The Best Tax Software of 2020

The best tax software to file online in 2020

Tim Torres

Tim Torres

Published April 27, 2020

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Every program includes a free version, but these usually have limitations, such as filing for only simple tax returns.

  • Some software, like TurboTax and TaxAct, have hidden fees that you could get hit with. Pay close attention to pricing.

  • Depending on the version you use, extra assistance from a tax professional can cost extra.

  • Other programs, like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, have physical office locations where you can get in-person tax assitance.

Tax Day was delayed to July 15, so you now have until July 15 to file your federal income tax return. To help you file, we’ve rounded up the best tax software of 2020.

Wait. You don’t still file with paper, do you? We strongly recommend you e-file your taxes. E-filing is faster, more secure, and you will get your refund much faster. (Plus, you can get it done from the comfort of your couch.)

The best tax software options offer a free account, so you won’t have to pay a cent until you send in your return. Even then, you might not have to pay anything! But, if you do want to pay for a more robust tax software, either because you’re a business owner or have a more complex tax situation, we’ve got suggestions for you.

For more advice on filing your taxes, check out our 2020 guide to income taxes.

Best for complex filers: TurboTax

Who’s it for

If you have a complicated tax situation, such as a divorce or if you’re a landlord controlling multiple properties, TurboTax is your best bet. It also integrates with QuickBooks for business owners and self-employed workers to track expenses. The option for live personal assistance from a tax pro can help with particularly tricky returns, too.

Who’s it not for

It’s one of the most expensive services on this list for most people, so you can get similar features elsewhere at a lower cost. If your tax situation is simple (especially if your only tax form is a W-2) then there are free programs you can use.

How much does it cost?

  • $60 to $120, depending on the version, plus $50 for each state return.
  • Taxpayers with investment income or self-employment income will have to pay for the most expensive options, the Premier and Self-Employed Editions.
  • TurboTax Live, which includes one-on-one help from a tax professional, costs $80 to $200.
  • There is a limited free version if you only need to file a Form 1040 and have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $39,000 or less. You may end up paying even more, though.
  • TurboTax customers who deduct the filing cost from their refund can get hit with a $39.99 Refund Processing Fee.

What are the main features?

TurboTax uses an intuitive interview-style filing process that makes claiming deductions nice and easy. TurboTax was also one of the first to offer live assistance, TurboTax Live, a one-on-one live service with tax professionals, and it’s still one of its best features. It costs extra though.

If you don’t want to talk to someone, there are many tips and videos available both within the software and on the TurboTax site.

You can upload your W-2 and 1099 forms by taking a photo with your smartphone. Many human resources services also allow you to easily upload tax documents from your employer into your TurboTax account.

A mobile app, ItsDeductible, can track your donations to help you claim any charitable deductions you qualify for. To help track state and federal refunds, TurboTax has its own Where’s My Refund page at Intuit’s site.

An audit assist center with one-on-one guidance, as well as an optional Audit Defense add-on service that costs extra. As for your refund options, you can use direct deposit or receive a check or prepaid Visa debit card in the mail.

Is it online only

Nope, you can buy and download TurboTax software for offline use, including for previous tax years.

Are there office locations?

No.


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Best all-around service: H&R Block

Who’s it for

People who want to save a little bit of money but still use what TurboTax has to offer. Like TurboTax, H&R Block is a solid choice for more complex tax situations, like owning rental properties, dealing with a divorce, or deducting business expenses. They both have similar “live tax expert” options, so it really comes down to how much you want to pay for tax-filing software and service.

Who’s it not for

People who want to save money on software, don’t care about live online support, or have a simpler tax situation.

How much does it cost?

  • The Deluxe, Premium, and Self-Employed editions cost between $49.99 and $104.99, plus $44.99 for each state tax return.
  • There’s a free edition you can use if you’re aged 17 to 51 with an AGI of $69,000 or less, an active military member, or if you qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC).
  • Basic, Deluxe, Premium, and Self-Employed users can get unlimited tax expert support via Online Assist, which costs extra.
  • Anyone with simple filing situations can use H&R Block Free Online or MyFreeTaxes.

What are the main features?

Similar to TurboTax, you can complete your tax filing with step-by-step guidance, with document import via photo upload.

Also like TurboTax, you can get online help from tax experts. For an extra cost, H&R Block filers can get live phone, chat, and screen-sharing support for all software editions, anda tax professional can review returns before filing.

If you don’t need live assistance, there are multiple help menus and links to educational articles within the software and on H&R Block’s site. There’s also integration with a suite of apps and services such as Adobe Reader and Stride Tax, which can help filers track deductible expenses and get mileage reimbursement.

For tracking your refund, you can view your file status on H&R Block’s site or use the IRS’s Where’s My Refund tool.

H&R Block filers can receive their tax refund via check, direct deposit, or a prepaid MasterCard.

For audit assistance, H&R Block offers multiple options, including Worry-Free Audit Support, which you can buy ahead of time, and a Peace of Mind service plan that provides representation in the event of an audit.

Is it online only?

Nope, you can buy and download H&R Block software, including old editions dating back to 2011. (Learn more about filing back taxes.)

Do they have office locations?

Yes! There are 12,000 offices around the world.



Most affordable online support: TaxAct

Who’s it for

Filers who are eligible for the free version, people who want less expensive unlimited access to online assistance, and shoppers who want to pay slightly less for a service than TurboTax and H&R Block that still provides all the necessary tools and options to complete your taxes. For a good middle-of-the-road option, you can’t go wrong with TaxAct.

Who’s it not for

Filers who want all the extra in-person assistance and complex layers a tax program can offer. In that case, you’re better off with TurboTax or H&R Block, both of which cost about the same as TaxAct anyway. If you really want to save more money on e-filing, consider one of the next few services.

How much does it cost?

  • There’s a free version that includes state filing for people aged 56 and younger with an adjusted gross income of $59,000 or less, people who are eligible for the EITC, and active military members with an AGI of $69,000 or less.
  • Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed versions that run from $54.95 to $109.95, plus $54.95 per state return.
  • Unlimited online and phone tax expert assistance is free for Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed users.
  • Pricing appears to be upfront with TaxAct, but some customers have reported hidden charges.

What are the main features?

TaxAct has the usual suite of features, including W-2 and other important document uploads via photo, and integration with some companies’ human resources services. TaxAct also has a mobile app.

But whereas TurboTax and H&R Block charge extra for their live tax expert help, TaxAct offers unlimited phone service, email support, and screen-sharing services at no extra charge for users of the Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed editions.

If you don’t need expert advice, there are checklists, blog articles, tax calculators, and other tools and references available on the TaxAct site.

For audit assistance, TaxAct offers the option to enroll in Protection Plus, a third-party service that helps filers out when the IRS comes a-knockin’.

TaxAct lets you track your e-filing status on its site, but otherwise directs you to the IRS Where’s My Refund site if you want to see your refund progress. For refunds, you can get a check or direct deposit.

Is it online only?

Nope, you can buy and download the software for this tax year and last year.

Do they have office locations?

No.

Most affordable option: TaxSlayer

Who’s it for

Filers who have a simple return and want to file for free or save money. You may have to do more research on your own to understand certain tax deductions and credits, but this is a solid no-frills tax program for taxpayers on a budget.

Who’s it not for

Filers with more complex tax situations or want more high-tech options like uploading photos, live support, or downloadable software (although there is a mobile app).

How much does it cost?

  • There’s a free version that includes state filing.
  • Classic, Premium, and Self-Employed editions that will run you $17 to $47, plus $39 for each state return.
  • Filers aged 51 and younger with an AGI of $69,000 or less, as well as active duty military members, can file for free.

What are the main features?

TaxSlayer is a little more low-tech than the previous filing services. You can only import your W-2 by uploading a PDF. However, there is a mobile app you can download to estimate your refund and file your return, and a third-party integration with the Hurdlr app, which can help freelancers track self-employment and business expenses

For educational content, there’s a blog and a searchable database with articles and videos available, but not much else. And for tax help from a professional, you need to upgrade to the Premium or Self-Employed packages.

TaxSlayer also includes audit assistance in their Premium products, but not if you file a Schedule C for business and self-employment income, Schedule K-1 for estate and trust income, or Form 2555 for foreign income. It’s only audit assistance, too, so they will not represent you in front of the IRS.

Refunds come in the form of a check, direct deposit, or Visa prepaid debit card.

Is it online only?

Yes, TaxSlayer is an online-only service. Besides a mobile app, there is no downloadable software.

Do they have office locations?

No.



Best for free filing: Credit Karma Tax

Who’s it for

If you like free stuff. Who doesn’t? But also if you don’t need much guidance or have a simple tax situation.

Who’s it not for

If you want more support and guidance while filing, if you’re a small business, or if your tax situation is complex. Credit Karma Tax doesn’t support filing multiple state returns, filing a state return as a part-year resident, or state returns if you’re married filing separately in a community property state.

You also can’t report foreign income or income on Schedule K-1, which may qualify you for the QBI deduction.

Credit Karma Tax also doesn’t support small business forms or businesses that file as an S corporation, C corporation, partnership, or multi-member LLC.

How much does it cost?

Nearly everyone can file a federal return and one state return for free. One notable exception is residents of Montana.

What are the main features?

Credit Karma launched its tax-filing software in 2016, so it doesn’t offer common features like educational content or access to tax professionals and support for certain forms.

Otherwise, you can import your W-2 easily via photo upload or document files, or through your company’s human resources service if they use ADP or Equifax. You will need to manually input information from certain tax forms, like a 1099-B, which you’ll likely receive if you need to pay capital gains tax.

If you need audit assistance, you can get Protection Plus, similar to TaxAct.

To track a refund, Credit Karma directs you to the IRS website. You can only receive your refund as a check or direct deposit.

Is it online only?

Yes, there is no downloadable software.

Do they have office locations?

No.



Best for in-person assistance: Jackson Hewitt

Who’s it for

If you know what you’re doing tax-wise, if you want to save money on e-filing software, or if you want to file in-person without hiring a CPA or tax preparer.

Who’s it not for

Most people will need to pay for the Deluxe version (which costs $49.95 plus $44.95 for your state return). You cannot file for free if you want to deduct student loan interest, if you’re claiming the child tax credit (which most parents qualify for), or if you want to itemize your deductions. You also can’t use the free version if you have any dependents.

How much does it cost?

  • There’s a free option that includes free state filing.
  • A $49.95 Deluxe edition, and a $69.95 Premier edition. Each state tax return will cost $44.95.
  • You can file for free if you have an AGI of $100,000, don’t have kids, and only have income from a W-2 form.

What are the main features?

Jackson Hewitt can be found in Walmarts all around the country, so it’s easy to get in-person assistance. You can also use the online browser app in conjunction with a mobile device to do things like import your W-2 through photo upload.

For help as you file, there are online tax articles, calculators, and tools on the Jackson Hewitt website. Live online chat support is available for tech support, but you will need to visit an office for help with tax questions.

Tax refund options include check, direct deposit, or a prepaid American Express Serve Card. You can track your refund through Jackson Hewitt’s free mobile app. There are a few refund advance options, too, if you file early in the tax season.

If you’re interested in extra protection from an audit, that’s available to taxpayers who file through an office.

Is it online only?

There’s no downloadable software available, but you can visit a Jackson Hewitt Office for in-person help.

Do they have office locations?

Yes, 6,000 offices, half of which can be found in Walmarts across the country.

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About the author

Reviews Expert

Tim Torres

Reviews Expert

Tim Torres is the reviews editor at Policygenius. His work has appeared in Computer Shopper, Tom's Guide, and numerous other outlets over the last ten years.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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