One of the most oft-quoted and well-known axioms around is, “There’s nothing guaranteed in life except for death and taxes.” After the sh*t show that was 2020, you’ll want to make sure all of your tax information is filed and ready to roll so you can officially leave that year behind you. The tax filing deadline is fast approaching yet again.
For those who haven’t touched their taxes, you’re in luck. The IRS extended the filing deadline to May 17, 2021, for federal taxes, giving you a few weeks until your 2020 taxes are due. Individual state taxes are another matter, and we strongly suggest you check on your specific state before procrastinating any further. That said, it’s best not to dilly dally. As we all know too well from 2020, just about anything could happen. And after several extensions, we doubt the IRS will be cool with people filing their taxes late.
Taxes are inherently complicated, but fortunately, there’s software that can help. The best tax prep sites make it easy to file your 2020 taxes, often free of charge.
Once you’ve rounded up all of your relevant info (W2s, last year’s tax info, etc) these six software programs can take the hassle and stress out of trying to do your taxes by yourself. So what should you look for in tax filing software?
- User Experience: An easy-to-use (and easy-to-understand) interface
- Information: The best software features detailed breakouts of what information is needed and why
- Customer Support: While customer service may be limited with free filing software, there should at least be FAQ sections and instructions to help you file
- Free Options: Most people will be able to file their taxes for free, and the IRS even has recommendations for which free tax filing websites to use (some of which we’ve included in our list as well)
As you prepare to file your 2020 taxes before May 17, 2021, check out our picks to help you sail through tax season. And then finally, officially, you can put 2020 firmly in the rearview. Where it belongs.
H&R Block Free Online Tax Software
BEST FOR SIMPLE TAX SITUATIONS
H&R Block’s brick and mortar stores have been helping customers file their taxes since the Block Brothers opened their first location in 1955. But you don’t have to go into a physical store any longer if you don’t want to, as the provider now offers their own online filing service. Backed by a trusted name brand, H&R Block’s online service has a free option that should cover most basic returns and has things like a progress tracker to help you determine how far along in the process you are. Plus, with a clean interface, it’s simple and easy to figure out what to do next. If you have a relatively simple tax situation, we recommend using H&R Block.
They’ve got a number of paid premium options that offer more levels of support, but their free version will also get the job done for most people.
TurboTax Online Tax Software
BEST USER INTERFACE
TurboTax made its name as the first dedicated tax software when it debuted in 2001. Since then, it has continued to be the leader in dedicated tax software. Now with the power of the internet, you don’t need to pay for a software disk like you had to in the aughts. Rather, you can just start the process (for free!) online. TurboTax has lots of helpful options to better help you determine what’s the right product to use based on your specific setup. Plus if you have any questions, you can chat with a professional at any time.
Like H&R Block, TurboTax has premium options starting at $0 that progress all the way up to $120 for self-employed individuals looking for guidance on more complicated tax filing. And, like the best tax filing software, TurboTax makes it easy to upload your W2. Once you scan or take a photo of your info, most of your tax information will be automatically filled out for you, making the entire process super easy. For beginners wondering where to file for free, TurboTax is the name to know.
And if you need a little extra incentive to stop procrastinating and get your taxes done ASAP, SPY readers are eligible for a discount of up to $20 by using the link below. Through April 30, Spy readers can save up to $20 on the cost of filing fees when submitting returns through Turbo Tax Premier, Turbo Tax Deluxe or Turbo Tax for Self-Employed Workers. And, look, we know doing your taxes is a drag. We hear you. But wouldn’t it be nice to move on from 2020 already? We think so. So consider this SPY’s way of helping you move on from that brutal year once and for all.
TaxAct markets itself as a more affordable tax filing option than TurboTax, with savings up to 30% between the two filing options. It doesn’t have as fancy of a user interface but it does have the same on-demand tax pro services for assistance and the data-entry process is similarly easy to their competition. They offer pro tips throughout the filing process as well as a $100k accuracy guarantee. They also have a deduction maximizer that unlocks certain deductions and credits many people don’t take advantage of. If you want most of the bells and whistles of TurboTax without the steep price tag, this is a great option.
Credit Karma Online Tax Software
Another great option for simple returns, the online credit monitoring site Credit Karma also offers a standalone tax filing service (along with lots of other financial solutions). What stands out immediately about Credit Karma is that the entire process is completely free from start to finish. Additionally, their Smart File basically holds your hand as you progress through it, showing the applicable sections that are unique to your specific file. Simple and easy, it’s great for first-time filers that don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to get their taxes done.
Credit Karma is primarily known for its credit services. So if you want to check your credit score or find affordable interest rates on credit cards, this is a great two-for-one option. They also have a max refund guarantee, an accurate calculations guarantee and free audit defense throughout your tax filing process.
FreeTaxUSA Online Tax Software
FreeTaxUSA’s online tax service allows for a completely free federal tax return, only charging you for your state return. They’re also currently offering a deal on their state tax return for only $12.95 for the next seven days, so you’re going to want to jump on it.
Should you get lost in the process at all, you’ll get priority support when it comes to asking questions in their online chat, as well as unlimited amended returns (should, god forbid, something go awry). Finally, if you’ve used another software in previous years, you can quickly important that return into FreeTax and get started on this year’s in a flash.
TaxSlayer Online Tax Software
BEST FOR EXPERIENCED TAX FILERS
We’ll be honest here, part of the appeal of including TaxSlayer is the absolutely metal name. A name isn’t everything, of course, so it’s quite helpful that TaxSlayer is good at, well, helping you slay your taxes. The difference here is that TaxSlayer is a robust tool for those well-versed in the process, as the majority of the fees are associated with the level of support needed. They have a simply free version as well as a Classic option with more support for $24.95. Their most assistance-heavy option is designed for self-employed filers, and starts at $54.95. There’s not much on the hand-holding side of things, so if you’re a first-time-flier, you may want to look at one of the other options on this list.
E-file.com can help you file your IRS taxes online easily and affordably, with a free option for those who qualify. They offer a full feature online tax software accessible from your computer that’s fast, easy to use and can help you get your return faster. They walk you through the steps of entering your taxpayer information, income for the year, deductions and the option to file with them or mail in your return on your own. They’ve got qualified tax support ready to answer all of your questions and file your return accurately the first time. You can save your progress at any time and complete your taxes at your own pace. They offer a free version as well as two paid versions for a variety of budgets and lifestyles.
Jackson Hewitt Online
FREE LIVE SUPPORT
The thing that stands out the most about Jackson Hewitt is that live support from a tax expert doesn’t cost extra, like it does with many of the options above. Their tax filing does come at one price option of $49 for both federal and state, so you are spending more than with the free versions. They offer step-by-step guidance online as well as free W-2 import from eligible employers. They have customer care available throughout the entire filing process, and they offer free storage of your tax returns and other data for up to three years so pre-filling info on next year’s returns will be a breeze.
*After this article was last updated on March 9, 2021, Turbo Tax became an advertising partner of Spy.com. Sponsored content and ad campaigns do not affect our product rankings or reviews, which are selected by our editorial and product review team.