Most online tax software, tax preparation services or e-filing services will promise 100% accuracy guarantees, the biggest refunds and the fastest delivery. But can they all deliver? As with most guarantees, there is some fine print involved that you should be aware of before you file using one of these services.

100% Accuracy Guarantees
Nearly all tax services offer this type of guarantee, and while they may actually pull through to some extent, most of them can only promise you so much. Most 100% guarantees only cover math calculations. If their software makes a math error most companies will pay your associated fees and interest, but not the tax difference their error cost you. Additionally, they cannot help you if you enter incorrect information.

Maximum Refunds
Some tax services will refund your fee if you discover that another service’s calculations provide you a larger refund. The only catch to this is that you must provide the same exact information to each of them. Interestingly enough, two of the tax services that we reviewed that offered this kind of guarantee came up with the same exact refund amount. However, we did notice that some services came up with different refund amounts because they failed to ask all the questions necessary to help you discover all of the deductions or credits you may be eligible for.

Fastest Refund Guarantee
You will see this “promise” on most tax preparation sites with an accompanying asterisk. Many will say that you can receive your refund by direct deposit in as little as eight days. This time frame is actually out of their hands; the part they can control is when they submit your e-file, but after the IRS receives it is out of their control. The IRS reports that they can get most direct deposit refunds within eight to 15 days, which is why the service may report “in as few as 8 days.”

Money-back Refund
Some services offer a money-back refund if you are not satisfied with the product. However, if your return is filed with the IRS or your state and accepted you usually cannot request a refund.

Free e-Filing
It is true, many services can e- file your federal return for free. Most services will provide free e-filing of federal returns for those who have a simple return, such as those who file with a 1040EZ. In most cases, if you need to file a return with deductions you cannot file for free. Additionally, those that do support free federal filing charge for state e-filing.

Free Tax Return Preparation
Some tax preparation services do provide free preparation, but then they may ask for a payment when you try to print your return or if you want to e-file. So you can prepare your return for free, but you still pay for e-filing. Some services will allow you to print your return for free.

Free Audit Support
Some services offer free audit support. This is limited, which means they will generally help you understand the correspondence you receive from the IRS and help you determine what you need to do in response. This may be in the form of tutorials or, in the case of TurboTax, a downloadable step-by-step guide. To get one-on-one help from a human you would have to hire a professional.

Despite the limitations of the above offers, the best online tax services can help you file accurate returns by providing a guided interview process that can help you file the correct forms. They can also help you get the most deductions and credits for your individual situation. Because of all the tax changes this year, the IRS is actually recommending that tax payers e-file to ensure they file with the most up-to-date forms.

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