Best Tax Software: Options for Every Tax Filer

Try these tax software programs if you're looking to self-file.

It might be difficult to explain to future generations what filing taxes was like before the internet. At one time, your only options consisted of a pricey in-person appointment with an accountant or wading through complicated paper forms by hand, but today you can do your taxes online for free.

However, that doesn’t mean that all these options are equal. And if your tax return is more complicated than a W-2 and the standard deduction, there’s a good chance you’ll want to invest in one of the more robust, paid versions available. All in all, considering how important your annual tax filing can be, putting some serious thought into which program you’re going to entrust with your return is well worth it. After all, the cheapest tax software will not always be the best tax program for you.

Here’s a closer look at four of the most popular names in tax software, the options each offers, who it might be best for and what it will cost you so you can get your tax return as soon as possible.

Best Tax Software

Each of these four companies offers an option for filing federal returns for free, but they are limited to the simplest IRS forms. So if you have a more complex return, the best tax prep software for you is most likely one of the paid versions. What’s more, if you’re a relative novice when it comes to self-preparing a tax filing, ease of use will likely be an important consideration. Some of the software options below are downloadable and others are online products. Do your research before choosing tax software so you can find the best program for your unique tax situation.

Best Tax Software Costs
Tax SoftwareForms Accepted for Free VersionCost for Federal Return for Paid Version
Cost for State Return for Paid Version
TurboTax1040EZ/1040A$59.99-$179.99$29.99-$39.99
H&R BlockImport your 1095-A, 1098, 1098-E, 1098-T, 1099-B, 1099-DIV, 1099-INT, and 1099-R$49.99-$94.99$39.99
TaxSlayer1040 EZ$24-$47$29
TaxAct1040EZ$14.95-$69.95$17-$39.99
Information accurate as of July 27, 2018.

TurboTax

Best For: Complex returns

Intuit’s TurboTax is easily one of the most expensive options for online tax preparation. Even the free version will require a $29.99 fee to file your state taxes. All told, the Deluxe version that TurboTax notes as its most popular will cost you $59.99 plus another $39.99 for filing your state taxes. And although the paid versions all include support in the form of on-screen help, getting access to live on-screen help from a certified financial planner or enrolled agent would require the $179.99 TurboTax Live option.

However, you only file taxes once a year, and if your return is on the more complex side, TurboTax might be for you. TurboTax is robust and detailed, asking plenty of questions to ensure it’s getting you the most out of your return.

See: The Most Important Tax Changes for 2018

H&R Block

Best For: Tax novices who might want in-person support

Filing your taxes with H&R Block is the second-most costly option by a decent margin, but it does offer a version that’s a clear step down from TurboTax in price. One thing H&R Block can offer is the ability to visit a physical office and talk to someone in person. H&R Block has some 12,000 company-owned and franchise retail locations spread across all 50 states, and it offers taxpayers access to more than 70,000 tax professionals, according to its website.

Even if you have decided to go with filing online, you might want the peace of mind associated with being able to visit an office location for any questions you might have, even if it’s not included in the cost of your software. If that’s the case, H&R Block is a good option.

TaxSlayer

Best For: Completely free electronic filing

You might have noticed a theme with the free filing options: They aren’t really free. Although you can file your federal return at no cost, you’ll still likely end up shelling out a fee for filing your state taxes which — unless you’re living in Washington, D.C. — is unavoidable. TaxSlayer, however, is an exception. If you’re in the hunt for a completely free option, TaxSlayer is one provider that will throw in a state filing at no cost with its free option.

And even if you do have a return that necessitates one of the paid options, TaxSlayer offers competitive pricing, particularly when compared to H&R Block and TurboTax. The total cost of the classic version — which TaxSlayer touts as its most popular option — is $53 for both state and federal filings.

Learn: 10 Tax Loopholes That Could Save You Thousands

TaxAct

Best For: Filers seeking low-cost options

The tax software with the lowest price — aside from the completely free option at TaxSlayer — is TaxAct, with a total cost for filing federal and state returns under the Basic version coming to just $31.95. So although you will still have to pay $17 to file a state return when using the free version, anyone with a more complex return who can’t rely on the 1040EZ but who still wants to pay minimal costs might find that TaxAct is the best option for them.

Click to learn about FreeTaxUSA — it offers extensive services at no cost.

More on Taxes

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