Best Tax Software Programs

TurboTax handles most tax situations including many that are less common

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Tax software programs allow individuals and business owners with little to no tax knowledge to accurately file their tax returns, get their maximum owed refund, and avoid IRS audits. What’s more, tax preparation software makes online tax filing a breeze by walking users through every step of the process and checking for errors and deductions along the way.

The best tax software programs make it easy to quickly do your taxes accurately. They also come with fair pricing for your tax preparation needs and good customer support if you have any questions along the way. If you get really stuck, the best tax software connects you with someone who can answer tax questions unique to your situation.

Best Tax Software Programs for 2021

Best Overall : TurboTax


Intuit Turbotax

 Intuit Turbotax

  • Price: $90 + $50 per state (Premier Plan)
  • Support: Phone, chat, video, full tax preparation
  • Accuracy Guarantee: Money-back
Why We Chose It

We picked TurboTax as best overall because it is easy to use, offers different pricing tiers for different needs, and offers the option to upgrade for live support.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Easy-to-use tax wizard

  • Upgradable tax support

  • DIY and live assist plans

Cons
  • Limited tax support unless you pay

  • Expensive state filing fees

  • Most expensive plan overall

Overview

TurboTax makes it easy for first-time or inexperienced tax filers to get started. Users are first asked to choose their situation, like “I want to maximize deductions and credits,” “I have a job (received W-2),” etc. This helps TurboTax determine which pricing plan is right for the user. The software then uses plain-language questions to walk users through every part of the tax filing process and includes quick explanations of confusing terms or processes.

TurboTax also offers many other conveniences, including importing a PDF of a previous return to start a new return, importing W-2 and 1099 forms by snapping a picture of them, and the ability to file taxes using the TurboTax mobile app. Users also have the option to get their return reviewed by a CPA or agent before they file as well as unlimited live tax advice for an extra fee.     

TurboTax offers a variety of pricing plans. Users can choose from one of four DIY TurboTax plans or four TurboTax Live plans. Fees for all plans are only due at the time of filing.

Read our full TurboTax review

TurboTax Plans
Free Plan Deluxe Plan Premier Plan Self-Employed Plan
FREE $60 + $50 per state filed $90 + $50 per state filed $120 + $50 per state filed
Free filing of simple federal and state tax returns All Free Plan features All Deluxe Plan features All Premier Plan features
Covers W-2 income, Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC), and child tax credits Searches 350+ tax deductions and credits Covers stocks, bonds, ESPPs, and other investments Help for contractors, freelancers, and small business owners
Import PDF return from other tax software Maximizes mortgage and property tax deductions Auto import investment income Industry-specific deductions
Audit Support Guarantee Homeowner tax breaks (Schedule A) Rental property income and tax deductions One-on-one help from self-employment specialists
24/7 access to an online community One-on-one on-demand help   Expense, mileage, and job tracking
      Import 1099-MISC from a photo
TurboTax Live Plans
 Basic Plan  Deluxe Plan  Premier Plan  Self-Employed Plan
$80 + $45 per state filed $120 + $55 per state filed $170 + $55 per state filed $200 + $55 per state filed
Prep, print, and e-file with help from a tax expert All Basic Plan features All Deluxe Plan features All Premier Plan features
Import W-2 from a photo Talk with a tax expert about 350+ deductions and credits Covers stocks, bonds, ESPPs, and other investments Tax advice for self-employment income and expenses
Final review and/or filing from a CPA or EA Review mortgage tax deductions with a CPA or EA Auto import investment income Industry-specific deductions
  Donation deduction support Covers rental property income and tax deductions Personalized audit assessment
    Account for gains and losses from cryptocurrency transactions Expense, mileage, and job tracking

Runner-Up, Best Overall : H&R Block


H&R Block

 H&R Block

  • Price: $69.99 + $44.99 per state (Premium Online Plan)
  • Support: Phone, chat, video, in-person, full tax preparation
  • Accuracy Guarantee: $10,000
Why We Chose It

We chose H&R Block because it offers competitive pricing and the most commonly-needed features for easy tax preparation, but it isn’t quite as easy to use as TurboTax.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Walk-in help at 11,000 locations

  • Upgradable tax support options

  • DIY and live support plans

Cons
  • Limited tax support unless you pay

  • More expensive than some competitors

Overview

H&R Block offers practically everything that TurboTax does for a little less. Users get a similar interface that walks them through the tax preparation process, popup explanations, and the ability to have a return reviewed by an accountant for an extra fee. Unlike TurboTax, however, users can also go to a brick-and-mortar H&R Block office to talk to an expert in person.

Like TurboTax, H&R Block lets users get started quickly by importing taxes from a previous year and uploading a photo of their W-2 form. It also offers a free plan for simple tax returns like TurboTax but with the added benefit of being able to file Schedule 1 through 3 forms which allow users to report business income, alimony, deductible student loan interest, and more. 

Like TurboTax, H&R Block splits its offering between the DIY File Online and Online Assist plans. All plans include on-demand chat, screen sharing, and an online help center.

Read our full H&R Block review

H&R Block File Online Plans
Free Online Plan Deluxe Online Plan Premier Online Plan Self-Employed Online Plan
FREE $49.99 + $44.99 per state filed $69.99 + $44.99 per state filed $109.99 + $44.99 per state filed
Snap-a-pic W-2 import All Free Online Plan features All Deluxe Online Plan features All Premium Online Plan features
Self-help via a help center Six years' access to tax returns Import expenses from popular expense tracking apps Expense import from popular expense tracking apps
Technical support (by chat) DeductionPro® to optimize donations Cost basis calculation Import Uber driver tax information
Earned Income Tax Credit Technical support (by chat or phone) Freelance/Contractor income with expenses less than $5,000 Small business expenses (home office, depreciation, vehicle, etc.)
Child care expenses Health Savings Account (HSA) Stock sales income  
Student loan interest Real estate taxes Rental property income  
Retirement plan income Mortgage interest    
Social Security income      
Child tax credit      
H&R Block Online Assist Plans
Basic Online Assist Plan Deluxe Online Assist Plan Premier Online Assist Plan Self-Employed Online Assist Plan
$69.99 + $39.99 per state filed $109.99 + $49.99 per state filed $159.99 + $49.99 per state filed $194.99 + $49.99 per state filed
Unlimited expert help All Basic Online Assist Plan features All Deluxe Online Assist Plan features All Premium Online Assist Plan features
Snap-a-pic W-2 import Unlimited expert help Cost basis calculation Expense import from popular expense tracking apps
Technical support (by chat) Six years' access to tax returns Freelance/Contractor income with expenses less than $5,000 Import Uber driver tax information
Earned Income Tax Credit DeductionPro® to optimize donations Stock sales income Small business expenses (home office, depreciation, vehicle, etc.)
Child care expenses Transparent pricing with Price Preview Rental property income  
Student loan interest Guidance for homeowners    
Retirement plan income Technical support (by chat or phone)    
Social Security income Health Savings Account (HSA)    
Child tax credit Real estate taxes    
  Mortgage interest    

Best Value : TaxSlayer


TaxSlayer

 TaxSlayer

  • Price: $44.95 + $39.95 per state (Premium Plan)
  • Support: Phone, email, chat
  • Accuracy Guarantee: Money-back (plus penalties and interest)
Why We Chose It

We picked TaxSlayer as the best value tax software due to its affordable pricing with a 100% accuracy guarantee.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Affordably-priced

  • Low state filing fees

  • 100% accuracy guarantee

Cons
  • Less intuitive interface than competitors’

  • Few additional tax support options

Overview

TaxSlayer offers a simple interface like most of the providers we reviewed. Users just start by entering their tax situation (or importing last year’s tax return), enter their income, or import a W-2, and the software gets to work finding the best deductions. On-screen explanations aren’t as comprehensive as that of TaxSlayer’s competitors, but users can access phone and email tech support.

Unlike other providers, TaxSlayer offers limited options to access accountants or professionals who can review a tax return. Nonetheless, the company offers a 100% accuracy guarantee and reimburses its customers for any federal or state penalties and interest charges. TaxSlayer also states that if their customers don’t receive the maximum refund they are entitled to, they will refund the applicable fees.

Read our full TaxSlayer review

TaxSlayer Plans
Simple Free Plan Classic Plan Premium Plan Self-Employed Plan
FREE $24.95 + $39.95 per state filed $44.95 + $39.95 per state filed $54.95 + $39.95 per state filed
Prepare, print, and e-file All Simple Free Plan features All Classic Plan features All Premium Plan features
Includes W-2 income Includes all credits like Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit IRS Audit Assistance for three full years Guidance with 1099 income
Student loan interest and education expenses Includes all deductions and adjustments to income Ask a tax pro Maximize Schedule C work expense deductions
Free phone and email support Includes all income types – no form or schedule restrictions Priority phone and email & chat support Quarterly estimated tax payment reminders
  W-2 import and PDF upload Live chat Personalized guide to self-employed taxes
    Unlimited assistance Year-round tax and income tips

Best Free Tax Software : Credit Karma


Credit Karma

 Credit Karma

  • Price: Free
  • Support: Email
  • Accuracy Guarantee: $1,000
Why We Chose It

We chose Credit Karma tax because it’s completely free to use for any supported tax situation.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free filing for all tax returns

  • Imports from other tax software

  • Free audit defense support

Cons
  • Doesn’t support all forms

  • No multi-state filing

  • No phone support

Overview

Like its competitors, Credit Karma lets users import a previous return from other software and a photo of a W-2 and then walks them through the rest of the process using a series of questions and prompts.

Credit Karma claims to offer more filing options than its competitors’ free versions, including filing for mortgage interest, property tax, and student loan interest deductions. The software doesn’t support every type of form, however. Individuals filing in multiple states or who receive funds from a trust or estate need to look elsewhere.      

As a free service, Credit Karma offers no phone support. It does, however, include audit defense for its customers which includes consultation from a representative in the event of an IRS audit who will also attend a hearing on their behalf. Users also get accurate calculations and max refund guarantees with reimbursements up to $1,000 in IRS or state tax penalties and up to $100 if another provider shows a larger refund.

Read our full Credit Karma Tax review

Best Support : Jackson Hewitt


Jackson Hewitt

 Jackson Hewitt

  • Price: $49
  • Support: Live chat, in-person, full tax preparation
  • Accuracy Guarantee: $100
Why We Chose It

We like Jackson Hewitt because it offers a huge network of locations for both online and offline preparation tax help.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Live online support

  • Tax professionals can finish for you

  • 100% accuracy guarantee

Cons
  • Limited tax support unless you pay

  • Only imports past Jackson Hewitt returns

Overview

On the surface, Jackson Hewitt doesn’t appear to offer anything different than any of the other software we reviewed. It lets users import a W-2 and tax returns filed with Jackson Hewitt (but not its competitors) and then walks them through the filing process through a series of questions with explanatory popups. 

Where Jackson Hewitt stands out, however, is in its Tax Pro From Home service. Users simply upload their tax documents online and one of the company’s tax professionals takes over. Any questions and issues are resolved online or over the phone giving customers the experience of working one-on-one with a professional without having to enter an actual office.

Those who want to stick to Jackson Hewitt’s DIY online filing can still enjoy support through an extensive online help center, connect to a real person during business hours via live chat, and benefit from the company’s 100% accuracy guarantee.        

Jackson Hewitt has done away with multiple plans for online filers. One $49 fee covers all situations and includes both federal and state filing. However, those filing only federal taxes can do so for only $25.

Best Accuracy Guarantee : TaxAct


TaxAct

 TaxAct

  • Price: $71.95 + $54.95 per state (Premier+ Plan)
  • Support: Phone, Email
  • Accuracy Guarantee: $100,000
Why We Chose It

We picked TaxAct because it includes a 100% accuracy guarantee that will cover up to $100,000 in taxes, legal costs, and penalties.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Import from most popular tax software

  • Highest accuracy guarantee reimbursement

  • Online or downloadable software

Cons
  • Limited support for free plan

  • No audit support

Overview

TaxAct offers nothing new feature-wise than most other tax software programs. Users can import W-2 forms as well as previous returns from other software and then use an online help wizard to answer questions and file their return. TaxAct also offers a downloadable version of its software for Mac and PCs for those who don’t want to prepare their taxes online.  

Despite its simplicity, TaxAct offers free and unlimited phone, email, and online chat support. Each plan also comes with a maximum refund and a 100% accuracy guarantee. Unlike other software that offers limited reimbursement options, TaxAct will refund the cost of the software and pay the difference in either the lower refund or higher tax liability, plus any legal costs or penalties, up to $100,000.   

TaxAct offers a free plan for simple returns and support as well as three paid plans which can handle increasingly complex tax filings and offer additional support options.

Read our full TaxAct review

Tax Act Plans
Free Plan Deluxe Plan Premier+ Plan Self Employed+ Plan
FREE $47.95 + $54.95 per state filed $71.95 + $54.95 per state filed $94.95 + $54.95 per state filed
W-2 income All Free Plan features All Deluxe+ Plan features All Premier+ Plan features
Dependents Itemized deductions Stocks, gains and losses, sales of home or other investments Freelance income
Earned income credit Child & dependent care Royalty and Schedule K-1 income Business & farm income
Child tax credits Mortgage interest Investment income expenses Personalized business deductions
Current students Real estate taxes Rental property income Calculate depreciation
Retirement income Student loan interest Foreign bank and financial accounts Year-round planning resources
Prior year import Health savings account (HSA) Prioritized support, including screen sharing  
Unlimited account support Adoption credits    
  Tax specialist phone support    

Final Verdict

There are many options when it comes to doing your taxes, but TurboTax offers the best experience overall if you’re willing to pay a slightly higher price. Its automatic imports and easy-to-follow prompts make it a winner. Plus, if you get stuck, you can upgrade to have a tax pro take over your preparation for you.

Any of these tax programs could give you a nearly identical result if you enter everything accurately, but they don’t all make adding your forms as easy as TurboTax. If you have a lot of forms or more complicated taxes, TurboTax is a top choice.

Compare the Best Tax Software Programs

Software Key Features Support Free Version Price
TurboTax Best Overall Easy-to-use tax wizard with DIY and live assist plans Phone, Live Chat, Video, Full Tax Preparation Simple Returns Up to $200 + $55 per state
H&R Block Runner-Up, Best Overall DIY and live assist plans with walk-in help at 12,000 locations Phone, Live Chat, Video, In-Person, Full Tax Preparation Simple Returns Up to $194.99 + $49.99 per state
TaxSlayer Best Value Affordably-priced with low state filing fees Phone, Email Simple Returns Up to $54.95 + $39.95 per state
Credit Karma Best Free Tax Software Free tax filing for simple and most complex situations Email All Returns Free
Jackson Hewitt Best Support Tax returns can be handed over to a professional for completion Live Chat, In-Person, Full Tax Preparation None $25 federal only $49 including all states
TaxAct Best Accuracy Guarantee Accuracy guarantee reimbursement up to $100,000 Phone, Email Simple Returns Up to $109.95 + $54.95 per state

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Tax Software Programs?

Tax software programs automate nearly every aspect of preparing and filing tax returns. Most offer a simple interface that walks users step-by-step through filling out forms, determining deductions, recording income, and more, and then electronically files it for a fee.

“If you aren't as experienced with tax software, you may need to look for software that also offers a support service so that, if you do hit a wall, they can be there to assist,” says Matthew Dailly, Managing Director at Tiger Financial. As a result, most software offers some level of live support to ensure that a return is completed and filed properly and back it up with accuracy and maximum refund guarantees, reimbursing customers for any loss up to a certain amount.

Why Do People Need Tax Software Programs?

For those who don’t want to pay a professional to prepare their tax returns, tax software has two distinct benefits over trying to go it alone. The first is to ensure that every required expense and form are recorded and filed properly.

The second thing tax software can do is maximize tax returns. Because tax laws are changing all of the time, individuals and businesses can’t keep track of every available new deduction. Since tax software gets updated constantly, users are guaranteed to find the latest opportunities to get more money back on their returns.

How Much Does Tax Software Cost?

Most major tax software programs allow users to file very simple tax returns for free. From there, they offer tiered plans that can handle more complex types of filings and often include additional levels of support (live chat, one-on-one consults, etc.).

The paid plans we reviewed ranged from as low as $44.95 plus $34.95 per state filed to as high as $200 plus $55 per state filed. Every provider we reviewed allowed users to start and work on their returns for as long as they want for free and only charged them when it was time to file a return.

How Is Tax Software Different From Accounting Software?

Tax software often picks up where accounting software leaves off. Most accounting software is used to keep track of income and expenses throughout the year. By providing an accurate financial breakdown, this information can be used by small businesses to maximize their deductions and ensure accurate filing at tax time. Many accounting software geared for small businesses can provide certain forms that tax software needs.

Methodology

We looked at close to a dozen tax software programs for this review. At the top of our list was software that was easy to use since most people using these programs have little to no tax experience. Support was also an important consideration, so providers that offered more than online guides (like live chat or one-on-one phone support) ranked high.

Price was also an important issue. Because users inevitably absorb some risk by preparing their returns themselves, the software would have to cost considerably less than hiring a professional to make it worth the risk.

Finally, it was important for us to find software that offered generous accuracy and maximum benefit guarantees. While nothing can replace the personal expertise of an experienced accountant or tax professional, tax software companies willing to back up their products with real dollars is the next best thing.  

Article Sources

  1. Jackson Hewitt. "File Taxes Online." Accessed July 9, 2021.