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According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2020 was $1,915. To ensure the biggest refund possible, it’s important to check for every tax deduction and credit available to you. Online and mobile tax apps make this easy.
In addition to checking for credits and deductions, some tax apps even allow for expense and mileage tracking. Each tax app takes roughly the same time to go through the tax filing process, although some apps can auto-fill certain tax forms and offer live support to speed up the process. If you want an advance on your refund, some apps offer that, too.
We reviewed 20 different tax apps to determine the best options available. Features and costs were big considerations in our ranking. We also looked at ease of use and real customer reviews.
Best Overall : TaxAct Express
TaxAct Express is the best overall tax app because it offers reasonable prices and a robust free package. Most apps charge close to $40 to pay for your filing fees using your tax return, but this app is just $17.99 if your refund is direct deposited.
Easily import last year’s tax data even if you used a different provider
Most robust free option out of all providers
Pay for tax filing with your refund
No expense tracking
State filing is extra, even for the free package
The user interface isn’t as seamless as other tax apps
Founded in 1998 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TaxAct provides tax prep software that makes it easy to e-file with its TaxAct Express app. It's available via its web interface, as well as in the App Store (4.4 stars) and the Google Play store (3.7 stars). People enjoy its competitively priced packages and the ability to pay for filing fees using their tax refund for far cheaper than other tax apps earning our top spot.
If TaxAct software makes a calculation error, it will reimburse you up to $100,000 in IRS penalties and interest. Your filing is free if you receive a higher refund using a different product thanks to its Maximum Refund Guarantee.
Other benefits include importing last year's tax return information by uploading the PDF—even if you didn't use TaxAct. Plus, if you refer a friend, get a $20 Amazon gift card, and they get 20% off.
Do-it-yourself TaxAct Express packages include:
|Free $0 + $39.95 per state filed||Deluxe $24.95 + $44.95 per state filed||Premier $34.95 + $44.95 per state filed||Self-Employed $64.95 + $44.95 per state filed|
|W-2 income for simple filers||Everything in Free||Everything in Deluxe||Everything in Premier|
|Unemployment income||Itemized deductions||Stocks gains and losses and other investments||Freelance income, including 1099-NEC|
|Retirement income||Adoption credits||Home sale||Business and farm income|
|Child tax credits||Child and dependents care||Rental property income||Personalized business deductions|
|Earned income credits||Student loan interest||Royalty and Schedule K-1 income||Deduction maximizer|
|Stimulus credit||Mortgage interest||Foreign bank and financial accounts||Depreciation calculation|
|Expenses for dependents and current students||Real estate taxes||Year-round planning resources|
|Import prior-year tax info||Health Savings Accounts (HSA)|
|Free account and technical support|
Best for Business Owners : QuickBooks Self-Employed
If you’re a business owner, it’s best to use a tax app specifically meant for your tax situation. QuickBooks Self-Employed is a tax app offering business expense tracking and tax filing. You can even make your quarterly estimated tax payments right through the app.
Track business expenses and mileage on-the-go
Authorize access for your accountant or tax advisor
Estimate what you owe the IRS and pay quarterly through the app
Easy to accidentally duplicate data between uploading and syncing transactions
Smaller banks and credit unions may not have syncing capability
Doesn’t offer inventory tracking or payroll
QuickBooks is a leader in accounting software, and its Self-Employed app integrates seamlessly with TurboTax. With this app, you can track both personal and business expenses, mileage, and you can even send and track invoices making it the best for business owners.
It has 4.7 stars in the App Store and 3.7 stars in the Google Play store, and you can also access the app using its web interface. Some reviewers complain about glitches using the app, while others enjoy how the app allows tracking of both personal and business expenses.
QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t offer inventory tracking, so business owners with larger operations may need QuickBooks Online instead of the self-employed version.
There are three QuickBooks Self-Employed packages available:
|Self-Employed Tax Bundle
|Self-Employed Live Tax Bundle $17/month|
|Send and track invoices||Everything in the Self-Employed package||Everything in the Self-Employed Tax Bundle|
|Separate business and personal expenses||Pay quarterly estimated taxes directly from QuickBooks||Talk to a CPA|
|Maximize your Schedule C deductions||Transfer info directly into TurboTax to file taxes||Receive unlimited help and advice year-round|
|Calculate quarterly estimated taxes automatically||Includes one state and one federal tax return filing||Have a CPA do a final review of your tax return|
|Track mileage automatically|
Best for Live Support : H&R Block Tax Prep and File
H&R Block Tax Prep and File is the best tax app for live support because it offers Online Assist, where you can receive unlimited help from tax experts 24/7 during the tax season. You can even upload all your documents into the app and have a tax professional file your taxes for you.
Starts at $39.99 to receive unlimited help from tax experts, enrolled agents, and CPAs 24/7 during the tax season
Upload your documents and a tax professional will do your taxes for you using Tax Pro Go
Save receipts, returns, donations, and other tax documents
One of the more expensive apps available because you must pay for Online Assist
No expense tracking
Peace of Mind audit support only matters if H&R Block made the mistake
H&R Block Tax Prep and File is a tax app by H&R Block, which is a tax preparation company founded in 1955 in Kansas City, Missouri. Use the app to file your taxes yourself and receive assistance from tax experts starting at $39.99, or have a tax professional file your taxes for you starting at $49, making H&R Block Tax Prep and File our choice for best online support.
Guarantees include the following:
- No Surprise Guarantee: Receive 20% off next year’s tax filing if the app fails to provide upfront transparent pricing, transparent process, free audit assistance, and free mid-year check-in review.
- Maximum Refund Guarantee: If you have a higher refund through another app, your H&R Block filing is free.
- Audit Support Guarantee: Should you receive an audit notice from the IRS, H&R Block will let you know how to respond to the notice—for free. Or for $19.99, purchase Worry-Free Audit Support for help if you have an in-person audit.
- 100% Accuracy Guarantee: H&R Block will reimburse up to $10,000 in penalties and interest in the event the software makes an error.
There are several packages to choose from:
$29.99 + $36.99 per state filed
$49.99 + $36.99 per state filed
$84.99 + $36.99 per state filed
|Earned Income Credit (EITC)||Everything in Free Online||Everything in Deluxe||Everything in Premium|
|Deduct student tuition, payments, and loan interest||Digitally organize all of your tax docs for up to six years||Report stocks, bonds, and other investment income (Schedule D)||Report all business deductions and asset depreciation|
|Report retirement income||Access live phone or chat tech support||Claim rental income & deductions (Schedule E)|
|Have a Health Savings Account (HSA)||Claim small business expenses|
|Deduct real estate taxes and home mortgage interest|
|Organize contract, freelancing, gig work, and other self-employed income|
Best for Fast Filing : TurboTax Tax Return App
With TurboTax, you can receive up to $4,000 as a refund advance within three hours of IRS acceptance of your tax return. You can also auto-import and auto-fill data by taking a picture with your phone, so it’s perfect if you need to file fast.
Take a photo of your W2, and the app inputs the info in the right forms
Access up to $4,000 of your tax refund within three hours of IRS acceptance of your return using Refund Advance
With an Employer Identification Number, the app may be able to auto-import your W2 information without taking a photo
More expensive than most tax apps if your taxes aren’t simple
Constant upsell offers
TurboTax is owned by Intuit, a leader in tax prep software. Using the TurboTax Tax Return App, you can file quickly thanks to the auto-fill and auto-import options in the app, making it the best for fast filing.
You can find the app on the Google Play store (4.7 stars) and App Store (4.8 stars). You can also use the web interface, but to auto-fill information from your W2, you’ll need to upload the image. Many reviewers complain about upsells and paying far more than advertised, so pay careful attention to the pricing to know which package your tax filing will require.
Even if you use the Free Edition of TurboTax, you’re entitled to the maximum refund guarantee. If you receive a larger refund with another app or a smaller tax burden, you will get your federal and state filing fee back. If you used the Free Edition, you’ll get $30 under the guarantee.
TurboTax offers an option to pay for your taxes using your tax refund, so you don’t pay anything up-front to file your taxes through them. However, there’s a $39.99 fee to do this. Otherwise, you can pay your filing fees with a credit card or checking account.
With Refund Advance, filers can access up to $4,000 of their refund as an advance as soon as three hours after the IRS accepts the return. There are no loan fees, and it’s 0% APR.
There are four TurboTax packages available on both the mobile and web interface if you’re doing the taxes yourself:
|Free Edition $0||Deluxe $39 + state||Premier $69 + state||Self-Employed $89 + state|
|Prep, print, and e-file your taxes||Everything in the Free edition||Everything in the Deluxe edition||Everything in the Premier edition|
|Take a photo of your W2 for auto-input||Search over 350 deductions and tax credits||Covers stocks, bonds, and other investments||Tips and guidance for freelancers, small business owners, and contractors|
|Receive mortgage and property tax deductions||Auto-import investment income||Industry-specific deductions|
|Deduct donations||Covers rental property income and deductions||One-on-one help from self-employment experts|
|Accounts gains and losses on cryptocurrency transactions||Personalized audit assessment|
|Import 1099-NEC using a photo from your phone|
There are four packages for live support:
|Live Basic $0 if filed by 3/27/21, state included||Live Deluxe $119 + state||Live Premier $169 + state||Live Self-Employed $199 + state|
|Unlimited answers from a tax expert||Everything in Live Basic||Everything in Live Deluxe||Everything in Live Premier|
|Transfer last year’s info||Mortgage and property tax deductions||Covers stocks, bonds, and ESPPs||Great for self-employed (1099-NEC) income|
|Year-round expert tax advice and guidance||Charitable donations over $300||Rental property income and refinancing deductions||Deductions specific to your line of work|
|Covers W-2 and unemployment income||Student loan interest and education expenses||Calculate gains and losses from cryptocurrency transactions||Guidance for freelancers and small business owners|
|Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC) and child tax credits||Auto import investment income||Maximize deductions for work expenses (Schedule C)|
|Final review from a tax expert before filing||Import 1099-NEC using a photo from your phone|
If you want your taxes done for you, there are also four levels of Live Full Service packages:
|Live Basic $199 + state ($0 if filed by 2/15)||Live Deluxe $249 + state||Live Premier $359 + state||Live Self-Employed $389 + state|
|Tax expert preps, signs, and files your taxes for you||Everything in Live Basic||Everything in Live Deluxe||Everything in Live Premier|
|One-on-one guidance and year-round tax advice||Charitable donations over $300||Covers stocks, bonds, and ESPPs||Great for self-employed (1099-NEC) income|
|Your taxes done right, guaranteed||Student loan interest and education expenses||Rental property income and refinancing deductions||Deductions specific to your line of work|
|Covers W-2 and unemployment income||Mortgage and property tax deductions||Calculate gains and losses from cryptocurrency transactions||Guidance for freelancers and small business owners|
|Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC) and child tax credits||Maximize deductions for work expenses (Schedule C)|
|Import 1099-NEC using a photo from your phone|
Best for Ongoing Expense Tracking : YNAB
Traditionally thought of as a budgeting app, You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a great tool to track your ongoing expenses. When it’s time to file taxes, simply download a comma-separated values (CSV) file to share your spreadsheet of income and expenses with your tax preparer, or you can do it yourself.
Offers video tutorials, articles, and free online courses
Available via an app and through your browser
Can sync transactions with your bank and investment accounts
Steep learning curve
No built-in tax filing—you must export a CSV file into outside tax filing software
Must manually upload transactions if your bank isn’t supported
The best way to prepare to file taxes is to be organized throughout the year. Spend a little time upfront to get your accounts set up on YNAB, and then maintain it every time you’re paid. Then, when you’re ready to file taxes, each category of income and expenses is labeled—making filing a breeze and your tax advisor happy to not have to wade through a shoebox full of receipts earning our spot for best expense reporting.
YNAB is available in both an app and web interface. Pay $14.99 per month or $98.99 per year, and try it out free for 34 days. If you’re a college student, it’s free for a year. At the end of your free year, YNAB offers a 10% discount on the annual plan.
On the App Store, it has 4.8 stars, and 3.1 stars on the Google Play store. Most reviews discuss the learning curve but praise its ability to help budget and track expenses. You can take a live class seven days a week to learn how to budget with the YNAB app or access any of its tutorials anytime.
While most tax apps don’t offer expense tracking, many make it easy to file your taxes right from your mobile phone. If you have a complex tax situation, you’ll need to pay for advanced packages. However, if you’re a simple filer, almost every tax app available offers a free option that can help you.
We recommend TaxAct Express as the best tax app because it offers reasonable filing fees, a robust free package, and the ability to pay for your filing fees from your tax return. Plus, you can import last year’s tax data even if you used a different provider.
|Tax App||Why We Chose It||Key Benefit|
|TaxAct Express||Best Overall||Reasonable prices and a comprehensive free package|
|QuickBooks Self-Employed||Best for Business Owners||Track expenses and send invoices|
|H&R Block Tax Prep and File||Best for Live Support||Access tax pros 24/7 during the filing season|
|TurboTax Tax Return App||Best for Fast Filing||Auto-fill and import data using your phone, then receive a refund advance within three hours of IRS acceptance|
|YNAB||Best for Ongoing Expense Tracking||Track income and expenses by syncing or uploading transactions|
Which Tax Software Gets You The Biggest Refund?
Most tax software has a maximum refund guarantee, where your filing is free if your refund is higher using other software. However, to maximize your tax refund, take advantage of every possible deduction and tax credit offered by your software. Examples include the earned income credit (EIC), child tax credit, and home mortgage interest deduction (HMID).
What Happens After You File With a Tax App?
After filing your taxes using a tax app, the app electronically sends your return to the IRS. It takes the IRS anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to match your personal information with the return.
You can check the status of your return using the IRS Where’s My Refund? tool. Expect to receive your refund within 21 days provided there are no errors or issues. To receive your refund quicker, set up direct deposit. If you owe money, you have until the tax filing deadline to pay unless you file for an extension.
Do You Need a Mobile Tax App?
You do not need a mobile tax app to file your taxes. However, using a mobile app can help make filing your taxes easier. Many of these tax apps allow you to upload receipts and categorize expenses year-round, so the act of filing taxes doesn’t take as long during the tax season.
How Does a Mobile Tax App Work?
Some mobile tax apps help track your expenses, receipts, and mileage year-round, while most only offer the ability to file your taxes. Input or upload your W2 information, check for credits and deductions, and e-file your taxes right on your mobile phone.
How We Chose the Best Tax Apps
We looked at 20 of the best tax apps available and narrowed it down to the best six options based on several features and considerations. We considered features, costs, reviews, and ease of use. It was important to find providers that offered a free version for simple taxes but then could evolve with solutions for those who have more complex tax needs.