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Want to find the best tax software for 2021? You’re in the right place!
Look, we all know that filing your income taxes can be confusing, right? Well, do yourself a favor: Save your sanity (mostly) and get started now! After all, tax season is right around the corner.
If you’re looking for a DIY solution to file your taxes, we’ve got you covered. By comparing the most popular tax programs all in one place, we’re hoping to save you the hassle of trying them all yourself! In fact, we’ll walk through the pros and cons of each program. Just use this guide to decide which one you like, gather your W-2 forms, and get to work!
So, without further ado, here’s our list of the nine best tax software programs for 2021!
Our Top Picks
TurboTax (Best Overall) – TurboTax is our pick for the best all-around online tax preparation software. It has a friendly and intuitive interface that walks you through preparing your return one step at a time. It does cost a bit more than other options, but it’s a full-featured software that gives you access to a real, live person around the clock if you get stuck. Get Started Here>>
FreeTaxUSA (Best Budget Program) – FreeTaxUSA is our top budget pick. It supports all major tax forms without the need to upgrade to more expensive premium plans and gives you access to over 350 credits and deductions to maximize your tax refund. The best part of Free Tax USA is the affordable pricing for additional options. You can file your federal and state returns and get advanced customer support options and audit protection. Get Started Here>>
9 Best Tax Programs for 2021
The most well-known choice for preparing taxes is TurboTax. It has a friendly interface that’s easy to use and comes with some great features. Developed by Intuit, the company behind Quicken, TurboTax earns high marks from basic users and tax experts alike.
You can expect to pay more to use this tax software because of its advanced features and ease of use. But is it worth the extra cost?
The short answer is: it depends. TurboTax comes packed full of options that make filing your taxes short and sweet. For instance, you can take pictures of your W-2 forms and 1099 forms instead of typing the information yourself. This might seem minor, but having the data automatically entered into the software takes away the risk of typos and mistakes.
On that same note, if you’re nervous about missing something when taking the DIY approach to filing taxes, there’s a helpline for customers. Even though TurboTax doesn’t have physical offices, they offer tax advice tailored to you through a live 24/7 phone line.
Especially when filing taxes yourself, talking to a real, live person to get custom tax advice gives you peace of mind. TurboTax is an excellent option if you’re looking to save money while still having the resources of working with a tax professional.
With a name like FreeTaxUSA, you expect it to be free to use and free to file. But is it really free? Well, in this case, you might be surprised. Even though there are a few exceptions, like paid access for Priority Customer Support, FreeTaxUSA really is free.
And it comes packed with features and includes options for self-employed individuals, investors, and people with rental properties, too. Unlike TurboTax, FreeTaxUSA doesn’t come with a fancy user interface, but users report that it’s still relatively easy to use.
But don’t let the lack of design fool you. FreeTaxUSA has the robust features you expect from a quality tax software program. Just like TurboTax and most other tax software options, your information is saved from year to year. This eliminates stress from re-entering your essential information each time tax season rolls around. And if you used TurboTax, H&R Block, or TaxAct in years’ past, you can upload a PDF of your previous return to FreeTaxUSA.
There are two tiers of services and both are excellent choices. The free version includes your federal tax return, e-filing service, data rollover from last year’s online backup of your data and covers some pretty complex tax filing situations. Adding state tax comes with a fee, but at only $12.95 to e-file your state return once you file your federal taxes, it won’t break the bank.
If you want to upgrade to the Deluxe Edition, there’s a one-time charge of $6.99. Upgrading for this minimal fee is worth the cost because it gives you Audit Assist. Plus, if you’re not sure how to enter your tax information, you get automatic access to the Priority Customer Support feature with the Deluxe Edition.
The free version comes with advanced features you might not expect. But even with the optional upgrades available in the Deluxe Edition, FreeTaxUSA is one of the least expensive options on the market.
3. H&R Block
Seen as one of the most dependable names in tax preparation, H&R Block is another great choice in tax software. Unlike TurboTax, H&R Block has brick-and-mortar buildings for people who want to pay more to have their taxes done in person by a professional. But their software is so easy to use, and you can save yourself some money by filing on your own. Plus, the software comes with the Maximum Refund Guarantee the company is known for, so you’re covered even if you do it yourself.
Entering your information in H&R Block’s tax software is straightforward, and you can auto-import your W-2 forms from some employers. And if you used it last year, H&R Block can save you a bunch of time by carrying over your information from your previously saved tax returns.
The free version comes with tons of forms you can use and is perfect for most tax situations. It even includes free filing for federal and state taxes, and this alone is a big benefit. Since most other tax software options charge a fee to file your state taxes, this is a significant advantage to have.
The best part of using this software is the bonus you get when opting to receive your funds on a gift card. Choosing a gift card from preferred retailers is an easy way to get an extra 5-10% back in addition to the amount of your anticipated refund. With this option, you could quickly come out ahead even after paying for the cost of filing!
Another great feature of H&R Block tax software is the free in-person audit support that comes with the purchase. If you’re ever facing an audit from the IRS, you can relax knowing your audit support is coming from a real person.
Another great low-price option for the DIY approach to filing your taxes is TaxAct. It’s known for having an easy-to-navigate interface but doesn’t offer quite as much guidance as some of the other tax preparation sites.
There are helpful suggestions to guide you through different forms and for finding what information you need, but it lacks some of the intuitiveness of other programs.
If you know which credits and deductions you’re going to file, TaxAct is simple to use. But first-time filers may struggle with the lack of hand-holding as they go through the steps.
TaxAct costs less than most of the other tax software sites and comes in at less than half the cost of TurboTax or H&R Block’s online software. Overall, it’s an excellent bargain for access to some of the advanced features offered by more expensive options.
5. Liberty Tax
For more experienced filers, Liberty Tax might be your best option. It doesn’t have a flashy interface but it gets the job done, and it does it well.
Initially, there’s an interview-style question and answer process that tells the software which forms and schedules you’ll need to complete. It’ll also determine which of their plan options is best for your situation.
From there, Liberty Tax gives you more freedom to decide which parts of your return you want to work on and when to do it. Rather than walking you through the process at their speed, you can choose which forms and schedules to fill out as you go.
You’re not left completely in the dark, though. With the “Learn More” buttons next to each item, you can quickly find definitions and explanations of complex tax terms to help you through any gray areas you might encounter. Plus, you can get free support through their chat feature, on the phone, or by email.
If you are looking for a tax program that offers lots of free features, TaxSlayer may be for you. The free version offers preparation and e-filing of both your federal and state returns. You can also import past year’s taxes from a PDF and like most of these tax programs, get free email and phone support to help walk you through your return and get your questions answered.
The mobile app saves you time by letting you take pictures of your W2 forms instead of having to enter the information by hand. Plus, TaxSlayer has a military offer for active-duty military to e-file a federal return for free.
7. eSmart Tax
Filing your taxes with eSmart Tax is as simple as answering a series of yes-or-no questions. Your answers direct you to one of their four software plans. This remarkable feature lets you skip the frustration of figuring out which plan is best for your situation because they do the hard work for you.
Using eSmart Tax comes with an accuracy guarantee, past-year access, chat support, and access to a variety of credits and deductions you’d expect. What sets this software apart is the live chat support that comes with the Free edition. Other software, such as Free Tax USA, requires you to upgrade before accessing live chat.
Since eSmart Tax is part of the Liberty Tax Service, you’ll also have access to their 3,000+ physical locations. If you’re overwhelmed by completing your return online, you can tap into Liberty’s professional services.
8. Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma has been an excellent personal finance tool for over a decade and is most well-known for their free credit monitoring services. The newest addition to their suite of services is online tax preparation software. And just like their other offerings, they offer tax filing for free.
With Credit Karma Tax, there are no hidden fees or costly upgrades. It has only one plan, and it’s free. That’s right – you can file your federal and state returns for free with Credit Karma Tax.
As a newcomer to the market, there are still a few bugs to work out. Launched in 2017, there are some limits on the forms available for you to file. For instance, you can’t file multiple state returns, and there’s no option to submit small business, corporation, partnership, or multi-member LLC forms. And since they did away with their intuitive question-and-answer style navigation in 2018, Credit Karma Tax is a little more difficult for beginner filers to use.
The pop-up bubbles located throughout the site contain helpful knowledge to answer your questions, but some may find it lacks clarity. For that reason, you may end up researching on your own.
Credit Karma Tax isn’t a bad deal for a completely free tax service. Just keep in mind there are a few kinks to work out, and it might not be a smooth process.
9. Jackson Hewitt
Jackson Hewitt has an online tax software that offers the same excellent service you’ve come to expect in their office locations around the U.S. They’re introducing an all-new platform to make online filing easier and more intuitive and have unlimited online support.
Beginner filers can use their step-by-step tax preparation wizard to walk through each section of their return. More advanced users will appreciate the IRS tax-form view that lets you to enter your data directly into the tax form itself.
Plus, to cut down the time it takes to enter your personal information, you can use the option to import your taxes from last year, even if you used another tax program to file.
Like most tax preparation software, Jackson Hewitt has different plans that provide advancing levels of support for more complicated tax situations. If you only need an IRS Form 1040EZ, the Free plan will suit you fine. Freelancers, newlyweds, investors, and self-employed professionals will need to pay extra for one of the Basic, Deluxe, or Premium editions of the software.
Best Tax Programs: Final Thoughts
Tax season has a way of sneaking up on you, and it’ll help if you get familiar with the best tax programs now instead of waiting until the last minute. But with so many to choose from, it’s tough to know which is right for you.
If you’re not sure, you can always buy the most expensive premium version to have access to all of the features and then decide for future year’s which ones you didn’t need. But that isn’t the smartest choice or the best for your budget.
To get the best bang for your buck, you should consider the options you need and forget the rest. Where TurboTax is an excellent option for beginners or filers who prefer a streamlined experience, FreeTaxUSA is the perfect low-cost solution if you don’t mind a simple interface.
On the other hand, if you’d like the option to switch to hiring a tax professional if the DIY approach gets too overwhelming, H&R Block or Liberty Tax are both excellent options to consider. And whichever software you choose, you can’t go wrong with one of these nine best tax programs.
Have you used any of these tax programs? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!