Best Tax Preparation Software iMore 2021
2020 was a year of firsts for everybody, and many of those new experiences will affect your taxes. If you worked from home, you might be able to claim a portion of your mortgage as a business deduction. If you lost your job or received a stimulus check, these, too, are worked into your overall tax obligation. Business owners have their own list of tax considerations whether the pandemic caused profits or loss. TurboTax has the best tax preparation solutions for both personal and business filers. TurboTax Deluxe 2020 is the solution most filers will need, but all TurboTax versions walk you through each step of the filing process, looks through your return multiple times, and points out any red flags that might result in your return being kicked back or audited by the IRS. For those stressing about filing taxes this year, here are some of the best tax software options you can lean on now.
- Best Overall: TurboTax Deluxe 2020
- Best Value: H&R Block Deluxe + State
- Federal Only: H&R Block Deluxe
- Investment Income: TurboTax Premier 2020
- Business Taxes: TurboTax Home + Business
Best Overall: TurboTax Deluxe 2020
For most people, TurboTax Deluxe is the only tax preparation software you need. This program walks you through each step and explains the information you need to enter from your W2, 1099, and 1098. You can import these forms from digital files and tap into prior years' tax information to make it easier to fill out this year's forms.
This tax prep program supports simple business deductions, like those for ride-share and home-based business expenses. It also applies child and education credits, mortgage interest and property tax paid, and some retirement income credits. You can file up to five federal returns electronically with TurboTax Deluxe and prepare paper returns for state and local city taxes.
This tax software comes with one state of your choice, though you can pay for additional states if you need to add them. You will also need to pay an additional fee for each state return you want to file through TurboTax electronically. Foreign taxes aren't supported by this program, only domestic taxes. While you can claim some simple business deductions, most small business expenses and investment income can't be declared with this program. TurboTax does have additional programs for these tax situations, though.
- Unlimited federal tax preparations
- Easy to use
- Electronically file multiple returns
- Doesn't support foreign taxes
- Not for business taxes
- Doesn't support some investment income
Best Value: H&R Block Deluxe + State
H&R Block Deluxe + State lets you electronically file five federal returns, which is handy if you have multiple people you need to help file or if you find yourself needing to file an amended return. It has over 13,000 articles with information about each supported form line to help if you get stuck. This includes Schedule A for any itemized deductions.
H&R Block Deluxe + State does support investment income, including 401k contributions, stock dividends, home sales, and social security income. It also looks for deductions and credits for children, education, and home business expenses like a home office. Most business expenses, however, much be filed using a program specifically designed for small business owners.
This tax preparation software comes with only one state, but you can purchase additional states if you need them. If you live in a state with local taxes that should be filed, H&R Block will help ensure these are formatted correctly to be submitted. You cannot use one of the five electronic returns to file a state return. You will need to either send a paper copy in the mail or pay an additional fee to e-file it through H&R Block.
- Electronically file up to five returns
- Supports investment income
- Decently priced
- Federal e-file only
- Extra cost for additional states
- Not for small business taxes
Federal Only: H&R Deluxe
If you live in a state like Florida, Texas, or Wyoming that doesn't have a state income tax obligation, you don't need to pay for an all-encompassing program. H&R Block Deluxe has federal tax preparation, and you can choose to download the program directly to your Mac or have a CD sent. This program lets you import W2s, 1099s, and 1098s directly into the program or tap into previous year filings to help fill in this year's forms more quickly, even if you used another program last year to prepare your taxes. All you need to do is drag and drop the file into the program.
This Deluxe program supports income from home-based businesses, stocks, retirement funds, and home sales, so you don't have to look for another program for these common tax situations. However, if you are a small business owner with several vendors, contractors, or employees, you will need to file using a small business tax preparation program to access the correct forms and maximize your return.
- Import income forms
- Import prior years' returns
- No state
- Not for small business owners
Investment Income: TurboTax Premier 2020
TurboTax Premier is designed to help you with all taxes that are affected by investment income. This includes stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and interest earned in traditional investment accounts and retirement accounts. TurboTax includes an IRA investment tool to help you determine if you need to make any changes to your investment account to avoid paying higher taxes and receive more money in your retirement years. Premier also looks at income from rental properties and is especially helpful if you are filing as a beneficiary of an estate or trust.
This tax preparation program looks at over 350 tax credits and deductions to minimize your overall tax burden and maximize your return. Some of these credits include energy-efficient improvement credits, plus credit for mortgage insurance and property taxes paid. This is all in addition to the federal and state forms, help, and e-filing capabilities for personal income taxes. While TurboTax Premier is one of the most expensive tax preparation software programs, it does come with several tools to help you file regardless of your personal income circumstances. It doesn't, however, support small business taxes. You will need another program for preparing these.
- Over 350 credits and deductions
- Beneficiary income assistance
- Retirement planning tools
- Not for small business taxes
Busniess Taxes: TurboTax Home + Business
This program is best if you have any business income, including self-employment, contractor and freelance work, or as a small business owner. The program syncs with popular payroll and finance programs, like QuickBooks, to make it easier to import information to get the most deductions and credits. The itemized deduction tools give you the greatest returns while keeping your overall tax obligation low, and TurboTax taps into several hundred possible credits and deductions available to you. And because this is the ultimate tax preparation program, you can also use it to file your personal returns, including investment income and state returns.
You can e-file up to five different federal returns, including amended returns. However, you do need to pay extra to file your state forms electronically. You do have the option of printing off completed state returns and sending them in yourself as many times as you need to for free.
- Covers every tax situation
- Small business tax help
- Five federal e-files included
- Extra cost for e-filing state
When it comes to taxes, go with what works
TurboTax is a staple for preparing taxes, and its programs are so comprehensive and tend to bring the greatest returns. Its Deluxe program works with its online program to provide an e-file for easier submission and a quicker return. You can submit five returns electronically and as many paper returns as you want. And if you live in a state, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, or Ohio, where city income tax is common, TurboTax will help ensure those are properly declared, too.
When I've worked with self-employed and small business taxes, TurboTax has always found the most deductions and credits. Plus, it syncs well with accounting and payroll programs to seamlessly transfer information between the programs. This makes it easier to stay on top of deadlines and ensure forms are filled out properly.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Nicole Johnston writes for multiple Future Publishing brands, including iMore. She has over 14 years of research and writing experience in both the public and private sectors. Nicole draws on her experience of testing and reviewing consumer products to recommend the best solutions ranging from food processors to bed pillows to parental control programs.
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