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Top Tax Software Programs for Your 2018 Tax Return

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered tax rates, eliminated some popular tax deductions and nearly doubled the standard deduction, which will sharply reduce the number of taxpayers who itemize on their tax returns. For many Americans, that should make filing this year’s tax return faster and easier, particularly for those using a tax software program. But if you think you’ll be able to breeze through your tax return in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, you may be disappointed. If you’ve itemized in the past, you’ll probably still need to plug in your mortgage interest, property taxes, charitable contributions, etc., to determine whether itemizing or claiming the standard deduction will give you a lower tax bill. And even if you’re confident you’ll claim the standard deduction, you could qualify for a raft of tax breaks available to non-itemizers.

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Most of the tax software programs we tested alerted us to money-saving tax breaks. They also did an admirable job of asking questions that were relevant to our situations, without bogging us down with questions about, say, farm income. But some provide a lot more hand-holding than others, and prices were all over the map, ranging from free to more than $100 to prepare and e-file a state and federal tax return. Even a taxpayer with a fairly straightforward return could be forced to upgrade to a more expensive program if she has a modest amount of investment income or a health savings account.

Our advice going in: Know thyself. If you’re somewhat knowledgeable about the tax code and have prepared your own return in the past, a low-cost program with minimal assistance may be all you need. If you want lots of advice, a more expensive program that offers live chat, easy-to-find help topics and other tools may be worth the extra cost. Just make sure you read the fine print before you start plugging in your numbers.

SEE ALSO: Best States for Low Taxes: 50 States Ranked for Taxes, 2018

All prices as of February 22.

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