Winner: TurboTax

What's different among TurboTax, TaxAct, and H&R Block At Home tax prep applications? Their interview processes may be similar, but the quality of their additional tools, help and support features, and language are key.


Turbo Tax (Windows|Mac|Online) was our top pick for offering the most complete feature set, a strong Help system, and clear language. H&R Block At Home (Windows|Mac|Online) followed closely, offering strong live support but was weaker importing information,  and at times had  slightly more confusing explanations. Tax Act (Windows|Online) may be cheapest app, but it also lacks adequate help measures and importing. Read our full tax app roundup.

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Importing

H&R Block At Home (previously H&R Block TaxCut) did everyone a favor by introducing the capability to import data from financial institutions like banks and brokerages. But the listing is still not as complete as TurboTax's. TaxAct has limited capability to import W-2 information, the previous year's tax files, and 1099 data (it can will import capital gains info from the GainsKeeper service and from a CSV file--that's it.) Read our full tax app roundup.

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Personal Tax Guide

H&R Block's Personal Tax Guide helpfully highlights tax details that apply to people in select professions, like teachers and military personnel. If H&R Block made it more interactive, it would be a real boon for many taxpayers. Read our full tax app roundup.

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Extras

TurboTax continues to add useful features, like bookmarking a screen in the online or desktop review to return to later. While the desktop version (shown here) displays every flag you create, the online version unfortunately hides the flags in a drop-down menu. Read our full tax app roundup.

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Ask Tina

TurboTax's online tax apps include Tina, a digital "assistant" to help answer questions, in addition to the crowd-sourced Live Community forum and the help files. Automated Tina was disappointingly never able to answer (or even understand) our questions. H&R Block's live tax chat is a better service. Read our full tax app roundup.

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Why language is important

While it's true that the tax interview in TaxAct, TurboTax, and H&R Block At Home all cover the same ground, the importance of clear language cannot be overlooked. TaxAct's jargony help files only added to the confusion, and failed to include specific terms in its interview that stumped us. H&R Block At Home surfaced this alarming screen, without providing extra context or help files. Read our full tax app roundup.

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TaxAct

Seeing exactly where on the Federal tax form your information pops up is one TaxAct feature we did appreciate. While H&R Block and TurboTax both make the tax form available, TaxAct's default view lent the app its own character, and made us appreciate once again that we weren't completing the form ourselves. Read our full tax app roundup.

Photo by: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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