The best tax software for 2021

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The best tax software helps you file your taxes online with little hassle or frustration. We analyzed over 20 tax software programs — comparing the price, ease of use, filing options, support and features of each — to bring you the top seven.

What’s changed in 2021?

We added Keeper Tax for freelancers and Credit Karma Tax for best free tax software to our list.

The best tax software depends on your specific tax situation. Here are seven top tax software programs if you’re self-employed, have a complex return, need more support or are on a limited budget.

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1. TaxAct

The best tax software for 2021

Best tax software for complex returns

  • Federal return: $0 to $109.95
  • State return: $4.95 to $49.95
  • TaxAct offers five different personal tax preparation plans built to handle even the most complex of returns. Some plans even come with screen sharing capabilities so you can get on-demand support from a tax professional should you need it.

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Pros and Cons

The best tax software for 2021

Pros

  • Accuracy guarantee. If your return isn’t 100% accurate, TaxAct will give you a refund and pay all legal fees up to $100,000.
  • Import previous returns. You can import old returns from TurboTax and H&R Block. Plus, you can access up to seven years of old TaxAct returns.

Cons

  • Upselling. As with most software programs, TaxAct will try to upgrade you as you move through the filing process.
  • No advances for tax refunds. Unlike some competitors, TaxAct doesn’t offer refund advances.

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2. H&R Block

The best tax software for 2021

Best tax software for on-demand support

  • Federal return: $0 to $144.99
  • State return: $0 to $36.99
  • H&R Block has nine different software plans and packages — half of which come with on-demand support from tax experts, enrolled agents and CPAs. This makes it a great option for those who think they’ll need help during the filing process.

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Pros and Cons

The best tax software for 2021

Pros

  • Easy to use. H&R Block has a user-friendly interface and is known for producing accurate returns. The layout is clean and easy to follow compared to other programs.
  • Multiple ways to file. You can file your tax return online, download a program onto your computer or stop by a local H&R Block location for in-person assistance.

Cons

  • No automatic deductions. Unlike other tax software, H&R Block doesn’t automatically suggest deductions you should take.
  • Additional fees. Expect to pay $25 on top of software fees if you want to get your refund via a paper check.

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3. Keeper Tax

The best tax software for 2021

Best for freelancers

  • Federal return: $89
  • State return: $0
  • The best software for Uber drivers and freelancers is Keeper Tax. The software connects with your bank account and tracks your expenses throughout the year to help you maximize your deductions. Come tax season, you can file directly with Keeper Tax for an additional fee of $89.

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Pros and Cons

The best tax software for 2021

Pros

  • Catches missed write-offs. Keeper Tax’s monthly expense tracking feature analyzes your financial accounts to catch all your tax-deductible expenses.
  • Assigned licensed tax bookkeeper. When you sign up, Keeper Tax assigns you your own licensed tax bookkeeper who you can go to for help.
  • Audit protection. Keeper Tax monitors your account and flags any expenses that are at risk of being audited, so you can correct them.

Cons

  • Must use monthly service. You can only file your taxes with Keeper Tax if you use its monthly expense tracking service, which costs $16 a month.
  • Not the cheapest option. Keeper Tax costs $89 a year. While this is average for freelance tax filing software, you may be able to file cheaper with FreeTaxUSA.

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4. TurboTax

The best tax software for 2021

Best tax software for small business owners

  • Federal return: $90 to $170
  • State return: $40 to $50
  • TurboTax is the best tax software for self-employed individuals. Its business plans have all the bells and whistles — auditing support, payroll features, reports and even accounting software integrations. There are even tax experts on standby.

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Pros and Cons

The best tax software for 2021

Pros

  • Business-focused features. Seamlessly generate payroll forms, import data from Quickbooks, Square, Uber and more. Plus use TurboTax’s Audit Risk Meter to check your return for audit triggers.
  • Discount for military. Service members can file their federal and state tax returns for free using any TurboTax package.

Cons

  • Cost. You get what you pay for and in this case, TurboTax’s robust platform doesn’t come cheap. Expect to pay at least $130 to file a federal and state return.
  • Not all downloadable software is Mac-compatible. While most of TurboTax’s downloadable software packages are both Windows and Mac-compatible, TurboTax Business isn’t. You can only use it on a Windows machine.

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5. FreeTaxUSA

The best tax software for 2021

Best tax software for limited budgets

  • Federal return: $0
  • State return: $14.99
  • With FreeTaxUSA, you can file federal returns for free and state returns for $14.99, making it a great option for free filers and those on a limited budget. But it doesn’t support all tax forms.

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Pros and Cons

The best tax software for 2021

Pros

  • Affordable. You’ll pay $0 for federal returns and $14.99 for state returns, plus an additional $6.99 for live chat, audit assistance and unlimited amended returns.
  • No surprises. While many tax software programs try to upsell you throughout the filing process, FreeTaxUSA doesn’t and its fees are straightforward.

Cons

  • No phone support. Unless you pay $6.99 for the Deluxe version, the only way to reach customer service is through email.
  • Doesn’t support all tax forms. You can’t use FreeTaxUSA if you have foreign employment income, a nonresident alien return, at-risk limitations and Archer MSAs, among others.

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6. TaxSlayer

The best tax software for 2021

Best tax software for tax preparers

  • Cost: $1,195 to $1,495
  • TaxSlayer Pro is a tax preparation software designed specifically for tax preparers. It comes with unlimited support and integrated bank products to help your clients get paid sooner.

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Pros and Cons

The best tax software for 2021

Pros

  • Unlimited support. The average wait time during tax season is less than 60 seconds, according to TaxSlayer.
  • Unlimited forms. File as many 1040 Forms with the IRS as you need without worrying about hitting a limit. All states are included.

Cons

  • May not be Mac-compatible. The web version of TaxSlayer Pro is Mac-compatible, but the Premium and Classic versions are not.

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7. Credit Karma Tax

The best tax software for 2021

Best free tax software

  • Federal return: $0
  • State return: $0
  • Credit Karma Tax is one of the only tax filing options that’s 100% free. It covers most tax situations, including those with itemized deductions, business income, self-employment tax and capital gains. But you’ll need a Credit Karma account before you can sign up.

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Pros and Cons

The best tax software for 2021

Pros

  • No fees. Credit Karma Tax is free to use. You won’t have to pay if your situation is more complex or if you need to file a state return.
  • Max refund guarantee. If you end up filing an amended return with another online tax software and get a bigger refund, Credit Karma will refund you the difference up to $100.
  • Free audit defense. Credit Karma guarantees accurate calculations, but if its system makes an error and you get penalized, it’ll refund you up to $1,000.

Cons

  • Must have Credit Karma account. You’ll be asked to sign up for a regular Credit Karma account before you can file your taxes. This account is free and lets you monitor your credit score and gives recommendations on how to improve it.
  • Doesn’t cover all tax situations. Credit Karma doesn’t support multiple state returns, part-year state returns, nonresident state returns and more. Visit its website for other situations it doesn’t support.

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How do I choose the best tax software?

The best tax software for 2021

Here are some major factors to consider when narrowing down the best tax software for your situation:

  • Cost. Some tax software programs are sneaky and will let you start out on the free version, then bump you up to a paid tier as you go. Read the details for each tier so you know how much you’ll pay for your situation.
  • Ease of use. Choose a tax program that’s easy to understand, so you can make sure you’re filling out everything correctly. If an interface looks clunky or confusing, it may only add to your frustration.
  • Customer support. Some tax software programs come with live support by chat or phone while others are limited to email support only.

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How do I sign up for an online tax software?

The best tax software for 2021

Signing up for an online tax software only takes a few minutes.

  1. Visit the online tax software’s website and click Sign Up.
  2. Create your account using your email address, phone number and password.
  3. Tell the platform about your tax situation.
  4. Select its recommended package or choose another one.
  5. Start filing your taxes.

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Required documents

The best tax software for 2021

You don’t need any information to sign up for a tax software other than your name, email address and phone number. But you should have these documents on hand when you start the filing process.

  • W2s
  • 1099s for earned interest, self-employed income, dividends, retirement distributions and more
  • Receipts for child care, educational expenses, medical bills, charitable donations, property taxes and mortgage interest, state and local taxes and any other expenses you’re claiming as a deduction
  • Proof of retirement contributions

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Are online tax software services safe?

The best tax software for 2021

Yes. Registered tax providers and the IRS take security precautions to ensure that your financial information is handled safely. If you still prefer to do things face to face, consider a service like H&R Block, which offers branches for paperwork drop-off. You can also print and mail in your own Form 1040.

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What are the benefits of an online tax software?

The best tax software for 2021

Using an online tax software has these benefits:

  • Fast. Filing your taxes online can typically be done in one day and takes less time than going to someone’s office and waiting on them to do it for you.
  • Cost-effective. Using an online tax software is generally cheaper than hiring a tax preparer, and those with simple returns can file for free in most cases.
  • Accurate. Most tax software programs have an accuracy guarantee and will give you a refund if their software calculates your return incorrectly.
  • Highest refund guaranteed. Most tax software programs also have a refund guarantee where they’ll pay you the difference if another platform calculates a higher refund.

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What should I look out for?

The best tax software for 2021

Here’s what to look out for when filing your taxes with an online tax software.

  • May not be best for complex returns. If you have a complicated tax situation with multiple income streams, deductions and credits, it may be easier to hire a tax preparer to do the work for you.
  • Varying customer service. Some platforms like TurboTax offer live support if you need help quickly, while others only help via email.

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Tax software alternatives

The best tax software for 2021

You have two main alternatives if you don’t want to use a tax software:

  • Tax professional. Hiring a CPA may be a good option if you’re a high net worth individual or business owner with a complicated and confusing tax situation. Otherwise, a business tax software can help you create an accurate return
  • DIY. Doing your taxes yourself is the most laborious option — and it also has the most room for error. Unless you’re a tax preparer, you may not have the expertise to go this route.

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Bottom line

The best tax software for 2021

Choosing the right tax software from the start will save you a lot of time and headache come tax season. As always, explore your tax filing options and learn which steps you should take to file your taxes this year.

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Frequently asked questions

The best tax software for 2021

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How do I file taxes as an independent contractor?

The best tax software for 2021

Independent contractors and freelancers are classified as 1099 employees, which means you’ll need to set aside quarterly estimated taxes and file Schedule C along with your return.

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Can I use a tax software on my Mac?

The best tax software for 2021

You use most online tax software programs in your web browser, so they’re compatible with both Mac and PC. If you’re looking for downloadable software, H&R Block has a lot of options.

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What’s the best tax preparation software to use with Quickbooks?

The best tax software for 2021

The best online tax filing software to use with Quickbooks is TurboTax. There are four different business packages to choose from. The Self-Employed package even comes with a free one-year subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed.

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Is there any tax software that has a mobile app?

The best tax software for 2021

Yes. You can file your taxes on a mobile app with TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer, TaxAct and Credit Karma Tax.

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This article originally appeared on Finder.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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