The Cheapest & Best Tax Software Prep: a Comparison of 6 Programs

The tax deadline is fast approaching, and if you haven’t filed your taxes already, you’re probably looking for the cheapest and best tax software prep program out there.

If you’re locked in to a particular tax prep program you love, this may be an easy decision for you. If you haven’t filed your own taxes, or are looking to make a switch, finding the best and cheapest tax software program online is not as easy as it may seem.

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 of a form you file. And with free versions, what forms each program covers can be dramatically different (and you have to watch out for state filing fees).

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 affiliate links with heavy discounts so that you can get the cheapest price available.

Here’s my comparison of the cheapest and best tax software prep programs out there:

Comparison of the Cheapest & Best Tax Software Prep:

Standard Cost of Federal Returns:Free: $0
Deluxe: $54.99
Premium: $74.99
Self-Employed: $99.99
Tax-Pro Reviewed:
Add $49.99 - $89.99
Free: $0
Deluxe: $59.99
Premier: $79.99
Self-Employed: $119.99
Tax-Pro Reviewed:
$179.99 (total)
Free: $0
Basic: $14.95
Plus: $49.95
Premium: $69.95
Freelancer: $59.95
EZ: $14.95
Basic: $29.95
Deluxe: $43.95
Premium: $69.95
$0Free: $0
Deluxe: $6.99
Standard Cost of State Returns:Free: $0
Deluxe: $39.99
Premium: $39.99
Self-Employed: $39.99
Free: $29.99
Deluxe: $39.99
Premium: $39.99
Self-Employed: $39.99
Free: $0
Basic: $17
Plus: $39.99
Premium: $39.99
Freelancer: $39.99
EZ: $35.95
Basic: $39.95
Deluxe: $39.95
Premium: $39.95
$0 (Georgia and New Mexico unavailable)Free: $12.95
Deluxe: $12.95
Comparison of Features Per Version:Click here then "Open online tax filing products comparison"Click here then "see all product details" and "tax forms"Click here then "compare online products to help me choose"Click hereReview Credit Karma Tax here (1 version)Click here to review
Free Federal Available to:All filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeAll filers, limited scopeN/AAll filersAll filers, limited scope
Free Federal Scope Limited To:1040EZ, 1040A, & 1040 with Schedule A1040EZ, 1040A1040EZN/AAll formsAll forms
Free State Available To:All filers, limited scopeN/AAll filers, limited scopeN/AAll filersN/A
Free State Scope Limited to:1040EZ, 1040A, & 1040 w/ Schedule AN/A1040EZN/AAll formsN/A
Ability to Have a Tax Pro Review Online:YesYesNoNoNoNo
Office Locations:YesNoNoYesNoNo
Live Tax Advice Via Chat:Yes, Deluxe+ versionsYes, Deluxe+ versionsNoYesYesYes, Deluxe version
Audit Support & Cost:Yes, freeYes, freeYes, $49Yes, freeNoYes, Deluxe version
Link to Cheapest Price:Get 10% off H&R Block hereGet Turbotax hereGet 15% off TaxAct hereGet 20% off Liberty Tax hereCreate a free Credit Karma account hereFind the $0 or $6.99 version of FreeTaxUSA here

The Cheapest Tax Software Prep:

If your goal is strictly to find the cheapest tax software available, H&R Block, TaxAct, and Credit Karma each have at least 1 version that offers both free federal and state filing. The scope among those varies, however:

  • H&R Block covers: 1040EZ, 1040A, & 1040 with Schedule A
  • TaxAct covers: 1040EZ
  • Credit Karma covers: all forms

If you have a very simplistic return, you may be able to file without any up-charges with H&R Block and TaxAct. If you want to be safe with all forms, Credit Karma may be your best bet.

However, you may want to beware that Credit Karma’s program has often been reviewed as being a bit buggy, lacking in features, and it apparently does not cover state returns in Georgia and New Mexico (though this is rumored to be in the works).

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, it’s hard for me to recommend anything but H&R Block or Turbotax as the best tax software out there.

Both offer:

  • the broadest feature sets of all tax programs
  • data imports
  • prior year returns
  • accuracy guarantees
  • free audit support
  • free live chat and telephone support for technical issues or tax questions
  • the ability to have a tax professional personally review your return (for an added charge)

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

I’ve personally used both programs and highly recommend both (in recent years, I’ve exclusively used H&R Block because they are slightly cheaper and offer more support). It’s hard to go wrong with either.

Happy filing to all!

Related Posts:

cheapest and best tax software prep


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