May 11, 2020

Edited 06/01/20

How to File Taxes Online and At-Home

With businesses shut down, you may be filing your own taxes this year. We reviewed the online tax filing tools to help you select one.

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This year, the deadline to file and pay your 2019 taxes has been extended until July 15th. However, those that typically rely on in-person visits to their tax professional may be seeking other options amid COVID-19. Therefore, you should be compiling your tax filing paperwork and searching for alternatives if you’re unable to meet with your accountant. We reviewed the most popular online tax filing options that allow you to easily file your taxes from home.

Online Tax Filing Preparation

Typically, online tax preparation is best for those that use the standard deduction as opposed to itemizing deductions. If you do not own a business and/or have few dependents, your investment vehicles are relatively simple. Therefore, you should be able to complete your return using most online solutions. As an added benefit, preparing your own return may also be more cost-effective than hiring a professional. 

If your investment vehicles are not as straightforward, you may want to consider looking for solutions with added support or virtual assistance. For example, you may have partnerships, rental income, or need to file a corporate return that requires more assistance.

Getting Organized

In order to file your tax return yourself, you will need to gather essential tax forms and other supporting documents. This includes forms such as your W-2 and 1099 documents. You will also need to collect and organize receipts from deductible items like your mortgage interest or charitable contributions. Here’s a tax prep checklist from H&R Block that you can use to stay organized.

How long does it take?

The time to process your taxes depends on how many investments you have, real estate properties, dependents, and more. According to H&R Block, a simple return could take less than two hours. Being organized and prepared can make the process easier and faster. Once you’ve organized and gathered your tax documents, select an online tax return service to complete your return. 

When are state filing deadlines?

In addition to federal tax returns, there are state filings too. Most states’ deadline to file is July 15th but there a few that are different:

  • New Hampshire, April 15
  • Mississippi, May 15
  • Idaho, June 15
  • New Jersey, June 30
  • Virginia, July 1
  • Hawaii, July 20
  • Iowa, July 31

When you have all your paperwork organized, look for an online tax filing preparer to help you file both federal and state tax returns. Most, if not all, online filing solutions should be able to prepare both for you but there may be additional costs. Now, it’s your time to review which platform you’d like to work with and what amount of support you’d need to make your decision.

Online Tax Filing Solutions

There are many popular online tax preparation programs that make filing your taxes easier: 

IRS

If your return is very simple, IRS developed a free electronic filing program on the IRS’ website. For those that take the standard deduction and have basic W-2 income, or only receive Social Security benefits, this is a great option. You can access this tool via the IRS website at IRS.gov

However, it is truly a do-it-yourself option as it does not have support assistance or the ability to interact with a human for assistance. Therefore, you will be held responsible for any errors or omissions in your return. If you are not confident in your ability to file your return correctly, you should opt for another online solution.

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer is the low-cost leader in DIY filing services, ranging from free to $47 depending on the level of service you need. The platform is easy to use and provides guidance, support, and 100% accuracy guaranteed. TaxSlayer’s premium product starting at $37 offers one-on-one help from a tax professional where you can ask unlimited questions. Also, some of TaxSlayer’s products offer “skip-the-line” support where you can get immediate help through a live chat, phone, or email.

TurboTax

The most popular and user-friendly platform is TurboTax. While more expensive than other options, it is robust and includes detailed step-by-step instructions. TurboTax offers two products: TurboTax, its standard tool, and TurboTax Live. TurboTax Live, starting at $80, comes with a live CPA that will connect with you to go over your taxes and review your returns line by line to limit errors when you file. In addition, there is a community forum to ask questions at no extra cost. Turbo Tax has a 100% accuracy guarantee to offer you additional peace of mind.

H&R Block Online

A household name in tax preparation, H&R Block, now provides online filing services in addition to its in-person services. However, today there may be restrictions to their in-person service to protect both customers and associates’ safety. H&R Block’s online products and costs are similar to those of TaxSlayer and TurboTax. However, they offer a virtual CPA experience similar to what you would get in-person. If you’re used to working with a tax professional and want a more hands-off experience, use H&R Block’s Tax Pro Go. With Tax Pro Go, you get matched with a live tax pro where you would upload your tax documents and your tax pro will prepare your filing for you.

Double-check your return before submission because you are ultimately responsible for errors and unintentional omissions. Sometimes these errors can be costly. However, most online tax filing platforms have a 100% accuracy guarantee that can give you confidence when filing.

Remember, you’re not alone and everyone is adjusting to this new way of life. As everyone is transitioning from in-person services to digital online services, companies are prioritizing support. When it comes to filing your tax returns, determine the amount of support you want and see which platforms offer you the guidance you need.