With tax season upon us, it's time to choose the best tax preparation software for you. We've done a side-by-side comparison of three of the most popular tax-preparation software plans in the industry: TurboTax, H&R Block and Credit Karma.
We haven't declared a hands-down winner or even provided a ranking of the three. Each has its own advantages (and disadvantages). And this means any one of them could be the right tax-preparation software for you.
The information provided in this guide should help you make that choice.
Credit Karma vs. TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Quick Overview
Before we go into a deep-dive analysis of the three popular tax software plans, you can pursue the table below to learn about the basic features of each.
Who Each Tax Preparation Software Will Work Best For
Credit Karma: Free Tax Software
It may also be an excellent choice if you're already using Credit Karma for the credit monitoring service or would like to.
TurboTax: Best for All Of Your NeedsTurboTax may very well be the best all-around tax-preparation software. The software is comprehensive and can accommodate virtually any type of tax situation. It may be best suited to the individual or couple who are comfortable preparing their own returns. But the software also gives you the option to have your return professionally prepared.
Even if you have no previous experience preparing tax returns, TurboTax's intuitive software, abundant information resources, and customer service can guide you through the process.
And if you've used TurboTax in the past, there's an excellent possibility you'll want to use it again. The software is so user-friendly it practically begs you to come back.
H&R Block: Low Prices & Live AssistanceH&R Block is the go-to tax-preparation software for anyone who is interested in preparing their own returns but would rather not pay TurboTax prices.
The big advantage H&R Block has is its layered tax-preparation process. You can start out going the self-preparation route but turn the job over to a live agent at any time.
You can do the same thing with TurboTax, but H&R Block has the advantage of having tax-preparation offices in nearly every community in the country. If you decide you want your tax return prepared face-to-face, H&R Block provides you with that option.
In addition, H&R Block also offers tax preparation services for ex-pats, which starts at $99 for simple returns, not including state and FBAR filing. Neither TurboTax nor Credit Karma provides services specifically designed for Americans living abroad.
Plans & Fees for Each Tax Software
Credit Karma does not offer individual tax-preparation plans. But you'll be able to file a wide variety of returns, all free of charge. Credit Karma can accommodate W-2, small business and investment income, as well as itemized deductions and certain credits, like the child tax credit and the EITC.
TurboTax offers four different plans for filing yourself. It also offers the option to get an expert to file for you, at an added cost.
1. Free Edition
This version is free for the preparation of both your federal and state returns, and there is no cost to file. It is, of course, designed for simple returns. That includes those who receive W-2 income, unemployment income, the earned income tax credit (EITC), and child tax credits.
You can begin by downloading a photo of your W-2s into the software. You can also import a PDF copy of your return if it was prepared by another tax software the previous year.
This version also comes with audit support and 24/7 customer service.
The Deluxe version is available for $60 for preparation of your federal return, plus another $50 for each state return you need to be filed. This plan is for those with basic income situations but also accommodates itemized deductions.
It includes all the features in the free edition but also searches for over 350 tax deductions and credits. And it maximizes your mortgage, property tax and charitable contribution deductions.
The Premier edition is for taxpayers with investment activity and income. This includes stocks, bonds, employee stock purchase plans, and other investments. And it can even import investment income information from brokers. You can also use this version if you own a rental property or have gains or losses from cryptocurrency transactions.
The plan is available for $90 for your federal return, plus $50 for each state return.
It includes all the features of the Deluxe plan, but also provides guidance on setting up rental property information and depreciation and offers one-on-one on-demand help.
This version is available for $120, plus $50 for each state return. As the name implies, it's designed for small businesses, including independent contractors and freelancers. It includes all the features of the Premier plan.
And since it's designed specifically for the self-employed, it also provides the ability to generate W-2s and 1099 forms for employees and outside contractors. The software is designed to uncover industry-specific deductions. And it provides audit assessment for added confidence.
Specific business capabilities include mileage and vehicle deductions, rideshare and UberEats data import capability, more than 450 self-employed tax deductions, help with home office expenses, and even qualified business income (QBI) guidance.
And since the self-employed need to make quarterly estimated tax payments, this version offers a year-round tax estimator to help you determine your income during the course of the year so you can make the most accurate estimates.
Like TurboTax, H&R Block offers four different tax software plans. For an additional cost, you can get help from tax experts and CPAs online.
1. Free Online
The free online version is for basic returns, but it can also accommodate the EITC, retirement income, and deductions of student tuition, payments, and loan interest. There is no charge for either the federal or state return, and no cost to file either.
The deluxe plan is available for $29.99 for the federal return, and $36.99 for each state return. It can accommodate itemized deductions and health savings accounts (HSAs) and organize contracts, freelancing, gig work, and other self-employed income.
This version also provides the digital organization of all your tax documents for up to six years, as well as access to live phone-chat tech support.
The premium plan is $49.99 for the federal return, plus $36.99 for each state return. In addition to everything covered under the Deluxe plan, it can also accommodate investment income, rental income and deductions, and small business expenses.
The self-employed plan is designed specifically for small businesses and the self-employed. It's available starting at $84.99 for the federal return and $36.99 for each state return.
It can accommodate all the tax filing statuses of the premium plan, including investment income and itemized deductions. But it also reports all business deductions, as well as asset depreciation.
Where Each Tax Preparation Software Stands Out
Credit Karma is free for all filers for both federal and state tax returns.
- It offers audit defense, which is also free of charge.
- Since Credit Karma provides other services, particularly free credit monitoring, you'll get the benefit of multiple financial services on the same platform.
- You will get reimbursed up to $1,000 if the IRS or state tax authority penalizes you due to a calculating error made by Credit Karma.
TurboTax is perhaps the most popular tax-preparation software in the industry. And there are plenty of reasons why:
- The software can accommodate virtually any type of tax situation.
- TurboTax offers a free filing option on both federal and state returns for simple tax situations.
- TurboTax offers live preparation of each type of tax return. And you can choose this option at any point in the process.
- The software is very user-friendly and highly intuitive to navigate.
- Though it charges a fee for the service, TurboTax Audit Defense is surprisingly comprehensive.
- Its customer service is perhaps the best in the industry, offering both online resources and live support.
- If you're self-employed, you can import financial information from QuickBooks, if that's the accounting software program you use.
H&R Block operates a network of more than 11,000 local tax-preparation offices staffed by more than 80,000 tax professionals.
- You can choose to have your return prepared by a live agent at any time.
- H&R Block offers a free filing option of both federal and state returns for simple tax situations.
- Audit protection is very reasonably priced, at just $19.99.
- You can get online assistance if you need it or can go in person to one of the company's many offices.
- Live preparation is available and starts at just $69 for federal tax returns.
Where Each Tax Preparation Software Falls Short
- Credit Karma accommodates tax profiles that are on the simpler side. For example, it can't accommodate multi-state returns. And it's not quite as well developed for investment and self-employment income as the other services.
- You'll be required to sign up for Credit Karma credit monitoring services in order to take advantage of Credit Karma Tax.
- Customer support is minimal and not available on a live basis.
- It offers very limited services for self-employed taxpayers.
- TurboTax is on the high end of the fee structure among tax-preparation software providers.
- You may start out with one plan but then need to trade up to the next level as your tax situation requires.
- Though H&R Block is generally less costly than TurboTax, it's still on the high end of the range for tax-preparation software.
- Also like TurboTax, you may start out with one plan, then be required to trade up to a higher-cost plan as your tax situation dictates.
It's really not possible to say which is the best tax preparation software — TurboTax, H&R Block or Credit Karma. That's because each will appeal to a different type of taxpayer, depending on his or her own tax situation and personal preferences.
What may be most important is realizing that you have options when it comes to preparing your own tax return.
- If you have a moderately complicated tax return but you still want to prepare it free of charge, Credit Karma is an excellent choice.
- But if your tax situation is more complicated and you're motivated to do your own return, TurboTax is probably your best bet.
- But if you feel — for whatever reason — that you may need to hand the job off to a live agent, H&R Block will give you that option at any point in the process.