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Online tax filing: make it even easier with these apps

Use your device to file taxes online this tax season

When it was introduced, online tax filing brought an unprecedented level of convenience and efficiency to doing taxes. Anti-social individuals everywhere who needed to complete their tax returns rejoiced. Now, things have become even more streamlined thanks to “tax apps.”

Besides convenience, another advantage of these apps is that, while you’ll generally pay some fee, they are still quite an affordable way to file. How much you pay will depend on the complexity of your financial situation. While free tax filing is a wonderful concept, it’s rare. For example, theoretically, TurboTax offers free tax filing, but only in extremely specific situations that many people will not qualify for.

With that being said, here are a couple of completely free ways to do your taxes online.

For a streamlined process: TurboTax Return |Android|iOS|

Without a doubt, one of the best-known online tax filing services and tax apps is TurboTax Return.

With TurboTax Return, you’ll take a picture of your W-2, then begin to answer some questions on your way to filing securely from your phone or tablet. While the app is free and they advertise free returns, your replies to the screening questions may well result in you having to pay. It’s popular for a reason, however: it’s a very intuitive process.

TurboTax’s user interface has been fine-tuned to perfection. It really doesn’t matter what your level of understanding is, this app will get you through it. It searches for over 400 types of deductions and credits, and even offers TurboTax Live Full Service where you can video chat with an expert selected to prepare your return based on the documents you’ve provided.

The app syncs across platforms so you can do your taxes on the go or at home on your desktop, whatever works for you. You can try the DIY route (cheaper) or get help from an expert (more expensive). The fact is, each TurboTax return type will often be more expensive than a competitor’s comparable offering, but you’ll probably get more as well.

Yes, they do have the aforementioned free service, but our suggestion is to go in prepared to pay some amount. If you qualify for a free return, that’s a (very large) bonus. By the way, here’s a bit of not-so-secret information: TurboTax’s parent company, Intuit, also owns QuickBooks and Credit Karma, both of which we’ve also reviewed.

H&R Block |Android|iOS|

The O.G. This recognizable brand was an innovator in e-filing, so it’s no surprise their current tax app is excellent. Whether your return is a simple or a complex one, this is one of the best online tax filing options.

H&R Block’s tax apps offer practically all the same features as TurboTax and, to the surprise of many, its varying tiers are cheaper than the latter’s comparable offerings. Also, more people are likely to qualify for its free offering than for TurboTax. So why is TurboTax so much more popular? It’s not just better marketing (though we’re sure that doesn’t hurt). TurboTax’s apps are ever so slightly slicker and their user experience is hard to beat. But we’d suggest taking a look at both—H&R Block could well have your e-filing completed for less.

A tax app for the self-employed: QuickBooks Self-Employed |Android|iOS|

If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, a financial organizing app that keeps up with your small business all year long can be a lifesaver. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app preps you for tax season right out of the gate. It’s too late for this year, but will be a big help with your next online tax filing.

The app helps you keep track of receipts, expenses, income and even mileage all in one simple app. Attach a receipt to a transaction by taking a picture of it and keep all your expenses on record in preparation for tax season.

With Quickbooks Self-Employed, you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee of $15. Upgrading to the Tax Bundle gets you both that app and the TurboTax Self-Employed app. Note that this is not the same as the regular TurboTax app and pertains to business taxes only.

A free option for filing straightforward taxes: Credit Karma Tax |Android|iOS|

To get a free filing with Credit Karma Tax, you’ll have to go through the Credit Karma app. Credit Karma is a free app that gives you access to your credit score (without affecting it) and provides transparency as to what goes into a score. They provide helpful articles and offer products like credit cards too.

Credit Karma states that they’ll “never sell or rent your personal information to third parties for marketing purposes.” This is no doubt true, but remember we live in a world where data is king—so much so that it can be more valuable than a price tag. We’re by no way insinuating Credit Karma is up to anything underhanded, but you may want to read their privacy policy to make sure you’re okay with any trade-offs. Of course, we should all read every privacy policy, but we’ll be the first to admit we slip sometimes.

Credit Karma offers free to file federal and state returns, “no matter what your tax situation is.” This comes with their 24/7 live chat support, and the ability to import your W-2 to keep things running smoothly in the app. However, as with most free options, Credit Karma is limited. It won’t help with multi-state returns, for instance, and also isn’t a good option for numerous types of more complex tax situations. Filing support is also very limited.

You can find out more about filing taxes online with Credit Karma here.

Simple federal tax filing: FreeTaxUSA |Website|

We chose FreeTaxUSA as our second free option because we like its simplicity and how upfront they are about what you’ll get. If you’re filing a pretty straightforward federal tax return, then you’ll pay nothing. If you need to file state taxes, you’ll need to pony up the grand total of $12.95. Pay $6.99 for the Deluxe version and you’ll gain access to access to support agents, live chat, step-by-step audit assistance, and unlimited amended returns. Shortcomings like the inability to import W-2s or 1099s may turn off some who prefer greater automation and minimal effort, but for a free option, it does a pretty good job.