Many of us can recall April as being a stressful month for our parents. They’d spend a couple of late nights toiling at the dinner table with a calculator and pen and paper, feverishly working to get their tax returns in the mailbox by Tax Day. They didn’t have the option of filing taxes online.
Thankfully, we do have that option. Today, there are much easier ways to file taxes than trying to get things done at the last minute and getting to the post office by midnight April 15 to get that necessary postmark. By filing for taxes online, you can handle everything right from your laptop or phone. Plus, it’s common for modern online tax software to offer benefits like W-2 and 1099 importing and deduction optimization.
Let’s take a look at the various ways to file taxes in 2019, including your best options for filing taxes online.
- What you need to know about filing taxes for 2019
- How to file taxes
- How to file taxes online for free
- How much tax return will I get?
What you need to know about filing taxes for 2019
Here’s what you need to know about tax filing dates for 2019 and how to choose the right filing status.
Dates for filing taxes
For most of us, April 15, 2020 is the deadline to file your tax return for 2019. If you’re running behind, you might be able to file for a 6-month extension with the IRS. But even if you’re granted a filing extension, you’ll still need to pay your taxes by the deadline to avoid interest and late-payment penalties.
Filing taxes as a single filer
Your marital status and whether or not you have dependents living at home will determine your filing status. If you’re married or have kids, you have a few different filing options to choose from. But, if you’re unmarried and don’t have any dependents, it’s pretty simple: You’ll be a single filer.
Filing taxes married jointly
The IRS allows married couples to file their taxes together in one return. And, the IRS has built several breaks and deductions into the tax code to encourage joint returns.
For example, the standard deduction is nearly twice as high on joint tax returns than for those who file married but separate. For joint returns, the standard deduction is $24,400 compared to $12,200 for married filing separately and single filers.
The income thresholds on tax brackets are also much higher with the married filing jointly status. For instance, married filing separate couples who make over $39,475 are placed in the 22% tax bracket while married filing jointly couples don’t enter the 22% bracket until they make over $78,950.
Filing taxes married but separate
Because of the advantages listed above, most married couples will find it more beneficial to file jointly. If you have kids, you need to file jointly to qualify for child tax credits. However, there are a few situations where it could make financial sense to file separately.
For example, if you’re on an income-driven student loan repayment plan, filing separately can make it possible for your student loan payments to be based on your income alone, and the decrease in your monthly student loan payments could be more valuable than the tax breaks that you’ll lose.
Also, if you had a lot of medical expenses in 2019, filing your taxes separately could help you claim more of those costs as a deduction. Finally, filing separately could make sense if combining your incomes would bump you into a higher tax bracket.
Filing taxes as head of household
In order to file our taxes as head of household, you’ll need to meet a few criteria.
- First, you’ll need to have a qualifying child or dependent.
- Next, you’ll need to have been considered unmarried for that particular tax year.
- And, finally, you’ll need to pay at least half of your household’s living expenses.
Like with the married filing jointly status, the head of household status increases the income limits on tax brackets and qualifies you for other tax breaks like the Earned Income Credit (EIC).
Filing taxes as head of household can be a great option for single moms. You get to take advantage of many of the same benefits that are typically reserved for married couples even though you are single.
Filing taxes after a divorce
Divorce is a difficult process that seems to affect every area of our lives … and yes, that even includes our taxes. If your divorce finalized by Dec. 31, 2019, the IRS will consider you to have been unmarried for the entire tax year.
That means you’ll need to pick a new filing status when you submit your 2020 tax return. Your two options will be single or head of household. If you qualify for the head of household status (by virtue of meeting the requirements listed earlier), that will usually be your best choice.
How to file taxes
There are a few different ways to file your taxes. One way is to follow in your parents’ footsteps by sending in a paper return. That’s still a great way to file your returns for free. But paper returns can be cumbersome, and it may take longer for you to receive any refund you’re owed. If you want your return in days rather than weeks, then you will not want to file by sending in a paper return through the post office.
Another option would be to hire a tax professional to handle your return. If you have a complicated tax situation, that may be a smart move. But, it can also be expensive.
Finally, there’s a happy medium between the two that you may want to consider: Filing taxes online using tax software.
Typically, you’ll need to pay a small fee to use a tax software service. The cost almost always pales in comparison to hiring a human tax professional, yet you still get the benefit of tax software that’s designed to save you time and maximize your deductions.
- Read: The Saver’s Tax Credit
How to file taxes online with TaxSlayer
TaxSlayer is an online tax service with four tiers of service, along with the option to file a state income tax return, if needed. There is a free, basic plan if you are single or married, no dependents, earn less than $100,000 a year and don’t have a business, rental properties or investments.
The other plans include the Classic, which will probably work for most people. The next step up is Premium, and you will have better support, audit assistance, and access to tax professionals to help you with any questions or issues. Finally, there is the Self-Employed tier that offers more specialized support if you own your own business.
TaxSlayer allows you to start your federal income tax return for free online, and if you require additional support, then you can switch tiers to one that better suits your needs. Your cost is tied to the level of support you need. The Ask a Pro service is only available for the Premium and Self-Employed options.
TaxSlayer has been around for more than 50 years. It guarantees you will receive the maximum refund, and if another tax software service calculates a higher return based on the same data, TaxSlayer will refund the purchase price you paid to TaxSlayer.com. Also, you don’t have to pay out of pocket if you are receiving a return; TaxSlayer can collect it from your refund for a fee. Visit TaxSlayer to see if it is right for you.
How to file taxes online with H&R Block
If you’re looking for a powerful online tax software, you may want to file using H&R Block Online. Their software is beautifully designed and easy to use.
With H&R Block Online, you can import your W-2 by simply snapping a picture of it. Their software can handle every tax situation, from the basic to the complex — like self-employment or rental property income situations.
A nice thing about H&R Block Online is they have different tiers, and the amount you’ll pay is based on what level of support you want and what kinds of forms you need to file. Check out the different H&R Block Online solutions.
H&R Block Online is especially strong in the support department. With their Online Assist℠ feature, paying customers can talk to a live tax professional at any time to get answers to their difficult tax questions. Plus, with their Peace of Mind® Extended Service Plan, you can get audit representation for the life of your tax return. See if H&R Block Online is right for you.
How to file taxes online for free
As mentioned earlier, you can prepare the taxes yourself and send a paper form to the IRS via the U.S. Postal Service. Filing for taxes online doesn’t necessarily need to cost you anything. Most tax companies, including H&R Block, offer free versions of their software. The H&R Block Online version is for simple, straightforward returns that do not involve mortgage tax deductions, investment properties, investment income, and 1099s.
You can also file taxes online for free directly with the IRS using IRS e-file. With IRS e-file, you can fill out all your entire return on fillable forms or use free software. However, keep in mind that IRS software isn’t designed to help you find deductions and you won’t get any hand-holding, and it is for those who make less than $69,000. Be very careful if you use the fillable forms because it is very easy to accidentally lose data. The IRS has a page to inform you of the issues it knows about.
What will my tax return be?
Wondering how much of a tax refund you’ll get or whether you’ll get one at all? Here’s how to estimate what your tax return for 2019 will look like.
Tax refund calculator 2019
While the IRS does have a Tax Withholding Estimator, they actually don’t offer a tax refund calculator. But not to worry. There are many tax refund calculators available online.
For example, with H&R Block’s tool, you can get a tax refund estimate in minutes by just answering a few simple questions. Other tax software companies offer tax refund calculators, too.
Where's my federal tax refund?
The IRS says that most refunds are sent within 21 days, but it is not uncommon to have a refund in about six or seven days. But you can check your IRS tax refund status by visiting IRS.gov/refunds or by downloading the IRS2GO app to your mobile device.
The IRS will begin providing daily updates on your IRS tax refund status 24 hours after you e-file or four weeks after your file by mail. In order to see your return status, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, your filing status, and your exact refund amount.
Most tax software companies provide IRS tax refund status updates. So if you used commercial software, like H&R Block Online, when filing for taxes online, logging into your account may be your fastest way to get refund updates.