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Best Free Tax Software for Your 2017 IRS Return

What is the best tax filing and refund software? We reviewed the top free tax filing apps -- TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct -- to help you find the best software for taking all of the possible deductions.

Apps in this Guide

Are you tearing your hair out and biting your pen cap to a pulp over your stress-inducing tax forms? That's because, taxes, as their name implies, are taxing. They're laborious to complete, and that'smore

Are you tearing your hair out and biting your pen cap to a pulp over your stress-inducing tax forms? That's because, taxes, as their name implies, are taxing. They're laborious to complete, and that's if you can even understand what you're doing. Even Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, himself, admitted that "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."

(Credit: Noam Wind, Shutterstock / Noam Wind)

Taxes, even the so-called "EZ tax return," can be complicated, if you do them yourself and don't know the current federal and state tax code. Or costly, if you use a qualified tax consultant for tax preparation. That's why more and more Americans -- 40 percent, according to recent Intuit estimates -- turned to do-it-yourself tax apps, promising ease, affordability, and security to e-file their 2016 taxes. Well, now it's time to file your 2017 tax return.

In anticipation, we've tested tax preparation and filing apps, and our top three picks are so intuitive, navigable, and instructional that you can use them confidently on your phone or tablet -- no tax calculator or tax return estimator required. But if you're dead set on doing your income tax return on your desktop or want to file taxes online, we have you covered for those formats, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I file my 2017 tax return?
Unless you request an extension, Tax Day 2018 is Tuesday, April 17, 2018.
Where’s my refund?
Tax refunds take about three weeks after the IRS has accepted your e-filed tax return.

Best Tax Software

TurboTax Tax Return App

TurboTax Tax Return App

TurboTax Tax Return App makes TurboTax filing as easy as possible, guiding you through each section of your return. Even before you start, the Intuit TurboTax app will recommend the appropriate product for you, based on whether you were single, had a job, worked side jobs, and so on. Free income tax filing and a free tax return await with the TurboTax Free Edition if you are working with simple tax returns, such as the 1040EZ and 1040A. Use Deluxe ($39.99) to maximize deductions, Premier ($59.99) if you have investments and rental property, and Self Employed ($89.99) if you are self-employed or own a small business. Better yet, the Self Employed version now uncovers personalized industry-specific deductions. Your state return will cost you $36.99. Add TurboTax Live for live CPA or EA advice on demand and a final review.

Save the postage: After your TurboTax download, enter your TurboTax login, and just snap a photo to import your W-2 for your federal and state returns, respond to basic questions, and e-file securely from your phone via TurboTax Tax Return App. If you don't know some of the answers, the app offers step-by-step TurboTax help. There have been even more improvements since TurboTax 2016, including a redesigned navigation with quick access to ancillary Intuit apps like Mint and TaxCaster.

When it's time to file your state return, TurboTax will ease your workload by transferring as much info as possible over from your federal return. Finally, you can review, pay with a credit card, and file from the app. You'll need your IRS electronic filing PIN from last year's return, but TurboTax makes this easy to retrieve in the app.TurboTax is also secure, starting with encryption of your data. During registration, you must provide your phone number, which TurboTax will use as an additional authentication method if you ever need to log in from another device. You can set up fingerprint ID or a four-digit app PIN for an extra layer of security. You can also easily switch to your desktop at any point in the process and file using the online version of TurboTax.

You can also download TurboTax software for Mac and Windows for between $39.99 to $109.99, for five e-files with state included for every tier except Basic. Since TurboTax searches hundreds of tax deductions and credits to maximize your TurboTax tax refund, the filing fee will be well worth it.

Curious about your tax return status? Want to track your federal or state refund? Use TurboTax's refund tracker to track your refunds.

H&R Block Tax Prep and File

H&R Block Tax Prep and File

H&R Block Tax Prep and File can also import your W-2 via photo. The app can also transfer your info from your federal return to your state form and can recommend the appropriate product for you. The online options are affordably priced: H&R Block More Zero (free), whereby six in 10 taxpayers can file no-cost state, plus complimentary federal 1040EZ, 1040A, or 1040 with Schedule A returns; Deluxe ($34.99) for getting the most deductions; Premium ($54.99) for freelancers/contractors, investors, and rental property owners; and Self-Employed ($74.99) for the self-employed and small business owners. State returns cost anywhere from nothing to $36.99. You can add Tax Pro Review for $49.99 to $89.99.

Like TurboTax's app, H&R Block Tax Prep and File can also import last year's return from any preparer to expedite this year's. If you run into any problems, H&R Block offers audit support. On the security front, H&R Block Tax Prep and File also provides data encryption and multiple ways to authenticate your account.

The 2017 edition enables you to import info from LinkedIn, Amazon, and Facebook; lets you keep in-app notes; and enables you to have your return reviewed by a tax pro with Tax Pro Review, for an additional fee. Finally, you can now get a 5 percent refund bonus if you direct some or all of your return as an Amazon e-gift card.

If you prefer to download your own copy of H&R Block software, then you can purchase it for Windows and Mac. Basic ($29.95) is best for simple tax situations, Deluxe ($54.95) is suited to homeowners or investors, Premium ($74.95) works for the self-employed or rental property owners, and Windows-only Premium & Business ($89.95) is great for small business owners. Five federal e-files and one personal state program download are included with every tier except Basic. The Tax Calculators feature is included with Premium and Premium & Business.

TaxAct Express

TaxAct Express

With TaxAct Express , you can also snap a photo to upload info from your W-2, but you can't complete as many forms as you can with TurboTax or H&R Block's apps, and you don't receive as much guidance for form filling, in general. But you can count on email verification, security questions, and two-factor authentication (Touch ID and Face ID) prompts each time you log in. If you find the additional step of two-factor authentication annoying, select "Don't ask again on this computer."

We also loved TaxAct's color-coded alerts, which tell you where you may have gone wrong, and the app's great online pricing: Free for 1040EZ and 1040A filers with simple returns; $27 for Plus, which is great for homeowners, itemizers, and filers with investments; $39 for Freelancer, which works for independent contractors and self-employed filers; and $51 for Premium, which brings even more peace of mind. If you download TaxAct's desktop software, it's $15 to $76 for five e-files, and state returns are included for every tier except Basic.