At a glance
- CPA Involvement: No; support suitable for basic tax issues only
- Plans: Free, free for basic tax situations ($100,000 or less in taxable income); $24.95, for moderately complex situations involving investments, homeownership, and other common situations; $44.95, for more complicated situations involving self-employment income or less common forms of income
- State Returns Included: Yes, at no charge for the free plan; $19.95 per state for the $24.95 plan; $24.95 per state for the $44.95 plan
- Pay With Your Refund: Yes, may carry an additional charge
- Audit Defense: No
- Mobile Capabilities: Yes; mobile-friendly website and prep interface
1040.com is a low-cost online tax prep program with a user-friendly interface and three distinct plans appropriate for situations of varying complexity.
Though its free version isn’t quite robust enough to make our list of the best free online tax prep options, 1040.com is definitely a worthy choice for filers who’d prefer not to pay hundreds for in-person prep or shell out double what they’d pay here for full-service assistance at TurboTax or H&R Block.
1040.com is a card-carrying member of the “you get what you pay for” tax prep crowd. If you’re looking for a platform that really holds your hand at every stage of the prep process, or seek the security that comes with round-the-clock access to on-call tax experts, 1040.com isn’t right for you. Look to a hands-off virtual CPA service like TaxHub instead.
On the other hand, if you’re confident enough to complete your return from start to finish with minimal assistance, 1040.com is a great choice. Here’s what you need to know about its plans, features, advantages, drawbacks, and overall suitability.
Plans, Pricing & Features
1040.com has three distinct plans. As far as I can tell, they don’t actually have official names. On the website, they’re distinguished only by their federal return pricing. I’m referring to them accordingly.
Unlike some online tax prep programs, 1040.com doesn’t require you to affirmatively choose a plan before beginning your tax return. As you move through the interview-style prep process and introduce new sources of income or potential deductions, the software automatically upgrades or downgrades your account. At completion, you’re shown your final price based on your situation’s complexity.
1040.com’s prep interface has a remarkably crisp design and an open layout that allows for free movement between sections and forms. Once you enter your demographic information, you’re free to work on any sections or forms you choose, in any order. 1040.com auto-completes all relevant state forms before you formally begin your state return, saving time and tedium.
1. Free Plan
1040.com’s free plan is appropriate for filers with straightforward tax situations. It’s appropriate for:
- Single or married filers (filing jointly or separately)
- Filers claiming less than $100,000 in taxable income
- Filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit
- Filers claiming income from W-2 wages, unemployment, interest under $1,500, tips, and certain less common sources (such as taxable scholarships and grants)
It’s not appropriate for filers with children or dependents, nor those planning to itemize deductions. This plan is totally free; you don’t have to pay extra to file a state return.
2. $24.95 Plan
This plan comes with all the features and functionality of the free plan, plus:
- Support for Itemized Deductions. If you plan to itemize your deductions – “real estate and property taxes, state income taxes, charitable donations, mortgage interest, [or] medical expenses,” suggests 1040.com – you can do so with this plan.
- Support for Retirement Savings Tax Credits. If you contributed to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you can take the appropriate tax benefits here.
- Support for Retirement Income. This applies if you earned income from retirement account distributions, Social Security, or employer pensions.
- Support for Other Deductions. These include “educator expenses, moving expenses, alimony paid, and IRAs,” according to 1040.com.
- Support for Children and Dependents. If you have children or dependents, you can claim all appropriate tax credits and deductions here, including for education expenses and savings.
Each state return costs $19.95 with this plan.
3. $44.95 Plan
This plan comes with everything included in the $24.95 plan, plus:
- Support for Taxable Income Over $100,000. High-income filers need to upgrade to this plan, even if their tax situations are not otherwise complicated.
- Support for Self-Employment and Small Business Income. If you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, or small business owner, you may need to file Schedule C, which this plan supports. If you earn income from a partnership or C-corporation, you may also need to report income from Schedule K-1, also supported by this plan.
- Support for Beneficiary Income. If you’re the beneficiary of an estate or trust, you can report income earned from those sources with this plan.
- Support for Unreported Tips. If you failed to report cash tips through your employer, you can do so with this plan.
- Support for Less Common Situations. Other less common sources of income, including rental income and gambling winnings, are supported by this plan. So are less common deductions and credits.
Each state return costs $24.95 with this plan.
1040.com has a real-time refund tracker that displays your expected federal and state tax refunds or liabilities. These figures are clearly visible near the top of the prep interface and change with each new relevant bit of information.
Pay With Your Refund
If you’re eligible for a federal tax refund, you can use it to pay your 1040.com prep fees. There may be a processing charge associated with this maneuver, so check 1040.com’s fine print for details.
Maximum Refund Guarantee
Like most online tax prep software, 1040.com has a maximum refund guarantee. If you file an identical return with a competitor and get a larger refund, 1040.com may refund the difference, subject to certain restrictions and limitations. Contact 1040.com’s support team for an up-to-date accounting of the fine print.
1040.com also has an accuracy guarantee. You may be entitled to compensation if your return is affected by any errors or omissions attributable to 1040.com’s software. The terms of this guarantee are subject to change, so it’s best to check with 1040.com for the latest details.
Support for Clean Water Projects
Drake Software, 1040.com’s parent company, partners with Healing Waters International, a Denver-area nonprofit that invests in clean water projects around the world. For every tax return filed using its software, 1040.com donates $2 to Healing Waters. That doesn’t sound like a lot – until you learn that Drake Software processed more than 15 million federal returns through its various tax applications (including on Drake Software’s professional tax prep software, not just the 1040.com interface) in 2017 alone.
If you want your tax prep fees to make a difference in the world, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better company to keep your business with.
1. Higher-Priced Plans Still Cheaper Than Full-Service Competitors
1040.com’s higher-priced plans remain bargains by the standards of full-service competitors like TurboTax and H&R Block. The most expensive plan costs $44.95 for the federal return and $24.95 for each state return, meaning most filers pay less than $75 out of pocket. That’s a steal: TurboTax’s Self-Employed plan, its closest analogue, costs nearly $120 for federal and nearly $40 for state taxes at full price.
2. You Can Pay Prep Fees With Your Refund
1040.com lets you pay your prep fees out of your federal tax refund, assuming it’s large enough. This is a great option for cash-strapped filers who’d prefer not to pay anything out of pocket for this unavoidable annual ritual.
3. Your Prep Fees Support a Good Cause
If you’re bullish on mission-driven companies, you’ll love 1040.com and its parent company, Drake Software. When you file your return at 1040.com, you’ll be directly responsible for a $2 donation to Healing Waters International, a nonprofit that supports clean water projects in needy communities around the world. No other online tax prep software that I’m aware of advertises its charitable activities so forthrightly.
4. Mobile-Friendly, User-Friendly Interface
1040.com has a mobile-friendly interface that’s a snap to use. This is easily a top-five choice for filers who prefer to complete their returns on small-screened devices, such as smartphones and tablets. It’s also one of the easiest tax prep platforms to navigate, thanks to an open layout that lets you work on sections and forms in any order following your initial personal and demographic information entry.
5. Extensive Help Content
1040.com has a pretty extensive database of help content. It’s divided into two main sections: a knowledge base organized by topic and a FAQ section with dozens of common tax-related questions centered on recent tax reform legislation, Affordable Care Act requirements, e-filing, refund processing, and miscellaneous topics.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking through various online tax prep programs’ help databases, and I have to say that 1040.com’s is among the most impressive for two main reasons: intuitive organization and a slew of topics devoted specifically to freelancers and small business owners. The latter might reveal my bias, but it’s legitimately important that frugal freelancers have robust, plain-English tax help at their disposal. Not everyone can afford to pay a CPA.
1. Free Version Is Fairly Limited
1040.com’s free plan is appropriate only for straightforward tax situations. To qualify for a free federal and state return, you need to:
- Have no children or dependents
- Claim taxable income under $100,000
- Take the standard deduction only
- Have income from W-2 wages/salary, unemployment, taxable interest under $1,500, tips, scholarships, grants, and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends only
You can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit with the free plan, but the no-dependents rule is pretty restrictive. Some full-service competitors, including TurboTax and H&R Block, have more generous free versions that allow for itemized deductions and EITC with dependents.
2. Poor Prior-Year Importing Capabilities
1040.com’s prior-year importing capabilities are subpar. Though you can import your prior-year return prepared with 1040.com, there’s no option to import last year’s return from another online tax prep provider, so you have to fill in all your personal and demographic information by hand – a time-consuming and tedious process. Most competitors have at least some allowance for prior-year return importing: PDF imports from TurboTax, TaxAct, and H&R Block (at least) are industry standard.
3. Limited Customer Support
1040.com has limited customer support infrastructure: a comprehensive but DIY help database and a shaky (see below) live chat system. Live chat is available only during extended business hours, so it’s not appropriate for busy filers who have no choice but to prepare their returns over the weekends or later in the evening.
4. Glitchy Live Chat System
1040.com’s live chat system isn’t reliable enough for my liking. In the course of a routine chat query, my connection was twice severed before I had a chance to complete the conversation (in both cases, before I’d even finished asking my question). It’s not clear whether this was an isolated technical incident or attributable to 1040.com’s outdated chat platform, but it wasn’t a welcome development in either case. Fortunately, my issue wasn’t urgent.
Before coming across 1040.com, I hadn’t given much thought to mission-driven tax prep. Okay, I hadn’t given it any thought.
Now that I’ve had a chance to get familiar with this low-key product, I’m surprised and a little ashamed. Contributing $2 per return toward clean water in desperately poor parts of the world is a small act that makes a big difference. I’m not saying you should prepare your taxes with 1040.com simply because its parent company is more vocal about its charity than most, but there are definitely worse reasons to switch – particularly if you’re not in love with your current tax prep provider.
Are you planning to use 1040.com to complete your taxes this year?
1040.com is ideal for confident filers who require minimal assistance to complete their returns and would prefer not to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. 1040.com’s mission-driven corporate culture is attractive to those who want their tax prep fees to make a difference in the world, too. Platform limitations and technical glitches dull 1040.com’s shine somewhat, but it’s still a great value.
Notable benefits include a totally free base plan (federal only), reasonably priced higher-tier plans, mission-driven corporate culture, the ability to pay prep fees with your refund, user-friendly interface, and extensive help content (though without much of a human touch).
Key drawbacks include a limited free version, poor prior-year importing capabilities, a glitchy live chat system, and limited customer support.
Overall, 1040.com is a great free filing option for people with straightforward tax situations, and a low-cost alternative to more expensive players for self-confident filers with complicated taxes. Novices and those who prefer hands-on assistance should probably avoid 1040.com.