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The Top 7 Tax Software Programs of 2020

by | 01-22-2020 | file tax, Tax Relief

tax software

Learn which tax software is right for you this year.

Taxes are just around the corner, so it’s about that time to start thinking about how you want to prepare and file your taxes. If you are looking to try out a tax software program this year but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place; we know that many Americans find tax season confusing, and trying to decide which software is best for you can bring further stress, so we’ve done the work for you.

Why Use Tax Software?

tax software

File taxes using tax software at home.

 

Accountants and tax specialists can be expensive for those who do more than simple tax returns. Tax software can save you money, time, effort, and convenience. That’s right; you can save on all four just by using the right tax software! Just find out which option is best for you.

How does it save you money? Well, many of the software programs out there are free or nearly free. The average cost of using a tax specialist is $250; that’s a lot of money to part with, especially if it’s unnecessary. You heard right; you may not even need to file with a specialist; just let the tax software do the work for you.

So, how does tax software save you time, effort, and convenience? Well, tax preparation and filing companies aim to make it faster and easier for you to file by using their software services. They even offer options such as software you can download, online forms, and mobile phone applications.

In addition, wouldn’t you rather file your taxes in the comfort of your own home rather than waiting in line at a tax prep company while holding a bag or box of documents and receipts? So, let’s see if tax software is the best solution for you this year, and you can decide which one is your best option.

How to Know Which Tax Software is the Best for You

Taxes are confusing even if you are using easy software. Which do you use if you are itemizing? How do you choose when the cost of the software is the same? How does tax software even work? Which will help you save the most money? Are they guaranteed to work?

Don’t stress, because we have done the work for you. In fact, here is an “At a Glance” summary for you. This will help you decide which package is the best option for you, depending on your budget and tax situation.

At a Glance Summary of 2020 Tax Software

1. Intuit’s TurboTax 2020

• Rated the best overall software with the best live personal support
• Best option for complex tax returns
• Best option for self-employed taxpayers, landlords, and investors
• Cost: Free, $80 for Deluxe, $110 for Premier, $130 for Self-Employed

2. TaxSlayer Classic 2020

• Best overall pricing
• Best simple data entry option
• Best software for tax professionals and confident tax filers
• Cost: Free, $47 for Classic, $66 for Premium, $76 for Self-Employed

3. H&R Block’s Free & Deluxe 2020

• Best multiplatform options and best full-service tax preparation software
• Voted PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice (Deluxe option)
• Best option for simple tax returns (Free option)
• Best for itemized deductions (Deluxe option)
• Cost: Free, $66.98 for Deluxe, $86.98 for Premium, $116.98 for Self-Employed

tax software

Choose which tax software is best for you

 

4. Credit Karma 2020

• Best free tax software option
• Best software option for complex tax returns
• Cost: Free

5. TaxAct 2020

• Best tax software for experienced customers
• Best bargain for your budget (TaxAct Premium)
• Best for entrepreneurs and people with different income streams
• Cost: Free, $69.90 for Deluxe+, $79.90 for Premier+, $114.90 for Self-Employed

6. Jackson Hewitt® 2020

• Best software option with refund insurance
• Cost: Free, $66.98 for Deluxe, $86.98 for Premier

7. LIBERTY TAX Online Basic 2020

• Best option for tax savvy filers
• Cost: $34.95 for Simple, $44.95 for Basic, $64.95 for Deluxe, $89.95 for Premium and Self Employed

The Details of the Top Tax Software for 2020

 

Now that you have seen the quick review, let’s dive into the details. This section will give you a summary of the best features of each software package as well as a quick look at some of the more notable ones. There is also a link on each one to go to the software’s website so that you can enrol today.

 

tax software

You can use tax software across many platforms!

 

1. Intuit’s TurboTax 2020

TurboTax is the best-known and most popular tax software option out there. The price may exceed that of other tax software, but its reputation and exceptional features keep TurboTax ahead of the competition.

The helpful and friendly questionnaire format and answers to all tax-related questions make it very easy to use. The question and answer style makes it perfect for new tax filers. It actually starts out by asking you, “How are you feeling about doing your taxes?”

Taxpayers can upgrade to TurboTax Live, an option that gives phone and online chat room access with tax consultants. The option of a one-way video call lets the tax expert see your computer screen so you don’t have to explain your questions using tax lingo. The tax specialist can even e-file the tax returns for you if you want.

The Live option also offers a one-on-one interview before you file as well as unlimited year-round live tax advice. This is especially helpful for self-employed individuals with complex tax situations such as paying quarterly estimated taxes. Being able to speak to an accountant or tax specialist at any time puts this package over the top.

The easy format and live chat feature aren’t the only awesome things about TurboTax. The software also offers you the option of importing the previous year’s tax returns, W-2 forms, and 1099 forms via the use of a scanner or mobile device.

TurboTax not only has its own mobile application you can download for free, but it also works with a popular mobile application called ItsDeductible, a quick and easy app that helps you find and keep track of the value of your donations to make sure you get the maximum tax deduction you deserve.

TurboTax Premier is perfect for investors and landlords. It does all the work for you by calculating investment and rental income and by accommodating Schedules D, E, and K-1.

TurboTax Self-Employed is perfect for freelancers and independent contractors too. It helps with things like the home office deduction. The Self-Employed option also provides you with a one-year subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed. QuickBooks has an expense-tracking feature that allows you to store images of your receipts and track mileage from your mobile device.

Some other notable features:

• Maximum refund guaranteed
• Excellent user experience
• Wide selection of tax topics to review
• Simple explanations of all tax forms and schedules
• Thorough interview and final review
• Database full of over 350 deductions to choose from

2. TaxSlayer Classic 2020

TaxSlayer is a very affordable option that can save you a lot of money; it’s about $40 cheaper than its competition. Although TaxSlayer only offers phone and email tech support in the free option, the more expensive options, the Premium and Self-Employed packages have great support features.

The tax support feature called “Ask a Tax Pro” offers live chat and phone tax support help from a tax expert. The support package even includes quarterly estimated tax payment reminders. The free version does include helpful answers to tax questions quickly and easily using powerful search tools.

TaxSlayer has a simple, clear interface that helps you easily fill out your tax forms online without the confusion of flipping through a bunch of tax forms. The free version is easy to understand; it is best for either easy, clear-cut tax forms or for tax professionals who already understand tax complexities. This is because the best tax support is only available through the paid versions.

In summary, TaxSlayer shines as the best bargain in the tax software category but has limited support features in the free version. It’s perfect for experienced taxpayers or for those who have straightforward tax returns.

Some other notable features:

• Free audit assistance with Premium and Self-Employed packages
• Rated #1 on Trustpilot in the tax preparation software category
• Maximum refund guaranteed
• Phone, email, and live chat with a tax professional available

3. H&R Block’s Free & Deluxe 2020

H&R Block Deluxe Software is the most comprehensive and easiest tax software available. It can do all of the same features as the free option with notable differences. It offers “Tax Pro Review,” an option that allows tax experts to double-check your work and “Online Assist,” an unlimited, on-screen or telephone support assistant (help from a tax expert). This package also offers a refund anticipation loan, top help tools, and a thorough tax return review.

All of H&R Block’s packages have clear navigation and comprehensive coverage of all tax topics. They are very user-friendly, straightforward, easy to use, and visually appealing. The help menu explains tax concepts and helps you determine which package is best for your tax needs. With the options of in-office visits, full programs, and mobile access, H&R Block stands out in front of the crowd.

H&R Block’s Free package is probably one of the most popular tax software choices around. It can help you with your simple tax return without sacrificing the user-friendly options offered by the competition. It has an easy to understand format with questions and answers. The free option also has plenty of online help services for you to use if you get turned around.

Overall, H&R Block has done an excellent job of keeping up with the competition. It offers everything you need with the higher paying options and has all that you need for a simple tax return with the free option. It offers multiple choices for you depending on what your tax circumstances are and which schedules you plan to use. The deluxe option is the most comprehensive and well-received software package available.

Some other notable features:

• Free audit support
• Maximum refund guaranteed
• Excellent user experience
• Free, in-person audit support available
• Step-by-step guidance available
• 11,000 locations nationwide

4. Credit Karma 2020

Credit Karma is the best free option, offering free federal and state tax returns and mobile phone access. It can handle most forms and schedules, allows you to import tax information easily, and has a questionnaire style that’s simple to fill out. It’s very easy to enter your information, and it has comprehensive forms online. If you used TurboTax or H&R Block last year, you can import your past tax returns to help the program fill in your information automatically.

The software also has customer service chat support available as well as a 24-hour tax chat service to help you if you are stuck at any part along the way. The interface also has mobile-friendly tax support for easy access when you are on the go.

Overall, Credit Karma may not have all the bells or whistles that some of the other options do, but the savings and format make it very beneficial. Without all the beginner features, it’s best for those who are filing complex tax returns or for the taxpayers who are experienced in tax filing.

Some other notable features:

• Free audit defence
• Maximum refund guaranteed
• Searchable “help” database
• No charge for filing, schedules, forms, etc.
• The cloud-based application works across many devices and platforms
• Can handle mortgage interest, property taxes, capital gains, rental income, and business profit/loss forms

5. TaxAct 2020

TaxAct is great for both new and experienced tax filers. It has a user-friendly interface with drop-down menus and multiple-choice questions. It offers the importing of last year’s tax return, W-2 forms, and 1099 forms.

Tax support is available throughout the entire process; this is why it’s well known for its “handholding” features. It has phone, email, and mobile app assistance for paid filers.

Some of the unique features of TaxAct include the “Donation Assistant,” the planning tools and calculators, and the thorough help with Life Events. It walks you through these events step by step, giving you the exact information you need to fill out the appropriate forms.

Overall, it’s a great option for those who need a little bit of extra help in filing their taxes online. It’s not as flashy as the competition, but its help features and assistance throughout the process makes it worth it to some tax filers.

Some other notable features:

• Excellent mobile experience
• Solid user interface with good navigation tools
• Free audit support
• Maximum refund guaranteed
• Free simple and complex tax forms
• Tax alerts available

6. Jackson Hewitt® 2020

Jackson Hewitt software is best for low-income taxpayers without dependents or for tax-savvy filers. The program lacks many of the extras that its competition has. It’s straightforward though. You just answer a series of questions and it produces your tax return based on your answers. It also has a good mobile version available.

There are help topic links and live tax support, but it is not as great as some of the less expensive options. The biggest selling point that keeps tax filers coming back is the “No Fee Refund Advance” of up to $3,200. If you are a confident tax preparer and are familiar with Jackson Hewitt, it may be the right option for you. Additionally, if you have any questions or issues, you can just visit a nearby office for assistance!

Some other notable features:

• Free unlimited chat and email support
• Maximum refund guaranteed
• Good coverage of tax topics
• Excellent error-checking feature
• Background bookkeeping
• Comprehensive interview option
• Over 6,300 locations nationwide including 3,000 kiosks in Wal-Mart stores

7. LIBERTY TAX Online Basic 2020

Liberty tax software is very helpful. It offers recommendations of tax forms and schedules you may wish to use to save money. It also sends you warnings if you hit an audit trigger and sends you email reminders if you forget to finish your return. It has some very convenient import tools and auto-fill features that go along with it.

Since it’s pretty cut and dry, experienced tax filers would probably be the most comfortable using it. The handholding option isn’t available. Unfortunately, there is no free option, but it is a simple program offering a basic user experience; you just need to know what you are doing ahead of time. It’s worth looking into if you are an experienced tax preparer; it just doesn’t have all the extras that some of the free options have.

Some other notable features:

• Chat, social media, email, and phone support available
• Maximum refund guaranteed
• Excellent review process
• Smart card finder
• Innovative navigation system
• Audit support and representation available
• Over 4,000 locations available nationwide
• Option to file online or in-person

More Tax Software Information

Tips You Should Know When Using Tax Software

1. See if you are eligible for the tax software’s free option. Almost all options have a free version. Often, you are eligible even if you think you are not; so, chat with the company to see if the free option is best for you or check out their FAQ’s.

2. Check with the IRS to see if you can file online free. If your adjusted gross income was below $64,000 in 2019, the IRS’s Free File Program can get you name-brand software to file your taxes online. Check out the IRS’s website to look into their free options. They have free fill-able forms and easy online extensions. The IRS even offers a YouTube video. Here is the link:

IRS You Tube Video

3. Understand how online software works to see if it’s the best option for you. Using tax software is much simpler than paper tax forms. All the forms and calculations are done for you. You really just fill out a huge questionnaire; answer easy questions, select drop down options, or click buttons. You move from screen to screen and just check over the review at the end.

The software automatically transfers your information to the tax returns you file. Finally, file your return electronically, and print it out for your records. It’s that easy. If you have complications or questions, check out the help features that the software offers. Many have live support options available.

tax software

Don’t let tax software confuse you.

4. Make sure tax software is the best option for you before signing up. You may want to hire a tax professional or go to a tax preparation company if:

• You are not comfortable with your own ability to complete your tax returns
• You do not like or cannot use computers comfortably.
• You have complex tax returns that you feel only an experienced tax professional would understand.
• You feel that taxes are too complicated and are overwhelmed.

You may be surprised at how easy it can be to file online, but if in doubt, don’t stress over it; just do what you normally do, and file your taxes with the help of a professional. Remember, too, that tax software programs usually offer individual assistance with a tax professional so keep that in mind.

5. Understand how to protect your privacy when using tax software. Be safe with your sensitive information. You are probably not going to feel secure with your taxes if you are filing in a public place where anyone can copy your social security number.

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is a way to encrypt your data, ensuring your information is safe if anyone intercepts it. One final note on tax security is a warning to be cautious when it comes to tax scams.

How Soon You Can File Your Taxes

Are you ready and motivated to file your taxes now, but don’t know how soon you can do it? As soon as you have the required information you need to file your 2019 taxes, you can begin. Many of the software companies listed in this article have specials going on right now, so if you’re ready, go ahead and go for it. For more information on 2020 tax deadlines, check out the following article.

Tax Deadlines for 2020

The Best Mobile Tax Applications

tax software

Use tax software on your mobile phone.

 

PC Magazine named these mobile tax applications as the best, so check them out as an alternative to computer software.

• TurboTax
• H&R Block
• FreeTaxUSA
• Credit Karma
• Liberty Tax

 

Conclusion

There are many benefits in using tax software. It saves you time, effort, convenience, and money. It may not be the best option for you, but there sure is a good argument as to why you should check it out. The seven tax software companies mentioned in this article are the best with many reasons why each one of them fits the bill.

From free filing to free audit assistance, these options have pulled out all the stops to offer you the best service this year, so look at each one here, and maybe you will find the perfect solution to your tax filing needs in 2020.

Note: All tax software prices were accurate as of January 16, 2020.