Filing your taxes in 2023 will highlight major adjustments to tax brackets and limits for popular tax credits and deductions. Due to rising inflation, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made broad changes that affect nearly all tax filers.
With the wrap-up of pandemic-related tax changes and government aid programs, the Recovery Rebate Credit stimulus checks and advanced payments from the Child Tax Credit are out. That makes filing this year a bit simpler for many households (but may also make tax refunds smaller).
When it comes to selecting a tax software program, there is no “one-size-fits-all.” Each tax software option focuses on a niche, and seeks to provide the most value there. Our selections for “Best Tax Software” highlight these differences and so you can find the best option based on your needs.
Note: The tax prep offers that appear on this site are from companies from which The College Investor may receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The College Investor does not include all tax prep companies or all tax prep offers available in the marketplace, although we are always striving to keep our content updated with fair, in-depth reviews.
Best Tax Software Overview
Maximizing Credits And Deductions
Student Loan Borrowers
Tax Liability Calculators For Crypto And NFT Traders
Stock Market Investors
Small Business Owners
Value For Experienced Filers
Support From Tax Pros
Virtual Tax Preparation
Tax Refund Anticipation Loans
Best Overall Tax Software
The best overall tax software category represents the software that is good or great for the majority of filers and tax needs. Regardless of your tax situation, any of these should have you covered. You’ll have to pay more for these premium programs, but they make tax filing faster and straightforward.
Winner: TurboTaxTurboTax is the easiest tax software to use. It’s pricier than others, but it makes tax filing much easier than most competitors. In many cases, filers can import PDF and spreadsheet files with tax data or connect directly to your employer, bank, or investment company to automatically download your tax data.
Runner-Up: H&R Block
Every year, we’re impressed by H&R Block’s high-quality tax filing experience and functionality. Filers can import most tax PDF forms, so adding W-2 and 1099 forms is fairly painless. It doesn’t have the same wide integration functionality as TurboTax. However, it comes with the best option to convert from DIY tax software to in-person human support, due to a huge network of H&R Block branches.
The clean user interface and question-and-answer guidance make H&R Block an excellent option for most people. H&R Block is a bit less expensive than TurboTax. The forms and features are excellent, but fall a little short of our top choice winner.
Best Free Tax Software
Unfortunately, free filing is something of a unicorn. Only one company, Cash App Taxes, offers truly free filing for all users in 2023, but it has limits on supported tax situations. If you qualify for free filing, taking advantage can save you a small fortune on tax preparation.
If you think you “should” qualify for free filing in 2023, be careful. Read the section on maximizing credits and deductions as well. While many tax programs advertise free filing, most don't deliver. You don’t want to start filing with one software only to be forced into an upgrade.Warning: If you start filing taxes through a link at the IRS Free File website, you won’t be able to upgrade later to a paid version, per program rules. If you need to upgrade to a paid version, be sure to start with a qualifying version, not the IRS Free File version.
Winner: Cash App Taxes
Cash App Taxes is the only major software program that provides free state and federal filing for all covered tax situations. The semi-guided navigation and “freebies” like Audit Defense make Cash App Taxes software that’s tough to overlook. Last year, it rebranded from Credit Karma Taxes to Cash App Taxes, so you may see both names used here and there.
Cash App Taxes doesn’t work for households needing to file in multiple states. Active traders are also limited, as Cash App Taxes doesn't have any brokerage integrations. But most other filers will likely enjoy the free price point and the excellent user experience.
Runner-Up: H&R Block Free
In 2023, H&R Block Online Free has the same excellent user experience as the paid version. Filers can snap a photo of their W-2 and complete filing in just a few minutes. The Free tier also supports Social Security and unemployment income. It also supports the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Credit (EIC), education credits, and student loan interest deductions.
Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify for free filing with H&R Block. For example, those with daycare expenses or HSA contributions, rental income, self-employment income, or capital gains will have to pay to upgrade to a higher-tier.
Best Tax Software For Maximizing Credits And Deductions
Historically, we’ve called this category “The Best Software For Itemizers.” However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act led to fewer people needing to itemize. Although few people need to itemize their taxes in 2023, many people still rely on this option to maximize credits and deductions.
The following situations offer opportunities to claim deductions or credits that don’t require itemizing:
- Paying student loan interest
- Paying higher education expenses
- Contribution to a retirement account
- Paying child or dependent care expenses
- Contributing up to $300 in charitable expenses
- Contributing to an HSA
- Additional limited situations
Depending on your situation, either of these could be the best choice:
TurboTax charges the most to take advantage of all features for itemized deductions, but you get what you pay for. TurboTax forms are easier and faster to complete. It has a quick search feature to jump around to any specific credit, deduction, or for you want to enter.
All tax software should give you the same “maximum refund” within a few dollars, due to rounding. However, TurboTax makes it easier to find and capture all refunds you may qualify for than others. That can make it worth the added cost to those with complex taxes.
Runner-Up: Cash App Taxes
Cash App Taxes offers free federal and state tax filing for all users. The user experience is excellent and you don’t have to worry about paying for upgrades, even when you have a long list of deductions to enter. This free filing software is ideal for users who need to maximize their refund, and have “slightly complicated” finances.
Cash App Taxes is our top recommendation for free tax filing too. It supports most tax situations (except K-1 income or multi-state filing). If you’re self-employed, moved to a new state, or work and live across state lines, you may consider the pricier competitor.
Best Tax Software For Student Loan Borrowers
In the United States, the student loan interest deduction is an adjustment to income. That means you don’t need to itemize to claim it. While federal student loans have been on pause for all of 2021, tax filers with private loans continued to pay interest. These software packages allow filers to claim that deduction for free.
TaxSlayer brings a good balance of features and cost, coming in with much more affordable pricing than the industry leaders, but still bringing very good features. If you’re a recent grad with student loan interest and taxes that are not overly complicated, TaxSlayer could be a winner.
It doesn’t have great importing features for active traders, but most others will find TaxSlayer does an excellent job of guiding them through their tax prep experience without charging an arm and a leg. If you’re already on a tight budget due to student loan payments, TaxSlayer can save you money while giving you all of the features you need.
Runner-Up: H&R Block
H&R Block continues to support student loan interest and other educational credits on its free tier. The easy-to-use software makes tax filing a snap. The free version also included tuition deductions if you or your household have any current students.
However, filers need to watch out for limits to the free tier that could trigger a required upgrade. Most major credits and deductions aren't supported at this level. People who contributed to an HSA, a traditional IRA, anyone with dependent care expenses, and those who made charitable contributions will need to upgrade.
Runner-Up: Cash App Taxes
Best Tax Software For Cryptocurrency Traders
If you dabble in digital currencies, you likely know that the tax laws for cryptocurrency investments are somewhat similar to stocks, but with a handful of important caveats. Getting your crypto income, capital gains, and other details lined up accurately is required by law, so you can’t skip this part of your tax return.While every tax software we reviewed had some basic questions about cryptocurrency, most did not offer easy integrations with crypto exchanges or wallets. Because of the lack of quality integrations, we declared one winner. We also reviewed a “helper” option that can help you file using any software.
Winner: TurboTax Premium
TurboTax makes it easy for Coinbase customers to import transactions into the tax software. Once you import your transactions, TurboTax does the math to help you declare profits and losses. You will need to upgrade to TurboTax’s Premium level to access cryptocurrency features, including the Coinbase import tool.
TurboTax also allows users to upload spreadsheet versions of IRS Form 8949. Filers who use a tax liability calculator (such as the software listed below) will be able to directly import their reports into TurboTax.
Runner-Up: TaxAct Premium
TaxAct doesn’t have a lot of third-party integrations, but it has a “back door” method for calculating crypto-related capital gains. Filers can “attach” IRS Form 8949. Then they can summarize their total capital gains in a single line.
This admittedly feels like you’re purposely breaking the software, but it's the method advocated by both TaxAct and the tax liability calculators.
Best Tax Liability Calculators For Crypto And NFT Traders
Cryptocurrency has had several ups and downs. While you may want to put crypto losses behind you, getting the taxes right for past crypto investments is still required.
These tax packages aren’t full tax filing tools. Instead, they calculate the tax liability associated with crypto and NFT activity (income and trading). These tools generate IRS Form 8949 which is required for calculating capital gains on trades, which may be imported into TurboTax and others.
Koinly offers a great app for tracking all cryptocurrency accounts and wallets year-round for free. When tax season comes around, Koinly offers features to convert that crypto data into tax forms and reports.
The free plan lets you try everything out, but doesn’t generate tax reports. Full tax reporting costs $49 to $179 per tax year, depending on the number of transactions.It works with nearly all types of trades, automatically matches transactions between accounts and wallets, and downloads from most exchanges via APIs. It also downloads wallet data directly from each blockchain network for self-custody wallets.
TaxBit provides completely free tax reporting for people using “connected exchanges.” The connected exchanges include Binance, Coinbase, and most other major exchanges that US-based traders use. The company also has support for Etherum-based Decentralized Finance activities and NFTs.
Users who want more insights can upgrade to Plus or Pro levels. These levels give crypto and NFT traders a unified view of their digital assets. Users also must upgrade to gain access to tax-loss harvesting functionality (which is critical for reducing tax bills). The Pro level even includes an annual review with a CPA.
ZenLedger offers both CeFi (Centralized Finance) and DeFi (Decentralized Finance) support. Its Free option supports up to 25 transactions.
The free offering is ideal for people who dabbled in a few trades over the last year. DeFi, staking, and mining income aren’t supported until the Premium tier which costs $149 per filing year.
Best Tax Software For Stock Market Investors
Filers who only place a few trades per year have several tax filing options. For example, TaxHawk or Cash App Taxes can easily handle these situations. However, people who trade more than 100 positions per year will not want to manually enter their trades.
Our two preferred providers are the most expensive. However, they make tax filing simple for stock market investors. In this case, sometimes your time saved is worth the slightly higher cost.
Winner: H&R Block Premium
H&R Block Premium allows users to upload tax forms from their brokerages. H&R Block will then use those forms to figure out the filer’s taxable income. It also imports up to 500 stock trade transactions per brokerage (1099-B Forms). Then H&R Block takes on the burden of calculating your capital gains taxes. H&R Block Premium isn’t cheap, but the time savings is well worth the price.
Runner-Up: TurboTax Premium
TurboTax offers similar functionality as H&R Block. It integrates with tons of brokerages which makes tax filing easy. The point and click interface offers superior usability compared to H&R Block's interface. However, the enhanced usability fails to justify the higher price tag. Most users will save money by using H&R Block Premium.
Best Tax Software For Landlords
Landlords have some of the most complicated returns, along with business owners. Keeping track of income, expenses, and depreciation on a property can be tedious but essential for tax time.
We look for software that makes calculating depreciation easy and allows for easy import of prior-year information to ensure continuity across returns. There’s also some preference given to software that allows filers to import from the previous year’s taxes. The prior year's numbers help landlords understand whether variances from the previous year’s numbers make sense or are due to miskeying information.
Winner: TaxSlayer Classic
TaxSlayer Classic supports all major tax forms, including Schedule E for rental income. Landlords will appreciate TaxSlayer’s easy-to-use interface and the jargon-free articles that explain how deductions can be claimed.
Those who have specific questions can upgrade to TaxSlayer Premium to ask a tax professional how certain expenses should be classified. TaxSlayer supports competitor imports, and it has excellent summary sections that make reviewing easy.
Runner-Up: Cash App Taxes
Although Cash App Taxes is free, it has robust depreciation calculators that make claiming rental income simple. Landlords can use the guided interface to accurately claim legitimate deductions and depreciation.
Filers can also import prior year information from H&R Block, TurboTax, TaxAct, and Credit Karma Tax. This makes it easy to compare year-over-year claims.
Best Tax Software For Side Hustlers
This year, we're separating side hustlers from small business owners. This is because there is a difference in how returns can be handled for each. Side hustlers, in our tax definition, are people who are working in the gig economy or have small income from selling stuff online.The interesting thing about side hustlers is that they use different expense tracking apps (like Everlance), and they may be eligible to file a Schedule C-EZ.
Winner: Cash App Taxes
Runner-Up: TaxSlayer Classic
TaxSlayer Classic gives users access to all tax forms. Given the low price point, and the extremely robust software, this is a great deal. Unfortunately, the Classic level doesn’t include Pro Support or Audit Defense. But it’s a great deal for filers who want a great user interface but don’t need the extras.
Don’t Forget About Bookkeeping Apps
No discussion about tax filing is complete without discussing bookkeeping apps. If you keep good records, it’s easy to file a Schedule C for your side business. The two apps that our team uses are Tiller Money (for expense tracking) and Everlance (for mileage tracking). If you don’t have a bookkeeping option, these two come highly recommended.Last year, we reviewed Keeper Tax for the first time. The text-message-based interface is perfect for people who hate bookkeeping. The $11 per month subscription includes access to a bookkeeper who manually reviews expenses for you. And at tax time, you can pay $39 for a summarized expense report.
Best Tax Software For Small Business Owners
Beyond just entering income and expenses, small business owners need to consider business structure, asset depreciation, individual retirement plans, and more.
While many small business owners would likely benefit from an accountant, those that want to DIY it need to have software that is up for the challenge.
Winner: TaxSlayer Self-Employed
TaxSlayer offers premium tax filing software at a much lower price point than H&R Block and TurboTax. Small business owners who need to categorize unique expenses can get on the phone with a self-employment expert.
TaxSlayer is about two-thirds the price of our runner-up and offers more valuable perks. It doesn't, however, automatically generate W-2 or 1099-NEC forms for employees. Small business owners who need these forms may need to consider TurboTax instead.
Runner-Up: TurboTax Premium
TurboTax Premium boasts an easy-to-use interface and lot's of connections for imports. It also allows self-employed people to figure out the maximum contribution you can make to a solo 401(k).
Unfortunately, one of our favorite freebies (free access to Quickbooks) is gone. Without this freebie, TurboTax Premium isn’t quite as compelling as other options.
However, TurboTax Premium allows filers to print Employee W-2 or contractor 1099-NEC forms. This makes it our top option for filers who have employees.
Best Value For Experienced Filers
Experienced filers don’t necessarily need guidance to get through their taxes. These filers may just need the forms and some calculators to help them through the tough parts. These are bargain software options for people who know what they're doing.
Winner: Cash App Taxes
Cash App Taxes is completely free and is an amazing software product for experienced filers and beginning filers alike. It’s not ideal for active traders, but most other filers will be able to use it.
The one drawback to Cash App Taxes is that it doesn’t cover all tax situations. If you moved in the middle of the year, or you have a K-1 form, or you have foreign investments, you’ll need to consider other options.
FreeTaxUSA isn’t premium software, but it's relatively easy to use. Plus, it offers access to all major tax forms. Federal filing is always free, and state filing costs just $14.99 per state.
The company also offers “Pro Support” as an upgrade. This allows experienced filers to pay to have their personal tax questions answered. Experienced tax filers will find that FreeTaxUSA’s organization will allow them to jump around and complete filing in short order.
Best Support From Tax Pros
Tax filing time can be a challenge, especially for filers facing new tax situations. Trying to figure out what you can legally deduct is important, but tax filers can end up overpaying to have pros file their taxes for them.
We’re recommending companies that offer “ask a tax pro” options for their online filers (sometimes called live assist). These companies allow filers to set appointments to get their personalized tax questions answered.
Winner: TaxHawk Pro SupportTaxHawk’s Pro Support tier costs just $24.99. It involves unlimited phone, live chat, or screen share support with a tax expert. If you’ve got questions, these experts can give you an answer. TaxHawk’s pricing and support options are tough to beat.
Runner-Up: TaxSlayer PremiumTaxSlayer Premium is a moderately-priced software with massive value for filers looking for support. It comes with unlimited “Ask a tax pro” options where you can get support from a tax professional (either an enrolled agent or a CPA). It also comes with audit defense support and unlimited technical support.
Best Virtual Tax Preparation
Virtual tax prep was rolled out a few years ago by a few of the leading tax software companies. But the service has become increasingly popular since the pandemic began. Here are our two favorite virtual tax prep service providers for 2023.
Winner: TurboTax Full ServiceThe TurboTax Full Service option gives users the ability to upload tax documents and have a tax expert take it from there. The pricing is as low as we’ve seen and the service gets rave reviews. If you prefer not to file your own taxes, take advantage of TurboTax’s Full Service option.
Runner-Up: H&R Block Virtual
Upload your tax documents to H&R Block through a secure online portal, and a CPA or Enrolled Agent will handle the filing from there. The software will even provide an estimated time until completion when you select your tax professional. You may need to answer a few questions via phone or email, but the process is simple compared with filing yourself.
If you do want in-person tax prep, you can also use H&R Block in-person tax preparation, or drop-off tax prep (where instead of uploading your documents, you can just drop them off at a local office). Readers of The College Investor can also get $25 off in-person tax preparation with this coupon >>
Best For People Seeking A Tax Refund Anticipation LoanIf you need your tax refund to pay the bills, a tax refund anticipation loan may be on your radar. Unfortunately, too many lenders will charge high-interest rates to give you an advance for a few weeks. We don’t recommend a tax refund anticipation loan, but filers who qualify may appreciate TurboTax’s interest-free option.
TurboTax is the only major filing company issuing Tax Advance loans this year. Filers can qualify for up to $3,000 in loans which will be available on a debit card within five to 10 days of applying. Filers will be auto-approved assuming they file through TurboTax.
Here’s what you need to know about TurboTax’s advance:
- 0% interest
- No fees
- 10 loan amounts ($250, $500, $750, $1,000, $1,500, $2,000, $2,500, $3,000, $3,500, $4,000)
- Same-day approvals
- Advance is issued on a Credit Karma Visa®️ Debit Card
As you can see, there are tons of options for you to file your taxes. Depending on your situation, you may need a premium tool or you may do fine with a free option.
Given that we've had another strange economic year, it’s no surprise to see big shake-ups in our taxes. With any of these tax preparation tools, you can zero in on what needs are most important to you and confidently move forward with your 2023 tax return.
Also note—prices and deals change all tax season. We try our best to keep up with the changes, but sometimes we don’t catch everything. So, if you see any changes, please let us know in the comments below.
Eric Rosenberg is a financial writer, speaker, and consultant based in Ventura, California. He holds an undergraduate finance degree from the University of Colorado and an MBA in finance from the University of Denver. After working as a bank manager and then nearly a decade in corporate finance and accounting, Eric left the corporate world for full-time online self-employment.
His work has been featured in online publications including Business Insider, Nerdwallet, Investopedia, The Balance, Huffington Post, and other financial publications. When away from the computer, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, traveling the world, and tinkering with technology. Connect with him and learn more at EricRosenberg.com.
Editor: Claire Tak Reviewed by: Robert Farrington