or if you don’t itemize? It’s been awhile, but that’s what I remember when we used to be able to do it free.

    I use Turbo Tax, but I have a finance degree, so I don’t recommend anything but a CPA if you have complicated taxes (takes me weeks). I buy my at Costco and I write it off every year. Just keep the reciept.

    • Chrissy

      I think VITA (the volunteer tax prep program) is for under $50k, but the online sites don’t have an income max.

      • Ashley

        If you go to http://www.IRS.gov there is a free file for federal which goes through many of the sites listed (you have a choice of many), you just have to have an AGI of under 58k. Just go to the irs.gov site and click free file!

      • Anonymous
    • Anonymous

      The U.S. median household income was $52,029 in 2008. The current figure is approx. $46,300. Roughly 55,000,000 households are live on $46,000 or less a year. Current census data list the total number of U.S. households as slightly more than 114,000,000. VITA services are a viable option for a large number of taxpayers.

  16. Michael D.

    We have used taxslayer.com for about 8 years or so. It’s very easy to navigate, just as good as any commercially available software and is only $9.95 to file FED and state. We have always opted for the direct deposit and usually get our refund in a few days or couple of weeks depending on what cycle we hit. We itemize and the software is super easy to use. I guess the only drawback if you consider it to be one, is that everything is done online, unless you opt to pay more for a downloadable version.

  17. Kayla

    My husband and I have used taxact.com for several years and have never had a problem. It is completely free. We have never paid a penny to e-file our taxes and have our return in 7 to 10 days!

  18. Julie

    We usually use TaxCut but at Target a couple of weeks ago they had H&R Block At Home Deluxe for $44.59. I had a $10 taget coupon plus you receive a $10 target gift card when you purchase. So for $24.59 I’m willing to try H&R Block out this year to see if I like it.

    • fairydust

      This is what I’ve been using for the past 10+ years. It’s the same thing – started as TaxCut and now it’s H&R Block “At Home” but it’s still the same program and pulls each year’s info from the previous year. It’s wonderful! And we’ve had a lot of moderately complicated stuff – DH and I both owned our own businesses, bought a house, rented out rooms, different investment stuff, etc. I love TaxCut/At Home. If you go to their website (hrblock.com) they show you the different levels available, or you can buy in a box at most stores like Target, Best Buy, Walmart. Anyone with a relatively simple return can do the free version right through the website.

  19. Lori Hermann

    I purchase Turbo Tax Deluxe every year, which is around $49 on sale – usually $10 off this time of year. I share it with 4 of my friends because you can file up to 5 returns on one copy. i install the software onto my computer and then pass it around to 4 friends. They can each also install it. We each pay about $10 for what would cost each of us $49! Don’t forget to use Turbo Tax’s free on-line It’s Deductible software (www.itsdeductible.com) which imports directly into Turbo Tax to manage your charitable deductions, including all those donations to Goodwill and the Salvation Army!

  20. jen

    We use Fre Tax USA and have for close to 10 years….when we started using it, i compared the results to Turbo Tax and our amounts were the same…and its free

    http://www.freetaxusa.com

  21. Anonymous

    I do not pay to have our taxes done. We take our takes to the court house, revenue office and they do them every year. I take them, drop them off, go back in a week and sign them after they are completed and they e-file the returns. They also do direct deposit. There are no fees to have taxes done. I usually have my state and federal refunds back within 3 weeks.

    • CJ

      Wow, where do you live? That great service isnt provide in any of the areas I’ve lived in.

  22. Ashley O.

    If you go to http://www.IRS.gov there is a free file for federal which goes through many of the sites listed (you have a choice of many), you just have to have an AGI of under 58k. Just go to the irs.gov site and click free file!

    I’ve used it for several years and have used TurboTax, Taxslayer and Taxact all of which were okay with me. Also some of the companies listed provide free state tax returns as well!

  23. Kristen

    I am not a CPA, I am not married to one and I don’t have an family members who are one….with that said…I hire one! I SAVE MONEY by paying someone between $40-$60 to file our taxes. We are military and can have them done free at H&R but truly believe that a CPA is the best savings we could ever invest in. He advises us year to year what to do to avoid any gaps or problems for the coming year and stays abreast of any changes in deductions or otherwise that we may be or become able to receive. Hire a CPA!

    • MA

      Wow! I like your fee. Ours depends upon the amount of work the CPA needs to do, but usually runs $180-$220, but we do have business income. Even with that, we took ours to him do the taxes the first year so that we could see how he did the business taxes. We got back so much more, and the business taxes are not something I care to keep up with, so we are very blessed to have his advice and services. We far come out ahead…and I just get everything together.

    • Rachel

      I like your fee too! We are paying $175 this year, but it is so worth it! We get back so much more than we ever did before. A few years ago when we started going to our current CPA he told us to drop off our last 3 years of returns, he reviewed them after tax season and we got more money back on all of them. I love being able to hand the paperwork over to someone and not stress about it. This year our CPA offered a sort of protection plan, it is $50 for as long as we are customers. Any questions or problems that arise he will handle and we won’t have to pay any more. Our CPA is awesome, I thank my Uncle who recommended him every tax season.

    • Sue M.

      I’m not a CPA either. 1981, when I filed with my ex, who was then my new husband….he insisted that we use his CPA. $300 later, my jaw dropped. I bought a tax book for that year, and figured out “how” the CPA had done it, after the fact. The next year, I bought a new tax book, for 1982.

      20 some years later, as 1982, I did our own taxes, and a few of my relatives…here I am. I did take a Tax Course in 2000 and was hired by the Instructor. I still work at his office every tax season. I’m no expert, and I by no means “know” everything, as working there is still part-time, seasonal work; but I can honestly say that my boss is the most brilliant tax person I’ve ever met. I have a set of wind chimes in my office. I try to update myself to all the tax changes each season; but if I’m not sure about something, I just stand up, and knock the Wind Chimes, and the “Boss” will good-humoredly come into my office, and answer any questions that I or a client have. It’s a running joke, as to how many times I will “ring the chimes” each season. Lol

      I need to interject here that we get numerous “CPA” refugees each season, looking to have their Returns more $$ reasonably done. We offer to freely look over anyone’s Return, (including the Biggies, H & R, JACKSON & HEWITT)….AND 9 TIMES out of 10, we get them more of a refund. The reason being that there are “grey areas” with the IRS. CPA’s, and the Big Boys, usually err to the side of extreme caution. In a “grey area”, we will give “it” to the Taxpayer, and then defend it.

      Bottom line, what I’m saying is that a CPA does not mean that you are going to get the best Tax Service available, nor a bigger refund. Word of Mouth is key. Check with family/friends/co-workers, and go from there…

    • rae

      I am not wealthy, but I always hire a CPA to do my taxes as well! Some things in life are not worth scrimping on…..car repairs, health insurance, AND TAX PREPARATION!

  24. Natalie

    I work for H&R Block, but if you don’t want to pay to have it done, and you have an IRS office close to where you live, go there. Take all of your documents to the IRS office and they will do your taxes for free.

  25. Heather

    Military and retirees can also have taxes done for free by trained tax volunteers at most military bases. Contact the nearest base/post legal office for details as each base’s program differs.

    • Melissa

      We did this before I started a work at home business. They will not do them if you have one. They are great though. Very helpful.

      • Heather

        Each base is different so it might pay to check with your particular installation. I used to run the tax clinic at a former base so I know our list of eligible clients and eligible tax topics varied from year to year. Currently, my base will do small home-based businesses (like in-home child care) and rental properties.

  26. Karen

    I just saw a coupon for $25.00 off tax preparation by Jackson-Hewitt they are in many Wal-Mart stores. It was on couponsurfer.com. So maybe this will help.

  27. Jeanette

    HR Block all the way. I filed for free today and we should have our tax return next Friday.

  28. Carli

    go to http://www.taxact.com I have used it for the past 3 years and have never had a single problem!! Free federal return and $14.95 state return!!

  29. SK

    I do mine myself!! Trust me- you can do it…just go line by line and read through the instructions for the form you are using. It’s not that bad!

  30. DP

    CPA for our family! $100 for business and personal – and no worries!

  31. Lynn_N

    Ever since H2S posted a deal for a free $5 coupon from officemax via text mail, we have been receiving coupons from officemax. Last weekend we used the $10 off $30 or more (text coupon) to use on the ‘already on sale’ TurboTax software.

  32. tonya

    I have used taxslayer for the last 7 years I love it!! Military get it for free and I have had in the past to amend a filing and it was so easy with them too. price is from 9.95 to 19.95. (State & Fed)We have a small business and it figures everything out for me!

  33. Tina

    Go to irs.gov and click free file.

  34. jheintz

    I’ve done http://www.taxactonline.com for years. It’s free, but the hound you through the whole thing to upgrade to Deluxe. I just keep clicking “No Thanks” and get them done and e-filed for free. It’s been really great!

  35. Michelle C.

    I like http://www.taxfreedom.com because they use TurboTax and depending on your income it’s free or they will charge $14.95 for AGI over a certain amount. Military is free. I just can’t remember the numbers right now.

  36. CJ
  37. CJ

    My taxes are relatively easy (2 jobs, moderate interest, standard deduction). I print the forms from http://www.irs.gov, do it on paper first and then file electronically though the IRS website. My state doesnt have any free filing so I just do state on paper and mail it in. To me sometimes filing electronically is more time consuming and confusing than doing it on paper.

  38. jennie

    there are so many free sites now. H&R block, turbo tax, the irs.gov website. I purchased
    H & R block standard software at the dollar tree for $1. I have purchased it in the past and it works great.

  39. Maryc

    I bought Turbo Tax deluxe at Office Depot on sale for $39.99 and was able to use a $10 off coupon that came in the mail for any purchase on it. I told them about cosco offering it with the $10 off so they tried the $10 coupon and it worked. Total was $29.99 plus tax. Then I bought Quicken Starter for $29.99 with a $30 rebate when you buy tax software, and I got Webroot Antivirus plus Spywarefor $50 and it included a $15 rebate plus a $35 rebate so for $30 plus the tax paid, I got $130 in programs.

    I have used Turbotax Deluxe for years and it abosolutely will not send in your return unless you tell it to and then you get a confirmation. It is only as good at accuracy as the person filling it out. It pays to check and double check but filled out properly, it is a great program even with a quite complicated return.

  40. Trin

    While I understand the need to save money, this is one thing we never skrimp on. We have used turbotax, gone to H&RBlock, even found a local accountant from our church for a few years . . . but the day we found a GREAT accountant changed how I look at taxes. He makes up for his fee easily every year by getting us more back in the tax return. Granted, our taxes are a bit complicated due to student, earned income, selling a house, etc. but still. He even redid our taxes that H&RBlock did one year and got us money back , . ..
    So keep that in mind when making your decisions. Sometimes a little more money upfront means more money in your return if you have complicated taxes you can itemize.

  41. Anonymous

    We use taxactonline.com. It’s pretty basic, I think it costs 16.95 for both federal and state taxes. It’s all online and it remembers your information from year to year so the next year you use it is much easier.

  42. Michelle

    I use Tax Act.com. I paid about $30 to file!

  43. Pat

    Most of the bigger cities in Arkansas will file your taxes for you free. You don’t even have to live in that city. I have gotten mine done for free by them for almost 10 years. They used to go by income but they no longer do. They have caught things that I didn’t know about many times.

  44. Kim

    If you go through a credit union website, you can get a discounted rate on the turbo tax online site. I go through americafirst.com and it saves, I believe, 15% off the regular rate. You don’t have to be a member at all, it just links you through.

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