Here are our Top 6 tax prep options – and advice for picking the perfect one for your finances.
6 minute read
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Have you been asking yourself what is the best tax software this year? With tax season is upon us, you probably are.
We can expect Americans to file more than 150 million tax returns between now and the April 15 deadline. According to researchers, among all those who filed federal income taxes last year, nearly half used tax software to prepare their returns. With a variety of online tools out there, the question becomes: which tax software is best?
The answer: It depends…
What is the best tax software?
Best New Tax Software
People know Credit Karma as an app that helps you track and improve your credit score. Their help goes beyond those who could reign in the use of credit cards. Now, their services offer tax-related tasks too.
Though there are some limitations concerning which forms you can and can’t file, the average taxpayer should have an easy time filing through Credit Karma Tax, especially if they are already a registered user on the Credit Karma app.
The service guides you through your tax forms and allows you to e-file both your state and federal taxes through their website. Unlike other services that require payment, Credit Karma Tax doesn’t take anything out of your refund. They also provide free Audit Defense for one year.
Pro help: Credit Karma Tax has a help section, and you can chat or email their representatives.
Overall Best Online Tax Software
TurboTax has five levels of service, with prices that start at free and run up to $150. Each tailors to different needs.
It touts the deluxe package as its most popular at $40. You must upgrade one level if you have investments and rental property, and up another level, if you’re self-employed. The $150 package gets you advice from an expert or CPA on-demand via video connection.
TurboTax is widely given props for having the most user-friendly software, guiding you through the landscape in a Q&A style. But it also allows you to skip all that and go straight to the forms if you’re bored or an old pro.
Pro help: Concerned about an audit? They’ll help you out, but you’ll have to pay $45 for the “Max Assist and Defend” add-on before you file.
3. Liberty Tax
Best DIY Tax Software
Liberty Tax Online is a tax-prep program with brick-and-mortar roots and thousands of branches from coast to coast. Its four options, which range from $14.95 to $69.95 depending on client needs, top out below the most expensive offerings from TurboTax or H&R Block. The big difference: Liberty has no file-for-free option, and its $14.95 base package is suitable for 1040EZ situations only — so, in this regard, it’s pricey.
On the flip side, if you get lost in the weeds at any time, Liberty offers a “seamless online-to-office transition” — so you can pop into a Liberty Tax office and meet with a real person.
Pro help: Liberty’s tax professionals are available to answer detailed questions about your taxes for a one-time fee of $4.95 if you go with the lower-priced plans. They answer those questions for free in the higher-priced packages. If you face an audit, basic informational help is free. Advanced assistance is available for a fee.
Pay with your refund: No.
State tax returns: An additional $26.95 per state return.
Best Tax Software for Self Employed Taxpayers
TaxAct is an online filing operation that has been around since 1998. It also has a three-tier suite of software for individuals doing personal taxes, ranging from free to Premium at $51. And it also offers a package for those whose tax situation involves income from an estate or trust.
TaxAct also offers a variety of tax programs for small and medium-sized businesses, including a program for the Sole Proprietor, Partnership (LLC), S-Corporation and C-Corporation that range in price up to $60.
State returns: Included in the free version for simple returns, costs $37 for more complex returns.
Pro help: Interested in audit defense? TaxAct advises you buy the Premium package that includes assistance with tax debt relief, denied credits, fraud, and correspondence with the IRS and state on your behalf.
Best Simple Tax Software
This tax software offers multiple packages to suit your needs, from TaxSlayer Simply Free to TaxSlayer Ultimate, starting at $57. They also offer free filing for members of the military. It’s simple to start, and you can estimate your tax refund with TaxSlayer’s Tax Refund Calculator before you sign up. If you prefer doing things on your phone, TaxSlayer even has a mobile app.
In addition to filing services, TaxSlayer also has a tax refund advance program that loans you up to $1000 of your tax refund within 24 hours of filing.
State returns: State returns are included with TaxSlayer Simply Free. For all other products, your first state return will cost $29 extra.
Pro help: Phone and email support are free with TaxSlayer. Higher levels of support are available with paid options.
6. H&R Block
Best Tax Software for Individuals
On top of having more than 12,000 brick-and-mortar stores nationally, H&R Block offers four online filing options, starting at free and topping out at $75, each tailored for different needs.
Its “More Zero” package aims at new filers, those with simple returns, and homeowners. The base of the paid options promises to get the most deductions, but if you are a freelancer, contractor, investor, or rental property owner, H&R directs you to the next level. The $75 option covers those who are self-employed or small business owners (or Uber drivers).
According to MoneyCrashers, H&R Block’s Free and Basic plans can handle more complicated items than their TurboTax counterparts, making them a better deal. On the downside, the same reviewer found H&R Block’s software slightly more tedious: Once you begin, you can’t skip over sections that aren’t relevant to your tax situation. You must answer all the questions to move on to the next section.
Pro help: For a price that scales up with each package starting at $49.99, you can have a tax pro review your return, checking it for accuracy and maximized results. In-person advice and information are free if you undergo an audit.
Pay with your refund: Yes, for a $34.99 fee.
State tax returns: Included on a price scale from free up to $36.99, depending on the software package.
Other things to know…
These companies guarantee their software is accurate, or they’ll pay any IRS fines. They also promise to get you the most money back or ensure you owe the smallest sum possible.
All have ways to make importing W2s and other forms simple. Some require only a photo of the form, while others may require you finding your employer from a long list and clicking on the appropriate buttons.
So, what is the best tax software? In all cases, you can download the software, but you only pay when you file. Trying more than one may take up some time, but it shouldn’t deplete your bank account.
Published by Debt.com, LLC