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The Best Tax Preparation Software Programs

The 7 Best Tax Preparation Software Programs

What's the Best Tax Software for Preparing Your Federal and State Returns?

In the past, many taxpayers either tried to slog through the paperwork on their own or spent huge amounts of money to hire a professional tax preparer. Of course, in today's digital age, it should come as no surprise that more than 53 million people use tax software to prepare and file their returns online.

One of the most compelling reasons to use a reputable tax software package is because of the constant changes to tax law. Figuring out what exemptions you qualify for, what income requires you to pay additional taxes, and how to claim any deductions can be challenging and also have a major impact on whether you get a big refund - or owe big time!

Monday, July 26th

2021 Tax Preparation Software Program Reviews

H&R Block Review Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award 5 Star Rating

H&R Block

5 Star Rating Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

H&R Block offers the most comprehensive tax software on the market. Whether you want to buy the program on a disc, download it from their store, or do absolutely everything online, your options are wide open - and include access to more than 12,000 retail office locations if you need in-person guidance. From free filing of basic Federal returns to affordable packages for the self-employed, H&R Block should be your first choice if you're looking for the best all-around tax prep software.

TurboTax Review 4.5 Star Rating

TurboTax

4.5 Star Rating

Who's better known for DIY tax prep than TurboTax? This market leader continues to excel when it comes to ease-of-use, new features, and options for live CPA review and advice if needed. Although TurboTax comes in second place because of its higher pricing and lack of in-person assistance, this tax software is still an extremely trustworthy choice for most taxpayers.

E-File Review 3.5 Star Rating

E-File

3.5 Star Rating

E-file is our favorite choice for people who have a simple tax return and want the lowest-priced option for filing their taxes. While this tax software doesn't have all of the bells and whistles offered by the big-name tax prep companies, it gives customers all of the basics necessary to file an accurate, timely return.

Tax Slayer Review 3 Star Rating

Tax Slayer

3 Star Rating

TaxSlayer is one of the only tax software programs that offers free e-filing for simple Federal and State returns, and a free upgraded package for active-duty military. But this tax prep platform doesn't have as many features as some of our higher-ranked providers, and customers trying to use TaxSlayer to file last-minute returns encountered big problems.

eSmart Tax Review 3 Star Rating

eSmart Tax

3 Star Rating

eSmart Tax is the new-and-improved online tax program offered by Liberty Tax. It's priced competitively, and you're guaranteed to get the largest possible refund. And, if you wind up needing in-person help, there's probably a Liberty Tax office located near you. But, this tax prep software is missing some of the features included by higher-ranked providers, keeping eSmart Tax towards the bottom of our rankings.

Liberty Tax Review 2.5 Star Rating

Liberty Tax

2.5 Star Rating

Liberty Tax is popular among taxpayers who like the security of knowing there's probably an in-person office nearby if they get stuck while preparing their return online or if they want a free double-check by a professional before filing. Unfortunately, Liberty Tax is the only tax software in our review that has zero free filing options - even their sister site, eSmart Tax, offers a $0 plan. And, with a challenging-to-navigate website, Liberty Tax winds up at the bottom of our rankings.

Tax Act Review 2 Star Rating

Tax Act

2 Star Rating

TaxAct has a wide variety of tax prep software options, from basic free federal filing to more advanced programs for freelancers - available as an online form or downloadable software. You can get your refund via check, direct deposit, or as an American Express debit card, and TaxAct will tack on a bonus from a retailer like Amazon or Nike if you choose to get some of your refund as a gift card. But, recent user reviews indicate that TaxAct is having major problems with their customer support, leaving people with unanswered questions for more than a week.

Compare the Best Reviews

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Tax software can save you a lot of time and stress by staying up-to-date on each change made by the IRS, so that your return is accurate to the penny. But with all of the different options out there, how can you decide which tax software is right for you?

Here are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Complexity of Your Return. If you're a small business owner who owns a home and has numerous investments, your return will be much more complicated than a single person with no dependents and renting an apartment. Make sure the tax software you choose fits your situation.
  • Format. Do you need or prefer to have a tax prep program that can be downloaded to a laptop rather than used 100% online? If your internet connection is limited, you may want a program that lets you work offline all or most of the time, with options to file your return on paper as well as via e-file.
  • Live Help. If you're unsure of yourself when putting together your return, you may feel more reassured if you choose a company that offers help in real time from tax professionals. Some services give you that assistance via phone and/or live chat, while others maintain brick-and-mortar offices throughout the US that you can visit in person. Be sure to check if these services are included with the purchase of the tax software or if you'll have to pay extra for them.
  • Cost. What will you spend to prepare and file your tax return? Is it comparable to what you'd pay for tax software on a competitor site? Most services don't include state preparation and filing in their federal tax prep packages, so look for those additional fees if that applies to your situation.

TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Tax Software available today. We hope this information helps you choose the right package for your needs, so that you can file your returns accurately and easily!

The Best Tax Preparation Software Programs Compare Tax Preparation Software Programs Compare Tax Preparation Software Program Reviews What are the best Tax Preparation Software Programs Best Tax Preparation Software Program Reviews

Tax Preparation Software Program FAQ

Tax preparation software walks you through a series of questions, much like you'd get with a human tax preparer: are you married, do you have a mortgage, and so on. The program fills in your tax forms based on the answers you provide, and at the end your return is ready for filing. Most tax prep platforms allow you to file your returns electronically, but you always have the option to file them by mail.
That's up to you! Almost every tax preparation platform today makes it possible to do your entire return online, no downloads or CD-ROMs necessary. But, if you prefer to do it the more old-school way, you can still find tax prep software that downloads to your computer and lets you work on it offline.
That depends on several factors: the more complicated your financial situation, the more likely it is that you'll need a tax prep package that goes beyond the basic program. Most providers of tax prep software will walk you through the options and recommend the right product for your needs.
Yes, most of the time. Many providers will take the information you entered during your federal return and carry it over into your applicable state return. Keep in mind that you may have to pay extra: both for the software for your state and for electronically filing a return. You can usually opt to file your federal return electronically (often included at no extra charge) and your state return by mail.
For the most basic tax returns (those that only have W2 income, no investments, no mortgage interest to deduct), many tax prep software programs are completely free. Otherwise, you can expect costs ranging from $19-$120, with the most expensive packages for those who have self-employment/business income and expenses to report.
You'll often find answers built right into the tax preparation software: look for a button on the page where you're having trouble to click for explanations and additional info. If you'd like to get help from a tax professional, you might be able to connect with someone by phone or online (though that may incur extra charges). A few tax prep software providers have in-person options if you get stuck and want a tax preparer to take over or just want to go over your return face-to-face.
The good news is that your tax preparation software will likely have a robust detection method for uncovering any errors you may have made. Of course, it can't tell if you entered the wrong number for your income, but if it spots anything obviously wrong you'll get a notification and a prompt to review that part of your return. If you file your taxes and later realize there was an error, you can file an amended return.
Getting an audit notification can be scary! Depending on which tax preparation software you use, you might have audit support and guidance built into your package. Some providers also offer full audit representation for an additional fee.
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