Ugh, taxes again? Yeah, unfortunately it’s time the tax talks start happening. For those who want to get the tax preparation process out of the way should consider heading to the closest Walmart for some free tax prep.

Mid-January of last year the giant retailer partnered with Jackson Hewitt to offer tax preparation services starting at $38 per return. This year, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt will both be offering free preparation on the 1040EZ forms through February 29.

Starting today, 3,000 Walmart stores across the nation will be host to kiosks from both, H&R Block Inc. and Jackson-Hewitt Tax Service Inc. Each kiosk will have trained preparers ready to help customers complete their tax returns.

You probably will see more Jackson-Hewitt signage though, as the company will be at 2,750 Walmart stores — H&R Block will only be at 250.

After a few years of struggling to retain market share, H&R Block found that offering free tax rep through every means possible, including Walmart is the best tactic to getting people in the door. While H&R Block does advertise completely free preparation of Form 1040EZ, you should be warned that Jackson-Hewitt has a clause saying free 1040 EZ prep is not necessarily the policy at every store (but still offered at some). Customers with more complicated tax returns should expect to shell out more money for fees.

Last year, when Jackson-Hewitt offered tax prep services and around 2,000 Walmart stores around the nation they had a flat fee of $38 for anyone who filed the federal form 1040EZ. This fee also included up to two W-2 and Schedule M.

Refund Options

Many Americans may feel frustrated when they finally get their tax returns this year as the average refund may drop 2.6 percent from  $2,880 in 2010 to $2,805.

Nonetheless, it’s still important to figure out the best way to get your refund sent to you, and the earlier you file, the quicker you’ll get your refund. Walmart offers all three of the typical options for return:

  • Direct deposit
  • Prepaid card
  • Mailed check

The prepaid cards are a good option for the unbanked customers. All three companies offer their own branded prepaid cards that carry fees for using them, although they are offering to load your refund for free.

FeesH&R BlockJackson-HewittWalmart
Monthly Service$2.50 (only after 3 months of inactivity)$5.95$3.00
ATM Withdrawal$2.50$2.50$2.00
Replacement$35Free ($55 express delivery)$3 ($20 express delivery)
Balance Inquiry$1.00Free$1.00
Over-the-counter Withdrawals$25$2.50$2.00

Personally, I opted for the Direct Deposit option with my refund last year (along with 74% of other filers), but due to my absentmindedness accidentally gave the wrong account information so I had to wait for the refund via mail.

In 2012, the IRS will begin accepting returns on January 17 and the tax deadline arrives on April 17.

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