The best tax software to file online in 2020
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nope, you can buy and download TurboTax software for offline use, including for previous tax years.
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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.
People who want to save money on software, don’t care about live online support, or have a simpler tax situation.
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.
Nope, you can buy and download H&R Block software, including old editions dating back to 2011. (Learn more about filing back taxes.)
Yes! There are 12,000 offices around the world.
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.
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.
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.
Nope, you can buy and download the software for this tax year and last year.
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.
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).
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.
Yes, TaxSlayer is an online-only service. Besides a mobile app, there is no downloadable software.
If you like free stuff. Who doesn’t? But also if you don’t need much guidance or have a simple tax situation.
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.
Nearly everyone can file a federal return and one state return for free. One notable exception is residents of Montana.
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.
Yes, there is no downloadable software.
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.
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.
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.
There’s no downloadable software available, but you can visit a Jackson Hewitt Office for in-person help.
Yes, 6,000 offices, half of which can be found in Walmarts across the country.
About the author
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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