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5 Easy Ways to Prepare and File Your Taxes Online

Don't let April 15 sneak up on you! Get a head start filing your 2013 taxes with any of these 5 e-filing services.
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Did you know that 140 million people e-filed taxes for 2012? That's more than 80% of individual and business taxpayers. And with this year's earliest filing date pushed back to January 31 — and the April 15 deadline unchanged — submitting tax forms online may be the easiest route for many Americans. If you're new to the world of online tax software or are considering a jump from TurboTax to TaxACT or the like, then read on to find out which software is right for you.

TurboTax

Price: Free to $89.99

TurboTax is the gold standard in tax preparation software. You can access the software online (which is slightly cheaper), via CD-ROM, or download it to your computer. Its accuracy, ease of use, and support is raved about by TopTenReviews. "TurboTax continues to be the most user-friendly tax software, especially for those who have little or no tax preparation experience." But beware that TurboTax lacks the tools to import data from other tax services.

TaxSlayer

Price: Free to $32.95

If you're on active military duty, TaxSlayer offers free e-filing of federal and state returns, otherwise state returns cost $12.95. TaxSlayer also offers free live phone support and audit assistance with its paid versions. However, TaxSlayer is little less sophisticated than TurboTax, but it is a great option for anyone who wants to spend $2 less filing a state tax form.

H&R Block

Price: Free to $64.95

H&R Block is the nation’s largest tax company and a trusted name in taxes, dating back to the company's founding in 1955. You can save significantly by filing online with H&R Block Premium; it's just $49.99, compared to $64.95 for the software version. H&R Block also offers free audit support for all levels of its software, including the free version. State e-filing still costs $19.95, unchanged from last year. All in all, H&R Block is arguably as good as TurboTax, at least from the accuracy standpoint, and it's a little cheaper.

TaxACT

Price: Free to $17.99

TaxACT offers both federal and state e-filing via its "Ultimate Bundle" for $17.99; that's just $3 more than the Deluxe Package which doesn't include state forms priced at $14.99. If you choose TaxACT free, you’ll even be able to file more complex forms beyond just a 1040.

Jackson Hewitt Online

Price: Free to $44.95

Having emerged from bankruptcy in 2012, Jackson Hewitt is in recovery mode. You can find a JH office at almost 3,000 Walmart stores. One drawback to its service, though, is that Jackson Hewitt doesn't offer standalone software; you'll have to file your forms online. Though as with other tax preparers, filing state returns will cost you extra. Free online chat and email support comes with all packages, but free phone support is only available with the Premium ($44.95). Jackson Hewitt is also popular for its refund anticipation loans.

Of course, if you have the money to spend, nothing beats working with an accountant who will get to know you and your tax situation over time, much the way a personal trainer can help you fine tune your physical conditioning. But if you don’t mind some extra data entry in your life, and have a decent grip on what needs to be done, any of the tax software or online options above should work fine, with TurboTax holding a slight edge over the competition: more expensive, but less taxing, you might say.


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Contributing Writer

Lou Carlozo is a DealNews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the Managing Editor of WalletPop.com, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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1 comment
Kyser_Soze
I work for one of the largest tax prep companies in the US and a taxpayer came in last week with an IRS letter saying he owed $600. He had used a software package mentioned in this article. He told me the mistake he made on the 2012 return had also been entered on his 2011 and 2010 returns. I reviewed the returns and found several other mistakes. He expected to owe $1800, $600 per year, but after my fee, he got $500 back! You could do your own tax return just like you could cut your own hair, but it might not turn out right.
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