According to a report from the National Society of Accountants, the average cost to have a professional preparer complete your taxes ranges from $176 to $273 depending on whether your not you itemize your deductions. Doing your taxes yourself online, on the other hand, can be much cheaper. In fact, it may even be free.
Preparing your own taxes using tax software is a popular method to file your taxes quickly and accurately for a lower cost than with a professional tax preparer. Many tax programs are available for download to your computer or are accessed online through your web browser or via a mobile app on your smartphone.
Here’s a look at the best tax software available today for you to do your own taxes. We considered 13 tax software packages with a focus on price, accuracy, and ease of use before choosing the best.
The 6 Best Tax Software of 2020
Best Overall: H&R Block Online
H&R Block Online covers most common taxpayer needs and many less-common scenarios, too. Users can reach a human tax professional for help during tax preparation for an added fee. Pricing is comparable with industry competitors, and the overall user experience is a good one, making it our best overall pick.
Coverage for a long list of tax forms and situations
Multiple options to upgrade for additional help
Helpful features including the option to upload W-2 from your phone without downloading an extra app
High $44.99 cost per state
Add-on products increase tax prep costs
The best overall tax software for this year is H&R Block Online because it does a good job of covering nearly all tax situations U.S. filers are likely to come across—and it does it for a reasonable price. More than 20 million people used H&R Block to file their taxes for the 2018 filing season.
H&R Block offers four versions of its online tax filing software. Those include a free online version for basic taxes as well as versions that cost $49.99, $69.99, or $104.99. These higher-priced versions are for added tax filing needs such as itemized deductions, investments, freelance earnings, or self-employment. State filings cost $44.99 extra per state. You don’t pay until you file, so you can try it out and see your actual results before buying.
H&R Block offers the ability to reach a human for help at any time during your tax preparation process. This does require an added fee, but that could be worth it for some filers with complex taxes or those who just want a little extra help from a tax professional during the online tax prep process. If you want to get in-person support, you can upgrade and take your taxes to an H&R Block location.
This online tax software comes with a 100% accuracy and maximum refund guarantee. The software makes this simple by allowing you to upload your W-2 using a picture from your phone without even downloading the mobile app. You can use one H&R Block login while working on your return among different devices. Every step of filing your taxes is an overall positive experience with H&R Block, thus it earns the top spot for best tax software this year.
Best for Ease of Filing: TurboTax
TurboTax has an easy-to-navigate interface that makes filing your taxes quick and simple. It is an intuitive online experience on the web, mobile, and desktop that covers most tax filer needs.
Easy-to-navigate online interface
Excellent mobile tax filing experience
Newer option to upgrade for additional support
Limited customer service unless you pay extra
Some versions more expensive than competing tax programs
TurboTax is the largest tax prep software provider in the United States. For the 2017 tax year, it processed 40 million returns. TurboTax is made by Intuit, a large financial software company that also makes the personal finance app, Mint, and the accounting software, Quickbooks.
TurboTax Online has four versions available. There is a basic free version as well as paid versions that cost $60, $90, and $120 depending on the complexities of your tax return. According to TurboTax, the $60 Deluxe version is most popular. Filing a state return costs $50 per state.
TurboTax Live gives you the added help of a CPA. These packages cost $80 to $200 total, plus state fees. When you sign up for TurboTax Live, you get on-demand access to a CPA or Enrolled Agent (EA). This could be worth the added cost for those with more complicated situations or questions.
The standout features of TurboTax, when compared to the competition, come down to the refined interfaces and tax form upload options. For example, you can import W-2 and 1099 information from many employers and financial institutions without entering the forms manually. This gives it the win in our review for ease of filing.
TurboTax includes a 100% accuracy and maximum refund guarantee. It includes free audit guidance and a 60-day money-back satisfaction guarantee.
Best Value: Tax Slayer
TaxSlayer comes with an impressive list of supported tax scenarios at a lower price than top competitors and is our choice for best value of all software options reviewed.
Lower pricing than market-leading competitors
High customer reviews on Trustpilot
Free filing for active military
Limited option for additional tax support
Limited support compared to larger competitors
TaxSlayer is a smaller tax preparation software that’s managed by a family-owned company in Augusta, Georgia. For the 2017 tax year, TaxSlayer processed over 10 million tax returns. While TaxSlayer is lesser-known than some of its larger competitors, it comes with a similar accuracy guarantee.
There are four online versions of TaxSlayer available, which you can access through the web or TaxSlayer mobile app. Keep in mind that there is no downloadable desktop version. The free version is for the most basic returns and includes one free state filing. Paid versions are available for $17, $37, or $47 depending on your needs. Each state return is an additional $39. TaxSlayer offers all versions to active military families for free.
One place TaxSlayer falls short is support. In fact, there is no option to upgrade for help from a tax professional during your tax preparation unless you pick the most expensive version. All versions do, however, include free phone and email technical support, though this isn't likely to be of help if you have a question about a form or the return itself.
While support options are a bit light, the software is highly rated by users; this is demonstrated by its 4.5 out of 5 average rating with more than 10,000 reviews on Trustpilot. And with a lower price than it’s larger competitors, it's a great option for those on a budget.
Best for Small Businesses: TaxAct
TaxAct offers support for most small business tax filing needs. It is the only place you can prepare taxes for an S-Corporation completely online.
Ability to complete business forms like 1120 and 1120S completely online
Lower cost than major competing business tax software packages
Year-round tools to help business owners save on taxes
No included audit support or ability to add-on after checkout
Lower-levels of customer support
TaxAct is another popular tax preparation software that offers the ability to prepare your personal or small business taxes online or with a downloadable app. The TaxAct Express mobile app acts as a companion to the desktop version that allows you to manage your tax preparation or add forms and documents to more complex tax returns. TaxAct is owned by the Texas-based company, Blucora. Over 3.1 million eFiled returns were completed using TaxAct in 2018.
TaxAct offers four consumer versions, but small business owners will want to explore the Premier+ version which costs $79.95 or the Self Employed+ version for $109.95 for their personal taxes. States are an additional $54.95 each. If your business has to file its own taxes, business versions all cost $109.95 plus $54.95 per state. For $200, you can bundle both business and personal taxes to save some money.
TaxAct does a good job of handling most business and personal tax prep needs. One unique feature is the option to file taxes for your S-Corporation with Form 1120S completely online. Top competitors like TurboTax only offer this as a more-expensive download and only for Windows users, leaving Mac users out of luck. TaxAct also allows you to file C-corp taxes with Form 1120, making it suitable for any business situation and making it our top small business software for tax prep.
TaxAct doesn’t offer an option to upgrade to get added support from a tax professional. So if you run into something complex enough that you don’t know how to handle it yourself, you may have to ultimately move your filing to a professional preparer. But most businesses, after looking at the accuracy and satisfaction guarantees, should feel confident that TaxAct can handle their needs.
Best Free: Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma Tax offers a completely free filing experience for both federal and state tax returns and is the best free option of all those reviewed.
Completely free tax filing for all users
Support for most common forms and situations
Included audit defense
No support for part-year state returns or multiple state returns
No support for nonresident state returns
Some forms not supported
If you think you should be able to do your taxes for free no matter what, you should consider Credit Karma Tax. This online tax preparation software is made by the consumer credit company, Credit Karma. It really is free for personal taxes, including those who are self-employed and filing a Schedule C.
There is only one version of Credit Karma Tax, which you can access through your web browser or the Credit Karma mobile app. This software includes features that you often have to pay for with other software programs. Credit Karma even includes forms for investments, sole proprietorships, investment properties, and other sometimes-complex situations.
Users have access to basic support online but there is no phone or video support available. This less-robust support isn’t a surprise, however, as the service is free. If you have very complex taxes or expect you’ll need help along the way, you may want to choose a tax software that gives you an option for live support or access to a tax professional.
While Credit Karma Tax doesn’t support some less-common situations, most users will find their needs met with Credit Karma Tax. Because some popular tax apps don’t require you to pay until you file, you can do your taxes with both Credit Karma Tax and a paid service to compare your results. If they match, which they should, you can confidently file using this free option.
Best for Expert Advice: Jackson Hewitt
Jackson Hewitt's Tax Pro From Home service gives you an option for a hybrid online tax preparation experience that puts the heavy lifting in the hands of a professional tax preparer. We chose this software as best for expert advice.
Access live support or pay additional to have a tax professional take over
Tax Pro From Home service comes with a 24-hour guaranteed turnaround time
Additional audit support requires an added fee
Few software options mean you could pay more depending on your needs
Do-it-yourself software features less-robust customer support
Jackson Hewitt is a well-known name in tax preparation. While many people know this brand thanks to its network of offices around the U.S., it also offers online software to complete your taxes on your own: Tax Pro From Home.
There are three versions including a free version and two paid versions with more features. These cost $49.95 or $69.96 plus $44.95 for each state filed.
If you want expert advice while working on your taxes, you have a couple of upgrade options available. The online software includes online support and real-time customer service access. If you’re willing to pay more, you can take advantage of a hybrid online tax-prep service where you upload your documents and a professional preparer takes care of the rest. Tax Pro From Home costs between $25 and $140 plus state fees, depending on your needs. With Tax Pro From Home, your taxes are ready in 24 hours or your tax prep is free.
Jackson Hewitt includes a lifetime accuracy guarantee for taxes. You can upgrade for additional audit support and protection, including identity theft protection. If you think you’re probably going to be able to do your taxes yourself but want a backup plan of handing everything over to a professional, Jackson Hewitt is a good choice.
What Is Tax Software?
Tax software is a type of digital application designed to help you complete your legally required annual tax filings. For most people, that means completing a version of Form 1040 with supporting documentation.
With tax software, you can enter your tax details from your employer and other income sources as well as details related to tax credits and deductions. All tax software programs let you type in your details manually. However, some of the better apps allow you to import prior year returns, data from your employer, and other tax form details from a photo, PDF file, or digital link to your employer or financial institution.
When you’re done with your taxes using the software, you can generally choose between filing your taxes online or printing and mailing them, though online filing with eFile is the easiest option for most people.
What Factors Should Be Considered When Selecting Tax Software?
Most tax software comes with a 100% accuracy and maximum refund guarantee. No matter which tax software you choose, if everything is entered accurately, you should get the same result.
The differences between tax software come down to a few key factors like cost and ease of use. As long as the software you choose can handle all of your individual or business tax filing needs, you can focus on choosing a tax preparation app that meets your criteria for both cost and user interface.
Ease of use isn’t as important for filers with just one or two forms to enter, but as your taxes grow in complexity, the ability to quickly navigate forms and have questions answered is important.
Depending on your level of confidence in doing your taxes, you may also want a program with extensive support. Some tax apps offer you a library of resources to figure things out on your own. Others have included or paid services to answer your specific tax questions.
What Is the Cost of Tax Software?
Tax software can range in cost from free to around two hundred dollars, depending on the software you choose and your specific needs.
Most major tax apps offer a free version to lower-income filers or those who meet specific income or other eligibility criteria. Most filers will likely find their cost around $40 to $100 for federal taxes and another $40 to $50 for each state. However, those who are self-employed or with more complex returns could wind up paying more, depending on the software you choose.
The major exception is Credit Karma Tax, which offers a completely free tax filing program no matter what forms you need. Credit Karma Tax doesn’t support every unique tax filer situation, however, so be sure to review its capabilities before you start completing forms.
Should I Pay Someone to Do My Taxes?
If you hire an accountant to do your taxes and don’t itemize your tax return, the previously mentioned National Association of Accountants report says you’ll pay an average of $176 for your annual tax filing. If you itemize your deductions, that goes up to an average of $273. Business owners and those with more complex tax needs may pay even more.
That makes the cost of tax software, which starts at free, very tempting. But while you will often save money doing your own taxes, the DIY approach does take more time and effort on your part.
In addition, a professional preparer will likely handle any future audits or problems that come from a tax return they prepared. With software, you may have to pay extra for this service if it’s available at all.
Knowing your audit risk may play a role in your decision. The chances of an audit are quite low. According to the IRS, about one half of one percent of returns were audited in 2017. That’s about one million tax returns audited out of 196 million completed returns.
How We Chose the Best Tax Software
This review of the best tax software options was based on several key factors. Cost, additional support options, and ease of use were the biggest factors evaluated. We looked at 13 tax software programs to come up with the best tax software options for various scenarios.
Every tax software included in this list comes with an accuracy guarantee, so you should end up with the same results no matter how you decide to file. But if you decide to file your taxes on your own, any software program from this list should meet the most common tax filing needs.
Internal Revenue Service. "Six reasons 90 percent of the people will e-file their tax returns." Accessed June 22, 2020.
Blucora. "Press Releases." Accessed June 23, 2020.
IRS. "Compliance Presence." Accessed June 23, 2020.