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What’s the Best Online Tax Software Company?


Tax time is here and so are your W-2s since most employers sent them out to arrive by the end of January. In fact, business taxes are due in many states in mid-March! So, it’s time to get started and get rolling, especially if you are due a refund check.

But, when tax season comes around each year there are those who always go with a name they know, those who go straight to an accountant and those who are willing to shop around. We will point out some strengths and weaknesses of each tax product company and also share our choices for the best of the best to help you decide which service best suits your needs.

What Features Should Be Offered By Most Tax Software?

Not all tax product offerings are the same, but there are some features that you should always look out for when it comes to picking the right tax product for you. Below we will cover some of the features that every worthwhile tax software should offer.

Direct Deposit Refund

Direct deposit may not seem like such a big deal, but it is a much faster way of receiving a tax refund and most tax companies these days prefer it (some even offer discounts for using it). Direct deposit may not be a must-have feature on your list but if you are looking for a reputable tax company to go with, the chances are that they offer it as an option.

Electronic Filing

In the age of technology, utilizing electronic filing is the same as utilizing direct deposit refund services. Most big tax service providers offer the opportunity to electronically file your taxes.

Error Checks

Error checks are an important part of tax filing for any software user. To file your taxes is one thing, but to file taxes and catch any potential errors or mistakes is another. Often we spend so much time working on our taxes that we can neglect to notice even the most obvious mistakes so it is important to have a second line of defense to minimize the risk of an IRS audit. Most reputable tax products these days offer error check services.

Federal Returns

There should be no question that a tax service provides the opportunity to file federal returns.

Pay Only When You File

Where filing taxes used to mean purchasing software before filing taxes, now tax products can often be downloaded online and taxes can be e-filed as well. This often means not having to pay until your taxes are filed. The ability to complete your taxes using a service before paying for it shows that the company has confidence enough in their product to let you try it out before paying their fee and provides you hands-on evidence as to why you should have confidence in it as well.

State Returns

Not all filing software provides the opportunity to file state returns in addition to federal returns but these days so many do offer this feature there really is no excuse for not offering it. A state return feature makes filing your taxes a much easier and more streamlined process and allows you to get everything taken care of in a single session with less hassle.

Tax Return Status Check

Filing taxes is a stressful process and it can be particularly frustrating not knowing the status of your tax return. These days most reputable tax software provide the opportunity to check the status of your tax return online, this makes the whole tax filing process much easier by giving you a peace of mind. It also allows you to better budget when any refund monies will be coming into your bank account.

TurboTax Review

#1TurboTax Logo

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Saving lots of money on taxes is worth the few dollars more Authorized TurboTax Affiliatespent today on this software vs. the competition. TurboTax is our #1 pick, with up to five e-filings per purchase you can file taxes for the whole family. Plus 1040EZ filings are free. The program seamlessly integrates with your specific state’s tax filing systems. Top that with great customer support, a professional audit and tax consultant service and you’ll find TurboTax is hard to beat. This is why they are our choice for best tax company.



  • Get Your Maximum Refund, Guaranteed.
  • The benefit of the Best-Selling tax software company.
  • Box or downloadable software available.
  • Five e-files available with purchase of the software.
  • Free federal e-filing for 1040EZ.
  • State filing is available in addition to national filing.
  • Offers Affordable Health Care Act assistance for calculating tax credits/penalties.
  • Offers professional audit defense and professional tax consultant services.
  • Mobile version available.
  • Provides customer help and support via telephone, email, live chat, tutorials, user forums and FAQ sections.
  • Expensive.
  • No in-person tax-filing location associated with TaxTurbo.

TurboTax Refund Bonus Program

Again this year, TurboTax offers federal tax e-filers the option of using $100 increments of their federal refund to purchase an Amazon gift card, and filers will receive up to 10% more on the gift card. Users of the Free Federal Edition are not eligible for this bonus program.

  • 5% extra on the gift card for users of Basic software or CD, Deluxe online, Premier online, or Home and Business online.
  • 10% extra on the gift card for those who purchase software or CD of the Deluxe, Premier, or Home and Business Editions.

Read our full review of TurboTax.

H&R Block Tax Review

#2H&R Block Logo

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Don’t let the big brand name scare you off, this is a solid tax program and is our number two choice with a price tag that is hard to beat. H&R Block tax software supports all entities looking to file taxes but they also offer top of the line support services with the exception of user forums. The only thing this software lacks is the cost of filing state returns. Otherwise the features are similar to TurboTax and come at a lower price.



  • Affordable federal return filing fee for such a big name software.
  • Free federal e-filing of the 1040EZ.
  • Allows for five e-files when the software is purchased directly.
  • Offers professional audit defense and a professional tax consultant service.
  • Offers Affordable Health Care Act assistance for calculating tax credits/penalties.
  • Provides support via telephone, email, live chat and offers tutorials and FAQs for users.
  • Worry free audit support.
  • Unlimited advice from a tax expert.
  • Free online filing.
  • Mobile version available.
  • The cost of filing state returns.

H & R Block Refund Bonus Program

This season H & R Block has a similar bonus program to TurboTax’s offer, but H & R Block offers a wide variety of gift card options. When you’re ready to e-file you choose any $100 increment of your federal return toward the purchase of e-gift cards from a number of retailers, including Target, Best Buy and more than 40 retail stores, restaurants and services.

  • Using Federal Free Edition or Basic, you can get an extra 5% on each gift card.
  • Using Deluxe, Premium, or Premium & Business, you can get an additional 10% on each gift card.

Read our full review of H&R Block.

TaxACT Review

#3TaxACT Logo

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This is another popular program that you can buy at a competitive price. If you are not looking for live chat or help forums, this program has a lot to offer at a good price. New this season is comprehensive assistance to help you calculate your tax credit and penalty amounts due to the Affordable Care Act. TaxACT falls just above the middle of the road due to its extreme affordability and the ability to file taxes no matter what entity you are filing as, making it our #2 pick. TaxACT may fall short in customer help and support with a lack of help forums and live chat but in all other aspects we considered, it offers a lot for the price.



  • Affordable tax and state filing fees.
  • Free federal e-filing for 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ.
  • Five e-files with purchase of the software.
  • Free Health Care Act assistance.
  • Offers professional tax products for CPAs, accountants and other professionals.
  • Mobile version available.
  • Ensures 100% accuracy.
  • Additional fee for phone support if using Free Federal Edition.
  • No live chat or user forum feature.

Tax Software Comparison Table

Tax Software Comparison TableAs a result of the large size of our tax product comparison table, we are placing it on a separate page so you can reference it more easily. Please visit our tax software comparison table (or click on the image on the left) for feature details of the tax products that we review in this article. We will do our best to continue to add to this table as we find additional companies, and update the current software listed as they add new features.

You’ll find a list of terminologies at the bottom of the comparison table, as well as at the bottom of this article.

What Are My Options When it Comes to Tax Software Services?

In order to help you to narrow down which tax company may be best for you this year, we have put together a tax service comparison table that highlights the main features of each of the tax company’s offerings along with their pros and cons.

If you’d like to jump straight down to the reviews, you can choose from the following tax preparation providers:

CitizenTax | eSmart Tax | ExpressTaxRefund | FreeTaxUSA | TaxSlayer | TaxBrain |

CitizenTax Review

CitizenTax is no longer a tax solution as of January 2015.

eSmart Tax Review

Visit WebsiteeSmart logo

eSmart Tax offers free basic Federal filing and for-purchase Basic, Deluxe and Premium editions that are affordable compared to similar competitor offerings, particularly with the features they offer. Although all filing options are online (no downloadable software), users should take a serious look at eSmart. They have exceptional customer service options compared to most of their peers (including the option of in-person support at any Liberty Tax location). And their website, clearly upgraded from previous years, offers easy-to-use navigation and guidance, and a number of helpful tax filing resources that are easy to find and understand. While eSmart doesn’t provide for larger business filings, mid-level users may want to consider eSmart Tax compared to other similar options.



  • Free live chat and email support.
  • In-person support at Liberty Tax physical locations nationwide.
  • The ability to import last year’s return from most major competitors’ tax services.
  • Assistance with Affordable Care Act forms and filing.
  • 100% guarantee for biggest return, accuracy and customer satisfaction.
  • Free W-2 download.
  • No phone assistance.
  • No larger business filing options.
  • Enhanced audit assistance and safe-keeping your prior returns are an additional fee.
  • No downloadable software available.

Read our full review of eSmart Tax.

ExpressTaxRefund Review

Visit WebsiteExpressTaxRefund logo

Of all of the tax products compared in this article, ExpressTaxRefund offers the least amount of services for one of the highest fees. ExpressTaxRefund is not the service for you if you are a big business, a rental property owner, or looking for consultation from a tax professional before filing your taxes.



  • Offers telephone, email and FAQs as a means of support for users.
  • Expensive price for the lack of features provided.
  • Additional fee for itemized versus standardized deduction.
  • Does not provide free federal e-filing for 1040EZ.
  • Cannot be used for those with rental property or large businesses.
  • Additional fees for e-filing, business owners, various tax credit forms, self-employment and a whopping $32.95 fee for bank refund processing.
  • Does not provide professional audit defense services or a professional tax consultant.

FreeTaxUSA Review

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FreeTaxUSA stands out due to their 100% free Federal tax filing. This service also provides an automatic refund calculator. Check out the pros and cons below and decide how this free tax provider compares with the paid alternatives. Use coupon code FREETAXUSA10 to receive 10% off!



  • Best price we could find for federal and state filing fees.
  • Easy to use.
  • Automatic refund calculator.
  • Support for part-year nonresident state tax returns.
  • A professional tax consultant is not available.
  • Deluxe edition costs an additional $5.95 for Audit Assist and Priority Support.

TaxSlayer Review

Visit WebsiteTaxslayer logo

TaxSlayer may have the prices that you are looking for when it comes to filing your taxes but there are a few areas where this service falls short. Some of the major features that lack in this service includes customer support. If you aren’t looking for a wealth of customer support options and if you aren’t concerned with audit defense, TaxSlayer could be a good option for you…unless you are a big business.



  • Very affordable federal and state filing fees.
  • Free federal e-filing for the 1040EZ.
  • Free professional audit defense.
  • Mobile version available.
  • Free Military Edition for federal and state filing
  • Cannot be used for big business returns.
  • Does not offer the services of a professional tax consultant.

TaxBrain Review

Visit WebsiteTaxbrain logo

TaxBrain is one of only two services we reviewed in this article that doesn’t offer free federal filing for the 1040EZ, and its various editions can get expensive depending on your filing needs. But if you’re looking for a lot of customer support options and an easy initial questionnaire to help you determine which forms you need to file, that’s where TaxBrain’s strengths lie. Unlike many of the other services, TaxBrain offers the option of email, telephone and live chat support. And as a company backed by Liberty Tax, you get the security of having an online tax product associated with a large, respected national company. Use coupon code MRFOTB to receive $10 off through 2/28/2015.



  • Good customer support options.
  • Assistance with Affordable Care Act tax implications.
  • Ensures 100% accuracy.
  • Offers 20 percent discount for military personnel.
  • Does not offer free federal e-filing for 1040EZ.
  • Can’t be used for big business returns.
  • Does not offer the services of a professional tax consultant.
  • Charges a $14.95 fee for Audit Assistance.


When looking through the table above it can be a little frustrating to have to look up what certain terms mean. Below we have outlined what these terms mean so that you can use them as a key when looking through our tax software comparison

  • 1040 & Itemized Returns: For those who have 1040 forms to file or who are using itemized returns this year.
  • 1040EZ & Simple Returns: For those who have 1040EZ forms to file or who have simple tax returns this year.
  • Audit Defense: A service provided by a tax company that provides assistance to you in the case that you are audited by the IRS after using their product for the year’s tax return.
  • Big Business: Software for a corporation or LLC.
  • Direct Deposit Refund: Option to receive your tax refund directly into your bank account through a direct deposit.
  • Electronic Filing: Allows you to file your tax return online through electronic transmission. This is generally an instant process but may require the faxing or mailing of a signature form.
  • Email Assistance: The Software offers direct assistance for users via email contact.
  • Error Checks or Alerts: Provides error checks and/or prompts you with alerts to let you know that there is something in your tax return that does not “add up” or that may flag you for an audit with the IRS.
  • Federal Filing and Program Use Cost: Cost for filing your federal tax return using this product.
  • Final Tax Review: Provides a final review of your tax filing to check for issues before transmitting your return.
  • Free 1040EZ Federal Filing: Gives you the option to free file if you are filing a 1040EZ.
  • Help Forums: Offers help forums where users can ask for help in regards to using the software, as well as general tax related questions and issues.
  • Investment or Rental Property: Provides the ability to claim investment or rental property income or loss.
  • IRS Acknowledgment in 48 Hours: Lets you know within 48 hours that your return has been accepted or rejected by the IRS.
  • IRS Publication Library: Provides access to the IRS publication library which includes helpful tax publications that have been written in plain language format by the IRS to help taxpayers like you have a better understanding of specific tax concerns.
  • Live Chat: Offers a live chat service to instantly get answers to your questions. Some software companies charge an additional fee for this service.
  • National Average Comparisons: Provides comparisons to help you compare your overall tax year to others in the nation.
  • Pay Only When You File: Software does not charge you until you are ready to final file your tax documents.
  • Refund Meter: A visual meter to keep track of your refund or amount owed for the tax year as you go through the tax preparation process.
  • Self Employed and Sole Proprietor: Can be used if you are self employed or a sole proprietor.
  • Small Business: Can be used to file a tax return for a small business.
  • State Filing Cost: The cost of filing a state tax return with this software. The amount for state filing will vary by state for most software.
  • State Returns: Gives you the ability to file your state tax returns.
  • Tax Consultant Availability: Has a real, live tax consultant on hand to go over your return with you before you file. This option is generally an additional fee.
  • Tax Data Importation Feature: Allows you to import tax data from a previous year in to the software.
  • Tax Return Status Check: Provides the opportunity to check the status of your tax return after it has been e-filed to find out when you might get any refund back that is due to you.
  • Telephone Assistance: Provides the opportunity to receive help from a real, live tax professional over the phone. Sometimes this is an additional fee.
  • Tutorials: Provides tutorials to help ensure that you know how to use the software and all of its components correctly.

Deciding Which Tax Software is Right For You

The key to finding the right service for you is identifying the one that suits your biggest needs and you are comfortable using.

  1. One of the first things to look at is whether or not you understand the interface that the service uses. Many software options now offer tutorials and walk through’s to ensure that you do not face any difficulty in using their service.
  2. Once you find a software you are comfortable with using, you will need to ensure that they allow for filing as your specific entity. There is no use being proficient at a software if you are filing as a big business and the software does not allow for big business filing!
  3. The next thing you will need to consider is the cost of the software you are looking at. There are a wide variety of options to select from and you should be able to find one that suits your budget.

After these minimal requirements have been met, choosing the right software for you is just a matter of which features you are looking for when filing your annual tax return!

Which tax software do you use and why?

Our site's mission is to help consumers make more informed purchase decisions. This website accepts financial compensation from some of the companies mentioned which allows us to provide this free service to our readers. Compensation does not influence the rankings of products. More info on our disclosure page.

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About Jeff Butler
Whether it is setting up a home entertainment system controlled by a PC or geeking out on one of his many iDevice's, Jeff loves all things tech. He does not leave home without his iPad or his golf clubs. You never know when a good day might turn into a great one with the help of one (or both) of these trusty tools.
  • Naomi Black

    You should check out FreeTax. You can file Federal and State Returns for free.

    • http://www.asecurelife.com/ Kimberly Kurimski

      That sounds too good to be true! Have you used FreeTax before Naomi?

  • Cave Bear

    I don’t know who is best – I know I did 4 different programs (TT, TA, HR and TaxSlayer) and while they were all very close on Federal, the State numbers were all over the block. They all said I owe state, but they ranged from $138 to $802. That’s too much of a difference for me to trust. Return was dropped off at the CPA this afternoon!

  • Grandpop8

    A big question for me is can I import all my investment 1099s. I looked for options to Turbo Tax this year because of the bait and switch which would push me to premium for what used to work in deluxe and I’ve never liked the way it works — too slow to wade through all the screens.

    Tried Tax Act online — kept having to log back in and wait for processing.

    Tried Tax Act download and found it worked great and looked simple but it does not offer imports from the largest mutual fund companies and brokerages.

    Tried H&R but couldn’t find import options and got left on hold for half an hour when I tried to ask.

    Expect I’m stuck with Turbo Tax. It’s deductible is a joke to me. Someday the IRS should challenge its ridiculous valuations.

  • Confused Tax Novice

    You said that H&R Tax Cut 2013 lacks forum support and no professional audit defense or professional tax consulting. However, the software that I have in hand says just the opposite. Perhaps you are getting your information from the TurboTax web site which states this information. HR Block’s web site says they offer this right on their home page.

    • Kimberly

      Sorry for the confusion. When we updated our article we missed updating our 2nd place paragraph where these items you listed were written out. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. You will now see the correct information in the 2nd place paragraph along with the H&R Block section. Please let us know if there is anything you have questions about and thank you again for bringing this to our attention.


  • Michelle

    Save 10% off on eSmart tax returns when you click on this link and use the coupon code ESTOFFER10 during checkout before Tax Day, April 15th, 2013.

  • Guest

    I began working at the age of 16, which means I’ve had more than enough time to try out a few tax preparation services. When I was 16, it was easy to file my own taxes. As I got older, and my taxes became more complicated, it was necessary to use a tax preparation company. I think the first company I ever used was Tax Slayer. While the service was great for your basic needs, I found that it wasn’t a good option when I became self-employed.

    When I started my career in freelance writing, I turned to H&R Block. At first, everything seemed great and their service met my needs. Unfortunately, as my taxes became more complicated, the prices got higher and higher. Soon, I was looking at paying over $100 to prepare my taxes. This was something I simply could not afford. As a college student and part-time writer, these prices put a strain on my bank account and sent me in search of yet another company.

    I then began using the company, TaxAct. The price was perfect and the site was easy to use. In fact, I would still be using TaxAct if it hadn’t been for the latest tax form, the 1099-K. I found it impossible to figure out how to enter this information without it looking like I was making twice as much as I really was. This led me to TurboTax.

    TurboTax is an excellent service that has a middle of the road price range, but makes it easy to file your taxes, even with the dreaded 1099-K. Sure, I hate paying more than I was paying with TaxAct, but it’s worth it to make sure I’m doing my taxes correctly.

    I can’t necessarily recommend one tax preparation service over another. It all depends on your needs and how complicated your taxes are, but it really does pay to shop around.

  • guest

    When you go to file your taxes, the type of software you use shouldn’t be the only thing you consider. I know so many people that go pay to have their taxes done when they could just do them at home using this kind of software. I’m always trying to show them how to file their taxes from home to save money and time. It’s not even like you actually have to do the math any more. Now you just fill in the text boxes, and you can ask questions along the way if need be.

    I personally use Turbotax, but I have used Taxcut and Taxslayer

    The programs can be used for free, but they might charge you to actually file the taxes. If you make enough money, that’s usually not a big deal. However, if you are in the lower income bracket, you might want to take advantage of the free filing service you can get if you go to the program through the IRS website or your state treasurer’s website and use their free file links. They take you to some of these programs, but allow you to file for free. Also, don’t forget to pay the fee and register if you are going to be filing taxes for anyone aside from yourself.

  • guest

    I am strange enough to actually get a sick satisfaction out of doing taxes. It’s like spring cleaning. You wait all year to do it and once you’re done, there is this feeling of accomplishing something.

    I generally use Turbotax, but I also used another tax program this year for my state taxes. If you want to use the free efile option, keep that in mind when choosing your tax program. You might want to do your federal taxes with the more advanced tax software, then use a less advanced one for your state taxes, simply because the state taxes…well they just aren’t as “taxing”. (LOL I crack myself up!)

    Here’s the thing: if you want to e-file for free, you have to sign up for the software separately. So, since I used Turbotax for my federal taxes, I could have paid to use it for my state taxes, but since I’m such a frugal soul, I signed up with a whole other company. True, I had to manually enter my information instead of importing it, but I didn’t have to pay a fee to get them filed. I just thought this might be something people would want to know about so they could save a few dollars. You also learn about this through your state’s website and the IRS website.

  • Guest

    It is hard to believe that I’m already thinking about 2012 taxes. I started a side business this year, so I will have to deal with a LLC filing. Does anybody have experience with the more advanced tax software features? I’ve narrowed my search down between Turbo Tax and H&R Block. H&R Block’s ‘Premium’ option is slightly cheaper than Turbo Tax’s ‘Home & Business’. H&R Block also offers the worry-free audit support, which is really appealing to me. Anybody have any suggestions?

  • Eric

    I’ve seen the commercials, but how is the Taxbrain software?

    Also, I would like to hear more about the actual process. Did the reviewer just compare the sell sheets of each product, or did they purchase each and do a mock return to see what the software did and didn’t catch, etc? That’s a big concern.

    • Michelle

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for the tip on Taxbrain – we will add it to our list for next year’s review. We are too far into the 2013 tax season to add it at this time with other projects we have on our plate but appreciate the input!

      As for our review, we actually have the same process for all of the categories and niche areas that we cover across our entire company (from pet insurance and antivirus software to green cleaners and tax programs). We focus on collecting, collating, analyzing and organizing all the reviews we can find or experience first-hand into one cohesive review on any given topic.

      That process is outlined here:

      * Extensive industry research
      * Independent expert reviews
      * Anonymous consumer phone calls & email inquiries to the company (mystery shopping)
      * Consumer feedback on our website (in this case WeRockYourWeb.com)
      * Consumer reviews on third-party review sites like Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and more.
      * Social media discussions on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.

      So while we do not always have the time or ability to review everything first-hand ourselves (due to cost, availability or other reason), we have built a review process over the past 5+ years that works to provide an overview of every review we can find out there on the given topic we are discussing to provide one of the most comprehensive and unbiased reviews out there.

      Thank for your inquiry,

      Michelle @ We Rock Your Web

  • a web rocker

    Deciding which tax stuff to use is alwaysbso confusing. Thanks for helping me make the better choice this year with turbotax. I know it costs more but not getting audited makes it worth every penny. Interesting (and tempting) to see so many free options though…

  • We Rock Your Web

    Do not fall for the latest email scam to get you to click on a spammy link. Do not do it.

    If you get an email that appear to be from TurboTax stating that ”Your State Return Has Been Rejected” pleases know that this is NOT from TurboTax or your bank. Do not open the attachment and do not forward the email. Delete the email immediately.

  • We Rock Your Web

    H&R Block is offering a great deal for online tax software in 2013 – only $13.95 (regularly $15.95). Just click the ad above and enter the coupon code HB02MGT8JX during the checkout process. Deal ends on 4/30/13.

  • Anonymous

    Nowadays many tax methods are introduced and recently some software also developed for tax paying. This is a nice method to all the people every business have more CA with them for their tax related queries. By using this software we can easily reduce them…

  • Anonymous

    For years I have been trying to figure out how turbo tax and tax cut are different. They are both at all the stores and price appears to be only difference but now I see not only are these two very different but there are so many more options. Great comparisons with the pros and cons. Now time to actually do my taxes… Yuck!

  • chandler

    You show TaxACT has chat on this comparison chart which is incorrect.

    • Kimberly

      Thanks Chandler, you are correct! I have made the correction in the table. Thanks for reading and commenting!