Each of these three tax preparation software options helps you quickly and easily file your taxes. They all come with various levels, which give you access to different tax forms and filing options. If you’re a business owner, for instance, you’ll need to pay more to file your taxes because they’re more complicated.
Each option here has a simple interface that will walk you through your taxes form by form, so that you can file them in a reasonable amount of time without missing anything important. At their heart, TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct all offer the same type of tax-filing experience. But they do have different packages, prices, and features.
TurboTax vs. H&R Block vs. TaxAct Overview
|Price range (federal)||$0 to $409||$0 to $110||$0 to $64.95|
|Price range (state)||$0 to $64||$0 to $37||$39.95 to $44.95|
|Tax advice available||Yes, for a fee||Yes, for a fee||Included in all plans|
|Audit support available||Only full service for a fee||Free informational, full service for a fee||Only full service for a fee|
Pros and Cons
Each of these options has its own pros and cons. Here are the ones to highlight from each:
TurboTax Pros and Cons
Simple interface. TurboTax has the best interface, in my opinion.
Excellent option for complex taxes.
It’s the most expensive listed.
H&R Block Pros and Cons:
Less expensive CPA option.
Price preview. Keeps you from being shocked at your actual payment when you’re ready to check out.
Less user-friendly interface.
More expensive option. It's one of the most expensive options on the market.
TaxAct Pros and Cons:
Tax advice included in all plans
No completely free option
TurboTax vs. H&R Block vs. TaxAct: Pricing and Fees
This is an area that will set these three options apart the most. Here’s a quick glance at each company’s options and the prices of those options:
TurboTax has four plans and three different service levels; DIY, Live, and Full Service. The service levels determine how much access you get to a tax professional.
- The DIY level offers no access to a tax expert.
- Live allows you to speak to, and ask questions of, a tax expert.
- Full Service is where you just hand your taxes over to a pro and they do them for you.
|Free||Simple tax returns only||$0 Federal, $0 State|
|Deluxe||More deductions, including mortgage and retirement plan contributions||$69 Federal, $59 State|
|Premier||Stocks, bonds, other investments, rental property income and expenses||$99 Federal, $59 State|
|Self-Employed||Personal and small business income and expenses||$129 Federal, $59 State|
|Free||Simple tax returns only (This plan is called Basic if you add the Live upgrade)||$99 for both federal and state|
|Deluxe||More deductions, including mortgage and retirement plan contributions||$139 Federal, $64 State|
|Premier||Stocks, bonds, other investments, rental property income and expenses||$189 Federal, $64 State|
|Self-Employed||Personal and small business income and expenses||$219 Federal, $64 State|
|Free||Simple tax returns only (This plan is called Basic if you add the Live upgrade)||$219 Federal, $54 State|
|Deluxe||More deductions, including mortgage and retirement plan contributions||$269 Federal, $64 State|
|Premier||Stocks, bonds, other investments, rental property income and expenses||$379 Federal, $64 State|
|Self-Employed||Personal and small business income and expenses||$409 Federal, $64 State|
H&R Block allows you to add tax help to any plan, starting at $85. What is unique about H&R Block is that you can even get face to face in-person help, which is not available in either TurboTax or TaxAct.
Audit support is available on all plans but is informational only. This means if you get a letter from the IRS H&R Block can tell you what it means and how to respond. They will not contact the IRS on your behalf. For a fee, you can add on Worry-Free Audit Support which will give you access to an Enrolled Agent who can represent you with the IRS.
|Free||Simple taxes||$0 Federal, $0 State|
|Deluxe||Can itemize||$55 Federal, $37 State|
|Premium||Sale of investments and Schedule C-EZ||$75 Federal, $37 State|
|Self-Employed||Personal and small business income and expenses||$110 Federal, $37 State|
With TaxAct you get unlimited access to a tax professional and informational audit assistance with all plans.
|Free||Simple taxes||$0 Federal, $39.95 State|
|Deluxe||Homeowner’s deductions and other credits/deductions||$24.95 Federal, $44.95 State|
|Premier+||Investments and rental property||$34.95 Federal, $44.95 State|
|Self-Employed+||Small business and personal income and expenses||$64.95 Federal, $44.95 State|
Resource: Cheapest Tax Software
TurboTax vs. H&R Block vs. TaxAct: Product Features
TurboTax offers a live filing option with each of their versions, so you can get assistance from a real tax expert as you’re filling out your taxes. This is a great option if you need some extra assistance or assurance but don’t want to pay a CPA to completely file your taxes for you.
And, of course, TurboTax features the slick interface and built-in guidance it’s known for. When I first started filing my own taxes as a freelancer, that guidance was invaluable. So, if your tax situation is complicated and you don’t want to miss any potential deductions, it could be the software for you.
Like TurboTax, H&R Block is now offering live tax experts to help as part of its packages. It’s an upgrade that you can add to any level of their tax filing product, so you can still get tax expert help at a reasonable price. And if you really get stuck on your taxes, you can take them to one of H&R Blocks’ thousands of locations for in-person help.
H&R Blocks’ interface and guidance have improved over the last few years, you can file forms as you go, and H&R Block will let you skip around but remind you to fill in all the forms you need for your taxes. And they’ll give you a Price Preview as you go so that you’ll know how much you’ll owe at the end when you add additional services or need to upgrade your package.
As this is the cheapest option on our list, you’d expect that it would also have the least features. And that’s true. With that said, TaxAct offers a nice interface and guidance on filing your taxes, W-2 import options, the ability to import last year’s tax return from another preparer, and a better mobile app than last year. Plus if you filed on TaxAct last year, you can now get access to prior year returns for up to seven years after filing.
As with these other options, what you get with TaxAct depends partly on which version you pay for, and it has some interesting options for individuals that could help you save money.
The process of signing up for each of these platforms is very similar. You’ll need to create an account and confirm your email address. And then you’ll need to input your basic personal information to get started. With each option, you can start out with the version you think will suit you best. Then if you need to add additional forms while mid-way through your taxes, you can do that and upgrade. You’ll pay for the service at the end, when you actually file your taxes.
Again, these three options score similarly here. They all use two-factor authentication if you sign in from a device they don’t recognize. And they all use bank-level encryption and data security practices to keep your data secure as it is stored in the system and transferred to the IRS.
If you’d prefer to file your taxes on your phone, you’re in luck. All three of these platforms have a mobile app you can use to do that. TurboTax and TaxAct both let you file your taxes on their mobile apps, which feature the same security as their online versions. And you can switch between your phone and laptop to file your taxes, if that works for you.
H&R Block actually has two mobile apps. The Tax Prep app lets you prepare and file your taxes, regardless of which version of H&R Blocks software you need to use. But they also have a MyBlock app that you can use to check your Emerald Card balance if you receive your tax refund in this way, or to upload tax documents throughout the year.
Customer Service and Support
TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct all have customer support available through multiple channels. For instance, you can check their online databases for frequently asked questions about your taxes. And you can reach customer service through email, phone, or online, depending on the version of each software you choose. With TaxAct, Premier+ and above versions get you access to priority customer support.
Keep in mind that customer support is generally for the software itself and any glitches or other issues you might encounter there. If you want actual tax advice from a qualified tax professional, you’ll need to upgrade to those services with H&R Block or TurboTax.
Which Is Best for You?
Since you probably came to this article to figure out which of these three options might serve you best, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. If you know what you’re doing, at least mostly, with your taxes, you can probably get by with any of these three options very well. And you’ll likely get similar results in your actual taxes.
But that doesn’t mean some of them aren’t better than others.
If you’re on a budget or have simpler taxes, go with TaxAct.
This is obviously the most affordable option in most cases. But if your taxes are more complicated or you’re unsure of what you need to do for them, you may ultimately save money by moving to a platform that is more expensive but includes more guidance. However, if you’re an old hand at filing your taxes as a small business owner, investor, or freelancer, you’ll be fine with TaxAct and save money, too.
H&R Blocks CPA versions are much cheaper at the higher levels, but TurboTax is cheaper at the lower levels. If you have basic taxes, though, you’re less likely to need live advice. Getting your taxes done well is mainly about being sure that you have all your forms together, and that you deal with each of them as part of your tax filing process.
But if you do have more complex taxes, H&R Blocks CPA option is an excellent way to get more assurance that you’re doing things correctly without totally breaking the bank.
If you need to file more complicated taxes at a cheaper price, opt for the H&R Block.
As you can see on the above price list, H&R Block is the mid-range option but offers most of the same features as TurboTax. And the interface is really only a little less user-friendly than TurboTax’s. So it’s a great option if you need more guidance but don’t want to pay as much as you’d pay for TurboTax.
Resource: Best Tax Software
Choosing the right tax software is really all about knowing your options and understanding what you need. You can’t go wrong with any of these services it’s really just a matter of knowing what level of service you’ll need.
For example, if you know you’ll have tax questions you might want to consider H&R Block, which allows you to meet in person if you want. Or TaxAct, which offers tax help with all their plans. If your taxes are very simple, just W-2 income and the standard deduction, and you don’t think you’ll have tax questions then TurboTax or H&R Block might be best as they offer a truly free plan for simple taxes.