Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How much will it cost to do your own taxes? A look at five major tax prep services

FROM  Washington Post
It’s that time of year again. Your W-2, 1099s and other forms probably have landed in your mailbox. Now all you have to do is figure out the best way to file.
There are many tax-software companies out there trying to win your business and take the intimidation out of the filing process. We compiled the fees for five major online tax-preparation services. Here’s a look at what you might pay to file your taxes online, based on the complexity of your tax return. Prices are as of Feb. 2.
Basic federal return (1040)
Cost: Free, most of the time.
If you have a straightforward return in which you only have to file a 1040 and are claiming the standard deduction, you may be able to file your federal taxes free. The Internal Revenue Service’s Free File program is for taxpayers earning $64,000 or less. Financially savvy taxpayers who want to work the math out themselves without software can do so and enter the results into the free fileable forms the IRS offers online.
Many of the major tax-software providers also offer free options for people with simple tax needs. But those taxpayers who want an extra service, such as the ability to store returns online for several years or to import data from a previous tax year, may need to pay a fee. (Some companies will import tax data from a competitor free.)
TurboTax: Lets customers import W-2 forms free. Customers who want to import last year’s tax return from TurboTax need to pay $34.99 for the deluxe version.
H&R Block: Taxpayers can file free federal returns including the 1040EZ, 1040A and 1040 with a Schedule A, meaning they are itemizing their deductions.
Jackson Hewitt: Customers can file free federal returns if they have simple tax needs and a free state return for most states. People who want to file the earned income tax credit or the student loan interest deduction have to pay $19.95 for the basic edition. Jackson Hewitt lets customers import W-2 forms and from last year’s tax returns free.
TaxAct: Taxpayers can import W-2 forms free, but returning customers looking to import TaxAct returns from last year will need to pay $10.
TaxSlayer: Taxpayers can file a 1040EZ and one free state tax return free. Those who want to update W-2 data or last year’s tax data may need to pay $17 for the classic edition.
State return
Cost: Zero to $37 per state on top of cost for basic software.
Taxpayers who are able to file their federal tax returns free also may qualify for a free state tax return. These fees generally are charged per state on top of whatever package the company requires for the rest of the tax return, although some companies include the service for their more expensive packages.
TurboTax: Offers free state returns for people who qualify for free federal returns, but all other customers will pay $36.99 per state.
H&R Block: Customers who qualify for free federal returns can receive one free state return. All other customers are charged $36.99 per state return.
Jackson Hewitt: No charge for people using the free edition. All other users pay $36.95 for each state return.
TaxAct: No cost for people using the free version. Charges $33 for customers using the plus and premium software.
TaxSlayer: For people using the free-file service, the first state return is free and additional state returns cost $22. People using the classic edition may be charged $22 per state return, although final fees are set at the time of filing.
Schedule A for itemized deductions
Cost: Zero to $35.
Taxpayers who want to take common deductions for medical expenses, charitable contributions and mortgage interest will need to itemize those deductions on the Schedule A tax form instead of taking the standard deduction. But most of the companies require those taxpayers to upgrade and pay a little more for more-comprehensive software offered in the “deluxe edition.”
TurboTax: Included in deluxe edition, $34.99
H&R Block: Some taxpayers with simple federal returns can itemize free. Service also included starting with the deluxe version, $34.99.
Jackson Hewitt: Included in deluxe edition, $34.95
TaxAct: Included in the plus edition, $27
TaxSlayer: Included in the classic edition, $17
Schedule C for business and self-employment deductions.
Cost: $35 to $90
Online costs generally will be highest for taxpayers claiming business-related deductions.
TurboTax: Included in home and business package for online software, $89.99.
H&R Block: Sole proprietors and others filing the Schedule C-EZ can use the deluxe service, costing $34.99. Others filing the Schedule C can use the premium package, $54.99.
Jackson Hewitt: Sole proprietors and others filing the Schedule C-EZ can use the basic service starting at $19.95. Other self-employed people and business owners may need to buy the premium package for $54.95.
TaxAct: Included in the premium package, $37.
TaxSlayer: Included in the classic edition, $17
Schedule D for capital gains and losses
Cost: $27 to $55.
Taxpayers who sold real estate, stocks, mutual funds or other investments may need to file this form.
TurboTax: Included in premier package for online software, $54.99.
H&R Block: Included in deluxe edition, $54.99.
Jackson Hewitt: Included in deluxe edition, $34.95.
TaxAct: Included starting with plus software, $27.
TaxSlayer: Included in the classic edition, $17.