Tax software gained popularity in the personal computing market around 1991. These first-generation programs — which included an early version of TurboTax for Windows — had relatively limited features and could be costly. Even so, reviewers at the time hailed them as innovative glimpses into a computer-powered future.
Today, the global tax software market has exploded into a multibillion-dollar industry: An April 2020 market analysis by Fortune Business Insights projected a global value of $11.19 billion by 2026 for the market. The report also predicted a compounded annual growth rate of 10.4% between 2019 and 2026.
Three main user classes rely on tax software: accounting professionals, small business owners, and individual taxpayers. The best tax software platforms assist each of these user classes in different ways.
Given the complexity of the tax preparation software market, consumers sometimes struggle to make sense of their options. This guide aims to help accountants, business owners, and taxpayers identify the best tax software platforms for their needs.
Top Tax Software for Accountants
This list of the best tax software of 2022 for accounting professionals was compiled from multiple sources, including ZDNet and PC Mag. Programs with repeated mentions in reputable technology and accounting publications received consideration.
The three recommendations included here earned top scores from multiple professional reviewers. Their order was determined by a qualitative analysis balancing the availability of advanced features with user friendliness and affordability.
Intuit ProSeries Tax
Intuit's ProSeries Tax platform earned top marks for its combination of advanced features, longevity, popularity, and industry credibility. Accounting professionals can import data from Intuit's QuickBooks platform. This seamless compatibility can save time for tax preparation with clients who use QuickBooks to track their finances.
The ProSeries line includes several different products. For professional tax preparers, two in particular stand out:
- Lacerte Tax, a comprehensive program replete with features available in both desktop and cloud versions
- ProConnect Tax, a streamlined, cloud-based professional tax platform
Intuit describes Lacerte as an elite, feature-rich program suitable for processing complicated tax returns. Key features include built-in access to more than 5,700 standard tax forms and a diagnostic system capable of alerting users to more than 25,000 potential errors. The program also features advanced encryption and a built-in enterprise firewall to safeguard client data.
ProConnect also offers more than 5,700 tax forms. It performs more than 20,000 automated calculations and its diagnostics tools cover more than 21,000 potential processing mistakes.
Intuit maintains custom pricing policies for Lacerte. Pricing depends on the features you select. ProConnect's pricing plans vary according to the number of returns you process, with no contracts or hidden costs.
Reviewers consistently praise Drake Tax as a leading choice for accountants who mainly serve small and midsize businesses. Insiders particularly like the platform's balance of affordability and advanced features for clients with relatively complex tax circumstances.
Drake Tax's major features aid tax professionals across four key operational areas:
- Preparation: Drake Tax is designed for speed and efficiency. This includes a lineup of features that update previous tax returns for the current filing period.
- Planning and Analysis: Year-to-year comparisons, archiving, and amortization schedules are among Drake Tax's advanced planning and analysis capabilities.
- Reviewing: This program helps users avoid errors and rejections with at-a-glance information. Accountants can save time with customized collating features for printing hard copies.
- Electronic Filing: Clients can automatically approve documents for submission using PINs, consent prompts, electronic signatures, and auto-file options.
Pricing plans include three tiers, including a pay-per-return option. Users praise Drake Tax's software, though some customers complain about the platform's ability to handle exceptionally large client rosters.
TaxSlayer Pro is the professional version of TaxSlayer's tax preparation platform. Accounting professionals participated directly in the platform's development, which informed one of its most valuable features. Users get unlimited live support with wait times of no more than 60 seconds, even during peak tax season.
The platform comes in three packages: classic, premium, and web. Classic comes with standard features, including unlimited electronic filing in all 50 U.S. states. The premium version adds a mobile app, paperless support, and a client management portal. The cloud-based web service is TaxSlayer Pro's most complete feature lineup and is available exclusively online.
All three packages come with flat-rate pricing ranging from $1,295 to $1,595 as of 2022. The software comes with a free trial period. User reviews indicate occasional hiccups with templating and real-time messaging, though overall their feedback is positive.
Learn more about the different types of tax professionals:
Top Tax Software for Small Business Owners
This roundup of the best tax software for small businesses was curated from reviews at venues like CNBC and Business Insider. We included each of the three featured tax platforms based on their specific strengths.
H&R Block is a well-known name in the tax preparation industry. Several reviews named it the top tax software of 2022 for its overall performance, ease of use, and versatility.
H&R Block software includes a robust lineup of features that help business owners, including:
- Identifying and claiming deductions
- Ensuring compliance with specific business structure standards
- Tracking and reporting payroll taxes automatically
H&R Block also backs its small business tax software with several guarantees. These include a maximum refund guarantee and a software accuracy guarantee. The latter offers reimbursement of up to $10,000 for any penalties or interest charges incurred as the result of a software error.
For a surcharge, an H&R Block tax specialist can review users' returns for accuracy before filing. H&R Block also provides representation for business tax software who face auditing.
H&R Block recommends its premium and business package for small business owners. As of 2022, this option costs $89.95.
Intuit's TurboTax platform has earned accolades from both personal and small business users. Experts and professional reviewers praise it as an industry-leading option in three regards:
- Support for self-employed professionals and operators of sole proprietorships
- Virtual assistance features
- Third-party and external app data integration
Self-employed users can access tax deductions specific to their industries with a helpful expense calculator. The platform also offers enhanced support for common forms and schedules that self-employed professionals use. These include Schedules C and K-1 as well as Form 1065.
TurboTax uses a question-and-answer format to offer customers step-by-step assistance. Small business customers can use the standard TurboTax program or upgrade to TurboTax Live. The live option includes a tax return review with an Intuit self-employment taxation specialist.
TaxAct Business is well-suited for small businesses that operate in partnership or corporation structures. The online platform offers two options: enterprise-focused business packages and bundles that combine business and personal tax support.
TaxAct offers specific services for:
- C corporations
- S corporations
- Tax-exempt organizations
TaxAct also features a sole proprietor package for users who file Schedule C (Form 1040) when paying their business taxes.
According to Investopedia, TaxAct is the only business tax platform that allows users to file partnership or C corporation returns online with Mac and PC systems. TaxAct also offers a downloadable version of its software, though this feature is only available for Windows users.
TaxAct's pricing tiers are higher than many competitors, but this reflects the software's specialized design for partnerships and corporations. Multiple reviews cited a lack of e-filing availability for certain state-level business tax forms.
Top Software for Taxpayers
Individual taxpayers often lack the professional expertise of accountants and tax preparers. Many also use tax preparation platforms exclusively during tax season. For these reasons, we ranked the best tax software options below based primarily on affordability and ease of use. Our researchers sourced the products on this list from Forbes, CNET, and other publications.
Professional reviewers highlight H&R Block's intuitive personal tax filing software, which does not sacrifice features for simplicity. The company's lineup of personal tax management platforms includes step-by-step guides that navigate users through the filing process. People with straightforward tax preparation needs can also access a free version of the platform online.
Taxpayers with more complex needs can download their choice of tiered service platforms, including:
- The basic plan, created for families and employees claiming deductions
- A deluxe + state package, best for investors and homeowners
- A premium plan, ideal for self-employed taxpayers and users with rental properties
As of 2022, the cost of these options range from $29.95 to $74.95. Fees include state-specific software and electronic state-level tax filings.
Multiple reviews say one downside of H&R Block software is that it integrates Intuit QuickBooks data less smoothly than Intuit TurboTax software.
User reviews praise TaxAct's intuitive interface, easy navigation, and comprehensive information library. The platform includes detailed coverage of multiple tax topics. These resources help individual taxpayers maximize their returns and avoid penalties.
TaxAct offers its Xpert Assist service to users who file electronically. This feature delivers help from licensed certified public accountants and tax prep pros. Options include tax advice and a free pre-filing review of tax returns.
Taxpayers can choose from four program tiers:
- TaxAct's free service, best suited for people filing simple returns at the federal level
- The deluxe tier, ideal for parents and individuals managing personal loans
- The premier service, designed for taxpayers with taxable investments
- The self-employed program, geared toward taxpayers with business and personal income
Prices for these software packages range from free to $94.95 as of 2022.
As the company's name implies, FreeTaxUSA differentiates itself by offering free federal tax filings to all users. State returns incur an extra charge — $14.99 per state as of 2022.
FreeTaxUSA offers four packages for taxpayers:
- A basic package, optimal for new and returning users alike
- An advanced tier, ideal for homeowners
- A premium service, designed for users with investment or rental property income as well as users reporting proceeds from home sales
- A self-employed service, built for contract workers, freelancers, and operators of sole proprietorships
Reviewers note that FreeTaxUSA delivers value for its price point. The platform includes comprehensive form navigation features, helping inexperienced users make their way through complex tax documents.
Customers can also pay for access to additional services, including consultations with tax professionals. Users also have the option to pay for additional services with their refund, effectively eliminating out-of-pocket expenses.
Questions About the Best Tax Software of 2022
What software do tax professionals use?
Many tax professionals choose software platforms with advanced, technical features. Preferences vary, but some popular examples include Intuit's ProSeries, Drake Tax, and TaxSlayer Pro.
Is paying for TurboTax worth it?
TurboTax's value derives from the availability of live expert assistance. Experienced taxpayers may not require such comprehensive support. However, inexperienced users often say it delivers value.
Is it better to use a CPA or TurboTax?
Deciding whether to hire an accountant to prepare your taxes depends on the complexity of your situation. If you are an individual taxpayer with a fairly straightforward tax profile, using TurboTax can save you money. Clients with more complex situations may prefer consulting an accountant for expert, situation-specific advice.
Which software is best for income tax returns?
Numerous providers offer reputable tax return software platforms at affordable prices. Some quality options are even free to use. Examples include H&R Block, TaxAct, and FreeTaxUSA's software for individual taxpayers.
What is the safest tax software?
Intuit's products have garnered a reputation for elevated safety and cybersecurity features. The company's TurboTax platform has earned repeated mentions in professional reviews for its excellent safety and data protection features. However, many other providers also offer highly secure tax filing programs.