How to Choose the Best Tax Software (2019 Comparison Table)

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This table is a companion resource to our Tax Software Reviews page that compares the most popular tax return software and services. Use it to help you make an informed decision when deciding on a tax return software. If you click on a company name in the header (or footer), you will be taken to a more in-depth review of that tax return software on the main article page. You’ll find a list of terminologies below the table that explain the left-column definitions.

Company1st: H&R Block2nd: TurboTax3rd: TaxActE-fileeSmart Tax & Liberty TaxExpressTaxRefundFreeTaxUSATaxSlayer
Company1st: H&R Block2nd: TurboTax3rd: TaxActE-fileeSmart Tax & Liberty TaxExpressTaxRefundFreeTaxUSATaxSlayer
Read ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
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1040 & Itemized ReturnsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
1040EZ & Simple ReturnsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Audit DefenseCheckmarkAdditional FeeCheckmarkAdditional FeeCheckmarkCheckmarkPremium Users Only
Big BusinessCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Direct Deposit RefundCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Electronic FilingCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Email AssistanceCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Error Checks or AlertsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Federal Filing and Program Use Cost$29.99 and up$39.99 and up$9.95 and up$18.99 and up$29.95 and up$29.95 (plus add-ons)Free$17.00 and up
Final Tax ReviewCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Free 1040EZ Federal Tax FilingCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
W2 ImportCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
1099-B ImportCheckmarkCheckmarkOnly CSV FileCheckmark
Help ForumsCheckmarkCheckmark
Investment or Rental PropertyCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkInvestment Only (Not Rental Property)CheckmarkCheckmark
IRS Acknowledgment in 48 HoursCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
IRS Publication LibraryCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Live ChatCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
National Average ComparisonsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Pay Only When You FileCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Refund MeterCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Self Employed and Sole ProprietorCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Small BusinessCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
State ReturnsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
State Returns Cost$36.99$39.99$19.95 and up$19.00$29.99 and up$20.00$14.99$29.00
Tax Consultant AvailableCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
(For higher tier packages)
Tax Data Importation FeatureCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Tax Return Status CheckCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Telephone AssistanceCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
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When looking through the table above it can be a little annoying 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 table.

  • 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 software 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 using the program and 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.

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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.

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In your comparison review, you do mention the cost differences of the different levels of programs (basic, deluxe, premier). However, your table doesn’t show or compare what each level offers/files. Does TurboTax’s deluxe edition (not addition, btw) allow you to itemize only or can I use it to file my investments? Would I have to purchase a Premier TurboTax to file my self-employed return with vehicle use or could I file that same return with H&R Block’s Deluxe edition?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Great question Salem! Take a look at our individual review of TurboTax. From what you stated, it sounds like the Self-Employed Edition would be the best fit for you. Let me know if you have any other questions!
I think you mean “.csv” file, not CVS 😉 (comma separated values)

Great review, though.

Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Haha! Too funny! Thanks for catching that error! You are correct, it should’ve said CSV not CVS. We have corrected this now. Thanks for the help and glad you liked the review. 🙂
Is there a way to use a program for Canadians with rental income in the U.S.?
Am I missing the line providing the checks for which versions have CD purchase for home installation vs. the versions that have to be online/cloud and hack susceptible?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
We do not have this in our table. We will consider adding it in our next audit.
Thank you!
David D. Brown
Jeff, this article would be more helpful if it included a few extra lines in your chart.

Specifically, does the software support importing W-2 and brokerage 1099-B data directly from payroll providers (like ADP) and brokerage houses (like Fidelity, E*Trade, etc)?

And does the software support for IRS forms have any gaps (such as the recent Turbo Tax decision not to support electronic filing of Schedule D for investments gains/losses, except when using their higher-priced versions)?

TaxSlayer is $14.95 for state this year.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Thank you for catching that! We have changed it in the table.
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Complete your taxes with H&R Block for only $13.95 (regularly $15.95) by clicking on the link in this comment and entering the coupon code HB02MGT8JX during checkout. Deal expires 4/30/13.