Doing your taxes sucks but it’s one of the many gross aspects of being an adult. But if you have the right program to help, it sucks a little less. There are a lot of programs to help you do your taxes, so you want the best one. Should you use FreeTaxUSA to file? Here is our review.
Times Have Changed
In the dark ages, i.e., pre-internet, if you wanted to do your taxes, you either had to sit down with all the forms and a calculator or pay a tax preparer. But now we have lots of options when it comes to doing our taxes, but not all of them are created equal.
And it’s no wonder there are so many options for doing our own taxes, paying someone else to do it is expensive!
Tax professionals charged an average of $175 for a regular Form 1040 with no itemized deductions and a state return in the 2017 tax year. This jumps to about $275 if you want to itemize your deductions, and it can go as high as $450 if you’re self-employed and have to file Schedule C. You can expect prices to be higher in regions with higher costs of living or if your tax return is particularly complex.
That’s why we wanted to let you know if you should use FreeTaxUSA to file this year.
What is FreeTaxUSA?
FreeTaxUSA is an online tax preparation site where users can prepare, print and e-file their Federal tax return for free. To file a state return costs $12.95.
The company was founded in 2001 and is authorized by the IRS as an e-file provider. Every year the software is updated to accurately reflect changes to federal and state tax laws. Each update is tested and approved by the IRS, so filers don’t have to worry about being non-compliant.
Free is Just Another Word
It is indeed free to file your federal return with the Free version of FreeTaxUSA no matter how much you earn, what your filing status is or what version of the 1040 form you’re using. There is a Deluxe version that costs just $6.99.
With the Free version, you can file federal 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms. The Deluxe Version includes the options you get with the Free version and priority live chat customer support, which allows you to jump the line, audit assistance and unlimited amended returns.
Audit assistance goes only so far. You will receive information on what you can expect and how to prepare for your audit, but it doesn’t mean you get a representative to come with you to the audit or to correspond with the IRS on your behalf.
This assistance only applies to Federal returns that are audited, not State.
FreeTaxUSA gives users a 100% accuracy guarantee, the program checks for errors as you go through the process.
If you start out with the Free version and feel like part way through the process you need more help, you can upgrade to the Deluxe version.
Getting Your Refund
You can opt to get your refund via direct deposit to your bank account, a pre-paid American Express debit card, or by paper check.
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Is it Easy To Use?
This is the big question because if there’s one thing people are afraid to screw up, it’s their tax returns. We all know why Al Capone ended up in prison and it wasn’t for any of the murders he committed or ordered.
I’ll Be the Judge of That
Years ago when I was hardly making any money, I decided to do my own taxes to save money. Oh, it was a big mistake.
I used a free online preparer and managed to screw up so badly that I owed the IRS money! Panic set in because not only was I not getting a refund like I was expecting, now I OWED THE IRS MONEY!
How much I owed I forget but more than I had so I called them to see what could be done. And I have to say; if you have to owe money to something or someone, the IRS is not the worst debtor to have.
They worked with me and created a payment plan that let me pay the money back over time. A year later I started dating someone and told him about this. He said there was no way that someone making as little as I was could owe. I must have made a mistake (probably a bunch of them).
He took a look at it and yep, I messed up. I don’t remember how. He filed an amended return, and I got the money I had already paid back, and I think the refund I should have had in the first place.
So, a few lessons here. The god damn IRS will jump on a mistake in your favor with the quickness but if it’s a mistake in their favor, they don’t question it even if it clearly had to be a mistake.
The IRS: We have what it takes to take what you have.Tweet This
Lesson #2, if something doesn’t seem right with your return, ask someone who knows what they’re doing for help!
The biggest lesson never did your own taxes again! But I get paid to write stuff like this, so I had to try again. Let’s see how I do.
The first steps are to set up your account with a phone number, username, password, and three security questions. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be texted a verification code. Now you can move on the usual name, rank, serial number type information.
You answer the standard questions like if anyone else can claim you if the person filing is legally blind and your filing status. There is a pretty neat feature here where you can find out which status gives the biggest refund and which status you should use if you’re unsure.
You then enter in your income and tax information from your W2. There are lots of chances to go back and change any information that isn’t correct, and if the software sees something that seems off, they will give you a pop up asking if the information is correct.
Next, you enter any deductions you’re taking. You’ll see the amount for the standard deduction and then the screen for itemized deductions if you choose to itemize.
You can fill out the itemized deductions and see if they are more than the standard. If it is, you can use the itemized, if not, you can use the standard. I used the standard.
Now you enter your health insurance information, if you had coverage, what kind etc .and screens asking if you have any expenses that can be deducted or credits like educator credit for K-12 teachers, child care expenses, HSA contributions etc.
So Far So Good!
Doing okay so far but my palms are still sweating because of what happened last time I attempted this little bit of DIY. There is an option to “Maximize Your Refund.”
If you choose to do it, you’ll be asked questions to determine if there are any credits or deductions you forgot about that you can take advantage of.
The site lists more than 350 deductions and credits so you won’t miss anything you’re entitled to.
If you have any additional forms like 1099-INT for interest income or the 1099-G for taxable state refund income, you can enter them now. You’ll see a final summary and then find out your total amount owed or the amount of your refund.
I Did It!
I had already had a tax preparer to my federal taxes when I did this review so I knew what the number that FreeTaxUSA should spit out to me if I and it had done everything right. And…it was the exact same number!
I was pretty pleased with myself!
You can view and print your return. This is as far as I went since I had already done and filed both my federal and state tax returns for the year. You can mail in your printed return to the IRS or efile through FreeTaxUSA.
Who is it Best For?
I think most people think free online tax prep services are only for those who have really simple returns but FreeTaxUSA supports lots of different income types including:
- Several types of investment income
- Social Security
- Self-employment including freelancers
- S Corps
- Estate and Trust
- Scholarships and Grants
- Unreported Tips
- Sale of Business Property
- Cancellation of Debt
- Jury Duty
- Prizes and several more
Who is it Not For?
There are some tax situations not supported by FreeTaxUSA including:
- Various sources of foreign income
- Household employment taxes
- Farm rental
- At-risk limitations
- Installment sales
- Tax for children with over $2,000 in investment income
- Prior year tax credit
- Archer MSAs
Should You Use It?
I definitely recommend using FreeTaxUSA. When I decided to do this review, I wasn’t sure if I would recommend it or any other DIY tax prep software to anyone. I know most of you are smart enough to use it but what happened to me was so scary all those years ago, I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.
So I thought this would be one of those things where I tell you it’s not worth trying to save some money if the outcome is that you could mess up and owe the IRS money.
Not every area of life is one where we should save the most money possible. Just ask those people who’ve gone to back alley “dermatologists” and walked out with a face full of cooking oil instead of Restalyn.
But it really was easy to use. Do I recommend the Deluxe version?
No, not at first. There is no reason to pay for it up front when you can buy it at any point. If you’re having trouble and need some help, then you can upgrade.
If you’ve never done your own taxes and are nervous to try, ask someone for help. Surely your parents, a friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor have done their own taxes before and can sit with you while you do yours.
The only people I don’t recommend FreeTaxUSA to are people who have overly complicated situations. If you’ve recently been married or divorced or had a child or started your own business, you might need more guidance than you can get in a live chat.
If you’re not sure, start the Free version and see how it goes. You can do it up the point of actually filing so if you think you’ve made a mistake, just don’t send in the return. Happy filing!