For many decades, people have been collecting paperwork on their income. They gather expenses and deductions for the year. And they drag them into the local tax preparer’s office. Some people may be doing the work themselves, whether online or in person.
However, filing your taxes can be a lot of work. You need to have organizing skills. And you need to educate yourself. Not everyone cares to file their own taxes. In addition, filing your taxes with a local expert can be expensive. I know people who pay $200, $300 and higher to get their taxes done.
That kind of a budget for tax prep can be out of reach. Those with a low income or a lot of bills know that.
The invention of online tax preparation was genius. At least in my humble opinion. Tax pros create a few online programs. They allow people to file taxes from the comfort of their home. And they make a few bucks in the process.
What’s more is that many online tax filing programs are affordable. In fact, some are free. But not all programs are great for all tax situations. And some are easier to use than others. What to do?
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. Lots of programs are available if you want to file your taxes online. We’ll outline some of the most popular choices. And we’ll share what each program has to offer.
1. Turbo Tax
Turbo Tax has been offering cheap and free tax return filing since the 1980’s. 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 Turbo Tax has to offer. Each program has different features and benefits. However, they all have great things to offer.
Turbo Tax Free Edition
Turbo Tax’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 product you have to meet certain 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 Turbo Tax’s Free Edition. This program could work for you if you have a clean-cut tax situation. W-2 income, no deductions and no other odd inclusions.
Turbo Tax Deluxe Edition
This is Turbo Tax’s most popular edition. It costs $39.99 for federal tax filing and $36.99 for state filing. Turbo Tax Deluxe has everything included in the Free Edition. In addition, this program can itemize deductions. You can add charitable deductions, mortgage interest and more.
Their automated Deduction Finder is amazing. It will search more than 350 tax deductions to guarantee you the largest refund. And you qualify for on-demand tax help from their customer service team. It’s included with this program.
Turbo Tax Premier Edition
The Turbo Tax Premier Edition is for those with investment holdings. It’s for those with real estate holdings over and above a primary home too.
It costs $59.99 to file your federal return using this edition. You’ll pay $36.99 to file your state return. With this edition you get all that comes in the Deluxe Edition. In addition, you can import your investment information. You’ll need to have the numbers from the company that holds your accounts. Turbo Tax Premier will help you calculate capital gains, losses, etc.
This program offers step-by-step guidance in adding in new rental properties. This is a nice addition if you use Premier every year. Bonus: you have full access to the on-demand help center.
Turbo Tax 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 $89.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing.
Turbo Tax Live
This is a new offering this year from Turbo Tax. With the live edition you get all benefits of the Self-Employed Edition. In addition, you get 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. This version costs $149.99 for the federal return and $36.99 for the state return. This can be a great option for those with complicated returns. Great for those who want expert guidance as they file on their own.
As you can see, lots to choose from with Turbo Tax. They also have a guaranteed maximum refund program too. And guaranteed accurate calculations. If you find a mistake you get your money back.
2. Tax Act
Tax Act 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.
Tax Act Free Edition
Tax Act’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. You can’t claim any dependents and can’t claim 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? Check out this IRS article.
Tax Act Plus Edition
Tax Act’s Plus Edition is for those with standard itemized deductions. It costs $29.95 to file a federal return, and $37 to file a state return. If you’ve got 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 Tax Act Plus include:
- Access to over 300 types of deductions
- Tax Act’s $100k Accuracy Guarantee
- A personalized financial assessment. This report outlines any other deductions, etc. you may be eligible for
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. It makes no matter when you decide to file.
Tax Act Freelancer Edition
This edition helps freelancers file taxes. Are you an independent contractor or sole proprietor? If so, this could be the best Tax Act version for you. Your federal return for this version will cost $44.95. If you file with the state, your state return will cost $37.
Some of the benefits of this version include:
- The Deduction Maximizer. This tool is designed to help you find every possible deduction
- Tax Act’s $100k Accuracy Guarantee
- A feature allowing you to import and record capital gains, etc.
- A free report to help you spot ways to reduce your tax bill
Great version for those who run a small, independent business. Those with no additional employees.
Tax Act Premium Edition
Tax Act offers the Tax Act Premium Edition too. According to their website, it’s for filers seeking “ultimate peace of mind.”
This version will guide you step-by-step through the tax filing process. This helps ensure you don’t miss a beat. The Premium Edition costs $59.95 for federal tax returns. It costs $37 for state tax returns.
Buyers get the Freelancer Edition benefits and other benefits too. One is Tax Act’s Audit Defense feature. This feature helps you defend yourself in case of an audit.
Most 1040EZ and 1040A filers won’t benefit from this version. Although it’s great if you want the “peace of mind” aspect. And it could be beneficial for those with itemized deductions. If you itemize and are nervous to file on your own, you’ll like this version.
Many great choices for prospective Tax Act clients and Turbo Tax clients. 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 to choose from. Here’s the scoop on each one.
H&R Block More Zero
The H&R Block More Zero plan costs $0 for federal filing and $0 for state filing. The website says it’s best for new filers, simple filers and homeowners. This means you can deduct mortgage interest with this version.
You can deduct donations, student loan interest and child care expenses too. This is a nice difference from other free products we’ve discussed.
Bonus: H&R Block has a bonus feature you can add on called Tax Pro Review. This feature gives you access to an online review of your return. You’ll talk to an H&R Block tax pro. It’s meant to give you peace of mind that you haven’t missed anything.
When you use the More Zero program, it costs $49.99 to get Tax Pro Review as an add-on.
H&R Block Deluxe
This program includes all of the features of the More Zero program. It has additional benefits as well. For instance, you can add in hobby income. This is better known in the Well Kept Wallet world as “side hustle income” 😊. You can add Health Savings Account deductions too. The Deluxe version has a handy tool known as their Deduction Pro. This will help you to not miss any deductions. You get unlimited tax advice via chat too.
The H&R Block Deluxe program costs $34.99 to file your federal return. It’ll cost $36.99 to file your state return. If you want to add on Tax Pro Review with this package, it’ll cost you $79.99. This is different than the $49.99 you’d pay with the More Zero program. The cost variance is because there will be more information to review.
H&R Block Premium
H&R Block says their Premium program is best for freelancers. It’s great for independent contractors and investors. Rental property owners will like it too.
This program comes with all of the features of the Deluxe program. In addition, you can import expense information from apps such as Stride. You get unlimited tax advice via chat with this version too.
The H&R Block website says that this program is for those with under $5,000 in income. However you can input stock income and rental property income too.
The cost for this version is $54.99 for your federal return. You’ll pay $36.99 for your state return. It’ll cost you $89.99 to add on Tax Pro Review with this version.
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. This program is for those who freelance as a serious business. You’ll get Premium version benefits and additional benefits. You can include all of your small business income and expenses.
The Self-Employed version costs $74.99 for federal filers. It costs $36.99 to add your state return on. If you want to purchase Tax Pro Review with this version it’ll cost you $89.99.
A nice roundup of options from H&R Block. However, it seems like they offer the most to simple tax return filers. That and the self-employed.
If you’re eligible to file a 1040ez, you can file for free with E-file.com. E-file says most filers with simple tax returns can file online in 15 minutes. The easy-to-use E-file.com software makes it so.
To use E-file.com, all you have to do is create a free account. You’ll enter your tax information, income, deductions too. The software will calculate and prepare your return. Then, you have the option to file it online then and there. Or you can print and mail in your tax return.
E-file.com also has online customer service support to answer your questions. This may save you from having 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.
Deluxe Plus E-file
Deluxe Plus E-file is $24.99 for federal and $19 for state. Do you plan to deduct mortgage interest or file with dependents? Do you have retirement income? If so, this is the plan you will need.
This plan comes with form 1040A support too.
Premium Plus E-file
Premium Plus E-file is $45.99 for federal and $19 for state.
This version supports all tax credits and deductions. Plus you can also use it for business and personal income. If you plan to itemize your deductions, this is the plan you will need.
I’d honestly never heard of TaxSlayer until this year. 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. TaxSlayer struck a deal in 2014 to rename Florida’s Gator Bowl the TaxSlayer Bowl. But that’s neither here nor there. Onto their products.
The TaxSlayer Simply Free
TaxSlayer’s Simply Free program costs $0 for both federal returns. However, you have to file using the 1040EZ form to use this version. The free version includes live phone support and free email support. But so do the other TaxSlayer programs.
The TaxSlayer Classic
The TaxSlayer Classic program costs $17 to file your federal return. You’ll pay an additional $22 to file your state return. You can use this version with all major IRS forms. However, the Classic program has some limitations. The TaxSlayer website doesn’t state what they are, though.
The TaxSlayer Premium
The TaxSlayer Premium version costs $35 for your federal tax return. You’ll pay an additional $22 for your state return. Along with the benefits of the Classic program you get Audit Assistance. You’ll get Ask a Tax Pro assistance, Live Chat Support and Priority Support too.
This sounds like a good version for those with standard deductions. Consider Premium if you have mortgage interest. Or if you have charitable deductions, etc.
The 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 free. The cost for this package: $55.
All of the TaxSlayer versions include their Deduction Finder tool. But this benefit might not do much good for free version customers. This is because you can only use the free version when you file the 1040EZ form. However, it’s nice for those who purchase the other versions. It’d be beneficial for the self-employed.
All in all a nice variety of choices from TaxSlayer. However, we have other companies to discuss. eSmart Tax is another online tax prep company on our list.
6. eSmart Tax
This is another online tax prep company I hadn’t heard of. eSmart Tax has several programs to choose from. And you can save money on their programs with Ebates. So make sure you sign on with Ebates before you use eSmart Tax.
eSmart Tax Free
The free program eSmart tax offers are similar to other free versions. It supports the 1040EZ form, but it supports a Schedule B too. It’s free to file your federal taxes with this version. However, it’ll cost you $29.99 to file your state returns.
Free chat and email support is available with all eSmart Tax programs.
eSmart Tax Basic
The eSmart Tax Basic program costs $24.95 for federal filers. It’s an additional $35.95 if you want to include your state return.
Basic version purchasers get all of the features of the Free version. In addition, they get to include itemized deductions. You can include business income and basic business expenses too. And you can add depreciation and health savings account deductions. In addition, you can add interest income too.
This version works with the 1040 for, 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 $38.95 for federal filers. It’s an additional $35.95 to add your state return in. 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. In addition, 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 $49.99 for federal filers and $35.95 for state filers. You can use this version for almost any tax filing situation. See the eSmart Tax website for additional information.
In addition, 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 direct 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 direct with the IRS.
They have two versions available. One is for those who have income below $66,000 for the year. The other is for those who have income above $66,000 per year. Don’t ask me which version to use if you have exactly $66,000 in income. It doesn’t specify. 😊
This could be a good tax filing option for some. The main problem I see with the IRS’s Free File program is big. 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 work. 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. 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 they say.
Only you can choose whether to use a free program offered by the government. Or whether to use one offered by a tax company. 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.
In fact, I’ve had a tax preparer do my taxes for over twenty years. All I do is get the paperwork in order and hand him the pile. Twenty minutes and I’m out the door. Yes, I have to write him a check for his services. But to me it’s worth the money.
If You Like Learning Tax Laws
Some people would rather learn all there is to learn about filing their taxes. They’ll have a skill they can use for life. They can help themselves and others file 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.
However, 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.
We’ve shared lots of information on the various tax prep companies. You can see that 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?