The Cheapest & Best Tax Software Prep Online: Top Program Comparison (2020)

The tax deadline and start date have been announced (filing starts Jan. 27), and if you haven’t started filing your taxes already, you’re probably starting to look around for the cheapest and best tax software prep program online to e-file with for 2020.




If you’re locked in to a particular tax prep software that you love, this may be an easy decision for you: find the right version for this year at the cheapest price (more on that below), and start filing. If you haven’t filed your own taxes, or are looking to make a switch, finding the best and cheapest tax software program online can get tricky.

For starters, the paid versions of various programs don’t align – even if they have the same name (i.e. “Deluxe” or “Premium”). You’ll want to review what forms are covered and meet your personal filing needs, based on how complex your filing is. And with free versions, the forms each program covers can be very limited, mostly focused just on basic 1040 only (and watch out for state filing fees!).

cheapest and best tax software

Additionally, no two programs have all of the same features. Tax advice support differs, audit protection differs, in-person support differs, data import differs, and so on.

So, what I’ve tried to do in this review is give you a quick and easy cost comparison breakdown of all federal and state filing costs, key features, limitations, and even a few special links with the largest available discounts (in the “Link to Best Promotional Price” row below and discount promo codes section below that), so that you can get the cheapest tax software prices (or even free offers) available.

Here’s my comparison of the cheapest and best tax software prep programs available online:




Comparison of the Cheapest & Best Tax Software Prep Online:

H&R BlockTurbotaxTaxActTaxSlayerCredit Karma TaxFreeTaxUSA
Link to Best Promotional Price:Get 30% off H&R Block hereGet $20 or $30 off Turbotax hereGet 30% off TaxAct hereGet 50% off Taxslayer here w/ code "SLAYIT50"Create a free Credit Karma Tax account hereGet a discounted FreeTaxUSA State return here
Cost of Federal Returns (Standard Price):Free: $0
Deluxe: $29.99
Premium: $49.99
Self-Employed: $79.99

"Online Assist" (CPA/Tax Pro supported) versions:
Basic: $39.99
Deluxe: $69.99
Premium: $109.99
Self-Employed: $139.99
Free: $0
Deluxe: $60
Premier: $90
Self-Employed: $120

"Live" (CPA/Tax Pro supported) versions:
Basic: $80
Deluxe: $120
Premier: $170
Self-Employed: $200
Free: $0
Deluxe+: $29.95
Premier+: $39.95
Self-Employed+: $74.95
Simply Free: $0
Classic: $17
Premium: $37
Self-Employed: $47
$0Free: $0
Deluxe: $6.99
Cost of State Returns (Standard Price):Free: $0
Deluxe: $36.99
Premium: $36.99
Self-Employed: $36.99

"Online Assist" (CPA/Tax Pro supported) versions:
Basic: $0
Deluxe: $36.99
Premium: $36.99
Self-Employed: $36.99
Free: $0
Deluxe: $45
Premier: $45
Self-Employed: $45

"Live" (CPA/Tax Pro supported) versions:
Basic: $45
Deluxe: $55
Premier: $55
Self-Employed: $55
Free: $0
Deluxe+: $39.95
Premier+: $39.95
Self-Employed+: $49.95
Simply Free: $0
Classic: $29
Premium: $29
Self-Employed: $29
$0 Free: $14.99
Deluxe: $14.99
Comparison of Features Per Version:Click here then "Compare Online Tax Filing Solutions"Click here then "More Details"Click here then "Compare All Solutions"Click here then "Compare Products"Review Credit Karma Tax here (1 version)Click here to review
Free Federal Available to:All filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scope
Free Federal Scope Limited To:1040104010401040Most, but program does not cover many formsAll forms
Free State Available To:All filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeN/A
Free State Scope Limited to:1040104010401040Most, but program does not cover many formsN/A
Ability to Have a Tax Pro Review Online:Yes, with "Online Assist" versionsYes, with "Live" versionsNoNoNoNo
Office Locations:YesNoNoNoNoNo

The Cheapest Tax Software Prep (& Free Tax Software Prep):

If your goal is strictly to find the cheapest tax software available, H&R BlockTurbotax, TaxAct, Taxslayer, and Credit Karma each have at least 1 version that offers both free federal and state filing. The scope of these free offerings are very limited, however, as it usually only includes basic 1040 filing, with no added forms. For example, Credit Karma’s program does not cover many forms, and the other programs only cover basic 1040.

free tax software

I really don’t recommend jumping at something just because it is “free” on the surface. Make sure you do your homework to find the best fit. Here’s just a sampling of what the “free” versions of tax software often do not cover:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • HSA contributions/withdrawals
  • Mortgage interest deductions
  • Charitable contributions
  • Investment income
  • Landlord income
  • Self-employment income
  • Business income

The IRS FreeFile partnership (see more in my cheap or free ways to e-file post) also connects to you many of the free versions I highlight in this article, but they typically have restrictions that come with them (e.g. FreeTaxUSA requires that your AGI be below $36K) and can also be limited in the forms that they cover. Of course, you could always try to go the Free Fillable Forms route, but I would not advise it. 😉

Tax Software Discount Coupon Promo Codes

If you’re looking to buy the best fit, here are some discount coupon promo codes to utilize, in order to get the best price if you need to upgrade to a paid version in the filing process. I have affiliate partner relationships with a number of these tax software programs, and they have provided me with special pricing to offer to my readers that is the best you will be able to find anywhere, at the links below (for a limited time only). You are unlikely to find lower prices elsewhere.

  1. H&R Block: 30% off at link
  2. Turbotax: $20 or $30 off at link
  3. TaxAct: 30% off at link
  4. Taxslayer: 50% off at link
  5. Liberty Tax: 20% off at link
  6. eSmartTax: 20% off at link
  7. E-file.com: 30% off at link

The Best Tax Software Prep:

Cheapest is not always best – particularly when it comes to something as essential as filing your taxes.

If you have a more complex return, H&R Block, Turbotax, TaxAct, and Taxslayer are likely to be the best tax software options for you. All offer:

  • the broadest feature sets of all tax programs
  • data imports
  • prior year returns
  • accuracy guarantees
  • audit support (usually as an add-on)
  • free live chat support
  • the ability to have a tax professional personally review your return (at H&R Block and Turbotax, for an added charge)




And if things get real crazy, H&R Block even has office locations for in-person reviews and support.

Happy filing to all!

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