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The best tax software for a stress-free tax season

The best tax filing software options from TurboTax, H&R Block, and more will help you file your taxes more easily -- and sometimes for free.
Written by Nina Raemont, Associate Editor
TurboTax | Best tax software overall
TurboTax on a phone
Best tax software overall
View now View at TurboTax
H&R Block | Best runner-up tax software
H&R Block Mouse pad
H&R Block
Best runner-up tax software
View now View at HRblock
Cash App Taxes | Best free tax software
Cash App against white backdrop
Cash App Taxes
Best free tax software
View now View at Cash App
FreeTaxUSA | Best affordable tax software
FreeTaxUSA logo against white backdrop
Best affordable tax software
View now View at FreeTaxUSA
Jackson Hewitt | Best tax software for complex returns
Jackson Hewitt on phone
Jackson Hewitt
Best tax software for complex returns
View now View at JacksonHewitt

Tax season has arrived, and with it comes the dread of filing your tax return -- and worse, the fear of filing incorrectly and getting audited. You've got about a month and a half left before you'll need to send in your tax return, so to avoid delays and procrastination, you might want to get a head start soon. 

Luckily, there are tax filing services and software that make the process that can be complicated and stressful more simple and streamlined. Whether you've been filing for decades and finally want a service to assist you, you're a freelancer, or you're a first-time filer, these software options could make your life -- and tax season -- far easier this year. We also include free services, and address frequently asked tax return questions, like whether you should use a CPA instead of one of these softwares.

ZDNET scoured the web to learn which tax software is the best for people to use in 2024. Our pick for the best tax software overall goes to TurboTax for its longstanding popularity, educational resources, and expert assistance. But, because everyone's financial situation is different, there are also other options that would be useful for business owners, freelancers, and simple filers. Keep reading to learn more. 

Best tax software of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Easy to import receipts and data from last year
  • Live Assist tax expert available (for a fee)
  • App support
  • Most expensive option
  • Misleading advertising
More Details

TurboTax is one of the most popular tax software filing option due to its easy-to-use UI, its in-app support features for different filing situations and trackers, and the expert assistance option you can use for an additional cost. It's also the most costly option on this list, and Intuit, its owner, ran into some trouble with the FTC for falsely advertising its products as free, when only a portion of the population qualified for the free services. 

But there's a reason it seems like everyone uses the tax filing software. Year after year TurboTax keeps your data and imports previous data into this year's return, so updating your documents takes less time. It's great for freelancers and self-employed people to upload receipts and manage deductions, and simple filing is easy with seamless imports of W-2s and PDFs, too.  

The platform offers plenty of educational resources that elucidate the muddy process of tax returns, like a tax bracket calculator, a self-employed expense estimator, and information on the latest tax law changes. 

You can find free versions for simple filings like W-2 income, child tax credits, earned income credits, and other standard deductions. The Deluxe option that starts at $39 offers all that the free filing offers plus itemized deductions. The Premier option offers the aforementioned filings, plus rental and investment income filings for $69. And the Self-Employed option offers all you need for filing as a freelancing or self-employed individual for $89. If you want extra help filing your taxes but want to do the bulk of it yourself, you can purchase the Live Assisted option that varies from $0 to $169, depending on your situation. Or you could get TurboTax to do everything for you for a starting price of $89. 

Free filing is possible, but your filing has to be pretty bare bones, so any sort of charitable donation, freelance gig, unemployment income, or complex form you file will cost you more. But if you are a W-2 worker, have dependents, and pay rent, you could qualify to file your taxes for free with TurboTax. 

Pros & Cons
  • More affordable than TurboTax
  • Thousands of office locations in the US
  • Tax pro options for checking your return
  • Great for simple and complex returns
  • Some people report long callback times and phone tag for Tax Pro Review
More Details

If you're willing to spend some money to file your taxes and get additional support, but don't want to spend TurboTax-level money on your tax return, H&R Block offers many of the same features as TurboTax but at a lower price. 

H&R Block offers four different filing plans: Free, which covers simple returns, students, unemployment income, W-2 employees, and child tax credit forms; Deluxe, which covers everything the Free version does as well as more complex tax situations, like health savings accounts, real estate taxes, and mortgage interest ($35 plus $37 per state filed); Premium ($65 plus $37 per state filed), which covers everything Deluxe covers, plus simple investment reporting tools; and Self-Employed ($85 plus $37 per state filed), which offers simple income reporting to accurately report your business's profits and losses. 

The Deluxe, Premium, and Self-Employed options also come with an AI Tax Assist feature to connect filers with a generative AI bot that the company says can help them troubleshoot common filing issues before they have to call up an expert. 

H&R Block recently launched a new importing feature called Direct Import that helps new customers take last year's tax information from another tax software, like TurboTax, and easily import it into this year's documents. 

You can also pay for Tax Pro Review, an additional service that pairs you with a professional who can check your work before you send in your return. With thousands of offices in the US to visit and address any tax-related concerns, a reliable reputation, and an affordable price, H&R Block is a safe choice for simple to complex tax return filings. 

Pros & Cons
  • 100% free
  • No hidden fees or paid upgrades
  • Great for simple filing
  • Required to download and register for the app
More Details

Cash App Taxes isn't kidding when it tells you its service is 100% free. You won't need to upgrade to a paid tier or face hidden fees as you file, and both state and federal tax filings are free of charge. You will have to download and register for Cash App first to begin using the service, however. 

Cash App Taxes is ideal for a simple filer who is familiar with filing their taxes and doesn't want to pay a dime to do it. I'd recommend opting for another tax filing software if you have any complex returns because Cash App Taxes does not support many complex situations, like multi-state filing, nonresident filing, prior year return filing, and more. It will also defend you if you get audited while filing through Cash App Taxes for free. 

Also: The best free tax software 

Pros & Cons
  • Affordable alternative
  • Shows you what your forms will look like as you file
  • Not good with complex filings
More Details

FreeTaxUSA seems to be the underdog of tax season if you spend any time on Reddit tax threads. If you aren't keen on Cash App Taxes' totally free service but still want an affordable choice, FreeTaxUSA is your best bet. Federal filing costs you $0 and state filing starts at $15. From there, you can choose the deluxe option which offers live chat with support agents (note that these aren't tax professionals) and unlimited amended returns for $8. Or you can opt for the Pro Support for $40 for screen shares, phone calls and general tax advice from a professional. 

We'd recommend FreeTaxUSA to people who have filed their own taxes before and know the ropes of their tax return. Unlike TurboTax and H&R Block, Free Tax offers less support and educational resources, so you're more on your own with this tax software compared to other options. 

If you used another service the year prior, FreeTaxUSA supports PDF imports from years prior to make the filing process as easy as can be. If you have a simple filing this year and are an experienced filer, FreeTaxUSA could be your best friend. 

Pros & Cons
  • $25 flat fee for filing your taxes, no matter the complexity
  • Locations in Walmarts
  • Lack of mobile offerings
More Details

If you own businesses or have complex investment income, your tax return is going to look more complicated, and filing won't be as easy as reporting a W-2. You need tax software that is affordable but can handle the heavy load of a complex return. Jackson Hewitt is a great candidate: it offers a $25 flat filing fee and unlimited state returns. Plus, with locations around the country (and many located in Walmarts) you can turn in your tax return and have your work checked by a professional. 

The downside of Jackson Hewitt is the service doesn't provide as much assistance as TurboTax or H&R Block, so if you're not an experienced filer, it may not be the best choice for you.

What is the best tax software?

The best tax software is TurboTax for its customer support, different tiers, and easy to use UI. If you're a tax filing novice you can gain the information you need through their resources and support channels. 

Best tax softwarePriceOptions
TurboTax $0-$169 for federal filings, $39 per state filing Free, Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed
H&R Block $0- $85 for federal filings, $37 per state filing Free, Deluxe, Premium, and Self-Employed
Cash App Taxes Free for federal and state filing Free
FreeTax USA $0 for federal filing, and $15 per state filing Simple and complex filing options
Jackson Hewitt Flat fee of $25 Simple and complex filing options

Which tax software is right for you?

That depends on your filing needs. Are you aiming to do your own taxes, or want a professional to help you along? Do you have a simple tax return situation? Or do you have investments and rental income you need to report. This all impacts which tax software is right for you. 

Choose this tax software...If you want...
TurboTax The best option overall. With options for filing on your own, getting help when you need it, and having somebody else do your taxes themselves, TurboTax offers you great support and helpful resources that make filing a pinch. This is the most expensive option, however.
H&R Block The runner-up tax software option. H&R Block offers locations all around the country and is far more affordable than TurboTax. There are plenty of educational resources and assistance if you get stuck.
Cash App Taxes A completely free option for both federal and state tax return filing.
FreeTax USA An affordable option for simple filing. This tax software is best for people who know the ropes of their tax return and don't need the handholding that TurboTax or H&R Block offers with its customers.
Jackson Hewitt A tax software that can handle complex filings.

How did we choose these tax software options?

  • Price: We considered tax software that offered free filings and reasonable prices on paid tiers. The average person will spend around $240 on their tax return a year, according to the IRS's Tax Payer Advocate, so we tried to find tax softwares that either met that pricepoint or were below it. 
  • Additional resources: Because of how complex tax filing can get, you sometimes need a person to walk you through a road block, 
  • Tiers: We considered options for self-employed individuals, simple and complex filers, and people who want assistance as they file.
  • Customer reviews: We consulted community forums like Reddit, as well as reviews and news about each tax software to see what the users actually think about filing with them. I also talked to ZDNET employees about which software they use and why.

When is Tax Day?

The deadline for filing your 2023 tax return is Monday, April 15, 2024. Residents in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17 to file their returns. 

Where can I file my taxes for free?

A select number of tax providers are participating in the IRS Free File this year. If you're a taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of $79,000 or less in 2023, you can take advantage of IRS Free File. Those tax providers include 1040now, Drake (1040.com), exTaxReturn.com, FileYourTaxes.com, On-Line Taxes, TaxAct, TaxHawk (FreeTaxUSA), and TaxSlayer. Some providers even offer free state tax return prep, according to the IRS. Check out ZDNET's list of the best free tax software for 2024.

Will this year's tax refunds be larger than last year's?

The average tax refund last year was 3% less than the prior year, according to data from the IRS, due to the phasing out of several pandemic-era federal benefit programs. This year, you could expect a little more money coming into your tax return. 

Because of how high inflation was in 2023, the IRS adjusted its provisions, boosted the standard deduction, and raised its tax brackets by 7.1%. Some people could even expect to see 10% more get returned to them, Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, told CBS News. If your income wasn't in line with inflation last year, you could see a better tax return this year, Steber said in the article. 

When will I get my refund?

The IRS says it takes up to 21 days for your refund on an e-filed return to get to you. To check the progress of your refund, visit Where's My Refund? 

Are there tax software alternatives worth considering?

If you want to consider even more options for tax software, we compiled some other recommendations below. 

View at LibertytaxView at Taxslayer
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