You’ve either come to exactly the right place, or you have no business here. If you’re an overachiever, move along. If you plan your wardrobe over 48 hours in advance, if you buy Christmas presents in October, if you invested in an IRA at 14, scroll along to the next article. You had your tax returns filed in January while the rest of us were watching True Detective. You’re not welcome here.
This guide is for the do-laters and procrastinators. We set out to find the best tax software available, particularly if you—like us—haven’t touched your still-sealed W-2 in 46 days. We tested multiple products, looked at ratings from experts like CNET and PC Mag, assessed reliability, noted guarantees, and most of all, compared productivity and helpfulness features across products in order to pick the three options best suited for Joe-April-14th tax filer.
Here’s what we found:
TaxACT gets less press than its heavily-marketed competitors, but it’s got all the basic functionality you need at half the cost. If you’re the sort of person that keeps things simple—one solid income, no other nonsense—grab TaxACT Free, the easiest, cheapest filing solution available. Premium products like TaxACT Deluxe and TaxACT Ultimate provide a fuller feature set if you want to import previous years’ returns, get more guidance, or need tips for special life events that might affect your taxes. And even with these pricier products, you’ll likely still pay less than with the name brands. But let’s be honest: when you finally sit down to file, you may not have that kind of time. Grab TaxACT Free and get it over with.
#2: H&R Block
If TaxACT is like flying coach, H&R Block is business class. The colors are a little brighter, the space between content wider, the tips and tricks more friendly. You’ll find the same advanced features present in TaxACT’s premium offerings, and even more hand-holding through the more complicated sections. The bubbly, cheerful interface might even help you relax as you race against the tax clock to get that return sent in.
Like any airplane, however, you’re going to end up in the same place, whether you upgraded or not, so consider whether all those pleasant pastel borders are really worth the increased cost.
TurboTax’s biggest selling point isn’t a low price tag or polished design—it’s integration. The software plays well with any other popular product made by Intuit, whether that’s accounting standard Quickbooks or personal finance favorite Mint.com. If you’re the rare breed who’s conscientious about accounting and budgeting, but still waits until the two-minute warning to file taxes, TurboTax is your solution. If, however, you thought “after dinner breath freshener” when you saw “Mint.com,” wander on back to TaxACT or H&R Block.
BONUS! DJI Tax Assistant
For the conspiracy theorists, privacy paranoiacs, and future Edward Snowdens, consider DJI Tax Assistant, a made-for-Excel tool that lets you do all your taxes in a simple, offline spreadsheet—the sort of place inaccessible to online hackers and identity thieves. Yes, all your info is eventually headed to Uncle Sam anyway, but you can tinker, adjust, and tamper to your wallet’s content before you finally print and address your filing. In theory, no one will know what sort of shenanigans came and went while you filled out your return — not even the NSA.
This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.
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