Credit Karma Tax Review - It's Free, No Strings Attached
Why pay to file your taxes if you can get it done for free? Credit Karma is offering to file your taxes for free–no strings attached. Here’s our full review of the service.
- Completely free
- Easy to use
- Totally mobile
Every year, we end up having to fill out tax forms and file them with the IRS. It’s an annual ritual that causes many of us a bit of frustration. Having to pay a fee to file taxes can feel like adding insult to injury.
This is where Credit Karma comes in. While other tax prep services do have free versions, many of them are very limited in scope to those who have drastically simple situations. If you need to itemize, or if you have self-employed income to report, you’ll find yourself paying to file with most software packages.
Credit Karma Tax, on the other hand, will help you file your taxes completely free–no matter your situation. Here’s what you need to know.
Learn More: 8 Must-Have Small Business Tax Deductions
What is Credit Karma?
Credit Karma is best known for its consumer credit offerings. You can see estimates of your credit score, monitor aspects of your finances, and apply for credit cards and other loans.
However, this is the fourth year Credit Karma has offered tax preparation services, and its offering is attractive, with the company seen as a fairly popular tax preparer in the United States.
On top of helping you prepare and file your federal tax return, Credit Karma will also help you with your state filing for free. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your situation, and the online or mobile app will help you determine the best way to approach your taxes, including helping you determine what your filing status should be.
Credit Karma has made a few tweaks for this year, and it’s easier and smoother to use than previous versions.
Features of Credit Karma’s Tax Preparation
There are several features that make using Credit Karma for tax prep fairly painless. Unless you have a particularly complex situation, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to complete your tax return, whether you use a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
- Import previous tax returns: Using Credit Karma’s Jumpstart feature, you can skip onboarding steps by uploading your 1040 from TaxAct, H&R Block, or TurboTax.
- Mobile filing: Credit Karma has a robust app that allows you to use your phone or tablet to take pictures and upload important documents.
- Tax return review: Before you file, Credit Karma will review your return and flag sections that might have been missed or that might need to be re-done.
- Audit defense: You can get third-party audit defense for free through a third party. You’ll get help answering audit questions or even get representation before the IRS or your state government if it’s needed.
- Guarantees: Credit Karma guarantees that you’ll get the maximum refund, or they’ll refund the difference, up to $100 in the form of a gift card. Additionally, if the IRS or your state penalizes you for inaccuracy, you can get up to $1,000 in the form of gift cards to offset the cost.
As you can see, Credit Karma offers many of the same services that you can get with costly options, but for free.
You don’t have to pay anything to use Credit Karma’s tax services. With the audit defense, Credit Karma provides you with a voucher code you can use that makes the service free.
However, you do have to sign up for the website, so you’ll see marketing for credit cards, car loans, and other offers. While Credit Karma won’t make money off preparing your taxes, they will make money if you get a loan or get other products through them.
Signing Up for Credit Karma
You’ll have to sign up for Credit Karma in order to access the tax prep service. You’ll provide your email and create a password, then provide your name, address, birth date, and last four digits of your Social Security number.
Once that’s done, Credit Karma will ask questions about your past credit accounts in a way that will help confirm your identity. When your account is finalized, you just need to go to the “tax” button on the menu, or go to creditkarma.com/tax to start your return.
It’s nice that you can upload a PDF of your previous year’s tax return to start the process. That way, you don’t have to enter all your basic details to start. On top of that, if you have your employer’s EIN you can export your salary information from Experian and ADP. So, depending on where your employer is registered and how they manage payroll, you might be able to get your W-2 information synced up without too much trouble.
Related: Get the Cheapest Tax Software
As an Authorized IRS e-file Provider, Credit Karma is required to meet certain privacy and security standards. You can be reasonably sure that your information is protected. Credit Karma also uses bank-level encryption and supports two-factor authentication.
Credit Karma has its own highly-rated app for Android and iOS. From within the app, you can navigate to the tax prep option. Once you’ve done that, you can complete the entire process from your mobile device.
It’s important to note that Credit Karma doesn’t specialize in taxes, so you’re not going to get the same level of help with tax-related questions as you might get with a service like H&R Block or TurboTax. However, there is an online help center that has searchable information devoted to the tax preparation process.
You can get email support as well. There’s no phone support, though, so you need to make do with the online help center and emails.
It’s important to make sure that you start your tax return somewhat early in order to make sure you have what you need. Because you don’t have the same level of support, if you decide you need to switch to another preparer, you need time to do so.
Pros & Cons
While there are definite advantages to using Credit Karma, it’s also important to consider the drawbacks, and make sure this is the right approach for your tax situation.
- Completely free — Even the audit defense won’t cost you anything. This is a truly free product.
- Supports a variety of situations — Most situations are supported by Credit Karma tax prep. You can itemize, report investment and rental income, and even file business returns.
- Tooltips to help you along — As you prepare your return, you’ll see tooltips designed to help you fill out the form more efficiently.
- Easy to use — The interface is clean and easy to use. Plus, questions guide you through the process in an intuitive manner.
- Totally mobile — You can complete your tax return from the palm of your hand.
- Some forms aren’t available — While most situations can be handled, there are some that won’t work with Credit Karma. If you have a Foreign Tax Credit, need to file more than one state return, or have certain types of trust, you can’t use Credit Karma.
- Customer service isn’t as robust — TurboTax offers screen share capabilities, and you can go into an H&R Block office. Credit Karma is lacking in specialized tax knowledge and only offers email support.
- You have to sign up for Credit Karma — You’re stuck with receiving Credit Karma offers if you want the free tax service.
Who Is It For?
If you’re fairly confident about filing your taxes, don’t expect to need a lot of hand-holding, and want a completely free way to finish your return, Credit Karma may be a good choice. It can handle most situations, as long as you don’t have something extremely complicated.
However, if you want a little more tax-specific guidance, and you think you’ll need more customer service support, it might make more sense to use TaxAct or TaxSlayer for budget options. For those who like more robust help and dedicated tax help, it can make more sense to pay the cost of TurboTax or H&R Block software–or even hire a CPA.
Carefully consider your tax situation and your needs, balancing cost with access to personalized help.