The old saying goes: Nothing is certain except for death and taxes. These days, you can add one more to the list. It’s certain that you’re going to be bombarded with advertisements for tax preparation software and services from New Year’s Day through April 15, 2019 when the deadline to file 2018 taxes hits.
- Free Edition ($0): The most basic software for those with a 1040EZ or 1040A form and no deductions.
- Deluxe ($39.99 + $36.99): The best for homeowners who itemize because it offers 350+ deductions and one-on-one help.
- Premier ($59.99 + $36.99): The best for people with stocks and rental property because it covers stocks, bonds, ESPPs, and other investment income.
- Self-Employed ($89.99 + $36.99): The best for freelancers with customized help and one-on-one assistance to deduct work expenses.
- TurboTax Live ($149.99 + $36.99): This new service is for people who need a check from a TurboTax CPA or EA.
- Basic ($29.95 + State Return): The basic software is for those with a 1040EZ or 1040A form and no deductions.
- Deluxe ($54.95): The best for homeowners who itemize because it offers 350+ deductions and one-on-one help.
- Premium ($74.95): The best for people with stocks and rental property because it covers stocks, bonds, ESPPs, and other investment income. Also best for freelancers.
- Premium & Business ($89.95): The best for small business owners with S corporations, partnerships, LLCs, or non-profits.
- Free ($0): The basic software is for those with a 1040EZ or 1040A form and no deductions. You can pay $15 for tax support and prior year import.
- Basic+ ($9.95+ $19.95): The best for filers with independents, college expenses, etc.
- Deluxe+ ($29.95 + $39.95): The best for homeowners and deductions.
- Premier+ ($34.95 + $39.95): The best for people with investments and rental property.
- Self-Employed+ ($49.95 + $39.95): The best of freelancers and other self-employed people.
Tax prep software is a big business, and you may hesitate to pay for help with something you could do yourself for free with pencil and paper. But for a process that most people approach with all of the excitement of a root canal, having the ability to calculate your taxes easily without worrying about math errors is well worth the fee you’ll pay to use the software. You can even file for free with TurboTax, H&R Block, and other software if your taxes are simple.
How to file taxes online
You can get tax preparation software as a CD-ROM that you stick into your computer (if your computer still has a disk drive, that is) or as a downloadable app for your Mac or PC. Alternatively, you can simply file your taxes online or in a mobile app. That may sound scary, but reputable tax software companies like TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct take your security very seriously, so you can count on these services to protect your information.
You can file your taxes electronically after using tax prep software, which is a far easier process than making printouts and mailing your forms to the IRS. You may have to pay a fee to electronically file, depending on the software you’re using.
The software will make all of the calculations for you, ensuring that your poor second-grade math skills aren’t exposed for all the world to see … and for the IRS to penalize.
Most tax prep software makes use of an interview style process, where the software asks you questions about your income and expenses. The software then figures out which forms are pertinent to your situation and fills them out, based on the data you enter.
Tax software often can pull data from your past returns, while also downloading your current W-2 forms. This saves time and reduces data entry errors.
TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct all offer several different versions of tax software to suit different people’s needs. As a general rule, the more complex your tax situation is, the more you’ll have to pay for tax preparation software. However, most people will likely be okay with basic software.
Once you start filling out your tax forms, you may hit a snag and have to upgrade to a higher priced tier of software. The upgrade is easy to do, so you won’t have to start over entering your data, but you’ll have to pay more to finish your tax return.
In our guide, we’ve chosen the best tax software for three different types of people: your average person, homeowners, investors and rental owners, independent contractors, and small business owners. No matter your needs, you’ll find an option for you in our guide.
Here is the best tax software you can use to file online:
- Best tax software overall: TurboTax Deluxe Tax Software
- Best tax software for homeowners: H&R Block Deluxe Tax Software
- Best tax software for investors: TurboTax Premier Tax Software
- Best tax software for independent contractors: TaxAct Online Freelancer Edition
- Best tax software for small business owners: H&R Block Tax Software Premium & Business
Why you’ll love it: TurboTax Deluxe is super easy to use, helps you find more deductions, and maximizes mortgage and property tax deductions.
TurboTax Deluxe has been one of the most popular tax software options for years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. TurboTax guides you through your taxes with a simple interview-style process. As you answer questions, TurboTax fills in the forms to help you maximize your savings.
You can search through more than 350 tax deductions and credits, plus, TurboTax helps homeowners maker mortgage and property tax deductions without any fuss. Charitable deductions are also welcome with this software, so if you were giving this year, you’ll get something back for your efforts.
If you don’t own a home, you don’t need to deduct much of anything, and you have a 1040EZ or 1040A tax form, you don’t need the Deluxe version and you should try the free tier. Multiple members of the Insider Picks team, including guides editor Malarie Gokey have used the free version of TurboTax for years without any issues.
TurboTax seems to pick up many loyal customers, and user reviews on its site are incredibly positive. many say that they will never use another tax software. Expert reviews are also very positive from Nerd Wallet, Dough Roller, and The College Investor.
However, a few Amazon customers say the CD version of TurboTax Deluxe will not work on Windows 10 without a workaround, which is a hassle. We recommend you file on TurboTax’s website or mobile app instead.
Pros: Eas to use, available on CD, available online or in mobile app, deductions for homeowners
Cons: State version of tax software costs extra, problems importing previous year tax return from other software
Start your taxes online with H&R Block Deluxe (Federal Return for $29.99 and State Return for $36.99)
Buy the H&R Block Deluxe Tax Software on Amazon for $17.99 (State Return NOT included) (originally $34.99)
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