Even if you’re not a tax expert, quality tax-preparation software can provide you with the confidence to prepare and file an accurate tax return. Tax-preparation software eliminates the need to perform complex tax calculations on your own, and it’s cheaper than hiring someone else to file your taxes for you. Here are the best tax-software programs for a variety of tax-filing needs.
Best tax softwares compared 2024
RELATED: Credit Cards Offering Tax Service Saving Rewards
Our recommendations for the best tax softwares
Best overall online tax software: Intuit TurboTax
TurboTax is the overall best online tax software for the widest range of taxpayers because of its accessible and easy to use interface. It asks simple questions to guide you to the proper tax forms you’ll need to file, and follows an easy step-by-step process to file your tax return. If you accidentally skip a recommended section, the review will catch the oversight and take you back.
TurboTax offers free one-on-one audit guidance in the unlikely event you are selected for an IRS audit. Full-service audit defense is available for an additional fee. The main con is that it’s the most expensive software on our list. More complicated tax returns also bring higher price tags for TurboTax software. If you’re a self-employed taxpayer, you will have to splurge for the most expensive option.
Best for students: H&R Block
H&R Block tops our list for students who plan to claim education tax credits. Many students are able to file with H&R Block entirely for free. The most common forms needed for education tax credits are included in its free online software. In contrast, most other tax-preparation software only allows basic returns with no itemized deductions or credits on their free options.
H&R Block also excels in the tax-support category. In addition to online tax support, it has in-person tax support at many brick-and-mortar offices throughout the country. It boasts a high percentage of bilingual tax professionals. The variety of options you have to file your tax return online or in person is a big bonus for H&R Block.
Users in every tax category should note that there’s a 20% discount on all H&R Block tax software. The sale ends on April 18, 2024.
Although H&R Block has a simple and easy-to-use interface, it is not as straightforward or seamless as TurboTax—but it comes at a slightly lower price point. Similar to TurboTax, it also uses a question-and-answer process to guide you to the proper tax forms.
Best budget-friendly software with tax professional assistance: TaxSlayer
TaxSlayer is the best budget-friendly software including tax professional assistance because it offers the lowest-cost package that also comes with professional assistance—Ask a Tax Pro. Its $54.95 Premium package gives you access to tax professionals for difficult tax questions, live chat for tech support, and unlimited assistance. To compare, TurboTax’s Live Assisted packages start at $99 and H&R Block’s Basic Online Assist package starts at $70.
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After you complete your basic tax and identifying information, TaxSlayer asks if you would like to be guided or select your own tax forms from a list. Similar to other, more expensive tax software, the guided option will run you through a series of questions. The flexibility in choosing your preference is a major benefit.
Although you get access to a tax professional at a discounted price, other tax-preparation software programs may better suit you if you prefer live access to support throughout the tax-filing process. TaxSlayer’s Ask A Pro assistance allows the taxpayer to submit a question with a turnaround time of approximately one day via phone or email. If you don’t mind the wait, the lower price point for tax assistance is a good option.
Best free tax software: Cash App Taxes
Cash App Taxes is the only tax software that is 100% free for both federal and state tax returns. It has no tiered levels, and all filers receive free IRS audit defense. If you select your CashApp account for your tax refund, you may be able to receive your refund up to six days faster than other financial institutions.
Cash App Taxes does not offer any tax professional support. If you want to utilize this free software, you should feel comfortable enough with filing your own taxes that you don’t need to ask an expert for advice. It also does not allow you to file multiple state returns, so beware if that applies to your tax situation.
Best budget-friendly tax software: E-file
E-file is a great option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly tax software and have a solid handle on your tax situation. Its tax assistance is limited, but you can ask simple tax questions via a “help” request from within your account. Phone assistance is offered for its paid packages as well.
The user interface is not as sophisticated as other tax software. You should be a confident tax filer if you choose to file your taxes with E-file. Rather than the simple questionnaire format of other, more expensive software, E-file uses tax-form numbers and full IRS form names throughout the tax-filing process. However, the $49.99 top tier package is a major benefit for experienced tax filers who have more complicated tax situations and want to avoid the added expense of more well-known tax software programs.
Best IRS Free File: TaxAct
IRS Free File is a program designed to allow taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less to prepare and file their taxes for free. It is a partnership between the IRS and several online tax preparation companies. TaxAct is one of the few Free File partners for 2023, so it is a great choice if you qualify for the program.
If you do not qualify for the IRS Free File program, TaxAct is more expensive than TaxSlayer, Cash App Taxes, and E-file. It is cheaper than TurboTax and H&R Block, but that also comes with limited features and forms. Xpert Assist, TaxAct’s version of tax professional assistance, is available at an additional cost.
TIME Stamped reviewed tax-preparation software by comparing the most popular tax-preparation products and their features. Features that were considered include:
- Ease of user experience.
- Software interface.
- Tax professional assistance.
- Live support or help.
- Assistance or defense in the case of an IRS audit.
- Cost of software.
- Value based on features.
We first reviewed the most popular tax-preparation software programs’ websites to compare features and pricing models. Most offered multiple price levels based on tax return complexity and the amount of tax professional support. Next, we did a deeper dive into the user experience and software interface by observing demo tax returns prepared using the software. The results were compared against the features listed above.
How to compare (and choose) the best tax software
To find the best tax-preparation software, you will need to consider your specific tax situation and circumstances. If you work freelance or own a business, you have different requirements than someone with W-2 income only. Set up your list of requirements, then research your options. You want the software to be able to handle all of your tax needs, but you also don’t want to pay for too many extras that you don’t need.
TIME Stamp: Good tax software is a time saver
Good tax software can save you time and money by ensuring you file a quick and accurate tax return. Most tax software comes with a guarantee that you are getting the lowest possible tax liability based on your inputs. Some provide additional ongoing support and defense in case you are chosen for an IRS audit, so it can also put your mind at ease as you file your taxes.
You can also use these apps or software to plan ahead and save even more time during tax season.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How does tax software work?
Tax software calculates all of the necessary formulas from various tax forms to arrive at your lowest possible tax liability based on the tax information you provide. It looks at the current Tax Code to ensure you get the maximum credits and deductions you are allowed by law.
Do I need tax software?
It can be a good idea to use tax software. Tax software automates your tax filing, so you won’t have to do any of the calculations yourself. It is more accurate than manually calculating all the formulas on a paper tax form. It will make sure you have all the necessary schedules and forms attached to your tax return based on the information you have provided.
Tax-prep software keeps track of the ever changing IRS Tax Code. Tax law is constantly changing. This means you don’t need a complete understanding of all the current tax rules to file your own taxes. Finally, it’s typically much cheaper than hiring a tax professional to file your taxes for you.
Should I pay someone to do my taxes?
If you have an extremely complicated tax situation, you may prefer to hire a tax professional such as a CPA or Enrolled Agent (EA) to file your taxes on your behalf. Some situations that may make your tax return more complex include:
- Owning a business.
- Having multiple gig-economy jobs.
- Renting out property.
- Having many financial or investment accounts.
- Having a nanny or housekeeper.