If the upcoming 2020 tax season has you feeling overwhelmed and anxious, you’re not alone. Maybe you’re thinking back to last year’s filing deadline, when you were scrambling at the last minute to gather all your forms and trying to figure out federal and state income tax codes. Sure, you were saving money by not hiring experienced tax preparers for help, but now you’re wondering whether it’s worth it to go through the hassle all over again.
From figuring out tax deductions to self-employed tax to taxable income to capital gains, tax prep and filing taxes can be complicated. But hiring a one-on-one professional tax preparer can be expensive.
The good news is that there are many tax software providers and filing companies that aim to make it more affordable and easier to file your taxes. Whether it’s through an online form, downloadable software or an app, you can turn tax preparation into a less laborious process. For the frugal taxpayers out there, you can even find free or super low-cost options for doing your taxes online that rival some of the more established competitors.
Choosing a tax preparation software that’s right for you can seem complicated and time-consuming. But we’ve waded through all the features and fine print to show you some of the best tax software suited for your needs.
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There’s something for everyone with TurboTax — the company offers a myriad of options even if your tax situation is complicated. A bonus if you use Quickbooks: You can connect it to TurboTax, useful for self-employed people or real estate investors. And if your tax situation isn’t complicated (requiring lots of itemized deductions or tax advice, for instance) the user-friendly interface makes it simple to breeze through tax prep. TurboTax Deluxe, its most popular option, searches deductions and credits to get you your maximum refund. And TurboTax Premier is specifically designed for investments or rental property.
It’s hands-down the best tax software for live personal support. For an extra fee, you get TurboTax Live where filers can receive help from a certified tax professional through on-demand support via live video chat. A CPA or EA will also review your tax return before it’s sent off to the IRS. Max, its audit defense option, offers a dedicated specialist to represent you. It also includes identity theft coverage services such as identity loss monitoring and insurance.
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One caveat is that you will probably pay more compared to the others on our list. There is a free version, however, for those who only need basic requirements and it’s one of the few places where you can enlist the help of certified tax specialists without seeing one in person.
Pricing: Free to $120 for federal; $45 per state; additional $60 to $90 for TurboTax Live; additional $50 for Max
It’s not as intuitive to use as TurboTax, but H&R Block is another heavy hitter that offers some decent features such as unlimited technical support, plus phone and chat support for higher tiered customers. You get to wade through simple questions, built-in calculators to help with many tax situations and detailed articles to sort through your individual situation — even if it appears complex.
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We like that you can file your taxes online, in-person, via its app or by downloading its software. You get a 60-day 100% satisfaction guarantee, import prior year’s tax returns from other companies and a 4% refund bonus if you receive it via an Amazon gift card. For an additional fee, get a certified tax pro to review your tax return before filing it.
The downside is that you don’t receive free in-person support for audits — only those who purchase H&R Block software or the Tax Pro Review service will get this benefit.
Pricing: Free to $105 for federal; Tax Pro Review $145; $30 to $40 per state
Aside from its simple tax-filing interface and thorough knowledge articles, Jackson Hewitt Online offers built-in calculators to help you figure out amortization and depreciation, plus free IRS audit assistance. If you file in person, you can opt into its Worry-Free Guarantee plan, where you could be reimbursed if you receive a reduced refund or face additional tax liabilities. The Worry-Free Guarantee Platinum tier includes Audit Security where a dedicated specialist manages and represents your case.
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That being said, if you’re looking to do your taxes online, you will not find much here that isn’t offered elsewhere — the ability to import taxes from competitors, tech support via live chat, a free option and auto completion of state returns.
Pricing: Free to $50 for federal; $40 per state
TaxSlayer supports all tax forms on its Classic level and above. Even if you use the free version, customers can access tax advice via its educational tools, phone and email support. Higher tiers, such as TaxSlayer Premium, get access to audit protections, assistance from tax professionals and live chat support.
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If you’re a real estate investor or own a rental property, be aware there aren’t calculators for amortization and depreciation, nor are there audit protections for self-employed income. The major perk is that TaxSlayer offers a no-interest advance on your tax refund — receive either $500 or $1,000 once the IRS accepts your filing and receive the funds on a Green Dot Prepaid Visa card in as little as 24 hours. Once you receive your refund, Tax Slayer will deposit the rest after deducting your advance and any applicable fees.
Pricing: Free to $47 for federal; $29 per state
While some other free tax filing software charges for state returns, Credit Karma Tax doesn’t. Instead it gives you a user-friendly interface, helpful guidance to explain tax-related terminology and live chat technical support. Credit Karma also claims to have more features compared to TurboTax’s free option, including the ability to file for mortgage interest, property tax and student loan interest deductions.
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Other features include audit defense, where customers can receive services such as a consultation from a representative who can also attend a hearing on your behalf and help with tax debt resolution options. If you end up receiving a larger tax refund or owe less in federal taxes after filing with Credit Karma, you may be able to receive up to $100 in gift cards.
Credit Karma’s tax software has its limitations — you can’t import returns from competitors. To start filing, you need to grab the IRS transcript of last year’s return.
On all paid tiers, TaxAct users can receive guidance from a tax specialist as an add-on option, much like TurboTax offers. Depending on the tier you could receive unlimited one-on-one phone or in-app chat support and screen-share capabilities. It’s simple to import last year’s taxes, navigate through its platform and browse through its knowledge database.
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Where TaxAct shines is its $100,000 Accuracy Guarantee — receive up to $100,000 for any difference in liability or refund, IRS penalties and interest, plus a refund for TaxAct software fees. This feature might make it the best tax software for you if you have a high taxable income or a complicated tax situation where you feel errors may be likely.
Pricing: Free to $80 for federal; $15 to $80 tax specialist support; $40 state filing (except free tier)
Comparable to Credit Karma Tax, FreeTaxUSA is mostly free except you need to pay to file state taxes. It’s a little more user-friendly since you can import previous tax returns from competitors and file amended tax returns. Most tax forms are supported and the deluxe version gives you added perks such as priority live chat and customer support, file unlimited amended returns and receive access to its audit service, giving you access to tax specialists. These professionals will be able to address your specific questions, including how to understand an audit notice, paperwork you need and assistance in writing a response to the IRS.
Pricing: Free for federal; $15 per state; $6.99 deluxe version