It’s that time of year again: tax time. This could be exciting (for those expecting a refund) or stressful (for those expecting to owe). Either way, online tax services can help you prepare an accurate return and submit it the Internal Revenue Service and your state tax commission. Because of the government shutdown, the IRS will not be processing 2013 federal tax returns until the end of January or the first week of February 2014. But if you prepare your returns now, you can submit them as soon as the IRS starts accepting them.
New for this tax year: Incentives. Since competition between companies is tight and many offer free e-filing for simple 1040s already, they are now offering enticing offers to customers such as Amazon credit and incentives for converting from the service used last year. Some even offer free federal and state filing for active military members.
Online tax services can easily and accurately create returns for most filer types. 1040EZ filers can create their return within minutes, and those who need to file 1040 forms with itemized deductions can also get through the process rather quickly. Small businesses or those with 1099 income will also find tax software simple to use. If you have an extremely complicated financial situation, however, you may benefit from consulting with a tax professional before choosing your tax service.
The best online tax preparation services and tax preparation software products guide you through the preparation process and will ask you necessary questions to help you create accurate federal and state returns. They also check for errors and inconsistencies. On our site, you will find helpful articles on online tax software as well as comprehensive reviews on TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxACT, our top three selections.
When testing tax software, we considered two major requirements: accuracy and ease of use. We gave the highest ratings to the tax preparation services that guide users through the process to create the most accurate return possible, regardless of their prior tax knowledge. We tested every tax service with the same scenarios (1040EZ and 1040 with itemized deductions) to compare numbers and ease of use. We also gathered screenshots, current pricing and incentive information so you can easily decide which online tax software will work best for your tax situation.
Many online tax services advertise that they can provide the largest refund; however, the largest refund (or lowest owe amount) results from an accurate return, not a hidden tax loophole that only they know about. E-filing with a good online tax service is one of the best ways to ensure that your return is correct with the most up-to-date forms and tax law changes included. Even the IRS endorses e-filing as the "safest, fastest and easiest way to submit" individual tax returns. We rated highest those that not only create accurate returns, but also provide tools for preventing errors.
Ease of Use
Since anxiety and general confusion seem to plague many at tax time, we ranked higher the easiest-to-use tax e-filing services. Using the best tax software, you should be able to create an accurate return tailored to your circumstances without having extensive tax knowledge. The tax service should complete all math computations for you and be designed to catch common entry errors. It should not be more difficult to use than answering a few life-event questions and filling in a few form entries. Most services also provide useful tools such as tax calculators and tax estimators to assist you.
Help & Support
Though your online tax software should be simple to use, adequate customer and technical support should be readily available if you need it. Please note that e-filing services can only provide limited tax support after you file. For the most part, after you file you will be communicating with the IRS or state tax division unless you simply need to file an amendment. Most online tax services will help you file an amendment for free if you originally filed using their service. The best tax services provide telephone, email and chat support during extended business hours as well as extensive tax information posted online to answer general tax questions before you file.
Tax time does not have to be stressful. Using an online e-file tax service, most taxpayers can create accurate federal and state returns within minutes. If you have a complex tax situation, the top-rated online tax software can guide you through your earned credits, deductions and income declaration requirements to create the most beneficial return as possible.
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If you get a larger refund or smaller tax due from another tax preparation method, TurboTax will refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state purchase price paid. Claims must be submitted to TurboTax within 60 days of your TurboTax filing date and no later than 6/15/14. Optional add-on services excluded. Cannot be combined with TurboTax Satisfaction (Easy) Guarantee.