To make tax season easier for everyone, Consumer Reports tested online tax preparation tools and developed a guide to picking the best—here’s how to find the right one for you.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated March 09, 2018
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Credit: Caiaimage/Paul Viant

If you’re filing your taxes yourself this tax season (as more than 40 percent of electronic tax-filers in the U.S. do), you’re probably wondering which online tax filing tools are the best … and which ones will make filing your taxes even more confusing.

Fortunately, the product-testing experts at Consumer Reports took on the highly undesirable task of sampling what the four top tax preparation services can do and figured out which ones work best for various tax situations—and for getting you a larger refund.

The Consumer Reports expert tested H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and TurboTax, all of which offer online and mobile filing programs. The testing found that if your tax return is simple—you have only one W-2, you don’t have many deductions, etc.—all four tax-prep services are helpful, but if your tax return is more complicated than that, you may want to pick a service with specialized features to help you navigate the process and avoid common tax-return mistakes.

If you’re new to do-it-yourself tax prep …

… try H&R Block Deluxe or TaxAct Plus. Both are clear, easy to use, and a good value; they also offer basic tools, such as TaxAct’s Dependents Tax Assistant, which helps you figure out who you can claim as a dependent.

If you need help from a tax pro …

… try TaxSlayer Premium. Consumer Reports found that it allows you to ask an expert questions quickly through chat with speedy (and accurate) responses: Other services didn’t answer questions as correctly or as promptly.

If you want a big deduction for donated goods …

… try TaxAct Plus. It offers a donation assistant that helps you determine comparatively high valuations for products you’ve donated throughout the year.

If you use your phone for tax prep …

… try TurboTax or H&R Block. Both offered higher-quality mobile app experiences than the other options.

If you have a complex tax return …

… try TurboTax Deluxe or a human tax pro. Sure, no one wants to pay an accountant to help with taxes, but if you have a highly complex tax return (if you have a small business or foreign holdings, for example), it’s the best way to ensure you’re doing everything by the book. If your taxes are a little complicated but not extremely so, TurboTax offers a quality service.

To read more about the process Consumer Reports used and its findings, check out the full article on