- Days left

Compare and Contrast: Three Free Tax Filing Services

free tax filing Spring break was great, the weather's warming up, and summer vacation is coming round the corner. The absolute last thing you want to do now is your taxes. But unless you want to suffer the consequences, you've got to get 'em done, and soon, to meet this year's April 18 deadline.

On the bright side: You're a college student, so this should be a pretty simple process; you're likely to get a nice return; and there are several free or low-cost tax filing services out there.

As for the filing process itself: That you'll have to slog through on your own. Sorry.

But WalletPop's Compare and Contrast can get you one step closer. We tested three free, basic online tax services, going through several steps in the filing process -- without actually filing them -- to find the best service for you. All information is current as of April 3 and subject to change.Site: H&R Block Free Edition
Price: Free federal filing; $27.95 for each state return
Ease of Use: High, thanks to comprehensive instructions. Also reassuring to see was a timeline at the bottom of the page, indicating the progress so far.
Speed: Very fast. New pages upload in a blink.
Accuracy: We plugged in the wrong employee ID number and disparate wage information, but the free edition didn't pick up on these mistakes.

Site: TaxACT Free Edition
Price: Free federal filing; $17.95 for each state return
Ease of Use: High. We like that it starts with an instructional video explaining how to use the service.
Speed: Very fast, with pages flowing one into the next within a second or two.
Accuracy: We typed in the wrong employee ID number and disparate wage figures, but the system didn't pick up the mistakes.

Service: TurboTax Online Federal Free Edition
Price: Free federal filing; $27.95 for each state return
Ease of Use: High, thanks to a comprehensive step-by-step guide, although the navigation of one page sent me down a detour where I was asked to claim a dependent, even though I didn't intend to.
Speed: Very fast. Barely a second passes from page to page.
Accuracy: Again, we typed in some incorrect information to see if the typos were caught, and they weren't.

What we think: From our perspective, all three sites are pretty comparable. The federal filing process is free, the step-by-step process is pretty easy to follow, the page loads are very fast, and they each have about the same number of annoying pay-to-upgrade promotional pages throughout the process.

So in the end, we've got to go with TaxACT primarily because the fee for state returns is $10 less than H&R and TurboTax (and that brief video tutorial is a nice touch too). We don't think you'll have the best time ever filing your taxes, but with TaxACT, at least you can do so with minimal stress and expense.

Piet Levy's Compare and Contrast breaks down the prices and perks for products and services that college kids want, and posts them on WalletPop's Money College page. Send suggestions, including items or services that you want written about, to moneycollege@walletpop.com.

Learn about investing from the comfort of your own home.

Portfolio Basics

Take the first steps to building your portfolio.

View Course »

Investment Strategies

Learn the strategies you need to build a winning portfolio

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

5 Hidden Ways to Boost Your Tax Refund

Most of us are looking for ways to pay no more than we owe in taxes, or even boost our tax refunds. Here are five strategies that go beyond the obvious with tried-and-true ways to reduce your tax liability.

What, Me Worry? Last Minute Taxes

According to the Internal Revenue Service, 20-25% of all Americans wait until the last two weeks before the deadline to prepare their tax returns. At that late date, there are only two things you can do: File your taxes pronto, or request a tax extension.

Can't File by the Deadline? Top 3 Reasons to File a Tax Extension

The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers to file for a 6-month extension if they need more time to prepare their tax return. You can obtain a tax extension for any reason; the IRS grants them automatically as long as you complete the proper form on time. Check your state tax laws; some states accept IRS extensions while others require you to file a separate state extension form.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum