Free Online Tax Filing with IRS Free File - Ongoing Updates

We switched from Turbo Tax to TaxACT with the 2014 Filing and onto IRS Free File Option with TaxACT with the 2015 filing. Based primarily on Adjusted Gross Income limits, many online tax providers offer IRS Free File option. Although the IRS published AGI limit is $64K, there are vendor specific limits that are often lower - for example, the TaxACT AGI limit for Free File 2016 was $52K. One other thing to keep in mind is that if you are willing to use fillable forms, you can opt to IRS Free File even when you do not meet the AGI cut-off.

Note: consider also what is available at the Amazon.com Tax Preparation Software area. The options there are suitable in case you prefer client software as opposed to online interface.


2016 Taxes - TaxACT Free File Update

Since our AGI for 2016 was well below the TaxACT Free File cut-off of $52K, we had no problems using TAXACT Free File. Since we had an existing TaxACT account that used the Free File option in 2015, the process went really smooth - it allowed using our previous user name and also allowed importing the details of last year’s return without a glitch.

Below are some things we noticed:
  1. Verification Code and “Don’t ask again on this computer” checkbox - asked each time when logging in just like last year. This problem is not unique to TaxACT. Many sites rely on a static IP address to identify your machine - if your ISP contract does not provide for static IP, then you will encounter this.
  2. In several screens, especially fast manual input forms, when using Joint Filing, it is not clear from the screen which one of the joint filers the form applies to. Basically, you will need to go back and verify this which is cumbersome.
  3. Some of the screens (example Stock Assistant) will adjust automatically without having to use scroll-bars when screen size is varied. This is especially useful when having the TaxACT input-form and the corresponding IRS form side-by-side to enter info without errors.
  4. Access to Stock Assistant screen was not obvious from certain points: direct entry into 1099 or Step-by-Step are sometimes the only accessible options. The Stock Assistant selection was just not there.  “Jump To” link under Help provides a way out as the Stock Assistant can be launched from there.
  5. The 1099-MISC form entry was not obvious when coming in thru the “Business Income” interface. Eventually, I got the 1099-MISC entry screen by clicking thru from another screen - cumbersome.
  6. TaxACT provides an option to generate a FAFSA Summary Report. This can be helpful later on when filing the mandatory FAFSA form during college applications.
  7. Most screen entry fields have a button by the side to add more info. This can be confusing especially for date fields as you would expect the button to display a calendar to select a date.
  8. While eFiling, it asks for Driver’s License ID of the filers and then say it is not mandatory - our licenses are expired and so we skipped it and it still worked.
  9. EFile status can be checked over the Web. You will be asked to provide the primary SSN of the return, along with zip code and last name - http://efstatus.taxact.com . Other options are that they sent an email and also mobile SMS (US carriers only).  The “Accepted” notification from TaxACT came almost immediately after the submission notification although they say the average is around 2 hours.  For some reason, the status check options all behave differently - the efstatus.taxact.com screen said status as not available even though the email notification had already come. Also, under My Return, checking the status showed it was accepted.
  10. There is now a 20% discount to filers + $20 Amazon gift card referral bonus offer screen after you have eFiled.

2015 Taxes - TaxACT Free File Update

TaxACT had become more expensive in 2015. Basically, they also went the route of charging more depending on the tax forms. Checked out TurboTax and others and most are a lot more expensive than TaxACT. Finally, decided to check-out the IRS Free File option. Our AGI was well below $62K in 2015 and so they offer a number of Free File options. Chose TaxACT, but using our 2014 TaxACT  username did not work as the interface did not allow "Free File" using an existing user name.  So, created a new account from the Free File link and that worked. Also, the interface allowed importing from our 2014 TaxACT account.

Some things to note compared to 2014:

  1. Username can no longer be the email address. Also, passwords are required to be more stringent (8+ characters, at-least one capital, one number, and one special character, etc.).
  2. One time, it asked to Sign Out as the servers are shutting down for maintenance - really annoying.  Trying to sign in again caused “our system is temporarily unavailable for maintenance on our servers” message.  It did not provide an ETA either - just said to try again later. Thankfully, the system was back online a few hours later.
  3. Tax Act supposedly increased security by asking for a Verification Code with “Don’t ask again on this computer” checkbox each time you login from a different computer. But, for us, even after checking the check box, it asked for the Verification Code repeatedly. Apparently, the interface uses the IP address to determine whether it is a different computer and our ISP plan does not guarantee static IP address and hence the problem.
  4. Going back to make corrections is cumbersome: a) had to browse through several pages to update certain columns in 1099-MISC forms, and b) For Health Insurance Coverage, had inputted that we qualify for exemption as we reside outside US. But during renewal, had to go through that again as the ‘Continue’ button was not enabled. 
  5. The Print and eFiling interfaces have become more intuitive this year. 

Related Posts:

  1. Free Online Tax Filing with IRS Free File - Ongoing Updates (this post)
  2. Turbo Tax to TaxACT switching experience - 2014 Tax Filing
  3. 2013 Tax Filing - TurboTax Usage Experience
  4. Turbo Tax Online Price Increase Over The Years - A Comparison.
  5. Online Tax Filing – TaxAct, TaxCut, Turbo Tax – User Experience Review.

Last Updated: 04/2017.

Tracking Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Warren Buffett's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:






Warren Buffett's writings (pdfs) are a treasure trove of information and are a very good source for anyone starting out on individual investing.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .

Tracking David Einhorn's Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights David Einhorn's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



To learn about David Einhorn and the perils of shorting, check-out his "Fooling Some of the People All of the Time, A Long Short (and Now Complete) Story".


To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .

Tracking Bruce Berkowitz's Fairholme Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Bruce Berkowitz's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:






To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .

Tracking Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Bill Ackman's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 To learn more about Bill Ackman, check-out the book "Confidence Game: How Hedge Fund Manager Bill Ackman Called Wall Street's Bluff".

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .

Tracking George Soros's Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights George Soros's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:




To learn about Soros' distinct trading style and philosophy, check out his "The Alchemy of Finance" and other works.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy

Tracking Glenn Greenberg's Brave Warrior Advisors Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Glenn Greenberg's Brave Warrior Advisors moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:




To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy

Tracking John Paulson's Paulson & Company Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights John Paulson's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:




 John Paulson is best known for his highly leveraged bets against the real-estate bubble that netted him billions in the aftermath. To learn more about that story, check-out "The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History".

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy

Tracking Carl Icahn's Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Carl Icahn's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 Note: Icahn's 13F filing is a consolidated report and so should not be viewed as a single portfolio. Specifically, Icahn Enterprises holds several of the businesses and the entities in turn hold Icahn Enterprises. For an idea on the business structure, check-out Icahn Enterprises Investor Presentation (Slide 9).

Carl Icahn is best known for building sizable stakes in businesses and then pushing for changes to increase shareholder value. To learn more about his investing style and philosophy check-out "King Icahn: The Biography of a Renegade Capitalist".

 To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy

Tracking Ole Andreas Halvorsen's Viking Global Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Ole Andreas Halvorsen's Viking Global Portfolio this quarter.   Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 Viking Global was established in 1999 and Ole Andreas Halvorsen is considered one of the most successful among the "tiger cubs" and he currently manages over $25B. To know more about Julian Robertson and his legendary Tiger Management, check out Julian Robertson: A Tiger in the Land of Bulls and Bears.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy.  

Tracking Jeffrey Ubben's ValueAct Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights changes to Jeffrey Ubben's ValueAct Capital US long stock portfolio this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 To know more about activist investing, check out Deep Value: Why Activist Investors and Other Contrarians Battle for Control of Losing Corporations.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy

Tracking Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Nelson Peltz's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:






To know more about activist investing, check out Deep Value: Why Activist Investors and Other Contrarians Battle for Control of Losing Corporations

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy.

Tracking Wallace Weitz's Weitz Investment Management Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Wallace Weitz's moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy.

Tracking Alex Roepers' Atlantic Investment Management Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights Alex Roepers' moves this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 To know more about activist investing, check out Deep Value: Why Activist Investors and Other Contrarians Battle for Control of Losing Corporations

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy

Tracking Larry Robbins' Glenview Capital Management Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Larry Robbins' Glenview Capital Holdings US long portfolio holdings this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy

Tracking Stephen Mandel's Lone Pine Capital Holdings - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Stephen Mandel's Lone Pine Capital US long portfolio holdings this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:






Stephen Mandel is a bonafide "tiger cub". To know more about Julian Robertson and his legendary Tiger Management, check out Julian Robertson: A Tiger in the Land of Bulls and Bears.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy.  

Tracking Allan Mecham's Arlington Value Capital Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Allan Mecham's Arlington Value Capital's US long portfolio holdings this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



 To know more about value investing, check out Value Investing: A Value Investor's Journey Through The Unknown.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy.   

Tracking Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb's Portfolio - Q4 2015 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb's US long portfolio holdings this quarter. Please check-out our SeekingAlpha column for an analysis of the moves:



To learn about Benjamin Graham's teachings on value investing, check out the classics The Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy.   

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