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Best tax software for 2021
We researched over 20 tax software programs to help you quickly compare the top seven.
What’s changed in 2021?
We added Keeper Tax for freelancers and Credit Karma Tax for best free tax software to our list.
The 7 best tax software programs
The best tax software depends on your specific tax situation. Here are seven top tax software programs if you’re self-employed, have a complex return, need more support or are on a limited budget.
Best tax software for on-demand support
- Federal return: $0 to $144.99
- State return: $0 to $36.99 H&R Block has nine different software plans and packages — half of which come with on-demand support from tax experts, enrolled agents and CPAs. This makes it a great option for those who think they’ll need help during the filing process.
Best for freelancers
- Federal return: $89
- State return: $0
The best software for Uber drivers and freelancers is Keeper Tax. The software connects with your bank account and tracks your expenses throughout the year to help you maximize your deductions. Come tax season, you can file directly with Keeper Tax for an additional fee of $89.
Best tax software for limited budgets
- Federal return: $0
- State return: $14.99
With FreeTaxUSA, you can file federal returns for free and state returns for $14.99, making it a great option for free filers and those on a limited budget. But it doesn’t support all tax forms.
Best tax software for tax preparers
- Cost: $1,195 to $1,495 TaxSlayer Pro is a tax preparation software designed specifically for tax preparers. It comes with unlimited support and integrated bank products to help your clients get paid sooner.
Best tax software for complex returns
- Federal return: $94.95 to $124.95
- State return: $49.95 or $54.95
TaxAct offers five different personal tax preparation plans built to handle even the most complex of returns. Some plans even come with screen sharing capabilities so you can get on-demand support from a tax professional should you need it.
Best tax software for small business owners
- Federal return: $90 to $170
- State return: $40 to $50
TurboTax is the best tax software for self-employed individuals. Its business plans have all the bells and whistles — auditing support, payroll features, reports and even accounting software integrations. There are even tax experts on standby.
Credit Karma Tax
Best free tax software
- Federal return: $0
- State return: $0 Credit Karma Tax is one of the only tax filing options that’s 100% free. It covers most tax situations, including those with itemized deductions, business income, self-employment tax and capital gains. But you’ll need a Credit Karma account before you can sign up. Credit Karma Tax was acquired by Cash App in June 2021 and will be rebranded ahead of the 2021 tax season.
How do I choose the best tax software?
Here are some major factors to consider when narrowing down the best tax software for your situation:
- Cost. Some tax software programs are sneaky and will let you start out on the free version, then bump you up to a paid tier as you go. Read the details for each tier so you know how much you’ll pay for your situation.
- Ease of use. Choose a tax program that’s easy to understand, so you can make sure you’re filling out everything correctly. If an interface looks clunky or confusing, it may only add to your frustration.
- Customer support. Some tax software programs come with live support by chat or phone while others are limited to email support only.
Compare online tax software
Use this table to compare popular online tax software options. Use the column headings to sort the table by the features you’re looking for the most.
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
How do I sign up for an online tax software?
Signing up for an online tax software only takes a few minutes.
- Visit the online tax software’s website and click Sign Up.
- Create your account using your email address, phone number and password.
- Tell the platform about your tax situation.
- Select its recommended package or choose another one.
- Start filing your taxes.
You don’t need any information to sign up for a tax software other than your name, email address and phone number. But you should have these documents on hand when you start the filing process.
- 1099s for earned interest, self-employed income, dividends, retirement distributions and more
- Receipts for child care, educational expenses, medical bills, charitable donations, property taxes and mortgage interest, state and local taxes and any other expenses you’re claiming as a deduction
- Proof of retirement contributions
How much does an online tax software cost?
Prices vary depending on the tax filing company you choose. This table highlights the average cost based on the type of filing you need to do.
|Type of tax return||Average price|
|Individual simple tax return|
|Individual complex tax return|
|Small business tax return|
Are online tax software services safe?
Yes. Registered tax providers and the IRS take security precautions to ensure that your financial information is handled safely. If you still prefer to do things face to face, consider a service like H&R Block, which offers branches for paperwork drop-off. You can also print and mail in your own Form 1040.
What are the benefits of an online tax software?
Using an online tax software has these benefits:
- Fast. Filing your taxes online can typically be done in one day and takes less time than going to someone’s office and waiting on them to do it for you.
- Cost-effective. Using an online tax software is generally cheaper than hiring a tax preparer, and those with simple returns can file for free in most cases.
- Accurate. Most tax software programs have an accuracy guarantee and will give you a refund if their software calculates your return incorrectly.
- Highest refund guaranteed. Most tax software programs also have a refund guarantee where they’ll pay you the difference if another platform calculates a higher refund.
What should I look out for?
Here’s what to look out for when filing your taxes with an online tax software.
- May not be best for complex returns. If you have a complicated tax situation with multiple income streams, deductions and credits, it may be easier to hire a tax preparer to do the work for you.
- Varying customer service. Some platforms like TurboTax offer live support if you need help quickly, while others only help via email.
What’s the difference between a desktop and online tax software?
Desktop and online tax software cost about the same price and come with the same customer service access. This table highlights how they’re different.
|Desktop tax software||Online tax software|
|Can use on multiple devices|
|Works on all computers|
|Can use without internet access|
|Has more features|
|Better for complex returns|
What’s the best tax preparation software to use with Quickbooks?
The best online tax filing software to use with Quickbooks is TurboTax. There are four different business packages to choose from. The Self-Employed package even comes with a free one-year subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed.
Are there any free tax software?
Yes, there are several tax software that allow you to prepare and file your federal taxes for free. Some programs also include state tax returns.
- Credit Karma Tax. Credit Karma doesn’t charge a thing to file both your state and federal tax returns. And it guarantees that you’ll get your maximum refund, or it’ll pay the difference up to $100 for you to use another online tax prep service. It’ll also reimburse you up to $1,000 if the IRS penalizes you for a Credit Karma Tax calculation error.
- TurboTax. TurboTax has a free edition designed for simple tax returns only. That means you can file both your federal and state taxes for free if you’re a W-2 employee or have unemployment income. It’s 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee promises to pay any IRS or state penalties and interest if they find a TurboTax calculation error.
- TaxSlayer. Prepare, print and e-file your basic 1040 returns, which includes your simple federal return and one state return, for $0. TaxSlayer also stands behind their calculations with a 100% accuracy guarantee.
- H&R Block. The H&R Block free online tax filing service lets you file your federal and state tax returns for free and includes several deductions like student tuition and loan interest. And if the software makes an error, it’ll cover any penalties and interest up to $10,000.
- TaxAct. Simple filers can file their federal returns for free but state returns will run you $39.95 per state. TaxAct backs its service with a maximum refund and $100,000 accuracy guarantee.
- Tax professional. Hiring a CPA may be a good option if you’re a high net worth individual or business owner with a complicated and confusing tax situation. Otherwise, a business tax software can help you create an accurate return
- DIY. Doing your taxes yourself is the most laborious option — and it also has the most room for error. Unless you’re a tax preparer, you may not have the expertise to go this route.
- How do I file taxes as an independent contractor?
Independent contractors and freelancers are classified as 1099 employees, which means you’ll need to set aside quarterly estimated taxes and file Schedule C along with your return.
- Can I use a tax software on my Mac?
You use most online tax software programs in your web browser, so they’re compatible with both Mac and PC. If you’re looking for downloadable software, H&R Block has a lot of options.
- Is there any tax software that has a mobile app?
Yes. You can file your taxes on a mobile app with TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer, TaxAct and Credit Karma Tax.
2 tax software alternatives
You have two main alternatives if you don’t want to use a tax software:
Choosing the right tax software from the start will save you a lot of time and headache come tax season. As always, explore your tax filing options and learn which steps you should take to file your taxes this year.
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