If you are considering preparing your own federal and state taxes next tax season, in lieu of hiring a CPA or tax accountant, you should begin evaluating online tax software as you start to organize your personal tax information and your records from your bookkeeper or bookkeeping service. Tax preparation does not have to be difficult, and the right online tax software that focuses the needs of your specific tax circumstances can make the task much easier.
Each of the three online tax software brands that are discussed below offer a free edition. However, the software that is reviewed includes only the online, paid versions that you access directly on the company’s website.
Intuit TurboTax - Deluxe, Premier, and Home and Business
Each version of the TurboTax software has a user-friendly format that makes the program readable and easy to navigate. If you have problems with a particular tax issue, there is a searchable help tool. Its apps for the tablet and mobile devices make it easier to move from one device to another. If you are a small business owners with employees, you may be interested in the Home and Business version as it provides a convenient payroll service, allowing you to prepare and print W-2 and 1099 forms for your employees. Common features in each version include:
- The option to import your W-2
- A review of over 350 tax credits and deductions for Schedule A
- An analysis of your tax history to maximize the following year’s refund
- The filing of returns for independent contractors and freelancers with simple expenses
TaxAct - Basic, Plus and Premium
TaxAct has a no-frills user interface and offers some of the least expensive online tax software options. If you have a complex tax situation, requiring Schedules B, and D, you may be able to file using the Basic version. TaxAct also promises to match the prices of products offered by H&R Block and TurboTax that are similar to TaxAct Plus or Premium.
No matter which version you use, you can count on:
- A lock on the filing price even if you file the return later
- Unlimited tax and technical assistance via phone or email
- The option to choose which parts of the return to work on, skipping sections if necessary
H&R Block - Basic, Deluxe and Premium
H&R Block provides a community of expert preparers with each version of its online tax software. The company’s large network of physical tax services offices also makes it easier to transition from an online tax preparation to an in-person preparation at one of its locations. Each version includes the following features:
- Free technical support via telephone or real-time chat
- Schedule A support for itemizing deductions
- Free audit support at any of its offices
You can avoid the stress of wondering whether there are “professional tax services near me” or “affordable tax preparation near me.” Before tax season arrives, stop looking for tax preparation services and start looking for online tax software that allows you to complete your taxes from the comfort of your home. In most cases, the most premium edition of any online tax software will be less expensive than the fees you would have to pay to an accountant. Whichever software you decide to use, be sure that it is the best fit possible for your tax situation.