The start of tax filing season is right around the corner. You might have already received some of your tax paperwork in the mail. And you're probably thinking about which tax software option is the best for you?
Well, we've been reviewing all the major options this season, including TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, Credit Karma Tax, and more. And we're breaking down the categories for each "type" of filer and which software makes the most sense for your situation.
If there's something you think we've missed, or don't quite know which is best for you, let us know in the comments! We've seen them all, so we'll try to point you in the right direction.
Best Tax Software Overview
For Homeowners And People With Kids
Small Business Owners
Tax Refund Loans
Best Value For Pros
Best Software For Support
Virtual Tax Preparation
Best Free Tax Software
If you qualify for free file, you need to be taking advantage of it. The problem is, many tax programs advertise free file, but many don't deliver. Even some of the major programs hook you with free file, only for you later to find out you don't qualify because you have kids, or you have too many deductions, etc.
Winner: Credit Karma Tax
Why: Credit Karma Tax is our top pick for free tax software this year because they've significantly improved their user interface, fixed a lot of the problems we've seen in past years, and significantly improved their customer service.
Credit Karma Tax has one of the most robust free file options - everything is very and there are only small limitations (such as they only allow one state return). They even have a free audit defense and an accuracy guarantee!
They have also continued to deliver on their interface and make the process easy.
Runner Up: H&R Block Free Online Tax Filing
Why: H&R Block Online Free Online Tax Filing is our runner up for best free tax software because while they significantly increased what filers can get for free, Credit Karma is totally free while H&R Block does have limitations.
For many companies, free is only for filers who have a simple return. However, with H&R Block Free Online Tax Filing, you can still get free file if you're a homeowner, people claiming childcare expenses, people with student loan interest deductions, and recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Most other companies make EITC recipients upgrade to their Deluxe version and pay - but not H&R Block.
Also, H&R Block has one of the easiest to use navigation and interfaces.
Best Tax Software For Homeowners
Homeowners get their own category because most homeowners end up itemizing their tax returns due to mortgage interest deductions and property tax deductions. As such, most tax filing software bumps homeowners up into their paid levels, so it's important for homeowners to know where they are going to get the best value.
Winner: H&R Block Online
Why: H&R Block is our top pick for homeowners because they extended their free tier to include some homeowners that qualify. You can deduct your mortgage interest, but if you have other items beyond a Schedule A, H&R Block may require you to upgrade to a higher tier.
However, for just homeowners and not much else, H&R Block is the way to go.
Runner Up: TaxSlayer
Why: TaxSlayer is our runner up for homeowners this year because it offers the best value for paid software. TaxSlayer Classic, which is what homeowners will want, is the most robust, yet best priced software at this level.
Their ease of use rivals that of H&R Block (though still not as easy as TurboTax), but their prices are much better. If you find yourself being upgraded to a paid version as a homeowner using H&R Block, you might want to consider the switch to TaxSlayer to save money.
Remember, TaxSlayer offers all the forms at the same price point - you only pay for levels of help. If you don't need help, stick to the Classic and save!
Best Tax Software For Investors And Traders
Investors and traders typically want (or need) tax software that allows for import of 1099s issued by banks and investing brokers. Especially for investors with a large amount of transactions, it can be extremely tedious to manually enter everything into the computer. Furthermore, it also opens you up for more potential errors.
Why: TurboTax is the winner for investors and traders because of the ease it is to import everything into TurboTax. Plus, TurboTax connects with the most banks and brokers that we've seen.
If you're concerned about importing a large number of investing transactions, TurboTax is your best bet. This also applies to individuals who use robo-advisors like Betterment or Wealthfront who may see hundreds of transactions per year due to tax loss harvesting.
Runner Up: H&R Block
Why: H&R Block is a close runner up to TurboTax when it comes to importing investment information. It also have a wide variety of import features that make it easy to use an appealing for investors.
If you've used H&R Block in the past and want to continue to use it as an investor, you really can't go wrong. It's going to save you about $20 versus using TurboTax, and has many (but not all) of the import options.
If you start your return for free, you can check early, and save yourself some time and money.
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 they are 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.
Why: TurboTax is the slight winner in this category. TurboTax handles rental property well, allows for easy import of past years information, and what sets it apart from H&R Block is that it connects with QuickBooks. So, if you use Quickbooks to manage your rental property, tax time is a cinch.
Runner Up: H&R Block
Why: H&R Block is our runner up in this category. It handles rental property very well, allows for import of past information, and will keep track of your depreciation year over year.
The only thing it really lacks versus TurboTax is connectivity with software like Quickbooks, which would make things a little easier. However, since Quickbooks and TurboTax are owned by the same company, we don't see this happening any time soon.
Best Tax Software For Side Hustlers
This year, we're separating side hustlers from small business owners because there is a difference we've been noticing in how returns can be handled for each. Side hustlers, in our tax definition, are people who are working in the gig economy on the side, or have small income on the side from selling stuff on eBay, etc.
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.
Why: TaxSlayer is our choice for side hustlers looking for a great option to file their tax return - but it was close. TaxSlayer has a great, easy to use interface very similar to TurboTax and H&R Block.
First time side hustlers might be a little slow at first, but what really sets it apart is cost. With TaxSlayer, you're going to pay about 50% of what you'll pay on H&R Block.
Runner Up: H&R Block
Why: H&R Block was in the running to win this category, because it's done some awesome things this year for side hustlers.
First, it's built integrations with many partners - including Uber and others - to automatically import information into your tax return. That can make things really easy. However, the big thing holding us back was the price. While H&R Block is great, it's about twice the price of TaxSlayer for a side hustler.
Best Tax Software For Small Business Owners
Small business owners have a lot to think about when it comes to their tax returns. Beyond just entering income and expenses, there are considerations around 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.
Why: TurboTax has held the title of best tax software for small business owners, and it continues the trend. TurboTax is great for many reasons, but we love the easy to use interface, the connectivity with Quickbooks, and the ability to easily calculate the maximum contribution you can make to a solo 401k.
Runner Up: H&R Block
Why: H&R Block offers an incredibly similar experience to TurboTax, without the connectivity to main provides. While I know that TurboTax has a lock on Quickbooks (they're the same company), I wish H&R Block would connect up with Xero or similar - it would just make sense. However, they haven't.
So, while they offer a great experience and easy to use software, they simply lack connectivity for small business owners.
Best Value For Experienced Filers
If you're an experienced filer, maybe you don't care about a good user interface, easy navigation, and helpful knowledge articles and tutorials. Maybe you just want the forms, and want them for the cheapest price possible!
Well, if you're simply an experienced tax filer that wants the best value, here you go.
Why: FreeTax.com is awesome. It's truly free. Every single tax form, everything you could want to file. It's free. No strings attached.
Well, one string - it's definitely not sexy tax software, but it gets the job done. If you know what you're doing, FreeTax can be a great choice.
Runner Up: TaxHawk
Why: TaxHawk showed some improvements this year, making their user interface better, and improving overall navigation.
It's still pretty bare bones tax software, but if you know what you're doing, they allow free Federal returns, but do charge for state returns.
Best For Those Looking For A Tax Refund Anticipation Loan
While we don't recommend you get a tax refund anticipation loan, we also know we're not your mother and can't tell you what to do. Over 10 million people will get a tax refund anticipation loan - and historically that's meant going into a physical H&R Block or Liberty Tax office and filing your return.
However, a few companies are changing the game this year, allowing for eligible filers to get a tax refund anticipation loan online if they qualify. This is a game changer because it significantly lowers the cost to filers. When filers go into a branch, they'll typically pay over $300 to process their return. Online, you can get this done for $17!
Why: TaxSlayer is offering tax refund anticipation loans to filers who fill out their tax returns online. You must file with their Classic Edition or higher to be eligible.
While the loan amounts aren't much ($500 or $1,000), the convenience of being able to do your return online and get a loan online is awesome. You will be getting this advance on a Green Dot card, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to get it.
Runner Up: TurboTax
Why: TurboTax is offering a tax refund anticipation loan from $250 to $1,000 this year, and you're able to do it 100% online as well.
Similar to TaxSlayer, the loan will be issued on a Green Dot prepaid card. However, unlike TaxSlayer, you can get this on every tier of their filing (including free). Just remember, their free tier is limited, so you might find yourself paying more in the end that you would have at TaxSlayer. That's why TurboTax is the runner up.
Best Tax Software For Support
If you need support for your taxes, there are companies out there that offer amazing support options for a price. For online and phone help, to even offering in-person help, here's where you can go to get help and support for your tax return questions.
Why? TaxSlayer has a baseline price that includes every form on your tax return, and their only "upsells" are service. So, if you can DIY it, they are a great option.
But, if you need phone support and want to talk to a tax pro, they have that as well, at a reasonable price. They also have small business/self-employed tax experts available to help as well.
Runner Up: Liberty Tax
Why? Liberty Tax Online is more expensive that most other tax filing options. But, you do get one thing that nobody else offers for that price - you can have your tax return reviewed by a professional at their office before you file.
In some ways, this is a way for Liberty Tax to upsell you, but in other ways, it can give you the support and peace of mind that your return is accurate before you file.
Best Virtual Tax Preparation
Maybe you want someone to do your taxes but you don't want to go to an office and wait. Or having to schedule an appointment - such a waste of time!
Today, there are companies offering virtual tax preparation - where you get have a real tax pro (an EA or CPA) prepare and file your taxes for you.
In many cases, these services are easier and cheaper than going to a real tax office.
Winner: TurboTax Live
Why? This is the second year of TurboTax Live (where it's been available to everyone from the beginning), and it's seen a lot of success. You are connected with a real tax pro, and they process your return for you. All you have to do is upload all your documents and provide your basic information.
TurboTax Live is slightly cheaper than other versions, and versus paying a CPA in person, you'll likely save.
Runner Up: H&R Block Tax Pro Go
Why? H&R Block Tax Pro Go is a very similar product to TurboTax - you simply upload all your documents and a CPA or EA will handle it from there.
You do get to select and book your own tax professional, and the app gives you an ETA up front (right now it's about 5 days). However, it is slightly more expensive than using TurboTax, especially when you are self-employed.
As you can see, there is no "blanket" best tax software. It all depends on what you have on your tax return. Each software program tries to pick a niche and own it. But there is a lot of competition.
Also note: prices and deals change all tax season. We try our best to assess, but things do change as the tax season goes on. So, if you see any changes, please let us know in the comments below!