These are the best tax software programs, report says

No one enjoys filing their tax returns, but it doesn’t have to be painful.

Still, it can be confusing to decide which of the many tax software programs out there is the right one for you.

Forbes Advisor ranked six of the top online tax software programs to help taxpayers through the process. Its analysis considered the programs’ free filing options, ease of use, customer service, whether they try to upsell customers and whether they can handle complicated tax returns.

It started out with eight online tax software providers:, H&R Block, TurboTax, LibertyTax, Jackson Hewitt, Credit Karma, TaxSlayer and TaxAct.

But it decided to leave Credit Karma and Liberty Tax out of the analysis,

“Credit Karma is in the process of selling its tax software business, and it remains unclear what this would mean for consumers,” Forbes said. “In December 2019, the Department of Justice settled with Liberty Tax for not taking steps to prevent the filing of fraudulent returns prepared by its franchisee stores.”

Next, it created two hypothetical taxpayers. The first was a freelancer with business income and deductions, and the second was a married couple with wage income, one dependent and child care expenses.

It then reviewed each program side-by-side. Here’s a look at the findings.

Best Free Online Tax Software:

This category considered “the most impressive overall package of features.” It also required the program not charge fees for federal and state tax return filings or have restrictions for income levels or filing status, and have the broadest selection of tax filing forms.

H&R Block topped this category because it has free federal and state tax filings, no income or filing restrictions and has the most filing options, Forbes said.

“H&R Block’s Free Online version is best if you have a very simple tax filing that includes wages, limited interest income, earned income tax credit, child tax credit and unemployment income,” it said.

On the downside, its phone support had longer hold times than competitors, it said.

Best Online Tax Software for Ease of Use:

This category reviewed which program was the simplest for taxpayers to use.

TurboTax was the winner in this category.

The positives of the program, according to Forbes, include that the program has a “simple, easy-to-use interface that helps you identify the tax filing forms required to complete your return.” It also allows you to upload your W-2 to automatically fill out required fields, and it offers easy tools to help you find deductions and credits, it said.

The downsides are that the program tries to upsell you several times during the process and it’s more expensive than other programs, it said.

Best Online Tax Software for the Self-Employed:

This category looked at pricing, support, state filing fees, tools to help find deductions and total costs.

H&R Block came in first place. Forbes said it gives easy-to-understand help plus useful links and articles about overlooked tax deductions.

But on the downside, while the company offers additional help with a tax professional, it’s costly, and you have to pay for your state tax return to be filed, it said.

Best Online Tax Software for Customer Service:

This category looked at whether the program offers phone, live chat and email help and how well each performed. It also looked at help articles offered by the program.

TaxSlayer came out on top.

Forbes praised the company’s educational articles and phone support.

“The company’s customer service representatives were helpful and professional, and the hold time on customer service calls was less than 8 minutes,” it said. “Even late on a Sunday afternoon, there was a short wait and the customer service representative provided clear and informative answers to our questions regarding tax expert assistance and pricing.”

TaxSlayer also has chat and email contact options.

But on the negative side, its extra help from tax experts was costly, it said.

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Karin Price Mueller may be reached at