The Top 6 Free Tax Software

Selecting a free tax software often comes down to your individual tax situation. Each of the top six online tax providers offers a free plan, but with two of them — Turbo Tax and TaxAct — you can file your simple federal (1040EZ/A forms) and state taxes completely free of charge. If your tax situation goes beyond the basics, H&R Block is your best option, as you can file more complex federal taxes for free and then pay a small fee for state. The best free tax software guides you through preparation and filing, provides easy access to expert support, helps you identify applicable deductions, and ensures you get your maximum refund.

For the third consecutive year TurboTax was rated as our overall favorite online tax software, and its Absolute Zero promotion helps it stand out as the best free online tax software as well. With TurboTax, you can prepare and file your federal 1040EZ/A and state taxes completely free of charge, no strings attached. The free plan is designed for those with relatively simple tax needs and in order to qualify, you must meet certain criteria (for example: You make less than $100K per year, don’t own a business, and have no 1099 income). If you meet the requirements, you really can’t beat the step-by-step instructions, access to expert help, and free tax advice via live chat. To make things even more convenient, you can download the TurboTax app and complete your taxes on the iOS or Android device of your choice.

Unlike the free online tax options offered by TurboTax and TaxAct, the Free Edition from H&R Block provides you with more than 50 forms that go well beyond the basic 1040 income tax returns. The one drawback is that the free offering is only for your federal taxes and you’ll have to pay extra to prepare and file your state taxes. The H&R Block mobile app is free on Google Play and the App Store, and is capable of preparing and filing even the most complex taxes. The app also has some time-saving features, such as the ability to snap a photo of you W-2 and import all the pertinent information. H&R Block provides free audit support and unlimited advice from tax experts, which helps it stand out among the best free online tax software.

TaxAct also has a completely free plan for federal 1040EZ/A and state taxes for those with relatively simple tax scenarios. The TaxAct user experience lags a behind TurboTax, but you can still expect your taxes to be prepared and e-filed quickly, accurately, and with minimal hassle. If your tax situation is a little more complex, you can easily upgrade to one of the paid packages, which are among the most affordable in the industry. If you need any help along the way, the TaxAct Answer Center provides free support and you can contact a tax specialist for free via email.

TaxSlayer.com lets you prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free, but the offer is only applicable to tax scenarios that utilize the federal 1040EZ form. Like H&R Block and other free online tax providers, you’re going to have to pay extra to file your state taxes. If you get stuck on a question or need some additional tax advice, you can take advantage of phone and email support, which comes standard with TaxSlayer’s Free Basic Edition. All of TaxSlayer’s plans come with a maximum refund and 100 percent accuracy guarantee, so you can be confident that your taxes are done correctly and that you get the tax refund that you deserve.

eSmart is backed by Liberty Tax and offers a free edition of its online tax software. With eSmart you can e-file your federal taxes for free like any other free online tax software, but be ready to pay when you prepare and file your state taxes. One convenient feature offered by eSmart is the ability to import last year’s tax information from competitors like TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct. If you filed with one of these providers last year and are looking for something new, this easy import feature can help save time and get you up and running quickly. On top of that, you get free technical support via live chat and free audit support from a Liberty Tax CPA.

You can e-file your federal taxes for free using Jackson Hewitt's Basic free tax software, but this version doesn't quite live up to the bar established by the other providers. There’s still a lot to like about Jackson Hewitt, though, including free live chat support and a unique deduction-discovery resource that’s based on your occupation. Jackson Hewitt's free offering is only for simple federal returns, and like most of the other online tax providers, you’ll have to pay when you file your state taxes.

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