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The best tax software for 2022

best tax software
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best tax software services for 2022 represent what you’ll use for the tax year 2021. The big trend for 2022: Live help from a tax expert is now pervasive. Of the six services we tested, only Cash App Taxes and FreeTaxUSA lack tax expert help, and those two services are free. Two services have fully virtual full-service options — TurboTax and TaxAct — and a third, H&R Block, has a more hybrid approach marketed separately from its do-it-yourself online products.

Support for cryptocurrency has risen (though it’s not universal), as has attention to side-hustle businesses for the self-employed.Even better: many services have lowered their pricing this year.

What are the best tax software services?

Our top pick for the best tax software for tax year 2021 is Intuit TurboTax Deluxe 2021. TurboTax distinguishes itself through its mix of guided experience, improved data imports, strong tax education resources, and deep range of tax expert assistance. Along with some subtle interface tweaks, this year TurboTax has boosted its handling of investment and cryptocurrency transactions, and simplified adding charitable donations of goods. We still wish the interface was more unified in its presentation, but the strength of this years’ additions help set TurboTax apart. TurboTax is more expensive than the competition, but it also offers a unified digital experience that other services lack.

If you purchased TurboTax from 2016 to 2018, but because of your income, were eligible to use its free offering, you may be entitled to a refund, due to a settlement between Intuit and the states' Attorneys General offices.

A close runner-up is H&R Block, which continues to offer a cohesive, visually attractive service that walks you through completing a tax return. Plus, the service’s expert help options are more affordable this year. It is the only service other than TurboTax to integrate with partners to easily import investment data, including crypto transactions. 

TaxAct Deluxe 2020 strikes a balance between value and functionality. TaxAct also offers live tax pro help, albeit during a more constrained time window than its competition. We found TaxAct Deluxe an attractive alternative for users who know what forms they need, and want a little less guidance and handholding through the process. The service also supports the widest breadth of tax situations targeting multiple business types and estates and trusts, none of which can be handled by competing online products.

The best tax software for 2022

Best tax software: Intuit TurboTax Deluxe 2021tom's guide top pick

(Image credit: Intuit)

1. Intuit TurboTax Deluxe 2021

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to navigate around return
+
Wider help options than most, including full service option for end-to-end tax filing assistance
+
Excellent automated data input
+
Strong cryptocurrency support

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricier than other tax software

Intuit TurboTax Deluxe 2021 is a mainstay for the best tax software crown, and this year it edges ahead of the competition on the virtue of its available upgrades. Now in its 38th year, the 2022 TurboTax family (which covers the 2021 tax year) has improved its tax expert assistance options, with a smoother all-virtual full-service upgrade that lets a tax professional do the heavy lifting. And if you’re trading in investments and cryptocurrency, this tier provides the best intake process of any of the competitors. 

The service’s user interface provides guided detailed questions in English, and minimizes your exposure to actual tax forms. TurboTax Live’s expert assistance remains a well-integrated experience. For 2022, TurboTax improves the workflow of using its fully virtual Live Full Service, through which you can have a tax pro complete and file your taxes for you. If your tax needs are uncomplicated, TurboTax has a phenomenal free limited-time deal for those who qualify for Basic Live Full Service. 

Read our full TurboTax Deluxe 2021 review.

Best tax software: H&R Block Deluxe 2022

(Image credit: H&R Block)

2. H&R Block Deluxe 2022 (for 2021 tax year)

Reasons to buy

+
Elegant, visual design
+
Clear language and copious support
+
Online Assist and tax expert review nearly half the price of last year

Reasons to avoid

-
Choosing a tax pro to virtually do your taxes is not integrated into the online product

H&R Block Deluxe 2022 remains one of our top picks for best tax software. Its interface is the best of any of the players, and reflects thoughtful, efficient design. Plus, the service integrates cogent explanations that break down tax lingo in a digestible way, and greatly reduces the cost of expert help – including having a tax pro to review and file your taxes for you.

The service has revamped its income hub to reflect societal changes since the start of the pandemic. The tweaks bring trends like more self-employed, multiple W-2 forms and cryptocurrency investment gains to the forefront, so you can consider them earlier and more naturally in the process. Together with other interface tweaks, H&R Block offers the cleanest and most friendly user experience we’ve seen. 

Read our full H&R Block Deluxe 2022 review.

Best tax software: TaxAct Deluxe 2021

(Image credit: TaxAct)

3. TaxAct Deluxe 2021

Reasons to buy

+
Clear design
+
Covers wider array of tax situations than most services
+
Tax pro help is free at all tiers
+
Introduces full service option

Reasons to avoid

-
No clear cryptocurrency support or guidance
-
Different interface entry points can get confusing

TaxAct Deluxe 2021 continues to offer the most comprehensive tax filing services we’ve seen, and remains a top contender for best tax software. The big news this year is the addition of free live assistance from tax experts at all tiers of service. This notable update makes TaxAct a more competitive value, considering at most tiers that kind of assistance costs extra elsewhere. Plus, TaxAct introduced a full service option for having a tax pro do all the work for you, akin to what TurboTax introduced last year. In spite of these strides, TaxAct remains just behind industry behemoth TurboTax, and is noticeably behind in cryptocurrency guidance. 

TaxAct delivers its services at reasonable prices, and with a flowing, easy-to-use interface. The service’s design has less hand-holding than competing products, and caters to those who know what forms they need to complete their taxes, with less guidance than competing packages. 

Read our full TaxAct Deluxe 2021 review.

Best tax software: TaxSlayer Classic 2022

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

4. TaxSlayer Classic 2022 (tax year 2021)

Reasons to buy

+
Inexpensive, simplified pricing structure
+
Classic version services all tax situations
+
Lets you work on up to four years of returns
+
Tax expert guidance for Premium and Self-Employed levels

Reasons to avoid

-
Context-sensitive help lacks depth
-
No cryptocurrency guidance
-
Lacks a donation calculator

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 is the best tax software for those who want to retain the conveniences of more pricey packages while saving money on doing taxes. Apart from the entirely free Cash App Taxes and FreeTaxUSA, TaxSlayer remains the least expensive way to file a federal return across a wide variety of tax situations, including those who have investments and those who are self-employed.

While pricing and support structure are still big differentiators for TaxSlayer, the service’s friendly interface and clear guidance also stand out. And it is the only service beyond FreeTaxUSA that allows you to do three years of back taxes online in addition to the current year. Sure, TaxSlayer Classic doesn’t provide as much hand-holding as you’ll get with pricier competitors such as H&R Block and TurboTax, but it gets the job done without sacrificing features like importing some W-2 documents by photo. 

Read our full TaxSlayer Classic 2022 review.

Best tax software: FreeTaxUSA

(Image credit: Free Tax USA)

5. FreeTaxUSA 2021 Edition

Reasons to buy

+
Free tier covers investments, cryptocurrency and self-employed filings
+
Works on mobile and desktop browser

Reasons to avoid

-
Dated interface lacks visual design
-
No clear info on tax expert review
-
Must complete return in specified order

FreeTaxUSA is blunt about its primary attribute: This tax filing service is free for federal e-file, even for more complicated taxes like those who are self-employed. FreeTaxUSA 2021 Edition has some add-on charges, including for state filing, but as far as a tax service goes, FreeTaxUSA offers far more than most competitors. Only CashApp Taxes (formerly CreditKarma Tax) might be an alternative to FreeTaxUSA, and even then, FreeTaxUSA has the advantage of having some level of chat phone support.

The service’s aesthetic is as plain vanilla as it gets. Nothing fancy here. No onboarding questions, minimalist design, little help or guidance. Even the investment support is slim (you have to manually enter transaction information). But if you’re looking to save some money and don’t need a lot of hand-holding, FreeTaxUSA is one of the best tax software programs. 

Read our full FreeTaxUSA review

Best tax software: Cash App Taxes

(Image credit: Cash App)

6. Cash App Taxes

Reasons to buy

+
Mobile-friendly filing
+
Simplified, clean interface
+
Free to file both federal and state taxes, even for self-employed

Reasons to avoid

-
No tax expert option
-
Minimal online support and guidance
-
Interface lacks refinement
-
Minimal support for cryptocurrency

Cash App Taxes may seem like a newbie, but is in fact the last year’s Credit Karma Taxes with a new name, new owner, and slightly refreshed interface. It remains free, and a contender for best tax software. However, it falls short of paid competitors, some of which charge nominal fees to get a greater breadth of support.

The six-year-old service is now owned by Cash App, which in turn is owned by Block. The service still has a mobile-friendly, visual interface that is the definition of minimalism. Cash App Taxes is a reasonable free option for filing federal and state taxes. Its lack of finesse may not matter to you if you’re enticed by the word free. It can handle a surprising variety of tax situations, but when you run into tax questions, you’ll pay with your time to find answers. But it lacks strong support features of its paid competitors like H&R Block and TurboTax, and the live chat support of FreeTaxUSA.

Read our full Cash App Taxes review.

How we tested the best tax software

We identified the six strongest candidates for online tax filing services. We then proceeded to review each tier of service provided by these candidates, noting the pricing, which forms and tax situations covered and how easy the company made it to determine up front what product you should purchase.

Next, we selected the least expensive paid tier of service, typically referred to as “Deluxe,” to represent the service in this roundup (for the two free services, we positioned them against what we expected from a Deluxe tier of service). We went through the process of building a federal tax return on each service, setting up an account moving through each service’s interface on a Windows-based Web browser.  We paid attention to all aspects of the tax filing experience, from the visual design to the language, the depth of written resources and data entry. 

We also considered upgrade options offered by a service, whether to a different tier that supports more features, or a different level of tax expert help. And we noted how easy it was to move from one part of the return to another, and what the experience was like if we realized midway through we needed a higher-tier version of the program.

What to look for when selecting the best tax software

When choosing the best tax software for your needs, you’ll be weighing several factors: Price, the complexity of your return and how much assistance you want with filing your taxes. 

Often, juggling price vs. the complexity of your return is a decision that goes hand-in-hand. Half of the services reviewed here — TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxAct — add features and tax forms as you move up to more expensive products. If you have a fairly simple return — say you only have one source of income and you don’t own any properties or have a side-hustle — any of these services will get the job done, but not all support the same mix of forms in the free product. Cash App Taxes and FreeTaxUSA handle even many of those more complex tax situations for free, as does TaxSlayer’s baseline paid product (for $18 more). 

Your comfort level for completing your own taxes will be a factor in considering how much help you want on stand-by. For example, Cash App Taxes’ integrated help and in-service guidance is minimal, and its support limited to e-mail. FreeTaxUSA has live chat support, but online help is also thin. TaxSlayer and TaxAct both have stronger online help, and both offer live tax expert assistance — and TaxAct is the first to include that expert assistance at all price tiers. 

H&R Block Deluxe has robust in-app guidance and a lower price this year for its online assist and tax review add-ons. And our best tax software TurboTax has comprehensive online assistance and the widest range of live help options, crowned by its all-virtual Full Service tier where you can hand off your tax documents and have a tax pro to do the rest. TurboTax remains the most expensive of the bunch, but its guidance and automation is top notch.

Melissa Perenson is a freelance writer. She has reviewed the best tax software for Tom's Guide for several years, and has also tested out fax software, among other things. She spent more than a decade at PC World and TechHive, and she has freelanced for numerous publications including Computer Shopper, TechRadar and Consumers Digest.