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Best Tax Software – Tax Program Reviews For 2017

Best Tax Software – Tax Program Reviews For 2017

In this article, I have listed the Best Tax Software for people in the USA. I have picked the best tax software for people who do not have complicated tax returns. There is also a tax program for people who have a small business.

The Internet is loaded with tax programs that claim to help you file your tax return, our team has tried 22 different tax programs. After our tests, I compiled the best tax software into this review. It is fair to say that all the programs listed in this article are equally good, but I have listed them in the order that I think they rank–from best to not-as-brilliant.

Is There Any Point In Getting Your Tax Return Correct?

I am not being sarcastic or ignorant when asking this question. I often hear people talking about the best tax software. They say the best one is the one that helps you get the “correct” answer. The only thing I hear more often is people talking about the tax software that helps them generate the lowest estimate (with discounts/relief/loopholes/deductions, etc). I don’t think you should worry too much about which software will give you the “right” answer–because they all can!

How Can Every Tax Program Be Correct?

As you will see in this article, there are several tax programs to choose from. I contend that they will all give you the correct tax amount, even if they each generate a different result. Allow me to elaborate a little.

When I saw TurboTax’s guarantee that you get your maximum tax refund, it brought to mind a test that Money Magazine ran. They took the income information from a normal family with children and gave it to 46 different tax preparers, all of whom were noted and established in their field. They received 46 different estimates for what one family owed in federal tax. Some of the differences were up to six thousand in terms of what the family owed the government. All of them were correct.

Money Magazine tax preparation test visual example

The federal tax code, including all its interpretations and rulings is over 10 million words long and rising. Every tax preparer in the Money Magazine test could justify how they came to their estimate, and unless the IRS can prove a serious perversion of the process, then the IRS is obliged to accept your estimate when you are audited. They may add on a few points or remove a few points, but the fact remains that if you can justify your estimate, then the IRS will have a very very hard time penalizing or charging you for paying the wrong amount of tax.

That Is Why I Say, “Is There Any Point To Getting Your Tax Return Correct?”

If you can prove how you reached your estimate, and if you didn’t purposefully omit things or pervert the process, then the IRS will have a hard time penalizing you. All of the software reviewed in this article will give you the means to create a full and legitimate tax estimate. Just make sure you do not pervert the process by applying deductions that do not apply to you, and make sure you include all your financial details/information when you use the software.

H&R Block At Home

When you first visit their website, you will see a menu that asks you what situation best describes you. Click on the option that best describes you, and it takes you to their most suitable product. Here we review their free version because it is the best for most people. Of all the products, I think H&R Block and eSmart Tax are the best for most people in the US, which is why they appear so near the top of our Best Tax Software article.

Easy Information Import And Snap A Pic Of Your W-2

All of their software options give you the ability to import information easily and quickly. Even if you cannot have your W-2 imported from your employer, you may snap a picture of it and the software will read and input almost all of the information.

Refund-Reveal Function Is Available

They have patented a piece of software that takes a guess at how much refund you are going to get. It also explains/shows why your refund amount may or has changed.

The Company Invests A Fair Amount Into Security

Just like the other “Best Tax Software” programs on this list, there is no real way of knowing how much they invest into security. However, they have a brand to protect, and I cannot find any evidence online of any security breaches.

Step-By-Step Guidance With Your Tax Return

The free version gives you answers to commonly-asked questions. They also give you directions on the 350 credits and deductions you can apply for. They do not give you free accounting advice, but you can get enough guidance and help to the point where you probably won’t need a paid accountancy expert.

Free Audit Support

If you use H&R Block At Home and you are audited, then the company will give you free advice. They will help you understand the notices you were given, and will help you respond to them. There is no extra charge for the advice they give when you are audited. If you are still not satisfied at that point, they will refund the money you paid for the program.

Identity Care From H&R Block

The program automatically enacts the safeguards recommended by the IRS. If you are the victim of identity theft, and you have already bought their Identity Care services, then they can help to rightfully restore your tax identity and help ensure your tax refund goes to you. The fact that your information and activities have been lodged with the H&R Block Identity safe system goes a long way to helping prove which transactions or entries were legitimate and which were not because you have data from an impartial third party to use when making your case.

H R Block At Home functions list

It Deserves Its Place In Our Best Tax Software Article – But, Here Is A Downside

There is sooooooo much small print that goes with their service. I know it is not a big deal, and it is probably needed and desirable, but it is my job to go through it all and check to see if it holds any catches or deal breakers. I didn’t, but it was a real pain reading through it all to find out. I know that H&R Block has many paid programs and only one free program, but I believe they offer great value for money. I think that H&R Block offers the best tax software in the USA (though they are neck and neck with eSmart Tax in my opinion).


CompleteTax / eSmart Tax

There is a free version of eSmart Tax for simple returns, a version for families, a version for investors, and a version for business owners. The free one is going to be best for most people. It was a tight race between eSmart and H&R Block for the best tax software. We just found that the H&R software a little easier to use.

They Guarantee Accurate Calculations

Accurate calculations is not much of a selling point since all tax software should give accurate calculations. What they mean is that the underlying math is up-to-date. If their calculations result in penalties from the IRS, then eSmart Tax will refund those fees.

Live Support Is Available

If you need help working the software, or there is a section you do not understand, then they offer free live support. Their live support doesn’t extend to giving you tax return advice, but they do have a set of tax resources where you may research the answer to your tax question.

Import Your W-2 From Your Employer

eSmart Tax allows you to import your W-2 tax form data from your employer. eSmart Tax has over one million financial institutions and employers that have agreed to participate. It means there is a high probability that they will allow you to automatically import your W-2 information.

Import Information From Last Year

If you used CompleteTax / eSmart Tax last year, you are able to import your information from last year to this year’s return. We all know that using last year’s information is the quickest and easiest way to fill in this year’s return. The software is able to import last years income information and personal information so that you do not have to enter it all again. That is what the best tax software programs should do.

Five Years Storage With Their Safe-Keeping Option

Keep your information on your local drive for between six and ten years for safe keeping. Also, use the eSmart Tax Safe-Keeping option and have them store a copy of your returns for up to five years. It is handy just in case your local copies are lost, at least you will have a backup.

It Deserves Its Place In Our Best Tax Software Article – But, Here Is A Downside

The only thing that came close to a negative was when I noticed it wouldn’t allow me to file a partial return. I guess that means people will not be able to use eSmart Tax if they have moved from one state to another during the tax year. After playing with the software for hours, it is the only flaw I could find.


QuickBooks

The QuickBooks program is good for small businesses and side businesses. It is suitable for you if you have a buy-to-let house, sell your own products, provide a service part-time/full time, are a freelancer, or if you sell on eBay.

Track Expenses Such As Mileage Automatically

Many of the automatic functions that QuickBooks has will help you track expenses and income without the tedious process of data entry. Things such as mileage may be tracked with the GPS on your phone. It is a relatively new function/feature that many of the best tax software and accountancy programs are starting to offer.

See Quick Reports On How Much Profit You Have Made

As a sole trader, small businesses or side business, you may like to stay on top of how much profit you are making. It keeps things interesting and exciting. The QuickBooks software keeps track of your income and outgoings and produces quick-view profit reports.

Categorize Your Expenses Automatically

Thanks to the automatic elements of the program, you may save as many as eleven hours per month when dealing with your accounts. The time-saving and auto functions also help to speed up the process of filling out your tax return.

Take A Photo Of Your Receipt And Throw It Away

Some businesses still use paper receipts. They are more common with smaller and sole trader businesses. Don’t save them up over the month and data-input them. Take a shot of them with the QuickBooks app, and in most cases, it will read and enter the information for you.

Have Most Of Your Return Entered Automatically

Since you are recording most of your financial information through the program as you use it through the year, it can compile, sort and enter most of your financial details for you. The auto-entry functions are what help speed up the tax return process.

Plenty Of QuickBooks Options To Choose From

They have numerous products for the self-employed, there is an online version too. There is QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise to choose from. There is QuickBooks for Mac, QuickBooks Payments, Payroll and Point of Sale. They also have QuickBooks apps to suit different circumstances and businesses.

It Deserves Its Place In Our Best Tax Software Article – But, Here Is A Downside

Their customer services suck, and even though I didn’t have them lie to me, I believe the people online who say they lie. Also, their paid accountant advisors are truly terrible. I paid $300 for one hour, and I knew more than the woman they assigned to me. If you reach a point where you need their accountant advisor’s help, or you have to pay for tech support/help, then cut your losses a complete your return manually. Do not pay for their advisor or their fix services. Quickbooks is only suitable for people who already know how to use software to complete their returns. It is not for novices.


TurboTax Federal Free Edition

There is TurboTax the free federal edition, there is Turbo-Tax self-employed, and TurboTax Deluxe. If you are not self-employed, and you simply wish to fill out your tax return, then the free TurboTax edition is a fine option.

The Software Customizes Your Form For You

Answer a few questions as you start your tax return, and the software presents you with the tax return pages that you need. You do not have to skim through your return to find the bits you need because they are presented to you.

See Who Qualifies As A Dependent

When you complete the dependants section, enter your details, and the software shows you what deductions and tax-saving credits you may be eligible for.

Pay To Have Complete Your State Return Faster

When you have finished your federal tax return and you have your free estimate, you may pay to have your information transferred over to your state tax return. Doing so will help speed up the completion of your state tax return.

Automatically Save Your Progress As You Go

There is no need to complete your tax return in one sitting. It is even okay if you leave the system it without saving. The software automatically saves your entries. Many of the best tax software programs have similar functions because we all know how annoying it is to lose your progress.

Secure Information Input And Storage

All of the most popular and successful tax return programs should have some sort of security to help protect your information. TurboTax does invest money in to security to help keep your information safe. How much time and money they invest into security is not clear, but they have a brand to protect, so it is probably a fair amount.

The Automatic Import Of Your W-2 Information

TurboTax is set up in a way that allows you to import your W-2 tax form data automatically. TurboTax has over one million financial institutions and employers that have agreed to participate and allow the automatic import of W-2 information.

Free E-filing Of Your Federal Tax Returns

You can file for free with the TurboTax Federal Free Edition. You may also file your state return electronically, but it will cost you a fee. If you add in your direct deposit information, then it is a fast and efficient method for getting your tax refund back.

TurboTax Free Federal Edition - three selling points

It Deserves Its Place In Our Best Tax Software Article – But, Here Is A Downside

They try to sell their service on how to get the biggest tax refund. It is cheap and sleazy. We all have to pay tax. Shouldn’t they be selling their software on how quickly, securely, or accurately we can complete our tax returns? Instead, they sell their software by assuming we are all money-grubbing leeches that want something for nothing from our own country.

TaxAct

As an impartial review, I have to say that there are many popular tax programs, and TaxAct is one of them. I personally do not like it, but there are many people who do like it. If I had my way, I wouldn’t include TaxAct, but I have to remain as impartial as I can (within reason, I am not a robot after all). I should note that there is no major flaw in the software that makes it undesirable. It deserves its place on our list of the best tax software in the US, but the website does pander to the dumbest and most ignorant in our population. There is even a part where they say that tax breaks are unfair, and then claim they can get the same breaks for you. If their corporate attitude were to change, I may look upon them more favorably.

They Have A Price Lock System

A simple tax return is free. Don’t believe their comparison charts. They show the paid services of other tax programs and not the free programs that other companies offer. If you choose a paid version of TaxAct, then they have a price lock system where you will not have to pay more when you file in a year.

TaxAct could charge 125 dollars

A Wide Number Of Add-On Services

The free federal tax filing system is very simple. If you want further tools and more advanced options, then you can add them in to the package you signed up for. There are free tools too, but some of them are mere previews of what you get if you pay for their services.

Pick The Situation That Suits You

If you are going to go with TaxAct, then go for their simple and free services. If your tax return is not that simple, you may select a product that applies to you. Navigate to the “products” section of their website and find the various products available for your situation. Click one of the menu items that most suits you, such as the dependants option, or the single option, or own-a-home option. Click the options that apply to you, and the website takes you to the products that will suit you.

There Are Some Free Tools

Before you sign up to use TaxAct software, you can try a few of their free tools online. There is a tax calculator that gives you a crude idea of what you may owe. There is a tax bracket calculator, which is handy for people who have seen a significant income change. There is a paycheck plus tool and a tax information tool.

It Deserves Its Place In Our Best Tax Software Article – But, Here Is A Downside

Their tag line is “TaxAct. The system to beat the system.” I didn’t want to do the review after reading that, but the boss insisted that I write it. Why would any honest and hardworking person want to beat the system. Honest and hard working people ARE THE SYSTEM. The people who want to beat the system are parasitic scabs who are only out for what they can get with no thought for others. I am not saying that the software is bad, but I will never use it.

About The Author

Ash The Great

After a varied career in different industries from the hospitality industry to the financial consultancy industry, Ash now spends his days working as a professional writer.

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