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Four TurboTax Alternatives for Filing Your Tax Return

There’s no question that TurboTax is the most widely used tax return preparation software for people who file their own returns. However, its popularity comes at a price. TurboTax is by far the most expensive option among the most well-known tax programs. With that being said, we’ve come up with four less expensive alternatives to TurboTax that could get the job done just as well.

Top Financial Tools’ Top 4 Alternatives to TurboTax

Each of these tax software products offers different features and price points that will appeal to different users, so read on for our reasons why these are the top four TurboTax alternatives.

Summary

This table summarizes prices for basic and advanced returns for each of the brands we talk about below, so you can see it all in one place:

Price Comparison

This table shows the prices for a basic and advanced return for each brand’s tax preparation product. All prices are for preparing and e-filing one federal and one state return. Prices may be lower for those who don’t have to file a state return.

Brand Basic Return Advanced Return
TurboTax $0 $154.98
TaxAct $28.05 $59.50
Liberty Tax $40.42 $78.92
FreeTaxUSA $12.95 $19.94
ezTaxReturn.com $29.95 $39.95

For the most basic returns, TurboTax Online Free Edition is definitely the way to go. Along with TaxAct, it is the only product that is completely free to file both federal and state returns. The downside is it only handles the most basic situations, but if that’s you, it is the best product out there at the best price.

taxact alternative to turbotaxFor anything more complicated than a basic return, we recommend TaxAct as the best alternative to TurboTax, especially for those who want as much extra guidance as possible. Even for the most expensive version with all the forms and schedules to cover almost any tax situation, it’s only $59.50 to file both federal and state tax returns. You can also start with the lowest priced version and upgrade as needed, so you won’t ever pay more than necessary with TaxAct. Go here to start your return with TaxAct.

another alternative for filing tax returnsIf you want to save even more, our next best recommendation is FreeTaxUSA. It is by far the least expensive option for anyone with more than a basic return. No matter how complicated your tax situation, it will cost you less than $20 to file with FreeTaxUSA. Start your return with FreeTaxUSA here.

TurboTax Fees Explained

TurboTax fees can range from $0 for very simple returns all the way up to $154.98 for someone who needs to report self-employment or small business income. And that’s just for preparing and filing one federal and one state return. TurboTax also has numerous “upsells” and addons that bring the price up even more.

It can be difficult for consumers to determine the total price they will pay with TurboTax because of the numerous online and desktop version offered, each with different options.

Most of the web-based online versions of TurboTax charge $39.99 extra to prepare and e-file a state return. The desktop versions of TurboTax allow you to e-file up to 5 federal returns, but charge $19.99 extra to e-file the state return. See the table below for prices for each edition of TurboTax.

But is it necessary to pay TurboTax’s high prices just to file your taxes?

TurboTax Prices (Note: Some TurboTax products may at times be offered at discounted prices. The prices listed here are the original prices):

Online Versions of TurboTax

The online versions of TurboTax generally cost more than the desktop versions for anyone who has to file a state tax return. The major exception is for people who have a very simple return and can use the Free edition.

Edition Federal State Total Notes
Free $0 $0 $0 Best for filers who made less than $100K, don’t own a home or rental property, didn’t sell investments, don’t own a business or have 1099 income, and don’t have major medical expenses.
Deluxe $54.99 $39.99 $94.98 Maximizes deductions and credits. Good for homeowners.
Premier $79.99 $39.99 $119.98 Includes everything in Deluxe, plus includes forms required for investments and rental properties.
Self-employed $114.99 $39.99 $154.98 For any self-employment or 1099 income, business expenses, home office deductions.
Desktop Versions of TurboTax

The desktop versions of TurboTax all include the state tax return preparation except for the Basic version. E-filing each state return is $19.99 extra. State returns can be printed and filed with no additional fee. Desktop versions also allow the purchaser to e-file up to 5 federal returns and print and file unlimited federal returns. This makes it a great option for anyone who needs to do multiple returns, such as for parents filing their child’s tax return or spouses filing separately.

Unlike the online versions of TurboTax, the desktop versions all include all the same forms. They differ in the amount of guidance given for completing the forms.

Edition Federal State Total Notes
Basic $39.99 $39.99 + $19.99 $99.97 Recommended for basic / simple tax returns. Offers step-by-step guidance, but does not identify extra deductions and credits or include tools for charitable deductions.
Deluxe $69.99 $19.99 $89.98 Yes, it’s less than the Basic edition because it includes the State preparation. Recommended for homeowners, major medical expenses, maximizing deductions and credits.
Premier $99.99 $19.99 $119.98 Includes everything in Deluxe, plus extra guidance for investment income, rental income, and retirement income.
Home & Business $109.99 $19.99 $129.98 Includes guidance for self-employment and small business income and expenses, home office deductions, start up costs. Best for contractors, consultants, and freelancers. Create W-2s and 1099s for employees and contractors.

As you can see, if you have to file a state return, the TurboTax Desktop versions are a better deal. If you do not have to file a state return, the online versions of TurboTax are a better deal for all but the Self-employed / Home & Business versions, for which the desktop version is still a better deal.

Sometimes the desktop versions of TurboTax can be found for better prices than those listed in the table. Check Here for the Latest Prices on TurboTax Desktop Versions


Four Affordable Alternatives to TurboTax

TaxAct

Start With TaxAct Here

TaxAct is the second-most popular tax return preparation software, right behind TurboTax. It’s known as the more affordable little brother to TurboTax.

TaxAct offers a Price Lock Guarantee, promising not to try and sell you anything extra once you start your return. You know the price you’ll have to pay before you even start filing, unlike with TurboTax, which can continously prompt you to upgrade in order to access features you need.

TaxAct comes with three options for filing a federal return. State returns are always $28.05 extra, including preparation and e-filing.

TaxAct – Three Versions

State returns are always $28.05 each in addition to the price for the federal return, except the Free version, for which state returns are also free. The total prices listed here are for preparing and e-filing one federal and one state return with TaxAct.

Edition Federal State Total Notes
Free $0 $0 $0 Supports 1040EZ and 1040A. Importing a prior year return is $10 additional.
Plus $22.95 $28.05 $51.00 Recommended for itemizing deductions, homeowners, and people with investments, charitable contributions, or major medical expenses. Includes Schedules A, D, E. Importing prior returns is free.
Premium $31.45 $28.05 $59.50 Recommended for self-employed, freelancers, and contractors. Includes Schedule C, F, 1099-Misc, and everything in the Plus edition. Importing prior returns is free.

Special offer of 15% off TaxAct


Liberty Tax

Start With Liberty Tax Here

Liberty Tax, which is widely known as a walk-in tax return preparation agency, now offers a do-it-yourself online tax preparation option. It includes a 100% Accuracy Guarantee.

One of the nice things about Liberty Tax is you can start with the free edition and upgrade as needed. That way you don’t find yourself paying up front for a version you don’t need.

Liberty Tax offers four versions:

Liberty Tax – Four Versions

With Liberty Tax, prices for federal returns are very low while state returns are $29.95 each.

Edition Federal State Total Notes
EZ $10.47 $29.95 $40.42 Best for simple returns. Supports filing a 1040EZ. Imports prior year returns.
Basic $13.97 $29.95 $43.92 Best for families. Includes 1040 and Schedules A & B. Includes itemized deductions.
Deluxe $27.97 $29.95 $57.92 Best for small business owners or self employment income. Interest income. Includes Forms 1040, 4562, 8829 and Schedules A, B, C. Plus expert tax support.
Premium $48.97 $29.95 $78.92 Best for investors. Includes everything in Deluxe, plus Schedules E, F, K-1. Expert tax assistance included. Home office deductions.

Take 30% off Liberty Tax Now


FreeTaxUSA

Start With FreeTaxUSA Here

FreeTaxUSA has a different philosophy on tax preparation software. Instead of making you choose from 3 or 4 different versions to get the one you need, they give you everything needed to file your federal return for free. Whether your return is simple or complex, the federal portion includes all the tools and forms most people need and is completely free.

State returns are just $12.95 extra.

FreeTaxUSA also offers an upgrade to a “Deluxe” option for $6.99, which provides Live Chat, Priority Support, Audit Assist, Audit Center, and Unlimited Amended Returns. However, all the same functionality and forms in the software is the same.

You can import prior returns from TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct.

FreeTaxUSA – One Version

Edition Federal State Total Notes
Standard $0 $12.95 $12.95 Includes all forms and guidance most people need to file a return, including itemized deductions, miscellaneous income, investment income, self-employment income, charitable donations, business expenses, and so on.
Deluxe $6.99 $12.95 $19.94 If you want to spring for the Deluxe level of support and assistance, it’s only $6.99 extra. There are no extra features in the tax software, just additional support and guarantees.

This is by far the lowest priced option of the different tax preparation solutions we looked at.

Start a FreeTaxUSA 100% Free Federal Return


ezTaxReturn.com

Start With ezTaxReturn.com Here

This is another tax preparation solution that doesn’t confuse you with different versions or levels. Whether your return is simple or complex, it is all one low price. Pricing is transparent and up front with no additional addons or upsells.

ezTaxReturn.com guarantees the Biggest Possible Refund, 100% Accurate Calculations, and Money-back Satisfaction.

It also works on any device, including smartphones, tablets, PC or Mac.

ezTaxReturn.com – One Version

ezTaxReturn.com is geared toward the majority of tax payers situations. With that, there are some less common situations that are not supported. We also noticed many of the less populated states are not supported.

Does not support: Self-employment depreciation/depletion, does not support reporting wash sales, short sales, and other complex investment transactions, supports only one rental real estate property on Schedule E but cannot claim depreciation

Does not support filing these state returns: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia.

Edition Federal State Total Notes
Only One Edition $29.95 $19.95 $39.95 Includes no-wait-on-hold phone support. Supports Schedules A, B, C, D, E, EIC, SE. Supports most forms. And no, the total price is not a math error. If you get both federal and state, you get a $10 discount.

ezTaxReturn.com is an inexpensive option for someone who has a fairly simple return or is very familiar with their tax situation and with preparing their own tax return. It provides all the Schedules and Forms for the most common situations for individuals, families, home owners, and investors. There are a few uncommon situations it does not support, which we have listed above. Outside of those uncommon situations, ezTaxReturn is a good choice to handle most returns.

Start your return with ezTaxReturn.com


Summary and Final Thoughts

This final table summarizes prices for basic and advanced returns for each of the brands we covered, so you can see it all in one place:

Price Comparison

This table shows the prices for a basic and advanced return for each brand’s tax preparation product. All prices are for preparing and e-filing one federal and one state return. Prices may be lower for those who don’t have to file a state return.

Brand Basic Return Advanced Return
TurboTax $0 $154.98
TaxAct $28.05 $59.50
Liberty Tax $40.42 $78.92
FreeTaxUSA $12.95 $19.94
ezTaxReturn.com $29.95 $39.95

For the most basic returns, TurboTax Online Free Edition is definitely the way to go. Along with TaxAct, it is the only product that is completely free to file both federal and state returns. The downside is it only handles the most basic situations, but if that’s you, it is the best product out there at the best price.

another way to file your tax returnFor anything more complicated than a basic return, we recommend TaxAct as the best alternative to TurboTax, especially for those who want as much extra guidance as possible. Even for the most expensive version with all the forms and schedules to cover almost any tax situation, it’s only $59.50 to file both federal and state tax returns. You can also start with the lowest priced version and upgrade as needed, so you won’t ever pay more than necessary with TaxAct. Go here to start your return with TaxAct.

alternative tax filing solutionIf you want to save even more, our next best recommendation is FreeTaxUSA. It is by far the least expensive option for anyone with more than a basic return. No matter how complicated your tax situation, it will cost you less than $20 to file with FreeTaxUSA. Start your return with FreeTaxUSA here.

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Nate Phillips has been using Quicken and TurboTax for almost 20 years. He has spent part of that time as a Quicken beta tester, helping identify bugs and annoyances with Quicken updates before they are released. Nate holds a master's degree in Computer Science and has numerous technology certifications.

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