Tired of TurboTax? 5 other software tools to get you out of tax hell
It’s tax season, and we all know what that means: procrastinating on doing your taxes until the very last minute.
Look, we get it. Taxes are a complicated, convoluted process, and you shouldn’t spend more time on them than you absolutely have to.
Luckily, a number of software tools can help you file your taxes in the span of a (longish) lunch break, and all you need is your computer, tablet, or even just your phone.
Here are six tools that will make filing your taxes (or hiring a CPA to do it for you) a breeze.
The Best Overall: Turbo Tax
TurboTax is the most pricey software option out there, with the lowest paid tier, Deluxe, clocking in at $59.99 for federal or $39.99 for state, and the most complex tier, TurboTax Live, at $179.99 for federal. The free version allows you to file a 1040EZ or 1040A, simple forms for single individuals with taxable income of under $100,000.
That said, if you can stomach the price, TurboTax is consistently reviewed as the best software for individuals with a variety of needs. (And for the most part, it’ll still be cheaper than hiring a CPA).
TurboTax’s interface is user-friendly and intuitive. It’s built like an interview: The software asks you questions like whether you have a job, have dependents, and pay rent. As you answer, it inputs data into the return. The questions ensure that you’re unlikely to miss anything, especially when it comes to itemized deductions. The whole thing takes about five minutes.
You can input your W-2 by taking a photo of it, and your 1099-INT and 1099-DIV by connecting your TurboTax account to your bank account.
All paid versions of TurboTax store your tax documents, allow you to itemize, and calculate the value of donated items. TurboTax Live delivers on-screen live advice from a CPA, and a one-on-one review before you file.
The Best Free: H&R Block
H&R Block’s paid tiers aren’t as fancy or expensive as TurboTax’s, but they get the job done. And the free version can’t be beat.
The interface is straightforward and intuitive. Rather than a full Q&A, H&R Block uses a semi-guided navigation system. You’re led through a series of questions, and you have the option to upload various forms at any point. You can toggle between sections including income, adjustments and deductions, credits and so on. Many technical terms are hyperlinked to a definition or to a searchable information database.
The paid versions are also integrated with commonly used apps in a way that makes them a good option for side hustlers. The Self-Employed tier can import your income information from the Uber driver app, and from the expense-tracker Stride Tax.
H&R Block’s free option, which allows you to file a 1040EZ or 1040A, is one of the only free services available for folks claiming Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Care Tax Credit, Mortgage Interest, Traditional IRA contributions, student loan interest and charitable giving.
Unlike most free versions, this one will import last year’s tax return from tax software including TurboTax and Tax Act, to make switching over really easy. There’s free online tech support, and you can add Tax Pro Review, which gives you access to the company’s in-house tax advisors for between $49.99 and $89.99 depending on your plan.
H&R Block Deluxe (the level above the free version) retails for around $49.99 for federal and $39.99 for state. The Self-Employed option hovers around $94.99 for federal and $39.99 for state.
The Best Bargain: TaxAct
TaxAct is a simple interface with less of a how-to feel than other tools, but if you’re confident in your ability to file your taxes, it’s a good option.
This software is less expensive than most of its competitors. Its Basic version costs $14.95 for federal and $17 for state, and its Premium version costs $66.95 for federal and $39.99 for state. The free version is available only to folks who qualify to file the 1040EZ.
TaxAct has all the basic features: Each version can import last year’s returns (including the free version, which is uncommon), and import your W2 from a camera photo. The Plus version can automatically calculate the deduction value of charitable donations. The Premium version comes with Audit Defense, which entitles you to comprehensive assistance from a tax professional if you’re audited (you can add this onto another plan for $39.99).
What stands out the most about TaxAct is its review system. Right before you file, the software will mark up your return to highlight errors, omissions, and places to improve.
The Simplest: TaxSlayer
While the excellently named TaxSlayer’s Classic tier is more expensive than TaxAct’s Basic tier, its Premium and Self-Employed tiers are among the best deals on the market for folks with more complex returns.
TaxSlayer offers a free version to file the 1040EZ. Its cheapest version runs around $24 for federal and $29 for state, while its Self-Employed version is $47 for federal and $29 for state.
Its interface is every bit as sleek as those of its more expensive competitors. Throughout the process, a widget on the side of the screen keeps a running tally of your refund amount or the amount you owe. That said, the software doesn’t have many built-in educational guides or explainers, so it’s a better bet for users who know what they’re doing.
All tiers offer free, unlimited tech support over chat and phone, and tax help is available to Premium and Self-Employed users. All paid versions import your old return, and your W2 from a photo or PDF. The Classic version offers audit assistance, which will help you prepare for an audit, but won’t represent you to the IRS as TaxAct’s feature will.
What’s also unique about TaxSlayer is that it has a loyalty program: You earn points for filing your returns and referring your friends. You can redeem those points for retailer gift cards (though the number of points necessary to get a gift card isn’t available on the website).
To Get a CPA: TaxDrop
If you’d rather hire an accountant to file your taxes, TaxDrop makes that process quick and easy.
Just answer a few questions about your prior year’s returns, income, and loans, and upload pictures of your tax documents. TaxDrop will match you with a CPA who will file everything for you and contact you through the app when your return is ready.
Simple returns cost between $100 and $150, while more complex returns can reach up to $250, and professional returns (with multiple W-2s, brokerage statements, or itemized deductions) can cost up to $350.
TaxDrop is more expensive than some of its competitors, but if you’ve never used a CPA before, it does a lot of the work for you. You can connect the app to your credit card and bank account, and it will automatically identify your deductible expenses and share them with your accountant.
To Get a Cheaper CPA: TaxFyle
TaxFyle, one of the most popular apps on the App Store, styles itself as the “Uber for filing taxes.”
It asks you a short series of questions, including your age and occupation, and whether you own a home or have dependents. You also submit photos of your tax documents. From there, it gives you a quote and matches you with an accountant, who can file everything in an average of 45 minutes.
This app is cheaper than TaxDrop, but there’s more you have to do. The professional will chat with you through the app (it’s encrypted) to ask you a number of follow-up questions. They’ll notify you when your return has been filed and accepted.
Taxfyle starts at $39, and more complex returns vary by customer. You can get audit protection for $3, and audit defense for $40.
Whether you’re filing taxes for your business, your family, your kids, or yourself, it’s important to get them done as quickly as possible in case complications arise. If the deadline is looming, these tools will help you get your return filed — or hire a professional to do it for you — in just a few minutes.
Customers who worry about filing themselves can use TaxFyle or TaxDrop, depending on how much time they have, to quickly find an appropriate CPA. First-time users will find H&R Blocks’ free version to be comprehensive and easy, while more experienced filers will like how TaxSlayer cuts straight to the chase. Filers on a budget will find TaxAct the most affordable in most tiers. That said, for the majority of taxpayers, TurboTax is unquestionably the way to go.