We began our analysis by looking at nine popular online tax software providers: Cash App Taxes, eFile.com, Free Tax USA, File Your Taxes, H&R Block, TurboTax, Jackson Hewitt, TaxSlayer and TaxAct.
To narrow down our list of finalists, we included only online tax software companies that provide free tax preparation for simple tax filings for both federal and state tax returns. That reduced our list to four: TurboTax, TaxSlayer, H&R Block and Cash App Taxes.
To evaluate the four finalists, we created three generic tax filing profiles and ran each profile through the software to review for ease of use, quality of customer service, and free filing options:
- A single filer with a basic W-2 and student loan deductions.
- A married couple with wage income, a dependent, and child care expenses.
- A freelancer with business income and deductions.
Our analysis focuses on side-by-side comparisons of each provider’s features and costs to assess which offers the best online tax software. We reviewed each of the online tax software to determine the following best categories:
Best Free Online Tax Software. For the best free online tax software, we analyzed which provider offered the most impressive overall package of features while also charging no fees for federal and state tax return filings, lacked income or filing status restrictions, and offered the broadest selection of tax filing forms.
Best Online Tax Software for Ease of Use. An easy-to-use platform is most important for many users. For this category, we reviewed each offering to determine which platform provided the simplest process for completing users’ tax filing forms. We reviewed each company’s Q&A tax interview options, looked for the ability to upload W2 forms and automate data entry, explored all navigation menus, and gauged the length of time required to complete the tax return.
Best Online Tax Software for the Self-Employed. Self-employed, freelance workers generally have more complicated income tax filings than employees. Ensuring that online tax software caters to the special needs of freelancers and self-employed individuals is essential at tax time. We evaluated each platform’s offering in this category for pricing, support, state filing fees, deduction finder options and total costs.
Best Online Tax Software for Customer Service. Our analysis included a thorough review of each platform’s support options. We determined if the online tax software provider offered phone, live chat, email, or help articles for users and evaluated each option. Also, we contacted customer service departments by phone to assess their hold time and customer service quality.
Each category was weighted and scored feature by feature. The author, a certified public accountant (CPA) with over 20 years of tax experience, completed all tax software testing by opening accounts with each provider to perform hands-on evaluations.
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