Filing taxes can be confusing. Can you deduct healthcare expenses? What are the rules about claiming dependent children? With all of the highly specific regulations, tax preparation is its own area of expertise. Tax preparation software helps demystify the process, but only if you find the best online tax service. We know you don’t have the time to explore every option, so we’ve done some of the work for you. This quick guide explores the pros and cons of some of the most widely used tax help software platforms, so you don’t need to spend hours reading tax program reviews.
Powered by Intuit, TurboTax is an industry giant that’s regularly recognized as the best professional tax preparation software available. It offers one of the most comprehensive packages around, although it is not a discount service.
Federal Free Edition — Free — This 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, access to forums to ask questions, and the SmartLook chat feature, which you can use to discuss your return with an expert.
PLUS — $29.99 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 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 2018.
Deluxe — $54.99 for federal returns — If you itemize deductions and/or report miscellaneous income, this 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 — $79.99 — 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 — $114.99 — 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.
Every TurboTax user, even those using the Federal Free Edition, can take advantage of these features:
Combining both online and brick-and-mortar service locations, H&R Block has become one of the most recognizable brands in tax preparation. The convenience of being able to go online or in-person has helped make this one of the best tax services on the market.
More Zero — Free — H&R Block typically sits near the top of 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.*
Deluxe — $54.99, on sale for $34.99 — 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 — $79.99, on sale for $54.99 — 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 More Zero plan.
Some of the features included in H&R Block’s tax software in 2018 are:
Ease of use makes TaxAct a clear contender for best online tax service. It combines the depth of services offered by TurboTax with a discount price point of only $30 for their premium service. TaxAct professional software reviews regularly compare it favorably to the industry giants.
Not only is TaxAct one of the least expensive options, 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.
PLUS — $37 — For those who itemize, own their own home or have investment income, this $15 package is the best TaxAct option.
PREMIUM — $47 — This level includes filing for the self-employed, contractors and freelancers.
TaxAct’s features include:
As a relatively new option, E-file offers a complete range of 2016 tax software for the home user. Be aware that it does not support complex business tax filing in 2018, so it may not qualify as one of the best online tax software options of 2018.
Free Federal Edition — Free — At no cost, users filing a basic return can complete and submit their federal filing.
Deluxe Edition — $29.95 — This package allows filing for the 1040A and itemized deductions, along with investment income.
Premium Edition — $39.95 — At this tier, users can file self-employment income, small business income and more complex personal returns.
State Filing Fee — $19.95 — None of the filing options include a state return. To add one on, users must pay an additional fee.
E-file.com does offer a complete package of features that helps you file quickly and easily.
For an easy-to-use program, tax software 2018 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 level 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:
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