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Best tax program 2018: TurboTax, TaxSlayer, H&R Block, TaxAct compared

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, as they say—and so we head once more into tax season by looking at four major online tax prep applications: H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and TurboTax.

All of these web-based tax apps work equally as well on your phone as they do on your computer, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a Mac or a PC, a Pixel or an iPhone X. Regardless of device, you can start and complete your taxes with ease.

Overall, the basic process is essentially the same no matter the service: You provide your financial information and the tax software uses an interview process to gather that information, minimize your tax liability, and, with some luck and good data, maximize your refund and reduce your stress level.

All of these online tax services offer various try-before-you-buy options that let you fill out your forms and then pay when it’s time to file. However, all of these apps also charge more money the closer you get to tax time—so don’t delay if you want to pay as little as possible.

Editor’s note: Prices accurate as of 3/9/2018.

H&R Block

H&R Block is familiar name, but not necessarily because of its online offerings—you can find its offices almost anywhere you live. An H&R Block office is within walking distance from my house, and I live in a city of fewer than 14,000 people. Which is why, when you first log in to H&R Block online, you’re given the option of preparing your taxes yourself or scheduling an appointment at a local office. And, if you choose to start your return on your own, you can always make an appointment at a local office if you need more personalized help.

hrblock local Jeffery Battersby/IDG

H&R Block offers a smorgasbord of filing options that run from basic do-it-yourself to full-on in-office appointments. Each of the do-it-yourself filing tools offers the option to add a Tax Pro Review starting at $50, depending on the type of forms you’re filing and how complicated your taxes are.

With H&R Block you’ll pay:

  • $0 for a 1040EZ
  • $35 for Deluxe, which includes itemized deductions (Jumps to $55)
  • $55 for Premium for those with special income needs, including rental income (Jumps to $75)
  • $75 if your return includes self-employment income (Jumps to $95)
  • State tax filings cost an additional $37 per state

H&R Block has improved its interface with each passing year, and its online tax offerings look and feel far less clunky as a result. This time around, my overall user experience with H&R Block was on par with TaxAct and TurboTax.

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