It's unanimous: All of our experts choose TurboTax as the most effortless way to do your own taxes. "TurboTax remains the only reason I'm willing to file my personal taxes on my own," says Macworld's Jeffery Battersby, who gives it a rare perfect score.
Like other brands, TurboTax uses a question-and-answer format to walk you through your tax return, but reviewers agree that TurboTax just does it better. Questions are easier to understand, too. Built-in tax help is easier, too. And if you're really stumped, you can call or chat online with a tax expert for free.
For most people, TurboTax Deluxe 2012 (*Est. $50) is ideal, reviews say. It guides you through most common tax topics such as home mortgages, childcare, student loans, medical expenses and retirement income, and includes a donation assistant to tell you the value of those clothes and housewares you donated to charity.
For more complex tax situations, TurboTax Premier 2012 (*Est. $75) helps out more with rental income and investments. Premier can track and calculate your cost basis for stock sales, a famously hair-pulling task, and show landlords which depreciation method will score the biggest tax break. If you own a small business, try TurboTax Home & Business 2012 (*Est. $80) .
TurboTax's main rival, H&R Block At Home, runs a distant second. Battersby says H&R Block's question-and-answer format feels "like a day at the DMV," and he has to enter his daughter's college tuition information twice. In About.com's test, Block's software refuses to transfer Shelley Elmblad's self-employment and home-office deduction information from last year, so she has to retype it all. It won't let her skip ahead in topics, either. The New York Times' Tim Gray can't get Block's software to download, and the CD version he buys quits during the install.
However, H&R Block does one thing better: audit support. If you do your taxes with Block software and get audited for that year, an H&R Block enrolled agent will represent you in front of the IRS for free. TurboTax charges $60 for this.
H&R Block's software is cheaper, too. You'll spend about $15 less for its At Home Deluxe 2012 (*Est. $35) or $30 less for its At Home Premium 2012 (*Est. $45) than their TurboTax counterparts. But if you're willing to do your taxes online, the prices are identical: $30 for Deluxe or $50 for Premium with either program.
If you want to save money, experts prefer TaxACT Online Ultimate 2012 (*Est. $20) , covered below.