Best Tax Software of 2024: What to Know Before You File

The April 15 tax deadline is just days away. We've rated and reviewed four of the most popular tax software packages to help you choose the one that's right for you.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
Alana Benson
By Alana Benson,  Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Edited by Chris Hutchison

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For millions of Americans, the pressure to file taxes ramps up this weekend as the April 15 deadline quickly approaches.

If you want to cross taxes off your to-do list as soon as possible, you might be wondering which tax software is best and what it provides. We did the research to help you choose the ideal option for filing taxes online.

We focused on four well-known and widely used online tax-preparation software providers, and while the tax code is the tax code, there’s a crucial difference between paying for what you'll use and paying for stuff you don’t need.

» Not sure you can file in time? How to file a tax extension

Best tax software 2024

There are many tax prep software providers out there, and each one offers different packages for different taxpayers. When choosing, it's helpful to start with what matters most to you about your tax filing experience.

Best free tax software for simple returns

  • Federal: $55 to $115. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $49 per state.

Pros:

  • Free version offers a generous selection of tax forms.

  • All paid packages include access to tax pro help at no additional charge.

  • Well-designed and user-friendly interface.

Cons:

  • Final tax pro review of your tax return requires an additional paid upgrade to Tax Pro Review.

  • Downgrading your package requires calling H&R Block's support line.

Best overall tax software

  • Federal: $69 to $129. Free version available for Form 1040 and limited credits only. Roughly 37% of filers qualify.

  • State: $0 to $59 per state.

Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to an additional 10% on TurboTax.

Pros:

  • Intuitive U/X.

  • Handy tools and features that help minimize manual input.

  • Generous tax pro support that includes a final review if you upgrade.

Cons:

  • Expensive compared with other tax software.

  • The free version is limited in what it can handle.

Best affordable tax software

  • Federal: $37.95 to $67.95. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $44.95 per state.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 25% off federal filing costs.

Pros:

  • More affordable than bigger-name tax software providers.

  • Premium and Self-Employed tiers include free tax pro support.

Cons:

  • Free version of the program has many restrictions, including income limits, and it won't allow you to claim dependents.

  • Federal: $49.99 to $99.99. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $39.99 to $59.99 per state.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 25% off federal and state filing costs.

Pros:

  • Competitive pricing.

  • Generous tech support hours, including weekend help.

  • Xpert Assist upgrade includes unlimited help and a final review of your return.

Cons:

  • Free version of the program charges for a state return.

These star ratings are based on a tax provider's free tier score. For more detailed scoring, see below. Providers frequently change pricing. You can verify the latest price by clicking through to each provider's site.

» Want all the details? Read our reviews of TurboTax, TaxAct, H&R Block and TaxSlayer.

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Cartoon illustration of a person sitting at a desk with a laptop, calculator, and paperwork, surrounded by tax-related icons and graphics.

Best free tax software for simple returns: H&R Block

FREE

$0 + $0 per state filed.

Allows you to file a 1040 plus limited Schedules 1, 2 and 3, which makes it usable by a lot more people than most other free software packages.

PAID PACKAGES

Deluxe $55 + $49 per state.

Itemize and claim several tax deductions and credits. Works well for business income but no expenses.

Premium $85 + $49 per state.

For investors or rental property owners (Schedules D and E, and K-1s).

Self-Employed $115 + $49 per state.

For small-business owners, freelancers and independent contractors.

All paid packages come with access to Tax Pro Chat and AI Tax Assist.

What H&R Block Free can do

Form 1040, limited schedules 1, 2 and 3, income from wages (W-2), income from bank interest (1099-INT) and dividends (1099-DIV), and student loan interest (1098-E).

What it can’t do

Itemized deductions (Schedule A), deductions and expenses from freelance or self-employed work (Schedule C), or HSA distributions (1099-SA).

» Learn more in our H&R Block review


Best overall paid tax software package: TurboTax

FREE

$0 + $0 per state filed.

It allows you to file a 1040 for free, but you can’t itemize or file Schedules 2 or 3.

Roughly 37% of taxpayers are eligible. TurboTax Free Edition supports Form 1040 and limited tax credits only.

PAID PACKAGES

Live Assisted Basic $99 + $54 per state.

Free edition, plus access to a tax pro, advice and a final review.

TurboTax Live Assisted Basic supports Form 1040 and limited tax credits only; roughly 37% of taxpayers qualify.

Deluxe $69 + $59 per state.

Itemize and claim several tax deductions and credits. Works well for business income but no expenses.

Premium $129 + $59 per state.

Investment reporting and rental income (Schedules D and E, and K-1s), plus business income, expenses on a Schedule C, home office deductions and features for freelancers.

Access to tax pro support requires upgrading to TurboTax's Live Assisted packages, which range from $99 to $219, plus state fees.

Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to an additional 10% on TurboTax.

What we like

TurboTax’s software feels like an interview with a tax preparer who knows just what to ask and how best to guide you.

What makes TurboTax the best overall tax software?

TurboTax scores high marks for two important categories: ease of use and tax support.

  • Ease of use: TurboTax has an interview-style Q&A experience and a wide range of functionality and tools that make entering information easy. Help is easy to access, and explanations are clear and authoritative.

  • Tax pro support: TurboTax offers users the option of upgrading to their Live Assisted packages to gain access to screen-sharing, chat and phone support from a tax pro. Although these services come at an additional cost, access to the pro is generous and you’ll also get a final review of your return.

» Learn more in our TurboTax review

Best affordable tax software package: TaxSlayer

FREE

$0 + $0 for one state return.

Allows you to file a 1040 and a state return for free, but only if you have a very simple tax situation: your taxable income is under $100,000, you don’t claim dependents, you don’t itemize, you didn’t sell stock, have rental income or a business, and you don’t take the earned income tax credit.

PAID PACKAGES

Classic $37.95 + $44.95 per state.

All forms, deductions and credits excluding those with self-employment needs.

Premium $57.95 + $44.95 per state.

All forms, deductions and credits. Includes Ask a Tax Pro and live chat, phone and email support.

Self-Employed $67.95 + $44.95 per state.

Includes personal and business income and expenses, 1099 and Schedule C. Includes all the tax support in the Premium tier.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 25% off federal filing costs. Use code NERD25.

What we like

TaxSlayer’s formula — allowing clients to pay for the amount of help they need rather than the types of tax forms they need — allows you to access most tax filing situations while keeping costs low.

What makes TaxSlayer the best affordable tax software package?

TaxSlayer’s paid packages, on average, are the most affordable of all the providers we review. TaxSlayer also includes a free state return with a free federal return at the lowest pricing tier. Some competitors make you pay for a state tax return, even at the free tier.

» Learn more in our TaxSlayer review

Competitive tax software to consider: TaxAct

FREE

$0 + $39.99 per state filed (Xpert Assist: $39.99).

For dependents, simple filers who need help with college expenses, unemployment or retirement income.

PAID PACKAGES

Deluxe $49.99 + $59.99 per state filed (Xpert Assist: $39.99).

This option is ideal for homeowners and those who need to consider childcare expenses, student loan payments, deductions, credits and adjustments.

Premier $79.99 + $59.99 per state filed (Xpert Assist: $39.99).

Premier is good for investors who need to report capital gains and losses and those who have sold a home or own a rental property.

Self-Employed $99.99 + $59.99 per state filed (Xpert Assist: $39.99).

This tier is good for freelancers, contractors and small-business owners. Includes access to Schedule C and Schedule F.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 25% off federal and state filing costs.

What makes TaxAct a competitive tax software package?

Across the board, TaxAct’s offerings are less expensive than similar products from competing providers. That’s a nice score — especially for filers who value function over form and want affordable human help if necessary.

» Learn more in our TaxAct review

NerdWalletTaxes Logo

Simple tax filing with a $50 flat fee for every scenario

With NerdWallet Taxes powered by Column Tax, registered NerdWallet members pay one fee, regardless of your tax situation. Plus, you'll get free support from tax experts. Sign up for access today.

for a NerdWallet account

Cartoon illustration of a person sitting at a desk with a laptop, calculator, and paperwork, surrounded by tax-related icons and graphics.

How to choose tax software

If you don't know what you need — or how much you need to pay for — it might help to examine online tax filing providers individually and what sort of services each one offers. Here are a few areas to dig into:

User experience: Software that feels like an interview — asking questions about your income and any life events that might allow for deductions — offers more guidance than a basic fill-in-the-blank process. The ability to import forms such as W-2s is better than having to manually type in numbers.

Support options: Most tax software offers a searchable FAQ section or knowledge base, and some offer video tutorials or user forums to help answer questions. Audits are unlikely for most taxpayers, but if you think you’re at risk and want to purchase protection, you should understand what your software provides.

Tax pros for assisted help: One important offering in recent years has been one-on-one help from a human tax pro, live on your screen. Depending on the provider, these pros might be able to give you tax advice or review your whole tax return before you file. (This sort of help may come with an extra charge.)

Availability of tax forms: If you find a provider that excels in the areas above, you then want to choose the package that covers all of the tax forms and schedules you need. People with simple tax situations may not need anything but a package that covers your basic 1040. On the other hand, people with multiple jobs, itemizers, and those with business, investing, or rental income will typically need access to additional schedules and forms, which can mean paying for a higher-tiered package.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If your adjusted gross income for 2023 was $79,000 or less, you might be able to get free tax software from some of these providers through the IRS' Free File program. Plus, there are a few more options for free tax filing.

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Methodology

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest online tax software providers. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of available software to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs. We adhere to strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

We collect data directly from providers, do first-hand testing and observe provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questions to providers. The questions are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The provider’s answers, combined with our specialists’ hands-on research, make up our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance.

The final output produces star ratings from poor (1 star) to excellent (5 stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star. For more details about the categories considered when rating tax software and our process, read our full methodology.

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