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The best tax software for freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers

Put the “fun” back in “tax refund."
By Haley Henschel  on 
All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers. If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Our Top 5 Picks

the h&r block logo
Credit: H&R Block

H&R Block Self-Employed Online (opens in a new tab)

Best overall choice

H&R Block offers a supportive, comprehensive package for freelancers that's worth the splurge.
Buying Options

The Good

  • Max Refund, Audit Support, 100% Accuracy, and No Surprise guarantees
  • Don't have to pay until you file
  • Free mobile app
  • Top-tier customer support (including in-person help)
  • Real-time refund status
  • Refund can be used to pay for tax prep
  • Can import Uber income directly from your Uber account
  • Year-round expense tracking

The Bad

  • Expensive
Pros & Cons
the taxact logo
Credit: TaxAct

TaxAct Self-Employed (opens in a new tab)

Runner-up

TaxAct promises TurboTax and H&R Block-worthy features at a lower price point, and it mostly succeeds.
Buying Options

The Good

  • Maximum Refund, $100K Accuracy, 100% Satisfaction, and Price Lock (!) guarantees
  • Don't have to pay until you file with online version
  • Free mobile app
  • Xpert Assist phone support service was free at the time of writing
  • Real-time refund status
  • Can import data directly from returns prepped by TurboTax and H&R Block
  • Option to auto-enroll in discounts

The Bad

  • No chat support
  • Could use some plainer, more conversational language
  • Audit defense sold separately
Pros & Cons
the turbotax logo
Credit: TurboTax

TurboTax Self-Employed (opens in a new tab)

Best full-service software

TurboTax is low-key the villain of the tax world, but in its defense, its software is super polished and easy to use (with great importing capabilities).
Buying Options

The Good

  • Maximum Refund/Tax Savings, 100% Accurate Calculations, Audit Support, and Satisfaction guarantees
  • Don't have to pay until you file
  • Free mobile app
  • Phone, chat, and live virtual help available
  • Real-time refund status
  • Can import data from QuickBooks Self-Employed, Square, Uber, and Lyft
  • Personalized audit assessment
  • 1099-NEC autofill from mobile
  • Free Year Round Tax Estimator

The Bad

  • Even more expensive
  • No option for in-person support
Pros & Cons
the taxslayer logo
Credit: TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer Self-Employed (opens in a new tab)

Best value

If you're willing to forgo some of the more advanced features out there if it means paying half of what TurboTax is charging, go with TaxSlayer.
Buying Options

The Good

  • Maximum refund, 100% accuracy, and zero out-of-pocket fees guarantees
  • Free mobile app
  • Year-round tax and income tips
  • On-demand tax pro access
  • Real-time refund status
  • Refund can be used to pay for tax prep
  • Quarterly estimated tax payment reminders
  • Audit defense included

The Bad

  • A little clunky
  • Filing process could use more guidance
Pros & Cons
the freetaxusa logo
Credit: FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA Self-Employed Taxes (opens in a new tab)

Best for free federal filing

Cheaper, more limited tax prep solutions like FreeTaxUSA are mostly off-limits for freelancers, but experienced filers who don't need training wheels can consider it.
Buying Options

The Good

  • Maximum Refund, Free Federal, and 100% Accuracy guarantees
  • Good mobile version makes up for lack of app
  • Live chat
  • Can import prior year info from TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct

The Bad

  • Doesn't round up as many deductions as the competition
  • Jargon-y FAQ section
  • Virtually no guidance
Pros & Cons

Freelancing isn’t all sweatpants and snooze buttons.

Well, sometimes it is. But most of the time, it’s cabin fever, caffeine withdrawal, fickle cash flows, and fierce competition for clients.

When you boil it down, being your own boss is really hard work — and no time is that more apparent than during tax season.

Compared to those with a typical 9-to-5 job, freelancers, independent contractors, and other self-employed workers face a unique set of challenges when it comes to filing an annual return. For one thing, you need to maintain year-round business records that are separate from your personal ones to make sure you’re organized once tax season rolls around. You’re also responsible for making and keeping track of estimated tax payments(opens in a new tab) each quarter, since the money isn't automatically deducted from your paychecks throughout the year.

Perhaps most frustratingly, instead of getting a tax refund like the 9-to-5 crowd, you may actually need to cough up extra money to cover the year's taxes in case those estimated payments were lower than needed. (You might even be penalized(opens in a new tab) if you neglected to pay them altogether.)

Oh, and don’t forget about the whopping 15.3% federal self-employment tax(opens in a new tab) you’re required to pay if you earned at least $400(opens in a new tab) from your freelance work. Sure, it goes toward Social Security and Medicare which is cool for Future You — probably maybe? — but not so fun for Current You.

If your head isn’t already swirling from all that tax talk, consider the fact that a QuickBooks survey of 500 freelancers found that doing one’s taxes is among the most difficult challenges facing modern self-employed workers. It’s an obnoxious, tedious ordeal — so obnoxious and tedious, in fact, that more than a third of freelancers don’t even bother paying taxes, according to the same poll.

Since tax evasion is sort of a felony, filing your return every year is in your best interest. However, simply filing your taxes is not enough. If you try to figure it all out on your own, you could still be hit with costly penalties and interest if you make a mistake. On the other hand, you could always go to a CPA and have them take care of your income tax return for you, but their fees could burn a hole in your pocket, too.

For a happy medium between the two, consider picking up some tax software.

What is tax software?

Tax software is a type of software program that’s designed to guide users through the process of preparing and filing their returns, helping them comply with tax laws while identifying any deductions and credits that may be available. Essentially, it’s software that makes it less taxing to do your own taxes.

Back in the day, tax software came in the form of a CD-ROM that could be downloaded to your desktop computer. (How retro.) Nowadays, you can just download a program from a trusted tax prep company’s website. Or, even better, some tax preparation tools are available completely online or via mobile app for maximum convenience.

What should you look for in a tax software program?

"Freelancer" is synonymous with "self-employed business owner" in the eyes of the IRS (more specifically "sole proprietor(opens in a new tab)"), so you'll be reporting your business income and expenses on a Schedule C(opens in a new tab) and your self-employment tax on a Schedule SE(opens in a new tab); include both with your Form 1040(opens in a new tab), the standard individual tax filing form. The tax software you use will definitely need to support that paperwork along with Form 1099-NEC(opens in a new tab), the non-employee income document you get from your clients instead of a W-2. You may also receive a Form 1099-K(opens in a new tab) from a third-party payment network like Venmo or PayPal if your client(s) paid you at least $600 that way.

Other good-to-have features include:

  • An intuitive e-filing process with straightforward questions and prompts

  • Some sort of accuracy and maximum refund guarantees

  • Solid customer support, with optional access to a real live tax expert in case of emergency

Don’t forget that you’ll also need to file your state taxes in addition to your federal taxes (unless yours doesn't collect an income tax(opens in a new tab) — see Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming). Some tax software providers will include one state for free, but most will charge you per state where you need to file.

Also keep in mind that the cheapest tax software option isn’t necessarily the best tax software option. The program you choose should be robust enough to handle complicated tax situations and sniff out tons of possible deductions, and also willing to promise a high-ish level of protection in case you’re audited. In other words, now’s not the time to get stingy: You want to get your taxes done, but also done right. That’s not to say you should pay for features you don’t need, but just make sure your bases are covered.

What can freelancers write off on their taxes?

Speaking of deductions: The one big thing freelancers have going for them during tax season is the fact that they can write off way more work-related expenses than the average employee — that includes office supplies, internet bills, meals, education, mileage, health insurance premiums, and the portion of your rent that covers your home office. Don't get too brazen, though: These expenses must be "both ordinary and necessary" to your business, per the IRS. (So you couldn't write off a just-for-fun road trip, for example.)

Is it worth it to have an accountant do your taxes?

If you have a pretty straightforward tax situation, if you already have a few years of filing as a freelancer under your belt, and/or if you make under $73,000 a year, you may be able to get away with a free filing option through the IRS' Free File program(opens in a new tab). However, most freelancers are going to have complicated-enough tax situations to warrant a paid software solution with premium features and built-in support from seasoned tax professionals. Budget for around $105 for your federal return and about $50 for every state return.

This is all to say that you probably don't need to splurge on a real, live CPA, but that's always an option if you don't feel great about filing on your own. According to a National Society of Accountants survey, the standard U.S. firm charges an average of $343 for an itemized(opens in a new tab) Form 1040 with a state return and $220 for a non-itemized Form 1040 with a state return, plus $192 for a Schedule C and $41 for a Schedule SE. Most will also bill you for 1099s ($67.72 on average) and disorganized or incomplete files ($165.82 on average).

What’s the best tax software for freelancers?

Here are the software options with Schedule C, Schedule SE, Form 1099-NEC, and Form 1099-K support that we recommend for the 2023 tax season. (Note: All of the following are online products that were live in mid-2022.

Best overall choice
Credit: H&R Block
Specs
  • Federal: $114.99
  • State: $44.99

The best option for a freelancer who's not confident enough to do their taxes solo, H&R Block's seamless online self-employed package(opens in a new tab) works by walking you through a series of simple, conversational questions — the sort you’d expect from a real live CPA. It'll help you claim all sort of industry-specific deductions and business expenses, including asset depreciation and student loan interest, to guarantee your biggest possible refund. (This is one of its four big guarantees along with Audit Support, 100% Accuracy, and No Surprises.) You won't pay until you actually file, and you can even use your refund to do so.

But what truly sets H&R Block apart is its myriad user support options: You can reach out for technical support via phone and chat, access online tax filing and software tips on its exhaustive support center(opens in a new tab), get unlimited, on-demand help from a live tax pro with Online Assist(opens in a new tab), or make an appointment(opens in a new tab) at a brick-and-mortar H&R Block office for IRL help. The latter two will cost you extra, but they can be worth it if you have an especially complex tax situation (like many different income streams) or if you're stuck on a tough question that goes beyond what the accounting software provides.

Runner-up
Credit: TaxAct
Specs
  • Federal: $94.95
  • State: $54.95

TaxAct promises TurboTax and H&R Block-worthy features at a lower price point, and it mostly succeeds. Its Self Employed(opens in a new tab) online package includes year-round tax planning help, a real-time refund status, multiple import options, and a Deduction Maximizer that pinpoints the deductions that are most commonly claimed by filers like you. Audit defense is a separate purchase through ProtectionPlus(opens in a new tab), though, and its overall filing process lacks conversational guidance. There's also no chat support for newbies who need help. On the plus side, TaxAct was waiving fees for its Xpert Assist(opens in a new tab) service (which unlocks unlimited advice over the phone from a CPA) at the time of publication.

The one major benefit of using TaxAct is the rare Price Lock Guarantee it offers alongside its Maximum Refund, $100K Accuracy, and 100% Satisfaction policies: You’ll never pay a higher price than what’s advertised at the time you began your return, regardless of when you actually decide to file. (Tax prep companies typically charge more the closer you get to the filing deadline.) You can also auto-enroll(opens in a new tab) your account to secure a discount percentage for the next year's tax season — no need to keep track of coupon codes or hunt down limited-time promos.

Best full-service software
Credit: TurboTax
Specs
  • Federal: $119
  • State: $49

Intuit's TurboTax is low-key the villain of the tax world — it's basically the reason we have to pay to do our taxes — but in its defense, its software is super slick and remarkably easy to use even in the most complicated tax scenarios (i.e., yours).

TurboTax Self-Employed(opens in a new tab) is the priciest program on this list, but that’s because it doesn’t sacrifice any functionality or features. Utilizing a friendly, interview-style format, TurboTax will ask you a series of simple questions to fill out applicable forms while sorting through more than 500 industry-specific tax deductions covering mileage, travel, entertainment, and more. It'll let you directly import data directly from platforms like QuickBooks Self-Employed, Square, Uber, and Lyft, and autofill your 1099-NEC just by snapping a picture of it on your smartphone. Its only real con (besides its hefty price) is the fact that it doesn't offer any in-person assistance, but phone/chat support, the TurboTax forums, a detailed FAQ section, and live virtual expert help(opens in a new tab) (for an extra fee) are all options.

Best value
Credit: TaxSlayer
Specs
  • Federal: $59.95
  • State: $39.95

If you're willing to forgo some of the more advanced features out there if it means paying half of what TurboTax is charging, go with TaxSlayer. Beyond supporting all relevant forms, its Self-Employed(opens in a new tab) software comes with free audit defense, live chat support, and the option to talk to a tax professional(opens in a new tab) with self-employed expertise if you run into issues. (Its lower-tier Simply Free and Classic programs only include phone and email help.) Plus, like H&R Block, you can use your refund to pay for the program under its zero out-of-pocket fees guarantee.

Notably, TaxSlayer does pay a little more attention to features you can use outside of tax season, including quarterly estimated payment reminders and personalized tax and income tips. Definitely look into it if staying organized throughout the year gives you more trouble than actually filing.

Best for free federal filing
Credit: FreeTaxUSA
Specs
  • Federal: $0
  • State: $14.99

Cheaper, more limited tax prep solutions like FreeTaxUSA are mostly off-limits for freelancers, but still worth considering for experienced filers who feel OK ditching the training wheels. The most obvious benefit is the cost (or lack thereof): Its Self-Employed Taxes(opens in a new tab) tier lets you file your federal return for free, and a single state one will cost you only $15.

You won't find any informational, interview-style questions here, nor will FreeTaxUSA sift through as many deductions as some of the heavier hitters (only 350 versus TurboTax's 500-plus). Your customer support options are also limited to a live chat and a jargon-riddled FAQ section — don't bother if this is your first rodeo. But its support for Schedule C and Form 1099-NEC and a tool that lets you import prior-year info from other platforms (including TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct) make for a decent, albeit bare-bones package.

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