Of the roughly 139 million tax returns Americans filed with the IRS in 2022, all but about 5.5 million were filed electronically. According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s report to Congress, about 63 million of the 133.41 million who e-filed used tax software to DIY it. That’s an increase of 12.7% over the final pre-COVID-19 tax year in 2019.
The other 70.51 million enlisted the services of a tax professional. That number remains virtually unchanged from 2019, which means America is trending toward algorithms and automation at tax time, but the majority still puts their faith in human tax pros.
So, with the first W-2s set to start trickling in around four months from now, which method is right for you?
Here’s a quick overview of some of the top tax software options, including how much they cost, and how to know if you’d be better off paying for professional help.
TurboTax pioneered the tax software industry and remains the largest provider and best-known name in the business. It has price tiers that offer something for most taxpayers, from free and simple to complex with live professional help:
- Basic: $0-$129
- Assisted: $99-$219
- Full Service: $219-$409
In the first tier, you’re alone with just TurboTax’s software, which provides a user-friendly interface that can guide most taxpayers from start to finish. The second is a hybrid option that connects you with experts who help you do your taxes. With the easiest but most expensive third offering, TurboTax pros handle the whole thing for you.
State taxes incur additional charges ranging from $0-64.
H&R Block can be a great option for many taxpayers due to its hybrid structure. Originally, H&R Block was solely a brick-and-mortar tax service option. But now, in addition to still maintaining branches nationwide, H&R Block has a suite of fully online tax software options to complement its network of on-the-ground professionals.
In-office, from-home or drop-off professional tax filing starts at $85 with additional fees for state filings. Online software prices are as follows:
- Free online: $0 (simple returns)
- Deluxe: $55 (itemized deductions and child and dependent care expenses)
- Premium: $75 (rental income, investments and crypto transactions)
- Self-employed: $115 (1099 income, expenses and deductions)
If you want to add live expert help, prices increase to $70, $115, $165 and $195, respectively.
Hiring a Professional
Although tax software continues to grow in popularity, some taxpayers simply aren’t comfortable entrusting their personal financial information to an online tax service. Others might prefer the live interaction they can get with an in-person or over-the-phone consultation with a licensed CPA. Still others might have tax returns so complicated that even the best tax software might struggle with completing them properly.
Whatever the case, there will always be a need for licensed tax professionals like CPAs. The average cost of a CPA to file a Form 1040 for a client ranges from about $220 with no deductions to $323 with deductions, according to the National Society of Accountants.
While that’s more expensive than most tax software, for many Americans, the security of working face-to-face with a licensed professional is well worth the cost. Some would argue that good CPAs can even generate lower tax liabilities for clients as well, so that is something to factor into your equation.
IRS Free File
IRS Free File is an underutilized option for those who want to file electronically on their own but don’t want to pay for the privilege. For taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less, the IRS guides your tax preparation with simple questions and allows you to file your tax return for free.
According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, 70% of American taxpayers are eligible for this free service, but only 2% took advantage of it in tax year 2022.
John Csiszar contributed to the reporting for this article.
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