Best Tax Software & Online Tax Services

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated September 24, 2021

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Filing taxes with an online tax service
March 18, 2019

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Filing taxes can be confusing. Even though you go through it every year, a simple tax return can raise a number of questions. Should you file an itemized return or go for the standard deduction? Can you deduct healthcare expenses? What are the rules about claiming dependent children?

With all of the highly specific IRS regulations and details involved for filers each year, tax preparation is its own area of expertise. Tax preparation software helps demystify the process, but only if you can find the best online tax service. We know you don’t have the time to explore every option every year, so we’ve done some of the work to help you identify the best online tax filing service. This quick guide explores the pros and cons of some of the most widely used tax software platforms, so you don’t need to spend hours reading tax program reviews to determine the best tax software for you.

Best Tax Filing Services

RankTax Filing ServiceBest ForCostExpert Rating
1TurboTaxOverall Filing$30★★★★★
2H&R BlockExtras$29.99★★★★★
4Jackson HewittHands-On Help$29.99★★★★
5E-file.comFederal filing$25.99★★★

Best Tax Filing Services

RankTax Filing ServiceExpert Rating
2H&R Block★★★★★
4Jackson Hewitt★★★★★★★

Powered by Intuit, TurboTax is an industry giant that’s regularly recognized as the best professional tax preparation software available. TurboTax offers one of the most comprehensive tax software packages around. It is not a discount service, though. Its range of features and its meticulous yet easy-to-use interface contribute to its standing as offering the best online tax filing.

TurboTax Review image
  • Price: TurboTax has five different tiers of service, Easy Filing (free), PLUS ($30), Deluxe ($60), Premium ($90) and Self-Employed ($120).
  • Packages: You can file your federal taxes for free with TurboTax if you have a simple tax return. TurboTax offers the Deluxe package for more complicated filings with deductions, the Premium package if you have investments or rental properties and the Self-Employed package if you are self-employed or own a business.
  • State filing: State filing is a flat $40 fee no matter which TurboTax package you choose.
  • Audit protection: TurboTax offers support if you are audited by the IRS, up to a point. It will go over audit letters for you, give you advice, and review your taxes with you along with an explanation of the math and how the taxes were done.
  • Customer service: On all the packages but the Free Federal package, you get SmartLook, which connects you with a tax expert in real time via a one-way video to ask any questions you may have.

Federal Free Edition — Free — This tax software plan is perfect for anyone with a very simple return. It offers both federal and state filing at no cost, but it doesn’t support all (or even most) schedules. It does include W-2 importing, Earned Income Tax Credit support, help with Affordable Care Act forms, credit and deduction checks, and access to forums to ask questions. It also offers the SmartLook chat feature, which you can use to discuss your return with an expert.

PLUS — $30 for federal — If you’d like to use the PLUS plan, simply start filling out a free form and accept the upgrade offer. It includes all the features offered for a free federal return, such as credit and deduction checks, and some convenient upgrades. Get automatic transfers for previously filed returns, import information from another tax service, get more information about tax filing with the ExplainWhy feature, enjoy cloud storage to keep your attached documents in one place and get continued access to your return through October.

Deluxe — $60 for federal returns, on sale for $40 — If you itemize deductions and/or report miscellaneous income, this tax software plan offers a range of services. When filing a Schedule A, you’ll need to upgrade to this plan. When you do, you’ll get all of the features of the lower-priced plans, as well as support to log 1099 forms and access to previous tax returns.

Premier — $90, on sale for $70 — With Premier, you can add on support for Schedules B, D and E. This includes filing for dividend interest income, capital gains/losses, income from rental properties or pass-through entities.

Self-Employed — $120, on sale for $90 — For business owners, or anyone else who files a Schedule C, this is the right package. Not only does it include all of the rest of TurboTax features, it also offers a year of bookkeeping software to help track deductions and expenses like mileage, phone expenses, home office deductions and more.

Part of what makes TurboTax in many ways the best online tax service is the fact that every TurboTax user, even those using the Federal Free Edition, can take advantage of these features:

  • Mobile apps: Access all of the TurboTax tax software features through an Android or iOS app.
  • Pay filing fees with your refund: Instead of paying upfront for your return, you can choose to pay any filing fees out of your refund for an additional fee.
  • Real-time refund display: See what changes to your filing do to your return as you enter data.
  • Automatic information transfer to state returns: Avoid spending hours re-entering information from your W-2 and elsewhere on your state return with this auto-fill option.
  • Audit support: Use a free phone consultation to discuss any IRS correspondence with a tax professional.

Combining both online and brick-and-mortar service locations, H&R Block has become one of the most recognizable brands in tax preparation and a contender for the title of best tax preparation service. The convenience of being able to go online or in-person has helped make this one of the best tax services on the market. Its free filing option is more comprehensive than that of some other tax software, allowing you to include more forms that deal with such things as student loans and tuition, the child and dependent care credit and more.

H&R Block Review image
  • Price: H&R Block has three different tiers of service, Easy Filing (free), Deluxe ($29.99), and Premium ($49.99). H&R Block is currently running a sale on all its products.
  • Packages: You can file your federal taxes for free if you have a simple tax return, although H&R Block’s free return includes filing for over 20 documents that competitors won’t allow you to file for free. H&R Block offers the Deluxe package for more complicated filings with deductions, the Premium package if you have investments or rental properties or if you are self-employed or own a business.
  • State filing: State filing is $36.99.
  • Audit protection: H&R Block’s audit protection works similarly to other large online tax preparation services, except you have to pay $30 for it. The service will go over audit letters with you, give you advice, and review your taxes with you along with an explanation of the math and how the taxes were done.
  • Customer service: H&R Block’s phone support comes with all plans, including the Free Federal plan. The other plus for H&R Block is that it has actual offices where you can go talk to a tax expert if you need help. In addition, the website has a great collection of FAQs, forums and tutorials to help filers if they get stuck at any stage during the process.

Free Online — Free — H&R Block typically sits near the top of best tax software review lists due to its comprehensive free filing option. This tier includes both 1040EZ filing and Schedule A for itemized deductions. Along with the federal, state filing is also free.* And while you can also get free filing with many online tax filing companies, H&R Block offers more options for free filing that other companies don’t.

Deluxe — $29.99, on sale for $22.49 — This tier adds on digital storage for returns for six years and filing for the self-employed, along with unlimited phone and chat support.

Premium — $49.99, on sale for $37.49 — With everything from the previous tiers, this level also includes filing for investment income, capital gains/losses, business filings, a full Schedule C (rather than just the Schedule C-EZ supported by Deluxe) and lots more.

*When comparing prices, be aware that state filing is only free with the Free Online plan.

Some of the features included in H&R Block’s tax software are:

  • Free chat with support: Unlimited access to chat with tech support staff for troubleshooting help and service questions. It’s available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.
  • More free filings: Most tax software companies only offer free filing for 1040EZ or other simple tax returns, but H&R Block will still let you file your federal tax return for free even if you have additional forms that include student loan interest, tuition payment, the child and dependent care credit, the Saver’s Credit or even unemployment income.
  • Updated refund info in real time: See refund estimates that change along with information you input. Get detailed explanations about the changes.
  • Save your return: Create an H&R Block account to start your return and come back later to finish filing. If you don’t want to save it, you can still start it without creating an account.
  • Audit support: With any plan, even free filing, users get in-person support to help with IRS audits. This includes reviewing and interpreting notices, helping to gather documents, reviewing findings and advice on how to respond.
  • Load your refund on a debit card: Using prepaid debit cards, H&R Block allows users to receive their refund in a convenient pay method accepted anywhere Visa is allowed.
  • Health insurance finder: As a GoHealth partner, users can shop government insurance exchanges to find the right plan for the following year.

Ease of use makes TaxAct a clear contender for best online tax service. To its credit, it combines the depth of services offered by TurboTax with a discount price point. TaxAct professional software reviews regularly compare it favorably to the industry giants, so even if it’s not the best tax software, it’s certainly very close.

TaxACT Review image
  • Price: TaxACT has five different tiers of service, Free, Basic+ ($9.95), Deluxe+ ($29.95), Premier+ ($39.95) and Self-Employed+ ($74.95).
  • Packages: The Free package is for 1040EZ and 1040A filers and includes a free state return. The Basic+ package is for those with dependents and/or college expenses. The Deluxe+ package is for those who itemize, own their own home or have investment income. And the Premier+ package includes filing for people who have investments and/or rental properties, or those who want prioritized support.
  • State filing: State filing is free in the FREE package, $19.95 for Basic+ and $39.95 for Deluxe+ and Premier+. It is $49.95 for Self-Employed+.
  • Audit protection: TaxAct offers basic audit support in the Support section of its site. It includes all the information you’ll need regardless of what type of audit notice you’ve received from the IRS. TaxAct also offers a $100,000 Accuracy Guarantee that covers every calculation on your tax return.
  • Customer service: TaxAct is one of the only tax preparation services to offer unlimited email support for any tax questions you have. You also have phone support if you need it. The TaxAct site also offers a slew of FAQs and information in its Support section, and also has a blog with useful information.

Not only is TaxAct one of the least expensive options for tax software this year, it is also one of the most streamlined. There are only three tiers to choose from, and one of them is free.

Free — Free — This package is for 1040EZ and 1040A filers and includes a free state return.

Basic+ — $9.95 — For those who have children or other dependents, this is good for situations that involve a tax credit. It also covers college expenses.

Deluxe+ — $29.95 — For those who itemize more or own their own home.

Premier+ — $39.95 — For those who have investments or rental properties.

TaxAct’s features include:

  • Stop and start returns: Users can start filing as soon as the first tax document arrives and finish at a later time in the year when everything is on-hand.
  • Easy navigation: One of the big inconveniences using other tax software is that you often have to start at the beginning again in order to fix any errors. With TaxAct, users can navigate directly to the section that needs an update.
  • Complete explanations: Where TaxAct really shines is in the information provided about possible life situations. Users not only get a Q&A session, they also get a detailed description of what these events mean (credit, deduction, etc.) as they pertain to tax filing.
  • $100,000 Accuracy Guarantee: TaxAct now offers a $100,000 Accuracy Guarantee, that covers all the calculations that TaxAct does when preparing your tax return. It does not cover errors you make inputting your information or anything you withhold from TaxAct.

As a relatively new option, E-file offers a complete range of tax software for the home user. Be aware that it does not support complex business tax filing, so it may not qualify as one of the best online tax software options. Review

Get Started with Review image
  • Price: E-file has three different tiers of service, Free Federal (free), Deluxe Plus ($25.99), and Premium Plus ($45.99).
  • Packages: You can file your federal taxes for free if you have a simple tax return. E-file offers the Deluxe package for more complicated filings with deductions, the Premium package if you have investments or rental properties or if you are self-employed or own a business.
  • State filing: State filing is a flat-fee of $21, no matter how many states you file in.
  • Audit protection: E-file actually does offer free audit support in the case that you are audited. This is limited to advice about your audit situation, but doesn’t go much beyond that.
  • Customer service: E-File does offer phone assistance if you are having issues with your taxes or the online program, as well as email and chat support, which some companies charge for.

Free Federal Edition — Free — At no cost, tax software users filing a basic return can complete and submit their federal filing.

Deluxe Plus — $25.99 — This package allows filing for the 1040A and itemized deductions, along with investment income.

Premium Plus — $45.99 — At this tier, users can file self-employment income, small business income and more complex personal returns.

State Filing Fee — $21 — None of the filing options include a state return. To add one on, users must pay an additional fee. does offer a complete package of features that helps you file quickly and easily.

  • Fast filing: It could take as little as 15 minutes from start to finish to file your taxes.
  • Customer support from qualified professionals: Customer support is not just about using the tax software. Experts can answer questions specifically about tax filing. Support is free, but it may take a while for the answer to arrive since E-file has no dedicated customer support phone line.
  • Instantly file an extension request: For anyone not ready to file by the deadline, E-file allows users to file an extension request online.

Looking to file an extension because you owe too much? If you have a lot of tax debt, you can look at some of the best debt relief programs, which may be able to help you negotiate down your tax burden. Check out our Freedom Debt Relief reviews and Accredited Debt Relief reviews to compare the top two services.

For an easy-to-use program, tax software reviews point to eSmart Tax. The intuitive interface and easy access to live support make it a top contender.

Free — Free — For those filing a 1040EZ, this service offers some of the best tax filing around, though failure to include a free state return might make it less appealing.

Basic — $14.95 — This tax software supports form 1040 and Schedule A and B filing. That makes it workable for families, those with itemized deductions, investment income, interest income and self-employment income.

Deluxe — $19.95 — Get everything included in Basic and help with income from a sole proprietorship and deducting home office expenses.

Premium — $49.95 — Like the name, this is a premium service that covers everything from Deluxe and adds on filing for capital gains/losses, sale of a house, rental income and additional support for filing Schedule E, F or K-1.

State Return — $29.95 — After finishing a federal return, eSmart Tax allows users to add on the state return for $29.95.

Not only does eSmart Tax include many of the standard features, it also offers:

  • Brick-and-mortar support: When users get held up using the online filing tax software, they can visit a store location for personalized help. Liberty Tax is the owner of the software and offers complimentary services at one of the best tax preparation companies.
  • Import prior tax returns: Some other services offer this option, but only if a user upgrades to a paid service. Everyone can use the import option, even those filing a free federal return.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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