A Comparison of Online Tax Software

With the prevalence of the world wide web, a lot of the brick and mortar businesses have moved online, and tax preparation software is a great example. It wasn’t long ago that the lines at the post office on April 15th went out the door, around the block and down the street. But these days, the majority of tax filers can spend a few hours online and avoid the headaches of mailing a ton of paperwork.

You might not realize it, but there is quite a large selection of online tax software companies looking for your business. Turbo Tax and H&R Block have done a good job of marketing their products to tax filers. But taking a deeper look into the industry, we’ve found a few others that are just as good, if not better than the major players.

If you’ve used any of the online tax software programs that made our list, please let us know your experience. Our list will be regularly updated to show praise, as well as complaints, so if you’re having trouble deciding which program is best for you, check back here for updates.

H&R Block at Home – Using this software last year, I can attest to the quality of the online product. Realizing that the industry was changing, H&R Block came right into the online space and while Turbo Tax may be easier for a simpler tax filer, my situation calls for something slightly more advanced, which H&R Block provides. Filing your federal taxes online is offered for free, filing state taxes carries an additional fee. If your tax situation is more complicated than just one job and a few bank accounts, I’d like to recommend the Deluxe H&R Block package, valued at $49.95.

Turbo Tax OnlineThe king of online tax filing, Turbo Tax was my tax preparation software of choice for five years prior to switching to H&R Block. However, when my tax situation changed, I tried to file with Turbo Tax using their deluxe package (also valued at $49.95) but a few important details for self employed individuals were not available. I will recommend Turbo Tax to anyone looking to file their simple federal returns for free as I never had a problem inputting my W-2, having the government accept my returns, or receiving my refund in a timely fashion. State filing is extra.

Complete Tax – Starting to tap into the unknowns a bit, Complete Tax offers the same tax software packages as both H&R Block and Turbo Tax, but at a slight discount. Federal filings are free and the Deluxe package is only $39.95. State returns can be filed for an additional $34.95 and if you need online support while filing your tax return, it may cost you extra. Free and Basic users need to pay $4.95 to access live help; Deluxe and Premium filers receive it for free.

Tax Slayer Extreme – If you’re looking to file federal returns for free, Tax Slayer is NOT the software for you. Federal returns start at $9.95 no matter how basic your tax needs are but that’s not where the value lies. Filing state taxes is only an additional $4.95 and ALL types of schedules and paperwork is included in your order. This means that if you have a complicated tax situation and need to file state taxes, you can take care of it all for $14.90. Don’t even bother looking elsewhere for a cheaper tax product, as filing for state taxes alone can cost you in upwards of $50.

Tax Act – Another low-cost tax software, Tax Act does provide free federal taxes as well as discounted packages for advanced situations. Deluxe software is available for $9.95 and Ultimate for $17.95 and filing state taxes is included in the Ultimate price. You will find a boatload of guarantees if you choose Tax Act, like their price lock guarantee, satisfaction guarantee, money back guarantee, accuracy guarantee and maximum refund pledge. If nothing else, you should be able to sleep at night knowing Tax Act has your back.

One Price TaxesThe name says it all doesn’t it? Tax filers can use One Price Taxes to file their federal returns online for $7.95, their state taxes online for $7.95 or the combination of both for $14.95. There are no other packages to choose from but if you need advanced tax help, there is an additional charge of, you guessed it, $7.95. All forms and schedules are included and One Price Taxes also includes an accuracy guarantee. (Although if they screw up, you’ll only receive your purchase price back, not help in your ensuing audit)

OLT Online Taxes$7.95 is the current trend for tax software, as OLT Online Taxes offers both Federal and State online filings, each for that price (No discount for filing both). Customer service help is free and can be provided either by email or through live chat and if you need to file previous years tax returns (meaning you will certainly be charged a penalty by the IRS) you can do so for $49.95. You’ll also find an additional fee for printing your tax returns with OLT Online Taxes ($4.95 or $9.95).

Tax BrainUnlike any other tax preparation services on our list, Tax Brain will first understand your tax situation, then build a package that fits your needs. The costs of Tax Brain packages range from $14.95 to $69.95 and filing state returns is an additional $29.95. Tax Brain will allow your to test-run their software before you buy and they have a live chat support staff that will be able to answer any tax question you might have, free of charge (but only after you’ve paid for your software!).

Express Tax Refund – To show you why other tax software options made our list, we’ll quickly discuss what Express Tax Refund has to offer. Their website is very vanilla and their basic tax package STARTS at $29.95. State returns are $20 extra. Filing electronically is $20 extra. If that’s not enough to scare you, know that with each credit you claim, you’ll pay an additional $10 to file your taxes. This means that the more credits you claim, the heavier your tax filing bill will be by the time you’re ready to send them to the IRS. This software should be avoided at all costs.

Topics: Taxes

10 Responses to “A Comparison of Online Tax Software”

  1. Very nice breakdown. I am in the tax business consulting business and have worked with several different online platforms that are not represented here TaxWise, Intellitax, and CrossLink. I have experience using these in a retail aspect, but I must say that most tax offices I speak with still prefer a hard installed program. While it might be easier for an individual taxpayer to preparer their own tax return, I would strongly suggest considering a hard installed product if looking to do any tax prep for profit. There are numerous security and operational differences between the two options to weigh.

  2. Gayle McLaughlin

    Thank you for this excellent post. I do my adult children’s simple taxes online every year and then I have my taxes done professionally by an accountant. I am familiar with many of these products and I think your article explains the different products excellently. As we head into tax season, this article will become even more relevant.

  3. I appreciate the work you’ve put into this list. I’ve used a couple of the companies you mentioned and have been really happy with each of them (Turbo and Tax Act specifically). One website that’s not on your list that really is unique (as far as I’ve seen) is freetaxusa.com. My sister told me about them because they don’t have fees like the other places do and handle all types of returns for free. After two years I’m still a happy customer.

    • Diane Brown

      freetaxusa.com only charge for state $9.95. Federal is free. And if you use them the next year you dont have to put in all your info again. Love this one. Turbo is a rip off if you have to file state taxes. Taxslayer used to be good but they raised their fees.

      • I am totally agree with Diane Brown…I used both turbo tax and freetaxusa.com and prefer by far freetaxusa.com, it s a true pleasure to do taxes specially the second year everything from the last year is already recorded …a true breeze ! and very frindly to use !

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