According to an informal 2012 poll, 86% of blog readers prepared their own taxes using software with a breakdown of 60% TurboTax, 21% TaxACT, and 16% H&R Block at Home. This nearly matches the findings of analytics firm Comscore, which found that of online filers 60% used TurboTax, 18% used TaxACT, and 15% used H&R Block at Home.
I’ve used all three programs over the years and each has their clear strengths and weaknesses. The NY Times recently did their own 3-way comparison with very similar experiences to my own. They actually called in for help and reported the results, so I’ve added this factor into my lightning review:
The major differentiating factors are price, time-saving features, audit support, and ability to answer specific tax questions. In terms of accuracy, I think all three are nearly identical. All three offer a “Maximum Refund Guarantee” (relative to competing software) as well as an “Accuracy Guarantee” (relative to your tax liability) that says that they will pay any penalty and interest assessed by the IRS or your state due to calculation errors on their part (though H&R Block limits this to $10,000). Actual cost can vary widely with sales and discounts, listed here are just the everyday prices.
- Most expensive. Federal Deluxe regular price is $29.99 w/ e-file. However, you now need Premier at $49.99 if you have an investment gains or losses. State return price is $36.99.
- Best import support from payroll providers and financial institutions for automatic import of W-2 and 1099 forms. Works with free “ItsDeductible” program to help with recording charitable donations.
- Moderate audit support (you get help, but no in-person representation)
- Specific tax advice – Free online chat included. Did not provide definitive answer to NYT reporter’s question.
Bottom line: The time-saving choice if you have a lot of brokerage transactions, W-2s, or other 1099 forms to electronically import this year. Also if you have a lot of details to import from last year’s return with TurboTax. It may be worth the extra cost to avoid tedious data entry.
- Cheapest overall with Federal Deluxe regular price at $12.99 w/ e-file. Federal + State return combined including e-file at $17.99.
- Limited import support (worst of the three).
- Limited audit support (worst of the three).
- Specific tax advice – Phone support only, online chat not available. Did not provide definitive answer to NYT reporter’s question.
Bottom line: The value choice if you just want accurate DIY tax return software and don’t need any extra assistance.
- Middle-of-road pricing. Federal Deluxe regular price is $29.99, but includes investments. State return price is $36.99.
- Moderate import support for 1099s and W-2 (not as broad at TurboTax, better than TaxACT)
- Best free audit support. Only product that includes an H&R Block Enrolled Agent actually attending your audit in-person. However, consider whether you would hire your own representative in the actual event of an IRS audit.
- Specific tax advice – Free online chat included, only one to provide definitive answer to NYT reporter’s question.
Bottom line: The got-your-back choice if you want the assurance that a federally-authorized enrolled agent will guide you for free through a potential albeit unlikely audit. Anecdotally the one most likely to provide answers if you have harder tax questions.