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Tax time is here and so are your W-2s or 1099s 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.
Please note that this article has been updated with the 2018 products from each company for the 2017 tax season.
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.
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 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 (learn more about the IRS audit process). Most reputable tax products these days offer error check services.
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, today 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.
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.
Don’t let the big brand name scare you off, this is a solid tax program and is our number one 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 including FAQs.
H&R Block is less expensive than TurboTax (our previous #1) and has the same features except for help forums. H&R Block released More Zero, which lets you import a tax return from any competitor, upload tax documents and prepare and file on any device.
H&R Block has discounted all of its products for the 2017 tax season (2016 taxes). The Deluxe edition is normally $34.99 but is now $29.74. The Premium edition is normally $54.99 but is now $46.74. Click here to take advantage of these discounts.
Filing Taxes Online
Need an extra “push” to file your taxes online? It’s not as scary as it sounds. Watch the short 60-second video below for the encouragement you need.
Saving lots of money on taxes is worth the few dollars more spent today on this software vs. the competition. TurboTax is our #2 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 second choice for best tax company and it’s only second to H&R Block because it is slightly more expensive.
TurboTax has a few promotions for the 2017 tax season (2016 taxes). The Deluxe addition is normally $54.99, but is now $34.99. The Premier addition is normally $79.99, but is now $54.99. The Self Employed is normally $114.99, but is now $89.99. Click here to take advantage of these offers.
This is another popular program that you can buy at a competitive price. If you are not looking for help forums, live chat or a tax consultant, this program has a lot to offer at a good price. A newer feature is comprehensive assistance to help you calculate your tax credit and penalty amounts due to the Affordable Care Act.
If a tax filer discovers someone else has already filed a return using their information, TaxAct will assist them via Identity Recovery powered by InfoArmor, a service that will navigate the resolution process on the customer’s behalf. 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 #3 pick.
Get 15% off TaxAct Plus and TaxAct Premium via this link!
Tax Software Comparison Table
As 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.
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 discontinued their tax solution in January 2015.
eFile.com seems to be missing some key features we’ve come to expect from our tax software companies. E-File doesn’t offer a big business option, 10-99 import, help forums, IRS publication library, live chat and more.
Their site is not very detailed which makes it difficult to review them. Perhaps some of these features are covered, but from what we see on the website, it looks like it is missing some big elements. If you have experience with eFile please share with us, so we can keep this review current.
E-file is having two sales this tax season: the Deluxe version is normally $24.99, but is now $18.99 and the Premium Plus version is normally $45.99, but is now $34.95. Click here to take advantage of these discounts.
eSmart Tax is owned by Liberty Tax Services, and both companies offer nearly identical products. The only difference is the cost. We recommend choosing eSmart over Liberty because its cost can be $10 to $25 cheaper than Liberty’s.
Either way, both companies are on the less expensive side of the spectrum when compared to other tax products and services. All filing options are online and there is no downloadable software.
Both eSmart and Liberty’s websites are designed quite similar and easy to use. If you have a larger business, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but for those of you with simple returns, have families, own a smaller business or are investors, one of these two companies may be a good fit for you.
Use coupon code ESTCJ20 via via this link to save 20% off your E-Smart or Liberty Tax filing.
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.
There are no ExpressTaxRefund coupons at this time.
FreeTaxUSA stands out due to their 100% free Federal tax filing. This service also provides an automatic refund calculator.
Overall, it has the basics for those of you needing to file a simple return, but we don’t feel comfortable ranking FreeTaxUSA in our top three because there are larger companies with more prominent reputations. Check out the pros and cons below and decide how this free tax provider compares with the paid alternatives
Use coupon code FREETAXUSA10 via this link to receive 10% off at FreeTaxUSA.
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. TaxSlayer offers features at the premium level that competitors offer as the basic level, which is why this service isn’t rated higher in our rankings. If you aren’t concerned with audit defense, TaxSlayer could be a good option for you… unless you are a big business.
There are no TaxSlayer coupons at this time.
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
Are You Worried About Being Audited?
This is a fear we all have, but do you really know what happens if you get audited by the IRS? We’ve got an entire article dedicated to teaching you about what you can expect if you get audited by the IRS.
Which tax software do you use and why?