Tax planning is not always simple or straightforward, but there are a variety of affordable products that can help guide you through the process and make it as efficient as possible.

These five top-rated tax-planning products can help you navigate your tax-filing journey, allowing you to reach the best outcome for your individual financial and business goals.

1. TurboTax

The basics: Offers comprehensive tax filing with a maximum refund guarantee. Basic federal and state filings are free with options to upgrade for a fee.

The benefits: Tax-filing beginners will find it useful, because it anticipates questions, provides explanations, and includes live support. TurboTax is also a top choice if you have complicated returns or like the idea of audit assistance, which they offer both at a basic (free) level and premium (paid) level. Filers can also take advantage of comprehensive tools, including searching over 350 deductions designed to help you get your maximum refund.

The bad: It is expensive compared to some other tax-filing services, including premium plans for self-employed taxpayers ($120).

2. H&R Block

The basics: Delivers quality support and flexibility for complicated returns. H&R Block includes options for free state and federal filing for members on a tight budget.

The benefits: Reviews praise strong customer support (which is available over the phone and online). It is also a viable option for people who are at a higher risk of an audit because H&R Block offers free in-person audit support and filing services at one of their many brick-and-mortar locations.

The bad: The software has a restrictive design that does not allow the tax filer to skip ahead to other sections of the application. In addition, the software is not as strong as TurboTax at predicting common questions that can arise during the tax-filing process.

3. TaxAct

The basics: Offers low-cost federal and state filing with free access to tax returns for seven years.

The benefits: TaxAct includes refund tracking and the option to import returns from TurboTax and H&R Block if you filed with those companies previously.

The bad: It is more difficult to navigate, and it is less interactive. TaxAct lacks certain necessary forms required to file for some states and is not the ideal choice for small businesses. Also, TaxAct is not the right choice for those who are at higher risk of an audit. Although they do offer audit assistance, they do not provide direct representation like TurboTax or in-person support like H&R Block.

4. Liberty Tax

The basics: Liberty Tax offers tax filing for a fee with helpful tax planning features.

The benefits: Paid members have access to prior year returns, free tax return amendments, and a free tax return check at Liberty Tax locations. A helpful feature also allows members to easily transfer their information if they decide to switch from online filing to in-person filing.

The bad: The program does not offer a free filing option, and plans range from $34.95 to $89.95. If you have simple returns and are looking for a free and fast filing service, TurboTax and H&R Block are better options. Liberty Tax offers audit advice but does not offer professional representation.

5. Credit Karma

The basics: Credit Karma is a free option for filing state and federal returns that also allows members to track their credit score.

The benefits: The free membership includes an audit defense guarantee, customer support, and they support all common tax forms and schedules. Members enjoy the option of importing previous returns from competitor sites, and a searchable database provides extra help and insight.

The bad: It does not offer the same level of support as TurboTax or H&R Block. It is not the right option for complicated returns, because it does not support complex tax situations such as multiple state returns, part-year resident state returns, foreign earned income, or state-only returns.

The bottom line

Beneficial tools to look for when selecting the right tax filing company include a tax organizer, tax calculator, mileage log and calculator, W-4 withholdings calculator, and refund tracker. These handy tax preparation tips can help you get organized and ready for tax season.

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