What’s the Best Online Tax Preparation Software? TaxACT vs TurboTax vs H&R Block

filing taxes onlineEven if you’re expecting a sizable refund or have a simple tax situation that doesn’t require you to fill out a ton of forms, you probably don’t love filling out your taxes. There are plenty of more enjoyable ways to spend your time: playing with your kids, going on a hike, even shopping online in anticipation of your tax refund.

This year, it took me a lot longer than I would have liked to complete my tax return. But, to be fair, that’s because I sampled several different online tax preparation options and evaluated each on its merits. My tax prep marathon covered three of the most popular programs: TurboTax, TaxACT, and H&R Block. Here’s how my experience went with each.

My Tax Situation

To ensure that my experience was consistent across the board, I used a modified version of my actual tax situation for all three of these tax prep programs. The highlights:

  • No dependents
  • Moved across state lines (so two state returns)
  • Taking the standard deduction
  • Using the married filing separately option
  • No W-2s
  • Schedule B (interest and ordinary dividends)
  • Schedule C (profit or loss from a business)
  • Schedule D (capital gains and losses)
  • Accounting for quarterly estimated tax payments made throughout the year

TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxACT all have a maximum refund/minimum tax liability guarantee or your fees are waived. Luckily for them, my federal and state tax liabilities were identical at all three. However, there were significant differences in the cost of the services I used at each, as well as differences in the amount of time it took to prepare my taxes with each.

H&R Block

h&r block logoFree Edition: $0 federal, $9.99 per state; Basic Edition: $0 federal, $0 per state ($36.99 state when filed using the mobile app); Deluxe Edition: $24.99 federal, $36.99 per state; Premium Edition: $44.99 federal, $36.99 per state.

  • Time Spent Preparing: 93 minutes
  • Version Used: Premium. After beginning with the Free version, I was prompted to upgrade to this package while completing the Income section, after indicating all the forms I’d need to complete my return. H&R Block recognized the complexity of my situation and showed me the upgrade screen, advising that my return couldn’t be completed with a lower-priced plan.
  • Total Cost: $118.97
  • Cost to Pay for Service With Your Refund: $34.99 to pay with your federal refund, $13 to pay for each state with your refund

h&r block screenshot

H&R Block is one of the most popular online tax preparation programs around. Plus, it’s backed up by a network of more than 10,000 brick-and-mortar tax prep locations. But filing online may be more convenient than schlepping down to the local office, and it’s almost certain to be cheaper. The software uses an interview-style process that takes you through your taxes step by step, ensuring that you don’t miss any important forms or schedules.

Before I even began my return, I noticed a couple positive things about H&R Block’s online tax filing program. First, I didn’t have to create an account to begin my return – and I later discovered that I could complete my entire return without creating an account, though I couldn’t actually file it or save it for completion at a later date.

Also, I was immediately struck by H&R Block’s refund bonus, which boosts your federal refund’s size by up to 10% (5% for Free and Basic plans, and 10% for Deluxe and Premium plans) when you accept it as one or more gift cards to well-known retailers such as Target, Kohl’s, and Best Buy.

Federal Filing

However, upon beginning my return, I found some questions and information to be confusing, relative to the clear, simplified explanations offered by TurboTax. For instance, when I indicated that I had gotten married during the tax year, I was shown a filing options chart with these explanations:

H&R Block Filing Status

Instead of auto-selecting your filing status based on your answers to a series of questions (like TurboTax), H&R Block requires you to interpret this information and make your own decision. While many filers probably wouldn’t have a problem doing so, that extra step could make some novices uncomfortable.

Along those lines, the income section is particularly challenging, and definitely could be overwhelming for a novice filer. It simply listed every IRS income form and asked me to select the ones that applied to my situation, and “if you’re not sure if one applies to you, check the box anyway and we’ll work on it together.” Yes-or-no questions about each type of income would be smarter and less time-consuming, potentially preventing inexperienced users from selecting inapplicable forms.

On the bright side, the last page of each section included a succinct, clear summary of the information I’d entered in it. If anything looked amiss, I could go back to the appropriate page and edit the erroneous information with one click. Since I started as a guest, each section also ended with a request to create an account, which I was able to decline each time.

Though I never hit a major snag during the preparation process, I was impressed by the “Help” button on the left sidebar. When clicked, it produces a popup window that lists popular help topics in question form and featured a search bar for less common items. This makes it easy to get clarification without having to exit the return or open a new window.

State Filing

Once the program checked my federal return for accuracy, it immediately whisked me into the state section, automatically importing all relevant information from the federal return. The preparation process unfolded in similar fashion to the federal return, except with state-specific questions.

Going back to fill out my second state return was easy – I had specified that I moved during the tax year, so the software automatically brought me back to the beginning of the state return process after completing the first. Just prior to filing, H&R Block checked my return for accuracy again. I was able to view my federal and state returns, print my estimated tax vouchers for the coming year, and specify how I wanted to pay the tax I owed. (Had I been eligible for a refund, this is where I would have been asked how I wanted to receive it.) All in all, the process ended smoothly, and in less time than the other two options here.


  1. Juicy Refund Bonus. H&R Block has the best refund bonus of any product reviewed here: up to 5% of your refund for Free and Basic users, and up to 10% for users of higher-priced plans. The only catch is that you have to get part or all of your federal refund as a gift card. However, the number of choices – including general merchandisers like Target – means that for most, this probably isn’t much of a drawback.
  2. Try Before You Buy. H&R Block allows you to begin to complete your return (though you cannot file) without creating an account, saving time and hassle at the beginning of the process. I was able to complete my entire return without creating an account – though if I hadn’t been able to do it all in one sitting, I would have been forced to create an account to save my partially completed return. TurboTax and TaxACT require you to create an account immediately.
  3. In-Person Support During and After Filing. H&R Block has a network of more than 10,000 branches across the United States, making it easy to switch from online to in-person preparation if needed. TurboTax and TaxACT don’t have such support. H&R Block also offers free, in-person audit support for all online filers, a key perk for folks who worry that they might be audited. TurboTax and TaxACT make you pay for audit support and don’t offer it in person.


  1. Low-Priced Plans Aren’t Great for Complex Situations. H&R Block’s free and basic versions are suitable for very simple tax situations, such as filers who earn most or all of their income through traditional employment. However, they cannot support self-employed people and folks with capital gains income, among others. I don’t have the most complicated tax situation in the world, and I still had to upgrade to the most expensive H&R Block plan to take care of everything I needed to. The obvious contrast here is TaxACT, which allowed me to complete my entire return with the free version.
  2. Limited Importing Capabilities. Though it didn’t directly affect my experience, I was disappointed by H&R Block’s limited importing capabilities. You can only import your prior year return from TurboTax and TaxACT. If you used one of the many other online tax prep programs, you’re out of luck. This limitation is surprising in light of H&R Block’s high profile – you’d think they’d want to consolidate their competitive advantage by poaching customers from as many smaller rivals as possible.
  3. Inflexible Navigation During Preparation. H&R Block requires you to complete your return in order and doesn’t let you jump past uncompleted sections if they don’t apply to your situation. Several times during the process, I found myself clicking through multiple irrelevant questions. By contrast, TaxACT lets you skip inapplicable questions right away.


4.2 out of 5 stars: I like H&R Block’s relative ease of use, moderate pricing, and robust customer support. My experience was generally straightforward, with none of the bugs that plagued my TurboTax return, and none of the overwhelming detail inherent in TaxACT’s interview process.

However, it would be nice if H&R Block could streamline its internal navigation to allow users to jump back and forth within their return, and perhaps take a page from TurboTax and implement a more intuitive interview process. More importing compatibility would help too. In general, H&R Block is suitable for people who have some tax filing experience and comfort with the basic contours of the process, including choosing the appropriate filing status and selecting the right forms.

See our H&R Block Review for more information.


Federal Free Edition: $0 federal, $0 state; PLUS Edition (only available as upgrade from Free): $29.99 federal, $36.99 per state; Deluxe Edition: $34.99 federal, $36.99 per state; Premier Edition: $54.99 federal, $36.99 per state; Home & Business: $79.99 federal, $36.99 per state.

  • Time Spent Preparing: 95 minutes
  • Version Used: Home & Business. I begin with the Federal Free version, which quickly proved insufficient for my needs. I actually upgraded in steps: Each time I provided an interview answer that couldn’t be handled with my current version (for instance, indicating that I had received a 1099-MISC and thus had self-employment income), TurboTax prompted me to upgrade to the cheapest version that could handle it. I was eventually shepherded into the most expensive plan.
  • Total Cost: $153.97
  • Cost to Pay for Service With Your Refund: $34.99 federal (no option to pay with state refund)

turbotax screenshot

TurboTax is another extremely popular online tax filing program. Though it doesn’t have a dense network of physical branches to back it up, TurboTax is owned by Intuit, one of the country’s best-known financial software firms. TurboTax’s plans are a bit more expensive than H&R Block’s, despite a free version that’s appropriate for relatively simple tax situations. Though I started with the free version, I ended up having to upgrade to Home & Business, the priciest plan.

On the other hand, TurboTax’s interview-style preparation process is extremely intuitive, demystifying tax issues for novice filers. TurboTax also has a clean, mobile-friendly layout and a great mobile app, not to mention excellent customer support and a dynamic, user-supported knowledge base known as the AnswerXchange.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I’ve used TurboTax’s online tax prep software for several years and was already quite familiar with it before conducting this comparison. However, my experience this year was a little different – and not always in a positive way. Had I not used TurboTax in the past, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my return as quickly due to persistent bugs and functionality issues. These included HTML errors when attempting to upgrade and randomly being signed out of my account (though fortunately not losing already-completed forms) while actively working on my return – not due to an inactivity timeout.

Federal Filing

Upon beginning my return, I noticed that I could import prior-year returns from any tax prep service, as long as the return was in PDF format. This would have been nice had I not used TurboTax last year. Early on, I was accosted by a smattering of helpful popup windows that explained key features of the platform, such as the help bar and internal navigation tools.

I easily navigated through the early stages of my return. TurboTax’s questions were more pointed and easy to understand than H&R Block’s, and the platform never presented confusing or vague information. At the beginning of each section, TurboTax took care to call out “less common” situations and forms, subtly directing me towards items that were more likely to apply to me.

The platform also places “Learn More” buttons next to items that may require explanations, such as schedules and types of income. Clicking on the button calls up a popup window that explains the topic in detail – a somewhat less confusing solution than H&R Block’s searchable popup help windows. For filers in a rush, this is a time-saving alternative to searching the AnswerXchange.

I was also happy that TurboTax waited until I was done with my state taxes to review everything, a marginal time-saver relative to H&R Block’s federal-only and state-only reviews. However, when I attempted to move backward in my federal return to check something manually, I was stymied by an HTML error – a frustrating reminder of TurboTax’s functionality issues.

State Filing

As with H&R Block, TurboTax automatically transferred all the information from my federal return to my two state returns. The process for adding a second state was slightly more cumbersome, requiring me to navigate an additional drop-down menu. I was also asked again if I had earned income in a third state after indicating that I hadn’t. But these were pretty minor issues.

After completing my two state returns, TurboTax reviewed my entire package and assessed my audit risk with a handy thermometer graphic. This did include a pitch for the company’s Audit Defense package, an optional add-on that costs $39.99.

Prior to filing, I was asked how I wanted to pay my taxes and file my returns. I was also given a choice of which returns to file. Though the review and filing process dragged on a bit, I appreciated TurboTax’s thoroughness.


  1. Extremely User-Friendly. TurboTax is probably the most user-friendly of these three programs. Its design and aesthetic are intuitive and easy on the eyes, unlike the more cluttered, less intuitive TaxACT. Its questions are both simply worded and logical, whereas H&R Block’s interview questions and explanations can be confusing. And in addition to offering a powerful app, TurboTax’s regular version is very mobile-friendly.
  2. Impressive Importing Capabilities. TurboTax lets you import your prior year’s tax return and supported forms from any other online tax prep system, as long as you can convert the return to PDF format beforehand. That’s better than TaxACT and H&R Block, both of which limit importing to a few choice programs and cut out many lesser-known options.
  3. Good Customer Service and Help Functions. TurboTax has some useful support features, including a customer service hotline that’s staffed 5am to 9pm Pacific, and a comprehensive knowledge base called the AnswerXchange. I referred to the AnswerXchange several times during this year’s filing process and always had my questions answered to my satisfaction. Though I haven’t personally done it, TurboTax users can actually answer questions in the AnswerXchange, allowing fellow users to share collective knowledge.


  1. Plans Are Pricey. Though it’s arguably the easiest to use, bugs notwithstanding, TurboTax is the highest-priced option of the three. I paid $79.99 to file my federal taxes with the Home & Business plan, compared to $44.99 with H&R Block Premium and nothing with TaxACT. For filers without razor-thin budgets, TurboTax’s other features may outweigh its steep price tag, but it could be disqualifying for more cost-conscious folks.
  2. Lots of Apparent Bugs in the System. My personal TurboTax experience was rife with annoying bugs and functionality issues this year, which is surprising given that I’ve used it with no problems in the past. While it’s impossible to know for sure how others experience the platform, my experience could well have been representative. By contrast, H&R Block and TaxACT didn’t have any obvious software problems.
  3. Low-Priced Plans Only Good for Straightforward Tax Situations. Like H&R Block, TurboTax’s lower-priced plans are only ideal for filers with simple tax situations. If you have capital gains income, you need to upgrade to the Premier plan, while self-employed people need to purchase the Home & Business plan, which costs $79.99. TaxACT’s free plan can handle virtually everything TurboTax Home & Business can for a small fraction of the cost (assuming you need to file a state return – if not, TurboTax Home & Business literally costs infinitely more than TaxACT’s free version).


4.1 out of 5 stars: As my go-to tax filing program for the past several years, TurboTax has built up a lot of goodwill with me. Unfortunately, the program seemed out of sorts this year, with bugs and functionality issues that tested my patience. Plus, it’s significantly more expensive than competitors, and its free plan seems little more than an afterthought.

That said, you do get what you pay for: an intuitive interview process, a great (and mobile-friendly) layout, and lots of support. It’s nice to be able to import from so many sources too. In general, TurboTax is ideal for novice tax filers as well as more experienced filers for whom affordability isn’t a top concern.

See our TurboTax Review for more information.


taxact logoFree Federal Edition: $0 federal, $14.99 per state; Deluxe Edition: $12.99 federal, $7 per state; Ultimate Bundle: $19.99 for combined federal and your first state ($7 extra for each state).

  • Time Spent Preparing: 130 minutes
  • Version Used: Free Federal. Since it supported most major forms, I knew I could complete my return without upgrading, and wasn’t prompted to do so at any point in the preparation process. However, I found out later that upgrading to Deluxe offered significant benefits, such as being able to choose which sections of your return to work on. If I could do my TaxACT return over again, I’d probably use Deluxe, which you can upgrade to manually at any point during the preparation process.
  • Total Cost: $28.98
  • Cost to Pay for Service With Your Refund: $17.99 federal (no option to pay with your state refund)

taxact screenshot

I hadn’t used TaxACT before this year and wasn’t really familiar with the software, so I didn’t know what to expect when I started. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. TaxACT’s free version uses interview-style questions that are similar, though more exhaustive and less responsive to user answers (the system may ask you questions about specific situations that don’t apply to you, based on previous answers, whereas TurboTax and H&R Block seem to learn better from earlier responses).

By covering just about every topic that could possibly apply to you, TaxACT’s free version can be tedious and time-consuming. Exhaustive questions, coupled with a somewhat less user-friendly interface, were the main reasons it took me more than 30 minutes longer to file with TaxACT than with TurboTax and H&R Block.

However, the Deluxe version offers a different, and potentially helpful, approach: You can choose which sections to work on, when you want to work on them, without having to complete prior sections first. If you know that a particular section doesn’t apply to you, you don’t have to do anything with it. By comparison, H&R Block lets you select specific forms to work on, but you can’t go on to the next section without fully completing the one you’re currently working on.

TaxACT’s free version includes the vast majority of available tax forms. However, the biggest omission is Form 1041, which is only available through TaxACT’s $29.99 Estates & Trusts plan. But the ability to choose your sections and skip around is likely the biggest single reason to upgrade to Deluxe.

Federal Filing

I tried both the Free and Deluxe versions of TaxACT, but was ultimately able to complete my return with Free. My tax situation hasn’t been simple enough to qualify for free federal filing with TurboTax in some years, so it was a great feeling to do everything I needed to do without upgrading to a paid plan.

However, of these three programs, TaxACT was somewhat less user-friendly. For starters, its questions were presented in small, plain-font text that would have looked tiny on a small screen. And since I began and nearly completed my return with the Free version, only later going back to the Deluxe version to see how its features differed, I wasn’t able to choose which sections to work on. Instead, I had to submit to a series of detailed, sometimes redundant questions, often accompanied by exhaustive explanations that I felt could overwhelm or confuse novice filers.

Questions like these definitely lengthened my preparation process and were a big part of why my TaxACT federal (and state) return took by far the longest of the three programs. I could have saved all that hassle simply by upgrading, but TaxACT’s information pages didn’t make it clear that the Deluxe version allowed you to pick and choose your sections.

Bottom line: If you have a simple tax situation or are confident enough to know which items pertain to you, I’d recommend upgrading to Deluxe (despite the cost) and choosing your own topics. However, if you don’t know enough about taxes – for instance, you’re not comfortable choosing your own forms, or deciding on your own whether you need to itemize deductions – you may find the plodding pace of the interview redundant or even confusing.

Another TaxACT feature that I didn’t get to use during this year’s preparation process is DocVault, an app that lets you take smartphone photos throughout the year of bills, forms, receipts, and other paper items that you might need to complete your taxes, then upload them to a secure server for reference at tax time. If I use TaxACT to file next year’s taxes, I’ll surely use DocVault to keep track of my stuff this year.

State Filing

TaxACT’s state return section is similar to the other two services’, with automatically imported information and thorough, state-specific questions. (As with TaxACT’s federal return, sometimes too thorough.) However, there’s an extra dropdown menu to navigate – even though TaxACT has your personal information and thus knows where you live, you still have to specify the state for your first state return.

Like TurboTax, TaxACT waits until all your returns have been completed to review them for accuracy, saving some time on the margins. However, the review process is somewhat more complicated than TurboTax’s and H&R Block’s, with different alert levels (red, yellow, and green) that identify issues of varying severity. TaxACT uses these alerts to assess your overall audit risk, though it doesn’t display this risk in a handy graphic like TurboTax. You can also skip the alerts altogether. Finally, prior to paying, TaxACT pitches you on its Tax Audit Defense service, which costs $39.99.

Once you pay for TaxACT’s prep services, the platform takes care of your refund or tax payments, and walks you through how to prepare for next year’s taxes (including introducing its Donation Assistant app, which can help you track non-cash charitable donations throughout the year).

As with TurboTax, I found that this part of the process dragged on a bit, lengthening an already tedious process. But I finished up without spending $100-plus to file my taxes – and that was something to celebrate.


  1. No Upgrade Necessary for Complex Tax Situations. TaxACT was the only one of these online tax prep options that didn’t require me to upgrade to complete the process. All the forms I needed, including Schedules B, C, and D, were available with the Free version. Not coincidentally, TaxACT was also my cheapest option by far. Due to my Schedule C filing, H&R Block and TurboTax both required an upgrade to the highest-priced version.
  2. Option to Skip Ahead Is Useful. I like that TaxACT gives Deluxe users the option to choose which sections of their returns to work on. This cuts out a lot of unnecessary questions, especially for simpler tax situations that don’t involve itemized deductions or multiple schedules.
  3. Useful Apps Help You Keep Track of Important Forms and Records. TaxACT’s DocVault app is a useful way to keep track of receipts, bills, tax forms, and other important documentation that you may need to complete your return. You can add photographic records to a secure, mobile-accessible storage area throughout the year, potentially eliminating the need to file away tax-related papers for reference at tax time. Meanwhile, TaxACT has a separate app that lets you calculate the fair value of non-cash charitable donations, a potentially lifesaving tool for filers who donate vehicles, furniture, or other valuable items. H&R Block and TurboTax don’t have such user-friendly record-keeping aids.


  1. Limited Customer Support. TaxACT has a helpful knowledge base and a basic customer support framework, but it lacks the robust human support of H&R Block and the dynamic, user-supported knowledge base of TurboTax. Such resources are useful for inexperienced filers and those with newly complicated tax situations, such as a Schedule C or business tax credits.
  2. No Refund Bonus. TaxACT doesn’t offer a refund bonus for filers who choose to receive their refund as a gift card. In fact, there isn’t a refund-as-gift-card option here at all. This could be a big drawback for folks who want to wring every last penny out of their tax refund.
  3. More Time-Consuming Overall. It took me more than half an hour longer to file my taxes with TaxACT than with H&R Block or TurboTax. My process was lengthier for two reasons: One, because I didn’t choose which sections I would work on, and two, because TaxACT asked more (and occasionally less relevant) questions. My filing time would have been a bit shorter had I chosen my sections (which would have required an upgrade), but still longer than H&R Block and TurboTax.


4.3 out of 5 stars: I was pleasantly surprised by my experience with TaxACT. It was by far the cheapest option, a particularly important point given my need to file two state returns. And though I ended up using the free version and thus couldn’t choose which parts of my return to work on, it was nice to see that the Deluxe version offered that option.

That said, my TaxACT return took longer than my TurboTax and H&R Block returns, and by the end I had grown frustrated with its thorough but tedious questions. Also, I wasn’t impressed with the support infrastructure.

In general, TaxACT is great for somewhat more experienced filers who know which forms they need. While I probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable using it the first time I ever filed my taxes, its low cost also makes it suitable for less experienced filers on a very tight budget.

See our TaxACT Review for more information.

Final Word

TurboTax, TaxACT, and H&R Block might be three of the most popular online tax prep options, but they’re not the only ones out there. A bevy of other options exist, from relatively well-known providers like TaxSlayer and eSmart Tax, to lesser-known options like FreeTaxUSA.

And the federal government can help as well with free tax preparation options, thanks to the Free File Alliance (a consortium of 14 tax prep companies that offer free filing services to filers who meet certain income and residency criteria) and Free Fillable Forms, which are available to filers regardless of income and residency.

The point is, there are plenty of tax preparation options besides these three. Depending on your tax situation, you might find one that’s easier, faster, or simply less stressful to use.

What’s your favorite online tax preparation software?

  • http://www.twitter.com/#!/phillyfunmoney Ninjasha

    This was a really great post! I’ve been using TaxAct to file my own taxes for about the last three years and in the last two years I’ve taken advantage of an early signing offer of $13.95 for state and federal deluxe fr returning users which doesn’t require payment until the actual filing date. It’s been pretty good for me even though I have encountered some confusing moments where I just didn’t know how to handle something, but the Deluxe includes phone support and they have been pretty helpful whenever I’ve had to call. Thank you for taking the time to confirm my few frustrations with TaxAct and confirming that it’s probably one of the best deals available these days. Found you your article on twitter and already re-tweeted it!
    Keep it up!
    – @PhillyFunMoney

  • http://wisefinish.com Wise Finish

    Great review. I just did a review of TurboTax on my site… I was fairly happy with it this year.

    I am curious to know more about the $21 that TurboTax shorted you – what was that from? How do you know it was wrong?

    • Kira Botkin

      I haven’t got the foggiest idea where it was from, but I know it was wrong because I actually filed my state taxes with Ohio’s own e-filing system and it too said my refund was $24. So unless I want to pay for TurboTax and get the actual forms, I can’t really tell where it went wrong.

  • http://www.howisavemoney.net Lulu

    I used H&R block this year because I thought it was easier to get through than the other systems. I logged in to TurboTax and did it for fun but I really prefer H&R block in the end. I agree with you on some of the deduction areas being confusing but in the end it worked out and it only took me a few minutes to get through the program.

  • http://silverdollarcoinvalue.com NJSM

    I have been using TaxACT for the last couple years now and before that, I was using TurboTax (the Home and Business version for $74.95). I now prefer TaxACT because its cheaper and very thorough. I think all of the software programs are going to have some level of confusion but overall, TaxACT works just fine for me and I pay less using it.

  • Larry

    I have been using TaxAct since every year since 2001. It is extremely thorough, takes a little more time but ultimately gives me more confidence of the Highest Return.

  • Karmella

    Thank you, excellent review – I will pass it on to some friends. I always use Turbo Tax – mainly because it’s easy and all of my info is saved from prior years. I know, that’s kind of lazy. I always buy the CD (Deluxe version, got it on Amazon again for $44, no tax) – I don’t like the online service, just don’t trust it with that much info.

  • Charles

    I have used TurboTax for about twelve years, and as the complexity of my financial position has increased, the application has the power to handle things like income from limited partnerships, commodity trades, straddles, and losses carried forward. One of the finest points from a convenience standpoint is the ability to import names, addresses, and carry forwards from the pervious year’s return. That’s a lot of typing and time saved. It remembers accounts at financial institutions, employers, owned businesses, and then asks if I have entries for them.

    The article is excellent, but it does not touch on the time saving conveniences, which I share here. Perhaps, the others do this as well, but I really like having the application enter any carry forwards reported on the previous return. I have confidence in those numbers coming from a previous filing because IRS computers know to expect these values, and it is less likely to trigger an audit.

    Over the years, since I first used TurboTax, I have always prepared my own returns. In two separate years that involved extremely complex transactions, I prepared the returns as usual, and then had a CPA examine the returns. On both occasions, they advised me not to have them prepare the returns because they could not improve on them. It cost me a couple hundred each time, but it gave me the confidence that if I had all the information correctly entered, an audit would be unlikely.

    Others may have more exotic incomes, such as foreign assets not traded publicly, rental property, vacation homes, or transactions that are more complex than mine. In that case, one’s comfort level may justify having a CPA prepare the return.

    • Daniel W Oliver

      Tax Act for 2011 is the worst user unfrendily program yet. I AM A SIX YEAR USER of Tax Act! TOO MANY ERROR REPORTS and flags. NO 1-800 SUPPORT NUMBER. Hung up on Roth IRA completion on a distribution. Flagged and would not help find easy solution. Finished on Turbo Tax in a just a few minuets with the help in the program without any hassel and good explanation of what to do. No comparison hear ! Played with Tax Act For hours but could not complete!!! Don’t waste time and money on Tact Act

  • kilkenny

    I have used both programs turbo tax and tax cut(H& R Block) Started out with turbo tax liked it but got tired of paying 17 dollars twice to file electronically, fed and state so switched to tax cut one year when they were were offering free electronic for both state and federal and have been using it since but last 2 years it did not include my federal refund on my state returns. How do I know? Tthis year i got hit with a taxes due from my state for both 2008 and 2009. When I called them about it there response was I should have noticed it did not include the federal refund on the state return and filled it in myself there is nothing they would could do about it. I am going to use turbo tax this year 2010 return.

  • LDK

    I have used TurboTax for multiple years. We have a complicated return, about 50 pages, with multiple small businesses, brokerage accounts, etc. Previously, about $1,200 for professional tax preparation. One huge advantage of TurboTax is the ability to import Schedule D information direct from brokerage account files. Some brokers will work with any tax preparation software but a couple will work only with TurboTax. That saves lots of time inputting data. I also like the previous year import, and correlation with Quicken which I use for daily transactions.

  • http://www.turbotax.com Bob Meighan

    Kira… Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with the three different tax packages. Although we can’t review your TurboTax data file, I suspect your state tax may be different because of the local tax in your jurisdiction of OH. I can’t be certain, but that is where I’d start.

    There are differences in functionality and features between the TurboTax products. While all the products from Basic to Home & Business support the same tax situations and calculations, the primary differences are in the degree to which the higher priced products provide much more in depth help and guidance in the more complex areas like stock options, depreciation, office in home, etc. This additional level of help/guidance is what gives taxpayers the confidence they’ve done it right and captured all the deductions to which they are entitled.

    As your comment about the 1099-MISC statement, i would strongly argue that the way TurboTax accounts for that occasional income is superior to the competition. It sounds like you were forced to complete another Schedule C just for this one item with the other products when you probably really did not need to do so. TurboTax asked a few more relevant questions that ultimately would have saved you a lot of time while still ensuring you paid the least amount of tax.

    And as for price, TurboTax includes benefits that others like TaxAct charge extra for– like archiving of your return. We create an archive for you that allows you to go back several years if necessary to view or access your return.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

    Bob Meighan
    VP, TurboTax

  • Ryan

    Great post! I’ve used TaxAct for a few years now because it’s cheap and works well for me. I was glad to see your opinion of the three with such detailed explanations of your trial process. Thank you for sharing!

  • Charlene

    I am married to a guy who is highly educated and great at numbers and systematic with paperwork. We get an upgraded Turbo Tax from Costco with a coupon for about $15, that comes with some free filing and a charge for state filing. Turbo Tax offers protection from audit for a fee. We pay that too. Since we have been doing this for many years we are comfortable and pleased with Turbo Tax. Our return is quite complicated with stocks and stock options, and would cost a lot to be done by a professional, so it seems a good deal to us. It is time consuming, but it is the price to pay for saving money.

    Thank you for this wonderful post! It is good to read a comparison such as this.

  • http://twitter.com/brian_nicholson Brian

    Thanks for this review, Kira. I was a TurboTax user in the past, used a CPA last year, and found myself looking for a bargain this year. Thanks largely in part to this review, I used TaxAct.

    I agree with you that it’s not quite as clear as it could be in some spots. For example, while collecting information for my Indiana state return, it presented me with two screens about Add Backs–a term with which I was unfamiliar. I had to leave TaxAct and search elsewhere to determine that Add Backs are actually quite rare. Why couldn’t TaxAct have mentioned that? TurboTax probably would have.

    Ultimately it was probably still easier than preparing my taxes without a service like this, and I only paid $17.95–no coupon needed. I plan to use TaxAct again next year.

  • larry

    I always did the taxes myself in other years, but this year I first went to Turbotax and after I got done what I thought was free there was a charge of almost 100 dollars so you have to be alert when using Turbo, they seems to have a bait and switch thingy going on, So when I saw the high fees I went over and tried Taxact and walla they got me a bigger refund and filed my federal with direct deposit for free and my state with direct deposit for a small fee. I seem to notice Bob from turbotax is on many of the sites that review online services trumping up his product.

  • http://www.turbotax.com Bob Meighan

    Larry… THere is no bait and switch. It does, however, require that you select the free product when you begin. So based on the fee you say, it sounds like you may have inadvertently selected TurboTax Deluxe and State. I also tend to believe the difference in tax between TaxAct and TurboTax was due to differences in data entered. By the way, TurboTax does not charge for direct deposit and never has.

    Thanks for your feedback.
    Bob Meighan
    VP, TurboTax

    • Wibblewobble

      It’s funny you say that since i’ve used Turbo Tax for the last two years both times starting with the Free Edition. After upgrading to include State my final price jumped $50 during the second year. I had the program automatically pull my info and had no new deductions. So, any guesses at the difference in pricing?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/TDV4TWP4A7UMGLZZDSTEBRMWTQ DeeR

      YES YOU DO !

      • LV

        I’ve never been charged for direct deposit to a BANK account, used TurboTax for 12 years. (I may switch for other reasons, but direct deposit has been easy.) Direct deposit other than to a bank acount might charge, tho.

    • Sunnyshine

      I don’t think he was saying that Turbo Tax charges for direct deposit. He said he was able to file the federal for FREE and get direct deposit and his state cost a small fee, but he also got direct deposit. I think you read it wrong.

      I’ve been using TaxAct for several years and will never use any other tax software

  • http://www.maxcashtitleloans.com/ Max

    I used H&R block and was very satisfied. They found forms for me that I would have never found myself, such as the 1 time government assistance for going to collage. They ended up saving me a bundle and I will use them again!

    • Fldanekeys

      You might need the assistance if that’s how your spelling COLLEGE…..J/K.

      • : )

        Uhm, Fldanekeys…. you should have used YOU’RE instead of YOUR.

        • KING

          Lol… Pot can’t talk about the kettle when they’re both metal

  • Anonymous

    Kira, you sound like me. I do my taxes with multiple softwares every year and file with the one that gives me the biggest return obviously. I noticed that you state refund varied considerably (considering that it went from $3 to $25). I also noticed that it was TurboTax who gave you the lowest state refund. You didn’t touch on this point I’m very curious to hear what your opinion on this. Considering that TurboTax touts itself to be the most accurate and even offer refunds to anyone that gets better results with another software, again, I’m very interested to hear what you think.

    Great review, very helpful. Thanks!

  • Guest

    I use Taxact and I know absolutely nothing about taxes. I have a moderately simple return, college tuition payments, child deductions, mortgage interest, and an employer funded relocation. I feel the deluxe version is tailored toward people like myself. I don’t know what I can deduct and what I’m entitled to, so the deluxe version asks you a bunch of questions about what happened last year, with the hopes of finding some deductions. If you know your stuff like Kira, the free version works just fine.

  • Edanddebra

    I’ve used H&R Block and its previous iteration, TaxCut. It’s easy enought to use and cheaper than TurboTax. But given your review of TaxACT, I may have to take a look at it. Thank you for the thorough reviews.

  • Mandmd2

    Mark D – Ex Turbo Taxer

    Kira, thank you for the fine comparison and for taking the time to share it.

    I’d already decided to drop Turbo Tax this year. After over a decade of exclusive Turbo Tax filings they have finally shaken me out of their their tree… just too expensive for a lot of fluff features I don’t really need. I hope Bob is reading this because apparently he doesn’t realize there is a depression/recession going on and $50 + extra misc costs is just too much to pay for tax software when there are so many oprions to choose from. I guess he’ll have to start charging $51-91 to make up for my lost sale.

    Even $45 is a bit steep in my opinion for a Deluxe version of a tax program but I was considering HR Block as an alternative this year. Now that I’ve read you article I think I may try TaxCut. I can put up with a little more frustration and work to save $$ big time… (I’ll probably need it for the taxes I owe :)

  • Katrina Mendoza

    Kira, I often browse through articles online about 80% of my random thoughts, and because it’s tax prep season i searched for an article such as this one… And I rarely post comments but you deserve recognition for taking the time to put this together. Thank you! It was extremely helpful.

    I filed my taxes last year using the TaxAct 2010 software and using it again last year. I was curious about the comparison between all three leading tax prep softwares and your review was very detailed.

    – Katrina Mendoza, California

    • Katrina Mendoza

      *What I mean was that I will use it again this year* – brainfreezed a bit. :)

  • Craig

    Your article was very helpful to compare “free” online tax prep software. Thanks for taking the time to put this thorough review together. I have been using TaxAct the past few years because it’s completely free. I found it using the link on the irs.gov web site. I am self employed, so I need to file Sched. C or C-EZ plus Schedule SE. One suggestion I could make for you would be to post the true cost of each software conspicuously at the beginning of each software section. I had to dig deep into Turbo Tax and H&R Block to discover that I’d have to pay for an upgrade to do my somewhat more complicated tax return. However as you do say, TaxAct is completely free for returns needing Schedules C and SE. TaxAct also covers Health Savings Accounts, which I use – don’t know if TT and H&R include those forms in their free versions. Maybe TaxAct is tedious, but I do think it’s very thorough, which is not a bad thing when it comes to filing your taxes! I have done my taxes by hand for years, so I’m familiar with the forms and I stay up to date. I combed through my TaxAct return and didn’t find anything they missed or any errors. If there’s better free software than TaxAct out there, I’d like to hear about it.

  • Steve

    Kira, thanks for the efforts in comparing tax software. I think you brought out some good points. I have done my own taxes for a long time and even used to do it by hand (ugggh!). I have been a Turbotax user for a long time. In addition to the usual mortgage and donation deductions I also have stock sales to deal with. Last year I decided to try the free version. They don’t tell you ahead of time that you can’t do multiple returns under the same name. I do my daughters taxes each year so I ended up complaining to Intuit (Turbotax) and they gave me the software as a download. It was very troublesome and irritating. I am very wary of using any “free” software now. I definitly won’t use Turbotax’s free software. Also Turbotax charges you when you e-file using the free software.

  • John

    I have used TaxAct Delux for the past 5 years. I had used the other versions since 1973. As far as I’m concerned TurboTax and TaxCut (H&R Block) priced themselves out of the business. (I pay $17 for the Delux version Tax Act for State and Federal by ordering it in the Spring – My credit card isn’t charged until it becomes available. This is half of what the others want at Walmart or Staples. )
    (1) I get a very early version that actually works in December. Plenty of time to make adjustments in 4Q estimates if necessary.
    (2) Typically, I do my taxes by going directly to the Forms options. I find these look just like the Federal Forms and are very easy to navigate and find answers to.
    (3) My State version also looks like the State forms. This wasn’t always the case with TaxCut.
    (4) I also do the Q&A and Checks to be sure I don’t miss anything.
    Net: I like it better and it’s about half the price.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/TDV4TWP4A7UMGLZZDSTEBRMWTQ DeeR

      1973 ?

  • Ford2013

    Hated H&R Block! I submitted my 2011 1040A twice, and twice I got an email saying that I submitted my birthday incorrectly. I couldn’t figure out what date H&R block had for me, especially since I had my taxes filed at an H&R office just last year – and my other information showed up on the H&R website. I finally just gave up and used Turbotax. Turbotax was much more user friendly, an I managed to double my refund amount!

  • AOde3

    HELP, I’M ALMOST DONE W/ DOING MY taxes on line w/ H&R block, when it did it’s little check it said I can’t complete online because I have 3 1099-r’s and need a form not availble on line. Has any one ran into this? It didn’t say what form just contact & make an apt. (paying of course) Since I jsut did the whole federal and this showed on the check I don’t want to waste the time and money to pay someone to do what I’ve already done.

  • Guest

    Great Article. If you wouldn’t mind add completetax to the analysis.

  • RK12

    I have never tried anything besides Turbo Tax, and it has worked for me for several years. The only bad thing I can say about Turbo Tax is it will definitely waste your time having you fill in data that has no bearing on your tax return, such as all info from your W-2 instead of just the stuff that matters. It also will set you off digging for receipts only to find out later that you don’t come close to enough of whatever it is to take the deduction… they should tell you these details before they have you did for receipts.

    • http://twitter.com/DavidNRoach David Roach

      Exactly! Lots of digging, and then it recommends to “Take the Standard!” But I guess, how else would it know ahead of time?

      • RK12

        It should tell you up front “If you don’t have $12,000 in medical bills, don’t bother digging up receipts”… something like that, instead of telling you after an hour of work.

        • sierra19

          My experience is that it does tell you. Plus, there is a standard deduction and your itemized deductions would OBVIOUSLY have to be greater or why take it. These are things you should know before even beginning the process of entering your data. Sorry folks, if you’ve ever itemized then you should know basically what it is looking for. You can always pull up the pdf Schedule A on the IRS website and look at the items on the form.

        • Howard

          Sorry Sierra, they don’t tell you. same goes for employee related expenses. after pulling a years worth of med, dental, vision expenses and perscriptions for a family of 5 and finding it worthless, we didn’t know the same trick w/b pulled for employee expenses, that was years ago, so now we know, just like you do, or that property tax deduction would randomly would cut off, that was last year after pulling 7 complicated tax bills and supplements and trying to figure which went to which year (both states had tax years that straddle calendar years). I’m not a tax expert, but do know a lot, learned it the hard way. they could have said– if it’s not likely to be over 7.5% for med,2% for employee, and we still don’t know why some of the property tax didn’t count at the tail end, — don’t spend effort collecting receipts.

        • Sandy

          You should’ve googled it first. I did and found out right away my medical expenses wouldn’t make the cutoff. Saved me tons of time digging up old bills.

        • Howard

          an hour!? How about a day w a family of 5, did it once in the 90′, they could have said, don’t bother unless you feel it’s gonna be over 7.5% of a certain line, AGI or otherwise. but they don’t. another family evening spent away from the family, or missing a day of work, etc. turbotax is like Windows really crapy, but they’re working on it.

    • Howard

      hear,hear. turbotax is the worst imaginable. using it since 1995 we should know, functional problems most years. 2009 spent 2hrs w/ tech support because it wouldn’t install updates, 2010 almost finished by tax due date but then a big move happened and when we went to compete, file was corrupted and had to start all over again. program wouldn’t import, important w/ 3 kid’s info, 13 1099-Int, 1099-,div, 25 or so charities all of which require address info, and etc. A non-deductible IRA converted to a Roth and then some disallowed Roth contribs recharacterized back to the traditional took over 19 hrs, several calls to them and still has us paying tax on the wrong amount and wrong basis for the non-deductible traditional, mostly I blame the complicated tax code, but still, we have all the numbers and facts and still can’t get the right answers!!! mostly it might work for real basic filters, or a info as a prelim to going to a cpa, but the annual inability to install updates, occasional inability to import last year’s hard work, and other blips like, all forms are blanks (another hour on w/ them the reviewer here didn’t mention) are rude insults. use a cpa. we can’t because of one’s schedule requiring supervising presence during office hrs, so this junky program, apparently the best of the ones discussed is our only option.

      • Howard

        note, that s/b 13 1099-Int, plus another 11 of the others, a lot to re-enter, name, and etc. because several are from the same bank. typing this on an android is the problem, like turbotax, it only sorta works. I had to correct typos and deal w/ random input repeatedly to bring you the experience above. hate em both. too bad Apple doesn’t make a tax program, then therr might be at least one that works

  • guest

    Hey, Are you sure you are not getting a bit more in taxact because it treated your local tax refund as state tax refund and took it off of your state AGI subtractions. Seems like TaxACT has option of adding 1099-G (state/local tax refunds) but when doing your state tax return, it will subtract this amount from your state’s AGI since it treats them as state refunds. You need to make sure you don’t subtract the local tax refunds from AGI (which should have the local tax refunds added to your regular income just like your last year’s state refund.)

    The only I could bypass this is to goto state subtractions step and manually correct it to only include 2010 state refund and not the local tax refund amount.

  • Jimojin

    Best was H&R block! Worst was TaxAct. Really a stupid non-functional program.

    And TTax is a ripoff on every level

  • Call2action951

    Thanks for doing this comparison! Good evaluations and appreciated your detailed experiences

  • Goodoleboy58

    I have used TaxAct for several years and have found it to be pretty simple to use. However, it is the only software I have used since doing my taxes by hand.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TDV4TWP4A7UMGLZZDSTEBRMWTQ DeeR

    I have a simple 1040 and for years, used to go to the HR office and file until that class action lawsuit where they were overcharging people happened. I signed my name on it and got a settlement check for like $30.00 *whatever* So, I switched to Turbo Tax and they are crooks too. They claimed it was free, but ended up charging me for e-filing. So, I am going to TaxAct because it says you can e-file for free as well. If they seem honest and I like them, I will pay to have them do my state as well. I usually get about $2000.00 back from HR and Turbo Tax so I hope this one is just as accurate.

    Wish me luck :)

    • acb550

      With the exception of this year and one other year (both years I lived in multiple states and have multiple state returns) I have always filed for free. You should be fine. Unlike you, I was able to file free with TurboTax as well… but I find I like TaxAct better, but I wanted to read more reviews this year again. I wish you the best of luck!

  • Skyhighjy

    I used TurboTax for a couple years until 2 yrs ago i discovered (through my CC statement!!) that they automatically charged me for a CD they sent in the mail that I never authorized or even asked for??!! After a 30min phone call, They agree’d to reverse the charge but I switched to the H&R block program and have had no problems since. This experiance plus the recent smear ads against H&R block just re-inforces to me at least, that Intuit & Turbo Tax is a dirty company.

  • smader12

    Nice blog. Very well written and you make great points. I think I will give Tax Act a try to save some cash. Thanks!

  • Louis

    Thanks for your thorough review. It is very helpful and encouraging to people who may want to consider using a tax program. I have done taxes for five years with TaxAct. Have been satisfied but this year found the program was more clunky. I hope they don’t start backsliding now.

    The 2013 innovation of allowing direct entry on tax forms is great.

    Before i used TurboTax for 10 years, before that my own spreadsheet calculations, before that manually (ugh).

  • Chrissy

    For the last three years I myself have used taxact and find it very simple to use. And I enjoy not paying the outrageous tax prep fees.

  • Joe W

    I appreciate this informative article. And I agree with its summary verdict. However, I found TaxAct far superior to Turbo Tax in many respects. Yes, it may use slightly more sophisticated terms such those used by IRS in a few instances. Yet, this software is succinct and easily to follow. With TurboTax, the questions asked did not always appear logical.

    Deducting depreciation with TurboTax was arduous in my particular case. I attempted to follow the method used in the prior year, which would not provide the largest refund in the current year but would allows me to deduct the depreciation over a longer period of time. However, this software automatically used accelerated depreciation. I had to read through numerous embedded blog posts to figure out a work-around, which ultimately required me to identify this asset as “other.” Comparatively, TaxAct enabled me to identify the asset accurately and select the preferred depreciation method simply.

    Tax Act enables you to review and modify entries within particular sections more readily. Contrarily, TurboTax requires you to complete a full series of questions to modify a particular entry. In addition, TaxAct allow you to preview, print, or save the draft tax forms (not the separate forms or schedules) prior to the starting the filing process. Contrarily, Turbo Tax requires you to begin the filing process to review tax forms; the summary review is available only in an on-screen window. You can only print or save tax forms after returns are filed.

    My preference is definitely TaxAct. Yet, TurboTax does a good job at simplifying tax jargon. However, it does so at the detriment of asking questions that might seem irrelevant or unrelated to the specific entries-at-hand. Thus, I found using this software relatively frustrating as a more experienced tax filer.

    • Joseph Baker

      I have used TT for over a decade faithfully. But now I have more complicated taxes: wages, MM LLC, SP, and a rental. Last year I ended up having to purchase 3 versions of TT to do my taxes, cost me around $250, and I had technical issues with it. This year it looks like same thing again. I have to really consider the fact that TaxAct will do it under $75 and it was recommended over TT by PCMag. TT better wake up to the fact that they are pricing themselves out of the market, and their customer service has declined as well.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the review, gonna stuck with tax act 3rd year in a row. Thought I’d look for a good comparison before making my decision.

  • Bruce

    This is the third year with TaxACT for me. First two were a breeze but this time I can’t figure out how to enter my cooperative’s patronage refund (1099-PATR) into the income section. I get routed through non-related topics and can see where it’s supposed to go on Form F but can’t get to it electronically–TaxACT questions don’t take me there. The first two years it asked for this amount directly– couldn’t miss it then, but now can’t get to an place to enter it. Shouldn’t have to play games for such a simple entry from an official form. Still waiting for useful help with this.

  • Tania N

    I have been using TaxAct since 2009 and I do my taxes, my bf (he has a business) and I use to do my parents taxes (retired) until mom my passed away in 2011 (taxes to do for a deceased are really hard but TaxAct helped me through it by clicking on the ?) Now I have to do a deceased one for my dad at the end of this year. Some people may not know how to nagigate through the site, I never found it to be an issue.

    I had very little accounting experience before I started using TaxAct, and was never able to do my taxes on the paper form you mail in, that is just plan confusing to me. I have never upgraded on TaxAct and I always have great returns. I like how it shows me my return in the upper right hand corner and by clicking something then unclicking to see what gives me the most back like determing how I want to file, Head of Household or single with dependents, etc. I actually visited this website because I was thinking of switching this year for some odd reason, I guess all the hype on TurboTax. But I now know to stick with Tax Act, it is the cheapest and I do trust it.

  • acb550

    I jump back and forth with TurboTax and TaxAct. I’ll even do both and compare them! I’ve been using TaxAct more, I think they do a better job, but I agree TurboTax is an easier interface. I can’t recall if it was TurboTax or TaxAct that I did the taxes, found an error and had to redo my tax on the other program. (I still manually filed a 1040X so I could keep my costs free). I’ve already paid for the Deluxe TaxAct this year as I got in at $14 for Deluxe and the State. Ordinarily, I do all the forms myself… I’ll even use TaxAct to find out what my state should be, do the forms myself and see how they compare. This year I had too many life events: move from one state to another, buy a new (and our first and hopefully last) home, and a baby! I figure the phone support and paying will be the way to go. I know TurboTax has deals with many companies (e.g. Shop Discover), so I just wanted to see reviews comparing the companies to make sure I’d be okay with Tax Act. Glad you found it to be the best too

  • ktb63

    I just filled my taxes with TaxAct…. MUCH better than TaxSlayer that I have used in years past. Very thorough questions, easy to bet through and a good refund for me! Thanks for your recommendation.

  • taxugh

    I’m totally worried! I usually use TaxAct but decided to compare this year. With TaxAct, we would get approx $4500 back, with TurboTax, it is over $9000. All info is the same and I can’t see where the difference is other than a larger Child Tax Credit on Turbo Tax. But it doesn’t cover that much of a difference!

    • dragonball

      it’s over 9000!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Salantra

      You made a booboo. Hope you recheck it before you send it in.

  • SomeSubjectiveSomeObjective

    Good article. I agree with it. I stopped using taxcut a few years ago after it refused to tolerate a particular state deduction. When i contacted customer service they said use our fat client (CD) for that. I thought no thank you; what else am I missing I didn’t know about?

    I’ve used taxact but despite it being thorough it is indeed a terrible interface compared to the beautiful simplicity of turbotax. If I was cheap I could turbotax and then run the same numbers through taxact, but I suppose TT probably deserves something for their business, although their prices are wildly higher.

  • Rick Shinsec

    I can tell you why Turbo Tax doesn’t let you pay out of your refund anymore. They are currently in the middle of a class action law suit because they were charging a $39 convenience fee for taking their software cost out of the refund. Seems like they are admitting that option was completely uncool by removing it from this years payment options.

  • Beth

    I have been using tax act for years now and its easy to use and we itemize so it has all the areas to enter real estate taxes, mortgage insurance, student loan interest etc I think you just have to use the deluxe version which is still pretty darn cheap I think the deluxe with state is under 20 bucks actually I think they call it their Ultimate Bundle

  • T.K.Nosworthy

    Does anyone know if TurboTax Premier is what I need if I have income and expenses for both foreign and domestic
    rental property?

    • nonstatist

      You do not “need” premier but it will help if you are not familiar with filling out the tax forms associated with these incomes.

  • Maria

    We own a small business. Our corporate taxes are done by our accountant, but to save money, I’ll file our personal income taxes, myself. I believe I need to enter the amount of our business Income/loss, so every year I shell out extra money for the Premier Edition of Turbo Tax. Does anyone one know if the Deluxe Edition could provide the same? Thank you.

  • Carmen

    Thank you so much for doing this research it is very helpful. :)

  • Kelly

    First time tax filer on my own this year as inexperienced as it gets.. i tried all three programs (HR, TURBOTAX, TAXACT). I found that navigating all of the sites was fairly simple and easy. However I found turbotax to be the best for me. Simply because they made it easy for me to understand what information i needed to put in and where it needed to go. I felt like i was guessing on things with tax act and H&R, but with turbotax i was confident with the information i was providing. I am certainly not qualified to say which program was the best overall. But I better understood the process and learned more about the process with turbotax. I feel as if i tookbig testand knew i got some portion of it wrong with the other programs..(taxact,HR) I felt like i had a cheat sheet with all the asnwers it
    with turbo tax

  • mie77

    Turbotax also did knock down my state refund a WHOPPING $217! I wish someone from Turbotax can explain what that is all about. I entered no new information, I just saw the value drop! What gives?

  • Kinduva Tramp

    I used all three this year. Turbo tax and tax act had the same refund. H&R Block got me twice as large a refund? I went with the larger refund obviously, even though H&R block charged a bit more. Also they were a bit frustrating because they kept asking me vague unanswerable questions, had no live chat, never responded to emails, and
    would not e-file my return. Still, for twice the refund I went with H&R block. Probably won’t next year, preferred Tax act.

  • timverry

    I have used TaxACT for the past two years and I generally agree with your assessment in that it could definitely be made to be more personalized and user friendly. Before i used TaxACT, I used Turbo Tax Home & Business, but it is fairly expensive now that I know what I am doing. Also, I only use the free version of TaxACT for the federal e-File and use my states free web-filing option. In Illinois the state return is pretty easy to do becuase most of the hard work is done on the federal forms (the Illinois return basically starts off with you entering the federal AGI and going from there for them to get their cut hehe). TaxACT is definitely not the easiest to use, but once you’ve been through the process once, doing taxes the next year is a breeze. And you can’t beat the price of free when it comes to tax prep software :).

  • Chava A

    Turbo Tax Deluxe (more than basic but cheaper than home/business) does offer Sched C, just less support in going through it, not sure exactly what that means because I do have sched c’s but never tried the home and business because I felt OK with the plain deluxe. I HOPE I’m ok that is…

    • Jake

      I think for 2014 Turbo Tax is charging you for the upgrade on that now.

  • amyrwhitaker

    my co-worker’s mother-in-law makes $69 /hour on the
    laptop . She has been laid off for 9 months but last month her pay check was
    $13409 just working on the laptop for a few hours. see this here R­e­x­1­0­.­C­O­M­

  • jackie

    thank you for this. this year I am considering doing my own, since I have a very simple, average situation. this article helped me out a lot.

  • Keith

    Have used TaxACT for 5 years now and never have had one problem. Imports all information from last year, all i have to do is change the dollar amounts on the w-2s. Not sure what editor is talking about when it comes to 1-10 user friendly as it couldn’t be any easier. If you cannot do your taxes on TaxACT you shouldn’t be doing your taxes.

    • Guest

  • CWms

    I qualify for an obscure “income adjustment” which isn’t included in software programs, so I need to be able to write directly ON the form itself. I believe TaxAct offered this last year, but the free one doesn’t have it this year and I don’t want to buy the deluxe just to find out. Does anyone know which program will allow me to do this?

    • Reva

      The deluxe version of TaxAct has this.

  • Stephen Carr

    I wish I had read this review before I bought TurboTax for this year. I need to file a Sch. C with my return and TT Deluxe no longer supports that. Intuit has belatedly figured out they screwed up by making their customers, many who are going to be former customers if the other reviews and blogs I have read are to be believed, and have offered a $25 rebate to those who have to but their more expensive Home & Business if they have to file a Sch C. This doesn’t help customers like me who blindly already have bought TT Deluxe not realizing Deluxe has been crippled this year. Yeah, it was right on the box, but who looks at the box anymore? Lesson learned Intuit, I will not be back.

  • CyberPunk

    Interesting blog … My mom filed on TaxAct on 01/24/15, and she’s already getting her refund in 5 days (according to the IRS website). I filed on TurboTax on 01/20/15 and my refund is still pending on the IRS website…This is kind of crappy. My mom had full itemization and I filed the 1040 EZ…what the jingle bells! Wouldn’t the easiest tax returns be processed faster? I might have to look into TaxAct if they can give me my money faster. :)

    • rob

      I used taxact 1/21/15 and mines still pending , and then I done a friends for him a day after with turbo tax and he got he’s in a week!

      • rob

        today I got approved about 11 days it took!

      • CyberPunk

        Haha, I guess it’s not the tax program then … I wonder how the IRS prioritizes these tax refunds. Your friend was lucky!!

  • Johnny Stevenson

    “Diversity” means chasing down Every Last White Person.

    The program of “Diversity” in EVERY White country and ONLY in White countries will continue until there are no White children left.

    This is White Genocide.

    “Diversity” is a code word for White Genocide.

  • Punkie

    I to used TaxACT this year. I did mine on 01/23/2015 And it is still processing everyone i know used turbo tax and got their returns already! what is up with that? please help

    • Lana

      This is most likely nothing to do with the software. I’ve used TaxAct for years, never had a problem. I’ve done side-by-side comparisons like this one and TaxAct always comes out ahead. This year I received my refund in 5 days!

  • Kelsey Harrell

    I normally use TurboTax. Being as I worked for H&R Block one year, I dislike using their stuff. After doing my returns on both and realizing that I was going to owe around $106 due to moving mid year (and having to file a partially blank state return for 35 bucks), I decided to explore my options. I tried H&R Block – same deal… around $100 bucks and some change. After trying to find out if I even HAD to file the second state being as I only received my 401k pay out since being here, I discovered TaxACT on the SC state revenue website. The heavens parted and the angels sung.

    Being as I have prepared taxes in the past both in main stream and a mom and pop business, and I’ve got an accounting background, TaxACT wasn’t hard for me to use. That being said, I don’t see it being overly difficult for anyone to use so long as they use the guided steps and know how to read their forms. I had to enter a single W-2 and a 1099-R (and I had to upgrade Turbo and Block to even get that option). I will say that it is a tad clunky and tad confusing – definitely not as refined as Turbo or Block, but the price was totally worth the hassle of entering my return in for a third time. At the end, I filed federal, and two state tax returns (including my practically blank one) and submitted it. I wasn’t asked for any payment so I assume it was all done 100% free. My only grief is I can’t really go back and review everything other than viewing the forms themselves in my pdf file. But going from having to pay 100 to nothing? Yea I’m okay with that.

  • Disappointed w Turbo

    I would guess that this is my 10th consecutive year of using Turbotax to do my taxes. It will probably also be my last!
    This year they decided that I need to upgrade to an even more expensive version than I’ve been using for years – even though my tax situation is roughly the same.
    Unfortunately they can’t comple the upgrade without the intercession of a live person from customer service – apparently the live person only works the same hours that I work – VERY INCONVENIENT.

    • Also disappointed w/ Turbo

      Disappointed with TurboTax that I had been using for probably 10 years as well. Have spent hours on the phone trying to get the 2013 return transferred to this year’s, just impossible when it used to be so simple and easy. Goodbye TurboTax.

  • D. Lane

    Evaluation was helpful for potential users or switchers. However, I can’t agree with slam on Tax Act. I have used it for five years and find it easy to use and thorough. The one time I used phone support, the answers were fast and correct. Hate to say it, but if users find it difficult, they may consider a professional preparer.

  • sumguy

    I’ve switched around between all of them (and one year having a paid preparer at PWC do it, provided by my employer as part of my support for spending 6 months abroad).

    Frankly, I don’t trust any of them, even for a moderately complicated tax situation. The interview for both TurboTax and HR Block were getting it wrong on the amount of current-year income to report on Employee Stock Purchase Plan transaction (this was a few years go – possibly fixed now). Had to dig into the forms and override their calcs.

    My preparer at Pricewaterhouse Coopers also screwed up some cost basis entries.

    All the above I caught by doing my own separate calculations in a spreadsheet. (It started just as a way for me to keep everything straight, making sure I hadn’t missed a 1099 or something and hadn’t made any typos in the tax software; over time I realized if I had all the numbers I might as well do the calcs, and went from there.)

    TaxAct hasn’t gotten any numbers wrong (possibly because it doesn’t try to hold my hand as much.) But what it does have is an idiotic printing problem. When I used it in 2010, it wouldn’t print one of the pages of my form 8606, because all the entries on page were zero. But that meant it cut off right in the middle of Part II of form 8606. And I just noticed that in 2013, the same printing bug turned up with my form 8949. Page one was all blank because I didn’t have any unreported short term g/l, and so it didn’t print page 1. For a while I was thinking it had dropped the form entirely (because page 1 of each form is where it shows the form number and title in big letters, page 2 just has the form number in tiny letters). Super annoying.

    That said, I’ll probably stick with TaxAct again — I don’t like any of the options, but at least TA is free.


    Old blog article but the range of comments up to current date (2015) are interesting and helpful.

    My tax situation this year would require TT Premier which I see is $89.00. WTF!? That is the highest I’ve ever seen them push the price point and for me, they crossed the line after $59.99. So after nearly 10 years on TT, I’m back in the wild researching tax prep software. TaxAct seems to do well, including in these comments, so might have to give them a go.

    • Brian Martucci

      We actually just updated this with new information for 2015. Hopefully you find it helpful for this and future seasons :)

  • Daniel

    Don’t use Jackson Hewitt! Terrible customer service, bait and switch tactics, and for the first time in my life I am being reveiwed by I&VO after using this service. FAIL!!! JACKSON HEWITT!!!!!!

  • Skip

    I used Turbo Tax Basic. It said I needed to upgrade due to capital gains, but let me use Basic anyway. It also said I needed to upgrade to itemize deductions. But I entered the deductions anyway. It put the standard deduction in the 1040, but I used Overide to put in the correct itemized deductions and it let me file without any problems. I’m thinking about using Tax Cut or one of the other programs next year because of TT trying to get me to upgrade every chance they get.

    • Brian Martucci

      TurboTax has definitely gotten salesier since I’ve been using it…thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Guest

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  • oklahomajewel

    I this article trying to find out why HR Block is wanting to charge me $39.99 to file my Okla state taxes. Ugh. My hubby used TaxAct before , I used TurboTax. This year ( 2nd yr of marriage) I started with HR Block. Refund on both fed and state. Then I entered the same info on TaxAct . It tells me a big fed tax DUE and a little state refund. I honestly have everything the same – filing status, AGI and itemized ded’s. Don’t know what’s wrong. Then did TurboTax . At least they show you the fees up front but seems more $$ . Same result as on HR Block . I don’t know if I would trust TaxAct.

    • Brian Martucci

      Thanks for sharing! Just goes to show that, while it might be a bit more time-consuming, it’s not a bad idea to compare multiple prep options.


    As in my comment below, I became an unwitting TurboTax refugee this year. After 8 years on TT without a second thought, my head was spinning trying to get up to speed with all the games and BS that has seemed to infect this tax software arena.

    FWIW, I ended up inputting my return data on-line using both TaxAct Deluxe and H&R equivalent, and saw both came out the same. So I paid the $12.99 for TaxAct and filed
    on-line instead of purchasing the software/download, and I was done.

    Printed everything for my records and have soft PDF copies, which can also be used to populate future year returns (PDF import feature). It was fine and I’ll use TaxAct again until they give me a reason not to.

  • Patience

    Anybody file a trust/fiduciary return w/ little pain? Recommendation?

  • Courtney J. Yowell


  • Brittney4657

    If you want extra cash averaging 50 dollars to 300 dollars daily for doing simple jobs from your couch at home for several hrs daily then try this…

  • Andis1931

    < ?????? +dilbert +*********…..


  • http://couchable.co Tyler Herman

    I’ve used Turbo Tax the last 3 years but there is some sort of bug preventing me from using it this year and I called customers service, the call got disconnected 20 minutes in, so now I guess I’m going to try one of these other options. I liked Turbo Tax but it was buggy last year and not even working this year.

  • Toby Belch

    I have stayed with Tax Act for several years, despite a notable glitch (more below). It does take a bit longer because of the exhaustive question and answer process, but is quite affordable. The glitch I found was when I moved to another state from California, began taking my pension well after moving, and had to file the California Non-Resident or Part-Time Resident along with my federal (present state does not collect taxes–yay). Despite this fact, Tax Act attempted to assign taxes due from my pension to California, and I had to manually overrule the software to assign zero taxes due there. It worked, but the software should have calculated this correctly to begin with.

  • Toad Phillips

    Iv’e used Turbotax the last few years, this year and last it was completely free. The only difference between their free and other plans that i seen is if you have efile w-2 it automaticlly fills it out and the free you have to type it in, The results were the same so I obviously used the free service even though it took longer. It’s tries to sell you the other plans but if you just click no thanks it goes away.

    • useyourhead2

      Do you know where your tax return file along with all your personal info was saved, i.e., was it saved to your computer or saved to a system controlled by TurboTax??

  • LowKeyRoyalty

    Thank you for your detailed review. It was very helpful.

    I am interested in knowing Which one helped you achieve the LOWEST tax penalty AND/OR the GREATEST refund?

    • Brian Martucci

      Thanks for the comment! They were all very close in that regard – no clear winner. That said, every tax situation is different, so my experience may not have been representative. I’d be interested to hear if others received different refunds or penalties.

      • Rick in MI

        I just learned that my terrific and long-time tax preparer is too ill to bother this year. Therefore, I am going to do my own this weekend. In addition to W2 income, my wife also has a business so we have a Schedule C in addition to business depreciation plus educational expenses, 529s (and scholarships) for our kids. Do all of the programs you mention cover these necessities? Thanks in advance!

        • Brian Martucci

          Sorry to hear that, Rick. To my knowledge, each of these programs should support your tax situation. However, you likely won’t be able to complete your taxes with any program’s lower-priced plans, as those tend not to support Schedule C. We are actually publishing an update to this post in the very near future. Check back for a look at changes for the 2015 tax year – TaxAct in particular has changed significantly.

  • Kimba

    DO NOT USE TURBO TAX ONLINE…@TurboTax @TeamTurboTax
    They don’t save your data if you need to downgrade!!!!
    They make you start it ALL OVER from scratch!!! FUCKING TARDS!!!!

    • Danceroflife

      “FUCKING TARDS!!!!”

      I am always amazed when seemingly intelligent people, use the congenial condition of developmental disability in an attempt to insult others.

  • Jason A. Quest

    This information is hopelessly out of date. The tax-software industry has gotten more dishonest and deceptive, so don’t assume that anything said here is still true… especially the good things.

  • Ashurbanipal

    Great article… I’ve been using Tax Act for 90% of my returns, looks like I made the right choice