The Best Free Tax Software

What Tax Help Do You Really Get?

Compare the top free tax software to find out what you really get with each. All software listed come with accuracy guarantees, and most offer a highest tax refund guarantee as well as a state tax return, but usually at an additional cost. U.S. service members should look over the free tax software for military members.

Tip: Free tax software is typically offered only an option for new customers. If you used free tax software last year and you want to use the same software this year, you will probably have to pay for it, or you'll have to choose another free tax software to use this year to avoid charges.

H&R Block At Home Free Edition

Woman doing taxes
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H&R Block At Home Free Edition covers many common tax deductions and only occasionally reminds you that you could update to a paid version. At Home Free Edition users can ask tax questions online and have them answered by tax professionals.

What You Get:

  • H&R Block Worry-free Audit Support (tax professional will assist you if you're audited).
  • Step-by-step guidance for completing your taxes.
  • Covers common deductions related to owning a home, charitable contributions, etc. and tax credits.

What You Don't:

  • Does not import last year's tax data, 1099 or W-2 forms.
  • No DeductionPro.
  • No investment support other than dividends or capital gain distributions.

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TaxACT Free Edition

Any income tax return can be filed with TaxACT Free Edition, a claim that can only be made by one other online tax preparation solution, IRS FreeFile Fillable Forms, which has nowhere near the same features.

What You Get:

  • Supports more complex returns.
  • Use online, or on your desktop with a free download.
  • TaxACT Answer Center for answers to tax questions and help with using TaxACT.
  • For the college-bound: TaxACT's Federal Student Aid Tax Worksheet makes completing the FAFSA easier.

What You Don't:

  • No import for W-2 income data, capital gains information and last year's tax data.
  • Does not provide TaxACT Donation Assistant for placing a value on non-cash donations or help with life changes that may impact income taxes.
  • No free state return. $14.95 cost to add.

Visit TaxACT

TurboTax Free Edition

TurboTax Online Free Edition has some decent tax help features, and this year includes unlimited help from a tax adviser for free.

What You Get:

  • Audit Support Center download.
  • Life Events Expert tool find life changes in the past year may impact taxes.
  • Repeated reminders for upgrading to a paid version.

What You Don't:

  • If you need to file any form other than a 1040 EZ, you probably can't use TurboTax Free Edition.
  • TurboTax Free Edition does not import W-2 or other income data, or last year's TurboTax return.
  • No integration with ItsDeductible Online or support for other common tax deductions.

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CompleteTax Online Tax Software

For the tax year 2011, CompleteTax made some significant improvements to how the tax software works, based on customer comments and use trends. CompleteTax Basic is free at the time this is written.

What You Get:

  • Support for single and married filed jointly or separately statuses.
  • Lots of guidance for various tax credits.

What You Don't

  • A free state return. CompleteTax State is $29.95, which includes state e-file.
  • Support for itemized tax deductions.

Visit CompleteTax

IRS Free File

The IRS Free File program offers access to over a dozen free online tax software providers or Free File Fillable Forms. The second option, which is light on features, simply offers a way to fill in tax forms online and then submit your return via free e-File. Free File Fillable Forms includes no guidance for completing your tax return but does some calculations.

What You Get:

  • Free federal electronic filing.
  • Everyone can use Free Fillable Forms.

What You Don't:

  • The free tax software with more features offered by IRS Free File has eligibility requirements, such as a maximum adjusted gross income and you may not qualify.
  • Free Fillable Forms isn't available for state income tax returns, only federal returns.

Visit IRS Free File More

eSmart Tax Basic Edition

eSmart Tax Basic is probably the only free tax software that imports last year's tax return from competitors (TurboTax, H&R Block At Home and TaxACT), so you have fewer opportunities to make errors.

What You Get:

  • CPA will help you if you're audited.
  • Imports data from W-2 and 1099 forms.

What You Don't:

  • No support for dependents.
  • You'll have to pay for tax help, higher versions include this.
  • No itemized deductions support, can only file a 1040 EZ.
  • No free state return, the cost starts at $19.95.

TaxSlayer Free Edition

TaxSlayer paid versions are the least expensive tax software you can find. There's a fully-featured free Military Edition offered to active duty military personnel, but we're taking a look at TaxSlayer Free Edition, which is only useful if you file a 1040EZ.

What You Get:

  • Step by step help with finding tax deductions (see below).
  • Life Events Wizard identifies possible tax implications of life events that occurred over the year.

What You Don't:

  • Support is limited, although adequate for simple returns.
  • Deduction support is useless since you can only file a 1040 EZ.
  • No free state return, $17.90 for one state and $7.95 for additional states.

Check out Free Edition