1040 dot com Free File Edition

Efficient, free tax software

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Tax software publisher 1040.com provides a free version of their software through the IRS's Free File Alliance. Individuals may be able to prepare their federal tax return at no cost using this Web-based program.

Eligibility for free federal return: Adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less, and age 52 or younger

Cost to prepare state tax return: $19.95

Time: about two hours to prepare a sample federal and state tax return.

Notable Features: free extensions

Rating: 3

Navigation and User Interface:

Software begins with a questionnaire about types of income. Based on those answers, the software selects which data input screens to display during the interview process. The Deductions & Credits section is similarly structured.

On the left-hand 1040.com places a sidebar with navigation links to My Return, Name & Address, Federal Taxes, Dependents, Income, Deductions & Credits, Wrapping Up, State Taxes, Review and File.

1040.com displays the federal and state refund meter on the top and middle portions of the screen.

There is a link to display forms completed and to navigate to those screens. From the File page, the software displays federal and state refund amounts, and users can click for calculation details, which displays the person's adjusted gross income, taxable income, total tax, and refund amount as a popup window.

However, the user interface does have some drawbacks.

  • We did not find the section on 1040.com for reporting rental income. However, we were finally able to find this section when conducting a final review. From 1040.com's review page, the user can find a federal form to add to the return. (How we missed this section during the interview phase of the program, however, remains a mystery to us.)
  • When entering education expenses from Form 1098-T, the software asks which person was the student. That drop down box didn't work properly until after we registered an account. (So if you are trying out 1040.com before registering an account, there might be some functionality that is turned off.)
  • In the review section, the software displays links to revisit previous sections of the software, but does not display a list of items with dollar amounts.

Help Features:

1040.com has "Tell me more" hyperlinks leading to an additional explanation of tax topics.  The software also displays a "? Help" button which takes the user to a Support Center. From the Support Center, users can search by keyword or browse topics such as "errors on your return" or "tax-related questions."  Users can email questions to the 1040.com support staff. On the right-hand side is a Help module showing context-sensitive information.

Error Checking Features:

1040.com's error check found a data entry error we had accidentally made on the W-2 wages. The software also provides a preview of the federal and state tax forms via PDF download for the user to manually review the tax return.

Overall Experience of the Software:

While 1040.com is not glitzy in appearance, the software is efficient. 1040.com is definitely one of the better free tax programs, ranking a little below the free file edition of TurboTax in terms of user-friendly features. The help functions are pretty decent, and we were able to jump from one part of the tax software to another part when needed. We like that 1040.com provides PDF files of federal and state tax forms before filing or paying anything.

To check out the software for yourself, visit 1040.com Free File Edition.