If you’re new to the world of tax software, trying to choose a provider can be overwhelming.
The following list will explore four of the top tax software providers and highlight some of their key features to help you decide which one is right for you.
IMPORTANT: The U.S. government has extended tax season, pushing the deadline back to July 15.
Pricing: Free to $109.99 for federal; free to $39.99 for state; $50 to $230 for tax pro review
TurboTax may not be the cheapest option on this list, but if your return is complicated — if, for example, you’re self-employed — you'll find it's worth the price.
TurboTax’s free edition includes filing of simple federal and state returns, and also comes with an audit support guarantee offering free guidance in the event you're audited.
The Deluxe and Premier editions of TurboTax line up your personal information to more than 350 tax deductions to see if you’re eligible, and can also examine your bank account to identify potentially tax-deductible expenditures you may have missed.
Note that TurboTax's paid editions do not come with a free state return; state returns cost an additional $40.
TurboTax Self-Employed offers the same features as Premier, plus home office deduction support and extra deduction help for freelancers and independent contractors.
For an additional cost, you can opt to file with TurboTax Live, in which a CPA will review your return before you file to make sure you haven’t missed any possible credits or deductions. They’ll also provide you with unlimited live tax advice to help make the whole filing process easier.
More: Experience best in-class customer service when filing with TurboTax.
2. H&R Block
Pricing: Free to $89.95 for federal; free to $59.90 for state; $49 to $229 for tax pro review
H&R Block has been around for more than 50 years and has a reputation as one of the most trusted tax preparers in the United States — and its tax software lives up to the hype.
Like many of its competitors, H&R Block’s free tax software will let you file your Form 1040 and help you take advantage of several common tax breaks. It also allows you to file schedules 1, 2, and 3, which cover more complex issues like business income, alimony, and various deductions and credits.
Although H&R Block's paid online versions require an additional fee for state returns, the downloadable versions of the Deluxe + State, Premium, and Premium & Business programs all include a free state return with your federal return.
Each version of H&R Block’s tax software provides an intuitive help menu to guide users through the preparation process.
You also can pay a bit more to have an expert review your return, either online or in person at one of H&R Block’s thousands of physical locations.
More: For multiplatform flexibility, file your taxes with H&R Block.
3. Credit Karma
Despite being the newest tax software provider on this list, Credit Karma is quickly making a name for itself as the preferred option for people looking to file for free — with both federal and state returns.
What’s great about Credit Karma is that its free filing services aren’t just limited to simple returns. Credit Karma can handle all major IRS schedules and forms, even those that are more complicated than average.
If you’re filing a simple Form W-2, the process couldn’t be easier; just snap a photo of your W-2 and your tax info will automatically be added to the correct fields on your return.
Credit Karma will also let you import your returns from previous years even if they were completed using one of its competitors.
To top it all off, filing with Credit Karma comes with both a maximum refund guarantee and free audit defense.
Credit Karma will reimburse you with up to $100 in gift cards if you find you can get a bigger refund with one of its competitors, and it will provide free consultation, document review, and assistance if you get audited.
More: Take advantage of Credit Karma's completely free tax software.
Pricing: Free to $124.90 for federal; free to $49.95 for state; free tax pro support for paid editions
Although TaxAct may not have the same brand recognition as some of its competitors, it offers comparable features at lower-than-average prices.
The free edition includes both federal and state returns and allows you to import data from previous returns filed by TurboTax or H&R Block.
In terms of functionality, TaxAct comes with the same standard options as many of its competitors, as well as several useful calculators and planning tools to help identify and compensate for any potential changes in your tax situation.
TaxAct’s paid editions offer live support from tax professionals, either over the phone (Deluxe+) or online with screen sharing (Premier+ and Self Employed+). The tax pro you get may not be a CPA, but he or she will have past tax preparation experience and be supervised by an enrolled agent.
Paid editions of TaxAct online do not include state returns; state returns will run you $40 with the Deluxe+ and Premier+ editions, and $50 with the Self Employed+ edition. However, TaxAct’s downloadable versions — with the exception of Basic — do come with one free state return.
More: On a budget? Then you can't go wrong filing with TaxAct.
Online vs. download
Most of the providers listed above offer both online and downloadable versions of their tax software.
Although both versions contain similar features, the downloadable options tend to be a bit pricier because they come with multiple federal e-files — usually around five.
These e-files are only valid for one tax year but can be used by multiple people, so if your household will be filing more than one federal return it may be worth buying the downloadable version.
On the other hand, if you’re filing just a single return, the cheaper online option is likely your best bet.
Regardless of which provider you go with, it’s important to note that in the past, price points for most tax software have increased as the deadline grows nearer.
Since the federal government has pushed the deadline back to July 15, it remains to be seen if software companies plan to hike their prices in the midst of this public health crisis.