We’ve identified seven of the most popular online tax filing software we consider to be the best on the market. Each has a free version for basic returns, and premium options for more complex tax situations.

Each software enables you to prepare and e-file your Federal income tax return free. You can also print and save copies, also for free.

There’s one other point we need to make about this list. It’s an evaluation of what we believe to be the best free online tax filing software. That means we’re judging each software based first and foremost on the strength of its free version. Premium editions and services are a secondary consideration only.

Put another way, if this guide was created to detail what we believe to be the best tax filing software overall, it would look completely different.

Before we dive into it, we want to give you a shortlist of our top 3 best free online tax filing software, and who they’re perfect for.

Top 3 Shortlist of the Best Free Online Tax Filing Software

Tax Filing SoftwareBest For
FreeTaxUSAThe filer looking for the most comprehensive free tax software
TurboTaxThe filer who might need some premium services, but at a low cost
H&R BlockThe filer that might need a helping human hand through the process

The Top 7 Free Online Tax Filing Software

FreeTaxUSA1. FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA takes the top spot on our list because it offers virtually any type of return free for federal tax preparation. That includes the most complicated returns. There is a deluxe version, but it contains only minor upgrades. The free version will give you exactly what you need.

Free version offered for: FreeTaxUSA’s free version is the most comprehensive available. You can use the free version to prepare all levels of returns, including business income, investments, rental real estate, as well as itemized deductions and nearly all tax credits.

Cost of state tax returns: $12.95.
Customer support: Live chat.
Import prior year return from competitor: By PDF from TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxAct.
Refund tracking: Yes.
Audit assistance: Free assistance, but no direct representation.
Premium plans and costs: The Deluxe plan adds Audit Assist, live chat with priority support, and unlimited amended returns. $6.95, plus $12.95 per state.
Other features: The Free version can prepare any type of tax return, not just the most basic ones.

Turbotax2. TurboTax

TurboTax is the best known and most widely used tax software. It has a plan for every taxpayer, from the simplest to the most complicated. It takes our #2 spot primarily on the strength of its premium services. TurboTax is the best tax software overall for the most complicated tax situations.

Free version offered for: 1040EZ and 1040A. Income must be W2 and interest only, and not more than $100,000. Cannot be used to itemize deductions.
Cost of state tax returns: $29.99, but $39.99 on premium plans.
Customer support: 24/7 live support.
Import prior year return from competitor: Yes, by PDF.
Refund tracking: Yes.
Audit assistance: Free guidance; direct representation is $44.99.
Premium plans and costs: Three plans:

  • TurboTax Deluxe – for form 1040, including income over $100,000 and itemized deductions. $59.99, plus $39.99 per state.
  • TurboTax Premier – for investment income and rental properties. $79.99, plus $39.99 per state.
  • TurboTax Self-Employed – for small business owners. $119.99, plus $39.99 per state.

Other features: Import W2 information from thousands of employers, or use smartphone photo capture.

TurboTax Business is available for partnerships, C and S corporations, LLCs, trusts and estates. $169.99.

TurboTax Live lets you access direct help from a CPA or enrolled agent to review or even complete your return. $60 to $90 add-on fee.

H&RBlock3. H&R Block

H&R Block is another well known tax software, but it has the advantage that you can get support from any one of thousands of local offices. It rates the #3 spot on our list because it’s second only to TurboTax in preparing complicated returns, but its plans are priced lower. It also has excellent customer support, in case you think you might need a human touch guiding you through the process.

Free version offered for: 1040EZ and 1040A. Income must be W2 or Social Security.
Cost of state tax returns: $29.99, but $39.99 on premium plans.
Customer support: Live chat and phone.
Import prior year return from competitor: Yes, by drag-and-drop. But free version does not allow import of prior year H&R Block return.
Refund tracking: Yes.
Audit assistance: Free in-person audit support, but not representation.
Premium plans and costs: Three plans:

  • Deluxe – itemized deductions. $49.99, plus $39.99 per state.
  • Premium – simple self-employed (Sch C-EZ), retirement, investments, and rental real estate. $69.99, plus $39.99 per state.
  • Self-Employed – small business income. $94.99, plus $39.99 per state.

Other features: Smartphone photo capture of W2. Unlimited technical support by phone and expert tax advice by chat on premium plans. Your return can be completed at a local office for an additional fee.

TaxSlayer4. TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer is another tax software offering premium plans at low rates. It makes #4 on our list because the free version is also free for state filing, but also because its premium plans are about half the price of the competition.

Free version offered for: 1040EZ, but your state return is also free with this version.
Cost of state tax returns: Free on the free version. $29 on premium versions.
Customer support: Phone and email.
Import prior year return from competitor: By PDF.
Refund tracking: Yes.
Audit assistance: Free assistance (but not direct representation) with Premium and Self-Employed versions.
Premium plans and costs: Three plans:

  • Classic – for all major federal forms. $24, plus $29 per state
  • Premium – for VIP support and personal tax expert. $44, plus $29 per state.
  • Self-employed – for small businesses, contractors, freelancers and 1099 income. $47, plus $29 per state.

Other features: N/A.

TaxAct5. TaxAct

The basic advantage of TaxAct is that free means free, at least on the free version. TaxAct takes #5 because while it’s free for both federal and state filing with the free version, and has reasonably priced premium plans, it’s weaker on service levels than the top four.

Free version offered for: 1040, includes W2 and retirement income. It’s also free to file your state tax return.
Cost of state tax returns: Free on the Free plan, but various fees for premium plans.
Customer support: Email or phone.
Import prior year return from competitor: From TurboTax and H&R Block.
Refund tracking: Yes.
Audit assistance: Assistance only, no direct representation.
Premium plans and costs: Four plans:

  • Basic+ – for simple returns with dependents and college expenses. $9.95, plus $19.95 per state.
  • Deluxe+ – for itemized deductions. $29.95, plus $36.95 per state.
  • Premier+ – for investment income. $34.95, plus $36.95 per state.
  • Self-Employed+ – for small business filers. $49.95, plus $36.95 per state.

Other features: N/A

E-File6. E-file

E-file not only has a free version, but its premium plans are only about half the price of the competition. It takes #6 because its free version is also free for state filing, and because its premium plans are much cheaper than the competition. We couldn’t rank it higher however because it’s a pretty basic service with limited support and ability to accommodate complicated returns.

Free version offered for: Form 1040, must be under 65 with no dependents, and income under $100,000 (wages only).
Cost of state tax returns: Free with Free version.
Customer support: Free online support.
Import prior year return from competitor: N/A.
Refund tracking: N/A.
Audit assistance: Free assistance, no direct representation.
Premium plans and costs: Two plans:

  • Deluxe – for returns with dependents, itemized deductions and retirement income. $29.95, plus $19.95 for state returns.
  • Premium – for small businesses. $39.95, plus $24.95 for state returns.

Other features: One price paid for state return preparation, regardless of the number of state returns needed.

Credit Karma7. Credit Karma

Credit Karma has the advantage that if also offers free credit score monitoring. But its tax software is free across the board. We ranked it #7 because its a new service, but also because it can handle only the simplest returns.

Free version offered for: Basic tax returns – 1040, including schedules A, C, D, and E.
Cost of state tax returns: $0 for state returns.
Customer support: Email, chat, and limited phone support.
Import prior year return from competitor: From H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxAct.
Refund tracking: N/A.
Audit assistance: N/A.
Premium plans and costs: None available for more complex returns, like multi-state returns.
Other features: Smartphone photo capture of W2.

Side-by-Side Comparison of the Top 7 Free Online Tax Filing Software

Software/CategoryFreeTaxUSATurboTaxTaxSlayerH&R BlockTaxActE-FileCredit Karma - Tax
Free VersionAll Returns1040EZ & 1040A1040EZ1040EZ & 1040A104010401040, with schedules A, C, D, and E
Cost of State Returns12.95$29.99 on the free version; $39.99 on premium plansFree on free version; $29 on premium plansFree version $29.99; $39.99 on premium plansFree on free plan; varies on premium plansFree on free plan; varies on premium plans0
Customer SupportLive Chat24/7 Live SupportPhone & EmailLive chat & phone Email or phone Free online supportEmail, chat, and limited phone support
Import Prior Year Return from CompetitorsPDF from TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxActYes, by PDFYes, by PDFYes, by drag-and-dropYes, from TurboTax & HR BlockN/AFrom H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxAct
Refund TrackingYesYesYesYesYesN/AN/A
Audit AssistanceAssistance but no direct representationFree, but direct representation is $44.99Yes, with premium plansAssistance but no direct representationAssistance but no direct representationAssistance but no direct representationN/A
Premium Plans and Costs
  • Deluxe, with minor upgrades: $6.95
  • Deluxe – income over $100,000 + itemized deduction: $59.99

  • Premier – investment income and rental properties: $79.99

  • Self-employed/small business owners: $119.99
  • Classic – for all major federal forms: $24

  • Premium – for VIP support and personal tax expert: $44

  • Self-employed: $47
  • Deluxe – itemized deductions: $49.99

  • Premium – simple self-employed retirement, investments, and rental real estate: $69.99

  • Self-Employed: $94.99
  • Basic+ – returns with dependents and college expense: $9.95

  • Deluxe+ – itemized deductions: $29.95

  • Premier+ – investment income: $34.95

  • Self-Employed+: $49.95
  • Deluxe – dependents, itemized deduction, retirement income: $29.95

  • Premium – for small businesses: $39.95
  • None, return type is limited
  • Other FeaturesFree for all return levelsImport W2 information from thousands of employers, or use smartphone photo captureN/ASmartphone photo capture of W2; Your return can be completed at a local office for an additional fee.N/AOne price for all state returnsSmartphone photo capture of W2

    What to Look for in a Tax Filing Software – How to Choose the Best One for You

    This guide provides a list of free online tax filing software. But the free versions of each will generally apply only to people with very simple tax situations.

    Typical qualifications/limitations include:

    • 1040EZ or 1040A filers (though the 2018 tax law eliminates these in favor of the 1040).
    • Total income under $100,000.
    • No income from self-employment, investments, or real estate.
    • No dependents.
    • You take the standard deduction.

    If you fit the above tax profile, you’ll be able to take advantage of free filing. Be aware however that “free” typically applies only to your federal return. If you have a state income tax return due, you should consider either software that has no fee for preparing the state return, or one that charges a very low fee.

    When Should I Pay for Premium?

    You’ll have to consider any potential complications. For example, if you have a side business, like driving for Uber, you’ll need to complete a Schedule C. You’ll have to look at software that provides a reasonably priced premium plan for a simple side business.

    The same is true if you have significant investment income, own investment real estate, or have business income from partnerships or S corporations.

    You will also need a premium plan if you earn in excess of $100,000, have dependents, and expect to itemize your deductions.

    Finally, you’ll have to consider the likelihood you’ll face an audit. This is more typical of high-income earners, and those with more complicated tax situations. But if an audit is a possibility, it will be well worth a small investment paying for an audit defense package. In fact, you should favor one that provides direct representation before the IRS, rather than just audit assistance that helps you prepare for the audit.

    If you have any doubts, look at last year’s tax return and see what schedules you filed, and what possible complications you might have for 2019. That will be your best guide.

    But remember that with most of these tax filing software, you can start out with the free version, then add premium services as you need to.

    Final Thoughts on the Top 7 Free Online Tax Filing Software

    Select the filing software that will most closely match your tax situation. But include some wiggle room in your decision. If you see potential complications, go with the software that will enable you to add premium services after you sign up. Remember, each service starts you out with a free version, but then offers premium options.

    And once again remember that free tax filing applies only to the simplest of tax returns – except FreeTaxUSA, which is why they made our #1 spot.

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