TurboTax vs. H&R Block vs. Tax Act – Which is the Best Online Tax Preparation Platform?

In a recent 3-part post series, we took an in-depth look at the three most popular online tax preparation platforms in an effort to determine 1) how they work, 2) what income/deduction options they offer, and 3) what is free/what you have to pay for. If you missed any of the three posts, I’ve listed links to each below:

While these posts were very informative if you are already using one of their respective platforms, a very important aspect missing from the articles was a comparison of the 3 to determine which is best for your specific tax preparation needs. As such, the purpose of this post will be to compare TurboTax, H&R Block, and Tax Act side by side to see what the benefits and pitfalls of each program are.

Let’s get started!

For easy comparisons, we’ll break our analysis down in to the relevant categories listed below:



Between the three big tax prep online platforms, pricing is one of the biggest and most important differences that we see:

  • TurboTax is by far the most expensive, both in the respect that their free edition offers the fewest features and the paid versions cost more than the equivalents at H&R Block and Tax Act.

    • Basic = $20, Deluxe = $30, Premier = $50, Home/Business = $75
    • State tax filing involves an extra fee = $28-$37 per state.
    • If you have business income, you are required to use the $75 version.
    • If you have income from sales of taxable securities/stocks/mutual funds through a 1099-B form, you are required to use at least the $50 version.
    • In my opinion, the reason that TurboTax is the most expensive is simple – because users allow it to be.
      • What I mean by this is that TurboTax users have been using their platform for so long, trust it, and are so used to having their information automatically imported year-to-year that they simply do not bother to leave, even if TurboTax isn’t necessarily the perfect fit for them.
    • Since TurboTax does cost the most, if you are a current user, I would highly recommend that you make sure to have a good reason (i.e. ask yourself, “is it worth the cost?”) that you want to keep using it, given that there are indeed other dependable options available out there to you.


  • H&R Block represents the “middle of the road” option as far as pricing is concerned.
    • Basic = $20, Deluxe = $30, Premium = $50.
    • State tax filing involves an extra fee = $28-$35 per state.
    • If you have business income, you are required to use the $50 version.
    • If you have income from sales of taxable securities/stocks/mutual funds through a 1099-B form, you are required to use at least the $30 version.


  • Tax Act is by far the cheapest option, both regarding what their free option provides and that their upgraded versions are very inexpensive also. 
    • Deluxe edition = $9.95.
    • State tax filing involves an extra fee = $15 per state.
    • If you get the Ultimate Bundle, it is only $18 for the Deluxe edition plus a state filing. Talk about value here!
    • All types of income are included in the free edition! This includes business income, sales of securities covered in a Form 1099-B, and income from rental real estate. It’s pretty awesome that all of that is included in a free edition, right?!
    • Since Tax Act is by far the cheapest option, you are probably thinking that it must be hard to use or lacking in some aspect, right? This is not the case. Read below to learn more.


User Interface / User Experience

In my opinion, the overall user experience from the TurboTax, H&R Block, and Tax Act online tax preparation platforms are pretty much equivalent. In fact, it is likely that they all benchmark each other (since there is nothing stopping their competitors from logging in to their systems and seeing what a competitor offers!) to make sure it is like this.

  • All three platforms…….
    • Save your information you entered immediately and make it available for you to log in at a later date and continue/finish your tax return.
    • Require you to use a paid version in order for them to import your previous year tax information in to your current year return or to import your employer’s W2 data based on their EIN.
    • Are logically organized by tabs across the top of the screen, proceeding from personal info to federal income and deductions, then on to state taxes and filing.
    • Feature counters on the site sidebars that update automatically to show you how much federal and state return you can expect “on the fly.”

The only difference I found in the overall user experience of the three platforms was that there seemed to be sections of the Tax Act and TurboTax site that contained very hard to understand language about whether a certain functionality (which required a paid upgrade) was expressly required to accurately complete my return or if it was optional.

I discussed these roadblocks in detail in my three posts of the series mentioned above. Briefly, the confusing section on the Tax Act site involved the Life Events tab. Unfortunately, TurboTax ranked last in the user interface category based on the NUMEROUS screens that would pop up trying to get me to upgrade at every step of the way, when in reality, it was not needed.

I would rank the user interface at H&R Block as my favorite because of the simplicity and clarity in which they conveyed the features being offered

Income and Deduction Categories Covered

Detailed screenshots of the income and deduction categories that are covered by each of the three platforms can be easily viewed by clicking any of the 3 posts in my series mentioned at the top of this article.

After going through everything, I can conclude that TurboTax, Tax Act, and H&R Block (likely because of benchmarking) actually offer all of the same income and deduction categories. So, you don’t have to worry about which platform you choose in this respect.


Accuracy & Security

As far as I can tell and have read on the subject, TurboTax, H&R Block, and Tax Act are all equally accurate, reliable, and secure. So, you don’t have to worry about which platform you choose in this respect. Personally, I would/have trusted entering my tax information to any one of these platforms.


What’s the Bottom Line – Which is the Best?

Having dissected each of these three programs one by one and listed out the comparison points above about price and user experience, the question then becomes, “What can we conclude – which is best?”

  • In my opinion, Tax Act is the best overall because it is pretty easy to use and gives you all of the same functionality as TurboTax and H&R Block, but at 1/4-1/5 the cost! Can’t beat that, right?!
  • If you’re looking for the easiest to use platform that is likely to give you the smallest headache in doing your taxes, go with H&R Block.
  • Although not bad by any means, TurboTax is, in my opinion, the least attractive option of the three based on what we’ve discussed here.
    • However, it is a perfectly good way to do your taxes if you are comfortable with them and do not want to take the time to change platforms (for example, you’ve been using it for years and just want to continue). It will also save you money over using a CPA as well. After all, we’re only talking about $100 per year here at most, so it’s not going to bankrupt you to use TurboTax by any means! haha
    • However, if you are strapped for cash, there are definitely better, cheaper ways to go in my opinion.

How about you all? Have you used TurboTax, H&R Block, or Tax Act this year or in past years to prepare your tax return? If so, which do you think is best and why? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

About the Author Jacob A Irwin

Hi folks! My name is Jacob. I am the owner and operator of My Personal Finance Journey. I started this blog in January of 2010 and have enjoyed the journey ever since. Since finishing up graduate school in Virginia in 2014, I have been working in biopharmaceutical development in Colorado. You can read more about me and this site here​. Please contact me if you have any questions!

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Leave a Comment:

John S @ Frugal Rules says March 13, 2013

Good comparison Jacob! I've never used Tax Act before. I did use H & R Block's platform for a number of years and generally liked it and how it performed. I've not used Turbo Tax, but have seen it in action and it seemed to be fine. We have a CPA now, but if I were to go back to doing our own taxes I'd probably go back to H & R Block's platform.
My recent post What’s Your Definition of Insanity?

    MyPerFinJourney says March 14, 2013

    Thanks for sharing John! As I mentioned, I honestly believe it's hard to go extremely wrong with any of these three players. There are just minor differences between them. But, I was pretty surprised how much cheaper Tax Act was compared to TurboTax! Crazy!
    My recent post What are Your Options for Tax-Advantaged Retirement Savings and Investments?

FinancialBlackSheep says March 13, 2013

Thanks for the comparison! I have been using Turbo Tax and had no problems with it, but of course I never compared it to other software. I am thinking about going the CPA route next year depending on the situation, but will also keep in mind the other software you mentioned.
My recent post Budget During No-Spending Challenge February 2013

    MyPerFinJourney says March 14, 2013

    Thanks for reading BlackSheep! I love your site by the way! Good name too! haha

    What factors are causing you to consider a CPA? I definitely would recommend if you have a business and need to make estimated tax payments and issue 1099's etc.
    My recent post What are Your Options for Tax-Advantaged Retirement Savings and Investments?

Steve says March 13, 2013

I started out with TaxAct a long time ago and it wasn't bad at all. But some 6 years ago I switched to TurboTax and have stuck with that ever since. I like the features and feel more comfortable with the brand name. It is hard to switch once you start using one since all your information is transferred from prior years from the compatible software.
My recent post The Benefits Of TurboTax 2013

    MyPerFinJourney says March 14, 2013

    Thanks for sharing Steve! I'm curious – was there something specific that made you switch from Tax Act?

    I'm just curious if there was some specific problem that maybe I didn't see when I was going through the software. Or, was the change strictly since you were more comfortable with the brand of TurboTax?
    My recent post What are Your Options for Tax-Advantaged Retirement Savings and Investments?

Fedup wFedRS says March 13, 2013

We were using H&R Block Deluxe edition 2012 and we came across what we think is a defect, that is our AGI was between $104-124K, and when we put in $800 for LifeTime Learning classes, the credit at first showed $200, then it went to zero when finalized. We think it should have been a prorated amount, less than the full $200, because we are in the upper AGI area, but not $0. Then it turned out that the Form 8863 included with the program did not match the IRS form at line 18….Block wanted to add a number line 17 to a alphanumeric at line 21 (their typo: should have been 12)! We called and they saw the form difference, but said the blizzards in Kansas were holding up their support group and they could not get back to us. When finally followed up with us, a week later, they still did not have an answer. I asked for a refund form from them. I think the typographical error carried over into their software calculations!

This problem is above and beyond the mistake they are currently working out with the IRS on Form 8863 about a “N” is required instead of a “no”. Our problem could be shorting a lot of people some refund amount on their continuing education costs. Our trust in H&R Block is gone…has been going down ever since they took over TaxCut.

Seems time to go to TaxAct, based on your review, but now it is hard to trust any of the companies…time for the IRS to buy the existing software and maintain it for everyone, instead of privatizing and having people ripped off by profit hungry corporations that are not staffing themselves properly. Of course this is a distraction from the hyperinflationary ripoff perpetrated by the private “Federal” Reserve banks. Those banks need to be torn apart so they are small enough to fail. Tax all wall street transactions (sales tax like I pay for clothes) to get that corrupt system to pay for the national debt they have created.

    MyPerFinJourney says March 14, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your experiences FedRS! Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. I think what you went through highlights that these online prep softwares cannot and do not take the complete place of having an licensed tax professional doing your taxes to make sure everything is correct. Sure, these tax programs are handy, but they may make mistakes that our untrained eyes cannot catch.
    My recent post What are Your Options for Tax-Advantaged Retirement Savings and Investments?

MoneySmartGuides says March 13, 2013

I've used Turbo Tax for over 5 years now. It's a breeze to run through. I like how they give you the option to go through every single thing, or just work on the income/deduction areas you know you have. Of course, my tax situation is fairly easy: single, homeowner, job, some 1099s from investments, etc. I now have a rental property and am not sure if I will continue with Turbo Tax or not. I most likely will give it a try, and if I don't feel comfortable, will contact a CPA.
My recent post Announcing My eBook Giveaway

    MyPerFinJourney says March 14, 2013

    Thanks for your comment MSG! Sounds like you have a good plan. Which version of TurboTax are you currently using? In my analysis of TurboTax, I believe when you bump up to rental property income, you do have to upgrade to one of the higher versions.
    My recent post What are Your Options for Tax-Advantaged Retirement Savings and Investments?

Integrator@financiallyintegrated.com says March 14, 2013

I tend to use HR&B best of both service. I do the return, the data entry and then just get someone to check the return to ensure I haven't missed anything glaring. I have found this works well for me.
My recent post Best ways to buy a stock

    MyPerFinJourney says March 14, 2013

    Thanks for sharing Integrator! So with your return, you enter the data on H&R block online, and then you go to one of their service centers and have someone review it. Is that correct?

      Steve Shoenbrun says December 15, 2013

      For overseas filing I have found that TurboTax is the best. Any other overseas filers want to comment?

Heather says December 18, 2016

Turbo Tax has been having a lot of problems as of late (maybe due to the buyout by Intuit). I have used it for about 10 years and this will be my last. NOT ACCURATE FILINGS: I have now received 3 IRS letters saying that my taxes were misfiled. Working with a tax accountant, we were finally able to figure our what Turbo Tax had done. However, it took me 40+ hours to refile 3 years of state and federal taxes. Recently, I started a job across a state line and Turbo Tax even had me erroneously submit payments to the wrong state. DIFFICULT TO AMEND: Turbo Tax (even though it is an online system) does not maintain an online ability to amend past year’s taxes – so you are left with either downloading old software or when the software fails (as happens often with TurboTax) amending returns by hand. HIDDEN COSTS: Not including the hours spent refiling, I also have had to pay penalty and interest fees for each year of misfiled taxes. That is on top of the already higher up-front cost.

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