The Best 2016 – 2017 Online Tax Filing Software and Free Filing Options

15 comments

The IRS has reported that over the last few years over 90% of individuals, filed their federal income tax returns electronically (E-File). This is up from about 30%, 10 years ago. Further, E-filed returns generally see applicable refunds provided 1 to 2 weeks faster than paper returns. Scroll down this article for some 2015 tax software discounts and online coupons.


Electronic Tax Filing options

The main benefit of using self-preparation tax software are lower costs relative hiring to a tax professional; and the fact that the software does all the math, includes all the new government payments and taxes, and checks for accuracy. You normally get your direct deposit refund (if applicable) within 10 days. The following well-known companies (always go with established companies for your taxes!) support the IRS e-filing option and provide decent customer service and audit support. Best of all, they are free to use for preparing your return and you only pay when actually e-filing your return. So it’s well worth trying all three for free and picking the one that gives you the best return.

  • TurboTax – Turbo Tax has been the #1 rated online tax software for a number of years. There is a reason for that, it makes tax filing a breeze for most users by guiding them step-by-step through possible tax obligations, deductions and credits. They also have a 100% calculation guarantee for their tax software, where if you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, they pay you the penalty and interest.Competitively priced, it is definitely an option worth looking into when filing your taxes.
  • H&R Block – Building on their well-recognized brand and national office network, the online version of the H&R block tax software gets better every year and is much cheaper than their offline (i.e real tax preparer in an office) option. What’s also good about H&R block’s online offering is that if the IRS does come knocking you can get free audit support from their enrolled agents.

Free Tax Filing Options

For 2016, most major tax software providers are making their federal tax return products available for free to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is less than the IRS mandated $62,000 limit during 2015. This $2,000 above 2014 levels.


  • TurboTax Free Edition: Turbo tax is the most used tax software and in the years that I have used it, I found it very easy to use thanks to its excellent step-by-step program to guide you through filling in your tax return. Like any commercial package though, they will try to “up-sell ” you, so make sure you check the options you really need. Overall, this is the best option for most online tax filers in my opinion.
  • H&R Block Online Free Edition: HR Block has the highest AGI income limit (even above the IRS limit) for free filing and a decent step-by-step guide for users, though not as user-friendly and intuitive as the above two options. You can also import last year’s tax data from Turbo Tax and certain other software packages.

Tax Filing Discounts and Coupons 

Thanks to being a prominent personal finance and tax blogger I get a lot of discount deals from tax software vendors through out the season. But I only need one for my self so I thought I would share some of the best offers (paid and free-filing options) from each provider, some of which are exclusive to this site. If you find any better deals or coupons, post it in the comments below. 

2016-2017 Tax Season Filing Key Dates and Deadlines

2017 Deadline
Tax Related Activity
January 1, 2017First day to file a 2016 tax return, though the IRS generally will not accept e-file and free file returns until the date below. Even paper based filings won't be processed till later in the month
January 23, 2017IRS E-file to go live, allowing submission of electronic tax returns for the vast majority of tax filers. Paper tax returns will begin processing from this date as well
January 31, 2017Date by which you should have received a W-2 from employers you worked for during the tax year. If not, contact their HR/Payroll department to resend tax documents
February 1, 2017Deadline for 1099 statements (factors in your AGI income) that report non-employee compensation, bank interest, dividends and distributions from a retirement plan. This date is also the deadline for self-employed individuals to file and pay in full their fourth-quarter estimated tax payment
February 16, 2017Financial institutions (e.g Vanguard, Fidelity) must mail out 1099-B, 1099-S and 1099-MISC forms by this date. See what these forms are and if you will need one for your return
March 15, 2017S Corporation and Partnership tax returns due
April 18, 2017*Tax Day* Last day for filing federal income tax returns and extension requests. Since April 15th is a Saturday and Monday is the Emancipation Day holiday the due date has been shifted out to Tuesday, April 18th.
April 18, 2017Deadline for filing state income tax returns (for most states) and extension requests. Last day to make a contribution to a Traditional or Roth IRA, Health Savings Account (HSA), SEP-IRA or 401(k)
April 18, 2017FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) forms due for taxpayers who have signature authority over $10,000 in total in foreign bank accounts in the prior year. Laws enacted last year change the standard FBAR due date to "tax day" (vs June 30th as in years past). No extensions are allowed and forms must be filed electronically.
June 15, 2017U.S. citizens or resident aliens living abroad must file tax returns and pay any taxes due by this date (or file for a four-month extension)
October 15, 2017Filing approved extended federal, state and S-Corp/Partnership income tax returns Note: you still need to file for an extension request by April 17th
April 15, 2020Filing a 2016 tax amendment. You can file an amended or previous year return anytime, but you have a deadline of 3 years from the original due date to claim any tax refund.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Garth January 23

There are some other free filing option programs not mentioned above :

VITA program

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA, brings free, live tax preparation and e-filing assistance to low-income households. You qualify if your household income is below $49,000. You will find VITA centers at libraries, colleges, community centers, religious centers and other neighborhood sites. To find a site near you, call 1-800-906-9887. Or scan this partial list of VITA sites, on IRS.gov.

The armed forces version of VITA is called AFTC, for Armed Forces Tax Council. You have volunteers and experts who know the special credits, deductions and exclusions available to members of all branches of the armed forces, and their families. They will understand the state income tax exclusions, as well.
TCE program

Tax Counseling for the Elderly, or TCE: The focus here is tax issues for those age 60 and above. TCE volunteers understand issues related to retirement income, Social Security, IRAs, etc. They may be able to provide counseling on other financial issues as well, since many of the volunteers and staff are in the same position as you.

AARP’s Tax-Aide is one of the largest TCE programs in the country. Visit the AARP Tax-Aide website. You can call the IRS for a TCE location, at 1-800-829-1040.

Incidentally, all these programs are still accepting volunteers. You don’t need a tax background or education to participate. Besides, it’s fun!
Free online filing

When IRS started the FreeFile Alliance, or FFA, program, it was revolutionary — getting tax vendors to donate free services to a large part of the tax-paying community. FFA is still alive and well, with 16 companies still participating.

Fundamentally, the service caters to taxpayers with income under $58,000. Each provider has different age and form restrictions and other conditions. Most offer free extensions and free services to the military. None of the providers are permitted to offer refund anticipation loans. That eliminated some participants whose profit and loss statements were flush with those high

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: