We all know what they say about death and taxes, right? Well, there’s no software to help you manage death (yet), but there are a number of programs that can help make filing taxes easier. Whether you already have a favorite program or you are looking for a better solution to your new tax complications, it’s a good idea to review your options! Take a look at the best tax software available for download today, and why they may be the smart choice for your situation.
For most of today’s tax software, there are several tiers of pricing. A very simple 1040 EZ filing is generally free. More complex filings cost more, up to self-employed and small business filings, which are generally the most expensive. However, it’s always important to keep an eye on state filing costs. This may be an additional fee per state, or bundled as a freebie in your pricing tier.
TurboTax ($0 – $150)
TurboTax from Intuit remains one of the most popular tax software options, and for good reason. The TurboTax system is easy to use, offers numerous explanations for all things tax-related, and has strong compatibility with past filings. The question-and-answer format makes filing on your own very easy, and there are online chat rooms with tax experts that you can ask if you run into anything too weird. The software also excels at helping you find deductions and ways to save more money.
However, there are a few issues worth noting. The interface can get a bit confusing when you are looking directly at your tax forms rather than using the TurboTax question format, which may make it difficult to find a specific form or answer a certain question not covered by the walkthrough. Also, TurboTax has some of the highest fees if you have taxes more complex than a basic filing, so be prepared to pay.
H&R Block ($0 – $75)
H&R Block’s services span apps, full programs, in-office visits, credit cards and much more: It’s a nice variety of options if you like choosing how to deal with your taxes, or you need some combination of digital self-filing and tax services to get everything done. Their primary tax program, however, is very similar to TurboTax, with a friendly interface and question-and-answer format that hides most of the real tax documents until the end. There are still plenty of online help and chat services, but it’s nice to have the option to make a real-world appointment if you want to. Keep on eye on extra charges for state filing though, as this is where H&R really raises the fees.
TaxAct ($0 – $60)
TaxAct (once TaxEdge) takes you through your “Life Events” in the past year, and then walks you through how these events affect your state and income taxes, giving you the information you need to fill out the appropriate forms (although it won’t autofill everything for you).
It’s a simplified version of the TurboTax format that may be more suited to people who have been using tax programs for a while and don’t need so much handholding. There’s also another big benefit to this system: It’s highly affordable, with even self-employed filing apps available for $45, lower than most of the other big names.
TaxSlayer ($0 – $40)
TaxSlayer is another highly affordable option that you can use to save money on the download…or save even more by filing your own taxes instead of hiring someone else to do it. The software has a simple, clean interface that turns your tax forms into basic digital information fill-outs, removing the confusion from tracking your tax documentation.
A number of professional accountants use TaxSlayer to help prepare their client’s taxes, so it does help to know the general layout of your taxes and what needs to be filled out this year (although there is a “Guide Me” option to make things easier). Searching through the forms is particularly quick here, thanks to powerful search tools. There are chat and phone support services if you get stuck at any part.
Liberty Tax ($15 – $70)
There’s no free option for Liberty Tax, but the basic download only costs you $15, and it comes with a variety of import tools to help you quickly gather your data from W-2s, last year’s return, ACA forms, and other documents. There are some powerful auto-fill features that make sure accurate information is transferred everywhere when you just have to import it once. Otherwise it’s a pretty simple program, although there is room for wizards that check for any important tax amendments and help you manage more complex scenarios.
However, it’s worth noting that while the Liberty Tax program is generally well-received, their brick-and-mortar establishment tend to have poor customer reviews, so it may not be the best option for face-to-face help.
Credit Karma ($0)
Credit Karma can import tax returns made with TurboTax or H&R Block if you feel like making a switch, It’s useful as a free option you can use to save money while still working on more complex return. The questionnaire style of the software is simple but fairly comprehensive, and support has grown by leaps and bounds since Credit Karma first came out. There’s now 24-hour chat services to help you figure out any sticky parts.
The interface makes this option particularly mobile friendly, but there is a catch to all of this. You need to sign up for a Credit Karma account, which gets you involved in a lot of other financial management stuff you may not be interested in (along with potential fees), so do a little research before jumping in.
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