Tax time is here, and it can be a stressful — and expensive — task to complete before the April 18, 2016 deadline. But luckily, there are many free and low-cost resources to help you get the job done without a hefty price tag and a mini meltdown.
1. If you have a simple tax situation (think: single, non-homeowner, few dependents), try TurboTax.
TurboTax Absolute Zero lets you file free federal and state returns as long as you’re filing a 1040A/1040EZ your tax information is fairly simple: You made less than $100,000, you're not itemizing deductions, you didn’t sell investments, you’re not a homeowner or independent contractor, and you don’t have medical expenses. Through the online system, you can complete and submit your taxes and then set up direct deposit for your refund. Bonus: You can autofill your tax forms by snapping a photo of your W-2. You can also choose from three paid versions (Deluxe, $54.99; Premier, $79.99; Home & Business, $104.99) to better fit your needs if you have rental property or investments, or are a small-business owner.
2. If you make $62,000 or less per year, try Free File Alliance.
The IRS has partnered with more than a dozen industry-leading tax software companies to offer this program to Americans with an income of $62,000 or less. If you’re one of the 70 percent of taxpayers who qualify, then you can use the program to choose the right software option and file electronically for both state and federal taxes — all free.
3. If you want to do everything via mobile phone, try TaxAct.
TaxAct offers free federal and state returns via its TaxAct Express free mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices. It’s recommended for people with simple tax situations who don’t need to make multiple claims or deductions. After you file, you can check on your refund with the Tax Return Status app, and you’ll get your refund deposited onto an American Express Serve Card. And if you need help tracking your charitable donations throughout the year, you can use the Donation Assistant app to help maximize your deductions. TaxAct also offers Basic, Plus, and Premium options (ranging from $14.99 to $29.99) for more detailed filing needs.
4. If you need general help, try the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
Coordinated by the IRS, VITA provides in-person tax preparation by an IRS-certified volunteer at no charge for those who qualify — typically people who make less than $53,000 a year or anyone with a disability. Check out theoptions available in your state to see if you qualify for the program.
5. If you’re filing for a family, try eSmart Tax.
This is Liberty Tax’s online filing service. You can file for families for as little as $14.95 or get the deluxe version for $19.95 if you’re an investor or have more deductions (many other online services charge more than $50 for deluxe versions). Both include free chat support, and you can import previous returns — even from other sites — to make the process simpler.
6. If your taxes are complicated and you want to save, try TaxSlayer.
With a free basic edition, a classic edition for $12.99 and a premium version for $34.99, TaxSlayer is one of the cheapest ways to file online if you have a more complicated situation (e.g., you own stock or claim rental property, or you’re self-employed). Competitors charge more for filing trickier taxes, roughly $50 and up. During any point in the process, you can search TaxSlayer’s “knowledgebase” to find questions and answers on all tax topics.