Stock investing for dummies
FreeTaxUSA is a bargain level tax preparation software service aimed at budget conscious tax preparers with low to mid-level complexity in their taxes.
FreeTaxUSA’s primary draw is its low price, but the decent user interface, and accurate deduction and credit calculators will draw in some users who don’t mind bearing the burden of manual form entry.
FreeTaxUSA’s Tax Prep Process
FreeTaxUSA begins with a basic questions about where users live, their social security numbers, occupation and filing status. The questionnaire is straightforward and easy to use on mobile and desktop computers.
After users enter their basic information, the software directs users to the income page. Users must have certain level of understanding of the jargon associated with taxes to correctly fill out the income page. The income page features a list of Schedules and Forms Grouped by Income Type.
Users may struggle to find the right forms, and usability varies by form. For example the W-2 forms, 1099-INT and 1099-DIV forms are straightforward (though many users will be disappointed to learn that they cannot import these standard forms to reduce the burden of data entry).
W-2, 1099-INT and 1099-DIV forms must be filled out manually
However, the real estate and small business schedules seemed more cumbersome. This is primarily because FreeTaxUSA has no alert systems that help explain that certain expenses are typically deductible for certain types of income. I nearly missed the part of the real estate schedule where I could deduct depreciation from our rental properties.
Computers, furniture and equipment were listed before rental property
While FreeTaxUSA has a knowledge library, I found that the articles contained within it were too full of tax jargon to help me. I relied heavily on Google to answer questions like whether or not I qualified for Capital Loss Carryovers, or whether I should fill out a K-1 or a schedule E.
While the interface isn’t user friendly, users will be pleased to know that the calculators seemed to be accurate and comprehensive.
The deductions and credits sections seemed easier to use thanks to some software guidance and less jargon filled descriptions.
Once users complete their intial prep, FreeTaxUSA offers a comprehensive “Deduction Maximizer” which uses more straightforward language to help users find any deductions or credits they may have missed initially.
Although the maximizer was time consuming to walk through, I was thankful to have the opportunity to look for less common deductions that I may have missed.
What if I get confused?
FreeTaxUSA is not great for software users who get confused easily. While it features a knowledge library, most of the articles repeated laws rather than explaining them in simpler terms. Additionally, it wasn’t easy to navigate from knowledge articles to resume tax preparation work.
FreeTaxUSA offers online chat services to their Deluxe customers, but users should be aware that the online chat representatives are not necessarily tax professionals. Since the chat feature is new this year, users should be wary about last second questions that may come up since FreeTaxUSA may not correctly estimate chat volume in their first year.
Email questions from Deluxe users are also prioritized above questions from non-paying customers which may lead to a faster response time.
Plans and Pricing
The free federal filing edition provides all the software features for Federal Filing at no cost. State filings cost an additional $12.95. However, free users do not get additional support, and return amendments cost $9.95
The Deluxe edition costs $5.95 plus $12.95 for state filing, and gives users access to live chat, expedited responses to emails, free amendments to returns, and free access to audit specialists and an audit center in the event of an IRS audit.
The Final Verdict
FreeTaxUSA offers the best price point on usable tax software in the market today. Most low complexity filers will find that the software offers everything they need for either free or $12.95 (if state filing is required).
While the interface isn’t easy to use, and the software doesn’t offer import features, many users who are comfortable with filing their own taxes, will appreciate the added value of behind the scenes calculators, and online accessibility. Even mid-complexity users may see value in the free or deluxe versions of FreeTaxUSA.
Even though the price is impossible to beat, high complexity filers and novice filers should look for software that can answer their questions more readily and offer features such as imports and easy navigation.
If you still want to give FreeTaxUSA a try you can get started here.
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