How to File Your Tax Return Online

We’re only days away from the tax filing deadline — aka Tuesday, April 18. And while it’s typical to put off filing your taxes for as long as humanly possible, filing them on time is still something you should do if you don’t want to risk paying late penalties or exuberant interest costs on top of what you might owe. You can even potentially lose your refund after three years if you refuse to file in a timely fashion.

However, you don’t have to opt for a personal accountant who will charge you an arm and leg for your time if you have a straightforward return. Filing online is quicker, more accurate, and yields a return directly to your bank account within 21 days opposed to the typical six weeks associated with paper filing. Plus, if it’s down to the wire, e-filing your taxes is far more convenient.

You may need to be a bit more wary of scam artists trying to obtain your info or riddle your computer with spyware when filing electronically, but there’s no denying the appeal of convenience. Below are our favorite methods for e-filing your taxes, so you nab your return without ever leaving the comforts of your bed.

Writer’s note: The deadline to file taxes is Tuesday, April 18. Also, we recommend sticking with the same premium vendor you used last year to file your taxes. Doing so will allow you to import last year’s tax information with a few clicks.

The Best

Credit Karma Tax

Last year, Credit Karma announced that it had purchased the AFJC Corporation, expanding Credit Karma’s outreach from credit score analysis to tax filing. The first version of Credit Karma Tax features a clean, navigable interface with a horizontal toolbar at the top of the screen. This divides the process into three distinct sections — Basic Info, Federal Taxes, and State Taxes. Like the other services on this list, Credit Karma Tax also handles an an array of standard forms and schedules (i.e.,W-2, 1040, 1099-MISC).

One of the main drawbacks to the service is that does not allow you to upload your tax data from a rival service. Also, while the tried-and-true tax services have years of experience fielding digital “help desk” questions, this is Credit Karma’s first time around the block. It is easy to become lost or confused when trudging through the semantic tempest that is the U.S. tax system, and many of the other tax services do a better job of conveniently hyperlinking or defining the more complex jargon, thus minimizing error potential and you’re need to scour the web for additional info.

Yes, there are a few kinks in the first version of Credit Karma Tax, however, unlike many of the other services on this list, Credit Karma Tax includes free state filing. For years Credit Karma has made money using its credit service to suggest credit cards and loans to users for a commission. This new tax apparatus gives Credit Karma more insight into an individual’s overall income to more aptly match a person with a lender, and, by extension, leads to more commissions.

Overall, the fact that Credit Karma is completely free — the service doesn’t even take a cut of your return — and fairly easy to use makes it the most convenient resource for people looking to file their tax returns online.

Federal (free) | State (free)


The Rest


IRS Freefile

Not everyone likes the Internal Revenue Service, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from government entity come tax time. The IRS’s website is one of the best places to go for tax laws, tips, forms, calculators, and any questions you may have about your finances or legal obligations prior to your filing. The government site also features contact information for local tax offices and will recommend various tax software based on your current finances. Moreover, the institution guides you to your specific free filing software depending on whether you made more or less than $64,000 last year. It’s fairly cut and dry, but in case you’re still concerned, the site pairs you with the appropriate method for filing after a brief questionnaire. We only wish all aspects of government worked so flawlessly.

Federal (free) | State (varies)

Web  iOS Android



TurboTax stands its ground as the premiere site for filing your taxes online. It’s a great option for both personal and small businesses, and you can even file your federal taxes for free using its IRS e-file system (state will cost you). The free edition contains many major forms, from the W-2 to the 1040EZ, with ample guidance and direction if you feel completely overwhelmed. The more advanced packages come bundled with step-by-step instructions and handle more intricate deductions such as home mortgages and various business expenditures, but can cost you more than $100 depending on what you plan to do with them. Regardless of which package you opt for, though, TurboTax features one of the sleekest interfaces around and robust support for importing W-2 and 1099 forms. Tax experts also provide expert advice when need be, as does the active user community

Federal (free) | State (varies)

Web  iOS  Android

H&R Block


H&R Block is another solid alternative for e-filing your taxes online, but it doesn’t offer as in-depth help as some of it online competitors. Like TurboTax, the free edition also offers a vast array of forms and schedules. The software becomes more comprehensive and effective the higher up you go in price, bringing in step-by-step instructions and expanding the schedule lineup, but the site can prove cumbersome at times due to poor navigation tools. Each tier still supports data import and deduction guidance, though, along with an extensive refund program that allows you to put a portion or all of your refund on an Emerald Card. With this option, your refund will be available within 21 days.

Federal (free) | State (starts at $30)

Web iOS  Android



TaxACT’s best selling point is its rock-bottom pricing, which sadly, comes at the expense of advanced features and cleanliness. It’s a bit more barebones than some of the more popular competitors, but both the free and paid editions offer almost the same set of features, including your standard forms and schedules (i.e. 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ). Opting for the premium versions will grant you access to more features — such as tax data from prior years, donation assistance, and robust phone support — but the free federal edition is still worthwhile if you’re exempt from paying state taxes. The service’s lackluster interface and navigation leave much to be desired, too, yet it still touts an extensive library of video and text assistance that spans an array of common tax issues regarding penalties and law. TaxACT also allows you to file your tax return out of sequence, which is rather nice if you want to skip a particular section and come back to it later.

Federal (free) | State (varies)

Web  iOS  Android



TaxSlayer is another affordable option, but it’s pretty limited in its capabilities and scope. The service isn’t very conversational, particularly given the user interface is sorely outdated and lacks any sort of comprehensive context, but it remains one of the more inexpensive packages and boasts support for an excellent range of IRS forms (i.e. W-2, 1040, Schedule EIC). The service also provides email and phone support regardless of which package you choose, though, you won’t be able to pull last year’s data or talk with a tax professional unless you opt for one of the higher-tiered offerings. The built-in guidance will be enough for users filing a simple return, even if the help menu does often provide non-pertinent information and link out to a host of other sites, providing new or returning users a basic means for filing their taxes without consulting elsewhere. Still, the service is in dire need of a more inclusive walkthrough for some of the more complex operations — one more appropriate for businesses and small entrepreneurs.

Federal (free) | State (varies)

Web  iOS  Android

eSmart Tax


eSmart Tax is Liberty Tax’s online tax software. Depending on your tax scenario, there are different solution tiers available, ranging from free simple returns and going up to $35 packages for business owners. As with the other entries on this list, eSmart Tax allows users to file their federal taxes for free. However, also like the above software choices, you’ll have to fork over some cash in order to file your state taxes. Thankfully, eSmart Tax  includes free technical support and live audit support through live chat with a Liberty Tax CPA, mitigating some of the tax season headache. The software also includes a remarkably convenient and easy import tool, that allows users to import the previous year’s tax information from other Tax services like H&R Block, TaxAct, and TurboTax. So, if you found yourself unhappy with your previous tax software, or are maybe just looking to mix it up and try something new, eSmart Tax makes it easy to continue where you left off last year.

Federal (free) | State ($30)


This article was originally published on April 11, 2016. Updated on March 7 by Dallon Adams: Added Credit Karma Tax.