It’s about that time again - tax time.
And, unless you’re an accountant, you’re probably not looking forward to the process of filing your taxes.
However, it must be done!
As Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote in a letter to a friend “... in this world nothing can be said to certain, except death and taxes.”
While a bit dark, Ben was right: everyone has to pay taxes.
Avoiding them will land you in jail for tax evasion.
So, with that said, it’s time to review the 6 best tax software filing services for the upcoming tax year.
Summary of Best Tax Softwares in 2021
as low as $59.99
Best for ease of use
at TurboTax website
as low as $49.99
Best in-person support
at H&R Block website
as low as $14.95
Best budget friendly
at TaxAct website
as low as $24
Best for side hustlers
at TaxSlayer website
as low as $29.99
Best for complex situations
at Jackson Hewitt website
as low as $29.95
Best refund guarantee
at eSmart Tax website
The best of the best makes filing your taxes relatively painless, and in some cases, almost enjoyable due to their ease of use.
Below we will cover the best option overall, for support, for side hustles, and more.
If you’re going to be filing your own taxes, you’re going to want it to be easy. And for that, there is no one better than Turbo Tax.
Turbo Tax makes the process of self-filing your taxes each year easier than any other online software in the industry. They are not the cheapest, but their features are second to none.
Favorite features of TurboTax include the ability to take pictures of your W-2s and 1099 forms rather than having to type everything in by hand, an extensive list of employer tax IDs that make it super simple to import your wage information automatically, and their “Expense Finder” if you’re self-employed and must file a Schedule C.
TurboTax is especially useful for people who use Quickbooks.
TurboTax and Quickbooks are both owned by Intuit, and they’ve made sure the tax software and business accounting software speak to each other with ease.
This makes filing your taxes as a small business owner or self-employed worker super simple if you’re already using Quickbooks for your business.
On top of an easy-to-use interface, TurboTax offers a chat function, allowing you to speak to a tax professional.
Additionally, TurboTax offers a new TurboTax Live feature which, for between $70-$100, you can have a one-on-one tax review with a CPA as well as unlimited live tax advice.
This upgraded option also provides on-demand access to a tax professional year-round for any tax questions you may have.
H&R Block is TurboTax’s primary rival, and in many cases, it’s a toss-up between the two for best overall tax software.
In fact, H&R Block tends to be slightly less expensive than TurboTax for similar features.
So why isn’t the best overall? It really comes down to preference and opinion.
TurboTax tends to receive more positive reviews and consumers rave about the ease of use.
But H&R Block is not far behind, and you will find yourself happy with either product.
But there is one area where H&R Block has a leg up on its main competitor: in-person support.
H&R Block deploys an enormous amount of tax preparers during tax season, operating around 12,000 offices across the country.
The help here is not free, but appointments start at $59, which is a fraction of the price you would pay at other brick-and-mortar tax shops.
TaxAct is in a tier just under TurboTax and H&R Block, but it excels in one area in particular: it is one of the cheapest self-filing options.
TaxAct underwent a visual revamp in 2019 that modernized the customer experience without removing any of the necessary features.
While it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as TurboTax or H&R Block, it’s still equipped to handle returns that include self-employment and investment income.
Additionally, it has many of the other features you’d expect from a tax filing software, including a feature called Life Events which reviews any potential changes in your tax situation from year to year.
This feature allows you to benefit from any changes that may enable more tax savings, equating to a larger refund.
Overall, TaxAct is the most budget-friendly tax filing software on the market that still includes industry-leading features and an intuitive user interface.
It may not offer as many of the high-end bells and whistles or in-person support as others, but if the cost is your primary concern, TaxAct is for you.
TaxSlayer is another great option for simple and complex-situation tax filers alike.
They offer free federal and state filing for people with W-2 incomes, however, if you want to take advantage of certain deductions like the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit, you’ll have to upgrade to the paid, Classic version of their software.
But where TaxSlayer really shines is in its preparation fees for self-employed side hustlers who earn most of their income as 1099 contractors as part of the gig economy.
The cost of filing these income forms (Schedule C) is about 50% less than what you’d pay on H&R block.
Of note, TaxSlayer is consistently recognized for its support for military members, offering them free federal and state filing options, regardless of forms or tax situation.
Jackson Hewitt is one of the largest assisted tax preparation services in the United States.
It has around 6,000 locations across the country, giving taxpayers the ability to file returns in person, with the assistance of a tax professional.
While they have been around since 1982, their presence online has continued to grow over the years thanks to the reputation of their tax wizard, or, in other words, their automated tax system that asks you questions and helps you determine how best to file your taxes and take advantage of certain credits and deductions.
For a little bit less than TurboTax or H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt offers a very efficient tax wizard that covers just about every conceivable tax situation for personal filers.
Because their automated software excels at complex tax situations, Jackson Hewitt can be looked at as a low-cost leader for personal filers who have multiple income streams, multiple assets, or are dealing with otherwise complex tax situations.
eSmart Tax is Liberty Tax’s answer to the growing dominance of online tax filing systems like TurboTax and H&R Block.
While relatively new to the online filing space, Liberty Tax has been helping people file their taxes in person at their 3,000+ locations across the US and Canada since 1997.
eSmart Tax - their online filing service - has yet to do much to differentiate itself or stand out from the crowd of other online tax filing services.
Given how competitive this industry has become and the continued improvements that industry leaders are making, this is not surprising.
That said, there is one area where they can claim an industry advantage, and that is through their Biggest Refund Guarantee.
They guarantee that their eSmart Tax filing services will maximize the credits and deductions that you qualify for, enabling you to receive the largest refund.
If not, they will match the refund that the other tax filing service found.
Which tax software Is Right For You?
Death and taxes - amirite?
Whether you’re a small business owner, freelancer, 1099 contractor, W-2 employee, or have any kind of more complex tax situation, there is a tax filing service for you.
In the list above we outlined the two best overall for practically any situation and for their easy-to-use filing software (TurboTax and H&R Block).
We reviewed which one is the best value for side hustlers (TaxSlayer) and which one is the most budget-friendly (TaxAct).
And looked at which software out there provides the most bang for your buck with complex tax situations (Jackson Hewitt) and for the biggest guaranteed refund (eSmart Tax).
As you prepare for the 2020 tax season, take a look into each of these companies and see which one is right for you.
H&R Block is one of the leaders when it comes to online tax softwares. They offer an ease to use interface, along with a free version that allows you to file for free.
Jacob holds a bachelors degree in finance and has spent his professional career crunching numbers and mastering spreadsheets in the corporate world. He moonlights as a fantasy football commissioner, back-yard bbq amateur, and freelance writer/money blogger.