Just finished my taxes last night. This is a record for me. I usually wait till April. Another first is that I decided to use an online service to file my federal taxes. I don’t think the reason I finished early is because I used an online service, though. It was just because my taxes were so much easier this year. (Note, last year I used California’s Calfile for my state taxes) I wouldn’t use the online e-file for my federal, but it is the only way to get a refund in a decent amount of time.
So, I went to the IRS site and looked for a filing company that was online and free. Essentially, there are the little guys and a few big names. The big ones are TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct. I chose TurboTax on the notion that they probably have figured out the bugs by now. Almost all of them say that they file for free, and they do, but they don’t mention that they will try to upsell you or charge for a state filing.
So, I chose TurboTax online, went through the whole process. It took quite a while, they ask a bunch of questions and really try to upsell you in the end. It took like 10 ‘skip this please’ clicks to finally get close to the part where they actually send your data. I also chose the ‘Skip the State Return’. It is interesting to note that they don’t mention that they will charge you for the state filing if you get to that point. Another interesting note is that they will force you to enter your ‘registration’ for use of the free eFile option. (i.e. they want your contact info so Intuit can spam you). No matter, I have many special email addresses. Overall, they did a good job on form entry and help, and it was a solid app. Unfortunately, it took what felt like 10 minutes just to get through all the meaningless upsells at the end to finally file my taxes.
After that was done, I did the California CalFile online filing. This is essentially a free TurboTax done by the state government. I highly recommend this service. If you aren’t a graphics/industrial design snob, you will find this to be a solid web app. I went through it in under 15 minutes. I feel so much better about using a computer to send my info and getting that immediate acknowledgement. This is the way most interactions with the government should be.
Rant: Why is it that the IRS continues to force us to use these non-free corporations for something they should provide for free? I think California is the shining example again of how to do eGov right.
Bottom line: I filed my federal and state taxes completely free and will have my refund fast. I used the excellent California CalFile system again, it’s a great system. The IRS should make Federal filing free.