Top 4 Personal Loans for an Engagement Ring

Engagement ring

Updated November 08, 2017
Getting engaged is an exciting yet nerve-wracking milestone. You’re eager for your partner to say “yes” and hoping she’s impressed by what she sees when you open the box.

The best way to afford the ring of her dreams is planning early and saving up. Financing an engagement ring should be your absolute last resort. After all, there are other larger expenses that come after marriage including moving, buying a home or starting a family that you could spend that money on instead.

Still, if you decide financing is right for you, here are a few personal loans that provide funds for engagement rings:


[EarnestAPR]Rates from 5.25% APR[/EarnestAPR]

Earnest has the lowest interest rate of the loans on our list and no origination fee. [EarnestTerm]Loan terms are 1, 2 and 3 years[/EarnestTerm]. [EarnestLoanAmt]Earnest will lend you $2,000 to $50,000[/EarnestLoanAmt]. Other [EarnestCreditScore]than your credit score[/EarnestCreditScore], Earnest will look at your income, education, earning potential and other factors to decide if you’re eligible for the loan. [EarnestOrgFee]There’s no origination fee[/EarnestOrgFee] and [EarnestPrepayFee]no prepayment penalty[/EarnestPrepayFee]. There is, however, a [EarnestInq]hard pull of your credit report[/EarnestInq].

Earnest could be a good option if you have limited credit history, but an offer letter or current position that pays you more than enough money to cover loan payments. After submitting an application, you’ll get a response within 2 business days.


[LendingClubAPR]Rates from 5.99% APR[/LendingClubAPR]

LendingClub is a peer-to-peer loan marketplace where people who need to borrow money are matched up with investors. [LendingClubTerm]You can get a loan for up to 5 years[/LendingClubTerm]. [LendingClubLoanAmt]You can borrow up to $40,000[/LendingClubLoanAmt]. [LendingClubOrgFee]The origination fee is 1% to 6%[/LendingClubOrgFee]. Your origination fee is assigned based on your credit profile. The higher your credit score the less you’ll pay for origination. You can check to see if you’re approved and your rate without harming your credit score.

After applying for LendingClub, peer investors will see your profile in the marketplace and hopefully fund your loan. Once your loan is funded by investors and your application documents check out, you’ll get the money wired to your account.

To get the very best rates through LendingClub you’ll need an excellent credit history, low debt-to-income ratio and a high credit score among other factors.

LendingClub loans are not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

Lending Club


on Lending Club’s secure website


Karrot is not currently offering new loans. Should you have an outstanding loan, Karrot states they are still servicing those loans.

Karrot gives out [KarrotLoanAmt]personal loans from $5,000 to $35,000[/KarrotLoanAmt]. [KarrotTerm]Loan terms range from 3 to 5 years[/KarrotTerm]. [KarrotOrgFee]The loan has an origination fee of 1.05% to 4.75% that’s non-refundable and deducted from the loan upfront[/KarrotOrgFee]. Karrot doesn’t charge prepayment penalties. Other than origination, fees will only come into play if you skip out on a payment, have a check returned or request copies of your loan documents.

Shopping for loan rates on the site won’t ding your credit score. Karrot doesn’t go into specifics about the credit score you need to qualify, but you do need to at least have a credit history and a bank account to verify your income.


[ProsperAPR]Rates from 5.99% APR[/ProsperAPR]

[ProsperLoanAmt]You can borrow as little as $2,000 and up to $35,000 from[/ProsperLoanAmt] Prosper, another peer-to-peer lending marketplace. [ProsperTerm]Loan terms are 3 and 5 years[/ProsperTerm]. [ProsperOrgFee]Prosper loans have a 1% to 5% origination fee[/ProsperOrgFee], but [ProsperPrepayFee]no prepayment penalties[/ProsperPrepayFee].

At a minimum, [ProsperCreditScore]you must have a 640 FICO score to qualify for Prosper[/ProsperCreditScore]. You also need to have a debt-to-income ratio less than 50%. Shopping for rates with Prosper won’t impact your credit score either.

Honorable Mention – LendingKarma

LendingKarma isn’t a lender. Instead, it’s a site that manages loans between people who know each other. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid borrowing or lending money to friends and family since involving money in relationships tends to cause drama.

But, if someone you know agrees to help out and you’re both on the same page, LendingKarma can make your life easier. LendingKarma takes care of the logistics of borrowing including the contract, payment schedule and friendly reminders. The fee for contract administration is paid one time and $50 to $100 per loan.

Final Thought

Financing an engagement ring is not something we recommend. It’s just not worth going into debt over. Explore all of your options instead. Here are a few:

  • Get what you can afford in cash now and upgrade when you have more money.
  • Try unclaimed diamond and discount jewelry stores to get a deal.
  • Skip the diamond altogether for gems that are a little more affordable like amethyst or sapphire. These gems are popular now anyway.
  • Buy a stone similar to a diamond like moissanite or a replica until you can get a real one. If you choose a “fake” starter ring, make the decision as a couple. You don’t want her to find out from another source that her ring isn’t a true diamond.

At the end of the day, an engagement ring is supposed to symbolize commitment. Sadly in some ways it’s morphed into a symbol of status. That doesn’t mean you should feel pressured to get a ring (or ask for a ring) you can’t afford. Do what’s best for you.

The post Top 4 Personal Loans for an Engagement Ring appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The Most Expensive Zip Codes for Renters

When it comes to saving money on rent, ZIP code is everything.

Using data from rental market research firm Yardi Matrix, rental listing service RentCafe analyzed how the cost of renting differs by ZIP code in 125 major U.S. metro areas.

The top 10 most expensive ZIP codes are located in just two cities — New York and San Francisco. In fact, Manhattan and San Francisco took all but one of the top 20 spots in the RentCafe ranking. New York City alone is home to 27 of the top 100 most expensive ZIP codes.

The priciest pads are located in Manhattan’s Battery Park Ball Fields (10282), where renters pay an average $5,924 per month, making it the most expensive ZIP code in the country.

Right behind Battery Park were the Lenox Hill area (average rent: $4,898) and apartments on the Upper West Side near Lincoln Square (average rent: $4,892), which took the No. 2 and No. 3 slots on the most expensive list.

San Francisco had two in the top 10: ritzy neighborhoods Presidio and Main Post (94129), where average rental prices stand at $4,762, and the city’s South Beach area (94105) pulled in ninth at $4,380.

According to the ranking, Boston was the third most expensive city for renters. There, renters can expect to pay $4,227 to live in the city’s most expensive ZIP code, the Black Bay neighborhood (02199).

MagnifyMoney looked at RentCafe’s findings to figure out which cities had the most expensive ZIP codes. Here’s how they stacked up:


City State Most Expensive ZIP Code

Average Rent

1 Manhattan NY 10282 $5,924
2 San Francisco CA 94129 $4,762
3 Boston MA 02199 $4,227
4 Palo Alto CA 94301 $3,718
5 Menlo Park CA 94025 $3,657
6 Brooklyn NY 11201 $3,622
7 Los Angeles CA 90401 $3,477
8 Santa Monica CA 90405 $3,423
9 Durham NC 03824 $3,381
10 Playa Vista CA 90094 $3,367

How to save on rent

Always comparison shop.

Comparison shopping is one of the most important things you can do to save money on your next move. Comparing prices in and around the area you want to live is one way to make sure you pay a fair price for your new space.

Back in the day, comparing prices on apartment would have involved calling several different management companies to compare quotes. Even then, you might have missed a good deal. With today’s technology you can (and should) easily search for and compare rent prices all over the world with interactive maps on sites like RentCafe, Apartment Finder, or Cozy.

Fly South for lower rent

Renters looking to pay as little as possible should look toward southern states like Kansas or Alabama. Two Wichita, Kan., ZIP codes (67213 and 67211) priced around $400 per month, while apartments in Decatur, Ala. (35601) will run renters on average $458 per month. So, for what you’d pay for one month of rent in Manhattan, you could rent a place in Kansas for a whole year.

Below are the top ten cities with the least expensive rental listings based on Yardi Matrix data.

Ranking City State Least Expensive

ZIP Code

Average Rent
1 Wichita KS 67213 $407
2 Decatur AL 35601 $458
3 Memphis TN 38106 $464
4 Columbus GA 31903 $482
5 Fort Wayne IN 46809 $495
6 Huntsville AL 35810 $503
7 Louisville TN 37777 $507
8 Gravel Ridge AR 72076 $508
9 West Memphis AR 72301 $508
10 Athens AL 35611 $510


The post The Most Expensive Zip Codes for Renters appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 FinTech Startups Helping Businesses Fight Fraud

fraud identity theft hacker

Whether it’s a small shop or a multinational company, businesses must constantly have their guard up to protect against fraud. Installing security cameras, verifying dollar bills aren’t counterfeit, and hiring a security guard to prevent shoplifting can all help with physical fraud. But as commerce and banking continue to go online, digital security is critically important as well.

LexisNexis’ 2016 True Cost of Fraud study focuses on U.S. merchants. The study reveals businesses reported an increase in the cost of fraud as a percentage of annual revenue for the third year in a row.

On average, companies have dealt with nearly 650 fraudulent purchase attempts each month, and over 200 of those are successful. Increasingly, fraudulent purchases are coming from remote channels, either from mobile devices or other online methods.

Combating in-person, online, and mobile-transaction fraud can be an exhausting process, and several financial technology (FinTech) companies are working to help businesses outsmart thieves and win the fight.

1. Feedzai

freedzaiFeedzai uses machine learning and big-data analysis to help companies prevent fraud while managing payment processing, opening new customers accounts, underwriting merchant accounts, securing marketplaces, and validating customers.

Feedzai claims its Fraud Prevention That Learns technology, which bases its decisions on historical and real-time behavioral profiling, can detect fraud up to 10 days earlier than the competition, and identify 61% more fraud with lower false alarms.

2. IdentityMind Global

identitymindIdentityMind Global has a platform that payment service providers, online merchants, and financial institutions can use to identify and prevent fraudulent purchases, botnets, phishing attempts, account takeovers, and other types of attacks in real time.

The platform also offers anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC), and other risk management services to companies, including Bitcoin exchanges and internet lenders.

3. InAuth

inauthInAuth is a risk management and fraud-detection and -prevention platform for the banking, payments, health care, e-commerce, and mobile commerce industries. Large companies can also use it to secure and identify employees’ devices and information.

InAuth’s InExchange service allows businesses from different industries to share positive and negative information about devices, helping companies determine whether or not the device has been linked to fraudulent activity in the past. InAuth also works to identify when devices are infected with malware or crimeware, and whether or not it’s a rooted or jailbroken device, potential signs of fraudulent use.

4. Jumio

jumioAvailable for merchants in the retail, travel, gaming, finance, telecom, and sharing economy industries, Jumio offers digital identification verification, mobile checkout, and form-filling software. Two of its three products can help prevent fraud.

Netverify helps authenticate potential customers by letting them take a picture of their photo ID and use their phone or computer to scan their face. The software verifies that the person matches the photo in the ID. BAM Checkout lets customers make mobile purchases by taking pictures of their credit or debit card and driver’s license. The software compares the names on the ID and card, and can help prevent fraud while creating an easy checkout process for customers. Jumio also has a third service, Fastfill, which allows customers to quickly fill in their information by snapping a picture of an ID card.

While Jumio filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2016 due to some reported financial irregularities within the company, Jumio’s assets were acquired by Centana Growth Partners. Under this new umbrella, Jumio does seem to have steadied itself and raised an additional $15 million from Centana in August 2016.

5. iovation

iovationiovation delivers device-based fraud prevention and authentication services to help prevent mobile and online fraud. The service automatically collects information about a device. This information is used to visit a company’s site and decide whether or not they should allow, deny, or conduct a manual review of a transaction. For example, iovation may notice a device was used to make over $1,200 of purchases in the previous 12 hours, check to see if a phone number is connected to more than three devices, and see if this purchase is coming from a high-risk location.

Using iovation’s fraud prevention service, companies can require suspicious users to go through additional identification protocol or prevent a transaction outright. They can also use iovationScore, a predictive risk score, to help them identify good and bad customers. As a result, they make a checkout experience smoother for good customers, by letting them skip a security check, for example. The scoring system uses real-time machine learning to monitor billions of transactions globally and increase its predictive capabilities.

6. BioCatch

biocatchBioCatch has created cloud-based technology that builds user profiles based on over 500 cognitive parameters, including behavioral patterns. By learning what it looks like when fraudsters create accounts, purchase products, or browse websites, BioCatch can help detect and stop future potential frauds. BioCatch can also help detect when someone takes over a legitimate account by comparing a user’s normal behaviors, including typing speed or cursor movement, to behaviors during the fraudulent session.

7. Trulioo

truliooCanadian startup, Trulioo, uses data from over 140 sources to collect and share information on over 3 billion people, making it one of the largest consumer data companies in the world. E-commerce stores can use Trulioo to verify new customers, reducing the risk of fraudulent purchases and subsequent chargebacks. Financial institutions can use Trulioo’s data to help them meet AML and KYC identity verification requirements.

The post 7 FinTech Startups Helping Businesses Fight Fraud appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

4 Digital Banks That Treat You and Your Money Well

If you are still banking with a physical bank, it may be time to go digital instead. Digital banks offer several benefits and features that physical banks can’t, or don’t, offer due to the cost of operating a physical location. Because online banks don’t have these overhead costs, they can offer more benefits to help customers save money on fees, and earn more money via interest too.

There are several online banks from which financially savvy customers can choose from these days. If you are looking to go digital with your banking, here are a few good options to consider.

Ally Bank

ally1_c794a82274fb5b321fa200860b050e1bAlly is a digital bank with a full range of services, including online savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, IRAs, checking accounts, credit cards, and more. It has also been named the “Best Online Bank” 5 years in a row from 2011 to 2015 by Money Magazine.

Ally has become a popular place for people to store their savings in an online savings account due to the 1.00% APY currently available on all balance tiers. It also offers 0.85% on all money market balances. These accounts offer daily compounded interest, FDIC insurance deposits, and no monthly maintenance fees.

Checking accounts with Ally Bank allow customers to earn interest on their money, which is something that is not as common with physical banks. Daily balances of less than $15,000 earn 0.10% APY, and accounts with a daily balance over $15,000 earn 0.60% APY.

Customers of Ally Bank also enjoy the ability to use any of the 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. for free. Plus, Ally Bank reimburses up to $10 per statement cycle for fees incurred at other ATMS. It also offers exceptional customer service with 24/7 live customer care.

Charles Schwab

charles-schwabCharles Schwab is another bank that started offering more digital products for its customers, including checking and savings, lending, and investing.

The High Yield Investor Checking account is a popular choice for many customers as Schwab offers this account with no ATM fees worldwide and unlimited ATM reimbursement for fees incurred each billing cycle. It also offers no account minimums or monthly services fees, and easy banking 24/7 with Schwab Mobile. The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is linked to your existing Schwab One brokerage account so you can manage both accounts with one login.

The interest rate on the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is 0.06% APY no matter your balance, but you do have to open a Schwab One brokerage account in order to use a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account. There are no fees or minimum balance for the Schwab One brokerage account, and you can transfer funds between the two accounts for free.

Schwab also offers a High Yield Investor Savings account with no minimum balance or monthly service charge. The interest rate is 0.10% APY on all balances. It also qualifies for the unlimited ATM fee rebates.


usaa1 (1)USAA offers checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and many different loan products for cars, homes, and more. According to its website, they have been rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by over 16,000 members.

USAA offers free checking with a minimum opening balance of $25. After you open a free checking account, there is no minimum balance, no monthly service fee, overdraft protection, fee bill pay, and free ATMs nationwide. USAA reimburses up to $15 in ATM fees per month.

Like most digital banks, USAA offers interest on its checking accounts, although it is lower than many competitors at only 0.01% APY. Its savings accounts offer rates of 0.05% APY to 0.15% APY depending on the balance of your account.

There is a catch: you need military affiliation to be able to open an account. This can include a connection through a family member, such as a parent or spouse.

Capital One 360

capital-one-360Capital One 360 offers “no fees, no kidding” checking and savings accounts with no fees and no minimums. While it doesn’t offer ATM fee reimbursement, Capital One does offer a unique feature compared to many other digital banks: the ability to deposit cash into your checking or savings account with select Capital One ATMs in a 360 Café or Capital One Bank location.

The interest rates on a 360 Checking account range from 0.20% APY to 0.90% APY, depending on your balance.

  • $0 – $49,999.99: 0.20% APY
  • $50,000 – $99,999.99: 0.75% APY
  • $100,000 or more: 0.90% APY

The interest rate on a 360 Savings account is 0.75% APY.

If you’re a Capital One credit card customer, you can also conveniently access both your credit card information and Capital One 360 banking information with a single sign-on.

Another unique feature of Capital One 360 is the ability to create multiple savings account with any nickname you choose. You can also use their “My Saving Goals” section to make automatic savings deposits and set goals for your various savings accounts.

Which Digital Bank Is Right for You?

As digital banks become more popular, it can be difficult to determine which one might be the best fit for you. Of course, it depends on several factors, such as the features and services you most value, how you plan to use your account, and more. No matter which digital bank you choose, the important thing is that you are making the right decision for you and your money.

The post 4 Digital Banks That Treat You and Your Money Well appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The 5 Best 529 Savings Plans Anyone Can Use

college-grad (1)

With 50 states offering a 529 savings plan for college, and many offering more than one, how do you know which plan is right for you and your family?

It can be confusing to sort through all of that information, but lucky for you we’ve already done a lot of the hard work. We compared all the options and came away with five 529 plans that stand out as fantastic options.

In this post we explain the criteria we evaluated and why these five plans rose above the rest.

Criteria Used to Compare 529 Plans

What makes for a good 529 college savings account? Here are the main criteria we considered as we compared plans.

Investment Options

Does the plan offer high-quality investment options that have performed well through a number of market conditions? Does it offer easy-to-use age-based options that automatically adjust as your child nears college?

We looked for 529 plans that could answer “yes” to both of the questions above, as well as plans that emphasized the use of index funds, which the research shows have the best chance of outperforming.


Cost is the number one predictor of future investment returns. The lower the cost, the more likely it is you’ll get better returns.

We looked for 529 plans that minimized expenses so that more of your money is put to good use.

Minimum Required Investment

We know that budgets are tight when raising a family, so we looked for plans that allowed you to get started without a big initial investment.

Other Features

Beyond the three main criteria above, we looked at all the features each 529 plan offers and considered how they might benefit you.

Evaluated for Out-of-State Residents

In order to get an apples-to-apples comparison that applies to as many people as possible, we evaluated 529 plans as if we were an out-of-state resident.

But some states offer significant incentives to residents who use their home state’s plan. There are often tax breaks for contributing, and some states even offer reduced costs for residents. So while you aren’t required to use your home state’s plan, it’s worth looking into the benefits it offers before considering other options.

So, which 529 plans came out on top? Let’s dive in.

1. New York 529 Direct Plan

New York’s 529 plan offers a small but high-quality set of investment options with minimal expenses and the ability to choose from pre-built or customizable portfolios.

  • Investment Options: 13 different Vanguard mutual funds that can be mixed and matched in any combination you please. You can also choose from three different age-based options that create the investment mix for you and adjust it as your child nears college age.
  • Fees: Every mutual fund within the plan comes with an expense ratio of 0.16%, which is about as low as you’ll find. There are no other fees associated with New York’s 529 Plan.
  • Minimum Investment: $25.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

2. Utah Education Savings Plan

Utah offers a wider set of investment options and some unique features that allow for more customization, though it comes at a slightly higher cost.

  • Investment Options: Utah’s 529 plan offers a strong set of both Vanguard and DFA investment options (DFA Investments are typically only offered through a financial planner). They offer age-based options and pre-built static portfolios, as well as some powerful customization tools that are described in the Other Features section below.
  • Fees: Utah’s age-based investment portfolios range from 0.17% to 0.21% in expense ratio. Other investment options range from 0.20% to 0.60%. There is an annual fee for non-Utah residents who want paper statements of up to $12. There is also a $15 fee for wire transfers and a $30 fee for returned checks or rejected electronic contributions.
  • Minimum Investment: $0.
  • Other Features: Utah offers two unique features compared to the other plans on this list:
    • Age-Based Customization – Utah allows you to create your own age-based investment plan using any of the underlying funds within the plan. This is a great tool for DIYers who like to control their investments.
    • Advisor Access – If you work with a financial planner, Utah makes it easy to give him or her trade-only access to your account to manage your investments.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

3. Michigan Education Savings Program

Michigan offers a different set of investment options than New York and Utah, which may appeal to a different set of investors.

  • Investment Options: Michigan offers a lineup of index funds from TIAA-CREF. There are three age-based options to choose from, as well as five other funds that you can mix and match as you please. There isn’t quite as much customization allowed as with New York and Utah, but if you’d prefer to use TIAA-CREF this is a high quality option.
  • Fees: The age-based investment options have expense ratios ranging from 0.14% to 0.21%, and the other investment options range from 0.12% to 0.24%. There are no other fees of note.
  • Minimum Investment: $25.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

4. California ScholarShare

California offers a similar lineup of TIAA-CREF index funds as Michigan, and in some cases with slightly lower fees. They also offer a set of actively managed funds as well that may be attractive to some or lead to confusion for others.

  • Investment Options: California has a single age-based option that uses index funds as well as a set of 10 either single or multi-index fund portfolios that can be combined in any proportion. There is also an actively managed age-based option and a suite of actively managed portfolios to choose from.
  • Fees: The age-based index fund option ranges from 0.12% to 0.19%, with other index portfolios ranging from 0.10% to 0.22%. The actively managed options range from 0.33% to 0.58%. There are no other fees of note.
  • Minimum Investment: $25.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

5. Nevada Vanguard 529

Nevada’s Vanguard 529 plan offers an attractive mix of Vanguard mutual funds, though with a high minimum investment it may not be an option for those who are starting with smaller contributions.

  • Investment Options: There are three different age-based options, all utilizing Vanguard mutual funds. There are also 19 individual funds and investors are allowed to create their own portfolios using up to five.
  • Fees: All age-based funds have an expense ratio of 0.19%. The individual funds range from 0.21% to 0.49%. There is a $20 annual maintenance fee if your balance drops below $3,000.
  • Minimum Investment: $3,000 for out-of-state residents. $1,000 for Nevada residents, though the $20 annual fee still applies for balances under $3,000.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

Which 529 Plan Will You Use?

When looking at 529 plans, the first step is always to check your home state’s plan. There may be certain tax incentives and discounts that make that your state’s more attractive than any other.

But if you’re looking out-of-state, the five plans above all offer high-quality investments with minimal fees, giving your money the best chance to grow.

The post The 5 Best 529 Savings Plans Anyone Can Use appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Best Tax Software of 2016 to Save Money

Tax return check

It’s tax season, and if you’re like most people, you’re dreading it. Gathering all your paperwork, crossing all your t’s, dotting your i’s, and forking over a bunch of money to your accountant might make receiving a refund look less attractive.

However, filing earlier is better. The longer you wait, the higher your risk of identify fraud is, and the more expensive tax preparation software gets. The good news is if your tax situation is simple, there are plenty of ways to take control of filing your taxes, and for less money!

Do you only need to file a 1040? Then you’re in luck. The IRS has approved a number of tax preparation software for free federal filing, provided your adjusted gross income meets the requirements.

Need something with a bit more detail? We’re taking a look at the top five tax preparation software, and comparing all the different packages to figure out which is the best deal.

What Makes Tax Preparation Software Great?

There are plenty of options out there to choose from when it comes to tax preparation software, and the pricing is often tricky to navigate. Trickier than it needs to be, anyway. That’s where we come in. We’re breaking down all the costs and fees and giving you a straight recommendation on which tax software to choose.

The following criteria are what we were on the lookout for when choosing each:

  1. Price: Base prices, prices to file a state return, and prices to file a federal return (when applicable)
  2. Cost of add-ons: Are different tax forms, such as Schedule A’s, E’s, and D’s more money?
  3. Customer service availability: Filing your taxes can still be a complicated process. It helps to have a representative to call for free with any questions you have.
  4. How payment is received: Most people prefer to receive their refund electronically, but some companies offer pre-paid debit cards.
  5. Is audit help available after filing? In case you find yourself getting audited by the IRS, it helps to have professionals on your side.
  6. Importing prior returns: Having the ability to import your prior returns is great if your situation hasn’t changed much as it cuts down on the amount of time it takes to file.

For the purposes of this article, we’re covering details that matter to an average family with two income earners, who have dependents, and aren’t business owners in any way.

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Before you go through this guide, you can also go to the IRS website to see what software is recommended for you so you have a starting point. You’ll also get information on which one you qualify with to file for free.

Before you jump to an online tax preparation software option, see if you can file for free

Before you get started, double-check to see if you qualify for free filing. This could include:

  • If you make less than $100,000 and can file with a 1040EZ
  • You’re 60 years of age or older with low to moderate income
  • You have an AGI of $62,000 or less
  • You have an AGI of $54,000 or less, are disabled or have limited English

Check all your options here.

Self-employed? Then find your best options here.

Learn about free tax filing for for every state online here.

Best for Low Cost, No Frills: FreeTaxUSA




FreeTaxUSA emphasizes its straightforward pricing. It offers the basics for less, without all the bells and whistles. It’s a decent tax preparation software if you’re used to filing your own taxes, but the website itself isn’t very user-friendly. Its FAQ database isn’t presented well, so it may take a bit longer to find the answers you need. That said, if price is your top concern, it’s worth considering.


FreeTaxUSA has its services divided into two categories: free and deluxe. Free is free for the most part, although you’ll pay $12.95 to file a state return on either plan. However, it doesn’t matter how complicated your tax situation is – you’ll pay the same no matter what.

The deluxe plan is only an extra $5.95, and it includes a few more options detailed below.

Cost of add-ons

While FreeTaxUSA has an affordable “base” price, there are a few add-ons you can choose if you need to. You’ll pay $9.95 for an amended return under the free plan, and it’s included in the deluxe plan.

You can also pay $5.95 for priority customer support on the free plan, though it comes included in the deluxe plan. Paying $5.95 to upgrade to deluxe makes sense if you want access to live chat and audit assist as well.

Customer service

Free unlimited customer support is offered for the free plan. Priority customer support with the deluxe plan means going to the “front of the line” whenever you have a question, and the live chat is available during tax season every weekday from 9AM-9PM ET.

How you can receive payment

You can receive your tax refund via direct deposit or check.

Audit Support/Guarantees

FreeTaxUSA only offers audit support to those who purchase the deluxe plan, but this doesn’t provide you with hands-on help like some of the audit services offered by other companies. Instead, you can speak with an audit specialist who can address your notice and provide you with information on how to rectify it.

It doesn’t look like FreeTaxUSA offers a maximum refund guarantee, but it does offer an Accuracy Guarantee. If there are any miscalculations on your tax return, it will reimburse you for any penalties and interest incurred. You have to write to FreeTaxUSA within 45 days of the error being discovered to get this reimbursement, though.

Importing prior returns

If you have filed a tax return with FreeTaxUSA previously, you can import the information over for free.

Overall Verdict

FreeTaxUSA is a good, no-frills budget option for those who are first-time filers, those with simple tax situations, or those who don’t need as much guidance in filing their taxes. If you found yourself overwhelmed at the number of packages available with other tax preparation software, FreeTaxUSA provides a less complicated solution.

Best No Frills and Easy to Use: TaxSlayer

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TaxSlayer might not be a household name, but its tax software has been in use since 1998. It claims to have helped prepare millions of returns for Americans and started off as a family-owned tax preparation business. The website is very user friendly and modern compared to some of the other choices.


Unlike other tax preparation companies, TaxSlayer only offers online products, making it easy to compare each:

  • Free basic edition: You can electronically file a 1040 EZ return for free, although the state return costs $23.99 for the first return, and $14.99 for each additional state
  • Classic edition: $12.99, and the state return costs $14.99
  • Premium edition: $34.99, and the state return also costs $14.99

Cost of add-ons

There’s not a huge difference between what’s offered for each edition. The biggest difference is in the level of support each receives.

As a classic edition user, you have the ability to import your return from the prior year, and to compare that return to your current one.

Going premium gives you priority access to customer support in the form of chat and jumping ahead in the phone lines.

As you can see on the comparison page, both the classic and premium edition comes with “all major forms,” which are listed here.

Customer service

The basic plan includes free email support and live phone support, which is nice to see. Live chat and “ask a tax professional” is only offered for the premium edition.

How you can receive payment

You can receive your refund via direct deposit or check. In some cases, you can have your state refund put on a pre-paid debit card.

Audit Support/Guarantees

TaxSlayer offers a guaranteed maximum refund, in which they’ll refund you the purchase price you paid if you get a larger refund using another tax preparation software.

It also guarantees its calculations, and will reimburse you for federal or state penalties and interest charges.

However, audit assistance is only available to those who purchase the premium edition.

Importing prior returns

TaxSlayer only allows classic and premium users to import prior tax returns filed with TaxSlayer.

Overall Verdict

One drawback to TaxSlayer is that it’s not supported in every state, so check to see if you can file by using this map from its website.

Other than that, its product offerings are fairly straightforward. If you don’t think you need much guidance and don’t have a complicated tax situation, choose the free edition. If you need a little extra support, go with classic, and if you want to get the best level of support, choose premium.

Read full TaxSlayer review here.

Best Options for Audit Protection: TurboTax and H&R Block

It’s a fairly low probability you’d be picked by the IRS to get audited, especially with straight-forward taxes. However, if you still feel the need to pay for the extra protection, and recognize you will pay a premium for the service, these are your best options.




Most people have heard of TurboTax as it’s one of the larger giants out there. If you’ve been a customer for the past few years, you might remember the confusion surrounding its pricing in 2015.

There are a lot of layers to the product offerings, and there are four different packages to choose from for both online and CD products. Let’s look at each.


These prices are for TurboTax’s online products:

  • The federal free version allows you to file state and federal for free if you’re filing a 1040EZ/A
  • The deluxe version is $34.99 (down from $54.99)
  • The premier version is $54.99 (down from $79.99)
  • The home & business version is $79.99 (down from $104.99), but this is primarily for business owners

Note that filing with the state is an additional $36.99 across the board (aside from the free version).

These are the prices if you want to buy the CD product:

  • Basic: $29.99
  • Deluxe: $59.99
  • Premier: $89.99
  • Home & Business: $99.99

For the basic plan, filing with the state is an extra $39.99, and if you want to file electronically, it’s an additional $19.99.

For all other CD plans, one state file is included. Additional states are $39.99, and e-files are still an additional $19.99. You can file an unlimited amount of federal tax returns, and you can e-file up to 5 federal returns for free.

Cost of add-ons

There’s a $20 difference between the deluxe and premier version of TurboTax – is it worth paying for?

As you can see on the pricing page, the premier package offers investments and rental property income, whereas deluxe doesn’t. If rental property isn’t something you’re concerned with, or if you’re not an active investor, then you’re safe sticking with the deluxe version.

The deluxe version is listed as the most popular. If your tax situation isn’t simple enough to file a 1040EZ/A, or if you want to itemize, or if you have charitable contributions you want to deduct, it’s worth paying for.

Customer service

You can talk to a tax expert as long as you pay for an online TurboTax product. Tax experts aren’t available for those filing with the free federal offering. Within the fine print, it says “fees may apply” when speaking with a tax expert.

Product experts are available for those who purchase CD products.

How you can receive payment

You can choose to get your refund via direct deposit, check, or a pre-paid Visa card.

Audit Support and Guarantees

TurboTax guarantees that you’ll get the maximum refund available to you using its software. If you happen to get a larger or smaller tax amount due by using another preparation method, it will refund you the purchase price you paid. Those using the free version will receive a payment of $14.99 and a refund of the state purchase price paid.

TurboTax will also cover any penalties and interest incurred if there are calculation errors found by the IRS.

Lastly, it offers an Audit Support Guarantee in the form of free year-round audit support guidance from a tax professional.

Importing prior returns

TurboTax allows you to import last year’s tax return if you’ve used TurboTax before, but it will also import information from H&R Block or TaxAct online software.

You can import your W-2 straight from your employer if you have its EIN, or you can take a picture of it and upload it.

Overall Verdict

Make things easier on yourself by choosing an online product. TurboTax says in its FAQ that the CD products are a better value for those filing multiple returns (for family and friends), but if you’re just looking to file for your family, then you’re better off with an online product. The deluxe version is a safe bet for the average family.

Read full TurboTax review here.

H&R Block



H&R Block is another household name, and it argues that it’s the cheapest software in town – not TaxAct. It has a comparison chart on the main page of its website to illustrate this. Let’s investigate.


For online products:

  • Free: Filing federal taxes is free, though you’ll pay $9.99 to file per state
  • Basic: $24.99, and $36.99 per state
  • Deluxe: $34.99, and $36.99 per state

All online products come with free federal e-file, however, TaxAct’s free plan gives you a free federal and state return, whereas H&R Block’s doesn’t. That said, H&R Block’s free version offers more options.

For downloads:

  • Basic: $19.95, and $39.95 for state
  • Deluxe: $44.95, and $39.95 for state
  • Premium: $64.95, first filing for one state is included

All downloadable software comes with 5 free federal e-files. State e-files are $19.95 each for all versions, though additional state filings are $39.95 each.

Cost of add-ons

H&R Block highlights that it offers the Schedule A form for free on its basic plan, whereas other companies offer it with their plus or deluxe packages.

That’s certainly a highlight, though you might want to consider upgrading from the online free plan to the basic plan if technical support, storage of your tax return, and importing your tax return from last year is important.

The deluxe plan is $10 more, and you get access to mortgage interest deductions as well as reporting investment income, and guidance on how to optimize your taxes with charitable donations.

The downside is reporting rental property income is only available to premium users, and it’s offered at a lower tier elsewhere.

As for downloadable products, the deluxe plan offers the same advantages over the basic plan, although you also get one free state filing.

Consider upgrading to premium if you need a Schedule E for rental property income, or if you received an inheritance this past year.

Customer service

Free technical support and free, unlimited tax advice from an expert is offered across all plans except the free version.

How you can receive payment

You can get your refund via direct deposit, check, or put it on an Emerald Card Prepaid MasterCard.

Audit Support and Guarantees

H&R Block offers a maximum refund guarantee, and if “another online tax preparation method” gives you a larger refund amount, or shows you owe less, it will refund the purchase price of the software.

It also has an Accurate Calculations Guarantee, which means you’ll get reimbursed up to $10,000 if the IRS finds any mathematical errors on your return. H&R Block covers the penalties and interest.

The audit is where H&R Block shines. It offers a free in-person audit consultation if you filed with H&R Block and receive a notice from the IRS.

Importing prior returns

You can import last year’s tax return if you filed with H&R Block, TurboTax, or Quicken.

A Word of Caution With the “Bonus” Refund

H&R Block is running a promotion to get a “bonus 5% or 10%” on top of your refund. A look at the fine print reveals it’s not that simple.

First, you must choose a $100 increment from your federal tax refund to put toward buying an e-gift card. H&R Block will then put an extra 5% or 10% (depending on the software you’re using) toward the purchase of the gift card.

Unfortunately, it’s not a flat bonus. If you’re planning on using your tax refund to pay down debt or increase your savings, you might not benefit from this.

Overall Verdict

H&R Block offers free in-person audit assistance and a Schedule A form on its lower tier. If your tax situation isn’t that complicated, but you want to itemize, H&R Block may be a good solution. If you want to report rental property income or investment gains, then you should look elsewhere.

Read full H&R Block review here.

Best Option to Lock-in Low Filing Price: TaxAct




TaxAct is another big player in the tax preparation software industry. It also claims to be one of the least expensive options out there. Let’s see what it has to offer.


For online products:

  • Free: Free is free. If you’re filing a 1040 EZ/A, you don’t have to worry about paying for federal or state
  • Basic: $9.99, state is an additional $9.99
  • Plus: $14.99, state is an additional $14.99
  • Premium: $21.99 (usually reserved for self-employed individuals), state is an additional $14.99

For download products:

  • Free: Again, if you have a simple tax situation, you can file your federal taxes for free. You’ll pay an additional $14.99 for each state
  • Basic: $19.99, includes 5 free federal e-files and 1 state return
  • Plus: $29.99, includes 5 free federal e-files and 1 state return
  • Premium: $39.99, includes 5 free federal e-files and 1 state return

There’s also an “all-state” version available for $59.99, but you likely don’t need this unless you moved a lot during the past year, or are filing for multiple people.

If you’re interested in comparing TaxAct to TurboTax and H&R Block at a quick glance, it provides this chart on its website.

Cost of add-ons

For the purpose of this review, we’ll focus on comparing the free, basic, and plus plans.

The only upgrade you get when choosing the basic plan over the free plan is the ability to import last year’s tax return (if you filed with TaxAct). Online users will also get a “Price Lock Guarantee,” which means whatever the price of the product is at the time you begin filing is what you’ll be charged. Prices are known to increase the closer it gets to tax day.

When you upgrade from basic to plus (a $5 increase with online software, or $10 increase with downloadable software), you gain access to Schedule A, D, and E, meaning you can itemize, report gains and losses from investments, and report rental property income. You can also import donations made.

Customer service

If you choose the free option, you’ll have access to free email help. All other plans get access to email and phone support.

How you can receive payment

You can receive your refund via direct deposit, check, or an American Express Serve reload card.

Audit Support and Guarantees

TaxAct guarantees that you’ll receive the largest refund if you file with its software. If you don’t, it will refund you the purchase price of the software. If you’re filing using the free version, you’ll receive $4.99.

To obtain a refund, you’ll have to write to TaxAct within 60 days of filing.

TaxAct also guarantees its calculations, so if the IRS spots an error, TaxAct will pay for it (penalty and interest included).

If you’re audited, TaxAct offers an Audit Assistant website you can use, but you can also email or fax for additional (personal) assistance. It doesn’t make any mention of additional fees for this service.

Importing prior returns:

TaxAct can import last year’s tax return if you filed with TaxAct, though this isn’t available with the free version.

Overall Verdict

TaxAct is certainly one of the cheaper options, and it offers many of the same services as TurboTax and H&R Block. If your tax situation is on the simple side, but not simple enough to file for free, go for the basic or plus online product, or the basic download product.

If you want to itemize deductions and have rental property income or investment information to report, then you should choose the plus version.

Which Should You Pick?

This answer greatly depends on your needs. As we mentioned at the beginning, you can visit the IRS website and fill out a short survey that will point you in the right direction. Most of these companies also offer to guide you to the right product if you select the situations that apply to you.

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re a newer filer or recent graduate, you can likely get away with filing on any of the free versions offered (or if you meet the requirements to file for free).

If you’re part of a dual-income family, have dependents, have made charitable contributions, need to itemize, or need a Schedule D or E, the plus or deluxe plans should cover you.

In most cases, you won’t need more than that. The top tier offerings are reserved for those who have businesses or a lot of money being shuffled around. Don’t pay for more when you don’t have to.

Be sure to compare prices carefully if you’re stuck between two companies. As you can see, some include state and federal filings, while others don’t. Not all plans are created equal – TurboTax’s deluxe version may not have the same options as H&R Block’s.

Hopefully you have a better idea of what tax preparation software you should choose. Don’t procrastinate on the decision, though. Remember that prices increase around March, and it’s better to have your money working for you than with the government!

The post Best Tax Software of 2016 to Save Money appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Free Tax Filing Options for Every State Online

Tax return check

Filing your taxes doesn’t need to be expensive. Many tax preparation companies offer different editions of their software, including free versions, and the majority of Americans qualify for at least free Federal e-filing. Because of this, however, many of the companies will try to upsell you on the price to file your state taxes. Luckily, there are plenty of options to file both state and federal taxes for free.

The Free File options and requirements

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and tax software developers partnered in 2003 to offer a free option for e-filing federal tax returns. Today, the Free File program gives about 70 percent of all taxpayers a no-cost option for filing federal taxes. There are 13 online preparation options to choose from, including some from the most well-known tax software companies. Some options even work for those with complex tax situations, such as: itemized deductions, business income, or investment income.

There are limitations on who can use the Free File software. At a minimum, you must have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of no more than $62,000. Some of the options have stricter income requirements, age requirements, or are only for residents of select states.

Free File software options that also offer free state filing

Only a few Free File offerings include free state e-filing in addition to a free federal filing.

We’ve rounded up the tax preparation software that allows you to file both state and federal taxes through the Free File program.

Exceptions to the rule: Residents of Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington state, and Wyoming have no state-level income tax and may not need to file a state tax return at all. New Hampshire and Tennessee tax interest and dividend income above $2,400 and $1,250 respectively, and residents may need to file a state return only if they exceed this amount. If you live in one of these states, you may want to compare all the Free File options before choosing.

Tax Preparation Software with Free State and Federal Filing

Free state and federal filing for all states

H&R Block Free FileYou must have an AGI of $62,000 or less and be between 17 and 50 years old. If you’re an active-duty military member with an AGI of $62,000 or less, there is no age requirement.

OnLine TaxesYou must have an AGI of $13,000 to $62,000 and there is no age requirement.

TurboTax Freedom EditionYou must have an AGI of $31,000 or less, be an active-duty military member with an AGI of $62,000 or less, or be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Free state and federal filing for some states You must have an AGI of $62,000 or less and be 60 or younger if you live in CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MT, NE, NJ, NM, OH, PA, UT or WI. There is no age requirement in other states. Free state filing is available in AL, AR, AZ, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MI, MN, MO, MS, ND, NC, OK, OR, RI, SC, VT, VA, and WV. 

FileYourTaxes.comYou must have an AGI of $8,000 to $62,000 and be between 15 and 65 years old. State filing is free for residents of Iowa, Idaho, Nevada, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Free1040TaxReturn.comYou must have an AGI $62,000 or less and be 70 years old or younger. State returns are free for residents of Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, or West Virginia. Free federal filing is not offered to residents of Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, or Texas.

TaxAct Free FileYou must have an AGI of $50,000 or less and be 56 years old or younger, be an active-duty military member with an AGI of $62,000 or less, or be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Free state returns may be available for filers in AZ, AR, DC, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, OR, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, and WV.

Other ways to get free federal and state filing

Not formally part of the Free File program, these software options have fewer limitations but still provide free federal and state tax preparation and filing.

United Way’s MyFreeTaxesOffered from a partnership between United Way and H&R Block, this edition is free for all filers that made less than $62,000. 

TurboTax Absolute ZeroThere are no income or age requirements for the Absolute Zero edition, but you’re only eligible if you file a 1040EZ or a 1040A form without any business, contractor, or rental income, and with a standard deduction. The price may increase on March 18, 2016.

Free File Options for AGI Above $62,000: State-by-state free filing options 

Feeling frustrated because you don’t qualify for a free state filing with online tax preparation software nor with United Way? You may still have one more option. A lot of individual states offer free filing directly through state-backed websites. However, there may not be tax preparation assistance and this isn’t available in all states.

Below, we go state-by-state and list additional free options for e-filing your state tax return. The state-specific offerings sometimes come from tax software companies or are created and managed by the state itself. They may not be as user-friendly as the third-party alternatives, some states only offer electronic fillable forms, but there are often less stringent requirements. Unless otherwise noted, none of the state-specific options have an income or age requirement.

Regardless of where you live, if you need further assistance or prefer to work with someone in person, you may be eligible for free tax preparation assistance from the AARP Tax-Aide or through the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.


You can file resident and non-resident Alabama tax returns online at My Alabama Taxes (MAT) for free, but there’s no preparation assistance.


Alaska doesn’t have a state income tax.


Full-year residents with an AGI below $3,500 can file their Arizona state returns for free on Arizona also offers free electronic fillable forms and filing to residents, part-year residents, and nonresidents.


Arkansas doesn’t provide additional free tax preparation or filing options.


California offers a state-run CalFile program that lets some full-year residents e-file for free. The requirements aren’t as strict as those of the federal FreeFile program, but there is a maximum Adjusted Gross Income requirement of $178,706 for single filers and $357,417 for joint filers. Among other requirements, you can’t take the Mortgage Income Credit, claim capital gains, or have business income or losses.


You can file a resident, part-year resident, or nonresident state tax return using Colorado’s free electronic filing system, Revenue Online. However, the site doesn’t offer preparation assistance. The Piton Foundation and Denver Asset Building Coalition offers free in-person tax help to Colorado households with a 2015 income of $53,000 or less.


Connecticut allows you to file your taxes online at the state’s revenue service site. To qualify, you must have filed a Connecticut state return the previous year, have no more than ten W-2s and 1099s, and not change your filing status between single and joint.


You can file a Delaware state income tax return for free through the state’s website.


Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, but Impact America offers free federal tax assistance to households with one or more children that earned up to $52,000, or $20,000 for households with no children.


The TaxSlayer Free File Edition offers free state returns to qualified Georgia filers. You must have an AGI of $62,000 or less and be 52 or younger or an active-duty military member.


Hawaii individual resident and non-resident income taxes can be filed and paid online for a $1 administration fee. However, the N-13 Resident Individual Income Tax Return (Short Form) isn’t eligible this year.


Idaho doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.


Full-year Illinois residents can use MyTax Illinois to file their tax return for free if they have filed an Illinois state tax return before or have an Illinois driver’s license or ID.


Indiana doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.


Full-year residents can file Iowa tax returns online for free with the eFile & Pay system.


You can file resident and non-resident Kansas tax returns online for free through the KSWebFile system and manage your tax profile online with KSWebTax.


Kentucky state-sponsored KY E-Tax lets users pay their taxes, but doesn’t provide preparation assistance.


You can file individual income tax returns on the Louisiana Department of Revenue’s website for free if you’ve filed a Louisiana state return after the 2004 tax year, or you have a Louisiana driver’s license or ID card.


Maine’s free I-file tax allows full-year residents to file and pay taxes. Some nonresident and part-year residents can also use it.


This year, Maryland’s free iFile service does not support nonresident tax forms, but it’s still working and free for residents.


Full-year residents can file their state taxes using Massachusetts’s WebFile for Income service.


In addition to the FreeFile options, full-year residents can file free returns at, but only if their AGI is less than $3,500.


Minnesota doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.


Mississippi doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services


In addition to the FreeFile options, offers free returns to full-year Missouri residents with an AGI below $3,500.


Montana allows first-time resident filers, non-residents, and part-time residents to file online with Taxpayer Access Point.


Full-year residents can file their Nebraska tax return with the state-run NebFile system.


Nevada doesn’t have a state income tax.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire doesn’t have a state income tax, but there are taxes on investment income. Non-first-time filers can pay taxes with e-File New Hampshire.

New Jersey

NJ WebFile allows full-year filers, including first-time filers, to pay their New Jersey taxes online for free.

New Mexico

Full-year residents can pay New Mexico state income taxes with the Taxpayer Access Point. The state also provides free assistance and preparation assistance to citizens with an AGI of $22,000 or less.

New York

Full-year residents can use the New York State Web File system. There’s no income limit, but some restrictions apply.

North Carolina

The Benefit Bank of North Carolina provides free tax preparation and filing services to single filers with an AGI of $65,000 or less and joint filers with an AGI of $95,000 or less. There are no age or residency status requirements.

North Dakota

North Dakota provides free web-based fillable forms and interactive software to full-year residents.


Non-first-time filers can file and pay their Ohio state and school district income taxes with the state-run I-File system.


Oklahoma’s free Taxpayer Access Point is available to full-year residents.


Oregon has fillable forms and e-filing available to full-year residents.


Full-year residents can file their Pennsylvania state tax return and pay taxes using padirectfile.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.

South Carolina

South Carolina offers full-year residents fillable forms and free e-filing with no age or income limitations. Impact America also has free tax prep assistance for South Carolina households with one or more children that earned up to $52,000, or $20,000 for households with no children.

South Dakota

South Dakota doesn’t have a state income tax.


Tennessee doesn’t have a state income tax, but there are taxes on investment income. Residents can file a return and make a payment for free online. Impact America also offers free tax prep assistance to households with one or more children that earned up to $52,000, or $20,000 for households with no children.


Texas doesn’t have a state income tax.


Full-year, partial, and non-residents can pay Utah state taxes for free online at Utah’s Taxpayer Access Point.


Vermont residents can pay, but not file, their taxes online at VT Pay.


Virginia has free fillable forms and e-filing for full-year residents. There aren’t any age or income requirements.

Washington State

Washington state doesn’t have a state income tax. 

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. lets full-year residents use free fillable forms and e-filing. There aren’t any age or income requirements.

West Virginia

West Virginia doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.


Wisconsin residents, part-year residents, and non-residents can file and pay their taxes with the Wisconsin e-file forms and website.


Wyoming doesn’t have a state income tax.

The post Free Tax Filing Options for Every State Online appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 Best Online Tax Preparation Software for the Self-Employed

Tax return check

When you’re self-employed, filing taxes can be a nightmare. In lieu of W-2s, multiple 1099s start trickling into your mailbox. If you’re a sole proprietorship or solo LLC, you’ll have to tackle Schedule C. If you run an LLC with your spouse, depending on your business structure, and filing status, you may be looking at filling out Schedule K-1.

You have deductions to take, and credits to find. Tax preparation software should make the process easier, guiding you through each step as it sorts out the complicated jargon, and identifies the various additional forms you’ll be required to file.

Unfortunately, when you start venturing into all those additional forms, many tax software programs will start charging you additional fees, or, worse yet, not have the forms or support available to help you meet your tax-filing needs.

With those unique needs in mind, we’ve compiled a list of online tax preparation products that support the self-employed. Every product will have its pros and cons; your decision will likely boil down to how much support you need versus how much you’re willing to spend. Listed in ascending order according to price, these prices are subject to change throughout the tax season, especially for bigger brands.

For the sake of simplicity, ‘Price’ refers to the upfront cost (which includes filing your Federal return), and we make note if the State return is an additional charge as well as any alternative pricing options. The below tax preparation software is ranked based on price.

1. OnLine Taxes

Price: Free
State Return: $9.95
Alternative Pricing Structure: Pay $7.95 for the Premium version with live chat, phone support, audit support, year-over-year comparison, and get your state return for $7.95.


  • This is the cheapest option that made the cut!
  • The free package includes email as the only option for customer support, but paying the small fee to upgrade to premium gives you access to live chat and phone support.
  • Basic software that gets the job done, especially for those who feel confident filing with limited guidance.


  • Additional fee of $29.95 for paying for OnLine Taxes’ services through your refund instead of upfront.
  • No app available.
  • This program is no frills. You input your data into forms through the interview process, and your information will be applied to your returns for you to review. While customer support is available, you will not get a lot of help from the product itself.

Go to site

2. FreeTaxUSA

Price: Free
State Return: $12.95
Alternative Pricing Structure: Pay $5.95 for the Deluxe version with audit support, live chat customer support options, and unlimited amended returns. State returns still priced at $12.95


  • Incredibly affordable.
  • This software takes you through the entire process, starting with an interview that is built to help you find write-offs, and including prompts for various deductions and credits.
  • Speedy reply time for email support. Guarantee of 2 days, but most people report getting an answer within an hour.


  • Customer service options are restricted to email. If you purchase the Deluxe package, you will also have access to live chat, but no phone-in help is available.
  • No app available.
  • No fancy calculators.

Go to site

3. TaxACT Premium

Price: $21.99
State Return: $14.99
Alternate Pricing Structure: Pay $29.99 for the Ultimate bundle package, and get your state return for free.


  • Quite possibly the best value on our list, especially if you go for the Ultimate.
  • Customer service is available through email and phone.
  • As you file, you’ll be inundated with tips and explanations to help you through the process.


  • No app available for filing current year’s taxes at this level.
  • No audit support outside a collection of online articles.

Go to site

4. Premium

Price: $39.95
State Return: Free (included in price)


  • What you see is what you get; there are no hidden fees. If you order the $39.95 Premium package, you won’t pay anymore for add-ons or filing fees.
  • Live chat customer support, though it is often deferred to email that is answered within 24 hours. As more people start filing, that wait time may become longer.
  • While there is no interview, the program does hold your hand through the filing process, offering explanations along the way, and offering deduction tips to maximize any refund.


  • No phone support.
  • No app available.
  • No audit support.
  • Limited guidance on additional forms such as Schedule C. While these forms are available, the instruction is not there, and questions will have to be filed through customer support.

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5. Premium

Price: $39.95
State Return: $19.95


  • Customer service available through live chat, though it is typically deferred to email.
  • Mobile capabilities, but no app to actually file your return.
  • Guidance through the filing process, with links to applicable articles on their robust blog.


  • No phone support available. Customer service tends to rank lack luster when compared to other programs.
  • No filing app available, though you can file via mobile.
  • No audit support.
  • Additional fees may apply. For example, if you want to pay for services out of your refund, you’ll have to pay extra.

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6. H&R Block Premium

Price: $49.99
State Return: $36.99


  • Customer support available via email, live chat, and phone.
  • Live, in-person audit support.
  • Detailed guidance throughout the filing process.


  • Users report difficulty navigating when an error is found.
  • You may be subject to some additional fees, especially if you opt to receive a refund on MasterCard’s Emerald card.
  • App is available, though it is difficult to use and gets poor ratings.

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7. TurboTax Home & Business

Price: $79.99
State Return: $36.99


  • Automatic import of W-2 and 1099 data from participating employers.
  • During the 2014 tax season, TurboTax users were up in arms as they were charged extra fees to file additional forms like Schedule C, or denied the capability to do so. TurboTax heard the uproar, and has reverted to old functionalities including these forms for the 2015 tax year.
  • Help is available on-screen with a live agent who can see your screen as you ask your question. Additional help is available via forums, where questions may be answered by TurboTax or fellow users.
  • Comprehensive app.


  • TurboTax has a solid product, but has been raising their prices year after year. This is the most expensive option on our list.
  • If you want to pay for TurboTax out of your refund, you may be charged a processing fee. If you want TurboTax MAX, which includes audit assistance, tax identity restoration, and limited wait times when you call in for help, you will have to pay an additional fee, as well.

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While price doesn’t necessarily indicate a superior product on our list, those who feel more comfortable with tax terminology and procedures are likely to find their best fit near the top amongst the cheaper options. Those who need intense assistance may wish to pay more for products with advanced features located at the bottom of the list.

When you’re self-employed, tax season can be overwhelming. The good news is that there’s no shortage of options to help you meet your filing needs.

The post 7 Best Online Tax Preparation Software for the Self-Employed appeared first on MagnifyMoney.