Feb 28, 2019

5 DIY Tax Software That Won’t Cost You A Penny

Do you dread tax season? Whether you’re filing for the first time or you’ve gone through the process for many years, it’s natural to feel anxiety and frustration. Federal and state tax codes are complicated. They may also change along with political shifts. The frustration and fear that you experience when thinking about taxes is natural if you don’t have a thorough understanding of the laws and the filing process.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend months reading tax law in order to gain tax-filing confidence. With the right DIY tax software, you can make a complicated process simple. You might also save some money if you use technology to file on your behalf rather than paying an accountant. If you have yet to find an affordable tax software that you trust, the following recommendations may suit your needs.


  • Have you ever signed up for a “free” online tax software only to discover that it isn’t entirely free? Many programs require you to enter a credit card for that “free” service while others upsell you for more complex tax forms. DIY Tax steps away from those deceptive practices to offer 100 percent free federal and state tax filing. They don’t even have a payment processor attached to their website.

    You can do the following with DIY Tax without entering a credit card:

    • Prepare Virginia and federal taxes
    • Print your prepared tax forms
    • e-file your prepared simple or complex tax forms
    • Access free online support if you have questions

    DIY Tax is an online product offered by Liberty Tax and is different from the paid Liberty Tax software, e-Smart Tax. It’s backed by a 100 percent accuracy guarantee. The intuitive tax software will ask you simple questions about your work and life, using your answers to prepare Virginia and federal taxes.

    You can always file taxes for free through this tax service. No tax situation is too difficult for DIY Tax.

  • TurboTax is an Intuit product and is one of the most respected tax software programs. The software is well-developed and makes tax preparation and e-filing simple. You answer questions about your work and life, and the software uses that information to fill out your official state and federal tax forms. The system is thorough when checking for potential problems, and you may receive help if you’re audited after filing through the TurboTax software.

    The downside to TurboTax is that the free edition only includes simple tax forms. If you’re self-employed or have a more complex tax situation, you will likely need to pay for access to more complicated tax forms. The service is often marketed as a free tax filing software, but it’s not free for everyone.

    You may not know that you must pay for an upgraded service until after you enter your personal information and prepare your tax forms through the software. It’s a bit of a shock to follow what you think is a free process only to see a price tag at the end. We’ll make it simple for you right now by noting that TurboTax probably isn’t free if you need anything other than a basic 1040 tax form.

    TurboTax offers a variety of advanced services, including the Live tax filing products that allow a real CPA or EA to go over your tax forms before they’re filed. These advanced services aren’t free, but they’re worth considering if you want to ensure that your taxes are filed properly.

  • H&R Block is similar to TurboTax in many ways:

    • It’s one of the most well-respected tax filing software options
    • The free tax filing system is only available to users filing simple tax forms
    • The software offers a variety of paid upsells, including the option to have a CPA review your tax returns before you file

    H&R Block’s free tax software is an online-only product. You can work directly with an accountant through your local H&R Block office but expect to pay at least $60 for the live service. You can expect to pay for an upgraded or paid package even when using the online software if any of the following situations apply to you:

    • Self-employed
    • Business owner
    • Independent contractor
    • Health Savings Account (HSA)
    • Real estate taxes
    • Mortgage interest

    If you don’t qualify for the free edition, you can expect to pay at least $30 to file your federal taxes through H&R Block online. There are additional fees for each state tax filing. If you need more complex tax forms and don’t want to pay, DIY Tax is a better option for you.

  • TaxAct offers online tax filing services plus year-round financial services for independent contractors and self-employed filers. The service works much like TurboTax and H&R Block, but there are more upsells with TaxAct. For instance, you can use TurboTax’s free tax preparation service if you have dependents, but TaxAct requires an upgrade if you have dependents. Just having children ensures that you will pay close to $10 for the service if not more.

    If any of the following tax situations apply to you, TaxAct will require you to upgrade to a paid service:

    • Dependents
    • Home ownership
    • Investments
    • Rental property
    • Freelancer
    • Self-employed

    TaxAct does have an intuitive online tax filing software that helps you maximize deductions for the biggest return possible. You just may not qualify for the free service if you have anything other than a basic 1040 filing with simple W-2s.

  • e-Smart Tax is another online tax filing service offered by Liberty Tax. It operates from a different website than DIY Tax and has a free tax preparation and filing option. If you qualify for the free tax software, you will receive all of the following services at no charge:

    • Online chat and technical support
    • Simple W-2 download
    • Tax return amendments
    • Fast import from competing tax services

    The free tax filing software from e-Smart Tax is limited to simple tax forms. If you’re filing with dependents, own your own business, have real estate investments, or otherwise require more complex forms, you won’t qualify for the free service.

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