The creation of online tax preparation was a genius idea. It allows people to file their taxes from the comfort of their own home.
Plus many online tax filing programs are affordable and even free! But not all programs are right for all tax situations. And some are easier to use than others. Which one do you choose?
Table of Contents
The Best Software to File Your Taxes Online
You’ll want to know which tax preparation websites are best – and cheapest. As a consumer, you have several options to choose from. We’ll outline some of the most popular choices. Most of these have a free option, be sure to read the details below.
|Company||Federal Free*||Cost for Additional State|
|TurboTax||Yes||$40 per state|
|TaxAct||Yes||$31.96 per state|
|H&R Block||Yes||$36.99 per state|
|Credit Karma Tax||Yes||Free|
|E-file.com||Yes||$28.95 for unlimited|
|TaxSlayer||Yes||$29 per state|
* Some additional fees may apply, see sites for details.
TurboTax has been offering cheap and free tax return filing since the 1980s. Intuit acquired the company in 1993. That was a good move. It’s been one of the most popular online tax filing websites ever since.
Check out the different programs TurboTax has to offer. Each program has distinct features and benefits. However, they all have great things to offer.
TurboTax’s Free Edition
TurboTax’s Free Edition costs nothing. You’ll pay $0 for federal returns, $0 for state returns and $0 for filing fees.
To be eligible for this you have to meet specific requirements:
- You have to be filing a 1040EZ or 1040A form
- Income has to be less than $100,000
- You aren’t taking any itemized deductions
- You’re not responsible for investment income
- If you don’t own a house
- Your year didn’t include any major medical expenses
- You didn’t have any 1099-Misc income, and you don’t own a business
These are the broad parameters for filing a 1040EZ or 1040A form. However, if you qualify, it makes you eligible for TurboTax’s Free Edition. Note that you can take the standard deduction, as well as the EITC and Child Tax Credits with this version.
This program could work for you if you have a clean-cut tax situation. W-2 income, no itemized deductions, and no other odd inclusions.
TurboTax Deluxe Edition
This is TurboTax’s most popular edition. It costs $40 for federal tax filing and $40 for state filing. TurboTax Deluxe has everything included in the Free Edition.
Also, this program can itemize deductions. You can add charitable deductions, mortgage interest deductions and more. And they include on-demand tax help from their customer service team.
Their automated Deduction Finder is amazing. It will search more than 350 tax deductions to guarantee you the largest refund.
TurboTax Premier Edition
The TurboTax Premier Edition is for those with investment holdings. Also, it’s for those with real estate holdings over and above a primary home.
It costs $70 to file your federal return using this edition. And you’ll pay $40 to file your state return. With this edition, you get all that comes in the Deluxe Edition.
Also, you can import your investment information. You’ll need to have the numbers from the company that holds your accounts. TurboTax Premier will help you calculate capital gains, losses, etc.–even on cryptocurrencies.
This program offers step-by-step guidance in adding in new rental properties too. This is a nice addition if you use TurboTax Premier every year. Bonus: you have full access to the on-demand help center.
TurboTax Self-Employed Edition
The Self-Employed Edition has everything the Premier Edition has.
It includes these additional features as well:
- Specific guidance for business owners. Good for freelancers and independent contractors.
- Guidance on deductions specific to your particular industry.
- Expense tracking, mileage tracking, etc. from QuickBooks Self-Employed.
- Additional guidance on standard vs. actual mileage, home office deductions, etc.
This edition costs $90 for federal filing and $40 for state filing.
TurboTax also offers a product called TurboTax Live. With the live edition, you get all the benefits of the other TurboTax Editions. Plus, you get live answers along the way as you file and a free one-on-one review with a tax expert. They have CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) on staff.
You’ll get live tax advice from experienced experts in the field too. The Live version prices vary depending on what type of return you file:
- Basic: $50 for federal and $40 for state
- Deluxe: $90 for federal and $50 for state
- Premier: $140 for federal and $50 for state
- Self-Employed: $170 for federal and $50 for state
Of course, these programs cost more than the basic online TurboTax options, but they can be a great help for those with complicated returns. Or for those who simply want expert guidance as they file on their own.
As you can see, there is a lot to choose from with TurboTax. They also have a guaranteed maximum refund program too. And guaranteed accurate calculations. So if you find a mistake, you get your money back.
TaxAct has been in business since 1998. They provide serious competition with Turbo Tax. Here’s the scoop on the different products they have to offer. I’ll share what each one costs too.
TaxAct Free Edition*
TaxAct’s free edition is similar to Turbo Tax’s in that it’s free. It costs nothing to file your state or federal tax return. This edition is limited to 1040EZ and 1040A form filers. Remember that 1040EZ filers and 1040A filers can take limited deductions. It all depends on the form they use.
1040EZ filers have to make under $100k a year. They can’t have any itemized deductions either. And you can’t claim any dependents or interest earned over $1500.
1040A filers have expanded options for filing. One benefit is the ability to include other sources of income.
Do you want to know whether you qualify to file a 1040EZ or 1040A?
TaxAct Deluxe+ Edition
TaxAct’s Deluxe+ Edition is for those with standard itemized deductions. It costs $19.95 to file a federal return and $31.96 to file a state return. If you’ve got itemized deductions, this version could work for you. You’ll want to use it if you have charitable deductions. Or if you have mortgage interest deductions and investment income.
Some of the features of TaxAct Plus include:
- Access to over 300 types of deductions
- TaxAct’s $100k Accuracy Guarantee
- A personalized financial assessment. This report outlines any other deductions, etc. you may be eligible to receive.
They have a price lock guarantee with this version too. The promise guarantees you’ll pay the price they quoted as you started your return. So it doesn’t matter when you decide to file.
TaxAct Premier+ Edition
If you have rental properties or investments, the TaxAct Premier+ edition could be right for you. The Premier+ edition costs the same as the Deluxe+ edition: $19.95 for federal filing and $31.96 for state filing.
Some of the benefits of this version include:
- Deductions for stock gains/losses or sale of a home
- TaxAct’s $100k Accuracy Guarantee
- Help for people with foreign banks and financial accounts
- Rental property income and deductions
This is an excellent version for those who have investment income, rental income and want prioritized support from the help team.
TaxAct Self-Employed+ Edition
TaxAct offers the TaxAct Self Employed+ Edition too. According to their website, it’s for filers seeking maximum deductions and year-round support.
The Self-Employed+ version offers everything Premier+ offers, plus:
- freelance income and deductions
- farm income and deductions
- depreciation calculation
- year-round support
You’ll get other benefits with this version too. One of those benefits is help with your quarterly tax payments.
This TaxAct version is specifically designed for the self-employed, to help you maximize deductions and still save money on tax filing.
There are many great choices for prospective TaxAct clients and Turbo Tax clients. Let’s move onto another long-standing tax preparation company, H & R Block.
3. H&R Block
H&R Block is by far the tax preparation company with the most experience. They opened their doors over 60 years ago in 1955. I remember seeing H&R Block commercials as a kid (I’m 50 now).
This company has four different tax filing options. By using one of them, you may be able to save money when filing your taxes. Here’s the scoop on each one.
H&R Block Free Online
The H&R Block Free Online plan costs $0 for federal filing and $0 for state filing. Their website says it’s best for new filers, simple filers and homeowners. This means you can deduct mortgage interest with this version.
Besides, you can deduct donations, student loan interest and child care expenses too. This is a nice difference from other free products we’ve discussed.
Also, H&R Block has what it calls Online Assist versions of all of their programs.
Online Assist gives you on-demand help from a tax expert, enrolled agent or CPA. If you are filing with H&R Block’s Free Version and want Online Assist, it will cost $39.99 for federal filing. State filing is free.
H&R Block Deluxe Online
This program includes all of the features of the Free Online program. It has additional benefits as well. For instance, you can deduct taxes if you’re a homeowner.
Or you can deduct HSA contributions. You can even deduct charitable contributions with this version.
The H&R Block Deluxe program costs $29.99 to file your federal return. And it’ll cost $36.99 to file your state return.
If you want to upgrade to the Deluxe Online Assist package, you’ll pay $69.99 for federal and $39.99 for state filing.
H&R Block Premium Online
H&R Block says their Premium program is best for freelancers. It’s great for independent contractors and investors. And rental property owners will like it too.
This program comes with all of the features of the Deluxe program. Also, you can import expense information from apps such as Stride. And you get unlimited tax advice via chat with this version too.
The H&R Block website says that this program is best for those with under $5,000 in expenses.
The cost for this version is $49.99 for your federal return. You’ll pay $36.99 for your state return. If you want to upgrade to the Premium Online Assist package, you’ll pay $109.99 for federal filing and the same $36.99 for state filing.
H&R Block Self-Employed Online
This program is for those who are self-employed with a higher income. It’s not for smaller income side hustlers. Conversely, this program is for those who freelance as a serious business. You’ll get all of the Premium version benefits with additional ones. And you can include all of your small business income and expenses.
The Self-Employed version costs $79.99 for federal filers. It costs $36.99 to add your state return. If you want to upgrade to the Self-Employed Online Assist version, you’ll pay $139.99 for federal filing and the same $36.99 for state filing.
There is a nice roundup of options from H&R Block. However, it seems like they offer the most to simple tax return filers. And to the self-employed.
4. Credit Karma Tax
You might be surprised to see this addition to our online tax filing choices. Credit Karma has long been known as a free credit management site. Since 2007, they’ve helped people check and monitor their credit score for free.
Now Credit Karma has stepped into the world of online tax filing. Credit Karma Tax helps you file your federal and state taxes for free. And there’s no income limit to do so.
Also, Credit Karma Tax has a 100% maximum refund guarantee and a 100% accuracy guarantee as well. And if you used H&R Block, Turbo Tax or TaxAct last year, you can import your information to Credit Karma Tax.
But you do need to sign up to be a Credit Karma member to use Credit Karma Tax. However, Credit Karma is free. And it’s a great way to be able to see your credit scores and monitor your report. Credit Karma Tax is a terrific addition to an already great service.
E-file.com used to do 1040EZ filing for free. Now they’ve stepped up their game and added more options to the mix.
E-file.com doesn’t have all of the added features and benefits of the other programs mentioned here. However, it does have one bonus: it’s cheaper.
E-file.com has three programs: Free Basic, Deluxe, and Premium.
Efile.com’s Free Basic program is free for federal filing and $28.95 for state filing. This program is best if you have W-2 income of less than $100,000 per year and no itemized deductions.
Also, E-file.com has online customer service support to answer your questions. So this may save you from needing to call the IRS and sit on hold. Or from having to see a tax pro in person to ask a question.
Don’t qualify to file a 1040ez? You do have other options you can use with E-file.com.
E-File’s Deluxe program costs $24.95 for federal and $28.95 for state. Do you plan to deduct mortgage interest or file with dependents? Or do you have a retirement income? If so, this is the plan you will need.
E-file.com’s Premium version costs $34.95 for federal filing and $28.95 for state filing.
This version supports all tax credits and deductions. Plus you can also use it for business and personal income. So if you plan to itemize your deductions, this is the plan you will need.
I’d honestly never heard of TaxSlayer until a couple of years ago. A friend of my daughter’s mentioned he used it. When I started looking into what they offer, I was surprised to learn they’ve been around since 1965.
I probably would have heard of them if I was into college football. That’s because TaxSlayer struck a deal in 2014 to rename Florida’s Gator Bowl to The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. But that’s not relevant. So let’s move onto their products.
TaxSlayer Simply Free
TaxSlayer’s Simply Free program costs $0 for both federal and state returns.
The free version includes live phone support and free email support. But so do the other TaxSlayer programs.
The TaxSlayer Classic program costs $17 to file your federal return. Also, you’ll pay an additional $29 to file your state return. You can use this version with all major IRS forms.
TaxSlayer’s Premium version costs $37 for your federal tax return. And you’ll pay an additional $29 for your state return.
Along with the benefits of the Classic program, you get Audit Assistance. For instance, you’ll get Ask a Tax Pro assistance, Live Chat Support and Priority Support too.
This sounds like a good version for those with itemized deductions. So consider Premium if you have mortgage interest. Or if you have charitable deductions, etc.
TaxSlayer Self-Employed Edition
This version is best for freelancers and independent contractors. It’ll work for rental property owners too. This version has all of the benefits of the Premium version. In addition, you’ll get the ability to file your state return for $29 per state return.
The cost for this package is $47.
However, it’s nice for those who purchase the other versions. It’d be beneficial for the self-employed.
All in all, there is a nice variety of choices from TaxSlayer. However, we still have other companies to discuss. eSmart Tax is another online tax prep company on our list.
7. eSmart Tax
Another online tax prep company I hadn’t heard of is eSmart Tax. They have several programs to choose from. And you can save money on their programs with Rakuten. So make sure you sign on with Rakuten before you use eSmart Tax.
Note that eSmart used to have a free file option for basic filers wanting free federal filing services. However, they no longer offer that option. Instead, eSmart Tax users can choose from these three options.
eSmart Tax Basic
The eSmart Tax Basic program costs $44.95 for federal filers. It’s an additional $36.95 if you want to include your state return. eSmart says this program is best for families.
Basic version purchasers get all of the features of the Free version. Plus, they get to include itemized deductions.
You can include basic business income and basic business expenses too. And you can add depreciation and health savings account deductions. Also, you can add interest income too.
This version works with the 1040 form, the 8853 form and schedules A and B. The website says this version is best for families with various minor deductions.
eSmart Tax Deluxe
eSmart Tax’s Deluxe version costs $64.95 for federal filers. It’s an additional $36.95 to add your state return. This version, according to the website, is best suited for investors. You get all of the features of the Basic version.
Plus, you’ll have the ability to add in sole proprietor income too. And that includes home office deductions.
This version supports forms 1040, 4562, 8829, 4136 and schedules A, B and C. If you’re a self-employed person this might be a better version for you. Also, it’s good for full-time investors too.
eSmart Tax Premium
The eSmart Premium version is for those who are self-employed. It has all of the features of the Deluxe version. Plus, you can include income from several real estate rentals.
You can add gains, profit and loss and S Corp information too. And you can add any sale of home information.
This version costs $89.95 for federal filers and $36.95 for state filers. You can use this version for almost any tax filing situation. See the eSmart Tax website for additional information.
Also, eSmart Tax offers live support for its customers. They’ll help you answer any questions you may have. eSmart Tax is lesser-known than some of the other companies we’ve mentioned.
However, they do offer many of the same guarantees. They promise you’ll get the maximum refund. And they assure you they’ll file an accurate return.
Can I File Online Directly Through the IRS?
You might be wondering if you can file taxes online directly through the IRS. Yes, you can. The IRS has a filing tool they call Free File. This tool allows you to file your federal tax return directly with the IRS.
However, they only have two versions available. One is for those who have income below $69,000 for the year. The other is for those who earn income above $69,000 per year.
But don’t ask me which version to use if you have exactly $69,000 in income. It doesn’t specify. ????
This could be a good tax filing option for some. Although, I see a problem with the IRS’s Free File program. And is a big one. It doesn’t offer technical support. You’ll find that all of the other products we’ve mentioned do.
Do you have a super easy return or know a lot about the tax laws? If so, the Free File program could be right for you. But it’s going to require some serious work on your part. You’ll need to learn what information to include on your return.
Free File Has One Downfall
There’s another hurdle with using Free File through the IRS. They don’t support your state return if you use the “above $69,000” version. This means you’ll be starting from scratch as you file your state return.
However, using one of the paid-for versions above eliminates that issue. You’ll get the ability to transfer your information to the state form. This will save you loads of time. And time is money, as the saying goes.
If You Like Learning Tax Laws
Some people would rather learn all there is to learn about filing their taxes. Then they’ll have a skill they can use for life. It allows them to file their taxes for free every year. If that’s you, more power to you.
Do you find learning that type of content interesting? Are you okay with educating yourself on tax law changes every year? If so, it could be beneficial to learn to do your own return.
Yet if you’re like me, you’ll find that type of information mundane. In that case, you may be better off leaving your tax returns to the experts. Use a service like the ones mentioned above. Or find a local provider to make your life easier.
Decide What’s Important To You
Only you can choose whether to use a free program offered by the IRS. Or if you’ll want to use a free version provided by a tax company.
If you’re not able to file for free, you’ll have to decide what’s important to you. Is it worth paying for the ease and convenience of what tax pros have to offer?
As for me, I’ll pay for convenience every time. Tax pros save me hours of work about a subject I don’t know much about. Filing my taxes is one task I’ll leave to the experts. Yes, I have to pay for the service. But it’s worth the money to me.
We’ve shared lots of information on the various online tax prep companies. As you can see, there are many cheap – and free – ways to file your taxes online.
Which one will you choose? Have you tried any of the companies mentioned here in the past?