- Tax Day falls on April 17 this year, but you can file your taxes as soon as you have the correct forms from your employer.
- H&R Block and TurboTax both offer free tax filing if you made less than $66,000 in 2017.
- I used H&R Block to file my taxes for the first time and it was easier than expected.
It feels great to have checked that daunting task off my to-do list, especially since I’ve already received my state tax refund via direct deposit and should be getting my federal tax refund any day now.
Up to now, I had been using my parents’ accountant to file my taxes and he opted for the traditional pen and paper method rather than filing electronically. Last year, I was waiting for my tax refund to come in the mail for about two months before I realized it must have been stolen. It was, unfortunately, and I had to file a claim with the IRS.
This year, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I used H&R Block’s free tax filing service to file electronically — the method recommended by the IRS if you want to get your refund sooner.
My financial situation isn’t complicated: The only documents I needed were my 2017 W-2, 2016 tax return, and 1099-INT (the document you download from your bank to report any interest income from a savings account).
A few days before I created an H&R Block account, I used the site’s free tax calculator to estimate my tax refund. Knowing I would soon get a nice boost to my savings account pushed me to file as soon as possible.
The actual process to file your tax return consists of answering a bunch of questions and uploading your W-2, or manually imputing the few numbers they ask for.
H&R Block made the entire process easy to navigate and even had helpful explainers positioned along the way, plus some mental status check-ins.
I was answering questions I already knew the answers to — Do you have dependents? Did you pay health insurance last year? Do you own property? — so it didn’t require too much mental energy.
To be clear, I only have income from one job and earned a small amount of interest from a high-yield savings account. I don’t have freelance work or any other earned income sources, so my experience was as straightforward as it gets.
It took me exactly one hour to complete the process. I submitted both my state and federal returns feeling super accomplished.
But a few hours later I got a text from the IRS saying my federal return was “rejected” and wouldn’t be processed until I fixed the error. That’s pretty intimidating language — and I was at happy hour, no less. Alas, the error wasn’t that severe.
I misreported by 2016 adjusted gross income (or AGI) by a hair (I was looking at the wrong box on the form) and only needed to enter the correct number and resubmit, which took all of five extra minutes.
I also forgot to electronically sign my California state return and that was sent back to me too. I resigned it and resubmitted — again, a quick fix — and six days later my state refund hit my bank account.
One of the cool things about requesting your refund via direct deposit is you can choose up to three accounts and decide how much goes to each. I set up my state refund to go to my checking account to cover some basic necessities. My federal refund, which is bigger, will be deposited into one of my savings accounts that doubles as a travel fund.
In total, I spent about an hour and 15 minutes filing my taxes, and I didn’t have to spend a dime doing it. In turn, I’ll be rewarded with a refund that’s equal to about one paycheck. That’s a satisfying trade off, if you ask me.