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Join our community. Review – Is This Low-Cost Tax Prep Really Less Taxing?

At a Glance
3.7 / 5

Start Your Taxes Now

  • CPA Involvement: Not directly.
  • Plans: Basic plan, $0 to $9.95 federal, for 1040EZ situations; Deluxe plan, $24.95 to $39.95 federal, for 1040A situations; Premium plan, $34.95 to $49.95 federal, for all other situations.
  • State Returns Included: No; $28.95 for unlimited state returns.
  • Pay With Your Refund: Yes; service fee applies (subject to change).
  • Audit Defense: Audit assistance at no additional charge; no representation.
  • Mobile Capabilities: Mobile-friendly website. is a low-cost online tax prep provider not to be confused with, an unrelated competitor that offers a similar suite of services. It’s also not to be confused with IRS e-File, the process by which U.S. taxpayers file electronic federal returns. is ideal for frugal tax return filers confident enough to prepare their own taxes with minimal support. It does have some value-added features not offered by other bargain tax prep providers, such as tax expert access, pay-with-your-refund capabilities, and a price match guarantee.

However, it’s not in the same league as full-service online providers like TurboTax, nor online providers with in-person arms, such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt Online.

Here’s what you need to know about’s features, advantages, drawbacks, and overall suitability.

Plans, Pricing & Features has a crisp, user-friendly prep interface that’s remarkably flexible. It looks eerily similar to‘s tax prep interface, and while I haven’t confirmed the connection, I suspect it’s a white-label solution traceable to Drake Software, the North Carolina tax prep software firm that owns and develops professional-grade tax software for CPAs and IRS Enrolled Agents (professional preparers).

Once you complete the initial onboarding questions covering personal and demographic information, you can work on any section or form of your return in any order you choose. Though the interview process isn’t quite as exhaustive or novice-friendly as some full-service tax prep options, you can definitely complete your entire return – even advanced forms – without much experience.

For more involved sections, such as income, you can pick and choose specific subtopics (wages, interest and dividends, business, and so on) or allow to walk you through each subtopic in order.

If you live, work, or earn income in a jurisdiction that levies state income taxes, you’ll be led straightaway into the state return interface following the completion of your federal return. auto-populates as much state tax return information as possible, saving time and effort on your part.

When you’ve finished with the state portion, you’ll have an opportunity to review everything you’ve done before submitting it.’s software checks your entries for accuracy and flags inconsistent or potentially inaccurate responses.


This plan includes your federal return at no charge (early in the tax season, then $9.95 as the filing deadline approaches) and unlimited state returns for $28.95. There’s no need to pay for more than one state return because you moved across state lines during the tax year or earned income in multiple states.

The Basic plan is appropriate for filers with situations simple enough to fit on Form 1040EZ. Specifically, you’ll need to meet these criteria:

  • Filing Status. You must be single or married filing jointly. Married couples filing separately need to upgrade.
  • Income. Your taxable income can’t exceed $100,000. Acceptable sources include wage and salary income, tips, unemployment, taxable scholarships and grants, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and interest under $1,500.
  • Credits and Deductions. You can’t claim any adjustments to income (deductions or credits) other than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Unacceptable deductions include the Student Loan Interest Deduction.
  • Other Criteria. Some other criteria apply as well. For instance, you can’t owe wages to household employees or claim casualty or disaster losses.


The Deluxe plan costs $24.95 for your federal return early in the season, then $39.95 as the filing deadline approaches. Unlimited state returns cost $28.95.

The Deluxe plan is appropriate for filers who can complete their returns using Form 1040A only. Specifically, filers must meet these criteria:

  • Income. Your taxable income can’t exceed $100,000. Acceptable sources include wage and salary income, tips, unemployment, taxable scholarships and grants, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, interest under $1,500, retirement income (including Social Security and pensions), and capital gains.
  • Itemized Deductions. You need to upgrade to Deluxe to itemize your deductions.’s software automatically determines whether you’re better off itemizing or claiming the standard deduction.
  • Additional Credits and Deductions. All other common credits and deductions for individual filers – not including deductions associated with business or rental income – are available with the Deluxe plan. See’s website for a complete accounting.
  • Other Criteria. Some other criteria apply as well. See efile’s website for more details.


The Premium plan costs $34.95 for your federal return early in the season, then $49.95 as the filing deadline approaches. Unlimited state returns cost $28.95.

The Premium plan is appropriate for filers who must use Form 1040 and any relevant schedules.’s Premium plan supports virtually all tax situations, including:

  • High-Income Filers. If you earned more than $100,000 during the tax year, you need to file with Premium.
  • Freelancers and Independent Professionals. If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur with significant self-employment income, you may need to file Schedule C using this plan.
  • Small-Business Owners. If you own shares in a small business, regardless of its legal structure, you can file the appropriate forms with this plan.
  • Unreported Tips. If you had more than $20 in unreported cash tips in any given month during the tax year, you can report them here.
  • Less Common Income. You can report less common types of income, such as property rental income and gambling winnings, using this plan.

Additional Features has some additional features worth noting. They’re available with all three plans, though some involve additional charges.

Tax Calculator’s TaxStimate tax calculator is a handy little tax liability estimator, though it comes with no guarantees.

Free Premium Support used to charge for premium support from tax experts, but that appears to be a thing of the past. Filers at all plan levels enjoy free premium support, including questions about return-specific issues, using’s onsite ticketing system.

Real-Time Tax Refund Tracker

Like most online tax prep programs, has a real-time refund tracker that shows your expected federal and state refunds or liabilities. These numbers change with each relevant entry.

Knowledge Base has an extensive DIY help database stocked with common topics related to its tax prep software, tax preparation in general, tax filing, and U.S. tax law. It’s adequate to answer most straightforward questions that arise during the tax prep process, though its heavier tax topics may be confusing for those not well-versed in tax law.

Pay With Your Federal Tax Refund

You can pay your prep fees with your federal refund, provided it’s large enough to cover the cost. There’s a one-time charge associated with this service, subject to change.

Audit Assistance offers complimentary audit assistance with all plans, including the free plan. This isn’t full-blown audit representation, which some online tax prep providers and most human accountants offer for an additional fee. Rather,’s team can help you evaluate IRS notices and respond appropriately.

Maximum Refund Guarantee

Like most online tax prep software providers, offers a maximum refund guarantee. If an identical return prepared with a competitor nets you a larger refund or lower tax liability, may reimburse your prep fees and pay you $100 extra.

Be aware that the window to take advantage of this guarantee is pretty limited. You need to contact in writing no later than 60 days after the IRS accepts your e-filed tax return.

Accuracy Guarantee’s accuracy guarantee is straightforward: If “you have to pay a penalty fee to the IRS or a State Tax Agency due to an tax calculation error, will pay the penalty and interest for you.”

Lowest Price Guarantee offers to “meet and beat” any competitor’s price on plans with identical features and services. The amount by which is willing to beat any price isn’t spelled out, so it’s likely a case-by-case determination.

This offer comes with serious caveats. For instance, makes the final decision about what constitutes equivalent services and reserves the right to factor in such features as its pay-with-your-refund pricing, which it claims is the lowest around.


Here’s what has going for it.

1. State Return Pricing Includes Unlimited State Returns charges a single fee for your state tax filing, no matter how many state returns you need to prepare. If you moved across state lines during the tax year or earned income in another state (for instance, from a business or interstate commute), your state prep fees won’t multiply.

2. Higher-Priced Plans Are Cheap by Industry Benchmarks’s highest-priced plan costs $34.95 to $49.95 for your federal return, depending on when it’s filed, and $28.95 for unlimited state returns. That’s far less than full-service providers like TurboTax and “discount” options like TaxAct alike.

Though isn’t the lowest-priced tax prep product around – that distinction goes to FreeTaxUSA, among others – it definitely offers above-average value.

3. Can Pay Prep Fees With Your Federal Refund lets you pay your tax prep fees with your federal refund, as long as your expected refund is large enough to cover the fees and processing charge. The processing charge is lower than some competitors’ fees too.


Consider these drawbacks before creating an account with

1. Basic and Deluxe Plans Built for Simple Tax Situations Only

Neither’s free version nor its lower-priced plan is designed for complicated tax situations, such as self-employed taxpayers and those looking to deduct mortgage interest and the like. In fact, they’re only appropriate for filers who can complete their taxes using Form 1040EZ and 1040A.

If you’re among the millions of U.S. taxpayers for whom those basic forms are inadequate, you’ll need to upgrade to Premium – a roughly $60 expense, assuming you need to file state taxes and aren’t paying prep fees with your return. Opt for a more comprehensive platform instead, such as FreeTaxUSA.

2. Limited Support Resources’s customer support resources are pretty thin. The email-based support ticketing is rudimentary at best, and the DIY help database is a slog for folks without much tax prep experience. If you need more hand-holding, consider a full-service alternative, such as TurboTax.

3. Maximum Refund Guarantee Window Is Very Short

With a $100 bonus for successful claims,’s maximum refund guarantee is more generous than average. However, its 60-day active window is much shorter than industry-standard guarantees, which run for months following IRS acceptance.

While this isn’t by itself a deal-breaker, it definitely heightens the stakes and may present a serious challenge for busy taxpayers unable to stay on top of the filing process.

4. Interface Isn’t Particularly User-Friendly (or Mobile-Friendly)’s tax prep interface looks a little dated, doesn’t show up all that well on a small screen (though the website is technically mobile-friendly), and has some confusing elements for less-than-confident filers. If you’re looking for a truly seamless experience, you may want to spring for a higher-priced program like TurboTax.

Final Word

Set aside‘s confusing name and its glaring similarities with some competing platforms, notably, and you’re left with a low-cost online tax return prep program that’s suitable for millions of filers with straightforward tax situations and the confidence necessary to navigate the preparation process with minimal help.

That’s an attractive proposition, to be sure. But isn’t perfect. If your situation has any curveballs at all, you’ll probably find yourself paying for the Premium plan. And, if you’re a DIY tax prep novice, this might not be the best place to start. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself and see what you think.

3.7 / 5

Start Your Taxes Now is appropriate for frugal filers who don’t want to pay more for full-service tax prep sites that hold their hands through the process from start to finish. With value-added features and a beat-any-price guarantee, it’s definitely a step up from bargain-basement services. Given its limitations, though, is priced fairly.

Notable benefits include a very affordable base plan, unlimited state returns for one price, low-priced Premium plan, prep fees payable with your federal tax refund, and tax expert access for a reasonable fee.

Major drawbacks include limited value in the lower-priced plans, limited customer support resources, and a very short window to take advantage of the maximum refund guarantee.

Overall, is a great choice for value-minded taxpayers willing to sacrifice some support for lower pricing. Given the limitations inherent in the lower-priced plans, filers with even moderately complex situations should expect to upgrade all the way to Premium.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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