Hey, Procrastinators, Don’t Panic: Here’s the Best Tax Software for 2018

There's still time to crush this annual task, and these products will save you money and pain in the process.

Hey, Procrastinators, Don’t Panic: Here’s the Best Tax Software for 2018 Photo by El Nariz / Shutterstock.com

Yikes. If you haven’t filed your taxes, you are running out of time. But here’s the good news: Thanks to the latest tax software, the entire process can be quick, painless and inexpensive. Pick your software, answer some questions, enter some numbers, and you’re done.

The biggest challenge? Figuring out the best deal on tax software. Here’s a rundown of the most popular tax software for 2018. Check it out, click on your choice, and you’re on your way.

TurboTax

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  • Comprehensive tax preparation for everyone
  • Excellent for more complex tax situations

TurboTax is arguably the leader in tax preparation software. It has been around since the early days of electronic filing and has seemingly perfected its system for completing tax returns with ease. TurboTax can handle both simple tax returns and the more complex paperwork required of self-employed taxpayers. TurboTax provides plenty of online support material, the opportunity to speak live to a CPA and a mobile app as well.

If you file a 1040A or 1040EZ form and make less than $100,000 a year, you may be able to prepare and file your federal taxes for free.

TurboTax offers a lot of other options, as well, depending on your tax situation. Regular prices range from $59.99 to $179.99 for federal returns, although coupons and sales are regularly offered.

Get started by clicking here.

TaxAct

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  • Dependable service for individuals and the self-employed
  • Excellent for those on a budget

TaxAct is another longtime provider of online tax preparation services. Since the late 1990s, the company has made a name for itself as an affordable alternative to other products. The price to prepare and file a federal tax return normally ranges from $14.95 to $69.95 for editions from Basic to Premium, with an additional fee for a state return. (Rates are currently discounted by 20 percent: See links below.)

Those filing a simple 1040EZ can use TaxAct’s free service for federal returns, but there is a $13.60 charge for a state tax return. TaxAct offers editions to fit differing tax situations: the TaxAct Basic Edition, for filers with dependents, retirement income, or college expenses; the TaxAct Plus Edition, for homeowners, itemizers and filers with investments; the TaxAct Freelancer Edition, for independent contractors and self-employed filers; and the TaxAct Premium Edition, a comprehensive package with audit defense.

Although TaxAct is comparatively no-frills — you won’t find a 1040 smartphone app here — the service is a solid choice. It offers a $100k Accuracy Guarantee that promises accuracy and pledges to get customers the biggest refund possible. The website will provide seven years of access to your return as well as technical phone support with its paid service.

Get started by clicking here.

H&R Block

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  • Backed by one of the biggest names in tax preparation services
  • Best for those who want to file for free and itemize deductions

Long before people were filing taxes online, they were relying on H&R Block to prepare and file taxes for them the old-fashioned way. Today, the company still maintains a network of office locations for those who want to hire a tax preparer. But they have also put their software online and in stores for taxpayers to file their own returns.

Regular prices for online filing are $49.99 and $94.99, depending on whether you are self-employed. (However, prices were discounted by about 30 percent at the time of publication, and coupons are often available.) There is an additional charge for state returns.

Like other companies, H&R Block has a free option for new filers or those with simple tax returns, like the 1040A and 1040EZ. As with the other options, there is a charge for state returns.

While all options including free filing offer free technical support via chat, customers can have a tax pro review their work for an additional fee, with an additional charge for a tax pro review of state returns as well.

Get started by clicking here.

TaxSlayer

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  • Affordable service offering free state returns to some filers
  • Best for military members

TaxSlayer doesn’t have the same name recognition as some of the bigger tax preparation firms, but the company has been around nearly as long. It also has many of the same features as the big companies, including the ability to import data from competitors. It supports all major IRS forms and provides both phone and chat support.

Pricewise, TaxSlayer is right behind TaxAct when it comes to affordable returns. Its Classic service is costs $24, or taxpayers can pay $44 for the premium service that includes chat support and audit assistance. There is also a free file service for those with simple returns, and a $47 option for freelancers and the self-employed. The free file service comes with free state returns, but Classic, Premium and Self-Employed customers pay extra for theirs. Active-duty military members can get a free Classic edition federal tax return from TaxSlayer, making it a good choice for those in the service.

Get started by clicking here.

Jackson Hewitt

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  • Online filing from an established name in the business
  • Best for those who need a refund advance

Like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt was offering tax preparation services in an office long before it started filing people’s taxes online. Today, the company offers both and prides itself on providing affordable, accurate service regardless of which option is chosen. Regular prices for online federal tax preparation and filing are $69.95 for families and retirees or $109.95 for complex returns. However, discounts currently available can cut those prices by 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively. There is also a free file option for those earning less than $100,000 and taking a standard deduction. State returns are an additional cost for all options.

When it comes to getting a refund quickly, Jackson Hewitt offers one of the most generous advance refund programs in the industry. Customers can get up to $3,200 in advance, and there is no fee. The only catch is that people must pre-qualify for an account with MetaBank, federally chartered savings bank, to get the money. But the biggest catch for people just getting started: Online prequalification for the Refund Advance has ended for this season.

By typing in your zip code here, you can see the company’s many year-round or seasonal offices.

Get started by clicking here.

Whatever you choose, now is the time to get your 2017 taxes out of the way if you haven’t already done so. These services can help you tame the beast.

Which of these popular tax software services makes the most sense for you? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Maryalene LaPonsie
Maryalene LaPonsie
After 13 years as a staffer for a Michigan legislator, I decided it was time to quit the commute and work from home instead. For the past three years, I’ve been penning ... More

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