Manually preparing and filing your taxes is often a major inconvenience, which is why many of us dread when tax time rolls around. Thanks to technology, filing taxes can be stress- and hassle-free. Using tax software, you can reduce errors and save lots of time.
For its easy-to-use interface and affordability, TurboTax is our winner. We’ve also put together other options that are great for complex returns, experienced customers, and tax professionals. You may also be interested in the best budget and finance apps available this year.
The best tax software
|Tax prep software||Use case||Price (including state)|
|TurboTax||Best overall tax software||Free. Starts at $40 for premium services beyond simple returns|
|H&R Block||Best full-service tax prep software||Starts at $22.50|
|TaxAct||Best tax software for experienced customers||Free for very simple returns. $25 Basic package. States add $45 each.|
|TaxSlayer||Best tax software for tax pros||Free for basic filing. Starts at $17 for more advanced returns, adds $32 per state.|
|Liberty Tax||Best bare-bones tax software||Starts at $45|
|Credit Karma||Best free tax prep for complex returns||Free|
Best overall tax software
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 consult should you run into anything too weird. The software also excels at helping you find deductions and ways to save more money.
There are a few issues worth noting, however. 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.
Best full-service tax prep software
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 an eye on extra charges for state filing though, as this is where H&R Block really raises the fees.
Best tax software for experienced customers
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).
Think of TaxAct as 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. You can download TaxAct software, but the program is also available in an online format that allows you to save more money, so we suggest starting with that option. Otherwise, basic scenarios like owning a home or investments can become very expensive to purchase. Note that adding a state will cost $45 in additional fees.
Best tax software for tax pros
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.
Some 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.
Basic returns can be filed for free, but for other scenarios you will need to pay $17 to get started, and $32 per state. That’s still very affordable compared to other options!
Best bare-bones tax software
There’s no free option for Liberty Tax, but the basic download 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. Some powerful auto-fill features ensure accurate information is transferred everywhere after just having 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, its brick-and-mortar establishment tends to have poor customer reviews, and so it may not be the best option for face-to-face help.
Best free tax prep for complex returns
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 a 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 are 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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