Credit Karma Tax Review: Free Filing, Guaranteed [2020]

Tired of starting your taxes for free only to have to upgrade to a paid version? You can change that — Credit Karma Tax is free from start to finish.
Last updated Feb 6, 2020 | By Matt Miczulski
Woman using Credit Karma Tax

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If you’ve decided to tackle your own taxes this year and plan to file online, you may be wondering which tax preparation software you should use. There are several to choose from, so what makes one any better than the other?

Credit Karma Tax is a free tax preparation provider that never charges its users to file federal or state tax returns. Although it doesn’t accommodate all tax situations, it supports a number of forms and situations you won’t find for free on competing services.

In this Credit Karma Tax review, we’ll give you some background on the company itself, tell you everything you need to know about Credit Karma’s tax services, and answer some questions you may have so you can decide if Credit Karma Tax could work for you.

In this Credit Karma Tax review

Credit Karma Tax overview

Credit Karma Tax is the online tax preparation arm of personal finance company Credit Karma, which is already used by more than 100 million people. Credit Karma Tax boasts an always-free approach to preparing federal and state taxes, along with free e-filing, without any income restrictions or upsells.

The San Francisco-based company first unveiled its free personalized tax preparation software in December 2016, ahead of the 2017 tax filing season. Credit Karma entered the tax preparation industry that same year after purchasing online tax preparer and filing company, AFJC Corporation. More than 1.7 million Americans joined the waitlist ahead of its launch.

In addition to tax preparation and e-filing services, Credit Karma also provides other tools and resources you can use to further your financial progress. This includes free access to your credit scores, reports, and monitoring, a high-yield online savings account, a search tool to find unclaimed money, and reviews of financial products like credit cards and personal loans.

If you’re new to Credit Karma, you may be wondering how it stays free. Credit Karma provides personalized recommendations for financial products like credit cards and loans based on the information in your profile and account. If you accept one of these offers, Credit Karma usually makes some money from that partner. If you don’t, Credit Karma is still free to use.

Credit Karma Tax is currently available in 40 states and the District of Columbia. You can get a full list of available states here.

How much does Credit Karma Tax cost: Products and prices

From start to finish, filing your taxes with Credit Karma Tax is always free. There are no hidden fees or income and tax bracket restrictions; however, like most free tax preparation software, the supported forms and situations are limited. In other words, depending on the complexity of your tax situation, you may require particular tax forms that aren’t available on Credit Karma Tax.

That being said, where Credit Karma Tax differs from other free tax preparation and filing services is in the tax forms and situations it supports. According to the Credit Karma website, it supports “the most common tax forms.” This includes joint filing and itemized deductions, as well as forms an individual must file to report income or loss from a small business. Competitors such as TurboTax Free Edition, on the other hand, is only available for filers with a simple tax return who plan to take the standard deduction. It doesn’t include itemized deductions and business income.

The following situations are not currently supported by Credit Karma Tax:

  • Multiple state filings
  • Part-year state filing
  • Foreign earned income
  • State returns for married filing separately in community property states*
  • State filing without a federal filing
Product Cost Best for...
Credit Karma Tax Free Tax filers who want a free, streamlined filing process

How does Credit Karma Tax work? 4 key features

Credit Karma Tax is a smart and simple tax filing service that provides a tailored experience specific to your unique filing situation. Here are some of the key features available to its users:

Streamlined onboarding for an intuitive experience

As you begin your return with Credit Karma Tax, you’ll be asked a series of comprehensive questions used to map to applicable tax forms. Each answer is used to develop a personalized dashboard to help you file your taxes efficiently, and you will only fill out the forms required for your particular situation.

Free audit protection

You can receive free audit defense which manages your correspondence with the IRS and provides in-person representation in the event you get audited.

24/7 chat support

Taxes can be complicated — something that may prevent you from filing on your own. New for the 2020 tax filing season, Credit Karma Tax is rolling out 24/7 chat support to its members. So if you have a question at any time during the filing process, experts are just a click away.

Mobile filing

Tax filers who used Credit Karma Tax last tax season were able to start their taxes on their mobile device. More than half of all Credit Karma Tax filers started their taxes this way. This year, users can file their taxes from start to finish directly from their smartphone—no matter how complex their tax situation.

Credit Karma Tax pros and cons

Pros

Credit Karma Tax is worthy of your consideration if you’re looking for a free, smart tax filing experience. There are no paid upgrades, so you won’t hit any type of pay wall just because you had some self-employment income or want to itemize your deductions. Credit Karma Tax is free from start to finish.

The inherent complexity of taxes, not to mention your money being on the line, can have you dreading the tax-filing process. Credit Karma Tax provides a simple, user-friendly experience that takes the guess-work out of the process. Credit Karma Tax also 100% guarantees the accuracy of its calculations. So if the IRS or your state tax authority imposes a penalty on you due to a Credit Karma Tax calculation, the company will reimburse you up to $1,000.

Credit Karma Tax users also benefit from the company’s “Maximum Refund Guarantee.” If you receive a bigger federal refund or owe less in federal taxes when you file an amended return through another online tax prep service, Credit Karma Tax will cover the difference up to $100.

Cons

As with any free tax-filing service, Credit Karma Tax does have limitations — even though it supports a great number of forms and tax situations. So depending on your unique situation, Credit Karma Tax might not be able to file your taxes for you.

If you’re looking for personalized tax help on Credit Karma, you may also be disappointed. While some competitors offer the option to consult tax experts for a fee, Credit Karma offers no such service.

How to contact Credit Karma Tax

The only way to contact Credit Karma is by submitting a request online to its member support department as it does not provide phone support.

However, you can also contact Credit Karma Tax via chat 24/7 if you have questions at any point during filing. This chat feature can be located within the “Help” section located at the top of your dashboard when logged into Credit Karma Tax.

FAQs

Is it really free to file taxes with Credit Karma?

Yes, it is completely free to prepare and e-file your federal and state tax returns with Credit Karma Tax. There are no hidden fees, and also included in your filing is free Audit Defense.

Is Credit Karma better than TurboTax?

It depends on how you define “better.” Turbo Tax offers a free version as a part of the IRS Free File program for filers with simple tax situations who meet certain eligibility requirements. Situations not covered include itemized deductions, business or 1099-MISC income, and credits and deductions. All of these are available with Credit Karma Tax.

Is Credit Karma safe?

Yes, Credit Karma is safe to use. Credit Karma is a legitimate San Francisco-based personal finance company that provides resources for you to better understand your financial situation.

Does Credit Karma Tax have a phone number?

Credit Karma Tax does not have a phone number for telephone support. The company runs solely online.

Bottom line

There are plenty of free tax preparation providers out there, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the same experience across the board. Credit Karma Tax offers its members a smart, streamlined tax filing experience — for free. You can also file your return without worrying that you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version in order to finish.

If you don’t mind the extra work, enter your tax information into Credit Karma Tax and another comparable tax prep software to see which gives you the highest return.

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