If you plan to file your own taxes this year, you may qualify for a simple income tax return. You can file a simple tax return for free using many of the best tax software. But if this is your first time filing income tax returns or having hired an accountant before, you might not be sure if you can file a simple return.
To help you determine where your tax situation stands, CNBC Select examines who qualifies for a simple tax return and where you can file your taxes for free.
A simple tax return is the easiest type of tax return you can file. Each tax filing program defines simple tax returns differently, but they typically include:
- Income W-2
- Limited interest and dividend income
- Standard deductions
- Unemployment income
Many of the best tax software also include:
- Earned income tax credit
- Child tax credits
- Student loans / education deductions
For example, H&R Block includes all of the above situations. While TurboTax includes everything except student / education loan deductions. When you sign up for a tax service, it will walk you step by step through the requirements to qualify for a simple tax return.
What if you don’t qualify for a simple income tax return?
If your finances are a little more complicated, you will need to file a complex tax return. Most tax software will charge you a fee for filing complex returns. Here are some scenarios in which you will not be eligible for a simple tax return:
- You are self-employed or self-employed (1099 tax forms)
- You own a small business
- You earn rental income
- You have income from investments, such as bonds and stocks
When you go through the tax return process using software, you will receive a notice if you cannot file a simple free tax return and instead need to upgrade and pay for a more complex return.
The five CNBC selections The best tax software gives users the option to file a simple tax return for free. The only exception is TaxAct, which charges $ 4.95 per return status; filing a simple federal income tax return is free.
Here are your options:
If you need to file a more complex tax return, all tax filing programs offer luxury, premium and independent plans except Credit Karma Tax.
To determine which tax software provides the best way to file your taxes online, CNBC Select analyzed 12 programs. We compared each program on a range of features, including:
- User experience
- Expert tax assistance
- Maximum precision and money back guarantee
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating
- Customer reviews, when available
The cost was one of the most important factors. While many of these services offer free versions, many people have complicated finances that require them to pay to file their taxes. We’ve priced per plan and weighed the features you receive, like the ability to maximize deductions and credits. The more bang for your buck, the higher the service ranks.
Whether you are new to tax filing or a seasoned professional, user experience is essential to completing and submitting your return quickly and without frustration. The services we chose had to be relatively user-friendly.
The ability to speak to a tax professional or support representative was a huge plus. Four of the top five tax software offered some form of support.
And if a service supported consumers with generous precision and a maximum money-back guarantee, it ranked higher.
We also took into account the Better Business Bureau rating associated with the software. BBB ratings help determine whether a business is operating responsibly and whether it helps resolve customer complaints in a timely manner. Customer reviews have also been taken into account.
After reviewing the features above, we’ve sorted our recommendations by Best for Overall Tax Return, Second Free Tax Software, Most Affordable and Best Guaranteed Accuracy.
Federal and state filing fees for the software listed above are subject to change without notice. Many programs don’t charge you until you file, so there’s a chance the fees may change from the time you start your return until you submit it.
Editorial note: The opinions, analyzes, criticisms or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the editorial staff of CNBC Select and have not been reviewed, endorsed or endorsed by any third party.
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