Best Tax Software and Services: Credit Karma to TurboTax

Young disabled freelance worker working on a computer while being with his dog at home.
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Now that the calendar has turned over to 2021, most people are likely in the process of realizing their New Year’s resolutions were wildly unrealistic — and that it’s time to file their taxes again. Fortunately, there is an abundance of ways to file your taxes now. You can do your taxes online and even avoid paying an accountant by logging in to free tax software platforms. And the variety of options means you can find the right program for your needs. After all, the best tax software for self-employed contractors is not necessarily going to be the same as the best tax software for small-business owners, professionals or even tax preparers.

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Here’s a closer look at some of the options for the best online tax software available in 2021 so you can make an informed decision about the best way to file your taxes.

Best Tax Software for 2021
Tax Software Forms Accepted for Free Version Cost for Federal Return – Paid Version Cost for State Return – Paid Version
TurboTax Form 1040 $40 $40 per state
H&R Block 45 different forms, including 1040 and 1099 forms $29.99 $36.99 per state
TaxAct Form 1040 $24.95 $44.95 per state
TaxSlayer Form 1040 $17 $32 per state
Credit Karma Tax All common forms and schedules supported Free Free
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TurboTax Review

  • Best for: Complex returns

TurboTax is probably the best-known tax preparation company, but it’s also among the most expensive. It offers some great features that make it easy to use, though, such as the ability to file your taxes on any device, including your phone. You can even save time by entering your W-2 information simply by snapping a picture of the document.

TurboTax guarantees you’ll receive the maximum refund or it will refund the purchase price. The company also guarantees that all calculations will be 100% accurate or it will pay any IRS penalties and interest, and year-round audit support is part of the purchase price. Another helpful feature of TurboTax is TurboTax Live, which allows you to talk to an expert live on screen.

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TurboTax Pricing

Depending on the software version you choose — and what sort of deal is being offered on the normal purchase price — you could pay upward of $150 to do your taxes through TurboTax. Here’s how much using TurboTax software will cost you:

TurboTax Online Versions

  • Free Edition: $0 — designed for those using Form 1040
  • Deluxe: $40, plus $40 per state — designed for those whose taxes include mortgage or property tax, itemized deductions, deductible donations, etc.
  • Premier: $70, plus $40 per state — designed for filers with investments and rental property
  • Self-Employed: $90, plus $40 per state — designed for small-business owners and independent contractors
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TurboTax Downloadable and CD Versions

  • Basic: $40, additional $40 per state, plus $20 for state e-file; free federal e-file
  • Deluxe: $70, one free state, $40 for each additional state; $20 to e-file state return
  • Premier: $100, one free state, $40 per additional state; $20 to e-file state return
  • Home & Business: $110, one free state, $40 per additional state; $20 to e-file state return

Pros of TurboTax

  • Comprehensive coverage of tax issues
  • Live help
  • Option to pay for TurboTax service out of your refund
  • Guides you through recent tax changes
  • Imports last year’s TurboTax data
  • Easy to use

Cons of TurboTax

  • Costs more than some competitors’ software
  • Some forms and schedules not supported in all versions

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H&R Block Review

  • Best for: Tax novices who might need in-person support

Another familiar name in the tax-preparation game, H&R Block’s online software offers many great features, such as importing your income information from your prior year’s tax return, even if you used a different tax preparer, so you don’t have to enter all the information again. H&R Block also guarantees that you’ll receive the maximum refund possible. It also allows you to use its software to amend your return without any additional charges. Plus, it will pay up to $10,000 if you incur extra penalties or interest because of a software miscalculation, and will support you in the event of an audit.

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H&R Block Pricing

The H&R Block fees for filing start at $29.99, but there’s a free version you can use instead. Here are details on the cost of different versions:

H&R Block Online Versions

  • Free: Free federal and state returns — designed for first-time tax filers or simple tax returns
  • Deluxe: $29.99 federal, $36.99 for each state return — designed for homeowners with deductions
  • Premium: $49.99 federal, $36.99 for each state — designed for investors, freelancers and contractors

H&R Block Downloadable Software Versions

  • Basic: $19.95 plus $39.95 for state software; $19.95 per state for additional state e-file
  • Deluxe: $44.95; includes one state with additional states for $39.95 each, $19.95 for additional state e-file
  • Premium: $64.95; includes one state with additional states for $39.95 each, plus $19.95 for additional state e-file
  • Premium & Business: $79.95; includes one free state with additional states for $39.95 each and $19.95 for additional state e-file

Pros of H&R Block

  • Option to pay for service from your refund
  • Insights from The Tax Institute on tax changes and strategy
  • Brick-and-mortar locations available

Cons of H&R Block

  • Relatively high prices for federal and state returns

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TaxAct Review

  • Best for: Filers seeking low-cost options

TaxAct offers a range of online and downloadable tax prep products, from free filing up to its premium versions. You have unlimited access to support when filing your return, but you must call when TaxAct is open. TaxAct doesn’t have around-the-clock customer support, but it is open for service on weekends.

TaxAct Pricing

TaxAct has five online versions and four software versions to choose from.

TaxAct Online Versions

  • Free: Free federal and state returns and e-filing — designed for simple returns using basic Form 1040
  • Deluxe: $24.95, plus $44.95 per state return — designed for homeowners and filers with deductions, credits and adjustments
  • Premier: $34.95, plus $44.95 per state return — designed for filers with investments, rental property and prioritized support needs
  • Self Employed: $64.95, plus $44.95 per state return — designed for self-employed filers, sole proprietors and independent contractors

TaxAct Downloadable Versions

  • Basic: $19.95, includes five free federal e-files; state return is $50
  • Deluxe: $99,95; includes five federal e-files and one state return
  • Premier: $109.95; includes five free federal e-files and one state return
  • Self-Employed: $119.95, includes five federal e-files and one state return

Pros of TaxAct

  • Competitive online pricing
  • Version specifically geared toward freelancers
  • Guaranteed price

Cons of TaxAct

  • Support not available 24/7

Related: How to File Self-Employment Taxes

TaxSlayer Review

  • Best for: Filers who want live phone support

TaxSlayer offers five different online products for filing your income tax returns. For its Simply Free option, as long as you use Form 1040 you don’t have to pay for your federal and first state returns. All products offer live phone support. If you want features like audit assistance, Ask a Tax Pro, priority support, or live chat support, however, you’ll need to use the Premium version.

With Simply Free, you can also compare your return with your prior return to see how your numbers have changed and make sure you didn’t miss anything.

TaxSlayer Pricing

Check out the pricing on this affordable option for filing your taxes. You’ll pay $0 for the Simply Free version and from $17-$47 for the other three options.

TaxSlayer Online Versions

  • Simply Free: Free federal and first state filings — designed for filers using a Form 1040
  • Classic: $17, plus $32 per state return — includes “all tax situations”; can import last year’s return
  • Premium: $37, plus $32 per state return — includes all the features of the Classic edition, plus priority customer assistance
  • Self-Employed: $47, plus $32 for first state return — best for taxpayers with self-employment income

Pros of TaxSlayer

  • Lower price
  • Prepare from any laptop or mobile device

Cons of TaxSlayer

  • No live chat for free or classic version — email and phone help only
  • Only available online

For Freelancers: How To Calculate Estimated Taxes

Credit Karma Tax Review

  • Best for: Credit Karma members with simple returns; filers looking to avoid paying fees

For truly free tax service, look no further than Credit Karma Tax. Credit Karma doesn’t support all income tax forms, but it covers many of the important ones and charges nothing for the service. Credit Karma does not support certain forms and situations, including multiple state returns, part-year resident state returns, foreign earned income, married filing separately in community property states, and state-only returns. Returns with any of these components can’t be accommodated. To begin, you must sign up to be a Credit Karma member, which is free as well.

Credit Karma Pricing

  • Credit Karma returns are free.

Credit Karma Online Version

  • Free: Credit Karma doesn’t charge for its tax product.

Pros of Credit Karma

  • Free
  • No upsells
  • Customer support team

Cons of Credit Karma

  • Some filings not supported
  • Must sign up for Credit Karma
  • Not available for download

Read: What You Need to Know When Filing Your Tax Return This Year

Decide If Online Filing Works for You

Whether you file a personal tax return or own a small business, there is an online tax filing service or tax software that will enable you to file taxes online this tax season. Even the best tax service programs won’t do all the work for you, though. If you’re not confident in your ability to navigate tax software, call a professional to help you figure out how to file taxes, or seek out free tax assistance that is offered in many cities and towns.

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Cynthia MeasomTerence Loose, Laira Martin, Michael Keenan and Ruth Sarreal contributed to the reporting for this article.

This content is not provided by the companies mentioned. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of GOBankingRates alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer or Credit Karma.

Prices represent the regular cost of the products mentioned as of Feb. 12, 2021. Sale prices might vary.

Last updated: Feb. 12, 2021

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About the Author

Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.
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