Best Tax Software for the 2018 Tax Filing Season
Unfortunately, the IRS is one subscription you can’t cancel. With the 2018 tax season right around the corner, have you considered just how you’ll be filing your taxes this year? Not by hand…right?
Filing your taxes without professional help is intimidating to pretty much everyone. The IRS manual for Form 1040 alone is over 100 pages long. If you don’t have time to read that novel but still want to maximize your deductions, then it’s time to cut through the noise with a serious look at tax software.
Luckily, the most popular tax software programs can figure out how to maximize deductions for almost any scenario. But, of course, no two (or six) tax software programs are created equal. So how do you know what to look for? We’ve done the homework for you.
What is the best tax software for the 2018 filing season? We’ve narrowed down the list to our top six favorites to make the decision easier for you.
H&R Block: Best overall & for in-person support
H&R Block tax advisors have long served filers at their locations, and they’ve brought the same individual service to their tax software.
H&R Block tax software offers a wealth of features and services in one handy location. The company offers four tiers of software, but all include easy options for uploading previous returns and financial documents. Every level also maximizes refunds by searching through over 350 available credits and deductions.
The Basic level is ideal for users who have simpler taxes and allows you to import any documents, search for deductions, and assesses your audit risk. The Deluxe level offers this plus investment, stock, and retirement income reporting, as well as maximized mortgage interest and real estate deductions. Premium level features give you additional resources like a tax calculator and Schedule C assistance for individuals who are self-employed. The Premium & Business level is designed for those who have additional businesses.
If you prefer to have actual people helping you navigate your taxes while also getting maximum refunds, H&R Block has everything you need.
What H&R Block offers above every other tax software is the ability to speak to tax professionals as much as you want—with no extra cost.
An added bonus of H&R Block’s software is the offer of Free In-person Audit Support. Should you be surprised by an audit in the future based on a return filed through their software, they will help you find a resolution.
Lastly, if you’ve used other tax software in the past, H&R Block has a new feature to let you import last year’s tax data from TurboTax and TaxACT. So, if you were thinking of making a switch, now it’s easier than ever.
- Basic: Federal $29.95; State $39.95.
- Deluxe: Federal $54.95; One Personal State Return Included.
- Premium: Federal $74.95; One Personal State Return Included.
- Premium & Business: Federal $89.95; One Personal State Return Included, Unlimited Business State Returns Included.
Special Offer: Save 10% on H&R Block Online
Ease of Registration:
Choose your product, enter your billing information, and your software is ready to download. As of December 2017, you can only download the federal programs, but state options are available in January 2018.
Bottom Line: H&R Block is a trusted name in tax preparation, and their software offers helpful features and unparalleled support at a reasonable price. You can’t go wrong here.
TurboTax: Best overall & for ease of use
Intuit’s TurboTax is one of the most streamlined and efficient tax platforms available.
TurboTax is easy to use, as it will automatically generate information based on tax documents you have available. TurboTax allows you to prepare your returns for free, and you’ll only pay when it’s time to file. As with other options, the company offers tiered plans that will depend on the scope of your finances. You can file simple 1040EZ/1040A tax returns absolutely free, but if you are looking for maximum deductions and credits, you’ll want to upgrade to the Deluxe option. The Premier level allows you to prepare returns with investments and rental property. For self-employed individuals, the Self-Employed package takes care of both your personal and business expenses, maximizing deductions for both. TurboTax’s newest offering is TurboTaxLive, which gives you on-demand access to a CPA or EA who will also review your return before submission. TurboTax allows you to receive refunds via direct deposit and even has a mobile app that you can work from.
TurboTax is perfect for those who are looking for an efficient way to maximize refunds.
The biggest perk of TurboTax is that it does the hard work when it comes to searching for deductions and credits. Based on the information you upload and questions about your financial situation, it will look for over 350 available deductions.
As a bonus, TurboTax stores your information for you each year, making it even easier to access past returns and tax data.
- AbsoluteZero Free Edition for 1040EZ/1040A: Federal $0; State $0.
- Deluxe: Federal $59.99; State $39.99. Get $20 off
- Premier: Federal $79.99; State $39.99.
- Self-Employed: Federal $119.99; State $39.99.
- TurboTaxLive: Federal: $179.99; State $39.99.
Special Offer: Get $20 off TurboTax Deluxe (offer expires soon)
Ease of Registration: Simple—answer a few questions and TurboTax will help guide you to the right product. Then, sign up for an Intuit account, and you can get started immediately entering your information.
Bottom Line: TurboTax has brand recognition backed up by numerous features and ease-of-use. However, for those with more complicated tax structures, it can get expensive.
Tax Act: Best budget pick
TaxAct is a do-it-yourself filing service with a maximum refund guarantee, online support, and helpful tools.
TaxAct offers a simple filing structure that allows you to learn about your taxes through hands-on filing. You’ll get access to features like easy W-2 and document import, unlimited technical support, and even personal assessments and recommendations to lower your future tax bills. All four levels of software offer these features, including the free option for simple tax returns. The upgraded Plus option allows homeowners and filers with investments to maximize deductions, and the Freelancer level helps you maximize business and Schedule C deductions, with additional year-round help planning your finances. The top-level Premium option gets you all of these features as well as free professional audit protection.
While it isn’t quite as refined as TurboTax or H&R Block, TaxAct is perfect for those looking for value without needing to sacrifice features.
TaxAct offers unlimited phone and email support, so you never have to worry about any question, big or small.
They also offer a Price Lock Guarantee, so you’ll pay the amount you signed up for, even if you file later and their prices have gone up.
- Free (1040EZ/1040A filers): Federal $0; State $0.
- Plus: Federal $25; State $37.
- Freelancer: Federal $39; State $37.
- Premium: Federal $51; State $37.
Special Offer: Get 15% off TaxAct Plus & Premium (offer expires soon)
Ease of Registration: You can get started preparing your return for free just by signing up for an account with your basic information, and you won’t need to pay until you file.
Bottom Line: TaxAct is one of the most affordable tax services, offering basic features comparable with other bigger names.
FreeTaxUSA: Affordable budget pick
FreeTaxUSA was designed to allow filers to submit their returns at the lowest cost possible. You can expect the same features as other services, such as simple document upload, deduction and credit maximization, health care taxation calculations, and self-employment, business, and investment income reporting—the difference being these are all included in FreeTaxUSA’s Free Edition. FreeTaxUSA also offers an upgraded Deluxe service that gives you help in the case of an audit, allows you to amend returns, and offers priority support.
FreeTaxUSA is ideal for those who want value, yet still need options beyond the 1040EZ/1040A return.
The most significant perk of FreeTaxUSA is undoubtedly the opportunity to file any return, no matter the complexity, for a low price.
FreeTaxUSA also allows you to prepare prior year returns at no cost. While you can’t electronically submit returns for these years, FreeTaxUSA makes it easy to get them prepared quickly.
- Free Edition: Federal $0; State $12.95.
- Deluxe: Federal $6.99; State $12.95.
Ease of Registration: Sign up for an account with your basic information and try FreeTaxUSA for free.
Bottom line: FreeTaxUSA is a streamlined and affordable way to file your taxes independently, no matter their complexity.
Liberty Tax: Affordable budget pick
Liberty Tax offers online filing services with supportive options for any level filer.
Unlike many other tax preparation services, Liberty Tax does not offer a free option for those filing a 1040EZ/1040A. However, as with other services, they do provide increased features with higher priced options. With the Basic version, you can itemize deductions, get help with a Health Savings Account, and even report self-employment and business income. The Deluxe plan is made for those with investments and will help you calculate depreciation and home office deductions. The Premium program assists with real estate income, gains, and losses, and supports schedule K-1.
Liberty Tax is a great value for those who have more complicated tax returns.
One of the biggest benefits of using their service is that Liberty Tax places a priority on helping you understand and accurately report your healthcare information, including any HSAs.
Liberty Tax also makes it easy to amend a return if you receive a late document or need to make a change – at no additional cost.
- EZ: Federal $14.95; State $29.99.
- Basic: Federal $19.95; State $34.95.
- Deluxe: Federal $44.95; State $34.95.
- Premium: Federal $69.95; State $34.95.
Ease of Registration: Start for free by signing up for an account. From there, you can start uploading documents, and even chat with representatives if needed.
Bottom line: Liberty Tax is a no-frills service, best for those who don’t have simple taxes that could be done elsewhere for free.
E-File: Bargain pick
It offers three simple levels of service based on your finances: Free Basic for single or married filers with no mortgage or children; Deluxe for filers with children, a mortgage, or retirement income; and Premium for the self-employed and those who require additional schedules with their returns.
For simple returns, the basic features of efile can help get your taxes prepared accurately and quickly.
The most prominent bonus of efile is that they are transparent with the methods used to decide which tax service level is right for you, and will downgrade you when necessary so that you pay the lowest price possible upon filing.
If you file multiple state returns, efile will only charge you once—no matter how many you have to file.
- Free Basic: Federal $9.95 (discounted to Free); State $19.95.
- Deluxe: $39.95; State $19.95.
- Premium: Federal $49.95; State $19.95.
Ease of Registration: As with other services, just create an account and you can start your return for free.
Bottom Line: e-File is no-frills, but it does offer basic features at a low price.
Don’t risk it: The majority of taxpayers choose best-in-class filing options from H&R Block or TurboTax
Next step: Choose an option to start your return.
Best overall & for in-person support
If you prefer to have actual people helping you navigate your taxes while also getting maximum refunds, H&R Block has everything you need. They’ve brought the same individual service to their tax software.
Final thoughts: Pick the right tax software for your situation
When making your selection, remember that many higher-priced packages search for additional deductions and credits which will end up saving you even more, despite the upfront cost.
The scope of your finances, your employment type, and even your household size will influence which tax preparation software will be the best for you, but if you’re looking for overall quality and a high level of support, H&R Block & TurboTax are our top choices. Using tax software will help you claim all available deductions and credits.
Gone are the days when you needed to shell out big bucks to an accountant or toil over complex calculations with pencil and paper. Most of these programs allow you to get started for free (like TurboTax’s “Start for Free: Pay only when you file” offer), so you have an opportunity to experience their interface and verify that you’ll get all of the features you need before you have to pay a cent.
Remember, your taxes are not something to take lightly. It’s in your best interest to find the support you need to maximize your refund while protecting yourself from errors.
- If you are unsure about your specific tax situation: Contact a tax professional or choose a service (like H&R Block) that includes regular contact with one. With H&R Block, you have the option of having your return checked by a Tax Pro before filing so that you get your maximum refund, guaranteed. See H&R Block options & full feature comparison
- If you want to go with the most popular option (and don’t need in-person support): Go with TurboTax. Just do it. It’s popular for a reason: It’s fast, straightforward, and covers almost every tax situation. It’s a great option for newbies (first-time filers), too. Start for Free: Pay only when you file
Without a doubt, tax software has changed the way most Americans prepare and file their tax returns. In fact, most tax software will automatically gather your information from previous returns, W-2s, and other applicable documents so that you reduce the risk of error, while still getting access to the greatest amount of deductions and credits possible. H&R Block will even let you import last year’s tax data from TurboTax and TaxACT. If you’re still doing your taxes by hand, it’s time to try tax software.
One thing you can be sure you don’t want is fraudulent activity affecting your tax liabilities. Take steps to ensure you are protected and get your credit report today.