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Best online tax preparation software and services

Well, it’s that time of year again, tax season.

When it comes to filing your taxes, you have plenty of options. You could hire an accountant, or go to a tax preparation place. Some might decide to go it alone with a stack of IRS forms and their favorite pen.

However, there is a better way: file your taxes electronically with tax preparation software and services online. The IRS claims that nearly 80 percent of taxpayers file this way.

But how do you know which service is right for you? We can help.

We’re going to tell you about some of the best online tax prep software and services available.

Note: Tax day typically falls on April 15, but this year it will be pushed back a few days. That’s because April 15 is on Saturday and the District of Columbia will celebrate Emancipation Day on Monday, April 17. That means Tax Day is officially Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

Basic tax needs

If your tax needs are very basic, we’ve got some good news for you. Both TaxACT and TurboTax have free options that, in addition to the standard free federal filing, offer free state filing as well. State filing usually costs anywhere from $10 to $35.

This is strictly if you’re filing form 1040EZ/A, which means no help for fancy deductions, investments or anything else. They also won’t import information from last year’s tax returns, although they can pull your W-2 information to save you a bit of time.

TaxACT

Price: Free: $0; Plus: $27; Premium: $37

State tax filing fee: Free: $0; Plus: $33; Premium: $33

The cheapest way to file your taxes, aside from filling out the forms by hand and mailing them, is TaxACT. If your taxes are basic enough (form 1040EZ/A), you can use the Free option that gives you free federal AND free state filing.

Keep in mind, though, that your high school economics teacher was right: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. You “pay” for TaxACT with your time. The Free option won’t import data from prior years, so you’ll be filling out all your information again, although it can import W-2 data.

TaxACT Free calculates your taxes by asking you a series of questions about your income, finances and assets. It won’t handle deductions, investments, independent contracting or business. You also only get email support with questions.

If you have more complicated taxes, you’ll need to look at higher tiers like Plus or Premium that give you more filing options and free phone support for complicated questions.

H&R Block

Price (Online file): Free: $0; Deluxe: $35; Premium: $55

State filing fee: Free: $0; Deluxe & Premium: $37

If you’re looking for an all-purpose tax solution and you can find your way around a tax worksheet, then H&R Block’s online tax tool is a solid bet. It’s especially helpful for small businesses.

H&R Block lets you file as a small business after buying the Deluxe Edition. However, if you want extra help categorizing your expenses, then you’re going to have to shell out extra for the Premium Edition.

After that, though, you’ll find that H&R Block’s do-it-yourself tax tool will save you time and money. For example, if you used another online tax tool last year, you can import all of last year’s information directly into H&R Block’s system.

Best of all, if you decide that you want to enlist the help of an accountant at any point, you can ask the H&R Block certified experts to help, and even look over your forms.

If you have a working knowledge of your income and tax terminology, or you’re willing to do a little extra research, then H&R Block is a great solution.

TurboTax

Price: Free Edition: $0; Deluxe: $40; Premier: $60. Home & Business: $90

Military: Free or $35, $55, $90

State filing fee: $40

There’s no better way to learn the math behind your tax return than by doing it yourself. The best step-by-step solution to doing your own taxes for the first time is TurboTax.

If you don’t have a massive amount of financial data to report, then TurboTax will tell you that you can skip most of its questionnaire.

If you’re in a not-so-regular financial situation, though, hard-to-find information makes TurboTax much harder to use. Most tax first-timers won’t have a problem, though.

Tax Preparation Software Comparison Chart

Below you will find our tax preparation software comparison chart. Keep in mind, the features listed are for the online filing options.

Also, there are different versions of the software, for example, whether you are filing a single 1040EZ form or if you own a business. Prices range from free on up, depending on which version of the software you need.

In the prices listed that are most expensive, we’ve also included the cost of filing a state return. So if you do not need to file a state return, it will be less expensive.

H&R BlockIntuit TurboTaxTaxActCredit KarmaTaxSlayerJackson Hewitt
Price RangeFree –

$92

Free –

$130

Free –

$70

FreeFree –

$57

Free –

$92

Imports

Competitors’

Previous-Year

Returns

YesYesYesNoYesYes
All Major IRS

Forms

and Schedules

YesYesYesYesYesYes
Guidance for

Complex

Interview Topics

YesYesYesYesYesYes
Comprehensive

Navigational Outline

YesNoYesNoNoNo
Life Events

Guidance

YesYesYesNoYesNo
Chat HelpYesNoNoNoYesYes
Phone Support

for

Tax Topics

NoYesYesNoYesYes
Hyperlinked

Help

in Interview

YesYesYesYesYesYes
Context Sensitive

Help

YesYesYesYesYesYes
Searchable Help

Database

YesYesYesNoYesYes

More tips you can’t miss:

3 scary tax scams that are spreading like wildfire

How to save money on everything you buy online

7 websites that will save you a ton of money

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