Not anything is bound however dying and taxes, as they are saying—and so we head over again into tax season by means of having a look at 4 main on-line tax prep programs: H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and TurboTax.
All of those web-based tax apps paintings similarly as neatly for your telephone as they do for your laptop, so it doesn’t subject whether or not you’re the usage of a Mac or a PC, a Pixel or an iPhone X. Without reference to software, you’ll get started and entire your taxes very easily.
General, the elemental procedure is largely the similar regardless of the carrier: You supply your monetary data and the tax device makes use of an interview procedure to assemble that data, decrease your tax legal responsibility, and, with some good fortune and excellent knowledge, maximize your refund and cut back your tension stage.
All of those on-line tax services and products be offering more than a few try-before-you-buy choices that will let you fill out your paperwork after which pay when it’s time to report. Alternatively, all of those apps additionally rate extra money the nearer you get to tax time—so don’t lengthen if you wish to pay as low as conceivable.
Editor’s be aware: Costs correct as of three/nine/2018.
H&R Block is acquainted identify, however no longer essentially on account of its on-line choices—you’ll in finding its workplaces nearly anyplace you are living. An H&R Block workplace is inside of strolling distance from my space, and I are living in a town of fewer than 14,000 folks. Which is why, whilst you first log in to H&R Block on-line, you’re given the choice of making ready your taxes your self or scheduling an appointment at a neighborhood workplace. And, if you select to start out your go back by yourself, you’ll all the time make an appointment at a neighborhood workplace if you wish to have extra personalised lend a hand.
H&R Block gives a smorgasbord of submitting choices that run from elementary home made to full-on in-office appointments. Each and every of the home made submitting gear gives the choice so as to add a Tax Professional Overview beginning at $50, relying on the kind of paperwork you’re submitting and the way difficult your taxes are.
With H&R Block you’ll pay:
- $zero for a 1040EZ
- $35 for Deluxe, which incorporates itemized deductions (Jumps to $55)
- $55 for Top class for the ones with particular source of revenue wishes, together with condominium source of revenue (Jumps to $75)
- $75 in case your go back contains self-employment source of revenue (Jumps to $95)
- State tax filings price an extra $37 in step with state
H&R Block has advanced its interface with every passing 12 months, and its on-line tax choices feel and appear a ways much less clunky in consequence. This time round, my general consumer revel in with H&R Block was once on par with TaxAct and TurboTax.
H&R Block starts your tax filing process by helping you figure out which version of the tax software you’ll need. Once determined, you’re off to the races with a standard interview process, so the app can nail down your specific tax situation and how best to maximize your deductions. As you go through the process, the H&R Block app will check in periodically to make sure you’re feeling good about the work you’re doing and where you are in the process.
Once you complete the interview process, it’s just a matter of entering your income and expense information. The online version of H&R Block offers a unique method for entering W-2 information: They send you a link via text that you use to access an H&R Block portal for taking a photo of and uploading a photo of your W-2. I’ve never had much luck with any photo-based W-2 imports, but this worked perfectly.
Color me impressed! H&R Block continues to up its tax game. Continued attention to how the app looks, feels, and works makes it an excellent choice for filing your taxes. Additionally, you have the option of walking into any local H&R Block and getting assistance from a real human when completing your taxes.
TaxAct is a full-featured online tax application that offers options for most every tax scenario. Basic filer? You’re set. Freelancer with 1099 income? That’s covered too. S Corporation? Yup. Not-for-Profit? You betcha. In fact, TaxAct also offers options for professional tax preparers that are inexpensive—and can accommodate any size tax prep business, too.
For personal taxes, you’ll pay:
- $0 for a 1040EZ
- $15 for a basic filing
- $30 for an itemized tax filing
- $60 if you itemize and work as a freelancer or have other 1099 income
- $70 for complicated returns requiring specialized forms
- State taxes, where required, are an additional $37
(For business taxes, you can find options and pricing here.)
No matter which path you choose, TaxAct walks you though a simple interview process specific to the type of return you’re filing. For personal taxes, you provide details such as employment information, income, and deductions. For businesses, you’ll need to share income and asset information. TaxAct makes the latter easier by providing tools to simplify the process, like one that lets you print K-1s for each of your corporate board members.
If you’ve previously filed returns using TaxAct, you’ll find that your filing task is that much simpler as TaxAct will quickly and easily import data from your prior year return, including K-1 information for business taxes.
The user interface for TaxAct is simple, but it works well. Since it’s free of distractions, there’s never too much information on any given page. Questions are also organized in a clear and straightforward manner, allowing you to make quick work of completing your taxes.
As easy as TaxAct is to use, I did discover some minor issues. For example, there was a link on the Federal Q&A page for a Tax Return Checklist that, when clicked, took me to a Page not found page. The checklist page does exist, however—I was able to find it by using a search field that appeared on the Page not found page. Little errors of that sort can undermine your confidence if this is the first time you’re using TaxAct.
Since TaxAct is web-based you can use it on all your devices, no matter what flavor you prefer. There are also mobile apps for TaxAct. While they appear to be app-based interfaces for the same TaxAct site you access using a web browser, they do offer one additional feature: the ability to snap a photo of your W2 and import the information directly into TaxAct. Just be aware that like with most photo-based W-2 imports, you can enter the information by hand faster. But TaxAct’s import did work…eventually.
I’ve used TaxAct to file my personal and business returns for the last several years—prior that, I’d been using TurboTax. I still find that TaxAct offers the broadest range of options and features of any online tax prep tool. I wholeheartedly recommend it as the best service out there.
As soon as I logged into TaxSlayer to create a 2017 return for this review, the feeling I had last year came right back to me:
This is the first time I’ve looked at TaxSlayer, and right from the start the process was a little off-putting. Once you create an initial user account, you’re asked to enter your Social Security number and sign your name to agree to the terms and conditions. If I weren’t reviewing this software, that would have been enough for me to close the browser window and take my business elsewhere.
“Signing” a license agreement before I could start working on my return still feels icky. Icky enough that I’d refuse to use this tax filing tool if I weren’t reviewing it.
TaxSlayer’s look and feel have improved markedly this year—it has a cleaner look and feel. But the interview process still lacks a finished quality. For example, when entering or editing information, it was never clear to me when I’d finished a section or if I’d ever entered any information in the first place. I had no indication of progress or information on what I’d worked on last if I came back to something after a couple of hours.
I also often had the feeling I had to figure out for myself what I could and couldn’t deduct or who I was allowed to claim as a dependent. For example, I have a daughter who lived on her own the entire year, was not in college, and is of an age that her dependent eligibility should be in question: She’s too old to be my dependent, unless she was living at home due to a disability.
TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct each walked me through a quick questionnaire that ruled her out as a dependent. TaxSlayer asked me no questions about her status and when I changed the number of months she lived with me to “0,” told me I would need to remove her (correct answer) unless I had a “Form 8332 or a Post-1984 divorce decree” (wrong reason). So, this was a case where I had to be smarter than TaxSlayer to make sure my information was correct.
If you were to choose to use TaxSlayer you’d pay:
- $0 for a 1040 EZ filing incl. a free state return
- $17 for Classic, which is good for most 1040 filers ($0 for active duty military)
- $35 for Premium, which includes live chat-based support and audit assistance
- $40 for Self-Employed, which can be used by anyone
- State tax filings cost an additional $15
However, I can’t recommend that you use this service.
As was the case last year, TaxSlayer does exactly the opposite of what it should do: Make you feel comfortable that your taxes will be filed with no mistakes. While I like the service’s new look and feel, TaxSlayer always made me feel like I was on my own, which isn’t a comfortable situation to be in when filing taxes.
TurboTax is the best known of all tax prep software on the market. It’s been around for years, and accordingly, it also features the prettiest user interface. It’s as if Intuit is trying to whisper, “Don’t worry, this won’t be as bad as you think,” throughout the process.
There are 5 flavors of TurboTax:
- Free Edition ($0), for basic filers
- Deluxe ($60), which is what most tax filers will use
- Premier ($80), for filers with rental property or investment income
- Self-employed ($120), for anyone running a personal business that isn’t a corporation; this version is compatible with QuickBooks Self-Employed
- TurboTaxLive ($170), for filers who want a tax professional to look at their return before filing
- State taxes cost an additional $39 per filing
TurboTax runs you through a quick checklist of items to help you determine which version makes the most sense for you. Once you complete the initial interview, the tax prep process begins.
Intuit tries to make this process as personal as possible, which means that the interview seems more like an online conversation than a series of questions about your personal finances. The process starts with a question on how you’re feeling, then you’re off to the races. I confess that rather than feeling cheesy, this personalization actually put me in the mood to do my taxes.
TurboTax generally offers a new feature with each year’s software release. For the 2017 tax year, that feature is TurboTaxLive, which gives you direct access to an actual CPA or Enrolled Agent credentialed to do your taxes. This access is unlimited, which means you can speak with someone any time you need to, about anything that crosses your mind. The gamut of your options runs from answering a basic tax question, to sharing your screen to review information you’ve entered, to completing your entire tax return. (According to an Intuit rep, all of their experts are W-2 employees of the company and not random “experts” on the Internet.)
Regarding the security of your personal information and TurboTaxLive, Intuit states that any personally identifiable information, such as your SSN, is obscured from the expert’s view. They only see the information required to answer your questions or complete you tax return. You can add live access to any TurboTax offering for $60.
TurboTax remains the most recognizable tax tool you’ll ever use—and one worthy of its renown. It has the best user experience and interview process of any tax preparation app. While Intuit’s service doesn’t offer the same broad range of tax filing options as competitors like TaxAct, the company’s still upped its ante in the game by now offering access to real tax experts. If you don’t want to figure out your taxes on your own, you don’t have to.
Final verdict: The best tax software
Whether you choose TaxAct, H&R Block, or TurboTax, you’ll be well-served—TaxSlayer is the only service I cannot recommend. Each of these three apps does an equally good job of walking you through the tax filing process. All use an interview process to figure out who your dependents are, what your tax liabilities are, and what deductions you qualify for. They all also try to provide enough assistance and assurance to make the process comfortable.
So which product do you choose? That depends largely on your tax filing needs. Turbotax is the easiest to use, and the most familiar of all three recommended apps. It also offers the option of live online help and tax filing. H&R Block, in addition to being an excellent tax filing tool, is the only offering that is likely to have an office right nearby. You can easily go from working on a return at home to working with someone you can talk to face-to-face. My personal favorite is TaxAct, because it offers filing options for my business and allows me to easily access the information from my business taxes when I’m filing my personal return.
All that said, no matter which of the three recommended apps you choose, each is sure to make filing your taxes easy and worry-free.
This story, “Best tax program 2018: TurboTax, TaxSlayer, H&R Block, TaxAct compared” was originally published by