Best tax software
The IRS is not to be messed you. Tax returns need to be filed in a regular and accurate manner, covering both state and federal taxes as applicable.
However, managing tax returns can seem like a headache, not least if you're worried about managing records accurately, getting figures exactly right, and ensuring you've covered all technical points that you need.
Luckily there are a number of tax software packages available that aim to make everything easy and simple when it comes to filing your tax returns with the IRS. While most come with a basic fee, some add additional ones for additional filing.
Ultimately it's a case of looking to see which software pricing plan suits you best and for your circumstances. This is especially the case where you may have investments or rental property, which can make your tax return a little more complicated.
Here we'll list the best in tax return software, so you can make your own appraisal of which may be the best for you.
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Intuit has a plethora of options to deal with your tax needs
If you want high quality tax software, then it makes sense to turn to a well-known and respected company like Intuit, which provides several options on this front, not the least of which comes under the QuickBooks brand.
QuickBooks is a comprehensive accountancy solution for small businesses – and indeed larger ones – with the Full Service Payroll option giving you expert payroll help for setting things up, and crucially, tax filing support. Intuit bolsters the latter with a guarantee of accuracy, so if anything should go awry with your taxes, you have the full backing of the firm.
You can pick up Full Service Payroll as an add-on for $80 per month plus $4 for each employee, and you also get the benefit of full integration with whatever QuickBooks package you’re running (from the basic plan to the Plus offering).
Alternatively, Intuit also produces a range of standalone tax software solutions which start with ProConnect Tax Online, which offers QuickBooks Online Accountant integration to easily import client data, and a dizzying array of over 5,600 forms for the likes of 1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 709 and 990 tax returns.
There’s also no contract commitment with ProConnect, as it operates on a pay-per-return pricing model, so with Intuit, you have plenty of scope when it comes to exactly how you want to handle paying for your tax software.
A bargain tax solution
TaxSlayer positions itself as a bargain tax solution, offering prices that undercut the competition across multiple tiers.
The base tier of TaxSlayer for basic returns, known as SimplyFree, offers a Federal and State return, including the eFile, all for free, but only for 1040EZ forms. The more popular Classic tier includes all major Federal tax forms, and includes a W-2 import for a dirt cheap $24, but the State forms are an additional $4.95 fee, which should be fine for most users.
The offerings top out at $47, and cover the specific needs of the self-employed, including contractors and 1099’s, and also require the additional fee for a State return. There is an online guide to assist users in choosing the best version of the program for their needs.
Even at these affordable prices, a notable feature is the included phone and email support (24 to 48 hour response) on the lower tiers, and live chat on the higher tiers.
The no-frills tax solution
Sporting a simplified interface, TaxAct takes a no-frills approach to the chore of doing the taxes in the cloud, while undercutting the prices of the bigger players.
TaxAct has five tiers, of which the first is free, and good for filing simple returns such as a 1040. The Basic tier expands the service to include college expenses, dependents, and more, for $14.95. The Deluxe tier at $47.95 covers homeowners, deducations, credits, and adjustments, while the Premier tier at £57.95 covers investments, rental property, and provides priority support.
TaxAct has all the basics covered, including importing W-2’s, and importation of prior years’ returns. There is also mobile app support for calculating returns on the go, and you can even use your smartphone camera to capture your W-2 income form.
TaxAct eschews email support in favor of phone and chat support. It also offers a $100,000 accuracy guarantee.
A robust feature set, but still affordable
Formerly known as Kiplinger’s TaxCut, H&R Block TaxCut has been around for many years, and is a full featured tax solution. With four tiers, it can handle just about any return.
Unlike some other offerings, TaxCut has no free tier, and the simpler returns start with the Basic one which retails at $29.95. While it includes a Federal eFile, adding a State return means a hefty $39.95 extra, and for a State eFile it's an additional $19.95.
Unless you live in that few handful of states with no State income tax, such as Florida, most users are better served with the next tier up, Deluxe, which for $54.95 is better value as it includes both the Federal and State return, although the State eFile still adds an additional $19.95.
The standout feature of TaxCut is that there are approximately 12,000 H&R outlets that are available to users of the program when some in-person hand-holding is needed to get the job done - for an additional cost. Online chat, like its competitors, is included for no extra outlay.
The venerable master of tax return software
Ask someone to name a program for tax prep, and chances are they will say TurboTax. That’s not by accident as this firm is an old pro in this area, having its origins in the mid-1980’s when TurboTax was first created by the software company Chipsoft (and is now under the Intuit umbrella).
The online offerings start with a free tier for Federal taxes, and the State adds a reasonable $29.95; this is fine for a 1040EZ or 1040A return, but not a full 1040. The full 1040 requires a step up to the Deluxe tier, which goes for $59.99, and the State return adds $39.99 to the package.
TurboTax includes the 'ItsDeductible' feature, which can assist in calculating the value of donated items. It can also store your documents online for safekeeping if they are needed later, such as for an audit.
Free Federal tax software to bring a smile to a skinflint
Getting your taxes done for free does sound like an attractive offer, and yes, the name of this product does indicate the truth. Federal taxes can indeed be done for free - for all returns including a full 1040, and even more complicated tax situations such as an Earned Income Credit, or a K-1. Adding a State return tacks on an affordable $12.95 fee.
Compared to the competition, FreeTaxUSA does indeed represent the bargain here. There is a higher Deluxe tier offered, which adds Audit Assist, Priority Support and can handle amended returns, but true to the cheapskate origins, it's only an additional $6.99.