Best Tax Software [2021]

Last updated Oct 11, 2021 | By Christy Rakoczy

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Taxes aren't just something you need to worry about in April when the deadline arrives for filing your income tax returns. Tax planning can be a yearlong process, but it’s an essential part of managing your money. And if you have to file quarterly taxes or if you want to employ the best tax strategy to save on your IRS bills, the process can be even more complicated.

The good news is, there are plenty of online tax filing programs that can help you. Each of these programs has its own strengths and weaknesses, with some better for certain taxpayers than others. To find out which is right for you, check out our guide to the eight best tax software companies.

In this article

Best tax filing software companies

  • TurboTax: Best for beginners
  • TaxAct: Best for quick, hassle-free filing
  • H&R Block: Best for in-person tax support
  • TaxSlayer: Best for multiple pricing options
  • Credit Karma Tax: Best for free tax preparation
  • Jackson Hewitt: Best for complicated tax situations
  • Liberty Tax: Best for online tax support
  • FreeTaxUSA: Best for simple returns
Company Best for... Why it’s special
TurboTax Beginners An incredibly easy-to-use interface
TaxAct Quick, hassle-free filing File your return quickly without jumping through a lot of hoops
H&R Block In-person tax support Get help at locations nationwide
TaxSlayer Multiple pricing options More flexibility in how much you'll pay to file
Credit Karma Tax Free tax preparation Returns are always 100% free, even with more complicated tax situations
Jackson Hewitt Complicated tax situations In-person and online support makes dealing with complicated situations simpler — including if you need help resolving tax debt
Liberty Tax Online tax support 360-degree customer service offers multiple options for online help
FreeTaxUSA Simple returns Few bells and whistles, but those with simple returns can file for free

TurboTax: Best for beginners

TurboTax is part of the Intuit family of products, which also includes QuickBooks and Mint. Intuit was founded back in 1983, and it’s earned an estimated $6.8 billion in 2019 by providing financial services in nine countries.

TurboTax provides free filing for both federal and state taxes if your returns are simple, and the company offers a maximum refund guarantee. It's an ideal choice for beginners because its interface is the simplest and it provides the friendliest user experience of any tax prep software. Plus it offers a mobile app to help make it easy to track potential deductions throughout the year. You can just snap a picture of your W-2 to have much of your information auto-filled for you. TurboTax will then help you identify tax savings by asking you a series of simple questions in plain language.

TurboTax offers multiple tax packages with differing prices, including the following:

TurboTax Free Edition

The free edition allows you to file federal and state tax forms for free if you have only W-2 income. You can claim both the earned income tax credit and child tax credits with the free edition, but you will not be able to claim any other deductions or credits.

TurboTax Deluxe

TurboTax describes its Deluxe Edition as its most popular. It costs $60 for federal returns plus an additional $50 per state return and includes the following:

  • W-2 and 1099-MISC income without business expenses
  • Mortgage and property tax deductions
  • Deductions for charitable donations
  • Deductions for student loan interest and other educational expenses
  • Contributions to a health savings account
  • Contributions to a retirement savings account

TurboTax Premier

TurboTax Premier costs $90 for federal returns and an additional $50 per state return. It includes all the Deluxe version does as well as:

  • Auto-imports of investment information
  • Stocks, bonds, robo-investing, cryptocurrencies, and rental property income
  • One-on-one, on-demand help from a TurboTax live specialist
  • A scan of your return to ensure all your documents are complete

TurboTax Self-Employed

TurboTax self-employed has a price tag of $120 for federal returns, plus an additional $50 per state return. It includes features from TurboTax Deluxe as well as:

  • Help for contractors, freelancers, and small business owners
  • Industry-specific deductions
  • One-on-one support provided by self-employment specialists
  • Mileage tracking
  • Business expense tracking
  • Job tracking
  • The ability to import information from your 1099-MISC form via picture

Visit TurboTax

... or read our TurboTax review

TurboTax Benefits

  • America’s #1 brand in tax software
  • Searches a database of 350+ tax deductions
  • 100% accurate calculations

TaxAct: Best for quick, hassle-free filing

TaxAct has helped users e-file more than 65 million federal tax returns since 2000. It provides a $100,000 guarantee that its software will be accurate and a guarantee it will help you to secure the maximum refund. Its program assists you in claiming more than 350 credits and deductions, all with the goal of getting your maximum refund ASAP.

TaxAct doesn't offer all the bells and whistles of TurboTax, but it gets the job done and its user interface is actually a little quicker and more straightforward. It also offers some basic tax planning tools, including details about your tax bracket as well as a tax calculator, allowing you to easily estimate what you owe or what your potential refund might be.

TaxAct provides three different pricing tiers, including the following.


TaxAct's free version costs $0 for federal returns but $39.95 per state filing, so it isn't really free for everyone. However, it provides more features than some of the other free versions. It includes:

  • W-2 income
  • Dependents
  • The earned income tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Retirement income
  • Importing prior year returns
  • Unlimited account support


Deluxe costs $47.95 for a federal return, plus an additional $54.95 for each state return. It includes everything in the free version as well as:

  • Itemized deductions
  • Child and dependent care credits
  • Mortgage interest deductions and property taxes
  • Interest on student loans
  • Health savings accounts
  • Tax credits for adoption
  • Phone support from a tax specialist


The Premier version has a price tag of $71.95 for federal returns and $54.95 for each state return filed. It includes all the features in the other two versions as well as:

  • Investment gains and losses from stocks and other assets
  • Investment income and expenses
  • Income and deductions for rental properties
  • Foreign financial accounts, including foreign bank accounts
  • Income from Schedule K-1 as well as income from royalties
  • Prioritized customer support, including screen sharing

TaxAct also offers a Self Employed package for $94.95 that is ideal for freelancers, contractors, and small business owners.

Visit TaxAct

... or read our TaxAct review

TaxAct Benefits

  • Over 65 million federal returns filed since 2000
  • Guaranteed to be 100% accurate
  • Scans a database of over 350 credits and deductions

H&R Block: Best for in-person tax support

H&R Block was founded well before online tax software became an option. It has been providing tax service since 1955. Since then, it has prepared more than 800 million tax returns, and has franchise locations in all 50 states across the country.

Because of its many retail locations, H&R Block is an ideal choice for those who want in-person help from a tax expert. You can make an appointment to complete your returns with a tax pro for as little as $65, drop off your tax documents for a professional to complete, or get remote help from a live person while completing your returns.

H&R Block offers multiple pricing structures, including the following:

Free Online

H&R Block's free online program costs $0 for federal and state tax, and it includes:

  • W-2 income
  • Unemployment income
  • The earned income tax credit
  • Student loan interest deduction
  • Tuition and fees statements for students
  • Child and dependent care expenses
  • Technical support via chat

Deluxe Online

The Deluxe Online program costs $60 for federal returns, plus an additional $50 per state return. It includes:

  • DeductionPro to optimize donations
  • Tax credits and deductions including the home mortgage interest deduction and real estate taxes
  • HSA contributions
  • The ability to store returns for six years
  • Technical support via H&R Block Online Assist chat

Premium Online

Premium Online costs $90, plus an additional $50 for each state return. It includes everything the Deluxe Online edition does as well as:

  • Freelance and independent contractor income
  • The ability to deduct simple business expenses
  • Stocks, bonds, and other investment income
  • Retirement account contributions
  • Income from rental properties and tax deductions for real estate
  • The ability to import expenses from some expense tracker apps

Self-Employed Online

This version costs $120, plus an additional $50 for each state return. It includes everything the less expensive versions do as well as:

  • The option to import tax information if you are an Uber driver
  • Self-employment income
  • Small business income
  • Business tax deductions
  • Asset depreciation

Visit H&R Block

... or read our H&R Block review

H&R Block Benefits

  • File easily from your computer or smartphone
  • Get help from our experts if you need it
  • No hidden fees

TaxSlayer: Best for multiple pricing options

TaxSlayer filed more than 10 million federal and state returns for tax year 2019 alone. It provides a maximum refund guarantee and a 100% accuracy guarantee that entitles you to a refund of federal and state penalties or interest charges if the program's calculations are incorrect. The company has been in business for 55 years, and it makes tax filing easy as you can do your taxes using any device.

Those who want a good selection of different pricing options will be happy to see that TaxSlayer offers four different pricing structures, each of which has a starting cost below several other programs on this list. These include the following different programs:

Simply Free

Simply Free costs nothing to file a federal or state return and includes:

  • W-2 income
  • Student loan interest
  • Education expenses
  • Free support via phone or email


Classic charges $24.95 for a federal return and an additional $39.95 per state return. It includes:

  • All tax credits including the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit
  • All deductions and adjustments to income
  • All types of income
  • W-2 import


The Premium program comes at a cost of $44.95 for a federal return plus $39.95 per each state return. It includes everything in the Classic version as well as:

  • Three years of IRS Audit Assistance
  • Priority support through Ask a Tax Pro or live chat.


The self-employed program has a $54.95 cost for a federal return and charges an additional $39.95 per state. It includes all that the other programs offer as well as:

  • Assistance from a tax professional with expertise in self-employment
  • Help with 1099 income
  • Assistance maximizing deductions for business expenses
  • Reminders about quarterly tax payments
  • A personalized guide to self-employment taxes
  • Year-round tips and advice as needed

Read our TaxSlayer review

Credit Karma Tax: Best for free tax preparation

Credit Karma was founded in 2007 to provide free access to credit scores. It began operations in 2008, and it had a million members by 2010. By 2016, it had grown to a community of 10 million members. It launched Credit Karma Tax in 2017 with the goal of providing a truly free filing service for everyone.

Of all the programs on this list, Credit Karma is the only truly free option for most users. There aren't different pricing structures because there's only one price: $0. Credit Karma's free service includes:

  • State and federal tax returns
  • Itemized deductions using Schedule A
  • Business profits and losses using Schedule C
  • The child tax credit
  • The earned income tax credit

Read our Credit Karma Tax review

Jackson Hewitt: Best for complicated tax situations

Jackson Hewitt has been providing tax advice for more than 35 years. It has close to 6,000 locations across the U.S and offers a Lifetime Accuracy Guarantee as well as a guarantee it will help you to get the biggest refund (or pay you $100 if it doesn't).

Jackson Hewitt is ideal for those with more complicated tax situations because it provides a choice of online or in-person filing and you get real-time access to customer service. Assistance is available even to those who have tax debt and need someone to work with the IRS to help find a resolution. Its Premier Program, meant for those with complex tax needs, also costs less than some of the other premium programs on this list.

Jackson Hewitt used to offer three different pricing tiers, but now they have simplified their program. Now you get federal filing for $25 and unlimited state returns for $24.

Liberty Tax: Best for online tax support

Liberty Tax has been providing tax services since 1997, and it has more than 2,700 locations in the U.S. and Canada for those who want in-person help and support. It offers a maximum refund guarantee, promising to refund tax preparation fees if a competitor helps you get a larger refund with the same return. It also reimburses you for penalties and interest assessed by the IRS if its math is inaccurate.

If you're interested in online tax preparation but also getting support during the process, Liberty Tax is an ideal choice because of its 360-degree customer support promise. You can choose to get help via chat, email, or through social media. You also have the option for a seamless transition to the office if you get stuck and need in-person help.

You'll have a choice of three different products with Liberty Tax, but they all cost the basically the same amount:


Basic is best for single or married filers with no dependents who have W-2 income. It costs $44.95 for federal filing and $39.95 for state.


Deluxe costs $44.95 for federal returns, plus $34.95 for state returns. It's best for those who have children, investments, college expenses, or child care costs.


Premium comes at a cost of $44.95, plus $34.95 per state. It's best for self-employed workers or others with less common forms of income.

FreeTaxUSA: Best for simple returns

FreeTaxUSA is an IRS approved e-filer that has filed more than 43 million user tax returns. It offers a maximum refund guarantee as well as a 100% accuracy guarantee. With FreeTaxUSA, you get instant accuracy checks as you enter information, double-checks at the end of each section, and final checks before your return is submitted.

FreeTaxUSA is an ideal choice for simple tax returns because it comes at a very low cost. If you can stand a little less hand-holding as you go through the filing process because your return is a simple one, you can use FreeTaxUSA to file a free return regardless of the complexity of your tax situation. There are two pricing tiers with FreeTax USA:


The free version costs $0 for federal returns and $14.99 for state returns and it includes:

  • Itemized deductions
  • Dependent care costs
  • Self-employment income
  • Income from rental properties
  • Education deductions


The Deluxe version costs just $6.99, and it includes all the features of the free version, plus the following:

  • Live chat and priority support
  • Unlimited amendments
  • Audit support

Our methodology

When compiling our list of the best tax software packages, we looked at eight popular companies and evaluated them according to a set of criteria we consider critical to the consumer, including pricing, ease of use, customer support, and product features.

We did not evaluate all companies in the category. We used editorial judgment to determine what use or type of user each tax software is best for.

The bottom line on the best tax software

Tax planning can be a yearlong process, but it’s an essential part of learning how to manage your money. As you can see, different tax preparation software programs have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, even among our top picks. Although one taxpayer may do better using a particular tax program, someone with a different tax situation may find filing taxes easier by opting for another software option. 

But thanks to our guide, you can easily figure out which program makes sense for your situation. And there are plenty of online tax filing programs that can help you avoid tax mistakes and get a clear idea of what filing your taxes with different companies will cost you well before tax season arrives. 

Now, you can quickly home in on the software it makes sense for you to use and file taxes with greater ease so all you'll have to worry about is what to do with your tax refund.

FAQs about the best tax software

How much do tax software programs cost?

The cost of tax software programs varies based on the type of program that you choose and your needs. If you have a simple tax return, you may be able to file your taxes for free with a program like Credit Karma Tax. However, if you have a more complex return, you might be better off with a tax software like Jackson Hewitt, which offers lots of features and real-time access to customer support. Programs can range from completely free to upwards of $120 for federal tax filing, depending on which option you choose. 

What is the best free tax software?

While the IRS Free File service can be a decent option for free tax filing in certain situations, Credit Karma Tax is a great filing option for taxpayers who want to file state and federal returns for free. It has several useful features, including:

  • Federal and state tax returns
  • Schedule A - itemized deductions
  • Schedule C - business profits and losses
  • Child tax credit
  • Earned income tax credit (EITC)

What is the easiest tax software to use?

Our pick for the easiest tax software to use is TurboTax. It offers step-by-step tax prep in an intuitive interface, and it helps you identify potential tax breaks by asking you a series of simple questions. TurboTax offers a free version as well as higher-tier versions that come with added features and relatively low costs. You also have the option to pay an additional fee for live support from a CPA. This means you can get expert help if you have questions or run into any trouble with tax prep. When you file your taxes with TurboTax, it also offers several guarantees, including:

  • Accurate Calculations Guarantee: reimburses you if the IRS finds an error on your return and you need to pay a penalty;
  • Maximum Refund Guarantee: gives you your money back if you get a lower return with a different tax prep software; 
  • Expert Guarantee: reimburses you if the IRS finds an error and you need to pay a penalty on a tax return that a TurboTax expert helped prepare;
  • Audit Support: free IRS audit support and optional help from a tax preparer. 

TurboTax Benefits

  • America’s #1 brand in tax software
  • Searches a database of 350+ tax deductions
  • 100% accurate calculations

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.