Both of my daughters are younger millennials, which means they’re new to adulting. One of the biggest experiences of being an adult is doing your tax return and filing your taxes. It’s one of the reasons I’m writing this Jackson Hewitt tax review. I wanted to see if the company would be an option for them.
This past year was a big year for my older daughter, Jane, 23. It was her first year in the real world with a real job and real W2 for her earnings at the end of 2018. While she didn’t make much, she knew she needed to file her tax return, if she ever wanted to get a refund. Also, her 2018 return was sure to be confusing to file. Why? Because she lived in two states–Maryland and Texas. That meant she would have to file state returns there, too.
With the new tax reform law taking effect in 2018, there was no way to know upfront if her measly annual salary would make her eligible for a tax return from the feds or either state. But we also knew that until she filed her taxes, we wouldn’t know.
Last year Jane struggled through a DIY tax return approach. In 2017 she was both a college student and then an apprentice after graduation. She was barely making minimum wage. She figured she could just do the 1040EZ to file her taxes.
Jane tried using Turbo Tax and found it incredibly confusing. Eventually, we ended up on the phone, with both of us on the IRS website trying to figure it out on our own. In the end she got her taxes filed, but we knew there had to be a better way.
Jackson Hewitt tax review
Thankfully, the folks at Jackson Hewitt reached out to me about writing a Jackson Hewitt tax review as a sponsored post. It would be on the best way to file taxes online. This would be a great way for Jane to learn some DIY tax return tips and get her taxes filed in time for the April 15 tax return deadline. So this blog post is that Jackson Hewitt tax review.
On a recent weekend day, we sat down to get her taxes done using Jackson Hewitt online. We had no idea what the experience was going to be like or how long it was going to take.
But before I get into the details of our experience using Jackson Hewitt, let me just say this–even if I hadn’t partnered with the company, I would definitely suggest my daughters use the service again next year.
Now onto the Jackson Hewitt tax review.
How to use Jackson Hewitt online
When you use Jackson Hewitt online to file your taxes, first you have to register for an account. This includes confirming your email and setting up security questions.
Once all of that is settled, a pop-up box appears. It tells you everything you should have on hand first before diving into doing your tax return. This includes your tax forms, like a W2, your social security number and a copy of last year’s return for reference. Jane was ready with all three.
Answering basic questions
After registering Jackson Hewitt asked a handful of questions:
- How will you file? She clicked single.
- Can someone claim you as a dependent? Since she is still on our health insurance, she said yes.
- What is your full name?
- What is your social security number?
- When were you born?
- What is your occupation?
- What is your address? It auto filled this from her account.
- Which state are you a resident? I mentioned earlier how Jane had worked in two states in 2018. We thought for sure this would trip up Jackson Hewitt online, but, nope–it let her answer that she had lived in multiple states. Jane was super relieved.
Starting the federal tax return
Next, Jackson Hewitt online asked Jane if they could apply the information from her federal return for her state returns. Why wouldn’t you answer, “Yes”? This just makes everything so much easier.
Starting the federal return meant Jane had to enter all of the information from her W2. The site also made it clear that if she had other W2 information to add from another employer, she would be able to do that later. Again, Jane was relieved at how easy that was going to be.
She had to enter her address exactly as it appeared on her W2. In this instance it was in Dallas, Texas.
Entering information from W2
As I was taking notes for this Jackson Hewitt tax review, Jane told me that this was, perhaps, the most tedious part of doing her taxes. Jane had to enter all of the information from the boxes on her W2. That doesn’t seem like a big deal except for this. How the boxes appear online tripped her up. That’s because they are not how they appear on a W2.
On the screen, the W2 boxes are listed top to bottom, then across. On the W2 they are listed left to right and then down. I would imagine that if you’re not paying attention, you could easily enter the information incorrectly. Jane said that she hoped future versions of this software might have it mimic the W2 exactly to avoid confusion.
Once she got to box 12, it was empty. Same with boxes 13 and 14. At first we thought something was wrong, but then we took out her dad’s W2 and noticed they were blank, too. So she moved on.
The next were boxes 15 through 17, which are state and local amounts. At first Jane freaked out because they were empty. She was concerned that her Texas employer hadn’t withheld any state or local taxes this entire past year. That means she would owe taxes. However, a quick Google search uncovered that Texas does not have a state income tax.
State taxes confusing
Jane commented that it would have been ideal if the Jackson Hewitt online software had recognized her Texas address. Maybe if there had been a pop up alerting her to the “no state income tax” status. This wasn’t a deal breaker, but for a young person doing her first real tax return, that FYI would have helped avoid some worry.
After that we moved on to her second W2, which was from Maryland. So she repeated all the steps above.
Jane commented during the note-taking for this Jackson Hewitt tax review that she liked how the software recognized the dashes in between employer tax numbers and social security numbers. So when she typed in the first few digits, the cursor automatically advanced to the next box for the rest of the number. She commented about how many times she’s been on websites that require you to tab over and how that can end up being annoying and a time suck.
Adding 1099s to her tax return
Jackson Hewitt online made it easy for Jane to understand when she was done with the W2 information and that she could move on to any 1099s she wanted to add to her tax return. However, if you’ve ever gotten a 1099, you know there are lots of different kinds of 1099s. There are some for freelance income, interest earned and dividends paid.
Jane had a 1099 she wanted to add. It was from a paid internship. Since there were two places where she could potentially enter a 1099 MISC, she found this part of the tax return experience confusing
In fact, at first she started to enter it where self-employed income was supposed to go and then realized her mistake. However, going back to fix it was easy. There is a constant menu on the left-hand side of the screen that lets you know where in the filing process you are. Plus, if you need to skip back to a screen you’ve already done, you can do it easily via that sidebar menu.
Running tab at the top of the screen
Another nice feature of Jackson Hewitt online was the running tab at the top of the screen. It shows you, as you proceed through the tax return process, how much you owe or how much you’re due for a refund.
At this point in Jane’s filing, she owed close to $300 to the federal government. However, she had one last tax form to enter. It was a 1098 for student loan interest she’d paid in 2018. Once that was added in, she went from owing the government to the government owing her money aka a refund of $35.
We realized we forgot other student loan interest paid
In the midst of cheering that she was getting a refund, we remembered that she had two other student loans that she had been paying since graduating college in 2017. Jane hadn’t received 1098 forms from them. We discovered that with one of the loans from the federal government, it is your responsibility to log into your account and get the form.
Jane realized that for her 2017 return, she had neglected to report the interest paid on her student loans and had possibly missed out on past deductions. One student loan was originally from a private bank. The other was the aforementioned federal student loan that she qualified for by filing her FAFSA while in college.
We’re not sure if in the past she would have been able to deduct the student loan interest because she didn’t have a full-time salary but the point is moot. There are no backsies for missing out on deductions. I would imagine that student loan interest is one of the most common tax deductions for young adults or young professionals. So warning to others: don’t forget to gather your 1098 forms–all of them–before filing your taxes.
Onto the state tax returns
You’ll recall that Jane had agreed up front to let Jackson Hewitt online use her federal information for her state returns. This made it easy to complete this part because it auto filled.
The tricky part came when she tried to file multiple state tax returns as a part-time, non-resident. That is, she worked in Maryland for only a few months before taking a job in Texas. Plus, because she is back in Pennsylvania now, the state where she grew up, she was asked to file a tax return in Pennsylvania, too.
With regards to residence, doing the state return for Maryland was extra confusing. I doubt this is Jackson Hewitt online’s fault but nonetheless it left her scratching her head.
At first she clicked that she was a part-year resident. However, when she entered her Pennsylvania address, she couldn’t complete the form. It refused to let her enter an out-of-state address. She finally figured out that she should have chosen non-resident and it worked. She’s getting $5 back from Maryland.
Again, now that she’s back in Pennsylvania, she had to file a Pennsylvania return, but ended up with a tax liability of $0.
Even though she had lived in Texas for most of 2018, she did not have to file a state return there. You’ll recall that we learned that Texas does not have a state income tax. Therefore, no tax return needed.
Pressing enter to file now
The final screen shows all of the refunds Jane would be eligible for and then the button to “File Now.” She clicked on it.
The next screen asked her if she wanted to eFile, which she did. Six minutes after she filed, the IRS emailed that they’d accepted her tax return. Wow!
When she first registered with Jackson Hewitt online, she had clicked on file your taxes for free, because she thought she had a simple return. Turns out she was wrong. So after submitting the e-file, she had to pay for Jackson Hewitt online for filing her taxes on her behalf. Here is what Jane paid:
- Federal $49.95
- Maryland $36.95
- PA $36.95
FYI, prices have since changed since we did Jane’s taxes as part of this Jackson Hewitt tax review. The current prices are now:
- $69.99 for Federal
- $39.99 for the State returns
There is a way to save money filing your taxes online with Jackson Hewitt. You can enter a Jackson Hewitt promo code FILETODAY to save 25 percent on your federal return.
A millennial’s take on this Jackson Hewitt tax review
Jane said that this was the first tax service she’d actually used that she would recommend to friends and use again next year. Last year Jane tried using TurboTax. Big mistake.
“TurboTax was so confusing,” she told me. “Even though I had to file multiple states last year, all TurboTax did was tell me where I went wrong but then it was up to me to find the error and fix it. With [Jackson Hewitt online] it took me right to where the issue was so I could fix it. ”
Jane had such a great experience with Jackson Hewitt online that her sister, a senior in college, ended up using the service to file her taxes, too. She has a limited income and fewer tax forms so the process was much easier and faster for her.
All in all it took almost 90 minutes for Jane to do her taxes. That’s about what it takes her father and me to do our taxes with our accountant. What’s even better is when we asked our accountant what she would charge to do our daughter’s tax returns, she quoted us $140 per tax return. So if we’d gone with her, Jane would have paid $420 to have her taxes filed. Instead she paid just $123.85 for three returns.
After filing her taxes, Jackson Hewitt uploaded a PDF of her 2018 return. It would live in her profile if she ever needed it again. That’s super convenient. Just one more reason that this Jackson Hewitt tax review gets two thumbs up from my millennial daughters as well as their mom. 👍👍