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RANKED: The Best Tax Software of 2018

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If you’re like most Americans, you dread filing your taxes. You have to track down the right forms, deal with the IRS and try to remember all your deductions and credits. That’s why so many people turn to online tax software to help file taxes. Great tax software simplifies the filing process without draining your wallet. But choosing the right software can be as much work as filing your taxes.

To help you choose the right software, we’ve tested 10 of the leading online tax software packages.

We’ve ranked each software on the following criteria: usability, helpfulness of support articles, availability of audit support and accessibility of tax and technical support. Then, we compared these criteria to the price to determine which software package is best for your situation.

Which tax software fits your needs? Find out below.

Best tax software of 2018

Best bargain for tax software: H&R Block More Zero

Of the 10 tax software packages we reviewed, only two allow all users to file state and federal taxes for free (Credit Karma Tax and DIY Tax). Unfortunately, Credit Karma suffers from bugs and inadequate technical support, and DIY Tax suffers on usability. This year’s best bargains offer the most functionality for the lowest price.

H&R Block More Zero H&R Block More Zero offers the best free software for the most users in 2018. Not only can you file free online, you can also use the H&R Block Tax Prep app to complete your filing.

Users who qualify for the More Zero package will find an easy-to-use Q+A interface, robust knowledge articles and free technical support alongside free state and federal filing. The More Zero software allows users to import their W-2 and 1099-INT forms. Plus, you can deduct student loan interest, property and real estate taxes and mortgage interest. On top of these deductions, you’ll be free to claim most major credits including the Earned Income Tax Credit, The Child Tax Credit and Dependent Care Credits. Among the top tax filing services, this is the most expansive free option available.

Unfortunately, not all users will qualify for H&R Block’s More Zero offer. If you need to declare investment income, self-employment income or you need to itemize beyond home ownership, H&R Block will charge you.

Runner-up: FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA offers free federal tax filing, but state filing costs an additional $12.95 for all users. FreeTaxUSA offers a question-and-answer interface, and in-software calculators that make it easy enough for beginners to file their taxes. FreeTaxUSA supports most major forms, so even people with rental properties, self-employment income or credits to claim get the same prices.

FreeTaxUSA doesn’t have as many import options, but it does allow you to import your previous returns (even from a competitor) to make comparisons easier. Plus, all users get email support for tax questions and technical support. For people who don’t qualify for H&R Block’s More Zero offer, FreeTaxUSA offers a bargain-priced alternative.

Best for Simple Filing: TurboTax Absolute Zero

Simple filers are W-2 employees who claim the standard deduction. You don’t earn money on the side, and your only other income comes from bank interest or dividends. You typically file as single or married filing jointly, and you want filing your taxes to take as little time as possible.

TurboTax Absolute Zero If you earn less than $100,000, and you don’t need to itemize your taxes, TurboTax Absolute Zero is likely the best software. You can use the highly-rated TurboTax app to snap pictures of your W-2 and file your taxes from your home. The Absolute Zero service supports student loan interest deduction, the saver’s tax credit and child-related tax credits.

Runner-up: H&R Block More Zero

H&R Block’s More Zero offers free state and federal filing for qualified users. Since H&R Block doesn’t limit their More Zero package to people earning less than $100,000, this is a great software for simple filers with higher incomes. With More Zero, you can claim all the deductions and credits that TurboTax offers, plus you can itemize your homeownership expenses.

The H&R Block user experience isn’t quite as easy to navigate as TurboTax’s (and it’s app isn’t as highly rated), but it is still an excellent choice for many filers.

Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits: TaxSlayer Classic

Charitably-inclined people, most homeowners, parents who pay for child care, and people who qualify for the earned income tax credit may want to maximize deductions and credits.

TaxSlayer Classic TaxSlayer Classic offers federal filing for $17 and state filing for $22. The software offers a clean interface with a straightforward interview style for filing. For maximizing deductions and credits, you’re not likely to find a better software for the price. TaxSlayer gives you access to technical support, but you need to upgrade to ask tax-related questions.

Runner-up: FreeTaxUSA Free

FreeTaxUSA uses an interview-style interface to help users maximize deductions and credits. Unlike most software packages, FreeTaxUSA doesn’t force you to upgrade to itemize deductions or search for all major credits. You will pay nothing for federal filing and $12.95 per state. The interface is clean, and the interview questions aren’t stuffed with jargon. Even first-time filers should feel comfortable using the software.

FreeTaxUSA doesn’t have the same visual appeal or super-simple navigation of top competitors, but it offers a decent user experience at a fraction of the price of some of the top competitors.

Easiest for New Filers: H&R Block More Zero

Filing taxes for the first time can be intimidating, but a great tax software can put new filers at ease. When making recommendations for new filers, we prioritized the simplicity of the user interface and easy access to tax professionals.

H&R Block More Zero Many new filers will qualify for H&R Block’s More Zero free federal and state filing. H&R Block offers an easy-to-use interface that will make sense for first-time filers, plus it has lots of easy to understand articles and help buttons.

If you’re not feeling confident that you completed your taxes correctly, you can opt for the $49.99 Tax Pro Review. The certified tax professionals can review your return and offer expert guidance to be sure it’s done properly.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

New filers who need to itemize their taxes, have self-employment income, capital gains or rental income won’t qualify for H&R Block More Zero. For these categories, Credit Karma Tax offers a free alternative for new filers. If you run into issues using Credit Karma Tax, you can chat with a live tax product professional. Plus, qualified filers can get an interest-free federal tax refund advance loan of up to $1,000 using Credit Karma’s Early Bird Advance.

Unfortunately, this recommendation has to come with a warning. Credit Karma has struggled with tech-related issues this year, and its customer service is overburdened. If you run into issues, you may want to consider an alternative option.

Best Audit Protection: FreeTaxUSA Deluxe

The IRS has the right to audit anyone, but people who have tax profiles that differ from the norm are more likely to get audited. No tax software (or accountant) can prevent you from getting audited, but some services will give you help during an audit. The best audit assistance from a tax software includes personal help from a tax specialist or an accountant. When you purchase audit assistance, you can expect that a tax specialist will help you understand IRS instructions if you get audited. They will also help you write responses to IRS notifications, and develop a plan to prepare for the audit.

FreeTaxUSA Deluxe FreeTaxUSA Deluxe costs $6.99 for the software, and an additional $0 for federal filing and $12.95 for state filing. The Deluxe upgrade doesn’t change the underlying software, but Deluxe users get an audit assistance guarantee. If you’re audited you’ll get personal assistance from a tax professional. The tax professional will help you understand IRS directions, and help you prepare for your audit. While the software isn’t quite as easy to use as major filing services (like H&R Block or TurboTax), the audit assistance is the lowest price on the market.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Premium

TaxSlayer Premium uses an interview style and info bubbles to guide users through their returns. In addition to the excellent user experience, TaxSlayer Premium (and Self-Employed) offer audit assistance. If the IRS audits you, a trained tax professionals will help you prepare for the audit, and understand what the IRS needs from you. TaxSlayer Premium costs $35 for federal filing and $22 for state filing. TaxSlayer costs more than FreeTaxUSA, but it offers a slightly better user experience.

Best for Investors: H&R Block Premium – Online Version

If you buy and sell stocks, bonds, or options outside of your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, you need a tax software that can handle all your information. The best tax software for investors allows you to connect directly to your brokerage accounts. It should easily differentiate between dividend income, and short and long term capital gains.

H&R Block Premium H&R Block Premium online software costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. Although this is more expensive than other software services, the price is justified. H&R Block connects directly to your brokerage account to calculate the tax you owe. Connecting to your brokerage not only saves you time (a must if you’re an active trader), it can save you money too. H&R Block calculates your cost basis for you. This makes it possible for the software to accurately calculate gains and losses and differentiate between short and long term capital gains. H&R Block offers an easy way for investors to accurately calculate what they owe (and not pay a penny too much).

Runner-up: TurboTax Premier

TurboTax offers an exceptionally strong user experience for stock market investors who need to report stock sales, mutual fund sales or deal with Employee Stock Purchase Plans. TurboTax connects to thousands of brokerages, and they make it easy to accurately report your income. Plus, they calculate your cost basis in a stock which can minimize your taxes. TurboTax Premier online software costs $59.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. It’s a little bit more expensive than H&R Block, but it also offers a slightly better experience for investors.

Best for real estate investors: TurboTax Premier

Taxes for real estate investors can be confusing. Real estate investors can deduct tons of expenses, and they need a great software to help them calculate their deductions. In particular, a great tax software needs to help you depreciate your property, find and deduct real estate expenses and calculate amortization expenses.

To determine the best software, we prioritized features like helpful support articles, intuitive depreciation and amortization calculators and access to expert tax support.

TurboTax Premier TurboTax Premier costs $59.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state. TurboTax has robust calculators and easy to understand articles that help users minimize their taxes. The step-by-step instructions make TurboTax a top choice for both new and experienced real estate investors. On top of that, QuickBooks users can upload their expenses directly to TurboTax, and TurboTax will do the hardest work for you.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Premium

TaxSlayer Premium costs $35 for federal filing and $22 for state filing. The real estate portion of TaxSlayer has real estate calculators that are still simple enough for most real estate investors. If you get confused, or you’re not sure how to classify an expense, you can speak to a tax specialist who can guide you to the right decisions.

TaxSlayer doesn’t allow you to import any real estate forms, and the step-by-step guidance isn’t as robust as TurboTax’s. However, TaxSlayer costs 40 percent less than TurboTax and comes with audit assistance. For the right real estate investor, TaxSlayer could be a bargain.

Best for the self-employed: TaxSlayer Classic or Self-Employed

Are you a freelancer or contractor? If so, you may need help deducting many business-related expenses. This means that taxes can get messy in a hurry. The best tax software for self-employed people makes it easy to claim business deductions. It will also offer robust explanations that will help you understand amortizing equipment expenses and whether you qualify for a home-office deduction.

TaxSlayer Classic TaxSlayer Classic uses a simple interview filing system that makes it easy for the self-employed to declare their income and minimize deductions. TaxSlayer Classic supports all forms needed to minimize deductions. At a cost of just $17 for federal filing and $22 for state filing, TaxSlayer offers a top software experience at a reasonable price. If you prefer to get help from a professional (and get audit assistance), you can upgrade to TaxSlayer Self-Employed for $55 (federal and state filing included).

Runner-up: TurboTax Self-Employed

TurboTax makes it easy for those who are self-employed to find deductible expenses using its interview-style interface. It offers dozens of articles that can help self-employed folks understand their taxes better. Self-employed filers who use QuickBooks for their bookkeeping can effortlessly import their expenses. Once you import your data from QuickBooks, TurboTax does the work of categorizing expenses, and deducting them.

TurboTax Self-Employed is one of the most expensive tax software options online; it costs $89.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. It comes with a complimentary one-year subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed accounting software (offer not valid if you’re a QuickBooks subscriber already on a payment plan).

Best for getting your return fast: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax is offering an “Early Bird Advance” of up to $1,000 for qualified filers. The advance comes on a prepaid debit card (American Express Serve® Card).

Credit Karma Tax Technically, the advance is an interest-free loan issued through Credit Karma’s bank partner, MetaBank. If you accept the advance, the IRS will send your full refund to MetaBank. MetaBank will repay the loan using the refund, then send the remainder to you.

Credit Karma Tax is a completely free filing service, and it has a decent user interface. Unfortunately, it has had several technical glitches this year, and Credit Karma has struggled to respond in a timely manner. If you run into trouble, you may want to try a different filing service.

Runner-up: TurboTax Self-Employed

TurboTax makes it easy for those who are self-employed to find deductible expenses using its interview-style interface. It offers dozens of articles that can help self-employed folks understand their taxes better. Self-employed filers who use QuickBooks for their bookkeeping can effortlessly import their expenses. Once you import your data from QuickBooks, TurboTax does the work of categorizing expenses, and deducting them.

TurboTax Self-Employed is one of the most expensive tax software options online; it costs $89.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. It comes with a complimentary one-year subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed accounting software (offer not valid if you’re a QuickBooks subscriber already on a payment plan).

Best for small businesses: TurboTax Business

Sole proprietors and single-member LLCs can also use tax software for self-employed filers. As long as the software supports a Schedule C, it will work for your small business needs.

If you’re part of a partnership, a corporation or a multi-member LLC, then you need more than the standard tax software that we reviewed above.

Corporations need software that supports Form 1120. S Corporations (with more than one member) need tax software that supports Form 1120S. Partnerships and multi-member LLCs need software that supports Form 1065.

If you need business tax software, consider one of these options.

TurboTax Business

Total cost:

  • $159.99 for federal software (up to five federal e-files)
  • $49.99 per state software
  • $19.99 per state e-filing fee.

TurboTax Business offers the same interview-style interface that consumers love, but it offers increased functionality. Small-business owners can use it to create unlimited W-2 forms and 1099-MISC forms.

H&R Block Premium and Business

Total Cost:

  • $79.95 for federal software (up to five federal e-files)
  • $39.95 per state (first state free)
  • $19.95 per state filing.

H&R Block offers an excellent interview-style user interface with increased functionality such as creating employee forms. On top of this, you can chat with a live tax expert after you purchase the software. This software supports the major forms for businesses, estate and trusts and nonprofit organizations.

TaxAct for Small Businesses

Total costs:

  • $97 State and Federal Bundle
  • $60 Federal filing only

TaxAct has a slightly more stripped-down user interface than H&R Block or TurboTax, but business owners can easily complete everything they need to do. TaxAct comes with unlimited tax support from a professional when you purchase the product.

Tax Software Pricing, Plans, and Insights

1040.com

1040.com - Tax Software Pricing According to 1040.com, tax filing should be smart and simple. 1040.com is on point by offering free live chat and email-based technical support. They also have support articles that are approachable and informative. Simple filers will have an easy time using 1040.com. Plus if you qualify for a 1040EZ (meaning you have W-2 income and no dependents and you don’t need to itemize), you can get completely free filing.

Unfortunately, people with more complex filing needs will find 1040.com unusable. It doesn’t have built-in calculators that real estate investors or stock market investors need to file accurately. The higher-priced levels don’t offer the functionality to justify the price.

If you qualify for the free edition of 1040.com, consider using it, but other filers will need to walk away.

 

Free$24.95$44.95
Price$0 Federal
$0 Free
$24.95 Federal
$19.95 State
$44.95 Federal
$24.95 State
Best For1040EZ (No Dependents, income under $100,000)Itemizers, people with children, stock market investorsSelf-employed, real estate investors, people with income

Superlatives: None

Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax Credit Karma Tax offers free federal and state filing for all users. Even though Credit Karma is completely free, it supports almost all major forms, so you can be confident that it has what you need.

Credit Karma’s refund dashboard shows you how income, deductions and credits influence your tax refund. In addition to the helpful refund tracker, Credit Karma offers an Early-Bird Advance. Early filers may qualify for an interest free loan of $500, $750 or $1,000 on a Serve card. Right now, Credit Karma is the only free online filing service that offers refund advances. Credit Karma also offers 24/7 live chat support from tax specialists.

As far as free filing services go, Credit Karma Tax looks great on paper. Even though it did away with the interview-style navigation, it still has a decent user interface. Unfortunately, during testing, we found a few bad gateways, and the default settings “hide” certain forms from users which makes navigation difficult. Credit Karma Tax doesn’t allow users to import forms (other than prior year tax returns and W-2 forms), which can be a pitfall for active traders and real estate professionals.

Adding to those negatives, Credit Karma seems to struggle with their tech support. Users can request tech support via email, but Credit Karma has posted that response time may be delayed due to the high volume of help requests.

Superlatives: Best for getting your refund fast, runner-up easiest for new filers

DIY Tax

DIY Tax DIY Tax offers 100% free federal and state filing for everyone. The software is accurate, and it allows you to import your prior year’s taxes for your reference.

However, DIY Tax has a cluttered user interface. With so much jammed on every page, you might miss something important while filing. Real estate investors and small business owners need to be careful with this platform, since the depreciation and amortization calculators can be confusing. The software offers free technical support via live chat or email, but they push Liberty Tax Service offices for tax support (Liberty Tax is their parent company). As you file, you will see ads for their offices in the software. Often, these ads include a coupon for an office visit. Remember, filing in a Liberty Tax office isn’t free.

Superlatives: None

eSmart Tax

eSmart Tax eSmart Tax and DIY Tax are the same software package. However, you have to pay for eSmart Tax. Why would you pay? The Deluxe and Premium packages offer unlimited phone or email support from tax specialists, which can prove helpful. But in most cases, eSmart Tax isn’t a great option.

 

FreeBasicDeluxePremium
Price$0 Federal $29.99 State$24.95 Federal
$35.95 State
$38.95 Federal
$35.95 State
$49.95 Federal
$35.95 State
Best For1040EZHomeowners, people with dependents, sole proprietors, freelancers without inventory and with less than $5,000 in expensesStock market investors with dividend income, self-employed people with home office deductions or inventory expensesStock market investors with capital gains or losses, real estate investors, people who sold a home in the previous years

Superlatives: None

FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA Deluxe FreeTaxUSA isn’t actually free, but it’s one of the best bargains in the tax software market. The software guides users through an interview process that makes filing easy. The interface is clean, so you don’t have to worry about missing something important. FreeTaxUSA makes it easy to import your tax return from a competitor, so you can review year-to-year changes in your taxes. You can also chat with tax and technical specialists if you run into issues. This kind of support makes FreeTaxUSA stand out among other bargain priced software services.

FreeTaxUSA offers two pricing tiers. At either level, you’ll pay at least $12.95 for state filing, and you can upgrade to a Deluxe software package for an additional $6.99. The Deluxe upgrade gives you priority support (meaning you get to cut in line if you need tax help). Upgrading also gives you access to a tax specialist if you’re audited.

 

FreeDeluxe
Price$0 Software fee
$0 Federal
$12.95 State
$6.99 Software fee
$0 Federal
$12.95 State
Best ForAll major schedules supportedAnyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Best Audit Protection, best bargain for self-employed workers

H&R Block Online

H&R Block H&R Block is one of the biggest names in tax software for good reason. People with complex tax returns will love the value that H&R Block offers. H&R Block offers unlimited technical support to all filers, and phone and chat tax support for those who pay. H&R Block’s More Zero option is one of the most inclusive free filing options on the market. Homeowners, parents, and savers with W-2 income can maximize their refund using the free option.

H&R Block offers easy navigation, helpful interview questions, and robust articles that can help you untangle even the most complex filing situation. You can also import information from your brokerage account which makes filing capital gains taxes a snap. If you run into issues, you can either ask a tax professional, or you can upgrade to the $44.99-$89.99 Tax Pro Review. With a Tax Pro Review, an H&R Block Tax Professional will review your return before you file, and fix any errors.

The only disappointment is that H&R Block online filing customers do not get a guarantee of audit assistance. To get audit assistance from H&R Block you must purchase a desktop software or visit one of the offices.

H&R Block’s software isn’t quite as easy to use as TurboTax, but it’s a bit less expensive. In particular, freelancers and self-employed people with basic expenses will see huge value since they can purchase the Premium edition.

As an added bonus, you can get up to a 5% boost on your refund if you choose to have your refund loaded to an Amazon gift card.

 

More ZeroDeluxePremiumSelf-Employed
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$49.99 Tax Pro Review
$34.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$79.99 Tax Pro Review
$54.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$89.99 Tax Pro Review
$74.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$89.99 Tax Pro Review
Best ForHomeowners, parents, people with W-2 incomeStock market investors dividend income only, self-employed with basic expenses, other itemizersReal estate investors, self-employed with less than $5000 in expenses and no inventory, stock market investors with capital gainsSelf-employed people, Uber drivers

Superlatives: Best bargain, easiest for new filers, best for investors, runner-up best for simple filing

OLT.com

OLT.com OLT.com offers bargain basement pricing, and it supports all major filing situations. Unfortunately, the low price shows in the interface. It’s cluttered, difficult to navigate and doesn’t allow many imports. OLT.com has a large volume of support articles, but it stuffs the articles with confusing tax-jargon.

The one bright spot for this software is the $7.95 Premium upgrade that brings audit support and tax help from a professional. Even with this value, we don’t recommend OLT.com for most situations. This year, you can find a better software at lower prices.

 

FreePremium
Price$0 Federal
$9.95 State
$7.95 Federal
$7.95 State
Best ForAll major schedules supportedAnyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: None

TaxAct

TaxAct TaxAct uses a question-and-answer style to guide you through your taxes. It offers helpful articles, and you can receive phone and email support from tax and technical professionals. If you want audit assistance from TaxAct, you must upgrade to the expensive Premium level.

If you’re a stock market investor, you can use TaxAct’s stock market assistant to help you minimize your capital gains taxes. This feature becomes available at the self-employed level. It’s a helpful tool, but not as good as connecting directly to your brokerage accounts.

For the most part, TaxAct simplifies tax filing, but it costs more than it should. TaxAct costs nearly as much as industry leaders H&R Block and TurboTax, but it does not provide the same value.

 

FreePlusSelf-EmployedPremium
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$29.95 Federal
$37 State
$44.95 Federal
$37 State
$59.95 Federal
$37 State
Best For1040EZ, 1040AItemizers, stock market investors with only dividend income, real estate investorsSelf-employed, stock market investors with capital gains and lossesPeople seeking audit defense

Superlatives: None

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer TaxSlayer has an incredible user interface and helpful support articles. When it comes to itemizing deductions or finding credits, it is one of the easiest to use tax software packages on the market. In addition to a great software experience, TaxSlayer also premiered refundNOW in 2018. Qualified filers can get an interest-free advance of up to $1000 from TaxSlayer’s partner bank, River City Bank. The tax refund comes either via a prepaid debit card or a direct deposit.

Unlike most tax software, TaxSlayer supports all forms on its second-tier Classic level. If you’re a real estate investor or a self-employed worker, this means that you can complete your return at a low price. Their Premium and Self-Employed levels gives you access to live chat support, audit protections and help from tax professionals.

When you’re comparing prices at TaxSlayer note that Classic, Premium and Self-Employed offer the same software but have different support features.. The Classic level doesn’t include help from tax professionals or audit assistance, which are included with Premium or Self-Employed levels. Premium and Self-Employed are virtually identical except for their pricing. The Self-Employed option is $2 cheaper if you have to file both state and federal taxes, but Premium is $20 cheaper if you only need to file federal taxes.

 

Simply FreeClassicPremiumSelf-Employed
Price$0 Federal
$0 First State ($22 each additional)
$17 Federal
$22 State
$35 Federal
$22 State
$55 (Federal and State included)
Best For1040EZAll others (itemizers, stock market investors, real estate investors, self-employed, etc.)People who want audit assistance or help from a tax professional and DO NOT need to file a state returnPeople who want audit assistance or help from a tax professional and MUST file a state return

Superlatives: Best for maximizing deductions and credits, best for self-employed, runner-up best audit protection, runner-up best for real estate investors, runner-up best for getting your refund fast

TurboTax

TurboTax If you’re looking for the Cadillac of tax software, TurboTax again takes the prize. Their interface is easy to navigate, and it offers superior usability for real estate investors, self-employed workers and stock market investors. Paying customers who get stuck can get help from technical professionals. TurboTax takes their support seriously. With your permission, support staff can “draw” on your screen to guide you through tough situations. However, technical support isn’t tax support. If you need help from a tax professional, you have to upgrade to the overpriced $149.99 TurboTax Live option. This gives you on-demand support from a tax professional, and a tax pro will review your taxes before you file.

1040EZ filers get to use TurboTax Absolute Zero for free, but all other filers will pay a far higher price. If you’re just looking to itemize your taxes, TurboTax isn’t worth the price, but active traders, real estate investors and self-employed people may find that the price is worth it.

Unfortunately, TurboTax premium pricing means that some offerings are not worth the money. If you want audit support from TurboTax you have to purchase TurboTax Max. The price of audit support. TurboTax’s MAX costs $44.99 which is a lot higher than audit support from other companies.

 

Absolute Zero*Deluxe*Premier*Self-Employed*TurboTax Live*
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$39.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$59.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$89.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$149.99 Federal
$36.99
Best For1040EZ/ 1040AItemizersInvestors, real estate investorsSelf-employedPeople who want a review from a CPA

*Anyone can upgrade to TurboTax’s MAX for $44.99.

Superlatives: Best for simple filers, runner-up best for investors, best for real estate investors, runner-up best for self-employed

Tax software FAQs

The IRS sends 90% of refunds within three weeks of receiving the return. The sooner you file, the sooner you can expect your return.

You can check on the status of your refund starting 24 hours after e-filing using the “Where’s my refund?” page from the IRS. You can also check on your refund status using the IRS2Go app.

Tax-related identity theft is the no. 1 reported form of identity theft. However, most theft isn’t the direct result of using online software. Any time you apply for a credit card or use online banking, your information enters the digital world. If this information gets stolen, you’re at risk. Nobody can eliminate the possibility of identity theft, but you can work to protect yourself.

Part of protecting yourself involves only giving out your information on trusted websites. When you file your taxes, you provide all your personally identifiable information to a software service. You need to know whether or not that information is safe.

Every software company that we reviewed is an authorized IRS e-File provider. This means that these sites comply with the security and business standards set forth by the IRS.

None of the software packages we reviewed will sell your personal information to a third party. They require you to use multi-factor authentication. This makes it difficult for hackers to access your personal information. These websites are as secure as possible, but they are not 100% safe.

If you think you’ve been the victim of tax fraud, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-908-4490 to work with their resolution specialists. You will need to file an identity theft affidavit that explains that someone filed taxes in your name.

If you don’t want to use tax software, you can choose a paper filing option. Each state requires you to mail your check to a different office.

You can also use the IRS’s free electronic fillable forms. However, these offer limited guidance and can be difficult to use. With so many other free options, these should be a last resort.

Finally, you can hire a professional tax preparer to do your taxes for you. Be sure that the person you hire is in the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

An accountant can save you time, headache, and in some cases, money. Tax professionals must follow the tax code, but their specialized knowledge helps them pick up on deductions or credits that you might miss on your own.

In general, the more complex your tax return, the more you may want to hire an accountant. If you choose to hire an accountant, be sure that they are an authorized tax return preparer. They should sign your return as an authorized preparer.

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Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah here

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Credit card reward programs come in so many varieties that it can be difficult to find the best cards for your spending habits. A basic, flat-rate card that earns you a certain percentage cash back on all purchases is probably the simplest bet out there. Typically, rates range from 1-2%. Not shabby, especially if you use that card exclusively. But it’s not exactly something to write home about either.

There are even better cash back rewards offerings out there, some as high as 5%. But with these high-reward cards, there’s almost always a catch, since most don’t offer 5% cash back across the board.

Every few months, they pick a few select shopping categories that can earn 5% cash back. Once those few months are up, the categories change. For example, a card could offer 5% cash back on groceries, gas and airfare from January to March, then switch those categories to wholesale stores, restaurants and gyms from April to June.

Additionally, there are sometimes caps on how much of your spending can qualify for the 5% reward. So if the cap is $1,500, for example, everything past that amount won’t qualify for the higher reward.

The key to maximizing these great cashback card offers is to find ones that offer cash in the categories you use the most. We dug around and found 10 cards that offer at least 5% cash back in some of the most common spending categories including gas, groceries and entertainment.

Access to bonus 5% Categories: Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

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Chase Freedom®

Regular Purchase APR
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

How it works: The Chase Freedom® card lets you Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. This translates to a maximum return of $75 per quarter on the 5% bonus category. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases outside of the bonus categories. You can also Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The 5% categories change every quarter.

Another area where the Chase Freedom® shines is in how it allows customers to redeem their rewards. The cash you’ve earned converts into Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Every $1 equals 100 points. You can easily use the cash and apply it to your monthly statement. Or you can convert them into points and use them on travel, gift cards, merchandise, and other services through the Chase Freedom® rewards dashboard.

They make it super simple to redeem points on the go through the Chase Freedom® Mobile app. While you’re shopping, you can pick the merchant from the list on of eligible merchants on your app (popular ones include Nike, Regal Cinemas, Lowe’s, Starbucks and Best Buy). Then tell the app how much cash you want to use. You’ll get a custom e-gift card that you can present at checkout to pay for your purchases.

chasefreedommobileapp

Plus, you can stack the points earned on your Chase Freedom® card with your points on other Chase rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. That just increases the spending power of your points.

The Fine Print: You can’t beat 5% cash back for your spending, especially with no annual fee. The downside is you have to remember to activate the category each quarter by subscribing to the program. But, if you set a reminder to do so, you can earn money without too much effort.

The original 5% cash back card: Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

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Rates & Fees

Discover it® Cash Back

Regular APR
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

How it works: With the Discover it® Cash Back you earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate ($1,500). You need to activate every quarter to get the 5% cash back rate. All other purchases get 1% cash back.

Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2019:

  • January to March: Grocery stores
  • April to June: Gas stations, Uber and Lyft
  • July to September: Restaurants
  • October to December: Amazon.com

Using your rewards: Cash back from the Discover it® Cash Back is tracked in dollars and cents. You can immediately apply your cash back earnings to your bank account or as a statement credit toward your bill (note: your minimum payment will still be due). There’s also no minimum rewards value if you want to redeem them for charitable donations.

The fine print: You can only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spend each quarter you activate. Once you’ve hit that cap, you’ll earn 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases.. This adds up to a $75 maximum return on your rotating bonus categories. There is no annual fee.

Extra perks: As an Intro Offer, Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up and no limit to how much is matched.

Best for gas and restaurants in 2019: Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

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Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Regular Purchase APR
10.75% - 14.75% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 3 bonus points, or 5% cash back, respectively, for every dollar they spend on purchases for movies, restaurants, and home improvements (up to $1,500 per quarter).

How it works: The Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union lets you Earn 3 bonus points, or 5% cash back, respectively, for every dollar they spend on purchases for movies, restaurants, and home improvements (up to $1,500 per quarter). Notably, it offers both gas and restaurants in two quarters. As a bonus New card holders earn 10,000 bonus points for $500 in purchases during first 90 days.

Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2019:

  • January to March: Groceries and gas expenses
  • April to June: Movies, restaurants and home improvement
  • July to September: Gas and education expenses
  • October to December: Restaurants, hotels and airfares

Using your rewards: This offer stands out as a decent companion card for maximizing cash back. When coupled with the Chase Freedom® or Discover it® Cash Back, you can maximize cash back in different areas during one quarter.

For an example, you can turn to the Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union for 5% on gas and school expenses in Q3. Then pull out the Discover it® Cash Back for dining out for another 5% the same quarter.

The fine print: Once again, you’ll need to monitor your spending habits to get the most cash back from a revolving category card. If you choose to use this card along with another one, a good practice would be labeling the cards in your wallet to ensure you use the right one for the right purchases in a given quarter.

One final caveat: While there is no annual fee, Nusenda is a credit union, so you will have to go through the process of applying for membership.

Pick your own cash back categories: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

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U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Regular Purchase APR
15.99%-24.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose, 2% cash back on one everyday category, like gas or groceries and 1% cash back on all other net purchases.

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card has a revolving cash back program that’s unique in comparison to the others above because you get options.

Earning cash back: You can earn 5% cash back in two categories of your choosing each quarter limited to the first $2,000 of spend. Then you can choose another category with no cap to earn 2% cash back. On all other purchases, you earn 1% cash back.

The categories for an unlimited 2% cash back (choose one each quarter) are:

  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores

The categories for 5% cash back up to $2,000 (choose two each quarter) are:

  • Home utilities
  • Ground transportation
  • Select clothing stores
  • Cell phone providers
  • Electronics stores
  • Car rentals
  • Gyms/fitness centers
  • Fast food
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Department stores
  • Furniture stores
  • Movie theaters

Using your rewards: You can redeem cash back for gift cards, statement credit or a deposit into a U.S. bank savings, checking or money market account. The first time you redeem $100 in cash back in a single transaction, you get a $25 Cash+ Bonus.

The Fine Print: The same opt-in revolving category applies here, except you must also remember to choose your categories. There is no annual fee. The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is another good example of a card you may want to couple with another that gives you higher cash back for necessities, i.e., groceries. But, for diverse spenders who can benefit from the 5% category options, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is worth considering.

Ideal for typical business expenses: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

How it works: The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express* gives 5% cash back on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores, 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of eight, 1% cash back on other purchases. 5% and 3% apply to the first $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1% applies thereafter. The eight categories are:**

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
  • Car rentals purchased from select car rental companies
  • U.S. gas stations
  • U.S. restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

**Terms and conditions apply.

Earning cash back: You have to choose your 3% category within two months of signing. If you don’t choose one, the default is gas stations. The combined annual maximum spend for the 5% and 3% categories is $50,000. On all other purchases, you get 1% cash back.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear as a credit automatically on your statement. The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express card has No annual fee, so you’ll earn cash back with a generous annual maximum of $50,000 (see Rates & Fees).

The fine print: You must remember to choose your 3% cash back category every year. If you select one this year and forget to do so next year, you’ll be locked into the same 3% category for another 12 months until you make a switch. There is no annual fee.

*The information related to the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

5% cash back for the Amazon Prime enthusiast: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

The information related to Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Regular Purchase APR
16.24% - 24.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases.

How it works: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card is open to Amazon Prime Members, so it’s somewhat exclusive. Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases. Buying items on other merchant websites that have the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card payment option enabled will not earn you 5% cash back.

Using your rewards: The cash back you rack up will apply as a credit to your statement.

Do the math: If you’re not already an Amazon Prime Member, it’s probably not worth signing up to become one just for the card unless you intend to spend big bucks on the site or at Whole Foods Market. You need to spend $2,380 per year at Amazon.com for the 5% cash back to cover the $119 annual membership fee.

The fine print: The fine print of what you can and can’t buy to earn 5% is the only gotcha here. But, if you shop a lot at Whole Foods Market or on Amazon.com often and stick to the rules, you’ll see a nice return from this card. There’s no annual fee for the card, but you must be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $119 a year ($59 for students).

Good fit for the regular Target shopper: Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

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Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
24.65% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% at Target & Target.com

How it works: For Target shoppers, there’s the Target REDcard™ Credit Card. It gives you a discount of 5% at Target & Target.com (minus any other discounts or promotions). Purchases that won’t earn 5% cash back include:

  • Prescriptions, over-the-counter items located behind the pharmacy counter and clinic services
  • Target Optical™ eye exams
  • Target gift cards and prepaid cards, Stockpile, Gift of College and lottery gift cards
  • Previous purchases
  • Certain restaurant merchants in Target stores, such as D’Amico & Sons Italian Kitchen and Pret A Manger
  • Target credit account payments, Target Debit Card cash back and cash advances on the Target Mastercard
  • Shipt membership fees
  • Gift wrap and shipping and handling charges on Target.com purchases
  • Wireless protection program purchases and deposits required by mobile carriers

Earning and using rewards: The program is pretty simple as far as how Target gives you money back. Your 5% will apply to eligible purchases in your shopping cart at checkout. In addition to 5% cash back, this program includes free shipping from Target.com and 30 extra days for returns.

The fine print: No red flags with the REDcard other than watching out for the purchases excluded from cash back listed above. For faithful Target shoppers, this no annual fee card with the 5% discount may be a no brainer.

Most straightforward 5% rewards card just for gas: Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

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Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Regular Purchase APR
11.25% - 18.00% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

How it works: The Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card makes our list with the most straightforward, no cap rewards program. You can Earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear on your statement as a credit.

The fine print: This rewards program is offered by a credit union in Kentucky. You’ll have to take a few extra steps to qualify for membership. If you don’t live in Kentucky or have family in Kentucky, membership is open to anyone that joins the American Consumer Council. There is no annual fee for the card, but you will need to become a member of the credit union.

6% cash back for the heavy grocery shopper: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
15.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 1% cash back on other purchases.

How it works: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is our top pick for cardholders who want to maximize cash back on groceries. With this card, you get 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 1% cash back on other purchases.

Welcome offer: $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

Using cash back: Cash back builds as Rewards Dollars you can redeem for statement credit in increments of $25.

The fine print: There is an annual fee of $95 per year.

Only advantageous for military service members living on base: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

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USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Regular Purchase APR
13.90% - 27.90% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

How it works: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card lets you Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. USAA membership is available to active and former military and their eligible family members.

Earning cash back: You Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can redeem cash back in increments of $1 through the USAA Rewards Service Center online or over the phone.

The fine print: The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is light on the fine print. Just remember, the 5% category yearly maximum is $3,000 for combined gas and military base purchases per year and not per quarter. There is no annual fee.

The key to earning from any cash back card

In closing, regardless of which cash back card you choose, be sure to pay off your bill in full each month. That’s one underlying trap of any card rewards program. If you carry a balance over time, adding interest into the equation means you may end up paying the credit card company more than what you’re making in cash back.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson |

Benét J. Wilson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Benét J. at benet@magnifymoney.com

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