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The Best Tax Software Compared: 20 Top Apps

How much will it really cost to use TurboTax? Is free tax software really free? What if I sold stocks or had self-employment income? Compare 20 leading tax return apps here.

The IRS is now accepting 2015 tax returns. Although you have until April 15, 2016 to file, if you are expecting a refund you can submit your return as soon as you have your W2s and other required tax forms in hand. We compared 20 of the best tax software apps to help you choose which online tax software is best for you. Many of the best tax apps offer free simple federal returns while others offer discounts of up to 20 percent on paid versions if you file in January or February.

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    Choosing the best tax software for you

    If your taxes are simple — let’s say you’re single and file form 1040EZ — free tax software is all you need. As your situation grows more complex, use the filters on the table above to compare the best tax software apps with the features you need like itemized deduction or small business expenses.

    What about an accountant?

    The difference between inexpensive tax software and an accountant is the level of personalized support you get both in preparing your return and — more importantly — in the event of an audit. Although most pricier tax software programs include audit support, they won’t know your situation or have a relationship with you like an accountant.

    If you have the money to spend, nothing beats working with an accountant who gets to know you and your tax situation over time — much the way a personal trainer can help you fine tune your physical conditioning. That said, accountants can make mistakes, too, especially if they’re squeezing you in on April 14. There’s nothing like taking charge of your own finances, and never have the tools to complete and file your taxes been easier to find and use.

    You can also make the best of both worlds, using the tax software to get you to the finish line, and an accountant’s trained eye to make sure you don’t overlook anything. No matter which route you choose, make sure to get it all done by April 15 … even if that means filing for your extension.

    Money Under 30’s “No-Stress Guide to Filing Your Taxes”

    1. Your tax document checklist: A guide to get you started
    2. Choosing the best method to file your return
    3. Tax software: When to use and how to choose
    4. Tax schedules (itemizing, capital gains, business income, etc.)
    5. Don’t miss…a credit and deduction checklist
    6. Special situations (audit avoidance, extensions, payment plans, and estimated payments)

    Published or updated on January 29, 2016

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    About Lou Carlozo

    Based in Chicago, Lou Carlozo is a personal finance contributor for Reuters Money, a columnist with DealNews.com, and a former managing editor at AOL's WalletPop.com. Contact him with story ideas for Money Under 30 at feedbacker@aol.com, or follow him via LinkedIn and Twitter (@LouCarlozo63).

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