10 Best Tax Preparation Software of 2018
The best tax preparation software reviewed and compared. Learn how tax preparation software simplifies creating accurate tax returns with maximum deductions.
Tax preparation software helps both individuals & companies calculate federal, state, and local taxes, then file annual tax returns. Regardless of the complexity of your own personal tax situation, tax preparation software is a great tool for breaking down the process & simplifying all the forms into easy-to-follow steps.
While the features of some tax preparation software are designed to meet the needs of large companies with many users, other tax software works as a simple DIY solution for individuals. The bells & whistles will vary by product, but tax software isn't just for big companies. There's a tax software for everyone. After all, who doesn't find the tax process at least a little bit confusing and difficult?
When selecting the tax preparation software product, it is most important to consider a given offering's ease of use. Tax time is stressful enough as it is, so the software you choose should not be another thing that you have to figure out. Generally speaking, most companies offer many of the same basic features, which tend to include online resources, access to previous year's tax data, deduction calculators, and other tools. So make sure these tools are straightforward.
It is also of crucial importance you are purchasing the right plan for your situation. These days, digital tax preparation comes in software, downloadable, and online versions, with every permutation in between. Companies offer plans that are tailored to people filing single, jointly, with or without dependents, the self employed, freelancers, and those with property or investment income just to name a few. The last thing you want to do is end up with a version too thin or too robust and expensive for your needs. Before purchasing, make sure to talk with a company's plan experts to find the right fit. If they won't offer help in deciding, well that's probably not a good sign.
To help you find the tax software that’s right for you, we have carefully reviewed the best tax preparation software companies & their products. We have scrutinized over a number of factors with particular emphasis on comparing price, ease of user interface, customer service, and support in the event of an audit.
Top 8 Companies
- Absolute Zero - $0 Fed. $0 State. $0 To File.
- Get your maximum refund, guaranteed
- Capture Your W-2 with Your Smartphone
- Search Over 350 Deductions
- Updated with the latest tax laws
- Help with life changes (dependents, status)
- Expert support (phone and live chat)
- Largest Tax Refund - Guaranteed
- Prepare and e-file your taxes from any device
- Use iPhone or Android app to file
- State-of-the-art error checker tool
- Complimentary Email and Live Phone Support
- Maximum refund guarantee
- Price match guarantee
- 100% calculation accuracy
- Tax audit assistance
- Free e-file and print
- Free online support
- Pay only once for multiple state e-file returns
- 100% accuracy guarantee
- Low State Additional rates
- Maximum refund guarantee
- Free tax help and audit support
- Maximize deductions for donations
- Free simple and complex tax forms
- Tax alerts
- File Online or in Person
- 4000+ Locations Nationwide
- Accuracy/Calculation Guarantee
- Maximum Refund Guarantee
- Chat, Social Media, Email, and Phone Help
- Accuracy guarantee
- Fast refunds
- Maximize deductions
- Maximize credits
- Covers all types of returns
- Audit assist
- Maximum refund guarantee
- Free chat/tech support
- Price guarantee
- Accuracy guarantee
- Import prior year's tax return
How We Compare Tax Preparation Software
All of the top tax preparation software should offer the following items as standard. Many companies also guarantee that they will give their services for free if you are able to get a better deal or bigger refund with a competitor's service.
- Accuracy Guarantee
- Maximum Refund Guarantee
- Customer Support from Tax Experts
- Import Prior Year Data
- All Tax-Filling Options
- Maximum Deductions
- Audit Support
Supported Tax Forms25%
When using tax preparation software or online services, it is important your chosen company can accommodate all the relevant forms you will possibly need when filing. This includes federal and state forms, although state filing most often comes at extra cost. Additionally, given the complexity of preparing taxes and the myriad forms, assistance should also be offered in terms of choosing the right form given a person's or their family's financial picture.
1040/1040A - Federal Individual Return
1040EZ - Single and Joint Filers with No Dependents
1099MISC - Miscellaneous Income
Schedule A - Itemized Deductions
Schedule B - Income from Income and Dividends
Schedule C-EZ - Business Profit
Schedule D - Capital Gains
Schedule E - Supplemental Income
Schedule EIC - Earned Income Credit
Schedule SE - Self Employed
Online Ease of Use20%
Deciding to do you own taxes can definitely be a daunting experience, especially if it is your first time. Even the most simple filings can seem complicated to those not math-inclined or financially savvy. Did I cover all my income? Did I make use of all possible deductions? Did I use the correct forms? Did I miss anything or fill something out improperly. For this reason, digital tax preparation services should be as intuitive and clear as possible. Good tax preparation services offer a step by step process that is free of over complicated jargon. Nothing should be left to chance and at no point in the process should the customer be experiencing indecision do to lack of explanation. Also, paid services should have real time help either via phone, email, or chat.
Essentially, users who have decided to file on their own should leave the experience with as much confidence in the accuracy of their returns as those who have sat face to face in an accountant's office. Some key features that promote ease of filing include:
Straightforward and intuitive interface
Step by step workflow with clear Q&A
Online resource/ knowledge base
Access to real time support, or option to pay for this for users of free services
Deduction discovery tools
Import previous tax returns
Plans and Pricing15%
How does each similarly priced tax preparation compare? Plans for tax preparation software run from free to premium editions. While free editions offer capable features for preparing simple tax returns, higher priced or paid editions target more complex tax returns. The best tax preparation software offers free federal returns but charge fees for state returns. Additionally, some providers now offer completely online experiences that connect you live via video link with tax professionals so there is no software or downloads needed.
Most tax digital tax preparation plans break down as follows.
-There is a free plan that may or may not charge extra for the state return. If it does charge for the state return, it is usually around $30. These plans are ideal for those with very simple returns who just want to get the process over with as painlessly as possible.
- The first-tier pay plan is usually much the same as the free plan but just includes some more robust features. These could include a wider deduction search and prior year return import. Price usually hovers between $20-$40.
-The second-tier plan generally offers extra features for investments and property owners and costs between $35-$60.
-The highest price plan is normally reserved for freelancers or the self-employed and costs between $45-$90.
This is especially useful for first-time tax preparers. Your online tax preparation software should be able to guide you through the tax preparation process with plenty of online resources and walkthroughs. We studied the various support options of each company and assess its accessibility. We were surprised that some of the tax preparation services even offered free audit support on their Free editions. Aside from the standard email or telephone support, other services we looked into included live chat support, audits, and tax consulting services.
And if everything fails, the ability to walk in an office and talk with tax professionals will always be a plus. We all know the difficulty of filling an inaccurate tax return or missing out on some important deductions.
Tax preparation software and even the best ones we reviewed is not a hundred percent guarantee of an accurate tax return or you’re getting the most deductions. This is why we recommend that you consider working with a professional tax preparer especially if this is your first time to use a tax preparation software or have doubts in any step of the tax preparation process.
Customer Questions & Answers
What happens if there are errors in my taxes because of the Tax Software?
Good tax software companies offer guarantees if this situation occurs. Many times if you are fined because of an error, the software company will reimburse you if they are at fault. And if you are audited, most companies have tax specialists who are able to answer your questions and help you prepare for your audit free of charge. Make sure you look for these guarantees before purchasing tax software.
Can I prepare my own taxes?
Absolutely, though this is not recommended unless you are a professional, have experience doing this on your own, or are ready to sit down and do some extensive studying. The IRS does not make filing taxes on your own easy, and the fear of being audited due to errors during tax preparation is often a big incentive to pay the money for professional support.
Can I reuse my Tax Software next year?
No, unfortunately you can’t. Every year tax laws change, and every year tax software is updated to be compliant with these laws. Additionally, the IRS requires you to use their forms for the filing year. So, if you were to use your software from last year for this years tax filings, your filing will likely be rejected or be accidentally filed as last years taxes causing confusion with the IRS (which could also result in fines for this years taxes). And let’s face it, nobody wants to have to deal with the IRS more than they already have to.
What are the advantages of using Tax Software?
One of the biggest advantages of using Tax Software is the cost. If you hire a tax professional you may be looking at a bill upwards of $100, and a CPA will likely charge you twice that, if not more, for the most basic tax filings. Tax software, on the other hand, costs around $20-120, for both state and federal filing.
Another benefit is speed. Once you have all the documents, most people find they are able to complete their taxes within an hour, whereas, it can take up to a few weeks for a professional to do it for you.
Last, good tax software is simple, and will walk you through the preparation process quickly, especially if your taxes are straight forward. Additionally, many companies offer support for software users who find themselves with questions during the process.