It's year two of the new tax plan, so unless there have been some major changes in your life, your tax return in 2020 should be very similar to last year's. For those of us who are going to file online, the real challenge is deciding which piece of software we'll trust to guide us through the tax process with the least amount of stress and best chance of an IRS-issued check at the end.
We looked at the latest versions from the two most popular tax-preparation software purveyors, TurboTax and H&R Block, and while there isn't a clear winner, this breakdown should help you figure out which tax software is the best choice for you.
Both programs offer free state and federal returns. But customers using TurboTax Absolute Zero can file only the 1040EZ or 1040A, H&R Block More Zero supports filing a regular 1040. Be aware though, to file for free you must file by March 31 for both.
While some itemizing can be done with the Zero editions, most serious itemizers will want to upgrade to the deluxe versions of TurboTax and H&R Block. With H&R Deluxe, state returns cost $36.99 per state filed, on TurboTax Deluxe, it's $40 per state.
TurboTax Deluxe offers the ItsDeductible tool, which organizes and correctly values charitable donations, and also walks homeowners through maximizing mortgage and property tax deductions. H&R Deluxe is suggested for those who have an HSA, those who have received unreported tips, and those with a separate hobby income. Both deluxe editions offer personal guidance and answers from experts, and both will store and automatically import last year's tax info if you used them previously. H&R Deluxe will store documents for six years.
Both competitors offer the most support and tools for those with investments and rental properties at this tier, with H&R Block also adding in its features for freelancers and contractors with less than $5,000 in expenses.
As the name implies, this tier is for small business owners and the self-employed. TurboTax users can directly import all of their expense data from QuickBooks, a big time saver. H&R Block users who drive for Uber can auto-import their tax info from the ride share app.
Both companies have added an extra service with professionals who will look over your tax returns before sending them off. TurboTax added TurboTax Live, a service that gives filers the chance to work with a certified public accountant or enrolled agent throughout the tax-prep experience. H&R Block now offers Online Assist, which gives you on-demand help from tax experts, CPAs, or enrolled H&R agents throughout the online filing process. The service costs an additional $39.99 to $80, depending on the pricing tier you choose.
Both companies offer a variety of ways to pay for their services and receive your tax refund, including credit or debit card, personal check, or good old cash. If you want to pay for your tax preparation using your refund, it will cost you roughly $30 more with both H&R Block and TurboTax. In 2018, H&R Block customers who directed all or a portion of their refund to an Amazon gift card received a 5% refund bonus.