August 10, 2022

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Best Tax Software for Small Businesses in 2021

7 min read
Best Tax Software for Small Businesses in 2021

Let’s face it, as a small business owner you’ve a lot on your plate, and filing your taxes might seem like an overwhelming task on your long to-do list. But the right online tax filing software can help you save time and money.

Tax software programs allow you to complete the filing process online, so there’s no need to deal with the back-and-forth of working with an accountant. And don’t worry if you’re not a tax pro — these services walk you through the filing process, so you can check off all the boxes before you hit file. If you want advice on your tax situation, many online software programs provide the option to upgrade to get live support that may include one-on-one assistance with a tax professional.

CNBC Select evaluated popular tax filing software programs that offer plans focused on people who are small business owners, which generally includes the self-employed, freelancers, sole proprietors and anyone with a side gig (or two). We evaluated these programs on a range of features, including cost, user experience, expert tax assistance and Better Business Bureau rating. (Read more about our methodology below.)

Here are the best tax filing software programs for small business owners, so you can file your taxes before the April 15 deadline.

Best tax filing software for small business owners

Best overall tax software

TurboTax

On TurboTax’s secure site

  • Cost

    $90 or $170 federal, $40 or $50 per state (see breakdown by plan below)

  • Mobile app

  • Live support

  • Better Business Bureau rating

Pros

  • Step-by-step guidance with a Q&A format that is easy to follow
  • TurboTax Live provides on-demand advice and a final review from a tax expert or CPA
  • Live Full Service has a tax expert prepare, sign and file your return
  • 100% accuracy guarantee, or TurboTax will pay your IRS penalties
  • Maximum refund guarantee, or TurboTax will refund the plan fees you paid
  • Audit support, which provides free assistance if you get an IRS or other tax notice

Cons

  • More costly than other software programs
  • Live expert assistance plans cost $80 more for federal and $10 more per state
  • Live Full Service charges an additional $90 for federal, state is additional

Cost breakdown by plan:

  • Self-employed (for personal and business income and expenses): $90 federal, $40 per state
  • Live self-employed (includes help from tax experts): $170 federal, $50 per state

Runner-up

H&R Block

On H&R Block’s secure site

  • Cost

    $67.99 or $144.99 federal, $36.99 per state (see breakdown by plan below)

  • Mobile app

  • Live support

  • Better Business Bureau rating

Pros

  • Simple step-by-step guidance that’s easy to follow
  • Unlimited on-demand chat or video support with Online Assist plans
  • Ability to speak to a tax expert who has an average of 10 years experience (costs extra)
  • Over 11,000 physical locations so you can meet with a tax expert in-person
  • Maximum refund guarantee, or H&R Block will refund the plan fees you paid
  • Audit support guarantee, which provides free assistance if you get an IRS or other tax notice
  • 100% accuracy, or H&R Block will reimburse you for any penalties or interest up to $10,000

Cons

  • Plans that include speaking with a live tax expert cost $77 more for federal returns
  • One of the more costly software programs

Cost breakdown by plan:

  • Self-employed (for personal and business income and expenses): $67.99 federal, $36.99 per state
  • Online Assist Self-employed (includes help from tax experts): $144.99 federal, $36.99 per state

Best free tax software

FreeTaxUSA

On FreeTaxUSA’s secure site

  • Cost

  • Mobile app

  • Tax expert support

  • Better Business Bureau rating

Pros

  • Federal filing is free to use
  • Audit defense available with the Deluxe edition, which gives you support from a representative if the IRS audits your federal tax return
  • Maximum refund guarantee, or FreeTaxUSA will refund the plan fees you paid and provide a coupon for a free amended tax return
  • 100% accuracy, or FreeTaxUSA will reimburse you for any penalties/interest charges

Cons

  • Can’t import W-2s, so you have to manually enter the info
  • State filing isn’t free, though it’s a low $12.95
  • Priority customer support and live chat is only available with a Deluxe edition upgrade and costs $6.99

Best affordable software

TaxSlayer

On TaxSlayer’s secure site

  • Cost

    $30.55 federal, $32 per state (see details and promo code below)

  • Mobile app

  • Tax expert support

  • Better Business Bureau rating

Pros

  • Cheaper plan, making this a more affordable choice if you don’t have a simple return and need to upgrade
  • Low state filing fees
  • One-on-one support from real tax experts with Ask a Tax Pro
  • 100% accuracy, or TaxSlayer will reimburse you for any penalties or interest charges
  • Maximum refund guarantee, or TaxSlayer will refund the plan fees you paid
  • IRS inquiry and audit support guarantee

Cons

  • Must enter a discount code to benefit from lower prices

Cost breakdown by plan:

  • Self-employed (for personal and business income and expenses): $30.55 federal, $32 per state

File for 35% off with code SLAYIT35, prices above reflect discount.

Best for accuracy guarantee

TaxAct

  • Cost

    $64.95 or $109.95 federal, $44.95 or $49.95 per state (see breakdown by plan below)

  • Mobile app

  • Tax expert support

  • Better Business Bureau rating

Pros

  • Up to $100,000 accuracy guarantee, which reimburses you for IRS/state penalty or interest if the TaxAct software causes a calculation error in your return
  • More affordable than other paid software
  • One-on-one support from real tax experts (costs extra)
  • Maximum refund and 100% accuracy guarantee, or TaxAct will refund the plan fees you paid and pay any difference in the refund or tax liability, plus cover any legal or audit costs up to $100,000

Cons

  • Xpert Help Self-employed plan costs $75 more for federal

Cost breakdown by plan:

  • Self-employed/Sole Proprietor (for personal and business income and expenses): $64.95 federal, $44.95 per state
  • Xpert Help Self-employed (includes help from tax experts): $139.95 federal, $44.95 per state
  • Partnership, C Corporation or S Corporation: $109.95 federal, $49.95 per state

FAQs

When are taxes due?

Taxes are due on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Currently there are no plans to repeat last year’s extension to July 15.

While you need to submit a tax return by the filing date every year, you may also need to file your taxes quarterly and make estimated tax payments. The IRS generally requires small business owners to make quarterly estimated payments if they expect to owe a minimum of $1,000. Filing quarterly isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, it allows you to make four smaller tax payments versus one large tax payment.

Here’s when estimated tax payments are due:

  • First quarter (January 1 to March 31): April 15, 2021
  • Second quarter (April 1 to May 31): June 15, 2021
  • Third quarter (June 1 to August 31): September 15, 2021
  • Forth quarter (September 1 to December 31): January 18, 2022

You can make estimated tax payments through some online tax software, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or by mailing in a completed 1040-ES form with your payment. If you mail in your payment, it must be postmarked by the due date to avoid penalties.

What happens if I miss the tax deadline?

If you miss the April 15 deadline, file your taxes as soon as possible. You may incur a fee if you file late, and it only gets pricier the longer you wait. If you file late and owe taxes, you’ll incur a fee. However, you won’t incur a penalty if you don’t owe and instead have a tax refund coming. That said, there’s no way to know if you’ll owe taxes or not, so it’s important to file on time.

How much does it cost to file taxes?

Most small business owners will have to pay for their tax prep. Unlike with individual tax returns, there are very few free programs. The most expensive plan, TurboTax Self-employed, costs $90 for federal, plus $40 per state. And that doesn’t include plans with live tax support, which range from $139.95 to $170, plus $44.95 to $50 state fees.

Our methodology

To determine which tax software offers the best way for small business owners to file their taxes, CNBC Select compared each program on a range of features, including:

  • Cost
  • User experience
  • Expert tax assistance
  • Accuracy and maximum refund guarantee
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating
  • Customer reviews, when available

Cost was one of the most important factors. While one of the services offers free federal filing, many business owners may want to benefit from robust software, therefore paying to file their taxes. We evaluated the price per plan and weighed the features you receive, like the ability to maximize deductions and credits. The more bang for your buck, the higher a service ranked.

Whether you’re new to filing taxes or a seasoned pro, user experience is crucial to filling out and submitting your return quickly and with little frustration. The services we chose had to be relatively user friendly.

The ability to speak with a tax expert or support representative was a big plus. All five of the best tax software offered some form of support.

And if a service supported consumers with a generous accuracy and maximum refund guarantee, it was ranked higher.

We also considered the Better Business Bureau rating associated with the software. BBB ratings help determine whether a business is operating responsibly and if it helps to resolve customer complaints in a timely manner. Customer reviews were also taken into consideration.

After reviewing the above features, we sorted our recommendations by best for overall tax filing, runner-up, free tax software, most affordable and best accuracy guarantee.

The federal and state filing fees for the software programs mentioned above are subject to change without notice. Many programs don’t charge you until you file, so there’s a chance the fees can change from the time you start your return until you submit it.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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