Is Any One Tax Program Better Than Another?
January 29, 2018 8:50 AM   Subscribe

I've used TurboTax, HRBlock and other online tax programs and I wonder if any one program in particular gives you more of a refund than any other. Is one more thorough?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Work & Money (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
They're all working on the same tax laws. I found that Turbotax "held my hand" more than TaxAct did, when I used both back-to-back, but there's no way for one to 'give you' more of a refund than the other as long as they successfully guide you to enter all relevant data.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:54 AM on January 29, 2018 [10 favorites]

Some years ago, I tried 3+ different tax programs to see if there was any difference, but they all had the same result, so I just ended up choosing the one with the best user experience (IMHO). You could try doing that, since I think most programs don't have you pay until the final step!
posted by dire at 9:22 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I usually do two, which came in handy last year. One of them was Credit Karma's which was new last year and it had me paying a huge amount so I thought, well this can't be right. I tried a different one and it turned out the first one asked a question about medical expenses in a weird way such that I had mistakenly input that I had spent all of my HSA on non-qualifying expenses! You don't pay til you actually submit the forms, so it's worth it to do more than one to be on the safe side.
posted by bleep at 9:40 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I was in school I tried 2 different online tax ones (I think it was TurboTax and TaxSlayer) before actually filing. One of them gave me a refund of a couple hundred bucks and one gave me a refund of a couple of thousand. The difference maker was an educational tax credit I was eligible for. It was probably the kind of thing where one program highlighted the question and another didn't, I'm sure if I had filled everything out perfectly both programs could have gotten me the same refund. But after that experience I decided it's worth it it to try out a few before filing. Had I not done the second one, I don't think I ever would have even know about that credit.
posted by dadaclonefly at 9:49 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, they all follow the same laws but the way they navigate you through the questions is different. I usually use TaxSlayer as I find it reminds me about lots of deductions I would otherwise forget (like charity mileage!)
posted by assenav at 10:02 AM on January 29, 2018

I usually use TurboTax but this year I plugged my data into a couple of other tax programs just to see which was most thorough. TurboTax definitely holds your hand through the process, HR Block's is a little less intuitive, and I forget which other one I tested... but they all caught the same deductions and all reported back the exact same dollar amount for my refund.
posted by palomar at 10:42 AM on January 29, 2018

My experience mirrors dadaclonefly - about 8 years ago, I went through and entered my tax information in both TurboTax and TaxAct and found that I was about $1,000 better off with TaxAct. When I went through line-by-line to figure out the difference, it was due to an educational tax credit that TurboTax outright missed. I'm guessing that whatever error was in their program has long since been fixed but I've stuck with TaxAct since (in part because they're also cheaper).
posted by iminurmefi at 11:49 AM on January 29, 2018

There are also some differences in what sort of deductions tax software will look for depending on the edition of the program you use, so that can also be a factor. For example, TurboTax Basic won't look for all the deductions that Premier (or whatever it's called) would.
posted by Aleyn at 5:14 PM on January 29, 2018

I’ve used H&R Block for years, on my iPad. Each year, it seems like the app gets more “conversational,” for lack of a better word. I don’t want to answer screens of yes/no questions; I just want a list of forms to pick from!

I’ve recently done many years of late returns for my partner, and I used a very straightforward site - FreeTaxUSA. Less hand-holding and virtually no small talk “let’s talk about your residence! Do you own a home? Are you enjoying our app? Did you know that many homeowners benefit from mortgage interest deductions?” I recommend this site. (It’s also the only free/cheap one i found that lets you do 7 years of late returns, if you find yourself or a loved one in need of such things.)

The laws are the same, so you should get the same results assuming you input the same data.
posted by ortoLANparty at 6:57 PM on January 29, 2018

I tried creditkarma's free offering. It couldn't do some complex stuff (I had a business unit with a different id number inside the company I worked for) and couldn't import some digital data on stock trades... it was much better with turbotax, but they do seem to be working on improving it, and it's absolutely free.

They also had free tax assistance, I may use it just for that to supplement my turbotax purchase.
posted by gryftir at 9:15 PM on January 30, 2018

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