Best Tax Software

The best tax software programs for prepping and filing your return

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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 or 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.

Tax software helps you complete and file your taxes online in a very easy and intuitive way. Software guides you through the forms to include income and deductions. It will even guide you through pandemic-specific items such as working from home deductions or even unemployment income notations. You can use software for simple tax returns as well as complex returns with multiple forms.

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.

Best Tax Software of 2021

Best Overall : H&R Block Online


H&R Block

 H&R Block

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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • High $44.99 filing cost per state

  • Add-on products increase tax prep costs

  • High added cost for multiple states

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 $109.99, though they may be available with a discount. These higher-priced versions are for added tax filing needs such as itemized deductions, investments, freelance earnings, or self-employment. State filings cost up to $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.

Free Deluxe Premium Self-Employed
$0 for federal and state $49.99 + $44.99 per state $69.99 + $44.99 per state $109.99 + $44.99 per state
Works for simple and common tax needs. Plus, support for EITC, education costs, student loans, and retirement income Everything Free includes plus support for HSA accounts, homeowners, and contract or freelance income Everything in Deluxe plus investment income, rental property income, and small business expense deductions Everything in Premium plus support for all business deductions and asset depreciation
Additional charge of $69.99 for Online Assist version with tax support Additional charge of $69.99 for Online Assist version with tax support   Additional charge of $69.99 for Online Assist version with tax support  Additional charge of $69.99 for Online Assist version with tax support
No live phone or chat tech support      

Best for Ease of Filing : TurboTax


TurboTax

 TurboTax

TurboTax has an easy-to-navigate interface that makes filing your taxes quick and simple. It is an intuitive online experience on both mobile and computers that covers most tax filer needs.

Pros
  • Easy-to-navigate online interface

  • Excellent mobile tax filing experience

  • Newer option to upgrade for additional support

Cons
  • 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 2019 tax year, it helped more than 30 million people do their taxes. 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. Depending on when you buy, you may get a discounted price.

TurboTax Live gives you the added help of a CPA. These packages of course cost more. 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.

  Free Edition   Deluxe   Premier   Self-Employed
Free federal and state filing for basic taxes $60 + $50 per state $90 + $50 per state $120 + $50 per state
Includes W-2, unemployment, EITC, and child tax credits Everything in Free Edition plus includes tax breaks for homeowners, charitable donations, and many more deductions and credits Everything in Deluxe plus investments, rental properties, and cryptocurrencies Everything in Premier plus freelance, contractor, and small business income
Higher cost for live and full service options Higher cost for live and full service options Higher cost for live and full service options Higher cost for live and full service options

Best Value : TaxSlayer


Tax Slayer

 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.

Pros
  • Lower pricing than market-leading competitors

  • High customer reviews on Trustpilot

  • Free filing for active military

Cons
  • Limited option for additional tax support

  • Limited customer support compared to larger competitors

TaxSlayer is a smaller tax preparation software that’s managed by a family-owned company in Augusta, Georgia. This 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 $24.95, $44.95, or $54.95 depending on your needs. Each state return is an additional $39.95. 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. They do offer Ask a TaxPro and Audit Defense as well, but it doesn't go as far as the live assistance packages offered by other companies.

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.

  Simply Free   Classic   Premium   Self-Employed
$0 including one state $24.95 for federal plus $39.95 per state $44.95 for federal plus $39.95 per state $54.95 for federal plus $39.95 per state
Works for simple returns that can be filed using the Basic 1040 form Covers all tax situations with no restrictions Live chat with a tax professional Additional guidance for self-employed business owners, contractors, and others with 1099 income
    Priority phone and email support  

Best for Small Businesses : TaxAct


TaxAct

 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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • 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 80 million returns were completed using TaxAct since 2000.

TaxAct offers four consumer versions, but small business owners will want to explore the Self Employed version which costs $79.95 for their personal taxes. States are an additional $49.95 each. If your business has to file its own taxes, business versions all cost $109.95 plus $49.95 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.

  Free   Deluxe   Premier   Self Employed
$0 for federal plus $19.95 per state $44.95 plus $54.95 per state $69.95 plus $54.95 per state $79.95 plus $54.95 per state
Supports W-2, retirement, and unemployment income Everything in Free plus itemized deductions, child & dependent care, student loan interest, home owner taxes, and HSAs Everything in Deluxe plus investments, home sales, rental properties, royalty and K-1 income, and foreign financial accounts Everything in Premier plus freelance, business, and farm income
Child Tax Credit, EITC, Stimulus Credit, student expenses      

Best Free : Credit Karma Tax


Credit Karma Tax

 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.

Pros
  • Completely free tax filing for all users

  • Support for most common forms and situations

  • Included audit defense

Cons
  • 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.

Free
Free for all federal and state returns
Support for all included tax situations
No support for multiple states or part-year state returns, foreign income, and other less-common situations

Best for Expert Advice : Jackson Hewitt


Credit Karma Tax

 Credit Karma Tax

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.

Pros
  • Access live support or pay additional to have a tax professional take over

Cons
  • 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 of Tax Pro From Home each one offers more features, but at a higher cost than the last.

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. With Tax Pro From Home, your taxes are ready within 7 days.

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.

File Online Tax Pro from Home
$49 including federal and unlimited states ($25 for federal only) $69 to $249 + per state fee
All tax situations included Full-service tax prep with tiered pricing based on your tax needs
  File online, but not traditional tax software

Bottom Line

Tax software is designed to help you process and file your tax returns on your own. With simple, interview-style questions and easy-to-follow guides, the software demystifies complex tax returns. It will tell you how to take certain deductions and trigger reminders for things you might otherwise forget to include such as charitable deductions. Our best overall pick is H&R Block because of its reasonable pricing with software packages that cover most every type of tax return in a clear, concise fashion.

Compare Best Tax Software Providers

  Plan Prices State Pricing
H&R Block Best Overall Free; $49.99; $69.99; $109.99 $44.99
TurboTax Best for Ease of Filing Free; $60; $90; $120 $50
TaxSlayer Best Value Free; $24.95; $44.95; $54.95 $39.95
TaxAct Best for Small Businesses Free; $44.95; $69.95; $79.95 $54.95
Credit Karma Best Free Free Free
Jackson Hewitt Best for Expert Advice $25; $69; $179; $249 $24

FAQs

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?

In a recent interview with Kathleen DeLaney Thomas, a tax law expert and professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she explained that "For many filers with relatively simple tax situations, self-preparing with tax preparation software makes a lot of sense. This would be particularly true for employees ... without a lot of itemized deductions. If my primary or only source of income is wages and I claim few other deductions other than the standard deduction, self-preparation is simple."

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 0.39% of returns were audited in 2019. That’s 771,095 returns audited out of about 199,365,492 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.

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. National Society of Accountants “National Society of Accountants Reports on Average Tax Return Preparation Fees.” Accessed Mar. 22, 2021. 

  2. H&R Block. “H&R Block Reports Growth in U.S. Tax Returns | H&R Block Newsroom.” Accessed Mar. 22, 2021.

  3. Trustpilot. “TaxSlayer.” Accessed Mar. 22, 2021. 

  4. Investopedia. "What to Look For with DIY Tax Software." Accessed Mar. 22, 2021.

  5. IRS. "Compliance Presence." Accessed Mar. 22, 2021.