- 1 Online Electronic Tax Preparation
- 2 Can you deduct fees for tax preparation and software?
- 3 The Best Free Mobile Tax Preparation Apps of 2017
- 3.1 Who Should Use a Free Tax Prep App?
- 3.2 Tax Prep on Phones and Browsers
- 3.3 Who Shouldn't Use a Free Tax Preparation App?
- 3.4 Your Top Mobile Tax Preparation Options
- 4 Tax Preparation Deals & Coupons
Online Electronic Tax Preparation
If you're getting fed up with all of the hype from various tax preparers and local CPA's, along with their empty promises, high costs, and not to mention the hidden charges. Then it's no doubt time to for you to consider preparing your own tax return with electronic online tax preparation software.
Free Online Electronic Tax Preparation Solutions
Just about any online tax program offers you a FREE 1040ez tax form, and low prices for your 1040A tax form preparation.
When you get into more complicated returns it's wise to look for market leaders in online tax preparation and filing software solutions.
No matter how many forms or schedules are required for your tax filing on line, top brands make the preparation process easy with fully guided formatting.
File your state tax return at the same time. Your privacy and the security of your information is protected with secure servers with the latest encryption technology to keep your information safe, and your personal information confidential.
Free Electronic IRS Tax Forms Available Online, legal forms, tax extension forms, federal income tax forms and state tax forms are easy to find in the link above. Download IRS forms, or have IRS forms faxed or e-mailed to you for easy tax preparation when you need it.
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Online Tax Preparation Convenience
We know you want to be able to file your federal 1040 tax form as painlessly as possible, and not have to deal with the inconvenience of seeing a CPA - let alone his high fees.
So electronic online tax preparation programs are a simple way that you can now file your federal 1040 tax form from your home or office. Furthermore, you can do this at a greatly reduced expense compared to using a professional. Plus, you can try filing your tax return online electronically for hassle free refunds.
Top brands offer options that allow you to complete your electronic tax preparation online - file your Federal 1040 EZ for FREE with along with a low price for your state return. This also works even if you need to file more than one state.
You should give online tax preparation a try, and see the Big savings your bound to reap!
With most brands you don't pay anything unless you're completely satisfied and ready to file your IRS 1040 tax form.
When your return is ready to go, guaranteed accuracy is a common pledge with top electronic software brands today.
You pay only a small online tax preparation fee for your federal and state returns compared to professional preparation, even if you need more than one state.
Can you deduct fees for tax preparation and software?
Federal taxes are due on April 18 this year.
Though hiring an outside professional to do your taxes is by no means required, some taxpayers feel more comfortable relying on an expert. According to the National Society of Accountants, it costs an average of $261 to hire a professional to do your taxes, but if your return is complicated, paying for outside help could be a smart move.
And while nobody wants to spend more money than necessary to file a tax return, here's some good news: You may be eligible to claim tax preparation fees on your taxes.
That's right: The IRS allows taxpayers to claim what's known as the miscellaneous expenses deduction, and tax preparation costs -- whether in the form of purchased software or fees charged by a professional -- are included in that category.
But don't celebrate just yet, because unless your miscellaneous expenses exceed a certain threshold, they won't result in a tax break.
How to deduct tax preparation fees
While you're allowed to deduct your tax preparation fees, you're only eligible to do so if you itemize your deductions. Those who take the standard deduction can't double dip.
You can write off your tax preparation fees as part of the miscellaneous expenses deduction, which includes things such as unreimbursed business expenses. (Say you buy a subscription to a specific publication or journal to further your research for your job, and your company doesn't pay you back for it. You can deduct that, as well as the cost of job-required uniforms that are clearly distinguishable from regular attire.) The catch, however, is that you can only take a deduction for miscellaneous costs that exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
So let's say you earn $60,000 a year, have $200 in unreimbursed business expenses, and another $261 in tax preparation fees for a total of $461. Because that $461 isn't even close to the 2% threshold (which, in this case, is $1,200), you won't be able to take a deduction at all.
Now let's say you spend that same $261 to have your taxes prepared, but shell out $1,000 for unreimbursed business expenses as well. While your total miscellaneous expenses will equal $1,261 and constitute more than 2% of your AGI, you'll only be eligible to deduct whatever amount exceeds that threshold -- which, in our example, is a mere $61.
Keep in mind that unlike tax credits, which reduce your tax liability dollar-for-dollar, all deductions do is exempt a portion of your income from taxes. A $61 deduction, therefore, will only be worth about $15 if your effective tax rate is 25%.
That said, if you are eligible to deduct your tax preparation fees, you'll need to include them on your Schedule A, along with your other itemized deductions. Keep in mind that you can deduct fees paid to a professional as well as software and electronic filing fees. In fact, the good folks at the IRS will now allow you to deduct the convenience fee charged for using a credit card to file electronically, so be sure to count that in your calculation as well.
One final thing: The tax preparation fees deduction applies to the year you pay those fees. If, for instance, you pay someone to prepare your 2016 taxes in 2017, you'd claim an associated deduction on your 2017 return.
Finally, don't pay for a tax preparer just so you can claim a deduction. Rather, hire someone if you feel you need the help. Whatever minor tax benefits you get out of the deal generally won't be high enough to make you feel better about the actual fee.
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The Best Free Mobile Tax Preparation Apps of 2017
It shouldn't come as a surprise that you can prepare a simple tax return on a smartphone. After all, TurboTax and H&R Block have produced mobile apps for the past couple of years that support tax preparation and filing of some of the most complex personal tax returns. What you might not realize, however, is that you can complete and e-file basic federal and state returns on your phone for free.
I've reviewed four smartphone apps that support the 1040EZ at minimum. Two take on the 1040A in addition, and one has even added preparation and filing of the Form 1040's Schedule A this year. The four I've reviewed are TaxAct Express and TaxSlayer Simply Free (1040EZ), TurboTax Absolute Zero (1040EZ/A), and H&R Block More Zero (1040EZ/A and Schedule A). All four services are available on as both Android and iPhone apps.
Who Should Use a Free Tax Prep App?
The younger you are, the more likely you'll be able to use of one these free personal tax preparation apps, as your taxes are likely to be simple enough to do so. There's no real reason you should pay for tax preparation unless you absolutely must. All these apps support the 1040EZ, which is suitable for single or joint filers with no dependents who have W-2 and/or unemployment income and $1,500 or less in taxable interest income. The form also lets you report on the Earned Income Credit (EIC) and payments from the Alaska Permanent Fund.
H&R Block More Zero and TurboTax Absolute Zero cover a lot more ground by also supporting the Form 1040A, which contains reporting tools for everything in the 1040EZ, as well as much more. You can be married with dependents and can also enter taxable interest income of more than $1,500, as well as tax-exempt interest. Your 1040A will also allow you to account for dividends, capital gains distributions, IRA distributions, pensions and annuities, and Social Security benefits.
On the adjustment side, the 1040A covers educator expenses and the student loan interest deduction, as well as tuition and fees. You can also claim your IRA deductions here. And numerous credits are supported, including child and dependent care expenses, elderly or disabled care, retirement savings contributions, and child tax.
If you also want to itemize your deductions (Schedule A), H&R Block More Zero should work for you. I'd recommend both it and TurboTax Absolute Zero to anyone who qualifies to prepare and file using a free app.
As always, I'd recommend not waiting to e-file your your taxes at the last-minute, as you might discover that you don't qualify for one of these free services on the eve of April 18, which is tax day for 2017. Don't be fooled into thinking that because your taxes are simple (you hope), you can just zip through them in a few minutes.
Tax Prep on Phones and Browsers
Online tax preparation and filing have been available for many years, though you can still purchase some desktop versions of the software. In fact, some tax services grew out of the desktop applications, while others began their lives on the web.
Mobile tax apps have only emerged in th past few years. In most cases, they're smartphone versions of the most basic tax websites offered by their publishers. Once you get your tax documents organized, you can start your return by creating an account on the desktop, smartphone, or tablet. After that, you can save your work and continue on using any platform. When you finish, you just file on whatever device you happen to be using.
Tax preparation apps work well on smartphones because they're simply a series of queries and responses. You don't see entire IRS forms and schedules on your phone, of course. The apps ask you the questions that you'd be answering by filling out the forms manually, though they ask them using simple, understandable language. When you enter your birthdate or Social Security number or annual income, for example, the apps take that information and complete in the background the forms that the IRS requires.
TurboTax Absolute Zero does the best job of using the smartphones' capabilities, but all the apps I reviewed take advantage of some of the conventions that are unique to mobile devices. There's nothing difficult about using them. You fill in blank fields, select from lists of options, or click buttons to indicate your response. Navigation buttons help you advance to the next screen or back up.
Along the way, there are written explanations of concepts you might not understand, as well as other help resources. Since you're only completing the most basic forms, you probably won't need a lot of guidance. But it's there if you need it, to varying degrees. H&R Block More Zero has the greatest volume of help, which is good, considering that it also supports the most complex topics of these apps, through its support of the Schedule A form. If you need to talk to a tax expert about your return, you can do so using any of these apps. Everyone but TaxAct Express, though, charges an extra fee.
All the apps here look quite different from one another. TurboTax is probably the most visually appealing, though TaxSlayer Simply Free and H&R Block More Zero make skillful use of fonts and buttons and other graphics.
Tax identity theft is a serious problem. Thieves can grab your sensitive personal information in any number of ways. But any time you're entering such data online, you should take precautions, like not working on your taxes when you're accessing an app on a public network, and checking to make sure no one is peeking over your shoulder.
The companies that make these apps take the security of your income tax data very seriously, and they build in safeguards to protect it. TaxAct Express requires more of its users than anyone else to try to ensure privacy, requiring proof that you're not a robot at login, and asking for your social security number periodically.
Who Shouldn't Use a Free Tax Preparation App?
Although the apps reviewed here would work for tens of millions of taxpayers, they're, of course, not for everyone. There are three primary types of taxpayers that would need to opt for one of the paid versions: self-employed individuals who must declare a profit or loss, farmers, and people who own rental real estate. There are many other elements of your finances that would also require the filing of a Form 1040, like Health Savings Accounts (HSAs); moving expenses; and taxable refunds, credits, or offsets of state and local income taxes.
I reviewed the top-of-the-line personal tax preparation websites earlier. The only individuals who would need to use one of these are the self-employed. Everything else is covered by the applications one step down from those services. TurboTax Self-Employed got our all-around Editor's Choice for its comprehensive coverage of tax topics, its taxpayer guidance, and its exceptional user interface and navigation tools. It's the best choice for those willing to pay top dollar for the best user experience available. We awarded a second Editor's Choice to TaxAct Online Premium because it offers a similar set of tax preparation tools and user support at a much lower price.
Your Top Mobile Tax Preparation Options
All of these apps can complete a 1040EZ, albeit with varying degrees of help, navigation acumen, operational smoothness, and design excellence. If you need to file a 1040A, or if you simply want the overall best tax preparation user experience, TurboTax Absolute Zero will do the job. But in my testing this year, H&R Block More Zero came out on top. It supports the most tax topics, and it does so exceedingly well in terms of help, usability, and thoroughness.
Once you've finished your taxes, and while you're still feeling the glow of fiscal responsibility—and you have all your documents in front of you—it's a great time to continue getting your money organized with one of our top personal finance services. Then, when you're all caught up, you might also need to get rid of some sensitive personal documents in a safe way. You can do so with one of the best shredders for tax time and beyond.
H&R Block More Zero 2017 (Tax Year 2016)
%displayPrice% at %seller% H&R Block More Zero is the only free tax preparation app that supports 1040EZ, 1040A, and Schedule A forms. This, an excellent interface, and comprehensive help make it our top free mobile tax app. Read the full review
Intuit TurboTax Absolute Zero 2017 (Tax Year 2016)
%displayPrice% at %seller% Free mobile tax app TurboTax Absolute Zero supports all tax topics found on the Form 1040EZ and 1040A, and provides more guidance options than its competitors. Read the full review
TaxSlayer Simply Free 2017 (Tax Year 2016)
%displayPrice% at %seller% Free mobile tax preparation appTaxSlayer Simply Free offers good basic content, design, and navigation tools, but it's weak when it comes to support. Read the full review
TaxAct Express 2017 (Tax Year 2016)
%displayPrice% at %seller% Free mobile tax preparation TaxAct Express offers too little help, doesn't offer versions for every state, and was glitchy in testing; disappointing, given that TaxAct wins an Editors' Choice for premium tax services. Read the full review
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