Best Online Tax (2018 UPDATE): TaxSlayer vs TurboTax vs H&R Block vs TaxAct vs FreeTaxUSA, etc.

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Tax time is here and so are your W-2s or 1099s since most employers sent them out to arrive by the end of January. In fact, business taxes are due in many states in mid-March! So, it’s time to get started and get rolling, especially if you are due a refund check.

But, when tax season comes around each year there are those who always go with a name they know, those who go straight to an accountant and those who are willing to shop around. We will point out some strengths and weaknesses of each tax product company and also share our choices for the best of the best to help you decide which service best suits your needs.

Please note that this article has been updated with the 2018 products from each company for the 2017 tax season.

What Features Should Be Offered By Most Tax Software?

Not all tax product offerings are the same, but there are some features that you should always look out for when it comes to picking the right tax product for you. Below we will cover some of the features that every worthwhile tax software should offer.

Direct Deposit Refund

Direct deposit may not seem like such a big deal, but it is a much faster way of receiving a tax refund and most tax companies these days prefer it (some even offer discounts for using it). Direct deposit may not be a must-have feature on your list but if you are looking for a reputable tax company to go with, the chances are that they offer it as an option.

Electronic Filing

In the age of technology, utilizing electronic filing is the same as utilizing direct deposit refund services. Most big tax service providers offer the opportunity to electronically file your taxes.

Error Checks

Error checks are an important part of tax filing for any software user. To file your taxes is one thing, but to file taxes and catch any potential errors or mistakes is another.

Often we spend so much time working on our taxes that we can neglect to notice even the most obvious mistakes so it is important to have a second line of defense to minimize the risk of an IRS audit (learn more about the IRS audit process). Most reputable tax products these days offer error check services.

Federal Returns

There should be no question that a tax service provides the opportunity to file federal returns.

Pay Only When You File

Where filing taxes used to mean purchasing software before filing taxes, today tax products can often be downloaded online and taxes can be e-filed as well. This often means not having to pay until your taxes are filed.

The ability to complete your taxes using a service before paying for it shows that the company has confidence enough in their product to let you try it out before paying their fee and provides you hands-on evidence as to why you should have confidence in it as well.

State Returns

Not all filing software provides the opportunity to file state returns in addition to federal returns but these days so many do offer this feature there really is no excuse for not offering it. A state return feature makes filing your taxes a much easier and more streamlined process and allows you to get everything taken care of in a single session with less hassle.

Tax Return Status Check

Filing taxes is a stressful process and it can be particularly frustrating not knowing the status of your tax return. These days most reputable tax software provide the opportunity to check the status of your tax return online, this makes the whole tax filing process much easier by giving you a peace of mind. It also allows you to better budget when any refund monies will be coming into your bank account.

H&R Block Tax Review


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Don’t let the big brand name scare you off, this is a solid tax program and is our number one choice with a price tag that is hard to beat. H&R Block tax software supports all entities looking to file taxes but they also offer top of the line support services including FAQs.

H&R Block is less expensive than TurboTax (our previous #1) and has the same features except for help forums. H&R Block released More Zero, which lets you import a tax return from any competitor, upload tax documents and prepare and file on any device.



  • Affordable federal return filing fee for such a big name software
  • Free federal e-filing of the 1040EZ
  • Allows for five e-files when the software is purchased directly
  • Offers professional audit defense and a professional tax consultant service
  • Offers Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) assistance for calculating tax credits/penalties
  • Provides support via telephone, email, live chat, community and offers tutorials and FAQs for users
  • Import W-2 forms & 1099-B forms from participating institutions
  • Mobile version available
  • Less expensive filing for state returns
  • Face-to-face support options by going to an office
  • Online support isn’t as detailed as others

Coupon Code

H&R Block has discounted all of its products for the 2017 tax season (2016 taxes). The Deluxe edition is normally $34.99 but is now $29.74. The Premium edition is normally $54.99 but is now $46.74. Click here to take advantage of these discounts.

Read our full review of H&R Block Tax

Filing Taxes Online

Need an extra “push” to file your taxes online? It’s not as scary as it sounds. Watch the short 60-second video below for the encouragement you need.

TurboTax Review


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Saving lots of money on taxes is worth the few dollars more spent today on this software vs. the competition. TurboTax is our #2 pick, with up to five e-filings per purchase you can file taxes for the whole family. Plus 1040EZ filings are free. The program seamlessly integrates with your specific state’s tax filing systems.

Top that with great customer support, a professional audit and tax consultant service and you’ll find TurboTax is hard to beat. This is why they are our second choice for best tax company and it’s only second to H&R Block because it is slightly more expensive.



  • Guaranteed maximum refund
  • Benefit of the best-selling tax filing software
  • Online, CD or downloadable software available
  • Five e-files available to cover your whole family (with CD or download software)
  • Free federal and state e-filing for 1040EZ
  • State filing available with every edition
  • Free Affordable Health Care Act assistance for calculating tax credits and penalties
  • Fully functional mobile version for iOS and Android
  • Excellent customer service via telephone, email, and live chat, and added support with user forums, tutorials, and FAQ sections
  • Expensive
  • No physical locations, where you can file in-house or meet with a tax specialist
  • Additional fee for audit defense

Coupon Code

TurboTax has a few promotions for the 2017 tax season (2016 taxes). The Deluxe addition is normally $54.99, but is now $34.99. The Premier addition is normally $79.99, but is now $54.99. The Self Employed is normally $114.99, but is now $89.99. Click here to take advantage of these offers.

Read our full review of TurboTax

TaxACT Review


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This is another popular program that you can buy at a competitive price. If you are not looking for help forums, live chat or a tax consultant, this program has a lot to offer at a good price. A newer feature is comprehensive assistance to help you calculate your tax credit and penalty amounts due to the Affordable Care Act.

If a tax filer discovers someone else has already filed a return using their information, TaxAct will assist them via Identity Recovery powered by InfoArmor, a service that will navigate the resolution process on the customer’s behalf. TaxAct falls just above the middle of the road due to its extreme affordability and the ability to file taxes no matter what entity you are filing as, making it our #3 pick.



  • Price lock guarantee, accuracy guarantee, satisfaction guarantee and maximum refund pledge
  • Free federal and state e-filing for 1040A and 1040EZ
  • Five e-files plus 1 state return included with purchase of the higher level download software
  • Q&A interview guide filers about previous years’ taxes and health insurance
  • Professional audit defense
  • Offers professional tax products for CPAs, accountants and other professionals
  • Mobile version available
  • Import W-2 forms from participating institutions as well as prior year returns and charitable donations
  • Can only import 1099-B CVS file formats with Tax Act
  • No user forum feature

Coupon Code

Get 15% off TaxAct Plus and TaxAct Premium via this link!

Tax Software Comparison Table

Tax Software Comparison TableAs a result of the large size of our tax product comparison table, we are placing it on a separate page so you can reference it more easily. Please visit our tax software comparison table (or click on the image on the left) for feature details of the tax products that we review in this article.

We will do our best to continue to add to this table as we find additional companies, and update the current software listed as they add new features. You’ll find a list of terminologies at the bottom of the comparison table.

What Are My Options When it Comes to Tax Software Services?

In order to help you to narrow down which tax company may be best for you this year, we have put together a tax service comparison table that highlights the main features of each of the tax company’s offerings along with their pros and cons.

If you’d like to jump straight down to the reviews, you can choose from the following tax preparation providers:

CitizenTax | e-File | eSmart Tax (Liberty Tax) | ExpressTaxRefund | FreeTaxUSALiberty Tax | TaxSlayer

CitizenTax Review

CitizenTax discontinued their tax solution in January 2015. Review logoVisit Website seems to be missing some key features we’ve come to expect from our tax software companies. E-File doesn’t offer a big business option, 10-99 import, help forums, IRS publication library, live chat and more.

Their site is not very detailed which makes it difficult to review them. Perhaps some of these features are covered, but from what we see on the website, it looks like it is missing some big elements. If you have experience with eFile please share with us, so we can keep this review current.



  • Free federal filing
  • W2 import
  • Website does not explain features
  • No live chat or user forums
  • Missing many key features

Coupon Code

E-file is having two sales this tax season: the Deluxe version is normally $24.99, but is now $18.99 and the Premium Plus version is normally $45.99, but is now $34.95. Click here to take advantage of these discounts.

eSmart Tax (Liberty Tax) Review

eSmart logoVisit eSmart Tax WebsiteVisit Liberty Tax Website

eSmart Tax is owned by Liberty Tax Services, and both companies offer nearly identical products. The only difference is the cost. We recommend choosing eSmart over Liberty because its cost can be $10 to $25 cheaper than Liberty’s.

Either way, both companies are on the less expensive side of the spectrum when compared to other tax products and services. All filing options are online and there is no downloadable software.

Both eSmart and Liberty’s websites are designed quite similar and easy to use. If you have a larger business, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but for those of you with simple returns, have families, own a smaller business or are investors, one of these two companies may be a good fit for you.



  • Very affordable pricing, especially for the number of features
  • Free live chat, phone and email support
  • In-person support at Liberty Tax offices nationwide
  • Import last year’s return from most major tax services
  • 100% guarantee for biggest return, accuracy and customer satisfaction
  • Free W-2 download
  • No larger business filing options
  • Additional fee for enhanced audit assistance
  • No downloadable software available


Use coupon code ESTCJ20 via via this link to save 20% off your E-Smart or Liberty Tax filing.

Read our full review of eSmart Tax

ExpressTaxRefund Review

ExpressTaxRefund logoVisit Website

Of all of the tax products compared in this article, ExpressTaxRefund offers the least amount of services for one of the highest fees. ExpressTaxRefund is not the service for you if you are a big business, a rental property owner or looking for consultation from a tax professional before filing your taxes.



  • Offers telephone, email and FAQs as a means of support for users
  • Expensive price for the lack of features provided
  • Additional fee for itemized versus standardized deduction
  • Does not provide free federal e-filing for 1040EZ
  • Cannot be used for those with rental property or large businesses
  • Additional fees for e-filing, business owners, various tax credit forms, self-employment and a whopping $39.95 fee for bank refund processing
  • Does not provide professional audit defense services or a professional tax consultant
  • Can’t import W-2, 1099 or other necessary forms into program
  • Outdated website

Coupon Code

There are no ExpressTaxRefund coupons at this time.

FreeTaxUSA Review

FreeTaxUSA logo Visit Website

FreeTaxUSA stands out due to their 100% free Federal tax filing. This service also provides an automatic refund calculator.

Overall, it has the basics for those of you needing to file a simple return, but we don’t feel comfortable ranking FreeTaxUSA in our top three because there are larger companies with more prominent reputations. Check out the pros and cons below and decide how this free tax provider compares with the paid alternatives



  • Best price we could find for federal and state filing fees
  • Easy to use
  • Automatic refund calculator
  • Support for part-year nonresident state tax returns
  • A professional tax consultant is not available
  • Deluxe edition costs an additional $6.99 for Audit Assist and Priority Support
  • Can’t import W-2, 1099 or other necessary forms into program
  • No setup to do business taxes
  • No phone support or in-office option

Coupon Code

Use coupon code FREETAXUSA10 via this link to receive 10% off at FreeTaxUSA.



TaxSlayer Review

Taxslayer logoVisit Website

TaxSlayer may have the prices that you are looking for when it comes to filing your taxes but there are a few areas where this service falls short. TaxSlayer offers features at the premium level that competitors offer as the basic level, which is why this service isn’t rated higher in our rankings. If you aren’t concerned with audit defense, TaxSlayer could be a good option for you… unless you are a big business.



  • Very affordable federal and state filing fees
  • Free federal e-filing for the 1040EZ
  • Professional audit defense (for higher tier packages)
  • Mobile version available
  • Military receives 50% off, excluding Simply Free
  • Import W-2 with Classic and Premium packages
  • Cannot be used for big business returns
  • Does not offer the services of a professional tax consultant
  • Can’t import 1099 forms into program

Coupon Code

There are no TaxSlayer coupons at this time.

Deciding Which Tax Software is Right For You

The key to finding the right service for you is identifying the one that suits your biggest needs and you are comfortable using.

  1. One of the first things to look at is whether or not you understand the interface that the service uses. Many software options now offer tutorials and walk through’s to ensure that you do not face any difficulty in using their service.
  2. Once you find a software you are comfortable with using, you will need to ensure that they allow for filing as your specific entity. There is no use being proficient at a software if you are filing as a big business and the software does not allow for big business filing!
  3. The next thing you will need to consider is the cost of the software you are looking at. There are a wide variety of options to select from and you should be able to find one that suits your budget.

After these minimal requirements have been met, choosing the right software for you is just a matter of which features you are looking for when filing your annual tax return!

Are You Worried About Being Audited?

This is a fear we all have, but do you really know what happens if you get audited by the IRS? We’ve got an entire article dedicated to teaching you about what you can expect if you get audited by the IRS.

Which tax software do you use and why?

Whether it is setting up a home entertainment system controlled by a PC or geeking out on one of his many iDevice's, Jeff loves all things tech. He does not leave home without his iPad or his golf clubs. You never know when a good day might turn into a great one with the help of one (or both) of these trusty tools.

Leave a Reply

newest oldest most voted
Beware of TurboTax if you choose to pay via your tax refund. They will charge you an extra $34.99 bank processing fee in addition to whatever you paid to file, which in my case was also $34.99. I just clicked right past that fee and submitted. That was my fault for not looking at it close enough, but still feel a little cheated.
I tried HR Block and they totally screwed up my Self Employed Health Insurance Deduction. Either that, or there is something I overlooked or didn’t do right. I went over that section multiple times. They said I owed hundreds. I did my taxes on TaxAct and they seemed to have calculated everything correctly and said I would get a refund. I may try one more place or do it by hand to make sure. I haven’t filed yet.
A major problem with Taxcut is that if you run a resolution of 1920 x 1080 on your monitor, the forms occupy only about 1/3 of the screen and are barely readable. Customer Service has responded to me that you need to run no higher than about 1360 x 760, great if you have a 19 inch monitor. This program is unusable – hope their money-back ‘guarantee’ works.
Mark C
This article says it was updated 12/14/15, but the claim about TurboTax offering the Amazon gift card is not true. That has gone to H&R Block this year.

Does that change the ratings?

Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Mark, great question. We are actually in the process of doing a full update on this one. We are just waiting for some companies to release their 2016 information (which some may have since the New Year). An Amazon gift card would not change the rating. Although receiving one is a “perk” it does not make a tax service better or worse so we do not base our rankings on perks. Make sure to check in periodically for out updated 2016 rankings!
Naomi Black
You should check out FreeTax. You can file Federal and State Returns for free.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
That sounds too good to be true! Have you used FreeTax before Naomi?
James P Schlusser
If you make under $65,000 you can go to the IRS website and they will refer you to a load of preparers that have to do your taxes for free.
Cave Bear
I don’t know who is best – I know I did 4 different programs (TT, TA, HR and TaxSlayer) and while they were all very close on Federal, the State numbers were all over the block. They all said I owe state, but they ranged from $138 to $802. That’s too much of a difference for me to trust. Return was dropped off at the CPA this afternoon!
Which one was right? 🙂
Cave Bear
To be honest, I don’t remember from last year. This year I used TaxAct, so they must have all been reasonably close. TaxAct was the cheapest for me. TT would have been $80 with Fed, State & Prop Tax. TA came to just under $45 for everything. TT has great sales, but state is additional where TA has state included.
Craig Wellman
A big question for me is can I import all my investment 1099s. I looked for options to Turbo Tax this year because of the bait and switch which would push me to premium for what used to work in deluxe and I’ve never liked the way it works — too slow to wade through all the screens.

Tried Tax Act online — kept having to log back in and wait for processing.

Tried Tax Act download and found it worked great and looked simple but it does not offer imports from the largest mutual fund companies and brokerages.

Tried H&R but couldn’t find import options and got left on hold for half an hour when I tried to ask.

Expect I’m stuck with Turbo Tax. It’s deductible is a joke to me. Someday the IRS should challenge its ridiculous valuations.

Confused Tax Novice
You said that H&R Tax Cut 2013 lacks forum support and no professional audit defense or professional tax consulting. However, the software that I have in hand says just the opposite. Perhaps you are getting your information from the TurboTax web site which states this information. HR Block’s web site says they offer this right on their home page.

Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Sorry for the confusion. When we updated our article we missed updating our 2nd place paragraph where these items you listed were written out. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. You will now see the correct information in the 2nd place paragraph along with the H&R Block section. Please let us know if there is anything you have questions about and thank you again for bringing this to our attention.


Michelle Schenker (Admin)
Save 10% off on eSmart tax returns when you click on this link and use the coupon code ESTOFFER10 during checkout before Tax Day, April 15th, 2013.

I began working at the age of 16, which means I’ve had more than enough time to try out a few tax preparation services. When I was 16, it was easy to file my own taxes. As I got older, and my taxes became more complicated, it was necessary to use a tax preparation company. I think the first company I ever used was Tax Slayer. While the service was great for your basic needs, I found that it wasn’t a good option when I became self-employed.

When I started my career in freelance writing, I turned to H&R Block. At first, everything seemed great and their service met my needs. Unfortunately, as my taxes became more complicated, the prices got higher and higher. Soon, I was looking at paying over $100 to prepare my taxes. This was something I simply could not afford. As a college student and part-time writer, these prices put a strain on my bank account and sent me in search of yet another company.

I then began using the company, TaxAct. The price was perfect and the site was easy to use. In fact, I would still be using TaxAct if it hadn’t been for the latest tax form, the 1099-K. I found it impossible to figure out how to enter this information without it looking like I was making twice as much as I really was. This led me to TurboTax.

TurboTax is an excellent service that has a middle of the road price range, but makes it easy to file your taxes, even with the dreaded 1099-K. Sure, I hate paying more than I was paying with TaxAct, but it’s worth it to make sure I’m doing my taxes correctly.

I can’t necessarily recommend one tax preparation service over another. It all depends on your needs and how complicated your taxes are, but it really does pay to shop around.

When you go to file your taxes, the type of software you use shouldn’t be the only thing you consider. I know so many people that go pay to have their taxes done when they could just do them at home using this kind of software. I’m always trying to show them how to file their taxes from home to save money and time. It’s not even like you actually have to do the math any more. Now you just fill in the text boxes, and you can ask questions along the way if need be.

I personally use Turbotax, but I have used Taxcut and Taxslayer

The programs can be used for free, but they might charge you to actually file the taxes. If you make enough money, that’s usually not a big deal. However, if you are in the lower income bracket, you might want to take advantage of the free filing service you can get if you go to the program through the IRS website or your state treasurer’s website and use their free file links. They take you to some of these programs, but allow you to file for free. Also, don’t forget to pay the fee and register if you are going to be filing taxes for anyone aside from yourself.

I am strange enough to actually get a sick satisfaction out of doing taxes. It’s like spring cleaning. You wait all year to do it and once you’re done, there is this feeling of accomplishing something.

I generally use Turbotax, but I also used another tax program this year for my state taxes. If you want to use the free efile option, keep that in mind when choosing your tax program. You might want to do your federal taxes with the more advanced tax software, then use a less advanced one for your state taxes, simply because the state taxes…well they just aren’t as “taxing”. (LOL I crack myself up!)

Here’s the thing: if you want to e-file for free, you have to sign up for the software separately. So, since I used Turbotax for my federal taxes, I could have paid to use it for my state taxes, but since I’m such a frugal soul, I signed up with a whole other company. True, I had to manually enter my information instead of importing it, but I didn’t have to pay a fee to get them filed. I just thought this might be something people would want to know about so they could save a few dollars. You also learn about this through your state’s website and the IRS website.

Nowadays many tax methods are introduced and recently some software also developed for tax paying. This is a nice method to all the people every business have more CA with them for their tax related queries. By using this software we can easily reduce them…

a web rocker
Deciding which tax stuff to use is alwaysbso confusing. Thanks for helping me make the better choice this year with turbotax. I know it costs more but not getting audited makes it worth every penny. Interesting (and tempting) to see so many free options though…
I’ve seen the commercials, but how is the Taxbrain software?

Also, I would like to hear more about the actual process. Did the reviewer just compare the sell sheets of each product, or did they purchase each and do a mock return to see what the software did and didn’t catch, etc? That’s a big concern.

Michelle Schenker (Admin)
Hi Eric,

Thanks for the tip on Taxbrain – we will add it to our list for next year’s review. We are too far into the 2013 tax season to add it at this time with other projects we have on our plate but appreciate the input!

As for our review, we actually have the same process for all of the categories and niche areas that we cover across our entire company (from pet insurance and antivirus software to green cleaners and tax programs). We focus on collecting, collating, analyzing and organizing all the reviews we can find or experience first-hand into one cohesive review on any given topic.

That process is outlined here:

* Extensive industry research
* Independent expert reviews
* Anonymous consumer phone calls & email inquiries to the company (mystery shopping)
* Consumer feedback on our website (in this case
* Consumer reviews on third-party review sites like Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and more.
* Social media discussions on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.

So while we do not always have the time or ability to review everything first-hand ourselves (due to cost, availability or other reason), we have built a review process over the past 5+ years that works to provide an overview of every review we can find out there on the given topic we are discussing to provide one of the most comprehensive and unbiased reviews out there.

Thank for your inquiry,

Michelle @ We Rock Your Web

It is hard to believe that I’m already thinking about 2012 taxes. I started a side business this year, so I will have to deal with a LLC filing. Does anybody have experience with the more advanced tax software features? I’ve narrowed my search down between Turbo Tax and H&R Block. H&R Block’s ‘Premium’ option is slightly cheaper than Turbo Tax’s ‘Home & Business’. H&R Block also offers the worry-free audit support, which is really appealing to me. Anybody have any suggestions?

You show TaxACT has chat on this comparison chart which is incorrect.

Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Thanks Chandler, you are correct! I have made the correction in the table. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Alex Schenker (Admin)
H&R Block is offering a great deal for online tax software in 2013 – only $13.95 (regularly $15.95). Just click the ad above and enter the coupon code HB02MGT8JX during the checkout process. Deal ends on 4/30/13.

Alex Schenker (Admin)
Do not fall for the latest email scam to get you to click on a spammy link. Do not do it.

If you get an email that appear to be from TurboTax stating that ”Your State Return Has Been Rejected” pleases know that this is NOT from TurboTax or your bank. Do not open the attachment and do not forward the email. Delete the email immediately.

For years I have been trying to figure out how turbo tax and tax cut are different. They are both at all the stores and price appears to be only difference but now I see not only are these two very different but there are so many more options. Great comparisons with the pros and cons. Now time to actually do my taxes… Yuck!