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5 Online Tax Prep Programs Compared

Do you plan to file your tax return on your own this year? We commend your bravery in tackling this annual financial chore. Before you begin, however, you may face another challenge: choosing the right online tax preparation program. We review the products from the most popular tax preparation companies and how you should go about picking one of them.

The slideshow features the following tax programs: TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxAct, Jackson Hewitt and eSmart Tax.

Selecting a version

First-timers using guided tax preparation services will realize that there are different versions of tax preparation software, each with their own prices. TurboTax, for example, has five different versions that cover simple 1040EZ tax returns to complex returns for taxpayers with small businesses.

Essentially, as your tax situation gets more complex, you’ll have to fill out more tax forms, which become available with more expensive editions of online tax prep products.

Picking the wrong version could mean that you’ll miss tax forms that you should have filed, or, you overpaid for a version that exceeded your tax-filing needs.

You should go with the edition that serves your most complex tax situation (learn more about your taxes by visiting our Tax Center).

Consider other features

While the main goal is to get your tax return into the hands of the IRS, your experience with the step-by-step online tax prep programs may not turn out to be as smooth and intuitive as you anticipated.

Some online tax prep programs offer live chat or phone support in the event that you need assistance regarding your tax returns. Some will offer free representation in the case of an audit, as highlighted in the slideshow. Such features may offer peace-of-mind as you take on your taxes without a tax preparer.

Test them out

Most online tax prep programs charge their fees at the point of filing. You can actually prepare your tax return up until that point without having to pay anything. Also, you can see how much you’ll owe or receive as a refund.

If you’d like, you can try them all out before sending your tax return off to the IRS.

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