Playing Accountant This Tax Season? This Software Is (Almost) Foolproof

by Michelle Guerrere

When it comes to your finances, do you take a head-on or a head-in-the-sand approach? If you identify with the latter, then the good news is that you’re not alone. The bad news? You’re not alone. New data suggests that when it comes to managing money, women are not as independent as you'd expect. In fact, 91% of women in couples are not participating in financial decisions. But we want to change that statistic. To help you become a master of your own finances, we’re debuting a new series called The Paper Files, where we uncover tricks and tips that will help you manage your money and your future. Ready to tackle it head-on?

We've said it once (or twice), and we'll say it again—tax season is officially upon us. If your taxes for 2016 are fairly straightforward, a good option for you may be to use tax preparation software to file your taxes. We like it because it's less expensive than booking an in-person appointment with your accountant, but you don't have to look at all of that tax jargon on the IRS forms or read frustrating directions like "see instructions" or "attach form here." The best tax preparation software aggregates all of the details from the IRS forms and puts it in a questionnaire format that even tax novices can understand. Answer a few questions, click through, and you'll be done in no time. We've rounded up three of the best tax software programs below—read on to see which one might best suit your needs this year.

Credit Karma Tax 2017

Cost: Free

Pros: Free! Can we say that again? Also, Credit Karma's interface is very simple to use.

Cons: The program has the inability to import last year's returns, lacks assistance from tax professionals, and it's also not available in three states.

Works best for: Those with a simple return who don't want to spend money to file.

H&R Block Deluxe 2017

Cost: $55; plus $37 per state filing

Pros: You can itemize deductions for no extra charge, the interface itself is easy to navigate, and you can take a photo of your W-2 to save time having to input all of the details. H&R Block lets you live chat or talk on the phone with a licensed tax professional if you run into any snags.

Cons: The inability to report life changes like marriage or buying a house.

Works best for: Those who are not self-employed and who haven't undergone any major life changes.

 Intuit TurboTax Self-Employed 2017

Cost: $115; plus $40 per state filing

Pros: TurboTax has an easy-to-use interface, boasts a conversational tone, and you can pay an additional $60 for extensive audit help (other services offer similar audit features, but nothing anywhere near as thorough when it comes to protection). The SmartLook feature also gives an experienced tax professional access to your screen to talk you through any difficulties. How's that for tech help?

Cons: A relatively high cost.

Works best for: Freelancers, contractors, or those who own a small business.

Have you organized your taxes yet? If you haven't, be sure to read our rules for filing your own taxes.

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