Tax season is back. It’s time to look closely at the top tax software. There are many options available. The main thing is to choose the best software for your situation, and your budget.
We have compiled a list of 15 best tax software packages, based on their capabilities, price, ease of use, and many other factors. Based on the research of the Good Financial Cents Team, we have determined that TurboTax is the clear winner.
The Best Tax Software of 2019
We have selected 15 of the most popular software programs in the industry and ranked them according to criteria at the end. The top five are the ones we favor the most.Your Stimulus check (could) be delayedRemaining Time: -6:29 FullscreenIRS Releases Timeline
In recent years the tax software market has become crowded. While each product may have a niche to fill, only a few will appeal widely to taxpayers.
|Platform||Best for||File Federal & State||Get Started|
|Best All Around||$0||Start Filing|
|You need human backup||$0||Start Filing|
|Anyone looking for a comprehensive financial checkup||$0||Start Filing|
Click through to read detailed reviews of each company. You can read detailed reviews about each company by clicking through.
- H&R Block
- Liberty Tax
- Credit Karma Tax
- Jackson Hewitt
- eSmart tax
- Community tax
- DIY Tax
Reviews of the Best Tax Software Companies
1. TurboTax: Best All-Around Tax Software
TurboTax is the winner of our award for the best tax preparation software. It’s no surprise that TurboTax is the most popular software in the industry.
Why TurboTax made the list? It is extremely user-friendly. The step-by-step format of the question-and-answer questions will allow you to prepare your taxes even if you have no prior experience. From there, the software will take care of everything. The software will perform an analysis in seconds and alert you to any errors. It will then move you on to the next step, which is the completion and filing.
They also offer four levels of service, from their free plan for simple returns up to the Self-employed version. TurboTax Live is available with each plan. This will allow you to work with a CPA, or enrolled agent to complete your return. TurboTax specialists are available to help you whenever you need it.
The price is the only thing that holds TurboTax back. It’s not the first option if you are looking for an affordable tax preparation software.
TurboTax Pricing Plans:
- Free Edition: No Federal and State Taxes
- Deluxe: $40, plus $40 per state
- Premier: $70, plus $40 per state
- Self-employed: $90, plus $40 per state
- TurboTax Basic (for simple returns: $50 plus $40 per state)
- TurboTax Live Deluxe: $90, plus $50 per state
- TurboTax Live Premier: $140, plus $50 per state
- TurboTax Live Self-employed: $170, plus $50 per state
You should consider other options if you want to save on software costs and have a simple tax return. TurboTax, on the other hand, is more suitable for those who have more complex tax situations.
2. H&R Block is the best for transferring your return to live preparation
H&RBlock has probably become the most well-known tax preparation organization. Although its tax preparation software is top-notch, its most notable feature is its large network of tax professionals.
During tax season, approximately 70,000 advisors are employed in about 10,000 offices across the country. The name of the company is almost synonymous with tax preparation.Why it was on the list: H&R Block can compete with TurboTax’s tax preparation software. H&R Block’s tax professionals are available throughout the entire process, while TurboTax offers TurboTax Live if you want to hire a professional to do your taxes.
H&R Block offices offer this help, unlike TurboTax. H&R Block’s software is also very easy to use. You can easily upload your W-2 forms to the software by taking a picture with your mobile phone. The system will then extract all the information. It is an excellent time-saver, particularly if you have held several jobs.
You can also change from one plan to another. This includes the basic edition, which is free for simple returns up to the self employed version for small business and independent contractors.
What’s holding it back? It is often difficult to determine which plan you require when preparing your tax returns. Unexpected tax situations can force you to upgrade to a more expensive plan.
H&R Block Pricing Plans:
- Online: Federal and State Governments are free
- Deluxe online: $22.49 plus $36.99 per state
- Premier: $37.49, plus $36.99 per state
- Self-employed: $59.99, plus $36.99 per state
H&R Block, like TurboTax software, may not be the right choice for those who have a simple tax return and are looking for the cheapest service.
3. TaxAct – Best price point for complicated returns
TaxAct can compete with both TurboTax & H&R Block. TaxAct is not as popular or has the same functionality as these two big-name programs. It can handle returns of all kinds, but at a much lower price than the Big Two.Why it was on the list: TaxAct provides an accuracy guarantee up to $100,000. TaxAct will pay up to $100,000 in fines and other losses if it makes a mistake when filing your tax returns.
Even the cost of the software will be refunded if you make the same error(s). It’s hard not to admire a company who puts their money where their mouth is.
TurboTax, H&R Block and other tax software packages also provide reimbursements for mistakes that are clearly your fault. The only difference is that they don’t give a dollar amount.
TaxAct is generally less expensive than TurboTax or H&R Block at comparable plan levels. This is the most attractive feature to us.
What’s holding it back? TaxAct, while a high-level tax software program, falls short of TurboTax or H&R Block. The main advantage of TaxAct is its lower price. However, this comes at the cost of less human assistance.
TaxAct Pricing Plans:
- No Federal and State Taxes
- Deluxe: $23.96 plus $39.95 per state
- Premier: $31.96, plus $39.95 per state
- Self-employed: $59.96, plus $49.95 per state
The level of direct assistance each offers is similar to that provided by a CPA when preparing your return. Each offers a level of assistance that is similar to having a CPA prepare the return.
4. E-file for first time DIY
Efile is a simpler program that doesn’t offer as many tools and features as other tax software programs. This makes it an excellent choice for those who are looking to prepare their first return using software. The software is also reasonably priced.
Why this plan made the list: Premium Plus covers all deductions, credits, business income and itemized deductions for only $34.49 (plus $11 for filing state returns). This is a much lower price than most premium versions of tax software offered by other competitors.
The fact that you only pay $21 to file your state tax returns, regardless of plan level, is also a plus. This is a lot less than the usual $29.99 to $359.99 charged by other programs.
What’s holding it back? If you don’t have a simple tax situation you will almost certainly be required to sign up for Premium Plus. Under the Deluxe Plus plan at mid-level, for example, your income can’t exceed $100,000.
It also appears to lack in terms of investment income allowance. The customer support is also less generous compared to other programs.
E-file Pricing Plans:
- No Federal and State Taxes
- Deluxe Plus: $19.49 plus $21 per state
- Premier Plus: $34.49, plus $21 per state
E-file, like many other tax software programs will work best for people who have simpler tax situations. You’ll get more value by paying more to upgrade your software if it is more complex.
5. FreeTaxUSA is the Best Nearly Free Software
FreeTaxUSA “is free”. There are three plans: Free, Deluxe and Self-employed. All of them are free. The Deluxe plan does charge a fee of $12.95.
The reason it made our list: Because all three plans are offered almost free. If that is the case, then you might as well go for the Deluxe plan which includes live chat and priority customer support.
It is easy to use because it uses the same format of questions and answers as other tax preparation software. Like other software, the software guarantees the accuracy of the end product.
The company is responsible for paying penalties and interest if there are errors in the software’s preparation.
Why it’s not as good: It doesn’t offer the same user-friendly interface that other software options provide.
This software, unlike most of its competitors does not provide direct representation to the IRS but only assists with audits. You can also get help dealing with the state tax authorities. FreeTaxUSA has two versions. However, even the Deluxe version does not cover all tax situations.
It does not include foreign employment income or household employee taxes. Or it doesn’t account for taxes on children who have more than $2,000 of investment income. Customer service is also limited, mainly via email.
FreeTaxUSA Price Plans:
- Free Edition: Federal $0 plus $12.95 for each state
- Deluxe Edition (with live chat and priority customer support): $6.99 plus $12.9 per state
- Self-employed Edition: $0 federal plus $12.95 for each state
- Prior Year Tax Filing: $0 Federal, plus $14.99 for each state
FreeTaxUSA can be a good tax software, but it is not suitable for all tax situations. This software is not for you if you think there’s any chance of being audited.
6. Liberty Tax
Freedom Tax, like TurboTax or H&R Block offers you the option to have a tax professional review your return. The cost of the review is included in the plan price. The service is free.
Why Liberty Tax made the list: The Double Check Guarantee. Liberty Tax, like H&R Block has a large network of offices that prepare taxes across the nation.
You can take your completed return to a Liberty Tax office for a review by a tax professional before you file. It is an advantage to anyone with a complex tax return, or who prefers having their return checked by trained professionals. Liberty Tax falls in the middle range of prices.
You can start preparing your tax return for free. Then, they will provide you with guidance on which plan to choose based on the specifics of your tax situation.
What is holding it back? Liberty tax has limited import capabilities. It can import W-2 data, but other documents, such as investment income reports, may be more difficult. It will not automatically calculate your Social Security Tax if you manually enter your W-2 data.
This information will need to be entered directly from your W-2. It’s not a big deal, but it adds an extra step to your input process. The software is more complicated than most of its competitors. It’s best used by people who are experienced in preparing returns and know what the final result should look like.
You’ll get better service if you try another service.
This is triple-free, meaning that you can file your federal tax return for free, as well as your state tax return for free. TaxSlayer has a significant advantage over other software services for tax preparation that charge for state returns but are free to prepare and file federal returns.
Why this program made our list: This software’s triple-free feature guarantees its place on the list. This is only true for the Simply Free version. TaxSlayer offers a total of five plans, each with a different price. Even the Classic Plan is priced modestly at $17 plus $29 state returns.
For an extra $20, you can choose the Premium Plan which includes additional help from a professional tax advisor. You can even get IRS-certified experts and enrolled agents to help you with an IRS audit up to three year after your efile is accepted by the IRS.
One of the best features about TaxSlayer that we love is their Military Plan. The Military plan allows active duty military personnel to file federal returns for free.
The plan is still $29 for state returns but it accommodates all tax situations, and even offers IRS assistance.
What’s holding it back? Although the company touts its free tax preparation program, it is only available for the most basic returns. You’ll have to pay for a version if you need more complex returns.
The customer service here is also a problem. You may have to wait up to 48-hours to get an email response to your question, since there is no phone support.
This can be a problem on April 14. Consider choosing another software if you want a service that offers live assistance with preparation.
- Read our complete review of TaxSlayer.
Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma tax has become well-known as a provider of free credit scores. They also offer other services such as their tax preparation software. It’s absolutely free.
Credit Karma Tax is free, but it’s not low quality. It offers many of the features found in paid software.
You can, for example, upload your tax return from another software like TurboTax or H&R Block. The software will also provide a final check of your return and flag any incomplete sections or those that need to be revised. This service comes with an audit defense option from a third-party.
You can also get live representation in front of the IRS or your state tax authority. You can get a coupon code to make the audit defense completely free.
Credit Karma Tax guarantees that you will get your maximum refund or they will refund the difference. plus $100.
The catch: Free tax preparation software comes with a small catch. You’ll have to sign up for Credit Karma Tax Credit Score in order to take advantage of this offer.
There’s also no charge for this service, since it’s also free. If you do not already have a credit score service that is free, this is your chance to use one of the most reputable sources.
You might expect that a free service will not be able to handle all tax situations. You’ll need to find another software for tax preparation if you encounter any problems that are beyond the norm.
9. Jackson Hewitt
If you want to do more than prepare your taxes, like minimize future taxes, Jackson Hewitt may be the software for you. This is another tax preparation software, which is also part of an extensive chain of offices. It has almost 6,000 offices, half of which are in Walmart stores.
Why did it make the list? Any software for tax preparation that comes with local tax professionals is worthy of being on our list. You can’t find a more convenient way to prepare or review your tax return than dropping it off at Walmart while you shop.
Face-to-face help can also be used to learn how to lower your taxes in future. The service provides easy, step-by-step tax preparation and unlimited online assistance – including access to real-time customer service. You can also download your W-2 to transfer data automatically.
You can also file for free if you are a wage-earner, take the standard deduction and have less than $100,000 taxable income. There are paid plans available at a modest price for more complex returns.
What’s holding it back? Even if your situation is common, you will need to purchase the Premier Plan, which costs $49.99 plus an additional $36.99 for each state return filed.
This includes income above $100,000, itemized deductables, credits, deductions and self-employment. This software may not be the best, but it is affordable and will meet most taxpayers’ needs.
If your return is at all complicated, you might want to consider one of the free services.
10. eSmart Tax
eSmart Tax, though not well-known as a tax preparation software program (it’s near the bottom of the list), is actually part of Liberty Tax.
You don’t need to worry about not knowing it. It also offers live assistance through eSmart Tax’s online interface. Its plans cost about half of what a similar plan from Liberty Tax would.
Why eSmart Tax made the list? Combining the modest price of the software with the availability live support, eSmart tax is a good choice for this list. They also offer free preparation of tax returns for the most basic returns (though state tax returns are charged $29.99). Even the free version offers live support.
What’s holding it back? Because eSmart Tax costs less, its functionality is not as strong as some of its competitors. Live support is also available via email and live chat as there is no telephone support.
If you are looking for the best tax preparation software, it’s worth considering an alternative. H&R Block or TurboTax would be better options if you need phone support.
ezTaxReturn is the best choice if Spanish is your first language. This is true for many Americans. This software is also available in Spanish.
Why this software made the list? Its availability in Spanish is a major factor. It’s a great choice for those who want a low-cost or free preparation.
For a simple return, you can do it for free. If your returns are a bit more complicated, they have a combination of federal and state that allows you to do both for only $39.95. You can upgrade your plan to include audit defense for $39.95. For an extra $9.95, you can purchase insurance on amended returns.
What’s holding it back? This software has one flaw: The free version of the program is only available to those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). You’ll have to buy the premium version if you don’t qualify for EITC.
They charge $19.95 for a first-class printed copy, even though they offer secure storage of your return for three years at no cost. Unfortunately, unlike the other software in this list, they charge $19.95 to amend a return.
This service is offered by many competitors for free. The service also does not provide state tax returns for about half of the states. This software is primarily designed for low-income taxpayers, and especially those who are eligible for the EITC. If your situation differs, you may benefit more from a different program.
- Read our complete review of ezTaxReturn.
12. Community Tax
Community tax offers tax preparation assistance as well as a debt relief service. The IRS records are used to calculate your income and expenses. They then review your return for any errors.
Why this program made the list? Because millions of people have IRS debts and their tax return may need special handling. Community Tax is a good option if you are expecting to incur a tax debt when you file.
You can get help from a group of advocates and advisors to deal with your situation. The return will be prepared for you by a tax professional in-house, who will act as your power of attorney when dealing with the IRS.
What’s holding it back? It isn’t a tax preparation program. It offers CPAs and enrolled agents to guide you in preparing your return. You will be entrusting your return to a firm that specializes on tax preparation for people with tax debts.
You’ll get better results if you use one of the other plans listed on this page if you don’t owe any taxes or owe only a small amount that you can manage.
1040.com Offers one plan with a flat fee. No matter how your tax situation is you will pay the same amount for your return
Why 1040.com made the list: It charges $25 for all types of returns, regardless of how much you make or where it comes from. As part of the price, you can prepare federal and state tax returns. You also get email and live chat access to support. Sign up and use the service for free.
Only pay the fee if you are satisfied with your tax return and ready to send it off to the IRS. The fee can be paid from your refund but it will cost an extra $24.95 You can also purchase the audit protection package at an additional $29.95.
Why it is not as good: It’s not the easiest software to use and doesn’t perform well with more complex returns such as for those who are self employed or own rental properties. 1040.com is best suited for moderately complex returns. You may want to consider another program on this list if you are self-employed or have rental income.
OLT.com offers free tax preparation software and customer service. It also offers audit support at an extra cost.
Why this software made the list? Any free tax preparation software is worthy of inclusion on this list. One that offers low-cost support for audits has an edge over other free software. You can also file a federal return for free, even if you have a complex tax situation.
Why it’s not as popular or recommended: The other tax preparation software on this page is more well-known and highly recommended. It is a relative unknown – largely due to the fact that it’s not as user friendly as other software. Although the service is offered free of charge for federal returns we recommend that you use other products if your return even seems a bit complex.
15. DIY Tax
DIY tax is a free alternative to Credit Karma’s software.
Why the software made this list: The word “free” is an important factor in deciding whether or not to include a tax preparation program on this list.
What’s holding it back? There aren’t many details about this service. The company’s website has little information. They don’t offer any add-ons, such as audit defense. We are skeptical because we do not see any income model for the service.
Other services, for example, offer a version that is free only when it comes to the simplest of returns. They earn revenue from the more complex returns.
Credit Karma offers a free service but requires you to sign up for their credit monitoring service. This generates advertising revenue for the company. We are concerned that the service will not be available for long, or may even cease to be free.
DIY Tax is ranked 15th because we think you should look at any of the 14 previous choices before choosing this one.
What you need to know about your online tax preparation options
Even though we have provided a list of the top tax software providers and indicated for whom each is most suitable, it is not true that DIY tax preparation suits everyone. This is true, even for tax-preparation programs.
What tax software is best suited for you?
- People with simple or relatively simple tax situations who do not want to pay hundreds of dollars for a professional to do their taxes
- Taxpayers in conventional tax situations such as those with a single company, one or more rental properties or regular investment activities
- Anyone who has a general understanding of tax filing, except for those in the simplest situations.
- Anyone who has used tax preparation software before. You’re more likely to succeed if you stick with what you know.
It is not necessary to have a thorough understanding of tax law to use DIY software. The majority of DIY tax software will guide you through the process in a step-by-step format using questions and answers. You simply have to enter the required information.
Software will organize and calculate for you. It can even tell you if there are any errors. Although the free versions may seem appealing, they are only applicable to those who have the most basic tax situations.
Most of the time, you can only get them if your total income is less than $100,000. You also need to earn income solely from W-2s and interest and dividends.
Why Pay for a Professional?
You may find yourself in a situation where you need to hire a tax preparer.
- If you have multiple business interests, rental properties, international transactions and other complex situations, then a complicated return is required.
- If you have been audited before and/or if there is a reasonable probability that it will happen again in the future
- You may need help if your tax return is complex and you don’t have the time or motivation to prepare your own return.
Even with the best tax preparation software, complex tax situations can still be time-consuming and complicated. You will need to weigh the costs of DIY tax preparation against other ways of spending your time, such as earning more money.
How we selected the best tax software programs
The following factors were taken into consideration in our selection process:
- Ability of a service provider to handle the most complex returns
- Easy of Use
- Customer support is available
- Tax professionals are available to help with completing a return, reviewing it, or completing it.
- Third-party ratings and reviews
While we try to be objective in our evaluations, you will decide which software is best for your tax situation. While we think TurboTax has the most comprehensive tax software, you might prefer a cheaper program with fewer features. Our evaluation is based on benefits that we think will appeal to a large number of users.
Last Thoughts about the Best Tax Software Programs
In the last few years, tax software has evolved significantly. Some of them are now very user-friendly and can accommodate a wide range of tax situations.
A good tax software can help you prepare a professional-looking return even if you have no experience in the area.
You will pay more for a professional to prepare your taxes, and you may have to wait until they are finished. You can do your taxes at your convenience by using tax preparation software.
This can result in a quicker refund. You should try one of these programs, even if you have never done your own taxes before. These programs are easy to use, fast, and affordable, even if your tax situation seems complicated.