Time to file late taxes? Get the best deal online
by Byrne Hobart
As tax season rolls around for most of us, some folks are nervously remembering April 15ths past, when that tax due date crept up and sprinted past. Fortunately, the IRS is not exactly averse to getting their money, even if it comes a little late. And you don’t even have to go through their standard-issue rigamarole, either: over the last few years, plenty of online tax providers have appeared on the scene to help make filing late taxes easy!
Here are a few of the top players:
- TurboTax — Best known for their plain-vanilla tax software, TurboTax is willing to accomodate taxpayers who missed their deadlines. If you already use TurboTax, it can be a solid choice — but their late-tax features tend to be bolted on after the fact. TurboTax is tax-paying software that happens to allow late filing, not anything specifically good at that particular issue.
- PriorTax — Definitely best of the bunch. PriorTax is a service specifically designed for people who need to pay their taxes late, so every time you use the site, you’re using it exactly the way the designers intended. In addition to a great array of tax-filing services, the site has a full glossary and a live, interactive help system.
- The IRS — The IRS offers free tax help on their site, and even gives some resources for dealing with late taxes. Why turn down free advice? Two reasons: first, you’ll probably get your money’s worth; second, so will they. The IRS maintains a site like that because the cost of helping people with their taxes is less than the value the IRS gets for it. In other words, you might save a little money on tax prep fees, but you’ll end up paying more in taxes.
- TaxBrain — A higher-end online tax preparation site. They have a tiered pricing scheme for different tax packages, which means you’re almost certain to pay for something you don’t need. And that breadth of offerings means you won’t get much depth in any one area. Howevr, they have a solid offering for general tax needs.
- TaxAct — One of the oldest online tax prep services, TaxAct has a great hook: they can brag that they’ve helped provide free tax returns for a decade. That’s true, but their secret is that they provide a very bare-bones service, and upsell to fairly similar offerings that help taxpayers deal with fairly conventional issues quickly. By default, someone who filed in 2010 with TaxAct and skipped filing in 2011 might want to use them to file late taxes in 2012 — but while they can handle day-to-day filings with ease, they just aren’t equipped for more complex situations.
If you’re going to pick an online service to help file 2011 taxes online, there are a few features that will always be important: competitive pricing, focus, and service. You’ll need something that isn’t especially costly, but you also need a tax preparation site that doesn’t try to be all things to all taxpayers (they may have the information you need, but if it takes an hour of searching and two calls to customer service to find it, how useful is that?). And, of course, you need to pick a site with a reputation for great service. If you’re filing late taxes for 2010 or 2011, PriorTax offers all three.