4 Best Tax Filing Services in 2021

While paying taxes is the right thing to do from a moral and ethical perspective, it’s also your legal obligation. In the United States alone, 593 people were sentenced for tax crimes in 2020. Not all of these people had malicious intent, though. Some just lacked the knowledge and proper tools.

But with some of the best tax software available today, there’s literally no excuse for failing to submit your taxes.

Still, with so many options it might be hard to figure out which tax site is the right fit for you. With that in mind and without further ado, here are four top choices you should consider.

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Top 4 Tax Prep Websites 2021

1. TurboTax

While the platform itself is not completely free, you can file some of the simplest forms at no cost. Still, it’s the paid plans that make it into one of the best online tax filing options. Sure, the platform is a tad more expensive than some of its competitors, but it offers quite a bit in terms of features and convenience. Full Review

  • Live services
  • Great for crypto-traders
  • Intuitive navigation

While the platform itself is not completely free, you can file some of the simplest forms at no cost. Still, it’s the paid plans that make it into one of the best online tax filing options. Sure, the platform is a tad more expensive than some of its competitors, but it offers quite a bit in terms of features and convenience. Full Review

2. H&R Block

If you’re looking for the best free tax software, you’ll find that H&R Block is second to none. The number of features and options covered in its free plan is quite formidable. This also gives you a chance to try the platform before you decide to switch to one of its paid plans. Full Review

  • EITC inclusion
  • Low-cost across all plans
  • Advanced import options

If you’re looking for the best free tax software, you’ll find that H&R Block is second to none. The number of features and options covered in its free plan is quite formidable. This also gives you a chance to try the platform before you decide to switch to one of its paid plans. Full Review

3. TaxSlayer

While TaxSlayer has always been considered one of the top online tax services, it’s also one of the platforms that innovate the most. This means the company gives competitors no chance to outpace it. Full Review

  • Supports tax filing for crypto investments
  • IRS audit assistance
  • Great resources

While TaxSlayer has always been considered one of the top online tax services, it’s also one of the platforms that innovate the most. This means the company gives competitors no chance to outpace it. Full Review

4. FreeTaxUSA

The simplest way to explain the significance of FreeTaxUSA would be to say that it’s the best IRS-approved e-file provider. Refund and calculation accuracy guarantees are two additional factors that cement its position as perhaps the best way to file taxes online. Full Review

  • IRS red flags
  • Audit assistance
  • Live chat with priority support

The simplest way to explain the significance of FreeTaxUSA would be to say that it’s the best IRS-approved e-file provider. Refund and calculation accuracy guarantees are two additional factors that cement its position as perhaps the best way to file taxes online. Full Review

There’s no such thing as the best way to do your taxes. It all comes down to your specific situation and your status as a taxpayer. Still, if we had to make a recommendation list, it would go something like this:

  • TurboTax is best for tax filing automation
  • H&R Block is best for free filing
  • TaxSlayer is the best tax software for self-employed taxpayers
  • FreeTaxUSA is best for IRS audit support

Understanding the strengths of each of these platforms helps you figure out which one of them is ideal for your specific situation.

Detailed Reviews

TurboTax
TurboTax

BEST FOR

tax filing automation

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  • Live services
  • Great for crypto-traders
  • Help with 2020 Coronavirus stimulus package
  • Intuitive navigation

TurboTax is a great option if you’re looking for the easiest way to do your taxes. You can connect your account directly to the platform.

As soon as you do it, any relevant tax documents will upload automatically to the platform. In other words, it’s a perfect tool for tax automation.

TurboTax pricing

When comparing the price of TurboTax to some other best tax software options, it’s important to understand that it has four plans.

  • Free: Completely free of charge, but it covers only W-2 income, earned income tax credit, and child tax credit.
  • Deluxe: Covers itemized deductions, student loan interest deductions, HAS, retirement contributions, etc. The federal filing price for this plan is $60, while the state filing price is $50.
  • Premier: Covers stock market investments and provides amazing support to landlords. The federal tax filing price is $90 (plus $50 per state ).
  • Self-employed: The federal price for self-employed people is $120 (plus an extra $50 per state).

While expert tax preparation services are available, the cost of this is quite steep (depending on the plan you’ve chosen). For instance, expert help for federal taxes costs:

  • Basic (Free plan): $80
  • Deluxe: $120
  • Premier: $170
  • Self-employed: $200

The cost of expert help for state tax filing remains $50 across all three paid plans.

TurboTax tax filing can be even easier if you opt for the company’s Full Service, with which a tax expert does your taxes for you. This costs as it follows:

  • Basic (Free plan): $130
  • Deluxe: $200
  • Premier: $260
  • Self-employed: $290

TurboTax features and services

TurboTax is one of the most expensive platforms in the field, but the list of services included justifies the high price. People who have to file unemployment income, deduct mortgage interest, deduct property taxes, or turn their donations into deductions will definitely get their money’s worth.

Those looking for a tool that accounts for some obscure industry-specific deductions will also find TurboTax to be an amazing tax preparation software. The calculator is reliable and accurate, and the Q&A process is one of the simplest available in the industry.

The platform supports both desktop and mobile versions. Needless to say, the mobile version is compatible with both iOS and Android devices. Even those with older desktop devices are taken care of, seeing as how the platform supports the option of sending you a physical copy (CD) of the software.

Pros and cons

The advantages of this platform are:

  • Intuitive dashboard
  • Expert assistance option
  • In-depth explanation of tax calculations

The downsides of the platform are:

  • High cost (when compared to alternatives)
  • Limited options for free plan
  • No upfront fees

Key takeaway

The platform can be quite expensive, but it’s still one of the best tax service options for premium users. Self-employed taxpayers, investors, and landlords will find that paying a bit more for its services is worth it.

H&R Block
H&R Block

BEST FOR

free filing

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  • EITC inclusion
  • Low-cost across all plans
  • Advanced import options
  • Regular promotions

One of the most efficient ways to use H&R Block is just to upload all your documents and have an enrolled agent do your taxes. Sure, it’s a more expensive tax prep method, but it saves time, minimizes the margin of error, and, overall, makes your life a lot easier. Still, the platform is quite beginner-friendly, which makes it convenient for those who want to do their taxes, as well.

H&R Block pricing

One of the things that H&R Block is renowned for is the EITC inclusion, which makes it arguably the best free tax return site. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that its more expensive plan tiers aren’t worth it. As of 2021, there are four different plans that you can choose from.

  • Free: Covers earned income tax credit, child tax credit, social security income, interest deduction, and even student loan interest deduction.
  • Deluxe: This plan also includes HAS accounts and Itemizers. Its costs are $39.99 for federal and $44.99 for state tax filing.
  • Premium: Useful for investors, side-hustlers (less than $5,000 in business expenses), and landlords. The cost is $55.99 for federal filing and $44.99 for state filing.
  • Self-employed: The cost of federal filing is $87.99, while state filing cost remains the same as with the other two paid plans – $44.99.

When doing taxes online, the option of having expert-assisted preparation is always available. The costs for federal tax filing assistance start at $69.99 and depend on the plan selected.

H&R Block features and services

One of the strongest selling points of H&R Block is its interview-like process of guiding new taxpayers through tax preparation. Other than this, its virtual tax service is something quite extraordinary. It’s a great hybrid of doing your taxes online at home and having them done by a pro.

The tax refund advance is the next service that cements its place as arguably the best place to file taxes. While it costs a lot more than some of its other products, there are a lot of taxpayers who find the price to be worth it.

One of the best ways to get a perspective of just how amazing the H&R Block free plan is would be to compare it to some of its alternatives. For instance, with H&R Block, you would have the student loan interest deduction in the free plan, while with TurboTax, you would have to pay for the Deluxe service to get it.

Pros and cons

The advantages of H&R Block tax filing software are:

  • Simplicity of use
  • Low cost for all plans (when compared to competitors’ equivalents)
  • Audit support

The downsides of H&R Block are:

  • Less than stellar UX
  • Limited virtual assistant
  • Not ideal for landlords

Key takeaways

H&R Block is completely transparent with its prices, frugal compared to competitor tax programs, and has an amazing free plan. In other words, it gives an abundance of strong arguments as to why it should be a clear pick.

TaxSlayer
TaxSlayer

BEST FOR

self-employed

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  • Updated navigation in 2021
  • Supports tax filing for crypto investments
  • IRS audit assistance
  • Great resources

There are a lot of great TaxSlayer features that are completely free of charge. People only interested in filing their W-2 income, rebating their recovery credit, or dealing with education credits/student loans, would find its free version to be more than enough. At the same time, it’s one of the best tax software for self-employed tax preparers.

TaxSlayer pricing

TaxSlayer offers four plans, each with its separate pricing. The most cost-effective option for you usually depends on your tax bracket and not your personal preference. With that in mind, the four plans available are:

  • Free: This is the very basic edition of the software, and it mainly covers W-2 income and student loan interest.
  • Classic: This plan is deemed as the version offering all the forms and situations at a fairly low price. The cost of federal tax filing is $24.95, while state filing is $39.95.
  • Premium: Those looking for advice from tax professionals should go with the Premium plan. This is also the version of the software that offers IRS audit assistance. The cost of federal pricing on this plan is $44.95, while the cost of state pricing is $39.95.
  • Self-employed: Self-employed individuals will find this TaxSlayer’s plan to be superior to similar editions offered by its competitors both in terms of convenience and when it comes to cost. The federal filing price is $54.95, while the cost of state filing is $39.95.

One thing that immediately comes to mind is the lack of professionally assisted tax preparation options outside of the Premium plan. Needless to say, this does bring its status as one of the best online tax filing options in question. Yet, users appreciate the value they get from the Free and Classic editions.

TaxSlayer features and services

Some of TaxSlayer’s competitors have been in the tax preparation business for decades (H&R Block, for instance), which does give them a dose of credibility but also makes them more traditional, in a sense.
This is one of the reasons why TaxSlayer is so quick to innovate and why it doesn’t offer outdated formats like a CD. It’s also why TaxSlayer is an exclusively cloud-based platform. Since this tool for online tax preparation supports all the devices you may rely on, it further increases convenience.

Self-employed individuals can become more self-reliant by using the platform to acquire necessary business expense deductions. Moreover, on TaxSlayer, both 1099 income and Schedule C guidance are quite comprehensive. This is particularly important for those who are not in this field for a long time.

Another group of people who would describe TaxSlayer as the best tax filing service is those concerned with the financial aspect of their education. Namely, if you aim to have your tuition expenses refunded or optimize your student loan interest, TaxSlayer has quite a bit to offer.

Pros and cons

The biggest advantages of TaxSlayer are:

  • Budget-friendly Classic plan
  • Amazing features for self-employed taxpayers
  • Great live customer support

The disadvantages of the TaxSlayer platform are:

  • Import options are limited
  • It may take a while until you get an email response
  • No expert assistance (outside of Premium plan)

Key takeaways

At the end of the day, TaxSlayer is an excellent tax return software for self-employed individuals and side-hustlers. All four of its plans are frugal and provide a great value for their cost.

FreeTaxUSA
FreeTaxUSA

BEST FOR

IRS audit support

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  • Live chat with priority support
  • IRS red flags
  • Audit assistance
  • Direct e-filing to the IRS

While the user interface of FreeTaxUSA leaves some space for improvement, the platform itself is easy to use. It also offers a lot of knowledge articles, which are efficient learning materials for those willing to self-improve. One of its strongest selling features, which qualifies it as perhaps the best tax return service, is that it only has two plans (unlike its four-plan competitors). This makes the choice a lot easier to make.

FreeTaxUSA pricing

One thing that you’ll immediately notice about the pricing scheme of FreeTaxUSA is that it has only two plans. These are:

  • Free: The free tax plan of FreeTaxUSA is applicable to the majority of tax situations, which already puts it ahead of most of its competitors. Federal tax filing is free, but the platform has a $14.99 price for state tax filing. Either way, it’s a cheap tax preparation alternative.
  • Deluxe: Unlike some of its competitors, on FreeTaxUSA, there’s just one paid plan available. It costs just $6.99 for federal filing, and you get priority support with live chat, audit assistance, and unlimited amended returns. State tax filing is standard $14.99.

As you can see, while its Free plan is not entirely free (you still have to pay for state tax filing), its Deluxe plan offers more than its competitors for a lower cost.

FreeTaxUSA features and services

Previously, we’ve mentioned the live chat priority as one of FreeTaxUSA’s strongest selling points. This feature is especially important for late filers. And since their number is fairly high, it also qualifies it as one of the best tax websites available.

In addition, FreeTaxUSA is optimized for and collaborating closely with the Internal Revenue System, so you’ll also get much better audit assistance.

Pros and cons

Advantages of FreeTaxUSA are:

  • Free federal filing
  • IRS red flag reminders
  • Great options for self-employed individuals

Downsides of FreeTaxUSA are:

  • No support for life events
  • The user interface could be better
  • No mobile app

Key takeaways

FreeTaxUSA is one of the least expensive options on the market, making it one of the most appealing tax preparation companies. Instead of three premium plans, FreeTaxUSA simply has a Deluxe version that covers the essence of what these are supposed to represent.

Buyer’s Guide

When trying to identify the best online tax service, there are three major factors that you need to consider. These are:

  • User experience
  • Support options
  • Availability of tax forms

These three factors will determine your experience, accuracy, and the overall efficiency of your tax preparation and filing process.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are some scenarios in which you may face specific circumstances or have a complex tax situation. In this scenario, making the right choice could make all the difference in the world.

Access to reliable tax advisors, guarantees, and safety measures is another thing to pay attention to.

In other words, you can’t just go for the cheapest tax software and consider your job done. This is especially true since even the most pricey plans of the most expensive platforms cost tens of dollars, not hundreds or thousands.

Given that your tax filing is essential for your financial health and even legal liability, this is not a situation where you can afford to be too frugal.

All the platforms have a similar offer when it comes to the services and features. What differs are their packages, sales, and unique selling proposals.

For instance:

TurboTax has one of the best integrations and cloud optimizations. This enables seamless online tax software experience and higher task automation.

H&R Block has a superior free plan, including services that other platforms only provide in premium plans. Therefore, it gives you a chance to have one of the most budget-friendly online tax filing experiences.

TaxSlayer is a great platform overall, but its support to self-employed taxpayers (both freelancers and sole proprietors) is second to none. With a growing number of people in these industries, this will rapidly gain significance.

Finally, those looking for IRS audit support (and those who suspect they will need it in the future) cannot go wrong with FreeTaxUSA.

Wrap Up

Although they’re comparable, each of these platforms offers something unique. To make a proper tax software comparison, you need to get familiar with industry standards. Individual platform reviews could provide you with a better in-depth understanding of what this is all about.

Remember that while you can always switch from one platform to another, it would be better to get accustomed to a single site and use it for years to come. Since all four software solutions we reviewed provide support for most taxing situations, and cost differences aren’t really that great, the chances are that you just can’t go wrong.

FAQ

Which tax software gets the biggest refund?

While this is mostly dependent on the taxpayer’s situation, some strong arguments are to be made in favor of TurboTax. The more complex your tax situation is, the more value TurboTax will be able to provide you with.

Which free tax software is best?

When it comes to free tax filing, H&R Block offers the most value. This is because its Free plan provides more support than equivalent plans of its closest competitors. Still, there are a lot of scenarios in which a free plan is not going to cut it.

How do I file my taxes for free?

While it’s possible to file your federal taxes completely free of charge, state filing costs are usually unavoidable. Still, in the USA, there are nine states with no income tax. These are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. So, technically, if you find a tax software with a decent free plan and live in one of the above-listed nine states, you could file your taxes completely free of charge.

What is the best tax software?

This depends on your taxpayer status and needs. For instance, a self-employed taxpayer may find TaxSlayer to be superior to its alternatives, while one looking for IRS audit support might find that FreeTaxUSA offers more value. The key thing lies in examining an offer thoroughly after checking on your own needs.