We all dread having to prepare our tax returns. The process is doable, but it can be tedious to sort through your papers and read all the instructions on the forms. And if you have a complicated situation, it can get confusing to make sure you’ve done all the right things when filing. Credit Karma aims to reduce the issues surrounding tax preparation… for free.
That’s right: Free tax preparation. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Credit Karma?
Many of us know Credit Karma for its consumer credit products, including the ability to track a version of your credit score. However, it also offers other services, including tax preparation. This is the third year the company has provided tax prep services, and it’s now the fifth-largest tax preparer in the United States.
Credit Karma makes it easy to get started. You answer a few questions about your situation, and the app helps you figure out your filing status and decides which approach to take for your taxes. With tips available in each section to help you understand what’s going on, you can be reasonably sure that you’re on the right track with your tax preparation.
You can also prepare your state tax return using Credit Karma for free. This can be helpful since many other tax preparation providers charge extra to make your state return.
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Who Is Credit Karma Good For?
Credit Karma tax preparation is ideal for those who want to quickly and easily complete and file their tax returns. It works well for those who have fairly straightforward situations involving W-2 and 1099 forms, as well as fairly standard deductions. For most tax situations, Credit Karma works well, and it’s a bonus that the service is free of charge.
Those with extremely complicated tax situations — such as those who have lived in multiple states during the tax year, have foreign income, or have income to report from trusts — won’t be able to use Credit Karma effectively.
For filers who want more attention or who prefer to use software offered by dedicated tax professionals, TurboTax, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and H&R Block could be better choices. Additionally, if you want a more personal touch — or if you’re concerned about a complicated tax situation — hiring an independent tax professional or CPA could be a better choice.
Carefully consider your tax situation and what is likely to work best for you before deciding on using Credit Karma’s tax preparation service.
Credit Karma Tax Prep Features
|Small Business Features|
|Audit Assistance Included|
|Accuracy Guarantee||Reimbursement up to $1,000 via gift cards|
|Filing Support||Online help center, Email|
- Jumpstart — Skip onboarding steps by importing previous tax information. Credit Karma is compatible with TaxAct, H&R Block, and TurboTax, so you can just import your 1040 from those software applications to pre-populate your current tax return.
- Mobile Filing — It’s possible to complete your entire tax return using a mobile device. You can use your phone’s camera to snap pictures of essential documents, and everything can be handled in the palm of your hand.
- Tax Return Review — When you finish, Credit Karma will automatically send you back to sections you didn’t fill out properly or that present red flags. Credit Karma checks and re-checks the return before it’s filed, reducing the chances that you’ll end up with mistakes.
Credit Karma Plans and Pricing
Using Credit Karma’s tax preparation service is entirely free. You do have to sign up for an account, but you don’t have to provide a credit card to do so. You will be subject to credit card, loan, and other offers (Credit Karma makes money off these referrals), but you don’t have to pay anything upfront.
Even the audit defense is free. You’ll be given a voucher code to use when you contact the third-party audit defense company. The voucher provides free access to the services.
Tax Refund Options
You can receive your tax refund in these ways:
- Direct deposit
- Paper check
- Prepaid American Express Serve Card
How to Sign Up
In order to access the tax preparation service, you need to be a Credit Karma member. Signing up is fairly straightforward. Using your email address as your sign-in, you’ll set up a password and then provide other information, including:
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
You’ll also have to answer questions about loans or other items in order to confirm your identity. Once you have an account, you can start the process of filing your tax return by choosing the “Tax” option on the navigation menu.
While you don’t sync your bank accounts, it is possible to pull information into your tax form using other software. TurboTax, TaxAct, and H&R Block forms can be captured and the information imported into Credit Karma. Additionally, you can import salary information from ADP and Experian using an employer identification number.
You can provide your bank information on the tax form so that your tax refund is deposited directly into your account if that’s how you prefer to receive it.
Credit Karma Tax Prep Pros & Cons
Completely free—You won’t pay anything when you file your state and federal tax returns using Credit Karma..
Offers audit defense—Get help if you’re audited, free of charge.
Easy to use—Credit Karma tax prep is easy to use and the interface is clean. Plus, you get help along the way.
Completely mobile tax filing—With everything completely accessible from your phone, it’s easy to file your taxes on your own terms.
Import from other tax prep software—The ability to import your previous information quickly and easily allows you to get a jumpstart on filing.
Not all forms are available—While most tax situations can be handled by Credit Karma, not all of them can. Some important situations, such as multiple state returns, can’t be completed using this software. There are some trust forms that aren’t available, and Credit Karma can’t handle the Foreign Tax Credit.
You have to sign up for Credit Karma—You might not want to sign up for Credit Karma and be bombarded with offers and other items.
Customer service doesn’t focus on taxes—If you have a specific tax question to ask a human, it can be difficult to get through and to get a good answer since Credit Karma’s specialty isn’t tax preparation.
It’s possible to complete the entire tax filing process using a dedicated mobile device.
Credit Karma has an online help center, including a section devoted to tax preparation. It’s searchable and can help you answer questions about the process. You can also get member support through email. Unfortunately, Credit Karma doesn’t offer phone support, so you need to be prepared to manage questions through email. Additionally, note that you might not get as much tax help as you would with a company that’s completely devoted to tax prep.