What Are the Best Programs for Taxes?


The best programs for taxes can help you save time, and more importantly, help you save money this tax season. Nobody likes to do or pay their taxes. For the lucky few, it’s just a matter of entering a few data points besides your name, social security number, address, your standard deduction, income, and who you worked for. For others, it’s quite a bit more involved as we may have more than one income source, a shoebox filled with receipts for our deductions, etc.

Whether you’re planning on filing a 1040 long form or the 1040EZ short form, these programs will help you breeze through your taxes this year. One of the main contributors to people not getting the refund they expected is making errors on their return. These errors can be in figuring deductions, filing status, or a large number of other possibilities.

5 Best Programs for Taxes

These five programs can help do away with these errors. These are full software packages that are either downloaded or cloud-based, not just mobile apps.

Turbo Tax is the Most Popular Program

If you’ve been anywhere near a computer (or a TV, for that matter) during this time of year for the past 10 or more years, chances are you’ve heard of Turbo Tax. Intuit is the country’s most popular maker of financial software, and their tax packages are no exception. Most of my family has used them for years.

The Turbo Tax Federal Free Edition is easy to use and does most of the calculations for you. It’ll even tell you if you qualify for credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. They’re even offering a bonus this year to users of the software. There are also versions for small business owners and people with complicated returns, although, they aren’t free.

TaxACT Free Federal is My Favorite

Last year, I broke from tradition and tried two pieces of tax software, Turbo Tax (TT) and TaxACT. I found the TaxACT package to be a little more cumbersome and thus difficult to use, but it ended up giving me the exact same result that TT gave me. This package also runs in the cloud, so there’s nothing to download and install. Just breeze on over to the TaxACT website and get started.

The interface on TaxAcT is pretty slick and unlike other products, it lets you skip around your own process, instead of sticking to hard and fast interview like with TT. Another nice thing is that even people like me with 1099Misc forms to file can use it for free. This is the one I’m going to use this year. Personally, I’m going to call this one the best of the best programs for taxes.

TaxSlayer Didn’t Spin My Wheels

The TaxSlayer company may sponsor my favorite NASCAR driver, but that isn’t enough reason for me to use it. Yes, it’s quick, and yes, it’s also easy, IF you only use the buttons located at the bottom of the page. If you use any of the provided links, it’ll return an error message stating that using the links may cause your data to not be saved. Why have them if you can’t use them?

Also, the free edition only lets you do very simple 1040EZ returns. Of all of them, this is the quickest and easiest to use, as long as you hold its hand.

H&R Block

H&R Block gives consumers several options for filing their taxes: Bring all your paperwork in and have one of their certified tax professionals help, file online from their website (efile), or use either their free or premium ($65) software packages. Unfortunately, if you choose to use one of their software packages, you have to download and install the software plus any updates to ensure complete accuracy.

Only the premium package lets you do complex returns. It also lets you file your state return, which the others don’t. The software has a sleek and easy to navigate interface that will have most people done in less than an hour.

Best Programs for Taxes Includes: 1040.com

This is one that I passed on last year. It didn’t look at all finished or polished like the ones I listed above. However, after speaking with a few people that used it this year, as well as a couple colleagues who actually used it in order to check it out, I can say that they’ve definitely improved. First, there is no longer a package to download and install; it’s all done on the cloud. Second, it’s free for anyone under 52 years of age and with an income less than $58,000.

One of my friends, who looked at a number of applications so he could recommend the best one for all of his family to use told me this one was the easiest to use and had the nicest and most intuitive and clean interface of them all. He also told me that, unlike the others, he didn’t encounter any nag screens begging him to upgrade to a paid version. From what I saw, if you’re at all familiar with the Office 365 interface, you’ll be able to breeze through this one. Out of all of them, 1040.com also doesn’t let you use a password that’s easily guessed, giving your financial info an added layer of security.

Oh yeah, it helps to have all your receipts and tax forms ready first. Thankfully, this year I know exactly where all of mine are. If you’ve already done your taxes, or are about to do them and use one of these, or any other package, let me know in the comments below what you think.

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2013