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Home » Best of, Taxes

5 of the Cheapest & Best Ways to E-File your Taxes

Last updated by on 30 Comments

E-filing? Try These 5 Free Options

I have updated this post for 2015 (2014 tax year). I’ve always used paid Turbotax & H&R Block electronic and software products to do my own taxes. They are my two recommended overall tax programs and they even have free and much cheap options available for those who have relatively simple returns and a low enough adjusted gross income. While Turbotax and H&R Block might be the best options for most e-filers, there are other reputable alternatives as well. After researching the marketplace, here are the five options that topped my list if your goal is to have the cheapest e-file tax return.

Lets start with my two favorite: H&R Block and Turbotax.

efiling-taxesH&R block free editionH&R Block: offers a free-file edition. Free e-file edition costs $14.99 (many states are free) if you would like to add the state e-file. To use their free edition, your Adjusted Gross Income must be $53,500 or less and you must be age 53 or less. If you start with the free version, you can easily transfer and upgrade to a different version at a later time. I have used H&R the last few years and really like thier program. H&R Block offers free audit support and 1:1 help. They are offering 15% off their online editions right now.

Turbotax: offers a free e-file edition for those with and adjusted income of $31,000 or less ($60,000 or less for active military), or to those who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you choose to file a state e-file, it could be free, depending on your state. If you choose to upgrade to another version, your data is transferred.

TaxAct: Offers a free-file, and from free to $9.99 for federal and state combined – however, they are not as reputable as Turbotax and H&R Block. Eligibility requires your adjusted gross income be $52,000 or less and your age be between 18 and 58 for the free e-file version.

eSmartTax: eSmartTax is the online version of Liberty Tax, which has over 4,000 offices nationwide. If you have an adjusted Gross Income $60,000 or less, and have an age between 18 and 54 you can file your federal return for free. State returns are $19.95.

FreeFile: If you’re up for some work and have some time, you can fill out forms online through the IRS website fillable forms website and then e-file. The BIG problem with this route is that you can’t prepare or submit your state return through the IRS. This can be a bit of a pain if you have to go elsewhere to do your state return (and all the data that you’ve already entered does not transfer with you). For state returns, the IRS lists 14 approved e-file vendors to choose from, many of whom offer free e-filing on federal returns. Also, fillable forms are not nearly as simple to fill out as tax software. You literally are filling out IRS tax forms. I would not recommend it – but it is an option available to you for free e-filing.

There are no IRS approved vendors that offer free-file to those with adjusted gross income over $60,000. If your income is higher and/or you invest, are a homeowner, or itemize deductions, I’d recommend going with the most appropriate paid TurbotaxH&R Block editions mentioned earlier.

E-Filing Discussion:

  • What’s the cheapest way that you’ve been able to file your taxes, while getting the best return?
  • Have you done your taxes yet?
  • How are you filing your taxes this year? (take the poll)

TurboTax is Easy, Free Edition, Fast Refund


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30 Comments »
  • James says:

    Has anyone used TaxAct before? How is it?

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Paul – some good tips. Just to emphasize Paul’s point, Turbotax, H&R Block, and some of the other software won’t allow you to transfer data automatically from your free federal e-file. Instead, it would have to be a manual entry based on the information you input for your federal return. I haven’t tried this method, so not sure how easy it is. How long would you say it takes, Paul?

  • P.R. says:

    If you’ve used TurboTax free version before, they will automatically transfer last year’s data and charge you for it at the end. From what I could tell, there’s no way to avoid this data transfer, so you have to pay $15 to file if you’ve used TurboTax before.

  • allen says:

    Question:

    I use the purchased version of TurboTax (due to it being easier to deal with some investments I have); Can i still use any of these services to file them free? I make under the limit. Do i just print the forms to PDF and email it to them, &c?

    Sorry, taxes can be a worrying time. Thanks for any guidance up front!

    -=allen

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ P. R. – Good heads up.

    @ Allen – If you used a purchased version, I believe you get 5 free e-files with it, so there’s no need to go directly through the IRS site – not sure if it transfers over to a state site for free. You may want to check out your individual state’s site. My state had a listing of products that you could use.

  • allen says:

    @G.E. Miller: Ooooo… i must be thinking of the stupid fee you pay if you want direct deposit from the IRS.

  • Shaun Connell says:

    I’m hiring someone this year, though next year I’ll probably file for myself. ::bookmarked::

  • Mohammed says:

    @ Paul – some good tips. Just to emphasize Paul’s point, Turbotax, H&R Block, and some of the other software won’t allow you to transfer data automatically from your free federal e-file. Instead, it would have to be a manual entry based on the information you input for your federal return. I haven’t tried this method, so not sure how easy it is. How long would you say it takes, Paul?

  • Anton Ivanov | Dreams Cash True says:

    TurboTax all the way for me. Definitely not the cheapest option, but as a stock market and real estate investor and a business owner, I have found their tax preparation process very easy and straightforward. Never had a problem with any of my returns and it beats paying a few hundred dollars to an accountant.

  • Shobir says:

    Some excellent resources here. I’ve never liked dealing with my taxes and hated to hire an accountant. Some of the recommendations mentioned here are excellent and has given me lots of ideas to go forward. Turbo Tax looks really interesting and I will have to give that some serious thought. Really liking the blog, keep the useful information coming. Thanks ever so much!

  • Imran says:

    Taxes can be a pain, this post really made me think about all the helpful resources available on the internet. I was particularly interested in the features of Turbo Tax. I feel like a burden is lifted from me every time I file my tax return. Some excellent information here, thanks for sharing.

  • Calvin Whitehead says:

    You could also try FreeTaxUSA. I’ve used them for years and the federal return is always free. The state return is just $13 bucks and if you use CALVIN25 as a coupon code, you’ll get 25% off.

  • Jane says:

    Very upset with H & R Block. They won’t add EIC to the Federal refund unless you upgrade (14.99), and then filing the state tax form electronically, which our state almost demands, is an additional 36.99 – while their ad states that there is free state filing. None of this is clear until you get into the program. Won’t use again.

    • C A Holt says:

      For those people who are upset with H&R Block’s pricing, they might want to look at MyFreeTaxes. It is powered by HRB’s software but the support staff is funded by Walmart Foundation in partnership with Goodwill, National Disability Institute, and United Way. Both federal and state returns are free for those with incomes (AGI) less than $60,000.

      • Kyle says:

        THANK YOU for this tip! I have been using H&R Block for a couple of years now. This is the first year I was eligible for the Earned Income Credit and I was ready to pay to upgrade from the free to basic edition (and also pay $36.99 for 2 state returns) – but I visit MyFree Taxes and logged into H&R Block that way and all my stuff was saved but now everything is free. :) The message when I logged in made me laugh – It said “Way to go! You found a way to make your taxes free.” They probably did not want me to know about that option. Thanks again!

      • Forrest Knoll says:

        But isn’t MyFreeTaxes only for people with disabilities?

  • Alicia says:

    H&R Block only charged me $14.99 to file my 2013 California State taxes. I used the free Federal tax return and then did my state taxes. The total charge was $14.99.

    I also tried TurboTax but they were more expensive. Their software is easier to use…more intuitive but also more expensive. I don’t mind entering the info twice because it verifies that I did my taxes correctly. :)

  • zee says:

    how good are these cheap e-file programs at handling semi-complicated tax returns?

    i’m a middle class guy who has a mortgage, 9-5, 401k, HSA, ESPP, rollover, roth, brokerage account, etc. [what i assume is ‘the norm’ for folks on this site]
    i also rented part of my home for part of the year.
    i also have another property that i rent out.
    i also am the beneficiary of a trust and get a k1.

    currently i use a CPA to handle my taxes, and it’s embarrassingly expensive. they ask a ton of questions and i’m still doing a huge amount of work.

    i’m wondering if i’m basically doing all the work except actually entering the numbers into turbotax / h&r block and paying WAY more for it and not actually getting a better return, or only marginally better.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      With that complicated of a return, you’ll definitely NEED a paid version. My recommendation would be H&R Block “Best of Both”, which is what I use – and if that doesn’t suit you, stay with a CPA. The free versions are bare bones for simple returns. Yours is more advanced than 98% of the country, I’d wager.

  • Sue F says:

    What about AARP and them doing/helping with taxes? Cost? Any input would be helpful.
    Thnks

  • Anonymous says:

    I’ll NEVER use any e-filer. They save and store your information even when you just use their software and hit SAVE.

    If I ever need help preparing I’ll use fake personal info in the software, and use fillable forms to print and snail mail my return.

    (Yes some may harp on security issues, but I’ve NEVER had issue with the post office.)

    • zero says:

      Dude it’s 2015, if someone wants your information, they’ll get it. This day and age it’s best to make things easier on yourself, your information, whether you accept it or not, is readily available to anyone and everyone.

      • kerin gordon says:

        Dude it may be 2015 but 1980 wasnt bad. Yes, I e-file but with the post office it may get lost but doubtful stolen by anyone hijacking the mail truck. For those using credit card and social networks, you have the constant worrying for good reason, that the next time you turn on your Iphone it will be today’s latest breach. BTW..no Iphone so send my &*( back to 1978.

  • Sheree says:

    I found a great FREE source to help you file your taxes is freetax.com. This online service provided by Liberty Tax Service can assist you with completing both your Federal and State taxes for FREE! All of you Business Owners can even do your Schedule C. Oh yeah, and if you run into any problems they have online chat assistance or you can walk straight into an office!

  • chevygurl says:

    freefillible, my aunt fanny. I missed the dead line because of there incompetent software…. Schedules and worksheets do not merged together, seriously. Guess the government will never change.

  • Lisa says:

    I was being charged the HR Block 39.99 filing fee and also possibly the 34.95 direct deposit. I went to myfreetax.com and signed into HR Block account and paid nothing for a direct deposit to my checking acct.!!!

    Thanks so much for the advice! Try it…you will be happy too!

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