Best Tax Apps

Track expenses and file taxes on the go

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According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2020 was $1,869. 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.

The Best Tax Apps for 2021

Best Overall : TaxAct Express

TaxAct

 TaxAct

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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • 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 (3.9 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 + $4.95 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)    
Personalized TaxPlan      
Free account and technical support      

There are four packages offering live support:

  Free + Xpert Help
$35 + $4.95 per state filed
  Deluxe + Xpert Help
$74.95 + $44.95 per state filed
  Premier + Xpert Help
$94.95 + $44.95 per state filed
  Self-Employed + Xpert Help
$139.95 + $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 & 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)    
Personalized My TaxPlan      
Pro Tips      
Free account and technical support      
Xpert Help with CPAs, enrolled agents & tax experts      

Best Free Option : Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax

 Credit Karma Tax

We chose Credit Karma as the best free tax app option because it’s 100% free from start to finish. If you have the Credit Karma app, you already have access to all of the tax filing features available. Filing is also relatively fast, provided you don’t have a complex tax situation.

Pros
  • It’s completely free

  • Import last year’s 1040, even if you didn’t use Credit Karma

  • Audit defense is also free if you’re a Credit Karma member, even if you use another service to file

Cons
  • There’s no native expense or receipt tracking feature

  • The maximum refund guarantee only offers a maximum of $100—in the form of a gift card

Credit Karma is a personal finance company that’s part of Intuit. Many people use it to monitor their credit score and accounts and don’t realize you can also file your taxes with it—for free. The tax filing feature is available right from the Credit Karma app. Simply click the three bars in the top right corner to get started. Otherwise, file right from its website for no cost with no upcharges, which is why it wins the spot for best free option. 

The app has over three million reviews on the App Store and has 4.9 stars. It has 4.8 stars on the Google Play store, with 1.3 million reviews. It’s one of the most popular personal finance apps available, although most of its reviews came in before it started offering tax filing. 

It’s 100% free to file for both state and federal taxes, although only 40 states are available right now. While it offers a maximum refund guarantee where you will get the difference if your tax refund is higher on another app, it will only pay up to $100 in the form of a gift card. 

Credit Karma Tax does cover self-employment and other more complex situations. However, if you have a complex tax issue or have moved states, you may need a tax app that offers tax expert support.

Best for Business Owners : QuickBooks Self-Employed

QuickBooks

 QuickBooks

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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • 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 3.6 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
$7.50/month
Self-Employed Tax Bundle 
$12/month
  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 logo

 H&R Block logo

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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • 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 $69, making H&R Block Tax Prep and File our choice for best online support.

Find the app in the App Store (4.4 stars) and on Google Play (4.6 stars). Otherwise, use its web interface to file your taxes. Pay for your tax filing fees by using your tax refund for a $39 fee. 

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:

Free Online
$0
  Deluxe
$29.99 + $36.99 per state filed
  Premium
$49.99 + $36.99 per state filed
  Self-Employed
$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

TurboTax

 TurboTax

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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • More expensive than most tax apps if your taxes aren’t simple

  • Constant upsell offers

  • Most packages, you need to pay additional for state filing

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 (4.2 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
$60 + state
  Premier
$90 + state
  Self-Employed
$120 + 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
$120 + state
  Live Premier
$170 + state
  Live Self-Employed
$200 + 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
$130 + state
  Live Deluxe
$200 + state
  Live Premier
$260 + state
  Live Self-Employed
$290 + 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

You Need a Budget

 You Need a Budget

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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • 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 $11.99 per month or $84 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 4.1 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.

Bottom Line

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.

Compare Providers

  Tax App   Why We Chose It   Key Benefit
TaxAct Express Best Overall Reasonable prices and a comprehensive free package
Credit Karma Tax Best Free Option Free from start to finish
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

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. IRS. "Filing Season Statistics for Week Ending January 31, 2020." Accessed February 6, 2021.

  2. IRS. "Where's My Refund?." Accessed February 6, 2021.